Archives for category: SAME NAME


We extend our gratitude to the 60 writers who participated in our SAME NAME Poetry & Prose Series, which ran from Jan. 16-Feb. 13, 2016. Many thanks to the following authors for a fun and engaging series!

Daisy Bala (Wisconsin)
Rose Mary Boehm (Peru)
Cathy Bore (England)
Cathy Bryant (England)
Jane Burn (England)
Abbie Burrow (Georgia)
Jacalyn Carley (Germany)
Alexandra Carr-Malcolm (England)
Tricia Marcella Cimera (Illinois)
Joan Colby (Illinois)
Crystal Cook (U.S.)
A.B. Cooper (England)
Isobel Cunningham (Canada)
Cullen Downey (Georgia)
Jennifer Finstrom (Illinois)
Vijaya Gowrisankar (India)
Torrin A. Greathouse (California)
Geosi Gyasi (Ghana)
Tina Hacker (Kansas)
Stephanie Barbé Hammer (Washington)
Patrick Cabello Hansel (Minnesota)
Françoise Harvey (England)
Jennifer Hernandez (Minnesota)
Veronica Hosking (Arizona)
Mark Hudson (Illinois)
Nina Johnson (Indiana)
Brent Jones (Japan)
Mary Kendall (North Carolina)
Sofia Kioroglou (Greece)
Jacqueline Kirkpatrick (New York)
Jennifer Lagier (California)
Joan Leotta (North Carolina)
Betsy Mars (California)
Patrick Lee Marshall (Texas)
Danielle Matthews (England)
Mary McCarthy (Pennsylvania)
P.R. McDowell (England)
Rachel McGladdery (England)
Hal O’Leary (West Virginia)
Jimmy Pappas (New Hampshire)
Lee Parpart (Canada)
James Penha (Indonesia)
Charles Pennington (Georgia)
Kenneth Pobo (Pennsylvania)
Patrick T. Reardon (Illinois)
Kerfe Roig (New York)
Alex Simand (California)
Leslie Sittner (New York)
R.H. Slansky (California)
Christopher Sloce (Virginia)
Donna Smith (Maine)
Clifton Snider (California)
Carol A. Stephen (Canada)
Caitlin Stern (Texas)
Marianne Szlyk (Maryland)
Alarie Tennille (Missouri)
Thomas R. Thomas (California)
Sylvia Riojas Vaughn (Texas)
A. Garnett Weiss (Canada)
Kelley White (New Hampshire)

Heavens to Betsy
by Betsy Mars

Seamlessly stitched into my schoolgirl psyche,
dull and domestic, Betsy waved the flag,
helpful and submissive
as all Good Girls were meant to be.
Entering the new Age of Aquarius
the stars were realigning;
at thirteen, like the colonies,
I fought for independence.

Fabrication is not my way as I tend my double standard,
bearer of few domestic skills. My cloth is
threadbare, patched and coming apart at the seams.
Trying to redeem myself:
another Betsy lost in space and time,
weaving symbolism as I go.

Plucky, practical, and patriotic the famous Betsy was.
Apocryphal, a tale charming but unsubstantiated.
Me, by George, another subject altogether.
An unfolding story still striving for substance.
Living precariously under a charmed star,
striving to earn my stripes.

IMAGE: Betsy Ross (1752-1836), the woman credited with making the first American flag after a visit from George Washington in 1776.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was struggling to think of anyone with the same name other than inanimate objects (a gun, a magic bus) or farm animals (particularly cows). The obvious choice was Betsy Ross, with whom I feel I have little in common except for a respect for George Washington and a sort of can-do spirit. As I did some research, I discovered, to my naïve disappointment, that there is a lot of reason to doubt that she actually is responsible for that first flag. I have been experiencing a lot of shattered illusions in the time since 9/11 and so I am beginning to take it in stride. This led to a contemplation about the differences between the times we live in and what kind of legacy I might leave.

Mars (2)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a southern California poet, mother, and animal lover with a severe case of travel fever. She is conducting a thorough self-examination and writing is part of the process. Her name has been a source of embarrassment more than pride, although she is currently starting to come to terms with it.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken on a giddy evening before dinner on the cliffs in Palos Verdes, California.

mark hudson
The famous Mark Hudson
by Mark Hudson

A musician in Hollywood named Mark Hudson.
used to be in a group called The Hudson Brothers.
I’m an artist and poet named Mark Hudson.
who used to be in a rock band in high school in the eighties,
and started working on music in the nineties,
at one point in a studio in Chicago. I was the lyricist
and I’d sing with professional musicians.
I never got as famous as the Los Angeles
Mark Hudson, but maybe that’s because I never went
out to Los Angeles. I continue to get poetry published
on-line and in poetry anthologies, and I’m grateful that
I’m a “Hudson.”

IMAGE: Musician/singer/music producer Mark Hudson (New York City, 2015).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Hudson is a poet and writer, artist and photographer. His poetry was featured in the Silver Birch Press “My Sweet Word” and “Me, During the Holidays” Series.  His work has been most often anthologized in Grey Wolfe publications in Michigan,  and he has also had science fiction poems appear in Handshake, an irregular Science Fiction Newsletter in England.

English School Chaucer M
Geoffrey Chaucer
by Geosi Gyasi

My name lives on the front cover of your books:
You died long before the belly of my mother
Intumesced; into the joy of a crying baby
From childhood I was fed with words of breast milk
From the best sweet stories of “The Canterbury Tales”
I grew up with short and long sentences spooned into my mouth
Then exploded into a literary creature filled with the words
Of Geoffrey Chaucer. I fell in love with him and his words
And often saw him in my dreams and visions, reading to me.
My school bag usually contained the House of Fame or
Anelida and Arcite or The Book of the Duchess or Troilus and Criseyde.
One day in school, my English teacher asked if I was
in any way related to him. I stood up ready
to lie but I couldn’t, then a little magical voice whispered into
my ears a seemingly perfect answer: he’s my literary father, I said.

IMAGE: Portrait of Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), artist unknown.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was a child, I found Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in my grandmother’s wardrobe. I took it, read and loved it. Then I began to search for all his books. These childhood memories gave rise to my poem. For most of my schoolmates, pronouncing my name “Geoffrey” was difficult, as they preferred to call me “Jeffrey.” Because of this, I decided to change my name to a  simpler and less common one. This is how I came to be known as Geosi.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Geosi Gyasi is a book blogger, reader, writer, and interviewer. His work has appeared or forthcoming in Visual Verse, Verse-Virtual, Piker Press, Misty Review, Silver Birch PRESS, Linden Avenue, Brittle Paper, and elsewhere. He is a reader for the U.S-based literary magazine, Indianola, and the author of the forthcoming book of interviews (2016) from Lamar University Press Books in Texas, U.S. He is the winner of the 2015 Ake/Air France Prize for Prose. He blogs at

PHOTO: The author in Nigeria, attending the Ake Arts & Book Festival in 2015.


It’s with O’Leary in the Grave
by Hal O’Leary

With my grandfather having been born in County Cork, Ireland, I suppose it’s only natural that I would use an opportunity like this to express my pride in being Irish. Although I am well aware that not all Irishmen are admirable, I take my pride from such great ones as John O’Leary, the great Irish Separatist. He, as I would like to think of myself, was a staunch fighter against injustice in whatever form and wherever it might exist.

At the tender age of 19, in an attempt to rescue fellow separatist from jail, O’Leary was imprisoned for a week. In 1865, and then at the age of 35, he was arrested and later tried on charges of high treason. The charge was later reduced to “treason felony” and he was sentenced to 20 years penal servitude of which five years were spent in English prisons. In 1871 he was released in exile. In his exile, he lived mainly in Paris, but he remained active in the, IRB. (Irish Republic Brotherhood). With the termination of his exile he returned to Ireland, where he and his sister Ellen O’Leary both became Important within Dublin cultural and national circles, which included the likes of W. B. Yeats.

In addition to fighting injustice, John O’Leary, like myself, attended college but never obtained a degree, and like myself he was a lover of the arts, poetry in particular. It was his great friend Yeats who immortalized him in the poem, “September 1913” with each verse ending with the line,

“Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave.”

IMAGE:John O’Leary” by John Butler Yeats (1904).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hal O’Leary, now at age 90, has been published in 18 different countries He lives by a quote from his son’s play Wine To Blood, “I don’t know if there is a Utopia, but I am certain that we must act as though there can be.” Hal, a Pushcart nominee, is a recent recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University, the same institution from which he became a college dropout some 60 years earlier. He currently resides in Wheeling, West Virginia.

September 1913
by William Butler Yeats

What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone;
For men were born to pray and save:
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet they were of a different kind,
The names that stilled your childish play,
They have gone about the world like wind,
But little time had they to pray
For whom the hangman’s rope was spun,
And what, God help us, could they save?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet could we turn the years again,
And call those exiles as they were
In all their loneliness and pain,
You’d cry, ‘Some woman’s yellow hair
Has maddened every mother’s son’:
They weighed so lightly what they gave.
But let them be, they’re dead and gone,
They’re with O’Leary in the grave.


William Butler Yeats
 (1865-1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms. Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and, along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and others, founded the Abbey Theatre, where he served as its chief during its early years. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature,  the first Irishman so honored, for what the Nobel Committee described as “inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.” Yeats is generally considered one of the few writers who completed their greatest works after receiving the Nobel Prize. (SOURCE:

Golden Hindu Goddess Kali isolated over white
by Kelley White

My parents named me Kelley
It’s a fighting woman’s name
I like to think it came from Kali
But it might not mean the same
But a woman has her weapons
And more arms than she can claim

IMAGE; Statue of Hindu goddess Kali.

Kelley in dorm room1Edith_Kelley_Outwater1

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My boyfriend has been doing a lot of genealogy research of late. His family tree has Kelleys and Kellys on three out of four branches. Mine only has one Kelley branch. I was named after my great-grandmother Edith Kelley Outwater (1871-1968) who I knew as a strong woman, though blind in her old age, who loved licorice and storytelling. I was rather disappointed that my name, which I think my parents picked because it was “pretty” and cute (and just beginning to become popular in the 1960s) seemed to mean “warrior” in Gaelic. And somewhere I found this link in Indo-European languages to a woman I could celebrate. A Goddess! The poem was included in my “Poet-of-the-Month” feature last year for Beauty Poets online (from India).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural
 New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in journals, including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle, and JAMA. Her most recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books). She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

AUTHOR’S CAPTION FOR PHOTOS: (Right) Edith Kelley Outwater near the end of her life, and (left) me, trying to look mysterious, in my dorm room at Dartmouth in 1974.

On the pedestal
by Vijaya Gowrisankar

As I child who was curious and had questions galore
My favorite was to my grandma to seek her reactions
“Why the name ‘Vijaya’ and whom should I look up to?”
Her soft, gentle voice answered, “Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit”

She narrated stories of this famous achiever in small tales
A highly educated person, whom she admired with awe
A well-travelled lady who represented India globally
With firm beliefs, she held her ground for what was right

I stuck her photo on my cupboard inner wall for inspiration
It was no coincidence when I selected her for my research paper
I read her memoir that revealed her life and decisions she took
Unconsciously I emulated her as I followed my heart’s voice

From her books, I visualize her to be gentle yet strong
A go-getter, a visionary, she believed education was the key
She redefined the boundaries for women in Indian politics
Her influence in my life goes beyond the same first name…

PHOTO: Indian diplomat and politician Vijaya Laksmi Pandit (1900-1990).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My grandma was in awe of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit. My name choice was influenced by this famous achiever. My grandma told me stories of what she knew, and I went on to read more about Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit as I grew up. This poem is an attempt to show the admiration and how this lady has influenced my life.


Vijaya Gowrisankar
released her second book of poems Reflect in December 2015. Her first book, Inspire, published in December 2014 reached the bestseller status. She was announced as one of the winners of Inspire by Gandhi competition, organized by Sampad, a UK organization. She has been announced as the Winner of AZsacra International Poetry Award (Dec. 2015). Her submissions have been published in Forwardian, Triadae Magazine, iWrite India, Taj Mahal Review, along with Silver Birch Press.

In the Company of Orphans
by R.H. Slansky

My last name hangs on me like an ill-fitting suit
clatters from my mouth
as if it isn’t mine
a nasal honk sliding
into a timid trailing vowel: Slaaan-skeee
no one has heard it before
so I have to spell it out for them

Oh, says everyone
that’s just how it sounds

My homeroom class is given an assignment
to map out our family trees
I know mine will be boring, average
Polish, probably, that’s how everyone thinks Slansky sounds
Italian, probably, Dad’s from Long Island and we eat too much pasta,
that’s just math

But Slansky is not Polish, it’s Czech
and our name isn’t Slansky, it’s Robitschek
it was changed
by a second or third great-grandfather
in order to avoid a military draft
skewed unevenly toward the recruitment of Jewish men

Lost to the Holocaust,
the European family cannot tell me this story is wrong,
we are all that’s left.
until the granddaughter of my grandfather’s aunt turns up

a toddler at the war’s end
she survived the camps and the Angel of Death
to spend the next sixty years
cursed with a photographic memory
and the belief that she was all that was left

The real story of Slansky is
a second or third great-grandfather was caught married with a child
when the legal limit for Jewish families had already been reached
the family name was stripped from us as punishment

Slansky is a Scarlet letter we still wear
and we are all that’s left

Childhood summer road trips
I pull the White Pages out from under the Gideon’s bible
in the nightstand of every Motel 6 and Super 8
by age 16 I have been to 36 states
and found my name in only one

when my father meets the famous Russian poet
he asks if we’re related to Rudolf

arrested by the Czech government in 1951 along with 13 others
charged with treason,
tortured in prison,
then publicly hanged
Rudolph Slansky was one of 11 who were Jewish
and this is no coincidence

I try and fail to find a connection to Rudolf
but learn that his name
may have also once been something else, that perhaps he
is another orphan star without a galaxy

My father told the poet no
but could have said
and yes

Somehow, in adulthood
Slansky has become my first name,
my only name
people bray it at me with joy: Slaaan-SKEEE!
as if they are grumpy police lieutenants
and I am their rogue detective

they tell me it’s just fun to say
and I smile
having grown into that suit
at last

IMAGE: (Left) Czech politician Rudolf Slánský (1901-1952); (right) author R.H. Slansky outside the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There was a time in my life where I felt so estranged from the name Slansky that I planned to drop it when I reached legal age and use my middle name — my mother’s maiden name — as my last. Over the course of my life, as I’ve learned more about the family members, both those I couldn’t have known and those I did but didn’t really, I’ve come to love it. Somehow, without any doing on my part, wherever I go, it’s how people address me now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: R. H. Slansky, a six-time 3-Day Novel Contest entrant, two-time short-lister, and 2013 winner, has been featured in the Silver Birch Press ME, IN FICTION series, Geist literary magazine,, and the Literary Press Group of Canada’s website All Lit Up. Vancouver-based Anvil Press released her novella, Moss-Haired Girl, the Confessions of a Circus Performer in 2015. Raised in Oregon, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Johnson - Cold War
Cold War
by Nina Johnson
In memory of Nina Kulagina

At 14, Nina rose against the Nazis, operated the radio in a Russian tank.
900 days of bitter cold, bombs, becoming senior sergeant,
when artillery fire scarred, discharged her home.

Stalin banned women from marching in the Moscow Victory Day Parade.
So Nina got married, birthed a son, lived under radar
until nuclear threat shot her nerves, broke her down.

Nina sat sewing, feeling thread colors with her fingers, rousing
Russian scientists in search of paranormal human powers.
They insisted she could see the inside of their pockets,

move a matchbox, wine glass, needles with her hands hovering.
When she broke an egg in half, stopped the beating heart
of a frog without a touch, Americans feared

Russia’s new secret weapon. Doubters refuted, claimed magnets,
string, breathy tricks. And when I watch the videos
of her telekinetics, her mind over matter,

I can’t help but notice how like mine her face becomes.
Round, average and spent, arms waving with robotic
effort to move things, to break an egg, to stop a heart.

PHOTOGRAPH: (left) Nina Kulagina (right) Author doing her best Kulagina.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Nina Kulagina did, indeed, begin her service in the Red Army at the age of 14 during WWII. After her near-fatal injuries, I can only imagine how insulting it was when Stalin banned all female military from participation in the Moscow Victory Day Parade. At 38, after years as a mother and housewife, she suffered a nervous breakdown triggered by PTSD. While recovering in the hospital, military scientists noticed her uncanny ability to choose the correct color thread from her sewing basket without looking at it. They began to study her in earnest, seeking a new psychic weapon for their Cold War with the United States. Many videos of her demonstrations are available online. Russian scientists insisted she possessed the power of telekinesis and they continued to study her until her heart gave out at age 63.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nina Johnson is a writer based in the Indianapolis, Indiana, area. Her poetry has appeared in Silver Birch Press, the Lament for the Dead project, and The Lighter. Her short story “Headstones on Hidden Hill” will appear in the Ghosts anthology by Main Street Rag Publishing. She was most recently an Education Reporter for a local publication. Her husband and three daughters are patiently waiting for her to finish editing her first novel. You can follow her progress on Facebook.

Lady Randolph Churchill
by Jennifer Finstrom

“From too much love of living, from hope and fear set free.”—Swinburne

Her death is what initially captivates me. Tragic, avoidable, much like what I imagine happening someday when I’m walking down stairs in impractical shoes while texting. Jennie Jerome Churchill kept her collection of shoes in ornate glass cases to show them off, fell wearing new high heels, and broke her ankle. Her leg was amputated, but she died nonetheless.

I know little more than this when I begin to read the two volumes of Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill by Ralph G. Martin but soon learn of our shared literary pursuits. I read in volume one that “an increasing number of society women smuggled Swinburne’s poems into their bedrooms,” wish I could tell her how, in the late 1980s, I sought out Swinburne in second-hand bookshops, picked out the second last stanza of “The Garden of Proserpine” for my future gravestone.

“Had she only been the mother of Winston Churchill, her place in history would have been assured,” the inside front cover of the first volume tells us, and already, I have almost forgotten that he is her son. When volume one ends in 1895, she is forty years old, younger than I am now. She laments that her life is over: her husband dead, her admirers all married or gone.

She doesn’t know that she will marry twice more, doesn’t know what courage and wit she will summon at the end, telling the doctor to be sure he cuts high enough. I like to think that I might somehow share those qualities—though not the additional marriages—and her pragmatic optimism as well, when she says of her third husband, a man not much older than her son, “He has a future and I have a past, so we should be all right.”

IMAGE: “Jennie Churchill,” 1880 (artist unknown).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The more I learn about Jennie Churchill (1854-1921) the more captivated I am.


Jennifer Finstrom
 teaches in the First-Year Writing Program, tutors in writing, and facilitates writing groups at DePaul University. She is the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine, and recent publications include Escape Into LifeExtract(s), Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, and NEAT. For Silver Birch Press, she has work appearing in The Great Gatsby Anthology, the Alice in Wonderland Anthology, and in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks.