Archives for posts with tag: memoirs

by Judy Kronenfeld

It’s 3:30 on a gray afternoon
late in November.
Winter is homicidal in the air,
a knife-blade at my cheek.
At the apartment door I reach
for the key-string on my neck
and know at once it’s gone.
I frisk my school-books, my gym clothes,
my shoes, imagining luck
tricky as an acrobat’s timing.
My memory interrogates the day
like a white light in an empty
white room, but won’t surprise me
with the key, asleep
in a forgotten pocket. What I recall,
like pictures of the dead,
is the knot,
only double-tied.

There is nothing to do
but sit in the dingy hall, lost
in reverie over the key. It lay
like a talisman on my chest bone,
where I am hollow now. I would give
anything for its good weight.
There is nothing to do but think
of past joy. Cannily
it slipped into the lock,
and was made for the lock;
beautifully the tumblers turned,
the bolt obeyed.

Originally published in Riverside Quarterly 8, No. 3 July, 1990.

Photo credit:

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem came out of remembering the experience of arriving at my family’s apartment door after school (probably junior high), and discovering I had somehow lost the key that hung on a string around my neck. I was left out in the fifth floor hall of my fairly sad apartment building, separated from my warm little home just on the other side of the door until my mother came home from work, and I was filled with longing to be inside, and a little guilt about my presumed carelessness. The difference between outside and inside was enormous and painful. I was delighted when, in the process of developing the poem, the situation became a metaphor for something even more than being locked out.

judy k

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judy Kronenfeld is the author of four books of poetry and two chapbooks. Her most recent full-length collections are Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017) and Shimmer (WordTech, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, New Ohio Review, Natural Bridge, One (Jacar Press), Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and other journals, and in two dozen anthologies. She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing Department, University of California, Riverside, and an Associate Editor of Poemeleon.

Whitehouse Front Door
My Front Door Sings
by Lin Whitehouse

On moving in day I arranged an alarm
to be installed in the new house.
“Might be as well to fit an alert to the
front door, you’d know when those
young boys of yours go out and when
somebody comes in.” The inference of a
stranger entering the house made me
nervous. The engineer fitted one to
the back door too. My sons were adventurous,
full of mischief, preferred to be outside.
When either door was opened, like Big Brother,
I knew. They could not escape,
my front door sang every time it was
opened. At times it was irritating, like at
Halloween and kids trick or
treating, children’s birthday parties
because everyone arrived separately and
later, teenage gatherings. I knew
when they nipped out for a secret
cigarette. But then it began to
scream late at night and early mornings,
creeping in was futile when the door
announced an arrival and disturbed
sleep. I felt it would be better not to
know when they came home.
Young adults deserve their freedom so the
alert was made redundant, I sleep
soundly and my front door no longer sings.

Lin Whitehouse copy

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In our previous house we had been burgled while we slept in our beds; the house wasn’t alarmed. I was therefore anxious moving into a new house, wanting to protect my young sons and thought the alert on the doors was a great idea, until it caused me to lose sleep either because it hadn’t gone off or because it had.  These days I am still surprised when the door is opened and the alert is silent.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lin Whitehouse has contributed to Silver Birch Press anthologies and been published in Writers News and Turbulence. Her short plays have been performed in several theatres throughout Yorkshire. She is currently writing a novel.

Peanut Butter
by Steven Deutsch

“She recognizes you,”
Trish said.
My twin sister was always
the optimist.
The half full half
from the day we were born.

But, I could see
the empty behind mom’s eyes.
No amount of optimism
Would free her.
That door was shut
for good.

My mom’s door was
always open,
the coffee pot
always on,
and cinnamon-raisin babka
so often on the table
it was as if it appeared
by magic.
Our house a beehive
of aunts and uncles,
neighbors and cousins,
and the occasional someone
no one recognized.
Where had it gone?

Trish and I took
a last spin around
the apartment.
The place so small
it was hard to believe
it housed so much

Then I closed
and locked
the old blue door
one last time.
“Remember when we
smeared peanut butter
all over the doorknob?”
Trish asked.
I laughed
and remembered
the spanking
we never received
since Mom
was laughing too hard.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Mostly I walk around with an idea for a poem and play with it as I wander. Often, I seem distracted. Exactly three days and four hours after getting the idea, I sit down and write out the poem. I never need to change a word.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Over the past two years, Steve Deutsch’s work has appeared in more than two dozen journals. He was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2017 and 2018. His chapbook, Perhaps You Can, was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full length book, Persistence of Memory, will be published in September 2020, again by Kelsay Press. He takes full responsibility for the blog

Front Door copyCC

My Front Door
by Clive Collins

          The opening and closing of the front door at my childhood home ushered us through our lives. Our house was small, the last one in a nineteenth-century jerry-built terrace – two rooms and a kitchen downstairs, two rooms and a box room up. There was no hallway; the front door in the front room opened directly on the street.
          We seldom used that room or its door. The post came through its letterbox three times a day when I was young, the envelopes falling onto the doormat like heavy leaves in a repetitive autumn. Late in the afternoon, later than the day’s last post, the local newspaper arrived, half its rolled-up bulk pushing sinisterly against the door curtain like the barrel of an assassin’s pistol. When people passed in and out of the door there was always a sense of occasion. My father opened it for his eldest daughter to go from the house to her wedding. He was the one to close it each August when we set off for our fortnight by the sea. It was the door for high days, holidays – and funerals. When my father died he was taken out through that door, returned through it in his coffin, a parcel in a wooden box instead of brown paper, and taken out through it again for burying.
          My mother then was the door’s custodian. She opened it to let me go a-wandering. And opened it to let me back in when I came home, but not at my last returning. On the day of her funeral she was not brought home. Times change. The door stood open, but she lay in the purring hearse outside, seemingly impatient for her final ride. I shut the front door then, and never opened it again.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Doors, especially front doors, have always fascinated me.  They open to the future; they close upon the past.  The Romans were right to leave the care of them in the hands of a god.  They deserve no less.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in Leicester, England, Clive Collins has spent the greater part of his life working as a teacher in Ireland, Sierra Leone, and Japan. He is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/ Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. More recently his work has appeared in online journals such as Penny, Cecile’s Writers, The Story Shack and He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.  Carried Away and Other Stories is available from Red Bird Chap Books.


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.

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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