Thursday, December 23, 2021

Open Poetry Reading! January 2, 2022 2-4 PM


Cholla Needles Open Poetry Reading

January 2, 2022 2-4 PM
The Joshua Tree Folk Stage
Bring a mask and a lawn chair for comfort!
We have a covered meeting area in case of rain/snow.

Come early and enjoy the
Joshua Tree Retreat Center Restaurant
located at the large red dot on the map


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

New Book! Gaah! Halp! Halp! I'm Losing It! by Sam Schraeger

Yep. It's a comic book. With three unique stories based on the true-life adventures of Little Snot, legendary Comic Book Hero. You'll either love it, or hate it. Good thing about books like this - there's no in-between. And that's what makes this life fun! Give it a shot! Discover how Little Snot learns Anger Management, and much much more.

Also, a full length novel available by Sam Schraeger:


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Review of Whatever Feels Like Home by Susan Rukeyser

I love the poetry Susan Rukeyser includes in her fascinating flash fiction. For example, this line about a goldfish: “His translucent fins fanned like the scarves of an old burlesque dancer still going through the motions.”

These ten stories take us deep into the lives of the characters, and not the normal fiction characters of politics and fame. Susan instead focuses on our friends and neighbors, and manages to reach in and expose my own foibles to myself. My gut tells me that you too will find yourself in at least one of these stories, and members of your family in other stories, and for sure your next-door neighbor. And, those characters whose stories are unique and new to you will become life-long friends due to Susan’s love of her characters. I know Hank now has a soft spot in my heart, and I wish him a long life with good friends.

Susan’s descriptions of events are precise and vivid: “And wasn’t this what you did, when you lost a guy who probably wasn’t your forever guy but what if he WAS? You go crazy. You rage. You weep. You break into his trailer and sit on his couch with a knife across your lap, so he will shit himself when he opens the door after a long shift, sore and beat, and all he wants in life is a shower and to be left alone.” Another story paints a colorful picture of living together full-time, “Resentment, old as this marriage, sticks to doorknobs and window sills. It gums up the corners.” 

I marvel at how Susan seemingly effortlessly embeds seventeen syllable micropoems into her stories. I just stare in wonder at and savor the skill, and admire the work that goes into this precision. From two different stories: “Mrs. Anderson stretched as birds chittered, a brook sputtered over stones.” And “You were the girl who could never leave. How did they know you slept through it?” With this careful, pristine writing throughout, I highly recommend this book for your reading pleasure. The stories I have seen previously live just as strong with re-reading, and I know this will be a small book I’ll return to with pleasure.

To order by snail mail, send a $5 check (add $1 for postage in Canada; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9.

Susan will have signed copies to sell at The Folk School during the Local Authors Book Release Party on February 27, 2022:

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Open Poetry Reading! December 5, 2-4 PM!

Cholla Needles Open Poetry Reading

December 5, 2021 2-6 PM
The Joshua Tree Folk Stage
Bring a mask and a lawn chair for comfort!

Come early and enjoy the
Joshua Tree Retreat Center Restaurant
located at the large red dot on the map


New Books! Emily Dickinson Series!

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

After her death, friends of Emily’s compiled her poems and had them printed in three small volumes that sold and sold and sold. My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents loved these poems as presented by her friends.

In the mid-20th century, two generations and two world wars after her death, the academic community declared that these friends of Emily did not know what they were doing, and proceeded to re-write her history and her poems to fit their pre-conceived ideas of her work.

We present these poems as they originally appeared to the public who truly loved and admired her work.

Her three books as originally presented between 1890-1896:
Poems (1890)
Poems Series Two (1891)
Poems Series Three (1896)


New Book! Country by Jeffrey Alfier!

Jeffrey Alfier composed these exquisite photos in villages, towns and cities around the world. Like the photos we have from our astronauts demonstrating that we live on one planet, Jeff’s photos introduce us to individual citizens of the world. Simply looking at regular people living their lives gives a clear understanding that as humans we live in one country.

Jeffrey is the author of many books of poetry. He runs Blue Horse Press with Tobi Alfier. Together they have publish San Pedro River Review as well as poetry collections by many authors.

A sample 2-page spread:

A great stocking stuffer, especially if mixed with Calendar Girls 2022!


New Book! The Everyday Holy Of We by Susan Abbott!

how love clarified
the everyday holy of we

The Everyday Holy of We celebrates the journeys of women from the mythic, archetypal, historic, and to the familial. Crafted mostly in villanelles (all but one poem), Abbott expertly uses the repetitive rhyming form in natural cadences that add humor, poignancy and sometimes haunting depth to each poem. All poems are creatively paired with an image from her vibrantly colorful original works of art.

An epigraph from Muriel Rukeyser, “Along history forever, some woman dancing, making shapes in the air,” sets the tone for what follows - a combination of joy, praise, protest, exhilaration, lamentation and hope.

The collection comes in two sections - “Summons of a Common Sisterhood” and “The Abiding Spark.” The first section introduces readers to female figures such as Miriam’s daughter (a force of nature herself), to the tarot archetype Temperance, to anonymous women who have dealt with domestic violence or who have gone missing. The second section is a love story of two women that covers the trajectory of their relationship from the beginning to the death of one of them and beyond. It addresses themes of love, desire, loss, grief and the gut-wrenching challenges of “walking your girl home.” Overall the poems and art work together inviting readers to remember the sanctity of everyday life and be inspired by the resilient potency of our interconnectedness.

- - -

Susan Abbott is a poet/artist who does her best creative work from a place of silence. An eclectic watercolor and mixed media artist, Susan has exhibited her art in various Morongo Basin venues over the past decade including participation in the Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours, the Joshua Tree Farmer’s Market, The Joshua Tree Public Library, and Joshua Tree Astronomy Arts Theater.

Her writing has appeared in old feminist rags such as So’s Your Old Lady, Sojourner, and Perspective. Her coming out correspondence with her mother was included in Between Ourselves: Letters Between Mothers and Daughters (Houghton Mifflin, 1984). Her newer work appears in Cholla Needles, When Women Awake, Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology (World Split Open Press, 2018), and Touching Creatures Touching Spirit: Living in a Sentient World by Judy Grahn (Red Hen Press, 2021).

Her chapbook Nasty Woman Rise: The Dream and the Curse (2017) was published by Cholla Needles. In 2019, Susan collaborated with Cynthia Anderson on the beautiful art-poetry collection Now Voyager.


December issue released! Cholla Needles 60!

Creative art and writing by:
Susan Abbott
Ernest Alois
Cynthia Sidrane
Tanni Haas
Tina Quinn Durham
Rod Drought
Kent Wilson
Catherine A. Coundjeris
Michael H. Brownstein
Greg Wyss
Jonathan B. Ferrini
Dave Benson

Click here to purchase Cholla Needles 60 on-line ($5)

Monday, November 1, 2021

Open Poetry Reading! November 3 4-6 PM!


Cholla Needles Open Poetry Reading
November 3, 2021 4-6 PM
The Joshua Tree Folk Stage
Bring a mask and a lawn chair for comfort!


November Issue Released! Cholla Needles 59!


Issue 59 is edited by John Brantingham
featuring the artwork of Ann Brantingham

with new literature from the pens of
Kendall Johnson
Romaine Washington
Jane Edberg
Lisa Hight
Tim Hatch
Kate Flannery
Michelle Ladd
Mare Heron Hake
Andrea Ross
Jeremy Hight
A. J. Orona

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 read a review of In Her Terms by John Brantingham 

Click here to read a review of In Her Terms by Michael Escoubas

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 (, 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"):


Notice from Quill & Parchment
Review from Quill & Parchment


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 read a review of Dreams I've Held by John Riley

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