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TO BE FRIDA KAHLO
by Daniel Olivas

Never conventional
about anything she did.

Never apologetic
about who she was.

And it was not easy.

From paint,
she did art and poetry.

From the infidelities
of her husband,
she found freedom.

Frida was the only woman
that kept challenging Diego

: for the right reasons

: she always surprised him

: he truly believed she was a genius

And it was not easy.

SOURCE: Salma Hayek interview conducted by Rebecca Murray and Fred Topel around the time of the 2002 release of Frida. 

IMAGE: Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo in the 2002 film Frida.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  For many of us who grew up in the Mexican culture, Frida Kahlo has been part of our lives since childhood. Her “rediscovery” by the general public was somewhat surprising (for some) but quite welcome. If she were alive today, I believe she would have used the Internet, Twitter, Instagram, etc., as yet another canvas. I Googled Frida Kahlo and found an interview with Salma Hayak who played Kahlo in the 2002 movie Frida which was based on the truly remarkable 1983 biography by Hayden Herrera.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Daniel A. Olivas is the author of seven books including the award-winning novel The Book of Want (University of Arizona Press), and Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature through Essays and Interviews (San Diego State University Press). He is the editor of Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press), and has been widely anthologized including in Sudden Fiction Latino (W. W. Norton), and You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens (Arte Público Press). Olivas has written for many publications including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, High Country News, and California Lawyer. Visit him at danielolivas.com.

Banner with female face and thinking bubble
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Found poems based on lines from celebrity interviews. This could be a celebrity you admire or one you’d like to poke fun at in a lighthearted way.

WHAT: Find a celebrity interview on-line and grab phrases from it to create a “found” poem, or create an erasure poem from a page of text. For erasure poems, also send jpg of original erasure.

WHEN: We’ll feature the poems on the Silver Birch Press blog during the Celebrity Blank Verse Poetry Series from September 1-30, 2014.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Email the poem (give it a title) to silver@silverbirchpress.com as an MSWord attachment, along with your name, contact info, author’s bio, and any notes about your creative process or thoughts about the celebrity you chose. Provide a reference for the original text (publication, date, and link to website where you found it). PLEASE — put all of this information in one MSWord document and title the file with your last name. Thanks!

DEADLINE: Monday, September 22, 2014

Self-Portrait

Thank you to the 67 poets from around the world and across the United States who contributed their work to the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait Poetry Series, which ran from August 1-31, 2014.

We extend are heartfelt appreciation to the following poets:

Kathryn Almy (U.S., Michigan)
Cynthia Anderson (U.S., California)
Ivan Argüelles (U.S., California)
Ronald Baatz (U.S., New York)
Suvojit Banerjee (India)
Carol Berg (U.S., Massachusetts)
Alan Birkelbach (U.S., Texas)
Eric Burke (U.S., Ohio)
Ana Maria Caballero (Colombia)
Mary-Marcia Casoly (U.S., California)
Tobi Cogswell (U.S., California)
Beth Copeland (U.S., North Carolina)
Anthony Costello (United Kingdom)
Tasha Cotter (U.S., Kentucky)
Kaila Davis (U.S., Michigan)
Daniel Patrick Delaney (U.S., Pennsylvania)
Rodrigo V. Dela Peña (Singapore)
David Diaz (U.S., California)
Barbara Eknoian (U.S., California)
Adelle Foley (U.S., California)
Jack Foley (U.S., California)
Michael Friedman (U.S., North Carolina)
Jeannine Hall Gailey (U.S., Washington)
Phillip Giambri (U.S., New York)
John Grochalski (U.S., New York)
Clara Hsu (U.S., California)
Elizabeth Jacobson (U.S., New Mexico)
Loukia M. Janavaras (United Arab Emirates)
Mathias Jansson (Sweden)
Jax NTP (U.S., California)
Kasey E. Johnson (U.S., Oregon)
Jennifer Lynn Krohn (U.S., New Mexico)
Angela La Voie (U.S., Virginia)
Roz Levine (U.S., California)
Alexander Limarev (Russia)
Stephen Linsteadt (U.S., California)
Tamara Madison (U.S., California)
Adrian Manning (United Kingdom)
Michael Mark (U.S., California)
Daniel McGinn (U.S., California)
Victoria McGrath (Australia)
Bob McNeil (U.S., New York)
Ann Menebroker (U.S., California)
Danielle Mitchell (U.S., California)
karla k. morton (U.S., Texas)
Robert Okaji (U.S., Texas)
Jay Passer (U.S., California)
Alan Passman (U.S., California)
D.A. Pratt (Canada)
Billy Roberson (U.S., Michigan)
Rizwan Saleem (United Arab Emirates)
Paul Sands (United Kingdom)
Rebecca Schumejda (U.S., New York)
Roy Anthony Shabla (U.S., California)
Sheikha A. (Pakistan)
Jakia Smith (U.S., Michigan)
Kimberly Smith (U.S., Michigan)
Eddie Stewart (U.S., Michigan)
Jacque Stukowski (U.S., Illinois)
Rosa Swartz (U.S., Oregon)
Simen Moflag Talleraas (Norway)
Keyna Thomas (U.S., Massachusetts)
Sarah Thursday (U.S., California)
A. Garnett Weiss (Canada)
Denise R. Weuve (U.S., California)
Liz Worth (Canada)
Birgit Zartl (Austria)

Special thanks to Peter Markus, writer-in-residence at the InsideOut Literary Arts Project of Detroit, for submitting his students’ poems.

umeboshi
Self-Portrait with Umeboshi
by Robert Okaji

Our resemblance strengthens each day.

Reddened by sun and shiso,
seasoned with salt,

we preside, finding
comfort in failure. Or does
the subjugation of one’s flavor for another’s

define defeat? The bitter, the sour, the sweet
attract and repel

like lovers separated by distances
too subtle to see.
Filling space becomes the end.
What do you learn when you look through the glass?

Knowing my fate, I say fallen. I say earth.

NOTE: Find out more about Umeboshi at wikipedia.org.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Okaji’s work has appeared in Boston Review, Otoliths, Prime Number Magazine, Clade Song, and Vayavya, among others. He lives in Texas with his wife and two dogs.

Childish,-The-Drinker-600
author bio circa 2014
by John Grochalski

john grochalski lives in brooklyn, new york
with his long-suffering wife,
the poet and novelist, ally malinenko
and their 15 year old cat, june
who simply refuses to leave this plane of existence

when he isn’t listening to every subtle nuance of noise
made by neighbors, vehicles, barking dogs, and garbage men,
or being distracted by the wide variety of internet porn made available
grochalski attempts to write poems, stories, and novels

subsisting on a diet of pizza, tacos, coffee, beer, scotch,
and cheap chilean red wine
grochalski works full-time as a public librarian
which has only served to lower his opinion of librarians
and the general public as a whole

dealing with a mild case of OCD
grochalski refuses to believe that that the oven is off
and the windows in his apartment are truly shut

he has traveled extensively in europe
coming to the conclusion that every place is different
in exactly the same way

grochalski often confuses trapped gas for heart attack pains

he believes beyond a shadow of a doubt
that the founding of the united states of america
was some kind of cruel joke played on humanity

in his spare time he hates children, teenagers, republicans,
democrats, hockey, onions, 21st century american art,
cell phones, and anyone who calls him a luddite for hating cell phones

he thinks the work of hans fallada
is currently the bee’s knees

IMAGE: “The Drinker” by Billy Childish (1996), influenced by Hans Fallada‘s novel The Drinker.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and the novel, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press, 2013). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he constantly worries about the high cost of everything.

saulnier2
SELF-PORTRAIT AS DANGEROUS WHEN DOWN
by Carol Berg

Should I go running today? Should I
climb trees? When should I shower

and how much time should I spend on
the computer? How much time should I spend on

my son? Keep trying to teach him how to tie
his shoelaces but I get so impatient.

It doesn’t get done.
I tell him the laces are too long.

But I am baking the bread today mixing yeast
with warm loving water adding sugar and salt

for the yeast to feed on change into bubbles
like laughter under water and then the King

Arthur’s Flour, no, wait it’s the on-sale crappy
flour. Three teaspoons equal one capitalized

tablespoon since I lost our only silver
measuring spoon. Threw it away, probably, in the trash,

mixed in with beet skins and egg shells.
There is a wire fallen down onto our mailbox

an electrical mistake. If only our bills
would catch on fire sizzle and snap into something

I can’t possible send back. Consider all downed wires
to be energized the National Grid website says and oh if only I were

considered as dangerous when I was down.

IMAGE: “Gizmo 2″ by Leah Saulnier. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Berg’s poems are forthcoming or in The Journal, Spillway, Sou’wester, Redactions, Pebble Lake Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and Verse Wisconsin. Her most recent chapbook, Her Vena Amoris, is available from Red Bird Chapbooks.

red-hills-lake-george
VEHICLE
by Tamara Madison

This body is the vehicle
by which I navigate the world.
Here is a photograph
of its younger self
crouched on a rock.
Those feet are the feet
by which I have always
trod the earth, but the photo
was taken before living
had given them
bunions and fungus.
The hair that falls
in a hazy fan
down the shoulder
is this hair before it took on
shades of silver and gray.
The face in the photo
is turned away, watching
the winter sun drift down
behind the mountains
while the future
crouches behind the rock,
waiting to climb up
the young back,
this same back with the turn
in its spine which forms
the little hump where
for six decades I have stored
my slights and sorrows.
My body’s scaffold of bones
is the same, but all the cells
are brand spanking new.

IMAGE: “Red Hills, Lake George” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1927).

tamara_madison

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tamara Madison teaches English and French at a public high school in Los Angeles. Raised on a citrus farm in the California desert, Tamara’s life has taken her many places, including Europe and the former Soviet Union, where she spent fifteen months in the 1970s. A swimmer and dog lover, Tamara says, “All I ever wanted to do with my life was write, and I mostly write poetry because it suits my lifestyle. I like the way one can say so much in the economical space of a poem.”

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ROMANESQUE
by karla k. morton

I am more Roman than Greek;
one-tenth Neanderthal;
in love with the white wardrobe;
the toga,
laurels tied to dark hair;

acres of olives;
vineyards older than
all ancestors.

I dream in mosaics –
bits of pottery and shell
pieced into lions;
the cool blues and greens
of tiny squares;

the transience of pearls
at my neck;
a belief in gods who chariot the sun
across the sky;

drawing up words
in endless buckets
from the wells.

Were we gods ourselves,
we wouldn’t bother
with such simple tools –
the alphabet, the ink, the papyrus

but late at night,
the stars begin to hum;
the moon rounds her mouth
and whispers
everything she’s ever seen.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wake every morning excited about the possibilities; wondering what miracle will reveal itself throughout the day. Always there is something – a glimpse of lizard changing from black to emerald; a research pearl; a poem that gets stuck in my head. It’s the blessing of being able to do what you love – the excitement of a blank sheet of paper; words pulled down from the sky.

IMAGE: Roman mosaic of young woman, available at dreamstime.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: karla k. morton, the 2010 Texas Poet Laureate, is a Councilor of the Texas Institute of Letters and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Described as “one of the most adventurous voices in American poetry,” she is a Betsy Colquitt Award Winner, twice an Indie National Book Award Winner, the recipient of the Writer-in-Residency E2C Grant, and the author of nine collections of poetry. Morton has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, is a nominee for the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and established an ekphrastic collaborative touring exhibit titled: No End of Vision: Texas as Seen By Two Laureates, pairing photography with poetry with Texas Poet Laureate Alan Birkelbach. Morton’s work has been used by many students in their UIL Contemporary Poetry contests, and was recently featured with seven other prominent authors in 8 Voices: Contemporary Poetry of the American Southwest. Her forthcoming book (her 10th), Constant State of Leaping (The Texas Review Press), arrives Fall, 2014.

Author photo by Bill Mackey

Dali
self-portrait as Salvador Dalí
by Jax NTP

rationing out mistakes, you must devour them slowly,
and you must systematically create confusion — it sets
creativity free. the way a blank book seeks the writer
for a long-term relationship. the Metamorphosis
of Narcissus, the hands cupping a soft-boiled egg,
strangulating sexuality. supported by the privity
of osseous for crutches, the female coccyx exposes
seven tantric drawers — each compartment
is a disambiguation of tikkun olam — how to surrender
the need to know.

emmenez-moi au bout de la terre. il me semble
que la misère — serait moins pénible au soleil.
take me, not the Burning Giraffe, i am the drug.
take me, not the melting Camembert clock,
i am the hallucinogen. the urgency of optical illusions,
the human skull consisting of seven naked women’s bodies.

to preserve my madness from oblivion: there are days
when i think i am going to die from an overdose
of satisfaction. intelligence without ambition
is the Woman with a Head of Roses, Madrid
without the architectural peninsula — where
skeleton ships become men and men become voyages.

false memories are the most authentic. redolent
of nightmares, not dreams, embalm the broken
portico of your heart before delirium plants elephant
on stilts. Language is a source of misunderstanding — forged
in a kiln that cannot go north after summer. act the genius
and you shall become one. if you understand the painting
beforehand, you might as well not paint it.

IMAGE: Salvador Dali with a starfish on the beach in Cadaques, Spain (c.1960).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jax NTP holds an MFA in Creative Writing – Poetry from CSULB. Jax was the former editor-in-chief of RipRap Literary Journal and associate editor of The Fat City Review. Jax has an affinity for jellyfish and polaris and a fetish for miniature succulent terrariums. Visit her at jaxntppoet.tumblr.com.

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Don’t Ask Me for Directions, Don’t Videotape Me
by Rosa Swartz

In the other country I swallow
codeine and blonde lager speedometers,
drive quick on the Saturday dream wheels
air smeared with jazz standards, and the static
of the preacher asks me to get down on my knees.

Those nights my shoes were from feathers,
my name bright as searchlights, sky shining
a package of horehound candy, old fashioned
and sweet to the tongue but better spit out,
sunk in a cyclone of last season’s leaves.

Yes, I’ve been lost here so many times,
taking the long way to miss meetings, dates.
Here I am driving on past Podunk Lake,
bugs from the cornfields stuck to my dress.
The cabinets out here fill with mealworms,
gift horses graze in the lawn.

In the middle of the country in my other country,
the sound of the keys say goodbye.
I’m a tangle walking out in the drizzle,
shot glasses, my eyeglasses, I dance
alone in the pavilion in my big man shirt,
my super-hero tights. When I return home
I’ll come dressed as the stock market or a reindeer,
some thing or another that only dreams of sun.
I’ll wave my grandfather’s turtleneck like a flag,
leave my sex frittered away in the swamp weeds.

On the ivy covered highway
I’ll ignore the regal crescent moon, press
my fevered forehead to the asphalt.
I’ve always been peripheral,
a clean knife without a handle, that sharp
kind of love beyond saying.

What noises my boy sobs over the gingham
tablecloth, knock-kneed in a raincoat
not knowing what to call me. Here we are again
in our red boots, going down to the Ace-Hi
for a pack of Merit Lights,
dirty tennis balls in the slush,
us leash-less and the dog long dead.

Behind the register a sign says “recovery
must be perfect from now on.” It’s been
a few decades since I enjoyed a little thing
like that, lungs singed and body shot through.
Still, I believe in the impossible future,
how closely this place resembles another,
minus all the costumes. Please now please,
help me find my way back to where.

IMAGE: “Frida Skeleton Mermaid” by Sandra Silberzweig. Prints available at etsy.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rose Swartz is a writer and visual artist from Kalamazoo, Michigan. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where she practices darkroom photography and creative writing. She travels frequently. She’s been a poetry editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review and Asylum Lake Magazine. Her writing has most recently appeared in Carnival Magazine, Really System Magazine, and Coal Hill Review. Her chapbook, All Along the California Coast, came out this year on Diamond Wave Press.

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