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helen-hayes
Regarding A Gift of Joy, Helen Hayes’ Autobiography
by Ren Powell

I fear I am slowly forgetting
how to write a poem.
How to coax the sounds to line up
and sing inside my head
with the voices of those forgotten,
those anonymous, recorded
in my developing brain, inside
my body, inside my mother’s body:

the pure soundtrack of becoming.
Allusions. Every poem
is a wink of recognition;
every poet is enthralled
with the music of her own
species. And the actress is a sonorous
medium for the dead. Her autobiography
is all intertextuality: a memory of a whisper

echoing over seven centuries
to meet me here. Now here
in that soft spot that has never healed
she has been the go-between to mingle me
with everyone who has ever written.
On page 203 the scalloped page channels
the woman who channels Wordsworth
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting”

But I read, and I remember still.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Never judge a book by its cover. A Gift of Joy by Helen Hayes New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1965).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am someone who has learned not to hold onto things too tightly. I have few possessions that have significant emotional memories: my children’s baby clothes, my grandmother’s costume jewelry, and this book. I originally tried to write a prose piece about it, but memories intruded and the little paragraph stretched to a thousand words. It was the first book I bought for myself, with my own money. I was 10. I misunderstood the cosmic message and thought for many years that my kinship with Hayes meant that I was destined to be an actress. Nope.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ren Powell
is a native Californian who has made her home in the southwest of Norway. Her sixth poetry collection is forthcoming this year with Wigestrand Publishers. Her selected works Mercy Island is available in North America through Phoenicia Publishing and Amazon.

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Grandfather’s ring
by Jesse Holth

made by his hands,
tarnished by age
and by air

smooth inner side,
outer pocked steel
the craters feel
full, not empty
it’s the life
inside, breathing

too wide to see
little knuckles
beneath, and
much too large
for tiny fingers

must hang from
dangling chain to
wear, around such
a small head
as talisman to
call forth: love,
patience, empathy,
compassion

a treasure beyond
measure, fashioned
from an unliving
generation —
passed down, created
through family to span
an eternity of ages

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My grandfather’s ring, today.

NOT FROM THE AUTHOR: My grandfather made at least two handcrafted rings — one was given to my grandmother, which she still wears every day, and the other to my mother (who handed it down to me). Since his passing, the ring has become a symbol of his generous, selfless spirit and the patience and kindness that he imparted to me.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jesse Holth is a freelance writer and editor. Her poetry will be featured in a forthcoming gallery exhibition, and her writing has been featured in The Huffington Post, Popular Archaeology, and Seaside Magazine. You can find her at jesseholth.com or on Twitter @jesseholth.

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Keepsake
by Frederick Wilbur

      for Robert Leonard Wilbur (1915-1998)

It rolled in his pocket until its polish
betrayed its origin. To most anyone
it is just an oval whitish stone—
not an egg exactly, not a skipper,
but who knows, a chip of Grecian marble
found pleading on an ancient battlefield,
or some chance chunk of mountain,
that stream-tumbled, could not sneak
by the souveniring of bankside lovers?

And to suppose the story, is to corrupt
his fondest memory perhaps, to slander
that kind man’s lasting bequest. I dare not
take on the burdens of his life, but keep it
in unchallenged belief for my own sake.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: “Where I found it.”

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Great men are humbled by small wonders. Art, indeed life, takes on meaning in the seemingly insignificant, in imperfection, in those things which we daily pass over. The stone described in this loose sonnet is probably just a river rock, possibly only a pebble, but the fact that it belonged to the speaker’s father is enough. To speculate about its significance for the father is, however, to unfairly limit his feelings for it or remembrance about it. The speaker, without knowing particulars, doesn’t want to chance losing even this “part” of his father’s life.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frederick Wilbur has been an architectural woodcarver for 35 years and has written three books on the subject. The nature of craftsmanship, chance, and choice are recurrent themes in his work. Having lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia most of his life, rural living and the natural environment are relied on to explore human relationships. He is published in Shenandoah, The Lyric, The South Carolina Review, Cold Mountain Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, The Sandy River Review, The Café Review, Greensboro Review, Slant, Appalachian Heritage, Snowy Egret, POEM, and Verse-Virtual (online), among others.

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Thank you to the 87 writers — from 24 states and 16 countries — who participated in our IF I Poetry & Prose Series, which ran from September 28 – October 26, 2016. Based on emails and comments, this series was a reader favorite! Many thanks to the following authors for their amazing work!

Azia Archer-DuPont (Minnesota)
Roberta Beary (Maryland)
Lana Bella (Vietnam)
Nina Bennett (Delaware)
Norma Bernstock (Pennsylvania)
Steve Bogdaniec (Illinois)
Timothy Cheeseman (Ohio)
Tricia Marcella Cimera (Illinois)
Wanda Morrow Clevenger (Illinois)
Clive Collins (Japan)
Neil Creighton (Australia)
Jay Deitcher (New York)
Kathy Lundy Derengowski (California)
Casey Derengowski (California)
Steven Deutsch (Pennsylvania)
Cal Freeman (Michigan)
Martina R. Gallegos (California)
VIjaya Gowrisankar (India)
Deepali Gupta (India)
Brenda Davis Harsham (Massachusetts)
Tom Holmes (Mississippi)
Veronica Hosking (Arizona)
Caroline Johnson (Illinois)
Jacqueline Jules (Virginia)
Tim Kahl (California)
Gordon Kippola (Texas)
Steve Klepetar (Minnesota)
Tricia Knoll (Oregon)
Barbara Krasner (New Jersey)
Jennifer Lagier (California)
Bernadine Lortis (Minnesota)
Marjorie Maddox (Pennsylvania)
Mohini Malhotra (District of Columbia)
Betsy Mars (California)
Mary C. McCarthy (Pennsylvania)
Catfish McDaris (Wisconsin)
Michael Minassian (Texas)
Alice Morris (Delaware)
Phetote Mshairi (Oklahoma)
Heidi North-Bailey (New Zealand)
Debasish Parashar (India)
Thomas Park (Missouri)
Marianne Peel (Michigan)
James Penha (Indonesia)
Tim Philippart (Michigan)
D.A. Pratt (Canada)
Kelly Ramsdell Fineman (New Jersey)
Jonaki Ray (India)
Patrick T. Reardon (Illinois)
Mark Redford (England)
Scott Redmond (Scotland)
Bethany Reid (Washington)
C.R. Resetarits (Mississippi)
Jeannie E. Roberts (Wisconsin)
Esther Rohm (Ohio)
Kerfe Roig (New York)
Lois Roma-Deeley (Arizona)
Sarah Russell (Pennsylvania)
Barbara Ruth (California)
Wilderness Sarchild (Massachusetts)
Susan Schirl Smith (New Hampshire)
Shloka Shankar (India)
Sheikha A. (Pakistan)
Jane Shlensky (North Carolina)
Ndaba Sibanda (Kuwait)
Alex Simand (California)
Leslie Sittner (New York)
Sarah Dickenson Snyder (Massachusetts)
Massimo Soranzio (Italy)
Carol A. Stephen (Canada)
Ryan Stone (Australia)
Jacque Stukowski (Illinois)
Elizabeth Kate Switaj (Marshall Islands)
Terrence Sykes (Virginia)
Amanda Tanner (Michigan)
Vincent Van Ross (India)
Alan Walowitz (New York)
James Walton (Australia)
Mercedes Webb-Pullman (New Zealand)
Kelley White (New Hampshire)
Lynn White (Wales)
Lin Whitehouse (England)
Ginna Wilkerson (Florida)
Lozan Yamolky (Canada
Jonathan Yungkans (California)
Joanie HF Zosike (New York)

 

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If I were a woman…
by D.A. Pratt

If I were a woman I wonder how I would feel about everything. I wonder what I would think about everything too — but I really wonder how I would feel about things. Surely life would be, and would have been, very different. Would I have any of my current views and opinions? There are so many questions I could ask myself — many profound but maybe even more would be merely mundane…

When I think about it, I realize that everything really would be different…absolutely everything! I would not have read the same books as I’ve read as a guy…I may not be living anywhere near where I live and have lived throughout my existence as a male…I wouldn’t know the same people that I currently know…I wouldn’t have the same family…wow!

Since I’ve pondered this scenario from time to time over several years, I’m willing to ask myself questions like: “Did I enjoy being a girl?” (like the 1958 Rodgers and Hammerstein song) or “Did I ever get used to being subjected to the male gaze?” (assuming that I would have been — there are no guarantees). Did I enjoy wearing blue jeans as much as I, as a guy, enjoy experiencing women in denim blue? And, just for fun, how would I feel about wearing high heels? On a more serious note, what would be my philosophy of life? Would I have one?

How would I feel about men? About other women? I’ve long thought that if I were a woman that I would have be a lesbian…I wonder if this would have ended up being true…just wondering…if I were a woman…

IMAGE: “Man and Woman in the Window” by Istvan Farkas (1939).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have often pondered the idea that I have presented in this 300-word story, and I’m convinced that this is actually unusual. It all started a long time ago when I read a newspaper column that discussed the idea of being the “other sex” for a day (this was before today’s “gender awareness,” if I may put it this way). It described the results of an exercise that challenged readers to contemplate the matter (and it noted that many males failed the test). When I thought about it I quickly realized that I would not be able to fit everything I would want to experience as a woman into one day (yes, naturally, I thought about “having sex” but I also thought about giving birth). Since then I haven’t stopped contemplating the matter…¶ I have been writing a series of poems, some serious with some superficially silly, all with the title “If I were a woman I wonder …” and this naturally led me to write this story for this particular call for submissions. I have attempted to keep the story lighthearted (knowing that it could be a treacherously tricky topic). On this note, I will say that one of my favourite songs is “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (btw, the Miley Cyrus cover of this song is wonderful) and I would have loved to have mentioned it in the story but I ran out of words! There are times when I feel this is the major difference between guys and girls, especially right now. On the other hand, I’m absolutely aware of the fact that it’s a privilege to be able to be lighthearted on gender-related issues —  I’m absolutely aware that far too many people around the world cannot be this way.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: D.A. (David) Pratt continues to live (as an “older guy”) in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. David sees himself as an outsider within this community and his feelings about this were summed up in his self portrait poem published by Silver Birch Press in 2014.

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If I Disassemble My Pilot G2
by Steve Bogdaniec

If I am in a meeting with you, and I hold up one of my Pilot G2 Retractable Premium Gel Ink Roller Ball Pens—the G2 being the only pen I ever use because its gel is smooth and full and because it’s easy to refill—and you notice me unscrewing it at the rubber grip near the writing end of the pen, examining the two halves, the top half with a plastic clip and a plunger that will no longer have any tension in its spring because the pen is disassembled, and the bottom half with that contains the grip and the ink cartridge of whichever color I’m using, either black, blue, or purple, and I remove the ink stick, pondering it now that it’s independent from the rest of the pen, looking first at the level of ink waiting in its reservoir, then at the tip, the metal point covered in a small glisten of staining color, dangerous yet impotent, like a bullet that is nothing without the proper gun, and you see me quickly reassemble the pen’s three components and push in the plunger, hearing a click, making the slightest extra effort to push it as far as it can go, meeting the resistance of two tiny springs, one at the top of the pen and one near the tip, me pushing on the plunger for no reason other than it will make an extra tenth of an inch of the tip jut out before I release it and the pen clicks back in place, ready to write, then you can infer that I am not enjoying our meeting, nor focusing on it terribly much.

PHOTO: The author’s many Pilot G2s.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is 100% nonfiction. I only write with Pilot G2 pens for the reasons given in this prose poem. There’s one in my pocket at all times at work (teaching, tutoring, writing) and many more within arm’s length because what if the first five G2s I reach for run out of ink? I might have to use someone else’s crappy pen—shudder. I’m not sure when the ritual began, but one day I caught myself doing this during a boring work meeting, and I realized I’d done it before. I’ve gone on doing it. I’ve always wondered if anyone has ever noticed, and imaging that conversation inspired this poem.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Bogdaniec is a writer and teacher, currently teaching at Wright College in Chicago. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in numerous journals, most recently Eclectica Magazine, Neat, Silver Birch Press, One Sentence Poems, and Blood Lotus.

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If I Cannot Sleep
by Bernadine Lortis

If I can’t sleep
the definitive reason may be
this inanimate creature
that loiters above me
whom I can’t totally block
if I am to keep some Time
and, of course, Time must be kept.
This everyday object— this clock—
I’d bet, you’d never guess
his amazing bold prowess
to watch his poker-face dozing
away in the day, but wide awake
in the night, oh my! Now, how
his digits glow neon, show
teeth of the tiger. Big Cat,
mean that he is, he paces, he prowls
circles the bed without sound,
without need for pause, claws
up limbs, growls around
trails of entrails for hours,
stalking dreams to devour until
Lady Dawn chases him underground
to his twelve-number slumber
with insomnia riding his back
though sunrise is Nemesis Two
if I have not slept

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The creative process for this poem came about because I am an insomniac. Often while lying awake, I think if only the alarm clock wouldn’t keep reminding me that I’m not sleeping. Anxiety and self-reproach grows more oppressive with each hour until finally dawn breaks, but then it’s time to get up. It’s a codependent relationship and when I’m rational I’m reminded how ridiculous my attitude is. I’m just looking, unfairly, to transfer my problem to something else.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bernadine Lortis has written secretly and sporadically for years. She started submitting in June. A Creative Nonfiction piece was published in July issue of Stirring: A Literary Collection by sundresspress. A poem has been accepted for the Autumn Equinox issue of Mused-Bella Online. Advanced degrees in Art and Education were occupationally driven. An avid reader, gardener, and dabbler in watercolor, she lives with her husband and writes in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she finds inspiration all around her.

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If I Were a Genuine Genie
by Jeannie E. Roberts

If I were a genuine genie, not just by name, but
a supernatural spirit, like The Genie in Aladdin,

true-blue and incredibly funny, or like Jeannie
of I Dream of Jeannie, ponytailed and delightfully

sunny, I’d set the world agog, laughing and
blinking, nodding and thinking of how I could

aright the human race. Sure-footed and sensibly
dressed (favoring the coverage and durability

of bib overalls), I’d obey my inner master, honor
her voice. As a powerful creature, I’d respect

my fierce and fiery roots, remembering that
I was created from the “fire of scorching wind.”

In my lamp of luxury, I’d dispense my magical
gifts freely and equally, wielding my wizardry

with widespread benevolence and rollicking
repartee. However, for the record: if any willful

and wily wise guy tried to annoy me, I’d hardily
harass his earthly ass.

PHOTOS: Barbara Eden (letf) as Jeannie in TV show I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970). The author (right) posing as the genuine genie, Eau Claire, Wisconsin (August 22, 2016) — photo by Bruce.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This writing prompt unleashed a number of imaginative ideas, including the magical implications of my first name (a homophone of genie). No matter how fanciful and satirical this piece may seem, it offers hope of a brighter, more enlightened world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. Her fourth book, Romp and Ceremony, a full-length poetry collection, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. She is the author of Beyond Bulrush, a full-length poetry collection (Lit Fest Press, 2015), Nature of it All, a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and the author and illustrator of Let’s Make Faces!, a children’s book (2009). An award-winning poet, her poems appear in online magazines, print journals, and anthologies. She holds a bachelor of science degree in secondary education and a master of arts degree in arts and cultural management. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Jeannie lives in Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley area.  Learn more about her at www.jrcreative.biz.

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If I Want to Rebel
by Lin Whitehouse

If I want to dance
on the patio at midnight,
music driving not droning
a beat that won’t let me
sleep then I will.

If I don’t agree
I will challenge, my voice assured
to express my views and if
you take offence it’s your
problem, not mine.

If I shrug off friends
too needy and greedy I’m not
shallow but have reached that age
when I just want to please
myself not them.

If I discard the chains
of acceptance that constrained my
younger self, it’s because I
have learnt to value what
is important.

PHOTO: Isadora Duncan in Greece, around 1905.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a girl I was very shy and put up with people who were sometimes not very nice. When I had my two sons I was no longer afraid of the head teacher and when I reached sixty I realised I didn’t want to grow old gracefully!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lin Whitehouse lives in a small English village. She works for a children’s charity and writes every day. Her poems have been published in Turbulence, Writing Magazine, and The Great Gatsby Anthology, and she has had short plays performed around East and North Yorkshire, Newcastle, and recently as part of 2015 Cornucopia Festival.

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Find Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded by John Z. Guzlowski at Amazon.com.

“A searing memoir.” ― Shelf Awareness

“Powerful…Deserves attention and high regard.” ― Kevin Stein, Poet Laureate of Illinois

“Devastating, one-of-a-kind collection.” ― Foreword Reviews

“Gut-wrenching narrative lyric poems.” ― Publishers Weekly

“Taut…beautifully realized.” ― World Literature Today