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

Tuesday, July 20, 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!



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: 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 & 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!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

June Issue Released! Cholla Needles 54 =:-)

Cover Art by Yvonne Ontiveros
Interior Art by Mario Loprete

the powerful writing is by:
David Chorlton
Emily Clarke
Veroniki Dalakoura
translated by John Taylor
Ron Riekki
Timothy Robbins
Kate H. Koch
Kent Wilson
Ishikawa Tokuboku
Michael Anthony Istvan Jr.
Christien Gholson
Jonathan B. Ferrini


New Book! Old Indian Legends by Zitkála-Šá


Old Indian Legends (1901) is a collection of stories written for children that Zitkála-Šá learned as a child and had gathered from various tribes. Iktomi, the spider fairy, is featured in may of these legends.

Zitkala-Ša (Red Bird) (1876–1938) was one of the best-known and most influential Native Americans of the twentieth century. Born on the Yankton Sioux Reservation, she remained true to her indigenous heritage as a student at the Boston Conservatory and a teacher at the Carlisle Indian School, as an activist in turn attacking the Carlisle School, as an artist celebrating Native stories and myths, and as an active member of the Society of American Indians in Washington DC. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Review of Butcher’s Crossing by John Edward Williams

Butcher’s Crossing 
by John Edward Williams
(New York Review Books Classics, 1960)

and a Summative Note About the Fictions of John Edward Williams
By Greg Gilbert

Butcher’s Crossing  is Williams' second novel. The story begins in 1870s Kansas in the fictional town of Butcher’s Crossing. William Andrews, a Harvard student, is seeking adventure in the great outdoors. From the dusty tents and crudely constructed buildings of Butcher’s Crossing he embarks on a  buffalo hunt with three other men. Williams’ attention to detail, character development, and setting is meticulous. The New York Times Book Review said that Butcher’s Crossing “paved the way for Cormac McCarthy. It was perhaps the first and best revisionist western.” The Denver Post declared it “One of the finest novels of the West ever to come out of the West.”

In a sense, Butcher’s Crossing is Moby Dick set in the West. Not only is the narrator an innocent at the beginning of his life-altering adventure, but the expedition’s leader has an Ahab-like fixation, in this instance on amassing buffalo hides. And just as Moby Dick has been described as the first how-to-do-it novel, Butcher’s Crossing offers a treatise on Buffalo hunting: financing, tracking, killing, skinning and transporting the hides. Against this backdrop, characters are revealed by their circumstances. We know them through their longings, mental states, and interactions during routine as well as desperate conditions: days of unrelenting thirst, soul numbing hours at the hunt, a blizzard that author Jack London would have envied, and the physical, emotional toil of large-scale slaughter.

The decimation of the great herds is revealed from all sides, from that of an obsessive longing for wealth and adventure to the triviality of fashions that underwrite the hunts. Through the young protagonist’s narration, the reader witnesses the grandeur of virgin nature transformed to a macabre landscape of discarded and rotting buffalo carcasses, hides stacked until they sway, and the bovine simplicity of buffalo passivity and that of the oxen that pull the hides to the wholesaler. John Edward Williams’s writing balances detached clinical precision with sensory and emotional reality, perhaps in compensation for perceived excesses in his youthful novella, Nothing But the Night, published 12 years earlier when he was 22.

One may reasonably ask why a reader would wish to endure a depiction of large-scale animal slaughter. Aside from my personal fascination with John Edward Williams the writer, this is a story well told, set out with crisp, minimalist narration and memorable characterizations.

* * *

Having now read all of Williams’s published fictions, including an unfinished manuscript, I mourn the works that will never be authored by him. His first published piece, Nothing But the Night, was written while he recovered from injuries suffered in combat. This 100 page novella is an existential, psychological labyrinth, a day-in-the life of Arthur Maxley, a traumatized survivor of a childhood horror. The flow of details, dramatic imageries, and psychosomatic states recall Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf with its mixes of crises and distorted realism. It is not a great book by any stretch, but worthy, particularly as it provides a glimpse into the early formation of the author’s art. At the other end of his life, the unfinished work, Sleep of Reason, was abandoned in his final days as he succumbed to congestive heart failure. The 44 pages that remain demonstrate his growing strength as a writer precisely when his physical body is weakening. The length and variety of his sentence structures, the patient setting up of characters and circumstances, and the background research that sets out to weave a tale about fine art collection and museum structures is a story that would be wonderfully relevant today given the massive art collection that the late Lee Kun-hee has bequeathed to a museum that will bear his name.

Among the reasons I am so taken with Williams, beyond his superb stories, is that his writing is accessible. One can readily appreciate his studied effort without being distracted by it. His prose rarely overreaches but seems to originate from a nearly perfect blend of heart and head. StonerAugustus, and Butcher’s Crossing provide fully developed characters. We come to know them well, and we see them change against their circumstances. At the end of each novel, and this may not be to everyone’s taste, there is time for reflection. Conventional wisdom says that writers should let the action do the talking, which Williams certainly does in his books, but he cannot resist summative reflections in his conclusions. These endings are, by my thinking, touchingly honest, an additional reason for me to feel a singular affection for this writer.

-  -  -  -  -

Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

More info

Sunday, May 23, 2021

May Virtual "Open Readings"

Welcome to our May 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. 

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 & send us your poetry, short stories, essays, photos and art for publication in our monthly magazine. 

Our readings in May started with Simon Perchik & Friends doing a book release party for the long awaited release of his Family Of Man Poems, which took over 30 years to appear after he had spent eight years composing the 600 pages of poems. The sheer size, which you'll hear Simon refer to as a "doorstop", made it difficult for even the most willing publishers to accept. Our research shows this is the largest original book of poetry in the English language. 

The next group of readings was hosted by John Brantingham, who also worked as editor of the May 2021 issue of Cholla Needles.   

Good Times!!! We are working right now to prepare to return to live 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:

Simon Perchik on completing
The Family Of Man Poems

Simon Perchik on Bomber Moon (1950)

Simon Perchik reads 
This Coffee Is Still Learning

Gloria Mindock reads 
Two Poems by Simon Perchik

Marty Tucker reads 
If I Fly High by Simon Perchik

Vaughn Bergen reads 
Each Night The Longing
by Simon Perchik

Vaughn Bergen sings for Mother's Day

Marieke reads The Granite Has Sea In It
by Simon Perchik

Katherine reads
I Recline Into The Branches of a Wild Dream
by Simon Perchik

Simon Perchik reads Nothing Enters Painlessly

John Brantingham hosts the readers
of Cholla Needles 53, which he also edited:

Aruni Wijesinghe reads Two Poems

Tim Hatch reads Two Poems

Andrew Turner reads Two Poems

Kelsey Bryan-Zwick reads Two Poems

Scott Noon Creley reads Samaritan

Lloyd Aquino reads Two Poems

Thomas Thomas reads poems about
Edward Hopper Paintings

Daniel Cryns reads Three Poems

Kitty Anarchy reads Two Poems

Kendall Johnson reads Two Pieces

T Anders Carson reads Two Poems

John Brantingham thanks the readers
from Cholla Needles 53!

Romaine Washington reads
What's Your Story?

Cindy Rinne reads Light Searches Shadows

Heather Morgan reads Hiding

Ernest Alois reads Two Poems 
of the mountains

Greg Wyss reads Three Poems
from the 1970's

Alan Catlin reads Hair

Good Times!!! Thanks for watching!!!

Click here to check out all our "Shelter-In-Place" videos

Click here to check out all our "Big Read 2020" videos

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Review of Augustus by John Edward Williams

by John Edward Williams
(New York Review Books Classics. 1972)

Reviewed by Greg Gilbert


Described by Goodreads as an “epistolary, historical fiction,” John Edward Williams Augustus begins just prior to the assassination of Julius Caesar and concludes at Augustus’ death, spanning his life in two sections, his rise and his governance. The Washington Post declared Mr. William’s book, “The finest historical novel ever written by an American.” Across the board, from amateur reviewers, such as yours truly, to highly esteemed professional reviewers, the acclaim for this book is enthusiastic, and appropriate.

This is a book for three readings, first for the sheer pleasure of its extraordinary unspooling of personalities and events; next, alongside historical/scholarly resources; and then, once again to take it all in as one. Finally, a fourth reading may be advisable, as I will soon explain.

Williams’ epistolary approach is interesting in that it permits a frame for each voice, not unlike that of a play but by employing journals and correspondences to reveal the dynamics of specific relationships and how they fit within the intrigues of Rome. Most interesting, the epistolary approach succeeds in ways that a play’s format cannot by moving through time. The arrangement of correspondences and journals is not confined to strict chronology, but, rather, crisscrosses the years with Augustus from 44 BC to 14 AD. Thus, while the central action ratchets forward, there are fascinating associations between cause and effect, the ways in which the parts of society interact and are shaped by a center that at any time may or may not hold, the role of Caesar, who, within this work, is both a man in every sense –and a god. The shifting chronologies provide ironic insights and teleologic understandings that allow the reader a feeling of prescience as the central story advances. A sizable cast, as in Russian literature, can become burdensome, but not so with Augustus. Much like life itself, the characters occupy their small universes of jealousy, love, and ambition, but in the background there is Rome, at once eternal and fragile, personified in the person of Augustus.

Augustus, like King Lear, is a tale that evolves with the age of the reader. While a younger and, perhaps, less patient reader may skim various reflections on age and youthful thought, the book’s ages-of-life considerations are respectful and wise, a delight for this septuagenarian. Having now read two of Williams’ four novels (Stoner and Augustus), I am resolved to read anything and everything of his that is available. By any measure that one might offer, Mr. Williams is an American master, one that I recommend most enthusiastically.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

More info