Archives for category: All About My Name

by Alexis Rotella

Named after
the father
I loved
but didn’t

PHOTOGRAPH: Alexis Rotella.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alexis Rotella is the author of 40 books. She writes mostly Japanese forms in English. Her latest haiku collection, Between Waves, was released by Red Moon Press in 2015. She practices acupuncture in Arnold, Maryland.

The Importance of Names
by Clifton Snider

     “Names are everything.”
          –Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

The black-faced lion tamarin–tell me,
did such an animal exist
for thousands of years
on an island off Brazil
called Superaqui
before the scientists named it?

Call me Clifton then,
Clif with one f.
Snider with an i.
Call me poet, professor, Piscean,
friend, partner, lover of men,
introvert, a thinking-intuitive type,
right-brained & yes
an egoist.

Call me names that fade into remote history–
names given to initiates at Eleusis or Delphi,
names given to boys emerging from the kiva,
sacred, secret, comical names bestowed
by an honored berdache, his/her identity
protected by his/her own puberty vision.

Call me the human person I am alone for you–
the name you yourself prefer. Please do
make it visceral, a spirit name, sweet,
fresh as coffee or lemon blossoms,
strong as a bluff, flexible as a sea bird,
easy to pronounce, ineffable, inscrutable.
Above all, make it me.

from The Age of the Mother
Laughing Coyote, 1992

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at a reading in Whittier, California (2015). (Photo by Elmast Kozloyan.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A student, an older woman (probably around the age I am today, more or less), once said of this poem, “He sure thinks a lot of himself.” Maybe that’s why I excluded it from my new and selected poems, Moonman. Of course the student missed the point of the poem—that names are important, essential even. The poem also says a lot, I think, about self-worth, human individuality, and generosity of spirit: “Call me the human person I am alone for you—“


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Clifton Snider, faculty emeritus at Cal State University Long Beach, is the internationally celebrated author of 10 books of poetry. A career retrospective of his work, Moonman: New and Selected Poems, was published to great acclaim by World Parade Books in 2012. He has published four novels, including his first historical novel, The Plymouth Papers, published by Spout Hill Press in 2014. A Jungian/Queer literary critic, his book, The Stuff That Dreams Are Made On, was published in 1991, and he has published hundreds of poems, fiction, reviews, and articles internationally. His work has been translated into Arabic, French, Spanish, and Russian. (Author photo by Deborah Snider.)

The Author, On Her Name
by Alexis-Rueal


I was almost named for a woman who hated her name.
She would have worn an albatross with more joy.
She heard nothing genteel, only backwoods holler in each syllable.

Hattie Beatrice (Bee-A-trice)

My mother never knew this.
She nursed MawMaw’s name through eight months of pregnancy,
only to be told that passing on that name would be spreading a curse.

No fair to give a child a name with so much ill-will attached, so they    said.

She learned this from her father–
The one man living who saw his mother despise
the first gift she was ever given.

He never wanted to see that again.


I love my name.

Alexis Rueal (“Roo” as in “kanga,” “elle” as in letter)

Named for twins my Mom got high with in college.
I never met them, and Mom didn’t remember too much
past the puff, puff, pass of them,

but she loved their names.

Strange how such a cool name could be considered second best, at the time.


It’s THREE syllables. A-Lex-Is.
Not Alexius. Not AlleyExus. Not Alexisis.

No, please, don’t even try to pronounce my middle name.

               –The Author, grades K through high school graduation


To answer your questions:

a. I was not now nor ever named for the chick on “Dynasty.” Or the car.
b. No, I do not like to be called “Alex,” or “Allie,” or “Lexi,” or “Roo.”
No. You may not call me “Al.”
My mom gave me a name. A full and rich name.
You may call me Alexis.
c. Yes, I publish under my first and middle names. I’m on my second    marriage;
I’ve shed last names like snakeskin, but Alexis Rueal is my spine.


I love the name Hattie. It’s fun. Bouncy.
I still think it would go well with red or purple hair.
Every now and again, I try it on in a mirror,
check to see if there’s any echo of MawMaw when I speak her name.
It almost fits me. Almost.


I’m the only girl in the family not named for someone else.
No traditions to carry. No legacy to live up to.
There is no history to my name but what I make of it.
No stories attached, now, but what I call my own.
For better or worse, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my name.
If you ever decide to name your kid after me, I won’t mind–
I hope they have fun with it.
I know I have.

PHOTOGRAPH: The Poet, pre-date night with her Mister (May 2015).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alexis-Rueal has been in the Columbus, Ohio, poetry scene since 2011. In that time, she has published two chapbooks (Letter to 20—Poet’s Haven Press and According to the Results—Writing Knights Press), and competed on the 2013 National Poetry Slam team for Writers’ Block Poetry. When she isn’t writing and performing throughout Ohio, she shadowcasts movies and spends time with her husband and pets.

My Name
by Amlanjyoti Goswami

What’s not in a name?
Mine contains my spirit, they say.
Take away my name, and you
Take away myself
Like Samson and his hair

In these parts, they think a lot before
Giving you a name
Consult horoscopes
Find soothsayers, astrologers, free thinkers
Each with a point of view
Each with a name

My name contains no village or
Father Mother
This means I had already moved on.
I know friends who can tell
Their place in the world
By summoning the lost characters of a name
I can do no such tricks.

I ask
Could I not be that guy
With his free-flowing tongue
Why should I be the one to stutter?

I, who was named
For light,
Unfaded, brilliant

PHOTOGRAPH: Amlanjyoti Goswami.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: While writing the poem, I was reminded of a meeting with Harold Bloom, the professor at Yale. He was signing his name for me in one of his books, and found it prudent to ask my name. “What does your name mean?” he asked. I told him. “At my age,” he said, “I find it difficult to live up to my surname.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amlanjyoti Goswami’s poems have appeared in The Caravan, Mint, IQ: The Indian Quarterly, Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi), The North East Review, and The Poetry Shed. His stories have been published by Himal SouthAsian and Papercuts: Desi Writers Lounge.  He grew up in Guwahati, Assam, and lives in Delhi.

An Open Letter To all my Nieces and Nephews
by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios

Dear Ones:

Once upon a time,
a girl named Elizabeth was born
on a sunny morn
in the state of California.
On the day of her birth,
a fairy godmother
nobbed her on her
little noggin with her wand,
and voila! She became a Betty.
Not only was she a Betty,
but she was an itty bitty Betty
or a bonny Betty
or a little bitsy Betty.
Whatever! The name stuck,
and you must know that girl was me.
I looked as a Betty should look,
(much like chucked as a wood chuck chucks).

Now, according to Betty Etiquette
(or Bettiquette)
there are many attributes I should have.
I should be excellent in the kitchen,
(questionable, and I only wear an apron at Thanksgiving)
I should read labels and backs of cereal boxes, (not!
Nor do I read directions — oops)
I do write thank you notes, (a month late)
however, (cover your eyes all ye Betties)
I dog-ear the pages in my books
because I can never find the bookmarks
sent to me at Christmas.

Some Betty essences have stuck:
I do pay in exact change
and pack the cloth grocery bag
every time I shop.
I do place the fork on the napkin
but I have an “itty bitty Betty” inkling
that I am not an organized housekeeper,
for I do not belong to the
A is for Alice who waxed the floor
B is for Betty who waxed it some more.
BTW (Betty cyberchat),
(That is Bettyhumor.)

I basked in my Bettitude for most of my younger years,
dispensing joy wherever I went, for
to be a Betty in this Roscoe eat Roscoe world
is not as difficult as you might think.
“Bettiness” is everywhere,
even in parts of speech.
            As a noun:
“Betty is as Betty does “
or “once a Betty, always a Betty,”
or “Bitty Betty bought some better butter.”
            As an adjective:
“Don’t worry, be Betty.”
            As a verb:
“To Betty or not to Betty, that is questionable.”

However, when I moved to the East,
my sobriquet was changed from Betty (Boop some said)
to Queen (or Queen Mother) Elizabeth.
(I guess that should be called a Sober-quette,)
(More Bettyhumor)
Now occasionally people say to me
“Funny, you don’t look like a Betty”.

So, Dear ones,
in lieu of my lack of Bettypresence,
I am sending you this Bettyletter.
with the hope that you may live long and bask
in your own Bettifying essences,
and preserve the great American Tradition
of Bettiness.

Aunty Betty (not to be confused with antiBetty)

PHOTOGRAPH: Aunt Betty (May 2011).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: An Open Letter to my Nieces and Nephews was written in response to the conundrum – what do people call me, Betty or Elizabeth? On the West Coast family and friends know me as Betty (the name I was called as a child), and on the East Coast I am known as Elizabeth. As Betty, my personality is different in style and humor than it is as Elizabeth.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios’s poetry has been featured in an online poetry column: Clementine, in the Me, as a Child Series from Silver Birch Press, in a forthcoming issue of the Edison Journal, and is co-author of a book The Party Line, She has studied with Judith Harris, Hailey Leithauser, Alexandra Van de Kamp, and Gloria Boyer. She is a Professor Emerita from American University, and has spent most of her life performing as a singing artist across Europe and the United States. As the artistic director of the Redwoods Opera Workshop in Mendocino, California, she has influenced and trained music students across the country.

Bernard George Sarnat’s Last Hospitalization,
Son Caught in the Middle
by Gerard Sarnat

I always loved Father and imagined he loved me
though it’s less clear it was more than toward my sib who whispered    she felt none.
Then there’s comely Mother.

My sister liked the Ice Queen more than I did, promised she’d take care    of her
when he’s gone. Dad almost is, but Sis-in-charge doesn’t begin to    happen —
last few years they both were my kids…

Tooth brushing then mental flossing
the bootstrapped meat and potatoes self-made man, unbidden
I stammered, “Pops, how’d I get such a wrong middle name?”

“George after me would’ve been fine but in the end it was David
or what we gave you – Mom supposed
Daryl had an awful nice ring.”

“With my razor-sharp personality, at first Daryl
was a millstone.” Bernard zingered back,
“Never knew nuthin’ about that.”

“Too fancy-schmancy for a kid,
Gerard worked as I strived to become a poet.”
“And I planned soz your first name’d rhyme perfect with mine!”

Taking a crack to bring my geometrist PhD sister in from the passive
aggressive cold, reaching for the right angle, I ad-libbed,
“Don’t you wonder if that name was already used, if you’d marry a    David?”

Silence while a nurse does Poppy’s blood pressure,
Sis’s frown lines lobbed back, “Not much,” followed by his diagonal    rapid-fire snipe,
“Listen up, here’s the thing: spare me conversating when I’m not paying    attention.”

Moving on, I faux offhandly countered Daddy,
“How’d you and Mama end up with Jayne with a Y
for Sis — was it after Mansfield — or somebody else?”

Drawn toward and away from my sibling’s flame,
Bernard George punts, “That musta been your mother’s decision
— I really don’t recall and need a nap now.”

Rolling no-nonsense punches with the lateral movement of moths
circling a lamppost, Jayne’s exasperated sigh comes clean,
“That slip pretty much sums up our unrelational unequilateral triangle.”

PHOTOGRAPH: Gerard Sarnat  reading at Stanford University (January 2015).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My wife of 45 years and I live in the room above a daughter’s family’s garage. Grandkids wander in and out all the time. It’s great! When we’re not there, we live in a yurt where our son’s family lives off the grid between the Klamath River and Marble Mountains. My creative process began with the youthful conceit that my dreaded formal first name Gerard started to work as a handle when I became a published poet. The Ice Queen, mathematical sister and triangle relationships (of course leaving Mom out) with our father, Daryl middle name, etc., followed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gerard Sarnat MD received his education at Harvard, where he was the editor of the freshman literary magazine The Yardling, and Stanford.  He established and staffed clinics for the disenfranchised, has been a CEO of healthcare organizations, and was a Stanford professor. Gerry is published in over a hundred journals and magazines and is the author of three critically acclaimed collections:  HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man  (2010), Disputes (2012), and 17s (2014) in which each poem, stanza or line has 17 syllables. For Huffington Post reviews, reading dates including Stanford, publications and more, visit  His books are available at select bookstores and on Amazon, and his work appears in literary magazines stocked by Barnes and Noble among other distributors. Gerard has been featured this year as Songs of Eretz Poetry Review’s Poet of the Week with one of his poems appearing daily. Dr. Sarnat is the second poet ever to be so honored.

susan mahan

My Name Is Susan
by Susan Mahan

Would Napoleon be happy
if people called him Nappy?
Would William Shakespeare quake
if known as Willy Shake?
Would Susan B Anthony have been the same
if Sue or Suzie were her name?


Don’t lie to me;
don’t fool with me;
don’t try to act too cool with me;
Don’t cheat me
don’t unseat me,
You can pal me,
or corral me,
or tell-a-tall-tale me.
You can stall me,
or enthrall me.
Don’t think for me,
or drink for me,
or turn ten shades of pink for me.
Don’t lecture me or preach to me,
attenuate your reach for me.

It’s no day at the beach for me

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: You wouldn’t believe how many people continue to call me Sue (after my telling them it is Susan)! I guess it is a pet peeve of mine.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Mahan has been writing poetry since her husband died in 1997. She had wanted to be a writer as a kid, but life got in the way. She has subsequently written over 350 poems and had many of them published, including in Silver Birch Press Poetry Series.

Sympathetic Magic
by Merie Kirby

it’s a matter of like attracting like, of the painting
            on the cave wall calling to you
                         the animal you hunt,

the way a small bit of what makes you sick
            can also cure you
we also call it metonymy

the way you take
            the first dollar you earn babysitting
                         and frame it

the way you cut out
            the smiling face of the sandy haired boy
                         you no longer want in your life

the way you see an old woman
            in a movie stab pins into a doll;
                         the man who evicted her doubles over in pain

the way cards or sticks
            spilled out on the ground are meant to show
                         the shape of things to come

the way my great grandmother asked my mother
            what shape she saw in her tea leaves
                         – a duck? –
            what walks like a duck?
                         – my mother didn’t know, she had no idea –
            a pregnant woman

the way you might name a baby
            the word Chaucer used for “happy”
intending for her life to be a merry one

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH:  This photo was taken when I revisited a bookstore I had worked at, happily, in college: Chaucer’s Books in Santa Barbara, California (Summer 2010).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Although my name is mispronounced and misspelled with great regularity, I have always treasured my unusual name. It was given to me for the English meaning, but that it means “the sea” in Finnish is also appropriate for this ocean-loving third-generation Californian.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Merie Kirby received her MFA from the University of Minnesota and teaches at the University of North Dakota. Her poems have been published in North Coast Review, Avocat, and other journals. She’s the author of the chapbook, The Dog Runs On, (Finishing Line Press), and in September she was a contributing poet to Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Project. The Thumbelina Poems is forthcoming from Red Bird Chapbooks in 2015.

The Winding Sheet
by Steve Werkmeister

Let me say what you see
when you look at me
something lumpy, dark, and hairy,
something you’d pinch between
finger and thumb to pull from a drain
that had slowed your flow. Let’s
not kid ourselves. A wretched tangle,
an unhappy reminder of the body’s
sheddings, the bits and pieces left
behind, forgotten, thoughtlessly
misplaced, presumably gone
for good, and my ridiculous name,
a job title turned plea, desperate
in its need to be trusted,
the tasteless insubstantiality
of Steve combined with the
dermal incongruity of Werkmeister.
A paper promise wrapping the leafrot
within, a potential lie, a joke, a jibe.
Because I grew up in that kind of town,
no one ever beat me up because I’m half
German, only half Mexican. Every year
in class teachers would read my name
from the first-day roster and look
everywhere but me. Some were better
at hiding the surprise. Some broke out
into Hogan’s Heroes German, oh,
Herr Verkmeister! they’d say. Do you know
vhat Verkmeister means? as if it wasn’t
a coat I’d been wearing since birth. As if
the day my dad disappeared when I was a kid
it wasn’t the only thing he’d left. A Texas
cop once stopped me, wondering what I thought
of Shakespeare, wondering if I liked the films
of Wim Wenders, wondering about my
perspective on the collapse of communism
and the new world order, wondering
if I had considered the possibility of life
after death. I’m kidding, of course. The cop
was wondering what I was doing in that
neighborhood, two blocks from my aunt’s
house. The cop made the face I’d known
from cashiers and girlfriends’ dads and
airline agents and asked where did you get
this name?, my Nebraska license not matching
the panoply of possibilities my skin suggested.
‘twas the swaddling clothes of my birth, I said,
‘twill be the winding sheets of my death.
It was all my dad had to give me.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: The pathetic irritability of a scholar who can’t get over the anachronisms at the local Renaissance fair.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was actually written in response to your prompt, not that that should matter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Werkmeister is an Associate Professor of English at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. He teaches composition and literature courses, hangs out with his family, and, when he has time, writes poetry and fiction, even occasionally publishing some.

What’s in a Name?
by Christa Pandey

Protest was in the air when I was born.
The country’s nationalist bend
had turned to hate and false religion.
By naming me with Christian symbolism
my parents thought to take a stand.
A boy would have been Christián
or Christoph, for me the closest
they could claim was Christa.

The middle name they chose was
even more pronounced and yet obscure.
Uta, medieval patroness of Naumburg,
established a cathedral in her town.
Why her? Why me? I don’t like Ute,
yet today I wonder if my own
late-life creation of foundations
might have been prescient in that name.

My maiden last name is as common
as the trade it used to indicate, though in our
ancestry’s two hundred years no Schmidt
is listed plying it, neither in iron nor in gold.

With marriage I was raised to Pandey (pandit),
an appellation used for learned people
in my husband’s land. By twist of fate
it’s on my German side that we find teachers,
pastors, chemists, while Indian forebears
farmed the land they owned, allowing them
to send some sons for higher education.
Our generation and the next
are true to our pandit appellation.

PHOTOGRAPH: Christa Pandey.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: While writing this poem, my middle name suddenly gained a meaning I had never seen in it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christa Pandey is a widely published poet living in Austin, Texas. Much of her writing is inspired by her multicultural environment. Besides her three chapbooks, Southern Seasons, Maya, and Hummingbird Wings (available at she has recent poems in Crossing Lines (an anthology by Main Street Rag Press), Poetry@Round Top anthology, and Taj Mahal Review.