Sunday, December 1, 2019

Open Reading: December 15, 3-5 at Space Cowboy in Joshua Tree!

The open reading will be held on the stage behind the store. Bring something of your own to read or a passage that inspires you. Prose is limited to two minutes. You're also welcome to simply come and listen to your neighbors. We invite the entire community to come in, share, and simply have a good time! All ages invited, and every event is free! See you there =:-) 

The celebration of the 80th anniversary of Lou Harrison's first publication is held jointly by the World Split Open Press, Harrison House, and Cholla Needles. Featuring 18 readers celebrating the love Lou was able to imbue into all his work. Come and enjoy the love!

Planned Readers:

Susan Abbott
Tanene Allison
Cynthia Anderson
Rose Baldwin
Bonnie Brady
Caryn Davidson
Anna Olivia Eve
Greg Gilbert
Gabriel Hart
George Howell
Peter Jastermsky
Dave Maresh
Kim Martin
Robert Morris
Susan Rukeyser
Kurt Schauppner
John Sierpinski
Eva Soltes
Rich Soos
Sylvia White

December Issue Released! Cholla Needles 36!

The loving seasonal cover this month 
is by the marvelous Rik Livingston, of Zonoart.

The beautiful words and dreams within are by

Lou Harrison
Tobi Alfier
Greg Gilbert
Danielle Hanson
John M. Bennett
Kelsey Bryan-Zwick
T. K. Splake
Romaine Washington
Francene Kaplan
Alan Catlin

This issue also contains photos from 

four different Art Tour Events 
featuring Cholla Needles.

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

New Book - David Chorlton - Speech Scroll

                    The chainsaw’s dawn song rings
                    out. Another slice falls
                    from the Earth: a forest disappears,
                    a mountaintop tumbles,
                    and a tree in someone’s yard
                    loses a limb. When the limb
                    is gone a pain remains, seeping
                    from the rough cut end. Where
                    have all the lost cats gone
                    whose photographs are posted on
                    local power poles? Their owners
                    want them back, but what about
                    the jaguars and the parrots
                    once common in the mountains
                    Geronimo fought to keep? Nobody
                    offers a hundred dollars
                    for their return. The circling hawk can’t find
                    the bough he perched on yesterday.

                           - David Chorlton
David Chorlton came to Phoenix from Europe in 1978 with his wife Roberta, an Arizona native. He quickly became comfortable with the climate while adjusting to the New World took longer. Writing and reading poetry have helped in that respect, as has exposure to the American small presses. He and Roberta have shared their living space with many cats and birds over the years.
Gilded Snow (Cholla Needles, 2019)
Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird (Hoot 'n Waddle, 2018)
Bird on a Wire (Presa Press, 2017)
A Field Guide to Fire (FutureCycle Press, 2015)
Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2014)
The Devil's Sonata (FutureCycle Press, 2012)
Waiting for the Quetzal (March Street, 2006)
Return to Waking Life (Main Street Rag, 2004)
A Normal Day Amazes Us (Kings Estate, 2003)
Forget the Country You Came From (Singular Street, 1992)
The Slipstream Chapbook Award (2009)
The Ronald Wardall Prize (2008)

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

New Book - Knife Me Split Memories by Cindy Rinne


                    We try to cross the spider web bridge.
                    Her foot slips. I grab her hand
                    and fling her like a trapeze artist.
                    The survivor flips and lands on her feet.
                    Drops dance off the web onto singing grasses.
                    What happens next on the dream catcher?

Cindy Rinne creates fiber art and writes in San Bernardino, CA. She was Poet in Residence for the Neutra Institute Gallery and Museum, Los Angeles, CA. She has created fiber art for over 30 years, exhibiting internationally. Cindy collaborates in Performance Poetry using her own costume creations based on her books. Cindy is the author of several books: Letters Under Rock with Bory Thach, (Elyssar Press), Moon of Many Petals (Cholla Needles Press), and others. Her poetry appeared or is forthcoming in: Anti-Herion Chic, Unpsychology Magazine, MORIA, several anthologies, and others.

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

New Book - A Time Before Teachers - George Payne

                    A Way Out
                    the cloth of the cosmos
                    came undone at the seams—undone
                    like a bootleg Gucci handbag

                    the Pope declared heaven is not real and
                    Saturn was sucked into the belly of a black hole,

                    as all semblance of order evaporated into
                    the organic air of an American Spirit cigarette—
                    the dark green pack with that mild, additive-free taste

                    the glacier ice caps melted,
                    Capitalism collapsed
                    as all Hell broke loose
                    today, for the first time, my son climbed out of his crib


George Cassidy Payne was born in Oneonta, NY, grew up in several towns in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains, and eventually settled in Rochester, NY. He received a BA from St. John Fisher College, MA from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and MTS from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. A Time Before Teachers is his first book of collected poems.
Payne’s poetry has appeared in many journals, magazines, and anthologies, including Cholla Needles, The Adirondack Almanac, Mojave He{art}t Review, MORIA Poetry Journal, Ampersand Literary Review, Front Porch Review, Chronogram Magazine, Talker of the Town, Zingara Poetry Review, Ovi Magazine, River Poets Journal, Adelaide, Ink, Sweat, and Tears, Califragile, Deep South Magazine, Amethyst Review, From the Edge Poetry Magazine, and others. His blogs, essays, and letters to the editor, have appeared in national and international publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Toronto Sun, the Havana Times, the Atlantic, and Rolling Stone.
In 2010 he was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

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

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Happy Almost Thanksgiving

Whether you’re cooking, traveling, or expecting company, my guess is you’re gonna be pretty busy this coming week. We’ll save “Growing Your Writing” for next week and just do something fun.

Thanksgiving/ Holiday Prompt:

Write anything: either a prose poem, a free-verse or form poem, or a short piece of fiction from the viewpoint of an orchestra.

Let the cook be the conductor and see where the prompt takes you.

            Maybe all the different dishes are the instruments

            Or the pieces of each table setting are the instruments

            The empty chairs might be a theater waiting for the audience to arrive

            Maybe the different dishes are the audience

            Or the guests are the audience. Describe them

            Describe the musicians. Maybe they are the different dishes

            Is there wine? Maybe the wine is the conductor’s baton

            Is it buffet or sit down?  What is the buffet line, guests or food?

from wikipedia
If you can, see the cook greeting everyone in the kitchen, wearing a white apron and holding a ladle in one hand as she directs them to pour a glass of wine, or

carving a turkey with a knife/baton as long as a tree limb, the slices falling off silent and even as the anticipation builds up, guests being directed to tables dressed with fresh flowers and chafing dishes, or

the violins of roasted asparagus tuning up with the flutes of snap peas, the twinkle of triangle bubbles, the percussion of stuffing overlaid by the horns calling the traditional dishes to sound out the key of C.

If not, what can you see? 

The beginning of October I wrote about Odes, and quickly riffed an Ode to Mashed Potatoes:

Think about the silky smoothness of them on your tongue,
the way you can make a well for the gravy
and it’s a reservoir just for you and your spoon.

How they’re like the desert clouds softly floating by
out the window, a bed
with the softest flannel sheets caressing your palate

as you dream of turkey and stuffing,
cranberry sauce five ways,
and the matching pumpkin pie—

softness waiting just for you—
before you grab your sleeping bag,
go out on the porch to watch for falling stars.

If something like that works for you, write that. 

Write it before the holiday or after the holiday.

Take notes during the dinner if you want (but please don’t write on anyone’s cloth napkins…grab a notepad from next to the phone). If you write anything you'd like to share, PLEASE add it to the comments! I'd love to see what you came up with!

Be thinking about it, have a wonderful dinner, drive safely, use potholders if you’re cooking, and remember that the next day, a turkey sandwich on egg bread, with mayonnaise, lettuce, and a pinch of salt is the next best thing to heaven!!!! xo

- - - -

Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. 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.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Brian Beatty On Edward Dorn

Borrowed Trouble: Micro Tribute to Edward Dorn (1929-1999)

I wouldn’t write at all if it weren’t for myriad writers before me whose works showed me what was possible. The poems of this series are small offerings of respect, of thanks, to those muses. – Brian Beatty

Edward Dorn

In a dream once I took a train
journey hobo-style up over mountains.

My trip west ended in California out in the desert 
where I befriended cowboys with no use for horses or guns
and, of course, stoner show business types high as the stars in the sky.

Like most revolutionaries you read about in books
we dared to secede but failed to succeed.

So far, anyway. So far.  

– Brian Beatty

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Learn more about Edward Dorn:

- - - -

click here for more on this book
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NOW! Read the entire series of Borrowed Trouble by Brian Beatty anywhere you go by buying the collection of all sixty poems today! You've enjoyed these poetic tributes on-line, now enjoy them everywhere!

Brian's recent collections of poetry are Dust and Stars: Miniatures and Brazil, Indiana

Don't miss Brian's columns on great poets: 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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

November 21, 2019 7 P.M. An intimate evening with Lou Harrison's Poetry

Review of John Lithgow’s Dumpty: the Age of Trump in Verse

(112 pages, Chronicle books)

Click here for more information
     John Lithgow’s acting credits range from his comedic alien in Third Rock from the Sun to his chilling role as a serial killer in Dexter. Recently he provided a much-lauded portrayal of Winston Churchill. Lithgow is an accomplished choreographer, Shakespearian actor, illustrator, and author of a half-dozen children’s books.  Given his eclecticism, I was delighted to discover that his latest publication, Dumpty: the Age of Trump in Verse, displays the full range of Lithgow’s playful, cerebral, and furious genius.  While his verses are not Shakespearean, his gibes are wont to set the table on a roar. His anger is palpable, his wit eviscerates, and his punch lines pack a wallop.                      

     All of the book’s thirty-three verses are accompanied by his own illustrations, each one stylistically well-rendered, and each verse followed by brief background notes. The whimsical nature of the verses and drawings highlight Lithgow’s catalog of presidential outrages, faux pas, tweets, political appointments, nepotism, and behavior on the world’s stage. While Lithgow’s takedowns will likely find a happy resonance with the President’s detractors, the clever nature of the verses may be enjoyed as well by Trump’s more urbane supporters. This is, after all, a funny and informative tome.
     The book opens with a short introduction by the author where Lithgow acknowledges that he penned the book for “people who oppose the president” in the hope that it would provide a brief respect from “their chronic depression.” But soon thereafter he addresses “Friends of Dumpty” or “FODs” directly:
               “In your eyes, Dumpty’s bullying is courage, 
               his bigotry is patriotism, his vulgarity is authenticity, 
               his cruelty is unbridled fun. 
               Your support for him springs from sheer infatuations, 
               it’s incomprehensible to everyone else. 
               It’s certainly incomprehensible to me.”
     The book begins on a lighthearted note with fifteen ABAB stanzas describing “The President’s Pageant,” a thumbnail consideration of the women in his life.

               For starters, Ivanka’s superior air
               Can’t obscure her demure sensuality.
               And Tiffany, too (though she hasn’t a prayer),
               Is a lock for Miss Congeniality

               ‘Picture Hicks in the spotlight! A radiant vision!
               That body, that hair, and those eyes.
               And Hope would mop up in the Talent Division
               With her skill at inventing lies.”

     Naturally, due regard is given to Kellyanne Conway and, um, Stephanie Clifford (known professionally as Stormy Daniels). In fact, very few in the president’s circle are spared from Lithgow’s pointed quill. In a Gilbert and Sullivan parody, retired U.S. Army lieutenant general Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor (January to February 2017)who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, is versified in the first-person, “I am the very model of an ex-lieutenant general. / Although my reputation is decidedly ephemeral.” Then with a nod to Rodgers and Hammerstein and a sketch of the president dancing in a field of flowers, the poem “My Favorite Lies” concludes, “When The Times bites, / When The Post stings, / When I’m feeling sad, / I simply remember my favorite lies / And then I don’t feel so bad.” The list of prevarications that precede the eventual conclusion of the verse offers a trip down memory lane, atrocities enumerated within a musical refrain – and this is the real power behind Lithgow’s book, its good humor incased tales of woe.

                One verse likens President Trump’s administration to a reality show and describes Rick Perry performing on “Dancing with the Stars,” and a mockery of Scaramouche sets a high bar for vocabulary and rhyme, “The Italians created a classic buffoon / Who was cowardly, boastful, and louche, / That slippery scamp Scaramouche!” As one might suspect, the President’s legal representatives, “Cobb, Dowd, diGenova, Kasowitz & Cohen” are replaced when “a new gang stepped up, dressed in rumpled Armani: / Giuliani, Giuliani, Giuliani & Giuliani.” Another verse skewers Stephen Miller in a style fashioned after William Hughes Mearns, “A Dumpty aide from opening day, / I wish, I wish he’d go away.” My personal favorite is “All at Sea” in the style of John Masefield, and its accompanying note. “With no experience as a public school student, teacher, principal, superintendent, or administrator, Betsy Devos assumed office as the secretary of education on February 7, 2017.” The first stanza:

“I must go down to the seas again
   To the lonely sea and sun.
I’ve got a flotilla of ten big yachts
   And I’ll pick my favorite one.
I’ll lie on the deck all slathered in oil,
   Sipping a frosty libation,
And think of all of the things I can do
   To privatize education.”

     The list of the lampooned includes Duncan Hunter and wife, Paul Manafort, Wilbur Ross, and Bret Kavanaugh (“Of all the fine judges that POTUS could choose / To sit in the company of Charles Evans Huges”). But most darkly, Lithgow goes after “Jared and Mohammed.” “Inside the Saudi consulate, / The poor entrapped Jamal / Was strangled and dismembered by / The prince’s cruel cabal.” The poem alleges that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman, and Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, are heirs to their respective thrones who conspired in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Clearly, there are times when Lithgow’s playfulness seethes with disdain for the object of his versification.

     Then there are less weighty mockeries of Sean Hannity and various FOX network pundits, and time is given to Roger Stone, Alexander Acosta, Andrew Puzder, and Jeffrey Epstein, among others.                 

     On the international stage, “Seven Days in November” follows the flipping of the house, headlines involving Robert Mueller and William Barr and examines the president’s escape to France where he failed to show for the centennial celebration of the end of the Great War because “[a] prediction of rainfall gave Dumpty a scare. / He feared its unsightly effect on his hair.” The poem describes his relative isolation among world leaders, but focuses on one redeeming moment. “But Dumpty lit up like a bright chandelier! / His friend had arrived! The beloved Vladimir!” Of note is that while the book gives others on the world stage their due, to Lithgow’s credit they are accompanied by other relevant names. Kim Jong-Un is accompanied by Otto Warmbier, the student who while in North Korean custody suffered a brain injury and shortly thereafter died. Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh is accompanied by Christine Blasey Ford, and Trump’s alleged trysts are enumerated as well.
     While Dumpty is an enlivening read, John Lithgow has an audible edition available, read by the author and accompanied by amusing sound effects, whoopee cushions, cash registers, and little inserts of music. There is a friendly and familiar quality to the reading, the perfect companion for a road trip or as a substitute for cable news.
     Whether in print or in earbuds, John Lithgow’s Dumpty is amusing, informative, and clever. It offers a concise and unsparing review of President Trump’s first three years in office, and, clearly, the author is doing what he can to lessen the likelihood of a second term. Dumpty has arrived in time to enliven the Thanksgiving table, accompany the impeachment hearings, and serve as a guiding star during the winter solstice.

- Greg Gilbert, author of Afflatus

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Growing as a Writer in 2020, Part Two

I’d like to introduce you to my friend John Winston Rainey. John is a screenwriter, a script doctor, a magician with words, accents, connecting with an audience, you name it. I have a couple stories to tell about him.

I first met John in 2006 at a reading I used to go to every Tuesday night. He was passing by, I think, and heard me read the first page of “Slices of Alice” through the window. He came in, and after the reading, he came up to me and point-blank asked me “Was that a poem?” I said that it was really more of a character study, but I considered it a poem, I submitted it as a poem, and that’s how it was published. I really didn’t think it could be anything else. 

A few months later, John emailed me and asked me to describe him. He needed a character for a screenplay he was writing. I hardly knew anything about him but little hints he’d dropped here and there, so I basically made most of it up. 

A Slice of John

John wakes up every morning at 6:00, not because his alarm is set but because the sprinklers go off outside his window promptly. John has not used an alarm in years, certainly not since he moved to this house.

While waiting for his morning tea to brew John does his daily yoga. He looks out over the hedge to the bay below and greets the sun. His stretches come naturally, a roadmap well-traveled by his lean body day after day. This centers and strengthens him for whatever may come. His breath is even and calm.

His house is stark. Although lovely, there is no sign of messiness or frivolity. There are no mementos. Dark floors, pale rugs, low furniture, very quiet. Many books are properly shelved or neatly stacked. A cleaning woman comes weekly to ensure that everything is just so. There is not even a dish in the drainer.

John is stark as well. Tall and angular, he moves with grace, with not a wasted gesture. When writing for himself he wears white shirts and listens to Debussy. When reviewing other people’s writing the house is silent. Even his walking from room to room leaves no sound. Sometimes he realizes he has not said a word to anyone since his last trip to the market. This makes him sad.

John has no pets. He has words. Words with clever repartee and gentle barbs attached. He practices them at the market several times a week. He always goes to the same store famous for meeting people and making connections. Normally observant, he does not notice. He does his shopping—fruits and vegetables to supplement the organic meals already prepared and delivered to his house to put in the freezer and cook at will. John favors a heart-healthy menu although he gets little joy from it. His doctor says he has the body of a man 10 years younger.

He does not remember how long it’s been since he inhaled the bouquet of a fine red, or smiled across the table at a beautiful woman. He aches for intimacy but acknowledges that perhaps what’s left for him is only to write about the possibility. Since she died he’s been existing with half a heart.

John is keenly aware of this around certain times of the year, particularly when summer turns to fall and the days get shorter. His holidays are tied to the Earth and he misses her around his holidays.

John is not a sad man, not at all. He is simply a scheduled man. A realist. The things most people would do for fun or relaxation, John does for research. He would not come back from somewhere hung over and sunburned, rather he would bring back with him the perfect description for the taste of salt at the edge of the sea as the world is waking. The poet in him has grown, not an even trade, but a small consolation.

I guess it worked because I think he used it.

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One day, John asked if I’d ever considered taking voice lessons. He said I read womanly poems with a little girl voice, and maybe some lessons would allow me to read the poems as they should be read. I have always hated my voice. I hate my voice on my answering machine, on YouTube, on the mic…what the hell, what harm could it do? He gave me the number of a voice coach and suggested I call.

It was one of the best calls I’ve ever made. I only took about five or six lessons from a woman who sounded like a gorgeous and sultry 40-year-old, who was in her 70’s. She helped me, and she helped Owen too! He listened to her instructions about breathing and found he was able to play trumpet and bassoon much better. She had me practice reading to a pretend audience all the way on the other side of her backyard. It was amazing. I don’t want to sound like Betty Boop and now I don’t have to. If you hate your voice, and you read often, you may wish to consider a few voice lessons. You won’t grow as a writer, but you’ll grow as a reader, and growth is growth. It’s something you might like to do in 2020.

Okay, starting with Alice, ending with Alice, and going back to screenwriting—if that’s something you’d like to do, you definitely should.  I told John that Susan Tepper, who you’ve met, said I should write screenplays. John said “I definitely think you should take a crack at screenwriting.  In my humble opinion, all great stories are about character and your "slices" are all about character specifics in lucid description. That is where story begins. Character is the seed of any story and character is the window that allows the audience/reader into the story.” Oh great, one more way for me to get rejected. But I’m not the only person who writes narrative-based character studies/poems/short fiction. If this is your passion, and you’d like a mentor or any kind of help with screenwriting:

John’s websites are & He’s transitioning from the former to the latter, but using both for now. 

In the words of Francis Ford Coppola:

“You ought to love what you’re doing because, especially in a movie, over time you really will start to hate it.”

Ha!!!! This is totally true for me with my writing. I hope it isn’t true for you. Whether it’s voice lessons or writing screenplays for the first time, both are growth opportunities that you can do in 2020 and beyond. If not those, find something that tickles you as a writer. Always be looking for ways to grow. And by the way, Francis Ford Coppola makes an excellent rosé named for his daughter Sofia, also a screenwriter/movie maker. Think about how much time you’ll have to write while waiting for the grapes to ripen!

Have fun. Write well. Try something new. Enjoy. xo

- - - -

Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. 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.