Archives for posts with tag: memoirs


Congratulations to Chris Forhan — author of the poetry collection Ransack and Dance (Silver Birch Press, 2013) — on the June 28, 2016 release of his memoir My Father Before Me by Scribner, prestigious publisher of some of the greatest of the great (F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut).

BOOK DESCRIPTION: An award-winning poet offers a multi-generational portrait of an American family—weaving together the lives of his ancestors, his parents, and his own coming of age in the 60s and 70s in the wake of his father’s suicide, in this superbly written, “fiercely honest” (Nick Flynn) memoir. The fifth of eight children, Chris Forhan was born into a family of silence. He and his siblings learned, without being told, that certain thoughts and feelings were not to be shared. On the evenings his father didn’t come home, the rest of the family would eat dinner without him, his whereabouts unknown, his absence pronounced but not mentioned. And on a cold night in 1973, just before Christmas, Forhan’s father killed himself in the carport. Forty years later, Forhan “bravely considers the way he is and is not his father’s son” (Larry Watson), digging into his family’s past and finding within each generation the same abandonment, loss, and silence in which he was raised. Like Ian Frazier in Family or Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes, Forhan shows his family members as both a part and a product of their time. My Father Before Me is a family history, an investigation into a death, and a stirring portrait of growing up in an Irish Catholic childhood, all set against a backdrop of America from the Great Depression to the Ramones.

chris forhan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris Forhan is the author of the poetry collections Forgive Us Our Happiness, winner of the Bakeless Prize; The Actual Moon, The Actual Stars, winner of the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize; and Black Leapt In, chosen by poet Phillis Levin for the Barrow Street Press Book Prize. He was raised in Seattle and earned an MA from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA from the University of Virginia. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and two Pushcart prizes. His poetry has been anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2008 and has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, New England Review, Parnassus, and other magazines. He teaches at Butler University in Indianapolis, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Find My Father Before Me by Chris Forhan at

Boy and wooden rocking horse
Scene from a country town
by Mantz Yorke

Drawn up at the kerb, the horse
bent down:
my fair hair must have been attractive,
like hay.
I shied away

and have kept my distance from horses
ever since.

Photo by Taborsky

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was about three years old in a country town in England where horse-drawn wagons were still being used for local deliveries. This perhaps explains why I’ve never taken to riding.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mantz Yorke lives in Manchester, England.  His poems have appeared inButcher’s DogDactylDawntreaderLunar PoetryPopshotProleRevival and The Brain of Forgetting magazines, in e-magazines and in anthologies in the U.K., Ireland, and the U.S.

As we start the new year, we’d like to tip our hat to the books published by Silver Birch Press in 2015.


The Hollywood Catechism, poems by Paul Fericano (March 2015) — a 110-page collection that shines a bright searchlight on our addiction to pop culture, our fixation on celebrity worship, and our suspicion of religious ideas. Each poem is a small lens flipped to reveal an alternate universe into which the reader enters bravely with no exit sign in sight. Fericano’s unique perspective is marked by a skill and talent that blends socio-political satire with suffering and sentiment. In the process, he manages to acknowledge our shenanigans and celebrate our humanity.


Kissing My Shadow, poems by Merrill Farnsworth (May 2015) — a 60-page collection of poetry that features 42 poems charting the author’s soulful sojourn from childhood onward. The book has earned high praise from critics as well as readers.


The Great Gatsby Anthology (June 2015) — a collection of poetry and prose inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel from 80 established and up-and-coming authors around the world.




Dual Impressions: Poetic Conversations About Art by John Brantingham & Jeffrey Graessley (August 2015) — a discussion between John Brantingham and Jeffrey Graessley about art and life in the form of over 90 poems that cover themes such as war, poverty, and social justice. The collection also includes an interview with the authors — where they explain the genesis for the project as well as their collaborative methods, and discuss their museum visits and art research — plus links to the artwork that served as inspiration for the poems.

found and lost 2

Found & Lost, found & visual poetry by George McKim (August 2015) – a collection of repurposed and remixed Found Poetry and Visual Poetry. George McKim has repurposed and remixed the work of poets ranging from Tristan Tzara to Lyn Hejinian and has transformed their words into a fascinating collection of strangely haunting Found Poems. Augmenting these poems are fourteen vintage dictionary pages that have metamorphosed into full color Visual Poems.


IDES: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks (October 2015) — Silver Birch Press decided to celebrate the year 2015 by asking 15 poets each to contribute 15 pages of poetry to a chapbook collection entitled IDES (released on the ides of October 2015). The result is a diverse mix of poetry by authors from coast to coast.

alice cover1

Alice in Wonderland Anthology (November 2015) — a 148-page collection of writing, art & photography from 63 contributors around the world to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s masterwork,  Alice in Wonderland. Available in black and white and full-color versions.


Learning to Fly
by Stephen Blake

Sunday evenings my Mum would push back the furniture, turn on the radio, and get me to dance to the chart countdown. I loved it, safely at home, away from judging eyes.

The school disco was held just down the road in an old church hall. The evening came and the music started. In my mind I pictured myself as John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever, strutting out onto the dance floor, showing the world what I had.

Shyness is like an anchor. Inside, you want to show the world the outgoing you, the one who is ready for the limelight. Outside, you can’t move.

And then, a song comes on. I remember the TV series; I saw the film.

I pick out a lyric, You ain’t seen the best of me yet.

I can do this. I can weigh anchor.

My friends run to the sides of the room. We climb chairs and wait for the word.


I jump from the chair as high as I can. No one is looking, they are all just enjoying.

I hear that song and my anchor weighs a little less and I think…

I’m gonna learn how to fly (HIGH).

Stephen Blake Silver Birch Press photo

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It might not be the greatest song ever written but “Fame” (1980) reminds me of when I was able to shake off the shyness that dogged my childhood and every now and again rears its head in adulthood. In my late teens, I learned that a stiff drink for “dutch courage” worked, but before that I had this — a song where all my friends just jumped around like idiots, where you could just let go and enjoy yourself. The freedom I felt was amazing. I hear the song now and want to jump off the nearest chair. Mostly though, I remind myself to take a deep breath and go for it.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: You can only get pictures of me very young or now. In between I hid. Here I am at a school event promoting sports. [Olympic swimmer] Sharron Davies was visiting and I don’t look entirely comfortable about it. 🙂

Stephen Blake

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Blake lives in a small seaside Cornish town in the UK. He’s been previously published in the  anthologies Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion and Avast, Ye Airships! He’ll soon be featured in the anthologies Sins of the Future and Kaiju: Lords of the Earth. You can find him on twitter as @UncannyBlake and on Facebook as Stephen Blake – Author. He blogs at There you can follow his writing journey.

Love Child
by Leah Mueller

My last name remained the same
until my stepfather adopted me
when I was thirteen.
My parents said
that my new last name
would entitle me
to an enormous sum of money-
I’d receive a portion
of the Woolworth’s fortune,
which had somehow found its way
into the talons of my stepfather’s family.
Due to the magic of posthumous
trickle down economics
I would become a woman of means,
but this would only happen
after a bunch of older relatives died.
My mother told me
not to get my hopes up too much,
because all of them
were still in pretty good health,
and were likely to protest loudly
when they discovered
that my stepfather had adopted me.
Soon my name was the same
as my mother’s and siblings’
and I was no longer the outsider.
My birth father was indifferent
to my defection from his tribe —
he solemnly intoned that
it was all for the best.
I grew to adulthood
with the name of a man
that had been tacked
onto my own, like a bad poster.
One hot June evening
when I was eighteen
my mother was suddenly stricken
by the need to reveal secrets.
She told me that my father
wasn’t real, he was a stand-in
for another man whom she’d had
a wild fling with for a year,
and my sudden arrival
on the planet was presaged
by bisexual threesomes
and daily arguments that led to
stormy make-up sex in a coach house
behind the Mark Twain hotel
on the near north side of Chicago.
The man whom I’d thought was my father
for so many years
was paying the rent on the house,
even though my mother had rejected
all of his romantic advances.
My biological father fled to Los Angeles
and did six weeks in jail
for shoplifting maternity clothing,
but he bought my mother an airline ticket
and begged for her to fly to California.
She had finally decided
she was better off without him,
so she cashed in her airplane ticket,
moved in with the man who paid the rent
and gave me his name.
After my stand-in father
abruptly departed for another apartment,
my mother took up
with a drunken Volkswagen salesman
and married him a few weeks later.
I bore the surname of
my mother’s most recent failure,
for no reason other than
I’d inherit money some day from
an industry devoted to cheap cosmetics
and three for a dollar underwear.
So it wasn’t a complete surprise
several years later
when my stepfather’s relatives
grabbed the lion’s share of the spoils.
My portion of the dime store fortune
came to less than thirty thousand dollars,
and I was stuck with
a name I never wanted.
The funniest thing is that
the storefronts of Woolworth’s
were once bulging at the seams
with cheap items
that everybody wanted,
but are now utterly empty
and devoid of a legitimate name,
and yet I still bear my false one
with a perverse pride
because I have no need of a father.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age eight in Chicago, Illinois (1967).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I write as honestly as possible about whatever drifts into my head, which is frequently unresolved detritus from my own past.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leah Mueller is a writer and astrologer who lives in the rain-drenched woods of western Washington. Her work has appeared recently in Cultured Vultures (as Poem of the Week), Quail Bell; the Rain, Party, and Disaster Society; Talking Soup; Dirty Chai; Writing Raw; and Bop Dead City. She is also the author of one chapbook, Queen of Dorksville, published in 2012 by Crisis Chronicles Press, and, the same year, a winner of Winning Writers’ Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest. Leah’s work recently was featured in two anthologies, with more to follow in 2015. She is also working on a series of erotic short stories and another chapbook. Follow Leah’s blog at

Silver Birch Press is pleased to announce the October 1, 2014 release of  Vanilla Milk: A Memoir Told in Poems by Chanel Brenner. The 104-page collection focuses on a mother’s and family’s response to the sudden death of the author’s six-year-old son. These poems might be read as written snapshots forming an elegiac album, depicting how a traumatic loss alters relationships, love, and parenting, and perceptions of danger, time, and life. Characterized by unsparing honesty, clarity, and restraint, the poems explore the limits inherent in “recovering” from the grief of losing a child, and the need to continue experiencing joy. Includes a 20-page album of family photographs.

Praise for Vanilla Milk by Chanel Brenner: 

“The poems inside of this book were torn from the heart of a woman whose suffering is so immense that it could swallow her whole. Instead of letting the staggering pain consume her, Chanel Brenner crafted these undeniably gorgeous meditations on the death of her son. I read Vanilla Milk four times before putting it down, because I was afraid to let it go. Chanel Brenner has crafted a resplendent work of art that is unrivaled in its ability to make sense of the ebbs and flows of grief.” MATTHEW LOGELIN, New York Times bestselling author of Two Kisses for Maddy

“Chanel Brenner’s Vanilla Milk is a transcendent work. The skill and courage of these poems inspire me to be a better writer, the generosity in them inspires me to be a better person.” MIA SARA, author at [PANK]

“Brenner’s book joins the ranks of great elegies or lamentations for the loss of a child: Ben Jonson’s poem for his son, Jan Kochanowski’s Laments, Stephane Mallarme’s unfinished long poem “A Touch of Anatole,” and two contemporary works—Stan Rice’s Some Lamb and Edward Hirsch’s Gabriel. Brenner’s book of poems dealing with the loss of her son Riley stands along with these great classics—art’s attempt through poetry to fathom the unfathomable sorrow of suffering. Vanilla Milk breaks the heart, moves the soul as few books of poetry can—but, like all great art, it heals as well. You will never see the world the same way again.” JACK GRAPES, author of The Naked Eye, Method Writing, and Poems So Far So Far So Good So Far to Go

Vanilla Milk…is a surprising blend of formats which melds a memoir to poetry…Chanel Brenner is not the first to use poems to immortalize and capture the events surrounding a child’s death: Stan Rice’s Some Lamb is one example of an outstanding synthesis of poem/memoir — and Vanilla Milk deserves to take its place alongside it, on the shelf of exceptional writings.” MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chanel Brenner’s poems have appeared in Cultural Weekly, Poet Lore, Rattle, The Coachella Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Foliate Oak, Glassworks, and others. She was awarded first prize for her poetry in The Write Place At the Write Time’s contest. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.

Find Vanilla Milk: A Memoir Told in Poems by Chanel Brenner at


“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” Excerpt from Travels with Charley: In Search of America, memoir by JOHN STEINBECK



Joan Jobe Smith, author of Charles Bukowski Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& Me) (Silver Birch Press, 2012) is featured in the Charles Bukowski Society‘s yearbook covering 2011, 2012, and 2013 with a story entitled “Beer Can in a Garden.”

Consisting of a section in German and a section in English, the yearbook is dedicated to Bukowski’s German translator and friend Carl Weissner and includes two interviews with Weissner (one in each language section) as well as a short memoir about him by Linda Bukowski.

To purchase a copy of Charles Bukowski Society’s 2011/12/13 yearbook, visit

To learn more about the Charles Bukowski Society, visit


“The serious writer has always taken the flaw in human nature for his starting point, usually the flaw in an otherwise admirable character. Drama usually bases itself on the bedrock of original sin, whether the writer thinks in theological terms or not. Then, too, any character in a serious novel is supposed to carry a burden of meaning larger than himself. The novelist doesn’t write about people in a vacuum; he writes about people in a world where something is obviously lacking, where there is the general mystery of incompleteness and the particular tragedy of our own times to be demonstrated, and the novelist tries to give you, within the form of the book, the total experience of human nature at any time. For this reason, the greatest dramas naturally involve the salvation or loss of the soul. Where there is no belief in the soul, there is very little drama. ” FLANNERY O’CONNOR

SOURCE: The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, available at


To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Charles Bukowski’s passing, we have raffled off two copies of  CHARLES BUKOWSKI Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me) by Bukowski friend and confidante Joan Jobe Smith.

Congratulations to our winners:

Jocelyne Desforges (Quebec, Canada)

John McHugh (Kingston, Pennsylvania)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Jobe Smith, founding editor of Pearl and Bukowski Review, worked for seven years as a go-go dancer before receiving her BA from CSULB and MFA from University of California, Irvine. A Pushcart Honoree, her award-winning work has appeared internationally in more than five hundred publications, including Outlaw Bible, Ambit, Beat Scene, Wormwood Review, and Nerve Cowboy—and she has published twenty collections, including Jehovah Jukebox (Event Horizon Press, US) and The Pow Wow Cafe (The Poetry Business, UK), a finalist for the UK 1999 Forward Prize. In July 2012, with her husband, poet Fred Voss, she did her sixth reading tour of England (debuting at the 1991 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival), featured at the Humber Mouth Literature Festival in Hull. In November 2012, Silver Birch Press published her literary profile entitled Charles Bukowski Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me). Find out more at

ABOUT THE BOOK: In her memoir, awarding-winning author Joan Jobe Smith — a Pushcart Honoree — shares up-close, personal recollections of her mentor and friend, Charles Bukowski. The book also features remembrances and comments from women in Bukowski’s life — including Frances Dean Smith (francEyE), Ann Menebroker, Linda King, and Pamela “Cupcakes” Wood – in interviews conducted by Joan Jobe Smith and poet/author Fred Voss. This years-in-the-making volume also includes poetry, essays, and other writings by Smith and Voss.

The poems of Joan Jobe Smith have the reality of force properly put down on paper…a game girl…she cuts herself loose into the stratosphere….” 


CHARLES BUKOWSKI Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me) is available at