Sunday, April 29, 2018

Cholla Needles - May Issue Released!!

Cover by Diego Luis
The fine writers in issue 16 are:
Anastasia Jill
Brian Beatty
Carol L. Deering
Michael Salcman
Lucy Griffith
Dave Maresh
Malathi Maithri 
Max Lemuz
Jonathan Ferrini
Doug Nichols

We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at Rainbow Stew, Space Cowboy, and Raven's Books. Support our local distributors!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Princess Bride or Blair Witch Project?

Writing “from the dark side”

What does “voice” mean to you? In my opinion, it’s what makes you recognizable. Not boring, comfortable. Just like the pink rose bush growing outside your neighbor’s window. It’s blooming now, it will be blooming through spring. You know you can count on it, just as you can count on a writer’s voice (or voices), regardless of the narrator, the point of view, or form of a poem.

Poste Restante  (original "Light" version)

I touch my lips to your lips,
brush away the odd entranced
hair from your brow. Visit
my hand from my heart to yours

I have perused the pictures on your desk,
commented on the red painted inside your cupboards.
I have ignored the calendar, ignored the phone,
ignored the poste restante.

My darling, pass the toast.
I’m not a fan of mornings, but
bread and chocolate in your kitchen
makes me remember to forget—
I’m one day closer to going home.
I’m not yet ready to go.

Now pretend you meet your friend for lunch one day. You’ve known her for years, your friendship is a fact. She shows up with her formerly long hair cropped short, or a comet of stars tattooed on both wrists. She’s still your friend, but she’s done something different, bold and exciting. That is writing from the dark side.

Enter Chuck. In a workshop led by the brilliant and generous Nick Flynn, he passed out a creepy postcard to each of us. Think Diane Arbus meets small-town circus. I got Chuck, a three-quarter headshot of an unsmiling dark-haired man, which looked taken through a shattered stained glass window. Nick said “take a poem you brought to workshop, and re-write it through the point of view of your postcard”.

See what you think. Then give yourself permission to surprise the heck out of everyone, most of all yourself. It’s still you. Still your voice. You now have a new weapon in your poetry arsenal. Welcome to the brave, exciting, dark side. (Note: “Poste Restante” means General Delivery. It was a way to pick up your mail in the old days if you were traveling).

Light or Dark, you decide.

Poste Restante (rewritten "Dark" version)

I touch your lips,
brush your brow. You,
wizard of the terrorizing night,
say breathe, focus on the pain.
It will lessen, be more manageable.

I note the red inside your cupboards,
close my eyes. Behind my lids
a thousand fireworks explode.
I want to run and shatter the window,
but the prism of your face
holds me still.

Make me remember to forget.
You are a lover of the dark.
I bend toward the light.
I do not know if I can be persuaded
to stay in the in-between.

- - - -

Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

New Book! Walt Whitman - Leaves of Grass

This is a copy of the first self-published copy of Leaves of Grass, published on July 4, 1855 in Brooklyn, NY. 795 copies were printed, although only 200 copies were bound with the green cover.
The author's name did not appear on the cover, although it does appear in the poem on page 31 in this edition.
Walt Whitman continued to work on this masterwork until his death. Six more versions appeared during his lifetime, and after his death a “death-bed” version appeared.
History buffs will know that the 1855 edition was printed six years before Abraham Lincoln became president. Later editions are important because of the poems Whitman wrote about the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.
This 1855 edition is a favorite of many poets because of the fresh energy in the presentation and language.
This edition was gone over line by line to be sure the text is readable, and the line breaks closely represent Whitman's original intention. Also, the full 1855 introduction by Walt Whitman is included in this edition.
period reviews
"We find upon our table (and shall put into the fire) a thin octavo volume, handsomely printed and bound. We shall not aid in extending the sale of this intensely vulgar, nay, absolutely beastly book, by telling our readers where it may be purchased." - Frank Leslie, Illustrated Newspaper
"In glancing rapidly over the 'Leaves of Grass' you are puzzled whether to set the author down as a madman or an opium eater; when you have studied them you recognize a poet of extraordinary vigor, nay even beauty of thought, beneath the most fantastic garments of diction." The New York Daily News
"We had ceased, we imagined, to be surprised at anything that America could produce...but the last monstrous importation from Brooklyn, New York, has scattered our indifference to the winds...This portrait expresses all the features of the hard democrat, and none of the flexile delicacy of the civilized poet." London Critic
"Walt is one of the most amazing, one of the most startling, one of the most perplexing creations of the modern American mind." Translatlantic Leader
"We have glanced through this book with disgust and astonishment; - astonishment that anyone can be found who would dare to print such a farrago of rubbish." Dublin Review

We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at Rainbow Stew, Space Cowboy, and Raven's Books. Support our local distributors!

New Book! Lucy Griffith - A Burro And A Broke-In Hat

Praise for A Burro and a Broke-in Hat, by Lucy Griffith

“Burro speed is just right.” It’s perfectly right for these nineteen poems by Lucy Griffith, dedicated to Judy Magers, the iconic Burro Lady who died at roadside near Sierra Blanca, Texas in 2007. In verse that evokes the rhythmical clop of hooves on asphalt, Griffith traces Magers’ quixotic life as “La Reina,” wandering roads of the thinly populated, arid region of Far West Texas where a swaying hawk becomes a manta ray in wide blue sky, where “a broke-in hat with a big brim” provides a roof. When a dust storm hits, the defiant Magers challenges it: “piss your grit at me/ and rasp my skin.” These poems are a testament to Magers’ independence, endurance, and love for her last burro, Merle. While she may be compared to a medieval pilgrim, a mere eccentric, or a female Don Quixote, readers are cautioned to respect her individuality in the poem “La Reina”: “do not lay your story over mine.” We won’t, thanks to Griffith’s inspired story-telling.
- Marilyn Westfall, Ph.D., poet
A Burro and Broke-in-Hat is beautiful book about love—love of the stark and austere land and the remarkable woman who made her life in it. Lucy Griffith gets to the heart of the enigmatic Burro Lady, Judy Magers, who roams through West Texas, living her life on her own terms. She is determined to be self-reliant and independent, even seeking to pay the state for the grass her burro eats on the side of the road. In the Burro Lady’s voice, Griffith tells us that La Reina is “full of thousands of sunsets, and brimming with stars in a quiet so still, I hear my heartbeat.” We find her in this gorgeous collection of poems not only through the voice of the Burro Lady herself, but also those of who came to know her: her legal guardian, the narrator, a goatherd, even her burro and a yucca.
Lucy Griffith not only “paint[s] the wind for me,” but paints the Burro Lady alive with her imagery and deftly created characters. Heed Griffith’s words, “You are unbound; take your time,” as you enjoy this gorgeous book of poems.
- Gloria Amescua, author of What Remains…

We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at Rainbow Stew, Space Cowboy, and Raven's Books. Support our local distributors!

New Special Issue! Cholla Needles: Young Writers And Artists Spring 2018

Featuring the work of these writers and artists 
who will soon be filling the bookstore shelves 
with new books and dreams:

Aaliyah Broussard, Aaron Pringle, Abigail Aubuchon, Aunalise Terreri, Brooke Torgeson, Chloe Nixon, Cody W. Warrick, Dakota Shealey , Dillon Lovejoy, Dimitri D’Amico-Gambino, Eden Bates, Eden Dufour, Eli Bates, Eli Wahlberg, Evalynn Large, Gavynn Shealey, Haylee Nicholas, Jacob Judd, James Pullins, Jaren Pendergrass, Jocelyne Wheeler, Josiah Demaray, Justin Wilson, Karissa Torgeson, Katie Dimoff, Kona Long, Landon Stitt, lowen baird, Maddison Hannah, Maggie Wellons, Maile Long, Mason Pulliam, Mateo Jacome, Nathan Lazarovitz, Nathen Velasco, Noah Walberg, Peyton Chandler, Samuel Nankervis, Shaina Landers, Steven Stogner, Sydney Hanson, T. I. Jones, Vanessa Godoy, Wyatt Lotz, Zackary Slotta

We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at Rainbow Stew, Space Cowboy, and Raven's Books. Support our local distributors!

New Book! Brian Beatty - Dust & Stars

"A minimalist, a folk singer and a comic walk into a bar....and they all find comfort, like I do, in the poems of Brian Beatty." – Alec Soth, Photographer
“Beatty’s kind and authentic, honest voice faces my own uncomfortable truths head-on. And in this sometimes hopeless world he proves to me he still knows how to cope.” — M Sarki, Author of Zimble Zamble Zumble and Mewl House
"Whenever I finish one of Beatty's poems, I always ask myself, ‘How in the hell does he keep delivering such humanity, poignancy, wisdom and wit in only a few short lines?’ My guess is that he takes a lot of poet steroids." — John Jodzio, Author of Knockout

We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at Rainbow Stew, Space Cowboy, and Raven's Books. Support our local distributors!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Let poem triggers find you

“Zorba, teach me to dance” 
Let poem triggers find you

Sometimes poem triggers make a full frontal assault on all your senses. Sometimes they slyly creep up on you. There is no law that says you can only write one poem about everything you see or hear; that’s what a notebook is for. When words are ready to be written, pick the two or three most important ideas for each poem, then write one. Or two. Or ten. In my opinion, the last thing you want is to cram a poem so full of images, you suffocate your readers. You want your readers to have some breathing room, and the ability to become part of your poems. That’s what will keep them reading.

When I was in Crete, I had the opportunity to visit the workshop of a famous bouzouki maker. It looked like a cross between a Quonset hut on an abandoned military base and an auto body shop; tin and unpainted walls, long plywood tables holding instruments in all stages of completion, wood shavings and cigarette ashes all over the floors, and serious, but smiling men all over.

Each bouzouki looks different. Each one sounds different, and I was privileged to see the entire process.

That day, while my friend was turning a horrendous shade of red on the beach, I drove by a canyon filled with the scent of wild sage, bought lemons at an outdoor market from a blowsy woman surrounded by handmade baskets brimming with citrus. She was beautifully tired, in a dress so old you could only imagine the flowers, I knew she would go home and wash her underarms at her kitchen sink with olive oil soap, watching out the window for her husband to come in from the fields.

One poem from that day. Everything else had to wait:

Would You Like To Dance?

Born in a craftsman’s workshop in Crete
surrounded by wood shavings, cigarette ashes and Lotto tickets,
a couple of rickety chairs, a calendar from three years past.
Powerless against the forceful hands of the master
who could bend even the most intractable old growth wood to his will,
the bouzouki flirts and charms like a swami with cobra and clarinet.

Pity the poor musician who must
challenge this lovely beauty to tell its tales.
Grown men sense tears they mourned as being gone forever,
women cross their legs.
Never has there been a more powerful melody
than the one played on the souls of history.
The bouzouki beckons.
                                   - Tobi Alfier

1677 painting

by Pieter van Slingeland

- - - -

Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears. 

New Book! Sucker Hole by John Sierpinski

John Sierpinski shows us that sucker holes come in many forms; from smooth water-washed stones in a girl’s small hand, to the smell of taffy and corndogs at the beach, to a numinous green circle of water, waiting beneath ice carved by fishermen. These deceptive sucker holes emerge from beautifully crafted oceans, waves, tsunamis of relentless grey. This is full-immersion poetry, involving all the senses. Grey has never been so colorful and evocative. Immerse yourself in the story of these poems and feel the magic in subtle glimmers of hope and strength: a domed planetarium with bone stars, chess players in Goodwill coats, and the writer and his father who do their “best to clear the big side mirrors.” - Sylvia Cavanaugh, author of Angular Embrace

In Sucker Hole, John Sierpinski reveals the gaping holes in families, relationships, life. Fortunately for us, the poet found his way through the darkness to send back visceral lines that hold onto the imagination for a long time. The poems demand full attention at every turn of the page and remind us that we are all “…members of an anonymous group, those who know a certain kind of pain.” - Lisa Vihos, Stoneboat Literary Journal

What I see in John Sierpinski's first collection of poetry is sublimity, symbolism, human ache, personal voice, a rich sparseness , and a tie to the reader that pulls the solar plexus -- an ache that resonates. His poem Museum Exhibit -- Titanic is vivid and temporal. The characters in the poem show, and do not tell, a story of history and the present. - Ellen E Baird, Editor of Howl Art and Literary Magazine.

John Sierpinski has published poetry in many magazines, including California Quarterly and North Coast Review. He lives in Yucca Valley, California along with his wife, Lynn. He hiked though and loved Joshua Tree a number of years ago. "I find the beauty of this area, spellbinding. I am also delighted to find a poetry and writing community here."
We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at Rainbow Stew, Space Cowboy, and Raven's Books. Support our local distributors!

New Book! A Sublime And Tragic Dance by Kendall Johnson and John Brantingham

It began when Ken gave me a tour of his backyard studio, twenty years of paintings collected and ordered in a converted garage, now a living catalogue of one artist’s mind. This was only the second time I’d talked to him, but there’s an intimacy in art. You’re given a view into the center of the artist’s consciousness. That day, I saw maybe one hundred pieces, and I knew that his ways of seeing, thinking, and worrying were close to mine.
We talked about the art and his impulses and soon enough our rambling conversation led us to Oppenheimer. We had both been thinking about the man for years. Ken had been painting visions out of the nightmare Oppie had created. I said something about how complex the man was. Ken responded with how he’d changed the world. I said the man had certainly shaped my childhood, my adulthood, the way I saw everything. We talked about evil and the limitation to the concept of evil. I found myself writing poems in conversation with Ken’s paintings. That was a little one sided, so Ken answered me with his poems. What we ended up with is this collection.
We have come to no hard conclusions about Oppenheimer. The man and his time are too complex, but we’ve followed some ideas for a while. I don’t know about Ken, but I have come to one crystalline conclusion about dropping another nuclear bomb, about making another one, about allowing them to come into any conversation where an explosion would replace diplomacy: for the love of God, don’t let’s start. - John Brantingham

As a writer and artist, Kendall Johnson is no stranger to mixing mediums. His prior books include Fragments; An Archeology of Memory published by the Inland Empire Museum of Art, and Johnson’s Pasture; Living Place and Living Time published by the Claremont Heritage. His paintings have been exhibited across the United States, and his composite photographs illustrate the novel In Cabazon. Kendall grew up in the citrus groves of Claremont, CA, fought fires and later consulted with the U.S. Forest Service and other emergency agencies in disaster stress management. As a psychologist and trauma specialist he has written several non-fiction books and numerous articles on trauma and school crisis. He trained crisis teams and rendered direct support following numerous school shootings, natural disasters, and 9/11. When disasters come on the news, his nostrils flare, he whinnies, tosses his head, and paws his hoofs on the ground as always, but nowadays he mostly writes or paints about it. He is the Director of Gallery 57 Underground in Pomona, and lives in Upland, California with his wife Susie Ilsley.
John Brantingham is the first poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, the writer-in-residence at the dA Center for the Arts in Pomona, California, and a professor of English at Mt. San Antonio College. His work has appeared in hundreds of magazines including Writer’s Almanac, The Journal, Tears in the Fence, and Confrontation. 
He co-edited The L.A. Fiction Anthology (Red Hen Books). His poetry collections include East of Los Angeles (Anaphora Literary Press), The Green of Sunset (Moon Tide Press), and Dual Impressions: Poetic Conversations about Art (Silver Birch Press) with Jeffrey Graessley. His collections of short fiction are Let Us All Pray Now to Our Own Strange Gods (World Parade Books) and California Continuum: Volume 1 forthcoming in 2018, a flash fiction collection that covers the entire history of California written with Grant Hier. 
In the summers, he and his wife Annie teach free art and writing classes in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. From September 2018 until February 2019, he and Annie will walk the length of California teaching free classes in a number of state and national parks along the way. Find more information at Watch the adventures of Lizzy the Dog on this trip too.
We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at Rainbow Stew, Space Cowboy, and Raven's Books. Support our local distributors!

New Book! Mapless by Cindy Rinne & Nikia Chaney

Mapless is a collection of myth, narrative, poetry, art and song that expresses the yearning of love. A stitched ghostfish is both mother and child, human and god, and finally connection. This collage follows the journey of the ghostfish through the ever shifting path of experience toward wholeness and joy.

Cindy Rinne lives, creates art and writes in San Bernardino, CA. Cindy is the author of six collections of poetry: Moon Of Many Petals, Cholla Needles; Listen to the Codex,Native Blossoms; Breathe in Daisy, Breathe out Stones, FutureCycle; Quiet Lantern, Turning Point; Spider With Wings, Jamii Publishing; and Speaking Through Sediment(with Michael Cooper), ELJ Publications. Her website is
Nikia Chaney teaches at San Bernardino Valley College. Nikia is the author of Sis Fuss, Orange Monkey; and ladies, please, Dancing Girl Press. She is also the founding editor of shufpoetry - an online magazine, and Jamii Publishing. Her website is
Click here to buy a copy ($7.00)

We encourage our neighbors to buy Cholla Needles books at Rainbow Stew,
pace Cowboy, and Raven's Books. Support our local distributors!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Jon Christopher - Moving At The Speed of Time

It's real - it's finally out, and what an exciting day for the world! I'll copy my review here; as well as link to the website; I just need to forewarn you - the publishers is marketing the book as a book about Cannibis. Well, That's like Saying Comey's book is about Trump, or Castaneda's books were about Peyote. Naw, marketing aside - this is a hard-core book of philosophy, with great laughs thrown in. So, buy it despite the marketing. You'll be much happier.

Here's the review:

"Jon Christopher just doesn't understand old people like myself. We really need sleep. Truly. But will he listen? Nnnoooo...

He keeps writing books that won't let us sleep. For example, on every other page there's a small laugh. Sounds innocuous enough - but think about it. When I laugh I take in more air. More oxygen. As tired as I am it gives me enough energy to read two more pages, then another laugh, and - well it's endless. It's not like he's trying to be funny. He just is.

He also makes sure to stop and make me think too. For example, he writes "let’s take a peek behind the writing curtain... Have you ever thought about words and what a miracle they are?" Sounds simple - but if you follow his advice like I did, and just stop and think! Yes! They are miraculous. And on top of that miracle, getting excited about the miracle of language causes me to wake up even more! It's almost like magic - I'm excited, get back to the page, and another wow on top of it! Well, this is a funny wow - but I was both excited and laughing - worth four more pages of staying awake: "...for the most part we’ve lost the magic of what it means to be able to put words on paper. There is a reason they call it spelling, because it’s a form of magic, it’s the ability to cast a spell over someone's mind."

See, sneaky - he knows exactly what he's doing. How do I know that? 'Cause this is the second book I've read by him in less than a year and they both kept me up all night. He pulled the same great author tricks in Somewhere Out There In The West. Just peek at this trick: "He didn’t have to change his beliefs, he just had to take them to heart and actually believe in his beliefs, which can be harder than one thinks. "

Yep. If that doesn't get your neurons wandering faster than normal, well what can I say. Jon is not changing his ways just so we can get our beauty rest. He doesn't believe any of us should sleep. But if he wants to make the NY Times Bestseller's list he'll take some sage advice from an old man. Jon, you're supposed to write books that bore you to sleep, and take a year to read. They're such a chore to read that people talk about the book every day for a year, and everyone thinks it must be great. If you keep writing books that really excite people they'll stop going to movies, stop sleeping, stop watching TV. You'll cause an awful change to the American way of life. The only good thing I can say is that thankfully there is only one author like Jon Christopher, and I can't wait to read his next book."

Here's the website (You can also buy the book right now at Space Cowboy Books!):

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Vince Bell - New Spoken Word CD!

Vince Bell's musical vision from the beginning has always been dripping with poetry, so it is a great pleasure to finally hear a full spoken word CD of his work. The poet joins the musicians with these words to start us off: 

A little poetry is dangerous.
Keep your eyes up in the sky.
Keep at it 'til the calvary has arrived.
There's not a very lot of us, but then there never was.

The second track continues with the same prophetic voice:

I can teach the dead to sing.
Privileged to share the tears with you.
Without haste, but without rest.
First time it's art. Second time it's showbiz.

Vince recites his poetry with a convincing depth of belief in his voice - he knows where he wants to take us, and pulls us in with total ease. As with all of his previous work, there are lines that jump out - sometimes in the middle of a poem/song/story, sometimes at the end - a great technique because it's an encouragement to start all over again and consider the previous words with this new information. A good example is "The hardest thing to do is nothing at all".

Tender philosophies abound: "It's a good thing life is not as serious as it seems to the waitress."

Invitations to live life to it's fullest: Take whatever you want. You can have what you find. Though you may leave nothing standing, the poetry is mine.

You may be tempted to think I "picked the best lines" from the CD to share here, and you'd be wrong - truly the whole CD is a listening experience, and I can also say that if this were a book of poems Vince was sharing with the world, I'd buy a copy of that also. As it stands now, he chooses to speak into our ears with some great musicians and singers supporting him. A special shout-out is due for Laura Cantrell for adding a touch of heaven to Vince's devil stance: if I was the Devil, you wouldn't know about it. 

Click here to buy the CD. You can also stream the CD and buy individual tracks should you choose. If you are new to Vince's work, you might also take some time to read his fantastic book One Man's Music:  

Sunday, April 1, 2018

April 8 Reading! You are the featured reader!

Issue 16 Released!

Cover by Sarah Soos

The fine writers in issue 16 are:

Gillian Spedding
Jean-Paul L. Garnier
Noreen Lawlor
Greg Gilbert
Cynthia Anderson
George Howell
John Sierpinski
Dave Maresh
Giovanni Garcia
Robert DeLoyd