Archives for posts with tag: self portrait


Thank you to the 67 poets from around the world and across the United States who contributed their work to the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait Poetry Series, which ran from August 1-31, 2014.

We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the following poets:

Kathryn Almy (U.S., Michigan)
Cynthia Anderson (U.S., California)
Ivan Argüelles (U.S., California)
Ronald Baatz (U.S., New York)
Suvojit Banerjee (India)
Carol Berg (U.S., Massachusetts)
Alan Birkelbach (U.S., Texas)
Eric Burke (U.S., Ohio)
Ana Maria Caballero (Colombia)
Mary-Marcia Casoly (U.S., California)
Tobi Cogswell (U.S., California)
Beth Copeland (U.S., North Carolina)
Anthony Costello (United Kingdom)
Tasha Cotter (U.S., Kentucky)
Kaila Davis (U.S., Michigan)
Rodrigo V. Dela Peña (Singapore)
David Diaz (U.S., California)
Barbara Eknoian (U.S., California)
Adelle Foley (U.S., California)
Jack Foley (U.S., California)
Michael Friedman (U.S., North Carolina)
Jeannine Hall Gailey (U.S., Washington)
Phillip Giambri (U.S., New York)
John Grochalski (U.S., New York)
Clara Hsu (U.S., California)
Elizabeth Jacobson (U.S., New Mexico)
Loukia M. Janavaras (United Arab Emirates)
Mathias Jansson (Sweden)
Jax NTP (U.S., California)
Kasey  Johnson (U.S., Oregon)
Jennifer Lynn Krohn (U.S., New Mexico)
Angela La Voie (U.S., Virginia)
Roz Levine (U.S., California)
Alexander Limarev (Russia)
Stephen Linsteadt (U.S., California)
Tamara Madison (U.S., California)
Adrian Manning (United Kingdom)
Michael Mark (U.S., California)
Daniel McGinn (U.S., California)
Victoria McGrath (Australia)
Bob McNeil (U.S., New York)
Ann Menebroker (U.S., California)
Danielle Mitchell (U.S., California)
karla k. morton (U.S., Texas)
Robert Okaji (U.S., Texas)
Jay Passer (U.S., California)
Alan Passman (U.S., California)
D.A. Pratt (Canada)
Billy Roberson (U.S., Michigan)
Rizwan Saleem (United Arab Emirates)
Paul Sands (United Kingdom)
Rebecca Schumejda (U.S., New York)
roy anthony shabla (U.S., California)
Sheikha A. (Pakistan)
Jakia Smith (U.S., Michigan)
Kimberly Smith (U.S., Michigan)
Eddie Stewart (U.S., Michigan)
Jacque Stukowski (U.S., Illinois)
Rosa Swartz (U.S., Oregon)
Simen Moflag Talleraas (Norway)
Keyna Thomas (U.S., Massachusetts)
Sarah Thursday (U.S., California)
A. Garnett Weiss (Canada)
Denise R. Weuve (U.S., California)
Liz Worth (Canada)
Birgit Zartl (Austria)

Special thanks to Peter Markus, writer-in-residence at the InsideOut Literary Arts Project of Detroit, for submitting his students’ poems.

by Carol Berg

Should I go running today? Should I
climb trees? When should I shower

and how much time should I spend on
the computer? How much time should I spend on

my son? Keep trying to teach him how to tie
his shoelaces but I get so impatient.

It doesn’t get done.
I tell him the laces are too long.

But I am baking the bread today mixing yeast
with warm loving water adding sugar and salt

for the yeast to feed on change into bubbles
like laughter under water and then the King

Arthur’s Flour, no, wait it’s the on-sale crappy
flour. Three teaspoons equal one capitalized

tablespoon since I lost our only silver
measuring spoon. Threw it away, probably, in the trash,

mixed in with beet skins and egg shells.
There is a wire fallen down onto our mailbox

an electrical mistake. If only our bills
would catch on fire sizzle and snap into something

I can’t possible send back. Consider all downed wires
to be energized the National Grid website says and oh if only I were

considered as dangerous when I was down.

IMAGE: “Gizmo 2” by Leah Saulnier. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Berg’s poems are forthcoming or in The Journal, Spillway, Sou’wester, Redactions, Pebble Lake Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and Verse Wisconsin. Her most recent chapbook, Her Vena Amoris, is available from Red Bird Chapbooks.

by karla k. morton

I am more Roman than Greek;
one-tenth Neanderthal;
in love with the white wardrobe;
the toga,
laurels tied to dark hair;

acres of olives;
vineyards older than
all ancestors.

I dream in mosaics –
bits of pottery and shell
pieced into lions;
the cool blues and greens
of tiny squares;

the transience of pearls
at my neck;
a belief in gods who chariot the sun
across the sky;

drawing up words
in endless buckets
from the wells.

Were we gods ourselves,
we wouldn’t bother
with such simple tools –
the alphabet, the ink, the papyrus

but late at night,
the stars begin to hum;
the moon rounds her mouth
and whispers
everything she’s ever seen.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wake every morning excited about the possibilities; wondering what miracle will reveal itself throughout the day. Always there is something – a glimpse of lizard changing from black to emerald; a research pearl; a poem that gets stuck in my head. It’s the blessing of being able to do what you love – the excitement of a blank sheet of paper; words pulled down from the sky.

IMAGE: Roman mosaic of young woman, available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: karla k. morton, the 2010 Texas Poet Laureate, is a Councilor of the Texas Institute of Letters and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Described as “one of the most adventurous voices in American poetry,” she is a Betsy Colquitt Award Winner, twice an Indie National Book Award Winner, the recipient of the Writer-in-Residency E2C Grant, and the author of nine collections of poetry. Morton has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, is a nominee for the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and established an ekphrastic collaborative touring exhibit titled: No End of Vision: Texas as Seen By Two Laureates, pairing photography with poetry with Texas Poet Laureate Alan Birkelbach. Morton’s work has been used by many students in their UIL Contemporary Poetry contests, and was recently featured with seven other prominent authors in 8 Voices: Contemporary Poetry of the American Southwest. Her forthcoming book (her 10th), Constant State of Leaping (The Texas Review Press), arrives Fall, 2014.

Author photo by Bill Mackey

self-portrait as Salvador Dalí
by Jax NTP

rationing out mistakes, you must devour them slowly,
and you must systematically create confusion — it sets
creativity free. the way a blank book seeks the writer
for a long-term relationship. the Metamorphosis
of Narcissus, the hands cupping a soft-boiled egg,
strangulating sexuality. supported by the privity
of osseous for crutches, the female coccyx exposes
seven tantric drawers — each compartment
is a disambiguation of tikkun olam — how to surrender
the need to know.

emmenez-moi au bout de la terre. il me semble
que la misère — serait moins pénible au soleil.
take me, not the Burning Giraffe, i am the drug.
take me, not the melting Camembert clock,
i am the hallucinogen. the urgency of optical illusions,
the human skull consisting of seven naked women’s bodies.

to preserve my madness from oblivion: there are days
when i think i am going to die from an overdose
of satisfaction. intelligence without ambition
is the Woman with a Head of Roses, Madrid
without the architectural peninsula — where
skeleton ships become men and men become voyages.

false memories are the most authentic. redolent
of nightmares, not dreams, embalm the broken
portico of your heart before delirium plants elephant
on stilts. Language is a source of misunderstanding — forged
in a kiln that cannot go north after summer. act the genius
and you shall become one. if you understand the painting
beforehand, you might as well not paint it.

IMAGE: Salvador Dali with a starfish on the beach in Cadaques, Spain (c.1960).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jax NTP holds an MFA in Creative Writing – Poetry from CSULB. Jax was the former editor-in-chief of RipRap Literary Journal and associate editor of The Fat City Review. Jax has an affinity for jellyfish and polaris and a fetish for miniature succulent terrariums. Visit her at

by Robert Okaji

Darker shades contain black or grey. I claim
the median and the shortened spectrum, near dawn’s terminus.

In many languages, one word describes both blue and green.

Homer had no word for it.

The color of moonlight and bruises, of melancholy and unmet
expectation, it cools and calms, and slows the heart.

Woad. Indigo. Azurite. Lapis lazuli. Dyes. Minerals. Words. Alchemy.

On this clear day I stretch my body on the pond’s surface and submerge.

Not quite of earth, blue protects the dead against evil in the afterlife,
and offers the living solace through flatted notes and blurred 7ths.

Blue eyes contain no blue pigment.

In China, it is associated with torment. In Turkey, with mourning.

Between despair and clarity, reflection and detachment,
admit the leaves and sky, the ocean, the earth.

Water captures the red, but reflects and scatters blue.

Look to me and absorb, and absorbing, perceive.

PHOTO: Self-portrait by Robert Okaji.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Okaji’s work has appeared in Boston Review, Otoliths, Prime Number Magazine, Clade Song, and Vayavya, among others. He lives in Texas with his wife and two dogs.

IMAGE: “Young Man with a Fountain Pen” by Diego Rivera (1914).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Diaz is a 26-year-old bike tech and part-time editor at American Mustard who lives in Lakewood, California. He received his BA in Literature and Creative Writing from Cal State Long Beach, and is currently pursuing his MFA there. His work has been featured by Cadence Collective, Birds Thumb, and has a chapbook entitled Loogie Papers that was published by Tiny Splendor Press in 2012. David loves concerts, poetry readings, book releases, drive-in movies, and is addicted to Los Angeles.

by Beth Copeland

She gazed in the mirror as a young girl
at her rosy, apple-cheeked twin,
staring until her face shifted into
a silver-haired woman’s.

A trick of light refracted
from a sheet of mercury glass.
Still, it was a forecast—
the sharp, sunken cheeks

she would someday glimpse,
a woman staring back
in a shop window, a stranger
from another lifetime.

Mirror, mirror

From another lifetime
in a shop window, a stranger,
a woman staring back.
She would someday glimpse

the sharp, sunken cheeks.
Still, it was a forecast
from a sheet of mercury glass,
a trick of light refracted.

A silver-haired woman
staring until her face shifted into
the rosy, apple-cheeked twin
she saw in the mirror as a young girl.

IMAGE: “Portrait of a Lady” by Gustav Klimt (1917).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Witch” is a mirror poem. The first three stanzas establish the self-portrait of a young woman (me) imagining what she will look like when she’s old. The fourth stanza, “Mirror, mirror,” separates the future from the past and also functions like a hinge on a compact mirror. Stanzas 5-7 are reflections, with the lines of stanzas 1-3 written backward. Finally, we return to the young, “apple-cheeked” woman we saw at the beginning of the poem. The reference to an apple is an allusion to the witch who gave Snow White a poison apple and also looked in the mirror and asked, “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Beth Copeland lived in Japan, India, and North Carolina as a child. Her book Traveling Through Glass received the 1999 Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award and her second poetry collection Transcendental Telemarketer was released by BlazeVOX books in 2012. Her poems have been widely published in literary journals and have received awards from Atlanta Review, North American Review, The North Carolina Poetry Society, and Peregrine. Two of her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is an English instructor at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She lives in a log cabin in the country with her husband, Phil Rech.

by Adelle Foley

An infectious smile
Tapping out daily Haiku
Pretty good figure

IMAGE: “Mona Lisa” by Dean Russo. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adelle Foley is a retirement administrator, an arts activist, and a writer of haiku. Her column, “High Street Neighborhood News,” appears monthly in The MacArthur Metro. Her poems have appeared in various magazines, in textbooks, and in Columbia University Press’s internet database, the Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry. Along the Bloodline is her first book-length collection. Beat poet Michael McClure writes, “Adelle Foley’s haikus show us humanity. Their vitality and imagination shine from her compassion; from seeing things as they truly are.” Visit her online at

by Eddie Stewart

My body is a bear heavy and ready to hibernate.
My arms are so stretchable they can stretch up to ten miles.
My head is a red balloon being lifted into the air flying high.
My feet are motors running through the icy cold sea.
My teeth are bigger and sharper than a great white shark’s.
My hands are exit signs saying, “Back off or I’ll strike.”

IMAGE: “Exit” by Ed Ruscha (1990).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eddie Stewart is a student at Marcus Garvey Academy in Detroit, Michigan. His poem was written as part of the InsideOut Literary Arts Project of Detroit.

by Rizwan Saleem

I’m done with what I did
And done with what i didn’t
I’ve had my share of pleasure
And times two hundred the pain
I’m done with being simple
And always being plain
Now I’ll do something different
Or end up doing what I can

I’m done with love and kisses
And all other types of fevers
I’m done with thoughts and phantoms
And voices that say I still need
Do away with hopes and prayers
They never worked for me
I’ll find my own way back
Alone is all I’ll ever be

I’m done with my days
And all the different seasons
I’m done with being sorry
And I won’t listen to any reason

I’m done with being sane
It was madness to begin with
Now I’ll laugh at every evil
Because I know it’s all the same

I’m done with all that heaven
Has promised to its men
I’m done with hell as well
So I stopped counting my vices
I knew I was done long before
Now I’m left to my own devices

IMAGE: “Quit” by Ed Ruscha (1967).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rizwan Saleem is a banker by profession residing in Dubai UAE, and fancies himself a poet of the lowest caliber. The thoughts and expressions detailed in his works are of his various escapades suffered through life and of the profound surprise of having survived long enough to pen them into words. The writer wishes that readers may be able to afford a sardonic smile upon reading his work and relate themselves to his rhymes.