Saturday, February 22, 2020

Brian Beatty On Zbigniew Herbert

Borrowed Trouble: Micro Tribute to Zbigniew Herbert (1924-1998)

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

Zbigniew Herbert

You welcomed guests
from a folding chair 
in your garden

no one noticing 
as you sank slowly   
quietly into the earth.

– Brian Beatty

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Learn more about Zbigniew Herbert:








- - - -


click here for more on this book
click for more on this book
NEW! 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.

Tobi Alfier - Recipe, and Recipe Poems Remembered

Back on November 3, 2019 I posted a Thanksgiving recipe for delicious no-cook cranberry relish. Prior to that, on June 8, 2019 I posted about an extension class with Kate Braverman, and how she taught us the technique of writing poems like recipes. Today I’m going to give you both: a recipe and a recipe poem.

Why are we revisiting old topics? Because there have been tons of things going on in the desert and you may have been busier than usual with art, readings, more readings, the gorgeous weather, planning assorted peripheral things for the youth issue of Cholla Needles, likewise the local writer’s issue, and all kinds of cool stuff.

For me, this past week was a Murphy’s Law wreck of a week. If I were a stand-up comic I would make a million dollars if I wrote about it. But I’m not a stand-up comic, nor am I a memoirist, so you’re getting a delicious vegetarian recipe courtesy of my son, and a recipe poem courtesy of moi!

Please feel free to use one or the other, or both, and increase your skills two ways.

The Recipe:

The other day I got a text from my son Owen that said “I know you hate garbanzo beans (true), but I made a chickpea avocado toast for breakfast and I think it’s my favorite thing I’ve ever made” (that’s saying a LOT).

For the chickpeas: Soak a 1lb bag of chickpeas overnight. Drain and rinse with new water, drain again and cover with 2 quarts of new water. Throw in a handful of crushed garlic cloves, one sliced white onion, the peel and juice of 1 lemon, a quarter cup of olive oil, and lots of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then simmer for 2 hours or until tender. Replace water a half cup at a time if the level gets too low.

For the chickpeas, part 2: Make a rough vinaigrette with equal parts olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Grate 2 cloves of garlic into the mix with a microplane and add 2 ribs of diced celery. Whisk the mixture lightly then add around 2 cups of drained chickpeas and roughly mash with a fork.

For the avocado toast: Owen found an excellent pre-made quacamole at a local store, and has opted to use that for his cooking. Either do the same and save some time, or make quacamole using your favorite recipe. Make toast using your favorite bread. We use any version of Dill-Rye but use what you like. Spread it with the guacamole. Top it with the roughly mashed chickpeas.
Enjoy!!

The Recipe Poem: This is a technique you can use, especially if you’re feeling a bit stuck. Spend a stanza writing out the ingredients, then connect them. It may turn out that you don’t even keep that first stanza at all, which is absolutely fine. Sometimes we write to get into the poem, but it’s not part of the poem. Keep it for something later.

Back in June, the poem I included was “How to Travel Forever”. In the poem below, consider the nouns to be the ingredients. They were thought about and connected; the original list of nouns was then placed back in the beloved woodpile.


How to Dream the Desert

1.

You’ll know where to search
this bold cathedral of sky—
graceful dive of the hawk
as it soars so high overhead,

it could be Venus in an alternate
universe of color,
not this endless flood of blue,
the wildness heavy with light.

Be content in your silence; listen
to the ceaseless wind, the coursing river;
be attentive to cloud-sorrows destined
for other terrain. Have empathy
for the familiarity of that sadness.

2.

Moonshine so brilliant, it lights the snow.
Insistent sun insinuates shade
in a luminous sea of stubbled sand.

The only change in hue—a lizard,
scurrying away from you, toward
the perception of cold canyon stone.

3.

There is no yellow here, only
the bruised reds and blues of twilights,
and what used to be green.

This walking, waking, living dream;
carry it always—soft as the sparrows
that flutter through your attic.

It will teach you to be
what you were meant to be,
as you gaze back along the highway’s edge
of this windfallen world.

(previously published in Peacock Journal)

A small comment on “exercises”. There are some things we write as exercises in classes, workshops, or MFA programs. They are very effective in growing us as writers, but they are just for that purpose. They are writing exercises, and should not be confused with valid, keepable work that’s eligible for submission. ‘Nuff said for now.

Writing a poem as if it were a recipe is NOT a writing exercise. Go forth and write as many as you like. Be the Julia Child of poetry, they are real poems.

You now have two different examples of recipe poems, and a great breakfast idea. I hope these fit into your week as beautifully as your clock radio goes off playing your favorite song. And you know of course, don’t eat the avocado toast over your keyboard. If you’re anything like I am, it will land face down and you’ll be picking quac out of the keys with a toothpick.

Have the very best week!!! xo


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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, February 14, 2020

Tobi Alfier - This Isn’t a Poem, it’s a Story!


Welcome! For those of you new to this blog, this is a continuation of last week’s post. “This isn’t a poem, it’s a story” is something I say often to my husband when reading submissions for our journal (San Pedro River Review).

This is a subject I struggle with myself. I describe the majority of my poetry as “Plain Speech Narrative Poetry of Place”.

“Plain Speech” – you’re sitting outside in the beautiful weather with a friend, just drinking sweet tea, maybe with a touch of rum in it, rocking on the porch swing and chatting.

“Narrative” – a description of events.

“Place” – anywhere from the A & P, to Timbuktu.

How the hell can you determine the difference between a poem and a story? In my opinion, you can’t take a story, slice it up into lines and stanzas, and call it a poem. But you can take elements from a story and write poems. And hallelujah, if you’re a submitting writer, you now have two pieces and types of writing (or more) to submit.

Consider the following 579-word story published by Revolution John 


In another time, another life, before even the roosters were up, he was usually at the café in the butcher’s district, a glass of coffee in one hand, churro in the other, and a song on his lips. But today, as the sky begins to pinken, he takes a swig of grappa and goes to the river, to say good morning and pay his respects to his departed wife. She left such a short time ago the sheets and pillow still hold her shadow, and the cupboard still holds her scent on the clothes he can’t bear to give away. He misses her deeply. He will miss her every day.

People greet him as he walks, a chorus of “hello”, “good morning”, “ciao” and “buongiorno”. Most don’t even know his name. They call him Grandpa Salerno because a long time ago he came from Salerno. He isn’t sure they would call him Antoni even if he asked, but he doesn’t mind.

He makes it to the park by the river with his coffee, black, and his egg sandwich, well done, watches the sky and city come to life. He watches Matteo, his friend and fellow émigré, who waves to him from across the river with his coffee, cream and sugar, and egg sandwich, runny. They both came to this city full of promises and dreams. They both ended up happy for a long time, family and years crinkling their eyes with laughter and now, sadness also.

Antoni loves the chill, even as thoughts of his beloved in the lightening sky warm his shoulders the way she rubbed them warm after a hard day at work. He loves the smells, he loves the people. He loves this adopted city, and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Today is planting day. Under Antoni’s watchful eyes, three of his four sons, the fourth far away in Trenton, New Jersey, were coming to plant his garden. For the raised bed already built there were lettuces and peas, carrots and herbs. Rolls of copper tape would line the wood to keep out snails. The rest of the small garden would be protected from animals by posts, wire and a gate, to be built by the sons. There they would plant corn and broccoli. Trellises for cucumbers would line one side, tomato cages the opposite. Plants, fertilizer, shovels and bags of cork for lining a path were all delivered yesterday. They all knew to bring their own gloves.

Also delivered were four bushes—roses created in 1952. Antoni and his wife Rose married in 1952. He ordered four to represent each son. This will be a garden of the heart as well as the body, and after he works his sons to back-breaking exhaustion they will feast on wine and tapas, congratulating each other and deciding who will come each Saturday to visit their father and weed.

It was a long day followed by a late lunch, the sons returning home to their wives, their gardens. Antoni, in an old chair dragged from the kitchen, toasted the last bit of color from the sky with one last glass of wine, whispered to his Rose in a mix of Italian, Spanish and English. And then, walking a little stooped from age and the surprise of being alone, he retired, an early night by anyone’s standards, to dream the plants growing and to get ready for the sunrise tomorrow.


Is there any way this story can be split up and made into a poem? No. It would look bad, be way too long for most journals to publish, and the language is not poetic enough to be a poem.

But there are poetic elements in this story that can be written as poems, and I wrote many of them:

  1. Multiple poems about Sevilla, a city I love,

  1. Multiple poems about my Italian father-in-law whose name wasn’t Antoni, but whose name began with an “A”,

  1. A poem where Dad A sat in a chair and directed his sons who were planting his garden. He worked them to the bone that day,

  1. Several elegies about my former mother-in-law, whose name also began with “A”. In my story her name is “Rose” because she had a “Rose of Sharon” planted in their backyard to honor a dear departed friend. She was so happy and proud when she told me the story,

  1. One of the Landlady poems in “A Slice of Alice” is a gardener,

  1. When Jeff was in Sevilla, he went to a fisherman’s café early in the morning, where the fisherman drank their coffee from glasses and sang songs,

  1. Our house was built in 1952. The rosebush out front is a type that was created in 1952 to honor our house.

And so on.

Does a story have to be true? Absolutely not. Do the poems have to be true? Absolutely not. For me, I like putting tidbits of truth in my fiction and writing poems about them later. I also like taking bits of previously written poems and adding them to my fiction.

Bottom line, in my opinion, poetry is poetry, and fiction is fiction. They are not the same, but they’re not mutually exclusive.  AND it’s another writing skill to develop—there’s NOTHING wrong with that!!!

I hear the desert weather is back—hot during the day, and cold at night. Sunrises and sunsets are times when the two mingle, but they are not the same. Think of your writing the same way: daytime poems and nighttime fiction. Have a good week. Write well. xo

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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.


Brian Beatty On d.a. levy


Borrowed Trouble: Micro Tribute to d.a. levy (1934-2014)

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


The sky is an uneasy mimeograph blue.
Ohio towns all smell of tire factories
never built there. (Truly. It’s in the air.)
Everyone you meet aspires to become
a mailman. For the uniform and perks.
An unfortunate few pass the exam.
The rest wind up studying art in prison,
making the most of their stays there.
If some jerk does somehow escape,
he quickly realizes the error of his ways.
Back in he goes. Voluntarily this time.

– Brian Beatty


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Learn more about d.a. levy:

 

Friday, February 7, 2020

Tobi Alfier - Writing Anything

Writing Anything

Even though I’m an editor, note that our submission window for The San Pedro River Review just closed. So this blog post is not just for submitting poets. I'm winding down, and after reading three thousand plus submissions, many things jumped out at me that I’d like to pass along.

First though, these are just my opinions. Rich, who reads just as many poems in order to put out a beautiful monthly journal has his own opinions. Likewise, so does every other editor in the world.

Whether you are a submitting poet, or write just for your own enjoyment, some of this will apply to you. Let’s go…

  1. Even if someone suggests a journal “that’s perfect for you”, read the guidelines. They may not remember to tell you the press reads blind, or there’s a theme, or send one attachment and no more than four poems. They may not know the window is already closed.  You need to know about those things, and using their name in your cover letter will do nothing (although, editors like if you mention something about a poem you read in the last issue, or a person who recommended them).

  1. Some guidelines have gotten crazy lately, particularly if a journal uses Submittable. Sometimes you have to log in to Submittable, and click the down arrow for “more” to find information that should be on the website, but isn’t. Important information that will cause your submission to be ignored if you don’t follow the instructions. This irritates me like nobody’s business; at least once a week either Jeff or I will miss something because we only read the website. Have your private eye goggles on and look for everything!!   (kwik note from Rich: rest assured Cholla Needles will NEVER join submittable, or any other silly organization of that ilk).

  1. The two things I say the most often when reading poems we’re not going to accept are “No more first-person poems”, and “This isn’t a poem, it’s a story”. Let’s talk about these two comments; they have an effect on everyone who writes poetry.

No more first –person poems:

I don’t really mean that. I love first-person poems, if that’s the appropriate narrator for the poem. But “I was lying in bed, listening to my husband snore” is like “I was sitting at the bus stop waiting for the number 93 bus”. It may be the way you have to get yourself into a poem, but it should not be the first line. Neither is anything about taking your dog for a walk, or that you were looking out any window. Also, even if the narrator is first person, the poems don’t have to be true. Consider the following poem:

Good Girl’s Escape

Let me tell you something:
I got a mason jar of Everclear
propped between my knees,
Annie Lennox blasting on the radio,
and I’m parked up on a hill, scenic
viewpoint of nothin’ but a ferris wheel
in the valley below, clouds teasing
across the moon above, a blanket
wrapped around my shoulders
and all the strength of no one
I ever loved in my heart.

Sweet dreams are made of this.
I smoke my last cigarette, flick
it miles out into the dirt, rummage
around to find the memoir of who
I should have been, read a few pages
by the light of the cell phone…
I got nothing owed to no one,
nobody waitin’ home for dinner
crying over the spilled milk
of me bein’ gone. For an hour,
for a day, for nineteen sunrises
and sunsets, it just don’t matter.

Mail piled up inside the door,
not leavin’ a clue for anyone that I’m
on a mission to find out what that label
of Johnny Walker ain’t tellin’. I’m
warm-souled but no fool.
I watch the ferris wheel seats rock
up top, some empty as my bed,
and others—who know whose paths
are crossing tonight and who cares.
I am the butterfly crossing paths
with this nighttime desert breeze,
and that’s all you need to know.

(Formerly published in Picaroon Poetry Journal)

Was this me? Well it could have been, about a hundred thousand years ago. Maybe yes. Maybe no. But it couldn’t have any other narrator. I tried it all ways and this was best.

Your husband (or wife) snoring is not poetic. Endearing maybe, or irritating, but that’s it. It’s not poetic. Write yourself into the poem, then lose that line for the next time you need it.

We’ll talk about “This isn’t a poem, it’s a story” next week. Please don’t get defensive about it ahead of time. These are opinions. Things to think about and hopefully help make you a stronger writer, whether you agree or not.

REMEMBER; THERE ARE NO POETRY POLICE! EVEN IF THERE WERE, I AM NOT ONE OF THEM!           

Have a great week. Enjoy the beautiful scenery. Be safe, write well, and turn on your side when you sleep so you don’t snore and become a poem! xo

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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.


Open Reading: February 16, 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 =:-) 


We are celebrating the release of Cholla Needles 38, as well as two new chapbooks by Cindy Rinne, and Ruth Nolan!!! Please feel welcome and be inspired by their presentations. 

Come enjoy the love!

Brian Beatty On Mark Strand


Borrowed Trouble: Micro Tribute to Mark Strand (1934-2014)

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

Mark Strand

In bed as you doze off 
you begin writing 
the paragraph of the night.

So goes life’s dark dream:
brimming with romance one minute,
terror or boredom the next. 

Then out of nowhere 
you’re done.

– Brian Beatty


Learn more about Mark Strand:

click for more info










- - - -


click here for more on this book
click for more on this book
NEW! 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.

Friday, January 31, 2020

February Issue Released - Cholla Needles #38!


Cover Art By Michael Byro

Poetry and stories by:
Cindy Rinne
Timothy Robbins
Brenda Littleton
George Payne
Dave Maresh
Mitchell K. Grabois
Duane Anderson
Mark T. Evans
Michael G. Vail
Ruth Nolan
Jonathan B. Ferrini



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



Brian Beatty On Allen Ginsberg & Walt Whitman

Borrowed Trouble: 
Micro Tribute to Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) & Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

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

Allen Ginsberg & Walt Whitman

I imagine you this sweet old couple rolling 
a shopping cart through America's supermarkets 
arguing out of matching beards about William Blake,
current politics and the lack of local produce. 

Sunday nights I half-expect to find you 
holding each other down the organic aisle
as if on your fluorescent honeymoon,

divorced dads, college frat boys 
and military discharges stopping to stare — 

confused, no doubt, as the store’s overhead Muzak.

– Brian Beatty


Learn more about Allen Ginsberg:

Click to see more











Learn more about Walt Whitman:

Click to see more












- - - -


click here for more on this book
click for more on this book
NEW! 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.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Tobi Alfier - Right Hand, Left Hand

I don’t know if anyone else is having this challenge, but Windows 7 is no longer being supported on my somewhat old computer. I keep getting a message to update to Windows 10. I keep telling it to remind me later.

We have successfully completed the download on our Surface Pro, the computer we take with us when traveling. Jeff has not been so lucky with his laptop and is going back to Windows 7. I’m not doing a thing until this issue of San Pedro River Review is done – our window is open now.

We build the issue on Publisher. We’ve heard rumors that old Publisher and new Publisher do not play together nicely. Welcome to frustrating January 2020. I hope you are not having computer issues as well.

I’ve been getting “Poets & Writers” magazine for ages. I do like the articles, and I like the submission opportunities at the back. This issue, the “Inspiration” issue, has the oddest combination of articles in it. It makes me wonder if anyone reads the entire thing before it went to press.

On page 25, there’s a very good article by Sarah Ruhl on Writer’s Block. She claims there is no such thing, that it is a “self-inflicted wound”. Sarah’s five-page article lists thirteen different categories of excuses and cures for them. It’s especially interesting to me because the LinkedIn group I moderate is having this exact discussion right now (Poetry Editors and Poets – you’re all invited to join).

Then, on Page 46 there’s an article by Dana Isokawa entitled “Poetic Lenses”. It’s the special Inspiration section, where ten debut poets are interviewed. They’re asked how they began writing, their inspiration, and any advice they have for new poets. EVERY SINGLE INTERVIEW asks what they do to combat writer’s block!

In all the years I’ve read this magazine, I have never seen such a “Right Hand, Left Hand” issue like this. The debut poets article doesn’t ask “how do you combat your self-inflicted wound?” It says “Writer’s Block Remedy”. Interestingly enough, a lot of the information is the same in both articles. It just seems odd.

How are you all doing? I don’t know if it’s the weather, the New Year, the danged computer or what, but I haven‘t felt much like writing, I don’t know about you. And then we have 96-year-old Simon Perchik, who even while out of town, writes every day. Bless his heart. Well, I do NOT have writer’s block! I do NOT have a “self-inflicted wound”.  I think for me, I would please, please, please like to hear from a few editors. I have a lot of poems submitted; I’d like to hear about some of them. Funny, that wasn’t in either of the Poets & Writers articles!

I’m glad to see that Susan Abbott is back from her trip, and I’m glad that she and Cynthia Anderson were featured last Sunday at Space Cowboy Books. I hope it wasn’t too cold for all you lucky people who got to hear them and read in the open mic.

You may be more computer literate than we are, but Jeff was successful putting his computer back to Windows 7. To sort of quote Scarlett O’Hara, we’ll worry about it tomorrow.

xo

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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.