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Happy Half Year
by Barbara Eknoian

Procrastinators rejoice,
take stock, start anew
July 2nd, the half year is here.
You’ve had time to reflect,
and fine-tune resolutions.
Now whittle down
the needless,
move forward,
leave time for leisure
in the coming months.
It’s a second chance,
don’t forfeit the opportunity.
You’ve been blessed with a gift
granted by the gods;
enjoy the sweet moments.

SOURCE: “Happy Half Year” by Barbara Eknoian appears in Half New Year: A Collection of Poetry about Midpoints (Silver Birch Press, 2014). The  82-page, full-color book features poetry from 27 authors and art by Paul Cézanne.

IMAGE: “The Gulf of Marseilles Seen from L’Estaque” by Paul Cézanne (1885).

EDITOR’S NOTE ON THE PAINTING: Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) is an artist who left behind a range of what many considered “unfinished” canvases. Cézanne believed that “complete” was different from “finished”—writing in an 1874 letter to his mother: “I have to work constantly, not in order to arrive at the finish, which attracts the admiration of imbeciles. I must strive to complete only for the satisfaction of becoming truer and wiser.” Cézanne inspires us to stop striving and driving ourselves, and to instead flow, follow our bliss, and enjoy the good things in life.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Eknoian’s work has appeared in Pearl, Chiron Review, Silver Birch Press anthologies, Re)VerbNew Verse News, and Your Daily Poem. She has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first novel, Chances Are: A Jersey Girl Comes of Age, and her poetry book, Why I Miss New Jersey, published by Everhart Press, are available at Amazon.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE: July 2nd marks the midpoint of the year — with 182 days preceding and 182 days to follow. Half New Year reminds us to consider what has occurred during the year as well as give thought to our hopes for the months ahead. As we ponder finished and unfinished business, opportunities taken and those missed, words spoken and those left unsaid, it’s reassuring to remember that we still have half a year to move closer to what brings us joy and fulfillment.

kms_cover front In May 2015, Silver Birch Press released Kissing My Shadow, a 60-page collection of poetry by Merrill Farnsworth. The book features 42 poems that chart the author’s soulful sojourn from childhood onward  — and has earned high praise from critics as well as readers.

Reading Merrill Farnsworth’s Kissing My Shadow creates the same effect on its reader as a long, much-needed session of yoga, for within these pages exists, indeed, a yoking of mind, body, and spirit. These are poems as comfortable in the quotidian world of corn flakes, flourless chocolate cakes, and Fridgidaires as they are in the realms of Persephone, Emmaus, Gabriel, and Nirvana. Here is a poet who loves and honors the whirl…toward the sun, yet embraces just as gratefully and graciously that tumble from the sky…the singed wings…

CATHY SMITH BOWERS
Poet Laureate of North Carolina (2010-2012)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Merrill Farnsworth‘s performance piece Jezebel’s Got the Blues was featured at the Southern Festival of Books, in New York City at the Puzzle New Works Festival, and other venues in the South and Northwest. Her poems and short stories can be found in various collections and anthologies. She is founder of writingcircle.org, integrating psychology, creativity, and spirituality into her work with individuals and groups. Merrill travels nationally facilitating writing workshops and cohosts Howlin’ After Dark, a series for emerging writers in Nashville’s writing scene.

Find Kissing My Shadow, a 60-page collection of poetry by Merrill Farnsworth, at Amazon.com.

Cover art by Merrill Farnsworth. 

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Name Changes Change Us
by Gina Vitolo

my birth name changed many times, once
when Hasenfratz morphed into Hazen, less
ethnic, more rarified, suitable to the family
except that in Yiddish, it meant bloomers

a bumpy ride on the cyclone of life for me,
thundering along the tracks at Coney Island
smelling sweetened cotton candy, popcorn,
crackerjacks, breeze blowing my blond hair

born Regina, a regal name, bloomer queen
stuck like trident gum, but when a boyfriend
called me “vagina,” I became Gina, author of
TALES OF A BROOKLYN BLOOMER QUEEN

that boyfriend, a Dick, instead of Richard,
and with my first marriage, I became Siegel,
a bird, after his death I married Vitolo, veal,
a proper hyphenated widow, two hyphens

too many, for this Brooklyn-born woman whose
father was a chicken plucker, whose spouses
died of cancer, were both attorneys, buried
in the same cemetery, in opposite sections

the irony of my life to be writ on my tombstone,
TALES OF A BROOKLYN BLOOMER QUEEN lie here

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION:  Chicken plucker’s daughter.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This project about names has always fascinated me, mainly because I feel that my life number has changed so many times. Fate follows me viscerally. Both my daughters were born the same week two years apart, their birth dates April 1 and April 7 add up to mine, April 8. The universe is indeed as eclectic as an anthology of hybrid poetry.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gina Vitolo lives on Long Island, was born in Brooklyn, and is the author of poems and a YA novel published by Weekly Reader Don’t My Feelings Count?

San Juan
1986 American Action Drama
by Charlotte San Juan

my mother
reels white
down the aisle as I
make tumbles
in the womb

the church, her
solemn catacomb:
she suppresses
vomit, drags the long
lace of Catholicism

I am also on the
honeymoon: Hawaii
through an umbilical
cord and the deep
warm watery quiet

my name, from a
movie I’ve never seen:
a blonde astrophysics Ph.D
who gets with Tom Cruise —
a Charlotte gone Charlie
I hear it ends with a bar scene.

whatever’s left of the American
in me drinks on weekdays
with my mother’s library voice
laughing oceans after me

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Charlie gives a swinging contemplation about her final solemn year as an only child. 1990.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I think of my name, I think of Top Gun, how I still haven’t seen it, and what my mother must have been thinking as she watched Kelly McGillis on screen back in 1986. I think of her being 22, scared of marriage and motherhood, and of promising to raise her children Catholic (she didn’t) though I was baptized so. Her mother-in-law wanted me to be called Christy (because of Christ) but my mother wouldn’t have it. She later tells me, “Christy is the name of this bitchy girl from high school I used to know.” Then she giggles because she cursed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charlotte San Juan is happy to be named Charlotte San Juan because Charlotte San Juan is the name of a writer, even though her parents didn’t realize that at first. If Charlotte San Juan isn’t the name of a writer, then Charlotte San Juan must stop being Charlotte San Juan.

Jose
So many of us
by Meenu Jose

You’ve got to leave a name, Meenu
they say
Good, bad or ugly,
Meena, Meenu, Meenakshi, Mina, Minal
Doesn’t matter.

Etch it, carve it, engrave it,
Doesn’t matter.
In letters golden or hues of black,
Doesn’t matter.
Just join the race
With the other rats

But You don’t see how
Your name dies before you
Your parents had a pet name for you
that died with them

Teachers called you by your surname
which they forgot when you graduated
Friends had nicknames for you
Which they lost to distances and time

Your love called you a name
That he forgot with the love
His burning still into your flesh
Like from a tattoo

Your children called you generic names
Like everybody else’s children
You named yourself in online avatars and second lives
Ones you discarded along with the passwords

How can I leave a name
When I am only daughter, sibling, lover, wife, mother, friend, neighbour, worker?
I dont recognize myself among so many of us.
But, I guess it doesn’t matter.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author with her child, Nadine, posing for husband/dad’s photography experiments.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’m fascinated by the arbitrariness of the naming process and find it delimiting. You let some one else choose this word, your name, which is more or less a metaphor for yourself. For me, this is the ultimate symbol for the fatality of life. I scribbled down these lines while searching for a name for her firstborn, Nadine.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Meenu Jose is a teacher and an avid reader of English Literature. Her areas of interest include cultural studies, food and travel writing, sports writing, etc. Born and raised in Kerala, India, she writes in her regional language Malayalam as well. Her poetry is chatty, simple, and conversational.

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Naming an Heir, a Parent
by Merna Louise Dyer Skinner

When I am four
     the universe is me and its name is Merna.
     Father’s sister behaves as if she too is Merna.
     Calls herself, Big Merna, says I’m Little Merna.
     I call her Aunt Me-Me. There should be no doubt.

When I am ten
     I add my middle name, Louise, to my camp clothes labels.
     When I say it aloud—it flows and feels soft as cloud names: Nimbus,
     Cumulus, Cirrus, Louise. One afternoon, laying on the grass,
     I search the shifting cloud shapes for Clara Louise, my father’s
     mother, sent to heaven during a great flu epidemic. Dad was my age.
     I think I understand since I too feel motherless at camp.

When I am sixteen
     I audition new signatures, cursively slanting letters forward,
     leaning letters back, always disappointed with the lack
     of flourishing lines. The loop of the “y” in Dyer longs for a companion.
     Like the actress Myrna Loy, I want two y’s that swoop and sway.
     If Clara Louise were alive, I’d whine in my best teenaged voice—
     Why did you name your daughter Merna and delete the stylish “y?”
     She (and I) are too glamorous for a pedestrian “e.” Why, why?

When I am twenty-seven
     my universe becomes my firstborn child. I take care to
     properly spell his Gaelic name S-E-A-N. No phonetics
     to assist the uninformed. How do I fail to see the irony? The ancestral
     burden given me now goes to him:

               Hi, my name is – No, spelled with an “e,” please.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author and her son, Sean Skinner, August 2014, taking it “e”asy at the beach in Southern California.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As the second “Merna” in my family, I’ve always wondered how my very English paternal grandmother, Clara Louise Stevens Dyer, chose her children’s unusual names: Guida, (a boy), Inez Merna (my aunt) and Hugh Arlyn (my father, who scored the most common name). Since Clara Louise died in 1927, when her children were quite young, no one knows the genesis of their names. We do know, however, that both boys used nicknames (Guy and Scotty) rather than their given names.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Merna Dyer Skinner writes poetry and personal essays when she is not working as a communications consultant at Satori Communications, Inc., helping people overcome their fear of public speaking. Her business articles have appeared in national publications and her poetry in MiOPeasias, Star 82 Review, Mojave River Review, Silver Birch Press (Me as a Child Series), and the Squaw Valley Review. She is an alumna of the Squaw Valley Writers Community and continues to attend classes at the UCLA Writers Extension Program and Writers Workshops of Los Angeles. She lives in Venice, California, with her sixth rescue dog, Sophie.

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Readers moved by Frank McCourt‘s memoir about his Irish childhood, Angela’s Ashes, will welcome our latest release — Mary’s Last: Tales of an Irish-American Orphan by Daniel Patrick Delaney. Like McCourt’s book, Delaney’s memoir is told from a child’s perspective as a boy tries to make sense of the world around him — and his place in it. Written in luminous, lyrical prose, Mary’s Last is a stunning achievement from a first-time author. The memoir is an inspiring story of survival and courage in the face of harrowing and even horrifying circumstances.

The story begins in Philadelphia during March 1963, when Mary Delaney dies of the Asian Flu — leaving behind eight children, including her “last,” Danny, just 19 months old. With a dead mother and deadbeat father, the Delaney children are scattered to different family members — and Danny winds up with his Aunt Kate and Uncle Lenny in a house crammed with nine other children. Plain Kate had always envied her beautiful sister Mary — and now takes out her resentment on Danny, finding an endless variety of ways to make him pay.

Find Mary’s Last: Tales of an Irish-American Orphan by Daniel Patrick Delaney at Amazon.com.

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Joan Gabrielle—A Handy Name
by Joan Leotta

“Florence, you need to pick
a girl’s name too!”
So said my dad–
over and over again.
Certain she would never birth a “silly girl”
my mother selected John Gabriel
to honor her dying father (John) and
my dad (Gabriel)—one name only.

As her head was still
spinning from
anesthetic,
nurse pressed
me to her bosom,
“You have a lovely baby girl.”
“Take her back!” My mother shouted.

Gently, smiling,
(as I recall)
Nurse whispered,
“But her hands are so pretty.”
My mother sighed.
“Ok, I’ll keep her.”

Nurse smiled again.
Pen now in hand,
Nurse inquired,
“What will you name her?”

I felt my mother’s pulse race.
Panic.
“We only picked one name!”
Nurse continued,
“That name is?”

My mother’s skin grew warmer
Laying on her chest,
I could feel her
heartbeat increase yet again
before she spoke.
“John Gabriel—
What’s close to that for a girl?”

Nurse clucked disapproval,
Then announced, what was
Then pronounced and declared
To be my two true names—
“Joan Gabrielle.”

So it was declared
so it was and shall be.
Joan Gabrielle DiLeonardo
(Until I appended Leotta to the string).

Named for the saint and the archangel?
No, named for my grandfather and father
Sort of.
Actually, named by the OB nurse
who thought I had nice hands.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: Here I am at age five pondering the ramifications of my name—and probably thinking, no matter what the name, I am a Princess.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is the story of my name—told again and again by my mother, but with the addition of my own neonatal self’s perspective. My creative process is to let the idea find a form and work at it. But I don’t wait for inspiration. I try to write every day. Rewriting, polishing—that is the art and real fun of it for me. I like to leave a smile or in some other way encourage my readers. I write non-fiction, (stories for the newspaper) fiction, poetry, essays, and plays. I also read widely.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta is an author and story performer. Her books include Giulia Goes to War, Letters from Korea, and A Bowl of Rice. Visit her at joanleotta.wordpress.com.

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Indomitable Spirit
by Joan Becht Willette

Growing up I was “Little Joan” and my mom was “Big Joan”
But as I grew taller, she became smaller.
And in my family, our names still stuck,
I felt that it was good luck.

Joan – a strong name, a hard act to follow,
And it was not popular, that was hard to swallow.
An old school name, not pretty like Patty or Sue,
Strength in character, I had to imbue.

To be named after women warriors like my mother,
Who led the troops of my two sisters and five brothers.
Joan of Arc was who I secretly celebrated,
And whose path of bravery I was fated.

To follow as I grew older
Imbued with her indomitable spirit, I got bolder,
And came to claim and embrace my name,
Of Joan of Arc fame, there was no shame.

I was a warrior like my mother before,
With society’s rage knocking at my door.
Donning Joan’s armor and fighting the fair fight,
I stood up for my family’s equal rights.

Championing racial and gender equality,
That became my everyday reality.
As I raised a biracial child
In the 1980s, I was in the wild.

It was a time for girls and women to speak up and rise
And claim their educational, vocational and financial prizes.
With the sword of knowledge by my side,
And a passion for equal rights that wouldn’t subside.

Standing for equality for ESL students and families,
I tirelessly advocate for students with disabilities.
With Joan of Arc’s banner, suddenly a place “at the table” is a viable possibility,
In a brave new world of equal opportunity.

With Joan of Arc’s courageous stride,
Into the 21st century, she gave me pride to thrive and survive.
To become the woman of a creative community of brave hearts
And be able to inspire them to charge into their lives, with a fresh start.

With a passion that does not burn me at the stake,
My name has given me the fortitude to create,
A life that has overcome so many cultural barriers
And to live a life beyond my wildest dreams, my open heart carries.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: “Joan of Brave Heart” taken in 1958 at my paternal grandparent’s house in Hollis, New York.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Indomitable Spirit” is about how the name Joan helped me overcome many challenges of growing up with five brothers and two sisters in a world where feminism and equal rights were “dirty words.” Being female was categorically viewed as “second class” in the mid-1950s and beyond, during my formative years. My name carried me through – gave me armor and courage to fight and stand up for my rights as well as my female friends and Special Education students, and against racism and other social inequities that I encountered in my life!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Becht Willette is a fledgling writer and a lifelong educator. Since the age of seven, Joan has been a voracious reader and a creative writer with a rich fantasy life. She graduated St. John’s University with a B.S. degree in Education and Queens College with a M.S. in Special Education. After teaching Special Education students for several decades, she took her dream of writing off the shelf. Her poetry has been recently published in the Newtown Literary Journal and in Siren e-zine. Joan has created “The Enchanted Goddess: Literary Creative Arts Community” with a monthly Writing Series Workshop and a monthly Reading Series Workshop in Astoria/L.I.C., New York. Women gather to create, collaborate, and transform in these workshops. Joan has been featured in Poetry Open Mics at The Boundless Tales, Inspired Word NYC, Waltz-Astoria, The International Women’s Salon, Risk of Discovery Reading Series, and Kea’s Spoken Word. Joan’s work will also be featured in N.Y.C. Poetry Festival in July 2015 and Queens Lit Fest in August of 2015. Writing is an adventure for her and has transformed Joan’s life!

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Joan of Arc
by Joan Colby

Cast in bronze you cross
An ocean to my hands.
Your voices exhorting thrones.

You wear vestments
Of the pure of heart.
Nothing can overtake you

Save treachery. You surrender yourself
To flames
Invoking your visions.

You stare across the field
Of my desk,
Your hands clasping a sword.

Your eyes cast down
On welter of paperclips
Fallen haphazard as soldiers.

Fanatic, heretic, witch,
Riding a black horse
Into the besieged city.

We share a name
I pronounce
In the manner of your enemies.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010).One of her poems is a winner of the 2014 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She is the editor of Illinois Racing News, and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 14 books, including Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press), which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize; Properties of Matter, Aldrich Press (Kelsay Books); Bittersweet (Main Street Rag Press), and The Wingback Chair (FutureCycle Press). She has two new chapbooks Ah Clio (Kattycompus Press) and Pro Forma (Foothills Press) as well as a full-length collection Ribcage (Glass Lyre Press), which received the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Colby is also an associate editor of Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press.

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