Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Brenda Littleton - It is Brilliant Here

I don’t have much left in my life these days: my parents and brothers have passed.
Lovers' touches linger in dried alter petals and fading poem-ink. 
Their photos point to another time; their echoes live in Joni songs. 
Like David Whyte’s line, they've turned sideways into the light.
It is brilliant here, at times.
The Road to King Clone
Active, income-bearing projects have ended. My suits are buried. My heels now flat.  Material things like vacation condos, income properties and motorhomes are gone. Family farms are paved; the plow a museum relic. The beach is a public park.
My own home is far from being complete: the ceiling peels, the carpet stains, the kitchen wants to be open and white. I sleep in a garage of northern windows, eastern French doors and ragged drywall. Expensive rugs keep the peace. Much of what is supposed to be there, is not. The makings of containment don’t live here anymore. I actually wonder if they ever did. 
Yet, my Ego is contentedly receding, as James Hillman professes happens at the threshold of sixty, and in this recession, She takes with her most of the constellated patterns that no longer serve me.


And, in place of this space, an illuminated foam of Soul roams in; the continuing high tide now occupies and resides, as the owner of the next thirty years. Along with Soul, I have these animals. Desert-bred Arabians, an ancient lot, used to warm camel’s milk and eating dates, live on the edge with me, as do other cats and dog, all refugees from desert trauma, who found their way to my side. 

Their souls are now free here, too.I have them.
And, I have my art, my creative heart.
It is mine; it is me. 
No one can take it; it is not up for question or debate.
Like the horses, it breathes, it pounds the ground 
when in want and in need of attention.
It may not be loved by the others outside of me,
but I am loved by it, 
I am courted by their dreams to be seen. 
I share when I have to,
or when I believe there is a hope-link to being seen and understood.
I don’t have much left in my life these days:
It is brilliant here, at times. 
It suits me just fine. 
Brenda Littleton, 2018
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You Can Eat Off of My Horse Stall Mats


Circe Leaving Her Greek Island
You can eat off of my horse stall mats. The grocery bags stowed in a ice chest are alphabetized by store names. Two hundred and forty papers written for my dissertation are reorganized by themes, and crossed referenced by the dates I wrote them. Thirty-two cookbooks once boxed in the shed are scattered on my bedroom floor, waiting to be called into duty. Some of them are my grandmother's and inspired eating during the Great Depression, the pandemic ofpolio, and rationing in WWII. My once diet of no bread, no sugar, no flesh, no animal product, has switched in a heartbeat to sourdough scones, mac n cheese, tuna casseroles, rice pudding and toast with cinnamon sugar on top. I meditate, eat, write, clean, eat, write, meditate, and clean some more. 
I no longer walk the dogs in my Mesa neighborhood, but instead I search for those spindly, dirt yak paths that lead close to hills and rock croppings. I feel very David Whyte-ish as I move among my own moors with Border Collie and Sheep Dog with me, Jack and Sugar-Butt Lu. I wear my Haida touque, a loud, squash-colored neck scarf, hoodie and boots, with my face mask attached to my left ear, just in case I run into specula. The wind is up as a stiff leash. With each step, I wonder about all the weird, odd, torrential upheavals I've lived through, and realize each one takes me further and farther out there, to where I get a whiff of some long distant lecture about how personal phenomenology is always cued and ready, with the ability for us to catch-up with our event horizon. In other words, our unconscious goes before us, and within our intentionality, we somehow unwittingly find ourselves having arrived, right up to the edge of our existence. Some quantum cosmologists call this edge-point a Black Hole. I call it my Monday Morning Walk. I walk further and try to remember was it Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, or Merleau-Ponty, who gave us this edict of how our unconscious goes before us and as we catch up, we then live life. I collapse into a snort-laugh, and I immediately worry if I'm shedding specula on the yak path, to then grok how my moment of homing like the pigeon to track that thought is just another one of concentric circles emanating from me trying to find my way. Cleaning the surface helps. Digging into this event horizon, unfinished and chthonic, is the larger version of dumping all of those cookbooks onto my floor. 
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The poem, "What to Remember When You Begin" circles overhead, as I walk in my best David Whyte-ish way: "What you can plan is too small for you to live. What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough for the vitality hidden in your sleep. To be human is to become visible while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others. To remember the other world in this world is to live in your true inheritance. You are not a troubled guest on this Earth. You were invited from another and a greater night than the one from which you have just emerged" -David Whyte. 
Time for some of that rice pudding. The wind has had its way with me, and I have an appetite for what I have forbidden myself.
Brenda Littleton, March 2020
Dark Ages 2.0

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The artwork, The Road to King Clone and Circe Leaving Her Greek Island are original pieces by Brenda LittletonWriter, poet, professor, literacy of place, Jungian archetypal psychology, equine psychology, alchemy, dream-tending, community, meaning-making, working with gold, silver threads and silk. Born the backside of Vancouver Island; renewed on the black beach of Santorni; risen from ashes in Aguanga; tenderly unfolded in Topanga, busting wide high with inner sky in Joshua Tree.



Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Tobi Alfier Stream of Consciousness Challenge


Dictionary.com defines “Stream of Consciousness” as “a literary style in which a character's thoughts, feelings, and reactions are depicted in a continuous flow uninterrupted by objective description or conventional dialogue.” Dorothy Richardson was the first writer credited with the genre by May Sinclair in 1918. (Click here to download the first stream of consciousness novel,  Pointed Roofs for free till May 9, 2020). James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Marcel Proust are among its notable disciples. I don’t mean that. 

I mean think, feel, and react in a continuous flow, but then figure out how to write about it sensibly. “Shelter in place” issues are down the post a bit.

Tuesday night, lucky me, I had insomnia from 2:21am until after 5:00am. It would’ve been mean to wake up Jeff to chat, although I did try to stare him awake. The reading light is on the other side of the bed from me. Nothing was recorded on TV. I was stuck with myself.

The list below is where my mind went when it had nothing else to do. For anyone who’s heard any of these stories before, my apologies.

*It’s almost the end of April

*National Poetry Month is almost over

*I’ve only written four poems this month, the worst April ever. I hardly made any submissions and got mostly rejections.

*In April of ‘98, my favorite aunt and I took her daughter to Paris. Years earlier we had promised we’d take her when she turned 16. All of a sudden she was 16. I’d just turned 18 weeks pregnant.

Outdoor Shower built by Angela Mia Torres
*We went to museums and ice cream stores, but also spent hours in shopping malls looking for a particular pair of platform tennis shoes for my cousin. We finally found them, and I spent a good deal of time clunking around our room wearing them, and nothing else. I have no idea why.

Let me mention that I also got to this same point starting with the gorgeous photograph Susan Rukeyser posted on Facebook, which included an outdoor shower as well as lovely scenery, but to quote Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by”.

Back to Paris…

*We stayed at the Hotel des Grandes Ecoles, me clomping around naked in platforms, my aunt and cousin alternately laughing at me and planning our next meal that I was too queasy to eat.

*Once home and I really began showing, I took a profile picture in just underwear, my big belly showing, which led me to…

*I can’t sew.

*In junior high I was practically forcefully escorted out of home ec, where the one dress I made had the armholes over my boobs, into a drafting class. That is how I became the first girl allowed in drafting.

*Every week we had to practice and practice, and turn in lettering charts. This memory led me to:

What We Don’t Know About Jonah

Each morning Jonah packs
templates and paints in thoughtful
order in the bed of his grandfather’s
old truck, a daily memory of tough
but loving –

He drives at slow pace through
neighborhoods where curbs were
bruised by swollen waters and roughened
sticks, house numbers no longer visible,
not even in the broadest brush of sun.

For 10, 15, maybe 20 dollars he will
paint a numbered masterpiece on the naked
curb for residents who forget his name
the second they close the door, turning back
to lovers or laundry, whatever people
do in middle day when they’re at home.

Jonah is an excellent draftsman.
Born to be outdoors, he had learned
a skill to serve him well, turning
in the 4x6 cards filled with alphabets
and numbers each Friday at school.
He’d practiced his lettering week
after week, the concentration blocking
out his parents shouting in the kitchen,
his little sister playing dolls by his feet
to keep her from toddling into the war zone.

Nothing as satisfying as a daily routine:
flip through the mail, unload pockets
of crumpled bills and order them
in the same careful way he packs
his paints, grab a $20, put his brushes
to soak and head on down to Wiley’s place,
a beer always waiting, a woman
always curious and loving his paint
splattered clothes, a real artist to make
her feel beautiful after an ordinary day,
to go outside with her, watch the neighbor’s
lights coming on in the windows.

I’ve written many poems set in Paris. I’ll always write poems set there.

If I’d taken the other road there are even more poems waiting to blossom. And that is my challenge for you!!!

Love & Light by Susan Abbott
The elephant in the roomno, it’s not pregnant naked Tobi, it’s the damned pandemic. As a writer, with all the respect in the world, I’m sure you feel like I do: a responsibility toward writing about it. If you’re a submitting writer, you want your work published as well.

Right now we are still in the throes of it, have no history or context, and don’t know how it will end. We need to seek out the anthologies and journals currently publishing about it, and there are a ton of them. You may FEEL like Wilfred Owen writing about WWI while smack in the middle of it, but his poems today are read with time and history between then and now. They were probably received very differently back when written. We have to be conscious of that.

It’s the responsibility of journal editors to maintain the aesthetics of their journals, regardless of what’s going on in the world. They can’t sacrifice craft for opinion, and neither should we. So write your pandemic work, but send it to the appropriate places, probably anthologies.

My challenge?

Amor Fati, Mandala of embracing destiny by Susan Abbott
Write your stream of consciousness, insomnia work. Send it to the appropriate journals, whatever you write. Look at the blooms of springtime flowers against a pure azure sky, the outdoor shower, Susan Abbott’s bright drawings, some like Tarot meets Torah, some like the sun; all the memories they conjure up and land at your feet. Don’t feel guilty about anything you write that isn’t about the pandemic. We are allowed to write about beauty.

p.s. There’s not enough money in the world for me to send Rich the naked pregnant picture of me, even though I think everyone at the car dealership saw it when it was in my glove compartment for some God unknown reason. 

Be safe. Have a good week. Write well, whatever you write about. Write it to last. 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, April 17, 2020

r soos on Brian Beatty

Brian Beatty has spent a year sharing a wealth of poetry with us here at our Cholla Needles website. He is moving on to work on sharing his thoughts on other aspects of the world around him, and I love what he has accomplished with these weekly tributes. Let it be remembered that these tributes are also available in book form, which he calls "Borrowed Trouble".

Brian Beatty's "Borrowed Trouble" is a powerful collection of around sixty well-written poetic essays done in the style of each individual poet. While learning about an aspect of a poet, Brian's reader also learns about the style of the poet. 


When Brian was studying poets and choosing the poets he was going to study - he was not focused on religion, race, where (or if) they went to school, what sex they decided they would claim (if any), what prizes they won. It just happened - a mere stroke of luck that each one was an individual distinct and far apart from the others (except for of course the father and son, who obviously knew a little about each other).


This beautiful little book has gay poets, lesbian poets, transexual poets. He has men and women poets. He has well-adjusted poets and insane poets. He has old poets and young poets. He has buddhist, jewish, muslim, atheist and even one openly christian poet. He has academic poets, and non-academic poets. He has poets who won the pulitzer (read large press), and poets who won the Pushcart (read collegiate press).  He has poets who stumbled along through life despite the odds and poets who committed suicide far too young. He has black poets, hispanic poets, and white poets. He has American poets, European poets, Canadian poets, and South American poets. All without trying. 

See, when you start to study poets you are not concerned about their sexual, political or religious affiliation. All you worry about as a reader is - "does this poet speak truth?" And that 's enough. 

Brian found sixty poets who speak truth to share with us, and I love him for that. If his little book encourages you to purchase three or four other little books of poetry by a poet you were previously unaware of, Brian did his job. Good times! While you can go back and read every single one of Brian's essays on-line at any time, I encourage you to pick up a hard copy of "Borrowed Trouble". The book is small enough that you can carry it with you everywhere you go. If it means going without a cup of coffee or 1/2 a glass of beer for a day, so be it. It's $6 well spent to make your mind feel great about the great big world of poetry. 

So, a big thank you to Brian! You can find him on facebook and send him a note of thanks, and keep up with all the new things he is up to. I will end this tribute with Brian speaking about himself and his purpose for writing Borrowed Trouble:

"I wouldn’t even do this if it weren’t for myriad writers before me whose works showed me what could be done. The poems in this book are small offerings of respect, of thanks, to those muses. 


I had only one rule to be considered for this sequence: Honored poets had to be dead. Because the thought that folks might see what I’d done to their good names was beyond embarrassing. 

So this is only a partial document of my personal literary canon. I read just as many, if not more, living writers as I do dead writers. They should thank me for sparing them micro-tributes.

What kind of trouble have I borrowed, exactly? Elements of style and subject matter mostly. That said, my own odd quirks as a writer are as apparent as ever. Cowboys and bears abound. As does the idea that Ohio is dark, doomed place I was happy to leave. I write from experience.

If this book doesn’t entertain you in some modest way, that’s entirely my doing. My failure. Sorry. 

I wish you luck finding poets whose writing moves you like I’ve been moved by the works of the poets here." - Brian Beatty. Amen.



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

Brian Beatty On e. e. cummings

Borrowed Trouble: Micro Tribute to e. e. cummings (1894-1962)

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

e. e. cummings

Forty-nine avalanches
of ice and snow
-broken branches later, 

no wonder tree silhouettes 
seem so tragic, so familiar. 

The winter season dis
appears our fingers and toes
hungry as a (white) rabbit 

after a magic show.

– Brian Beatty


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Learn more about e. e. cummings:








- - - -


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.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Brian Beatty On Ted Berrigan

Borrowed Trouble: Micro Tribute to Ted Berrigan (1934-1983)

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


At any given moment
skies above
the American Midwest
are filled
with decoys 
taking planes     places 
I’ve never been
so when
I hear their
honking
I always look up and wave.

– Brian Beatty


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Learn more about Ted Berrigan:

  




- - - -


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.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Brian Beatty On Mary Oliver


Borrowed Trouble: Micro Tribute to Mary Oliver (1935-2019)

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

Mary Oliver

Shaking off the river
the dog disappears

leaving behind only splashes 
of mud to remind us 

of everything 
deeply moving then suddenly 

missing from this life.

– Brian Beatty


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Learn more about Mary Oliver:







- - - -


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.