Saturday, April 24, 2021

New Book! Morning's Path by James Marvelle


Morning's Path

these songs arboreal each morning

their roots crossing
the ligneous path

drawing me in
branches hung
leaf dripping

the expectation
they’ll be something here
a lone soul
might grasp

here in the quiet

The inspiration of the arts and artists have been woven into James Marvelle’s work. He has been published in a great variety of magazines, and is the author of a number of poetry chapbooks with Seven Stars and Realities Library. He has written four recent full collections of poems: Lasting Notes (2017), Walking In The Light (2018), Morning Of Promise (2019), and In The Quiet (2020) from Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library in Joshua Tree, California.

he would hand out short poems
on packets of seed
hoping they’d start growing

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

April Virtual "Open Readings" for Poetry Month 2021

Welcome to our April 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. I am pleased that we are able to continue these video experiences to share with each other until we can meet again in person. I can honestly say hearing your voices is keeping me sane. 

If you are browsing our pages, we consider YOU a part of our family and you are welcome to become part of our Shelter-In-Place video pages. Simply contact us at & ask how to get your videos posted on our pages. You can also use this address to send us your poetry, short stories, essays, and art for publication in our monthly magazine. 

I am both amazed and thankful to discover that of the thirty-one poets represented below for Poetry Month 2021, nineteen of them have books available from Cholla Needles, and a few have more than one book available. 

Good Times!!! Click here for information on watching our Sunday Zoom Show live at 3 - 3:30 PM each week. In the meantime, enjoy the videos:

Welcome To The Cholla Needles Zoom Party

Heather Morgan reads The Iron Man And His Puddle

Miriam Sagan reads Two Poems and Three Haiku

Steve Braff reads from Exodus Remix

Pamela Peery reads Old Roads And Empty Corrals

Peter Jastermsky reads five one line Haiku

Jean Paul L. Garnier reads Two Poems

Allyson Jeffredo reads from Even Gods

Three Poems from Speech Scroll

Mike Vail reads Two Poems

Gracie Wilson reads Bukowski

Kent Wilson reads Four Poems

Caryn Davidson reads Storyteller

John Sierpinski reads Three Poems

Cindy Rinne reads Poems

George Howell reads Two Poems

Cynthia Anderson reads Two Poems

Francene Kaplan reads Two Poems

Dave Benson reads Ten Short Poems

Ruth Nolan reads Poems

Mark Evans reads My Skin Is Not A Tattoo

Kurt Schauppner reads Two Poems

Greg Wyss reads Two Poems

Susan Abbott reads Two Villanelle and Mirage

John Brantingham reads Two Poems

Kelsey Bryan-Zwick reads Three Poems

Kendall Johnson reads Two Poems

Lauren Henley reads Wonder

Jonathan Maule reads Language

Noreen Lawlor reads Two Poems

Steve Perry reads Three Poems

Romaine Washington reads Two Poems

Billy F. Gibbons reads Desert High

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

Book Review: Beethoven Variations by Ruth Padel

Beethoven Variations by Ruth Padel
(144 pages -103 poetry and the remainder comprised of end notes and references; Knopf, 2021)

Reviewed by Greg Gilbert for Cholla Needles

Ruth Padel’s poetic biography is arranged in four movements that provide insights into Beethoven’s life. From his time as a beaten and weeping child acquiescing to his drunkard father’s demands that he practice at the clavier and his days as a young artist who is upbraided for the sin of improvisation to his time as a budding prodigy who is sent to study with Mozart only to have to return home to his dying mother, this is the poetically told story of an artist who is losing his hearing in a world where medical practitioners are nothing more than leech equipped barbers. We see Beethoven become an artistic triumph and a dejected romantic in war-ravaged Europe. And, finally, we accompany his retreat into an isolating silence.

Now 250 years after his birth, Beethoven’s originality is celebrated by Padel’s intimate, personal, and often surprising compositions. At times she comes to the fore, speaks in the first person and reflects on her interpretation of the great composer’s life, injecting a sense of loving wonder into the tone of her composition: “I see a small boy dashing through these alleys / to play for early mass.” The result is a sense of serious connection to this exploration of the maestro’s life. Throughout the work, she references his music, her poetry at times light and at other times relying on the dark keys, and as with any great composition, there is a circular unity to her work. It begins with a description of the “ear bone,” and concludes with notes from his autopsy, “and the auditory nerve / withered / to a pure white strand.” Between the opening and closing lines there is a level of conjecture that never asserts but, rather, spans the previous two-and-a-half centuries with feelings of compassion.

Beethoven is not merely a historical figure, his life remains relevant, not only through conjecture but through the ongoing life of his work. His music accompanied my reading of Padel’s poems. “A sonata in C-sharp minor, / quasi fantasia, like a blind girl / lit by moonlight she cannot see.  / New melodies unfold from tiny seeds. / Euphoria, then presto agitato, manic rage.”  Many of the poems are set up by notes from Beethoven’s journals, correspondences, and scholarly insights. “A Flute of Lilac Wood” is introduced by a passage from Ferdinand Ries, “Beethoven Remembered”: “For half an hour he could not hear anything at all and became extremely quiet and gloomy, though I repeatedly assured him that I did not hear anything any longer either (which was, however, not the case).” Padel’s poetry elaborates, “But leaves don’t rustle, birds forget to sing, / Your friend hears a shepherd in the forest play / a flute of lilac wood.”  In introducing her poem “Human Fire,” Padel quotes from a letter that Beethoven wrote to Bettina von Arnim in 1812, “Music should strike fire in the heart of man.” Her poem offers direct address, “ . . . You are Prometheus / the benefactor, stealing flame.”  And later in her poem, “Until It Please the Fates to Break the Thread,” she employs third and first person, “He cannot hear the driving rain. / But he’s sketching a funeral march, / a symphony. I have taken a new path.”

While Ruth Padel’s body of poetry includes such works as Darwin and The Art of Kintsugi as well as prose works of fiction and nonfiction and essays, I will remain most grateful for Beethoven Variation. This time of immersion in Beethoven’s music accompanied by her poetic insights has provided a rich experience, one that I recommend with enthusiasm.  

_ _ _ _ _ _

Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

More info

Monday, April 19, 2021

Book Review: Hard Candy by Charles A. Carroll

Hard Candy by Charles A. Carroll
(586 pages, Bear Witness Press)

Reviewed by Greg Gilbert 


Charles A. Carroll’s Hard Candy is not a book to read at bedtime. Rather, it is an eye-opening, story of boys abandoned to state institutions and the physical and sexual abuses that they endure. The author, Charles Carroll, and his brother, Bobby, are erroneously consigned as youngsters to a system for low level functioning children of every description, a world where bullies and sexual predators, pedophiles, and institutional opportunists turn blind eyes to all that the children endure. The story is told through the eyes of Chucky (Charles Carroll) and takes us from his and his brother’s initial abandonment by their parents and up to the present where Mr. Carroll, now approaching 80, continues his life’s work of fighting for the safekeeping of children everywhere. Hard Candy is a promise kept for children in custodial systems, especially for Chucky and Bobby, and it provides a cautionary tale in a world where atrocities will always seek prurient opportunities in the shadows. The language, overt racism, graphic physical descriptions, and coarse behaviors that exist in Carroll’s book feel true and unfiltered, a representation of a system that has absolutely no place for kindness.

Hard Candy is a hero’s journey, but the challenges are not metaphorical or mythic; they are the horrors faced every day, day-after-day, year-after-year, by a real boy. And, it is fair to say that this is a love story of brothers and for those innumerable children whose innocence is subverted into obsequious nightmares by adults and bullies who groom trust, breed betrayal, and sew disillusionment in those entrusted to their care. Mr. Carroll is a survivor, and beyond any sense of catharsis, Hard Candy reflects and shares memories and insights into the complex, long-termed effects of abuse and confinement.

Finally, Hard Candy concludes with more than 200 pages of additional materials, afterwards, tributes, recognitions, resources, references, and internet linkages to every state’s child abuse hotline, plus bibliographic entries that cover all aspects of abuse and its effects. In simple and direct terms, Hard Candy is a grueling story of survival that celebrates the resiliency of the human spirit, and it is a book that provides the resources and insights that young Carroll never had. This is a reference book for anyone who will join Chucky and Bobby in saying, “Never again!”

_ _ _ _ _ _

Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

More info

Book Review: A Swim In A Pond In the Rain by George Saunders

 review by Michael G. Vail

 An acclaimed short story author and novelist, George Saunders also conducts a course in the 19th century Russian short story at Syracuse University. In his new book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, Saunders shares what he teaches his students about seven stories by Chekhov, Gogol, Turgenev and Tolstoy.

 His pupils are aspiring authors, “some of the best young writers in America,” according to Saunders. I mention this because his book is very much about the nuts and bolts of what makes a story work. He compares the “mystery” of how a story gets written to a guy constructing a model railroad town in his basement. “The aim of this book is mainly diagnostic,” he explains.

 The casual reader may find much of this to be heavy sledding. For writers, though—and would-be writers—there’s much that is valuable.

 Saunders notes, for instance, that “all a story is, really” is “a continual system of escalation. A swath of prose earns its place in the story to the extent that it contributes to our sense that the story is escalating.”

 He uses the term “meaningful action” instead of “plot” in describing why the appearance of a story’s main character makes it “restless”. And notes: “Energy, hopefully, gets made in the early pages and the trick, in the later pages, is to use that energy.”

 According to Saunders, every part of a story must be entertaining in its own right AND must advance the story in a non-trivial way. “Don’t make things happen for no reason,” he states. “Having made things happen, make it matter.”

 It’s surprising that a book like A Swim in a Pond in the Rain has been released by a major publisher, considering that its potential readership will never be large. Those of us who will treasure it can only be thankful.

Previous books by George Saunders include Lincoln On The Bardo and Tenth of December.

- - -
Michael G. Vail is the author of the novel The Salvation of San Juan Cajon, and the short story/poetry collection High Desert Elegy.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

New Book! Fragile Beauty by ayaz & judith nielsen

like a poem written
in a book of sand
the fragile beauty
of our lives

Judith Partin-Nielsen: Following a trail of words, mountains, spirit and tears, this writer, mother, wife and eventually psychoanalyst left Texas for Colorado in 1985. The land of the Arapahoe welcomed me and called me by name. The love of poetry, poet and high mountain valleys has warmed my heart and made my home. Freud said “everywhere I go, the poet has been there before me.” May we keep following those footsteps on our paths thru the worlds. Judith has taught contemplative psychotherapy at Naropa University, practices psychoanalysis and writes poetry.

ayaz daryl nielsen, b. 1948, Valentine, Nebraska, attended schools in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Monterrey, Mexico, and has lived in Bonn, Germany. A veteran and hospice nurse, he’s edited the print publication bear creek haiku for over 35 years and 165 issues and is online at bear creek haiku poetry, poems and info. His publications include the chap-book a soft voice, Cholla Needles, co-authored with his beloved wife, poet and psychoanalyst Judith Partin-Nielsen. Among other deeply appreciated honors, he is especially delighted by the depth and heart of poets worldwide whose poems have found a home in bear creek haiku’s print and online presence. He and Judith live in Longmont, Colorado, USA.

Click here to read the wonderful review by Jerome Berglund

Thursday, April 8, 2021

New Book! The Inner Mountain by David Chorlton


This new collection of poems is enhanced by 18 full color reproductions of David's beautiful watercolors. 


Hawks who flew here for centuries
left their shadows stacked so high
they formed a ridgeline.
Dry lightning whipped it
and darkness howled a supplication
to seek relief until
the mountain was a prayer  
turned to stone.

David Chorlton was born in Austria and grew up in Manchester, England. In 1971 he moved from the rainy industrial city to the cultural city of Vienna and stayed seven years before moving to Phoenix, where he began to invest more time in his writing. Arizona’s landscape and wildlife gradually infiltrated his work, where he can show his affection for them even while acknowledging that he remains, quite contentedly, unassimilated. That is a circumstance to which he owes much of his poetry.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

New Book! The Family of Man Poems by Simon Perchik

"The largest original book of poetry in the English language" 

The Family Of Man Poems, a long-awaited book by Simon Perchik is finally published in full during National Poetry Month 2021. This is an eight year journey of writing that took 30 years to get published because of the sheer size. At 600 pages, we are billing this as "the largest original book of poetry in the English language." Most books of poetry come in at 80-120 pages. There have been long poems published in English, notably Patterson by William Carlos Williams, which is a 325 page masterpiece. This is the first that runs 600 pages, and is the 30th collection of poems by Simon Perchik published since 1964.  

In an interview with Susan Tepper at the turn of the century, Si shared these thoughts about The Family Of Man Poems: "Susan, when I was writing The Family of Man, using the 482 photographs from that book, I was writing seven days a week, 365 days a year. It took eight years to finish. Working this way that I do -- it's brutal, brutal…Why bother to write if you're not writing about life? To purge, or find out about yourself. Whether it's poetry or prose, anything -- even painting. To find out about yourself. You may not be happy with that information, but there it is. When I'm finished writing I feel that something is there that wasn't there before and I feel better. A kind of exorcism. And it may be the same poem over and over, a different way." 

(note: several interviews by Susan Tepper, and other interviews with Perchik are available as an addendum to his book "The Weston Poems".) 

Prior to today's publication of this book, the only method a reader had of reading all these poems was to collect the over 250 literary magazines the poems originally appeared in, from Abalone Moon to Zillah. Some of the magazines you may be familiar with are San Pedro River Review, Poet Lore, Poetry now, Cervena Barva, Main Street Mag, Puerto Del Sol, Xanadu - and I'm going to stop before I list all 250 plus magazines. Suffice it to say, over 250 editors approved of all the poems that appear in The Family of Man. His work continues to be widely published in many periodicals including Cholla Needles, Poetry (Chicago), The New Yorker, The Nation, International Poetry Review, Partisan Review, Massachusetts Review and the Southern Poetry Review.

“Perchik is the most widely published unknown poet in America… Often dense, often difficult, Perchik’s poems nevertheless lead to strange, unanticipated conclusions that usually reward the pursuit.” —Library Journal  November 15, 2000


Nothing enters painlessly, the Earth
chucks up our hubcaps, puddles, rust
as mothers long ago learned

—we are taught to kiss
with our mouth closed, to hear
their dark, bent
and the creak we cannot see
unrolls the Earth
the crushed lullabies, mufflers
and evenings

—I'm hauling this sun
back into the ground
into an ocean never heard before
—carting a light that wouldn't wait
whose first breath came from this dark
and the last, half asleep, again
carried down in my arms.

- Simon Perchik

Other books from Cholla Needles by Simon Perchik:

Cholla Needles Spring Youth Issue 2021 Released for National Poetry Month!

The cover is by Yemili Yepez

This is the fifth annual Young Writers and Artists issue published by Cholla Needles Arts and Literary Library, with much assistance from Ernest Alois. We thank the entire community for your support of these young folks. A special thanks to the local patrons who made the financial donations possible to make sure our Morongo Basin young writers receive the recognition they deserve.

The artists and writers who appear within are: Lukas Beaudoin, Jessica Raff Benjamin, Ryder Brakebill, Ayla Budd, Jack Cavallario, Tala Christensen, Madison Critchfield, Amiel Escobal, Avalon Fredrickson Ford, Kaylee Harper, George Hogan, Emily Husted, Naomi Johnson, Jacob Lamar, Makakoa Leapaga, Azaria McKinnon, Ava Monroe, Destiny Prudholme, Vinna Raines, Emma Ramos, Olivia Rees, Antonia Richards, Shriya Roy, Dorothea Snider, Sammantha Tribue, Calvin Winn, Yamili Yepez

Keep up with our featured readers at our weekly Zoom Party every week.

April Issue Released! Cholla Needles 52 =:-)


This powerful cover is by Mike Stillman

The wonderful creative words within are by:

Cynthia Anderson
Gabriel Hart
Tobi Alfier
Jeffrey Alfier
Simon Perchik
Heather Morgan
Francene Kaplan
Dave Maresh
Cindy Rinne
Peter Jastermsky
Caryn Davidson
Michael Vail
Dave Benson

Keep up with our featured readers at our weekly Zoom Party every week.