Archives for category: Women Authors

In the above photo, authors Joan Jobe Smith (left) and Tamara Madison pose with LADYLAND, a 496-page anthology of writing by American women — issued by French publisher 13e Note Éditions — that features their work.  Congrats to Joan and Tamara, whose writing has appeared in several Silver Birch Press anthologies, including our latest release the Silver Birch Press May Poetry Anthology. Learn more about LADYLAND at The book is available (in French) at

by Eleanor Farjeon

In the last letter that I had from France
You thanked me for the silver Easter egg
Which I had hidden in the box of apples
You like to munch beyond all other fruit.
You found the egg the Monday before Easter,
And said. ‘I will praise Easter Monday now –
It was such a lovely morning’. Then you spoke
Of the coming battle and said, ‘This is the eve.
‘Good-bye. And may I have a letter soon’.

That Easter Monday was a day for praise,
It was such a lovely morning. In our garden
We sowed our earliest seeds, and in the orchard
The apple-bud was ripe. It was the eve,
There are three letters that you will not get.

SOURCE: “Easter Monday” by Eleanor Farjeon appears in Scars Upon My Heart: Women’s Poetry and Verse of the First World War (Virago, 2006), available at

NOTE: Eleanor Farjeon wrote “Easter Monday” on April 9th 1917 in memory of her friend Edward Thomas, who died fighting as a soldier during the First World War.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eleanor Farjeon (1881–1965) was an English author of children’s stories and plays, poetry, biography, history, and satire. She won many literary awards and the Eleanor Farjeon Award for children’s literature is presented annually in her memory by the Children’s Book Circle, a society of publishers.

ImageToday we celebrate the birth of one of the all-time greatest of the great writers — Flannery O’Connor, born in Savannah, Georgia, on March 25, 1925. Author of two novels — Wise Blood (1952), which she holds on her lap in the photo above, and The Violent Bear It Away (1960) — and 32 short stories, O’Connor created a lasting body of work in her short life (she died 50 years ago — in 1964 at age 39).

Kurt Vonnegut said of her, “The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor. She broke practically every one of my [writing] rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.” (For the record, Vonnegut’s first rule of writing is: “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” Read the complete list at this link.)

Here’s a favorite Flannery O’Connor quote: “I often ask myself what makes a story work, and what makes it hold up as a story, and I have decided that it is probably some action, some gesture of a character that is unlike any other in the story, one which indicates where the real heart of the story lies. This would have to be an action or a gesture which was both totally right and totally unexpected; it would have to be one that was both in character and beyond character; it would have to suggest both time and eternity.”

by Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

by Jean McKishnie Blewett

There’s an Isle, a green Isle, set in the sea,
Here’s to the Saint that blessed it!
And here’s to the billows wild and free
That for centuries have caressed it!

Here’s to the day when the men that roam
Send longing eyes o’er the water!
Here’s to the land that still spells home
To each loyal son and daughter!

Here’s to old Ireland—fair, I ween,
With the blue skies stretched above her!
Here’s to her shamrock warm and green,
And here’s to the hearts that love her!

ILLUSTRATION: “Ireland Watercolor Map” by Michael Tompsett. Prints available at

Essay by Ada Limón

Speaking of art & politics…

: What man is that?

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Set him before me; let me see his face.

Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.

What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.

Beware the ides of March.

He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.
It’s hard not to think of Caesar on the ides of March. All those knives, all those men of politics. However, I often find that it is not Caesar or Brutus that I think of the most, rather, it is the Soothsayer. The poor nameless fellow who wanders in to warn his dictator of the coming fall only to be shoved out of the way as men with important business to attend to go about their day.

Mainly, I think, Hey, I’d like a soothsayer! Or an oracle. Or a Ouija board, a magic eight ball, even a good horoscope. Unlike Caesar (there’s really little comparison between us), I’d listen. Someone says, “Beware,” and I do, I pay attention.
 Maybe the soothsayers of today are the poets: Poor, often nameless, often shoved aside, often shouting something that no one is listening to.

But if the ides of March has taught us anything (aside from never befriending a man named Brutus), it is that we must listen to the soothsayers. Perhaps it could save our lives.
That sounds dramatic, of course, and it is. I like a bit of the dramatic. I mean, I’m talking about Caesar.

But in all honesty, I do believe that we are often delivered a poem exactly when we need it—when we are unaware that we are asking. We’ve all been on those marble steps, thinking, Man I’m done with this whole Rome thing. Let’s throw in the toga. And just then someone hands us a note, a poem. Say it’s, “Listen” by W.S. Merwin and we read: 
“with the cities growing over us like earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving 
dark though it is.”
And we’re reminded to do so.

Thank you. Thank you Rome. Thank you Romans. And for one more day we walk up the steps and we’re reminded to be, well, alive and for the meantime, happy about it.
 If it weren’t for those many poet/soothsayers, I’d most likely have taken the wrong path numerous times. Maybe you’ll get a poem today, passed under the door like a note. Read it, and in honor of the ides of March, pay attention.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ada Limón is the author of three books of poetry, Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, and Sharks in the Rivers. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from New York University. Limón has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and is one of the judges for the 2013 National Book Award in Poetry. She works as a freelance writer and splits her time between Lexington, Kentucky, and Sonoma, California (with a great deal of New York in between). Her new book of poems, Bright Dead Things is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2015. Visit her at

AUTHOR PHOTO by Jude Domski



Novel by Kim Cooper

 Silver Birch Press Review

*****Five stars *****

While Los Angeles has been called a city with a “history of forgetting”—with wide-scale demolition of landmarks and even entire neighborhoods—author Kim Cooper helps readers relive L.A.’s past in her captivating first novel, The Kept Girl (Esotouric, 2014), a book based on real people and events.

Cooper—a social historian, nonfiction author, and historic preservationist—serves as our guide as we travel back to Jazz Age L.A., the summer of 1929, just a few months before the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression.

It was a time when L.A. was starting to boom, thanks to abundant oil reserves and the burgeoning movie business—with dreamers and people who preyed on dreamers converging on the City of Angels to reach for the gold ring.

One of these California transplants was Raymond Chandler, who moved to L.A. after his years of service during WWI—and by 1929, he had lived in the city for a decade. As a 41-year-old oil executive, his fondness for booze and broads complicated both his professional and private lives—since he made a living as an executive in the oil business and was married to an ailing woman nearly 20 years his senior.

Cooper’s novel reveals Chandler before he became L.A.’s premier chronicler of crime—the writer who more than anyone created the neon noir image of L.A. that the city has enjoyed ever since.

The Kept Girl—which takes place a decade before Chandler published his first novel, The Big Sleep, in 1939—offers a speculative history of how the author may have got his start as a purveyor of crime fiction. In Cooper’s telling, Chandler’s employer asks him to investigate a religious cult that has squeezed $40,000 from Clifford Dabney, the boss’s nephew. Chandler enlists his secretary/mistress Muriel Fischer and an honest cop named Tom James—believed to be the model for detective Philip Marlowe—to assist him in solving the crime.

Throughout the story, the three protagonists deal with personal demons—including aging, sexism, alcoholism, and corruption—as they endeavor to crack the case of the Great Eleven Cult, headed by a shady mother and daughter who claim they receive messages and directives from angels.  A range of gullible types fall for their spiel—mainly out of greed, since the angels promise to reveal the locations of the richest oil deposits in California.

As P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and the L.A. of 1929 is much like a circus sideshow—with humanity in all its flaws, foibles, and hopes on full display. Cooper does a masterful job of pulling all the disparate parts of the story together into a riveting mystery. The big reveal at the end is worth the price of admission. So step right up and read The Kept Girlyou’ve never seen anything like it: history, social commentary, and an engaging mystery all in one tidy 274-page package.

The Kept Girl is available in Kindle and paperback versions at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including Pasadena Confidential, the Real Black Dahlia and Weird West Adams. Her collaborative L.A. history blogs include On Bunker Hill and In SRO Land. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons of LAVA–The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage,vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For LifeBubblegum Music is the Naked TruthLost in the Grooves and an oral history of the cult band Neutral Milk Hotel. The Kept Girl is her first novel.

COVER ART: Paul Rogers

by Peggy Curtis

cat sleeping
the comma

Illustration: “Sleeping cat,” ceramic bowl by Rukaya, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

by Esther Belin

I like to travel to L.A. by myself
My trips to the crowded smoggy polluted by brown
indigenous and immigrant haze are healing.
I travel from one pollution to another.
Being urban I return to where I came from
My mother
survives in L.A.
Now for over forty years.

I drive to L.A. in the darkness of the day
on the road before CHP
one with the dark
driving my black truck
invisible on my journey home.

The dark roads take me back to my childhood
riding in the camper of daddy’s truck headed home.
My brother, sister and I would be put to sleep in the camper
and sometime in the darkness of the day
daddy would clime into the cab with mom carrying a thermos full of coffee and some Pendleton blankets
And they would pray
before daddy started the truck
for journey mercies.

Often I’d rise from my lullaby sleep and stare into the darkness of the road
the long darkness empty of cars
Glowy from daddy’s headlights and lonesome from Hank Williams’ deep and twangy voice singing of cold nights and cheatin’ hearts.
About an hour from Flagstaff
the sun would greet us
and the harsh light would break the darkness
and we’d be hungry from travel and for being almost home.

I know the darkness of the roads
endless into the glowy path before me
lit by the moon high above and the heat rising from my truck’s engine.
The humming from tires whisper mile after mile
endless alongside roadside of fields shadowy from glow.

I know the darkness of the roads
It swims through my veins
dark like my skin
and silenced like a battered wife.
I know the darkness of the roads
It floods my liver
pollutes my breath
yet I still witness the white dawning.
“Night Travel” appears in Esther Belin’s collection From the Belly of My Beauty (University of Arizona Press, 1999).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A Diné (Navajo) multimedia artist and writer, Esther Belin grew up in Los Angeles, California. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of California, Berkeley. Her poetry collection, From the Belly of My Beauty (1999), won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Belin’s parents were relocated from the Southwest in the 1950s as part of the federal Indian relocation policy, and her work reflects the experience of a Native American living in urban Los Angeles. She often addresses the attempts to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream American culture, as well as larger themes of racism, alienation, and substance abuse. Belin lives in Durango, Colorado, with her husband and children.

PHOTO: “Los Angeles Smog” by Benjamin Amstutz, ALL RIGHT RESERVED.

By Naomi Shihab Nye

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.
“How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”
Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.
“Making a Fist” by Naomi Shihab Nye appears in Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab American Poetry (University of Utah Press, 1988).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1952, Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, songwriter, novelist, and children’s book author. Her many honors and awards include four Pushcart Prizes, The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, and many notable book and best book citations from the American Library Association.