Tuesday, October 19, 2021

New Book! In Her Terms by Toti O'Brien!

From Alturas:

My apologies for condoning the hawk
for not holding its predating nature
against it. We all hunt, just
in different ways.
The hawk does it beautifully
as large birds do, sunlit
and in plain sight.

. . . I seem to have been wed
to the hawk time ago, in prehistoric eras
our tie as indissoluble
as a sacrament. Let me
celebrate the rite of the hawk,
hawk and I, hawk and eye, the long gaze
the telescopic vision.

- - -

Toti O'Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish last name. Born in Rome, living in Los Angeles, she is an artist, musician, poet, and dancer.

Click here to order In Her Terms ($5) 


Monday, October 18, 2021

New Book! The Desert by John C. Van Dyke

John Charles Van Dyke (1856–1932) was an American art historian, critic, and nature writer. He was born at New Brunswick, New Jersey, studied at Columbia, and for many years in Europe.

In 1878, Van Dyke was appointed the librarian of the Gardner Sage Library at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and in 1891 as a professor of art history at Rutgers College. He was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1908.

When visiting the western deserts, Van Dyke brought his years of Art experience with him when composing this book, The Desert. The result is the visual language of light, air, and color which gives his writing a vivid poetic imagery loved by generations of readers.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

New Book! Calendar Girls by Tobi Alfier!

Calendar Girls can be imagined as a poetry book with a 2022 calendar, or as a 2022 calendar with poetry to help you make it through each month. The calendar has plenty of room to write doctor's appointments, readings you're attending, pta meetings, and everyone's birthday. The words and pictures will keep you inspired as you visit the life of a different woman each month through the eyes of Tobi Alfier. 

Tobi Alfier is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com), an international semi-annual print journal of poetry and art. Her chapbooks include The Coincidence of Castles from Glass Lyre Press, Romance and Rust from Blue Horse Press, Down Anstruther Way from FutureCycle Press and Grit and Grace from Orchard Street Press. Her newest full-length books are Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where from Kelsay Books, Sanity Among the Wildflowers from Cholla Needles, Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies from Cholla Needles and Symmetry: earth and sky from Main Street Press.

a peek inside (true size 11" X 17"):


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Open Poetry Reading October 6, 5-7 PM!

Cholla Needles Open Poetry Reading
October 6, 2021 5-7 PM
The Joshua Tree Folk Stage
Bring a mask and a lawn chair for comfort!


Friday, October 1, 2021

October issue released! Cholla Needles 58!

 The theme this month - Terra - comes from the book selected to be read throughout our community for the 2021 BIG READ: An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo. The BIG READ is presented locally by Arts Connection and the Arts Council of San Bernardino County. The authors and artists for this issue were asked to present a personal understanding of Terra. We're tremendously blessed by how well they help us visualize our earth from so many viewpoints:

Leslie Shaw
Cynthia Anderson
John Brantingham
Caryn Davidson
Jeffrey Alfier
Tobi Alfier
Ruth Nolan
John C. Krieg
L. I. Henley
Dave Maresh
Tony Soares
Simon Perchik

Thursday, September 30, 2021

New Book! Dreams I've Held: Uncollected Poems (1943-1979) by Simon Perchik

This volume includes the full edition of Simon Perchik's very first book, The Bomber Moon, which was self-published in 1950, and is long out of print. Poems between 1943 & 1979 published in many literary magazines have also been collected, and appear in book form for the first time. These include The Lambert Castle Poems from 1943-49, two hundred and fifteen poems called "The "A" Poems, a set of five prose poems, and a rare long narrative poem entitled Misha's Funeral.

Simon Perchik, an attorney, was born 1923 in Paterson, NJ and educated at New York University (BA English, LLB Law). His poems have appeared in various literary journals including Cholla Needles, Partisan Review, Poetry, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

excerpt from A215:

I always walk in afternoons
when heat beats hard for me
and bangs the sides of grass
against the heat and me.

But then in the cool evening of my mind
I grip the moon's long hair
and braid the dreams I've held
with tears from everywhere.

Click here to purchase Dreams I've Held online, 400 pages ($15) 

New Book! The Land Of Little Rain by Mary Austin

Mary Austin graduated from Blackburn College in 1888 and moved to California. Her family established a homestead in the San Joaquin Valley. She was a prolific novelist, poet, critic, and playwright, as well as an early feminist and defender of Native American and Spanish-American rights. Austin and her husband were involved in the local California Water Wars, after which the water of Owens Valley eventually was drained to supply Los Angeles. When their battle was lost, they moved to Death Valley, California. For 17 years, Austin made a special study of the lives of the indigenous peoples of the Mojave Desert. Mount Mary Austin, in the Sierra Nevada, was named in her honor. It is located 8.5 miles west of her longtime home in Independence, California. Mary Austin is best known for The Land of Little Rain (1903), her tribute to the deserts of California.

New Book! The White Heart Of Mojave by Edna Brush Perkins

This historical journal of a journey through the Mojave in 1920 is a treasure for all lovers of this desert region. Edna and her friend Charlotte visited the desert at a time when one could travel far distances before seeing another human. Their expectation was to experience the strenuous life of the outdoors being touted by Theodore Roosevelt, and to explore by choice "the wild and lonely place" of the Mojave Desert. Edna's voluptuous prose lets us know that this goal was reached with a deep and lasting joy. Reading her words today demonstrates the desert still has a magical draw 100 years later.

Edna Brush Perkins began working for suffrage with the Ohio Woman's Suffrage Party. After the defeat of the suffragists' 1912 Ohio referendum campaign, Perkins became chairman of the ward organization of the Ohio Woman's Suffrage Party. Perkins was influential in efforts to help women gain the right to vote for the municipal elections in 1914, and presidential elections in 1917, though the latter decision was ultimately overturned. During 1916-1918, Perkins served as the Chairman of the Women's Suffrage Party of greater Cleveland.

Her work in the suffrage movement included organized door-to-door campaigns, petitioning Ohio legislatures, and debating against anti-suffragists. Nationally, Perkins participated in a suffrage parade in Boston and led a suffrage parade in Cleveland in 1914. In 1915, she gave speeches in Massachusetts, Mississippi, and represented Ohio at the National American Woman Suffrage convention in Washington, D.C. She wrote a pamphlet entitled "What It Is", which was distributed by volunteers who worked to gather signatures to support the suffrage movement. Perkins also co-founded the Women's City Club in Cleveland in 1916 and used this platform to focus on the birth control campaign.

When the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920 giving women the right to vote, Perkins travelled through the Sahara and the Mojave deserts with fellow woman suffragist Charlotte Hannahs Jordan. She later wrote two books, The White Heart of Mojave (1922) and The Red Carpet of the Sahara (1925) about her experiences. Perkins exhibited her artwork at the Cleveland Museum of Art from 1927 to 1930.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

September Issue Released! Cholla Needles 57!


The cover and interior art is from JLG

powerful current literature by:

Bettina T. Barrett
John Sierpinski
Ernest Alois
Heather Morgan
Roger G. Singer
Caryn Davidson
Kent Wilson
Peter Jastermsky
Dave Eberhardt
Michael G. Vail
Jonathan B. Ferrini

Available locally at Rainbow Stew in Yucca Valley
and Space Cowboy in Joshua Tree

Monday, August 23, 2021

Open Poetry Reading! September 1 6-8 PM


Cholla Needles Open Poetry Reading
September 1, 2021 6-8 PM
The Joshua Tree Folk Stage
Bring a mask and a lawn chair for comfort!


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Review of Things I Learned from Falling by Claire Nelson

Things I Learned from Falling by Claire Nelson
(Published 2020 by Aster; 272 pages)
Reviewed for Cholla Needles by Greg Gilbert


           Who doesn’t appreciate a well told tale, especially when it occurs in your own back yard and mentions people you know. And, thus, we have Claire Nelson’s story of survival and discovery after a harrowing fall in Joshua Tree National Park in 2018. A native of New-Zealand who has worked in London for the past decade writing about travel and food, Nelson’s first book, Things I learned from Falling, displays her experience as a writer who is accustomed to engaging an audience of readers.

            The book begins with her fall, a remarkably common-place misstep that anyone who hikes will relate to, something that could have happened to me dozens of time. To that extent, her story is a cautionary tale that plumbs the depths of one’s will to survive and what the well lived life might entail. After the fall, the reader’s proximity to Nelson’s pain and struggles is intimate and vivid. The author has strayed from the established path, has fallen 25 feet and landed among boulders, her pelvis shattered. She can only move her arms, there is no phone signal, she is hidden from view, and while she bakes during the day, she freezes at night. Her heroic struggle of survival is physical and psychological, a tale of twin shattering’s.

            While her physical demise is a dominant and dark presence, the book’s title says that she’s endured and “learned” as a result. The threats of exposure, shock, thirst, foraging predators, and her having to resort to measuring out and drinking her urine describes a brilliant determination to live, and a universal desire for a fulfilling life. That she survives is not the crux of the story, but, rather, how she does so and her determination to be worthy of the opportunity.

            A last happy note involves references to our hi-desert friends and neighbors, among them our own Space Cowboy Books proprietor, Jean-Paul L. Garnier. Again, this is a well told story that I am happy to recommend.

-  -  -  -  -

Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

More info

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Open Poetry Reading! August 4, 6-8 PM!!

Cholla Needles Open Poetry Reading
August 4, 2021 6-8 PM
The Joshua Tree Folk Stage
Bring a lawn chair for comfort!



August Issued Released! Cholla Needles 56!


Guest Editor: John Brantingham
The beautiful cover and interior art is from Ann Brantingham

The words within are from:

Tony Barnstone
Shaymaa Mahmoud
Cynthia Adam Proachaska
Savannah Hernandez
Philip Van Sant
Kareem Tayyar
John Buckley
Daniel Cryns
Carrie Lynn Hawthorne
Andrew Hughes
Jane Edberg (art)
John Brantingham

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Review of The Collection Plate by Kendra Allen

Cholla Needles’ editorial focus reads simply “Tight work that will leave a scar on the reader,” and any fan of tight work and its scars will want to wrap themselves in the pages of Kendra Allen’s The Collection Plate. Allen has already made a name for herself in the literary world with her award-winning book of essays When You Learn The Alphabet in 2018, but her words come alive in a different way in The Collection Plate. This new collection explores race and religion, sex and liberation from the fresh perspective of a young but experienced writer.

Many of Allen’s poems are inspired by her upbringing in Texas, such as “Practical life skills,” which details the memory of a fishing trip with her father. The descriptions feel nostalgic—“ We pull up to the dock with three picnic chairs as crickets chirp”— but there’s something darker simmering beneath the surface. Take the final stanza:

In dark matter water and wonder what it would be like to live away from

A cliff then You catch a blowfish and bang its head up against the concrete

On top of the dock we watch it die You didn’t have to kill it

You throw it in an empty cooler we continue hooking I share all your names.

“You didn’t have to kill it” has a satisfying sting, and that feeling is echoed throughout the collection. Each poem is dressed in layers of nostalgia, darkness, and resilience. This is especially apparent in the poems with religious overtones, such as “Sermon notes” and the five “Our Father’s house,” poems. In each of these, she criticizes the expectations Christianity thrusts onto its followers. “Most calvaries have dead people” highlights this theme of unwilling martyrdom, where Allen writes:


like Our Father

when he gives me his issues

places them in my spine lets me,

sew skin into skin without thread

and tells me to walk

to a city where i am given something more

than a man

whose obligation is to no one, not even

the Blood


As with the rest of her work, “Most calvaries have dead people” covers a lot of ground. Allen isn’t just questioning organized religion, she’s calling out the forced martyrdom of women, daughters, and BIPOC members of society, and she drives this point home with the poem’s final line, something between a question and an accusation: “how could you let me spill all over town”.

The Collection Plate is a glimpse into the future of poetry where, unbound by restrictions of form, the poet’s message is free to flourish, just as Allen’s has. She knows how to make every word work for her, and each line of each poem could stand on its own; fresh, raw, and ready to leave a scar.  

-   -   -   

Kate H. Koch writes poetry, flash fiction, and screenplays. Her work has appeared in Cholla Needles, Bombfire, Club Plum & other journals. Follow her at http://krista.place/

Monday, July 12, 2021

Beate Sigriddaughter - CN Zoom Party 43!

What makes prose poetry poetry?

Beate Sigriddaughter reads from her new prose poetry book, Kaleidoscope, talks about  prose poetry, and shares some of her traditional poetry to supply a compare and contrast for us. Beate Sigriddaughter is the editor of Writing In A Woman's Voice. Recorded July 11, 2021 for Cholla Needles Zoom Party 43.

Beate Sigriddaughter - Intro

Beate reads Three Poems from Kaleidoscope

Why prose poetry for this project?

Beate reads two lyric poems
from Xanthippe and Her Friends

the difference between poetry and prose

Three more poems from Kaleidoscope

prose poetry and flash fiction

Beate closes with two poems

Click directly on book you're interested in =:-)

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Review of Tramping Solo by Fred Rosenblum

Tramping Solo by Fred Rosenblum
Fomite Press, 108 Pages

Tramping Solo tells the story of a war vet being released from the military in the insane year of 1969, when popular culture everywhere was against the military. Interestingly, Fred Rosenblum is able to manage these experiences without attempting to moralize or teach. As a writer, he prefers to simply paint a picture and allow the reader to feel the experience of one man through language. 

His images present strongly without the use of common jargon, i.e. ‘flashbacks' and ‘ptsd’: silver satanic angels with their ravaging Phantom strikes, to this very day still strafe me. Events are presented clearly and without comment or prejudice: The city snarled and bored its fangs when I came out into the street with my honorable discharge and my purple fucking heart — to be wrestled to the ground on the San Diego downtown sidewalk concrete pavement. . . or encrypted words/mantras seeping out/from the soft sponge of earth.

The story follows the vet through his travels along the Pacific Coast. The voice of the poet comes through clearly with specifically chosen imagery denoting a sense of place: a placid evening's radiant veil of embers appearing to respire on the lighted bluffs above Monterey Bay. We follow him through several years of physical duress and psychic turmoil: Unable to acquire a prosthetic psyche in Seventy-two, my pathetic character came unglued and I ramped-up my tolerance for goofballs and booze. 

Nature provides the release for both yet and reader during important transitions: the mating call of a horned owl growling at silhouettes framed on the face of a vanishing moon. . .

Also by Fred Rosenblum: Vietnumb, 2018: Fomite Press


Thursday, July 1, 2021

July Issue Released! Cholla Needles 55 =:-)


Cover Art by Comstock

The creative words within are from:

Iwuagwu Ikechukwu
Heather Morgan
James Marvelle
Toti O’Brien
Roger D. Anderson
Dora Kaskali
Kent Wilson
Dave Maresh
Greg Wyss
Bill Ratner
Jonathan B. Ferrini
Dave Benson

Friday, June 25, 2021

Review of Crazy Brave and An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo


Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo (memoir, 2012) and
An America Sunrise by Joy Harjo (poetry, 2019)

Review by Greg Gilbert

 Joy Harjo is our incumbent United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold that honor. I use the plural first person, our, for two reasons. One is that America’s Poet Laureate is appointed by the Librarian of Congress of our United States, and two, in recognition of Harjo’s use of the plural first person we throughout her prose and poetry to denote community. Joy Harjo’s community is not an all-encompassing generic Native American stereotype but a multiplicity of tribes and ancestors, their songs, their connections to the earth, and their generational responses to being forcibly and violently removed from the lands in which they grew their cultures. “Within a few generations we had gone from being nearly one hundred percent of the population of this continent to less than one-half of one percent. We were all haunted” (Brave page 100).

Within both works, Harjo contemporizes how denied avenues of expression and purpose can result in self-destructive behaviors, alcoholism, drugs, and domestic violence. In Crazy Brave, Harjo alludes to the all-too-common story of men who seek fulfillment through sexual liaisons outside of marriage, who seek release through alcoholism and domestic violence; and she explores the longing for family, the larger we, and love that leads women to cleave to such men, even to their mutual devastation. To read Harjo’s poetry and prose without appreciating the range of nobility and loss her work describes is to miss the point of why she deserves to be our Poet Laureate.

A personal delight that I take from her words concerns their reverence for a luminous realm experienced by the very young, the very old, and most of us in instants of revelation. If there is a common theme among most native tribes, it is a celebration and respect for the spiritual realm and its place in the natural world, and this is why the first-person plural is vital. The we of Harjo’s tribes and the we of Harjo’s America are an entwined WE the people of this earth and our shared duty to its preservation and to one another. Harjo reminds us that we must quiet ourselves and open to the silence that gives us life, what she refers to as “The Knowing.”


  The earth is leaning sideways
  And a song is emerging from the floods
  And fires. Urgent tendrils lift toward the sun.
  You must be friends with silence to hear.
  The songs of the guardians of silence are the most powerful—
  They are the most rare. (from “Singing Everything,” Sunrise page 48)


Likewise, in Crazy Brave, Harjo writes that “because music is a language that lives in the spiritual realms, we can hear it, we can notate it and create it, but we cannot hold it in our hands” (Brave page 8). To her credit, Harjo, at age 40, took up the instrument that she was denied as a child because of her gender, the saxophone by which she can give expression to her love of the blues. Harjo is a 21st Century woman with deep roots of loss and longing. Among her early memories is her love of “radio, jukeboxes, or any magic thing containing music” (Brave page 7). She writes of hearing Miles Davis before she knew the words jazz or trumpet. She heard the stomp dance music, heard the workers singing in the fields, and she heard her mother singing in the house. “It is her song that lit my attention as I listened in the ancestor realm” (Brave page 8). In her poem, “Becoming Seventy,” Harjo speaks of “Becoming old children born to children born to sing us into / Love.” She tells us to “Sing the blues to the future of everything that might happen and will. All the losses come tumbling” (Sunrise pages 83-4). And on page 88, she writes of slavery and offers this poignant observation, “Only war ships. For freedom, freedom, oh freedom sang the slaves, the oar rhythm of the blues lifting up the spirits of our peoples whose bodies were worn out, or destroyed by a man’s slash.”

And most wonderfully, she asks, “Who sings to the plants / That are grown for our plates? / Are they gathered lovingly In aprons or arms?” (Sunrise page 93). We are reminded by her of our alienation from the very sources of life and, thus, from ourselves.
         Throughout her works, Harjo searches out justice for the ancestors, for the earth, and all of its peoples. She sees the folly of our coming and goings while herself on a journey that she translates through her poetry. She reminds us not to forget our roots. In a powerful prose poem, she washes her mother’s body.

I felt sadness as grief in her lungs. The grief came from the tears of thousands of our tribe when we were uprooted and forced to walk the long miles west to Indian Territory. They were the tears of the dead and the tears of those who remained to bury the dead. We had to keep walking. We were still walking, trying to make it through to home. The tears spoiled in her lungs, became tuberculosis.       
She exists in me now, just as I will and already do within my grandchildren. No one ever truly dies. (Brave page 93)

                As for our human endeavors, “Nobody goes anywhere though we are always leaving and returning. It’s a ceremony. Sunrise occurs everywhere, in lizard time, human time, or a fern uncurling time” (Sunrise page 86). Throughout her writings, Joy Harjo joins her present generation, our generation, as the door to memory. “The knowing always spoke softly, wisely” (Brave page 49), and so do the words of our Poet Laureate.

Joy has also edited two anthologies of First People's Poetry recently:

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

New Book! Kaleidoscope by Beate Sigriddaughter


Kaleidescope is a collection of prose poetry.

Imperfect Flute

She knows how it should sound, clean, jubilant, a jeweled riff of rapture. It doesn't sound like that. Not yet. Perhaps it never will. She plays anyway.

Words are my passion, and with many wise folk before me, I believe that they are a significant tool for building a world of sanity, honor, and peace. I am especially passionate about having women’s voices, heard, read, and validated in our off-kilter world. - Beatte Sigriddaughter

Beate is the author of many novels, collections of poetry and other writings. Her most recent poetry collections are Emily (2020) and Dancing in Santa Fe (2019).

Click here to see on-line review by Matt Paust.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

June Virtual "Open Readings"

 Welcome to our June 2021 Shelter-In-Place Video "Open Readings". A huge thanks is due to all the folks who have participated either as audience or as featured readers in our Cholla Needles Zoom Shelter-In-Place readings. 

The videos below are a part of our history, and are newly edited. There is one more set of these Shelter-In-Place videos to come. The good news for many of us is that we have stopped video-taping shelter-in-place readings, and have started meeting in small groups of six in a program we are calling "Poetry Walks". If you are interested in participating in live, small group readings, please feel free to contact me: editor@chollaneedles.com. These are scheduled whenever we get a small group of people wanting to come, and so far we have met on a Friday morning (9 AM), a Wednesday morning (9 AM), and a Thursday evening (5 PM). We will meet whatever time is best for the group - in Joshua Tree. 

If you are browsing our pages, we consider YOU a part of our family and you are welcome to become part of Cholla Needles. Simply contact us at editor@chollaneedles.com & send us your poetry, short stories, essays, photos and art for publication in our monthly magazine. 

Good Times!!! We are working right now to prepare to return to large group readings in Joshua Tree, with a hopefully not too optimistic thought of early July 2021. Stayed tuned here or on facebook for announcements. In the meantime, enjoy the videos:

Alan Catlin reads A Horse Named Dancer

Gabriel Hart reads The Killing Tree

Kelsey Bryan-Zwick reads
To Describe The Body I Invent

Greg Wyss reads Two Bar Poems

Cindy Rinne reads Three New Poems

Ernest Alois reads
Short Poems Of The Mountains

Heather Morgan reads Lipstick

Dave Benson reads Undocumented God

Jeff Alfier reads The Shadow Field

Tobi Alfier reads The Way of the Warrior

Alan Catlin reads Two Recipe Poems

Gabriel Hart reads
Birth, War, and Everyday Bleeding

Kelsey Bryan-Zwick reads
X-Rays, MRIs, CTs, Bone Scans

Greg Wyss reads
Four Mosquitos Buzzing Inside His Head

Cindy Rinne reads Ode To Cactus Spines

Ernest Alois reads
Poems of Wine and Spirits

Heather Morgan reads The Bad Ones

Dave benson reads Viva Wisconsin

Jeff Alfier reads Late Train

Renee Gurley reads A Eulogy Of Sorts

Alan Catlin reads Black Widow

Gabriel Hart reads Frozen Grin

Kelsey Bryan-Zwick reads Dark Star

Greg Wyss reads The Pubic Hair Blues

Cindy Rinne reads After Corona Blues

Ernest Alois reads
Pioneer at the Desert Saloon

Heather Morgan reads Depression

Dave Benson reads The Sheep Cafe

Jeff Alfier reads A Failed Artist's Statement

Tobi Alfier reads Eating Italian In Austin

Good Times!!! Thanks for watching!!!