Wednesday, May 18, 2022

New Book! The Elliott Erwitt Poems by Simon Perchik


It must have been obvious to the early moon
shaded by all these trees —under their bark
the darkness would seep out and in time

turn amber with this beetle locked inside
to record the night it made the Earth its home
̶ what's missing is this moonlight as a trace

where love began its life side by side
not yet extinct, a fossil whose glance
shaped stars then broke them apart to find

where love goes once it's gone —you look up
and from your grave hold fast to each small stone
mourners leave as shadows beginning to open.

- Simon Perchik

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Click here for recent on-line multi-media review by Maureen Alsop

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.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

New Books! Dreams Getting Away and Dropped By For Coffee by James Marvelle

James Marvelle continues on his exploration of the world around him in his poetry, tackling everything from ecology to having coffee with friends in word pictures. His poetry is drawn from many different aspects of the world around him because he has a deep fascination for everything in that world. We are blessed in his willingness to share his insights while watching a jogger on a path or a dog chasing a frisbee. He considers no idea too small or too large for poetry. We are richer because of that.

Fish In Flight

the osprey claws me
taken to flying a fish
the east sky burns out

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

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James Marvelle is a Rhode Island poet.

He grew up on an island.
There was always the ocean and the salt air.

He began writing at a tender age and
has traveled throughout the country.

His poetry is a daily wandering
through the paths he takes.

Today he is a new resident of Tybee Island in Georgia
where there is a community of artists and writers.

There are beaches and waves and
more paths to take.

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 seven recent full collections of poems, Lasting Notes (2017), Walking In The Light (2018), Morning Of Promise (2019), In The Quiet (2020) Morning’s Path (2021), Dreams Getting Away, and Dropped By For Coffee (2022) from Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library in Joshua Tree, California.

Book Review: Wild Spectacle by Janisse Ray

 Reviewed by John Krieg

Wild Spectacle: Seeking Wonders in a World beyond Humans 
by Janisse Ray
Trinity University Press.  

This collection of 11 essays by staunch environmental advocate, fierce nature lover, admitted southern cracker, lyrical poet, and unencumbered free spirit Jannise Ray showcases her writing at her best.  I have read a lot of her prose, and if only given one word to describe it, I would call it fearless.  Fearless in word choice, fearless in phrasing, and fearless of critique.  Ray gets her point across one way – her way, and lets the chips fall where they may.  That’s a rare talent.

From the swamps of America’s southeast, to the forests of Montana, to the still untrammeled wilderness areas of Alaska, south of the border to mainland Mexico and the governmentally protected rain forests of Costa Rica, Ray  relentlessly searches for the wild places and brings back the tragic story: they are fast disappearing.  She laments that she was not born of another time, the time before European contact in America.  A time when the vastness and diversity of nature ruled and humanity, us, Homo sapiens was just another species in the grand scheme of things, living amongst the other species; no better, no worse, just another creature struggling to survive.  

These are stories of innocent vulnerability intertwined with strands of uncommon strength; intricately woven tales encompassing equal measures of magic and passion.  They speak of what is still out there if you’re astute and bold enough to notice it.  What does it mean to still be wild?  It means to realize that nature is bigger than you.  That nature doesn’t need you.  Wildness puts humanity in its place. Wildness is awe.  And, as she so eloquently states, where nature is still undisturbed, unadulterated, and unmolested it is still wild, it is in fact a wild spectacle:

I have, in my luckiest moments, lived heart-pounding moments of wild spectacle (p. x).

Her essay about swimming amongst the manatees in the Crystal River of Florida is not for the hard-hearted.  It springs forth with kindness and the essence of love – acceptance and tolerance of something different than ourselves.  These docile creatures, their backs sliced  and scarred by the props of the motorboats of the callous and uncaring so-called apex species deeply moved her.  She communes with a mother manatee and her calf:

Then I hear the manatee mother speak.  She is beseeching me.  “You must help us,” she says.  “You must help us.” 

I hear her distinctly: “You must help us.”

She turns, blows at the surface, nudges her baby, and sinks away, back into the descension of the primitive river bottom.  Something rises in me that has been rising for a long time, and I break into the sentient air, dizzy, trembling, and blind with love (p. 142).

This woman has courage.  Not the brazen reckless courage of the braggart or the fool, but the calculated courage of knowing the risks and the odds against succeeding and fighting through those misgivings and taking them on.  She will write grants, volunteer her labor, accept the kindness of likeminded nature lovers to get  to the wild places.  In the same vein as Annie Dillard before her, Ray risks all to be in a position to write, to be able to go to where the story is.  She blocks out the white noise of the manmade world to better interpret the wild one, the one which she prefers.  A world that she wants to share with those astute enough to understand that it has always been there and could be again.  In her acknowledgements, which she terms “gratitude” she says as much:

My greatest desire is to enliven our culture, cultivating and spreading ideas about a world beyond violence and destruction, a wild and inclusive world, a world that is at our fingertips; and to offer the possibility of transformation.  I thank those who keep their hearts open to all life (p. 194).

Janisse Ray is a marvelous contradiction of inherent grit versus raw emotion.  This woman, tough as nails, is easily given to weeping over natural beauty, beauty rapidly disappearing, beauty lost.  If that isn’t worth crying about, what is?

Click here for more information about Wild Spectacle

Also available:
Red Lanterns: Poems by Janisse Ray

Click here for more information about Red Lanterns

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Book Review: Deep Hanging Out by Malcolm Margolin

Reviewed by John Krieg

Deep Hanging Out: Wanderings and Wonderment in Native California 
by Malcolm Margolin
Heyday Books. 

If you want a jolt to any complacency and smugness that you may have fallen prey to as a member of the boomer generation, or if you’re a millennial seeking to know the unbridled truth about the volatile European settlement of California, by all means, buy this book.  Know that sometimes the truth really doesn’t set you free, but rather binds you to a sense of responsibility and accountability.  The truth can be heart wrenching.  

     This work contains a series of essays as they predominantly appeared in the monthly journal News from Native California, which was founded in 1987 by Margolin, David Peri, and Vera Mae Fredrickson.  The essays range in date from 1981 to 2019.  Margolin founded the nonprofit Heyday Books in 1974 and served as its executive director until his retirement in 2015.  The winner  of the American Book Award along with numerous other literary accomplishments he was intensely interested in Native American history and their contemporary culture.

Margolin is white, Jewish, and hails from Boston, Massachusetts.  How would anyone with those credentials become involved with Native Americans in California?  Well…he is also compassionate, empathetic, generous, and imbued with a rock solid basic sense of fairness  that prods him to speak out against injustice, and Eurocentric man’s treatment of indigenous peoples across the globe ever since over oceanic exploration came to the fore is just about the greatest injustice in human history.  It should also be noted that he moved to Berkley after graduating from Harvard University while in his late twenties during the late 60’s at the height of its revolutionary ethic while concurrently serving as the epicenter of hippiedom.  Back then peace and love wasn’t just a popular saying, it was a way of life.  Margolin still lives it and still lives in Berkley.

Malcolm Margolin is a journalist’s journalist.  A journalist strives to always have their boots on the ground where the story is unfolding.  They don’t rely on television or secondhand information, they have to be there, they have to hang out where the action is.  So, just how deep is Margolin’s deep hanging out?  It started over 50 years ago and is ongoing.  He explains this endeavor in his recently written introduction:

I’ve often explained my time spent with California Indians as “deep hanging out.”  The phrase has a connotation of hippie casualness, but it was coined by anthropologist Clifford Geertz in 1998 to describe anthropological research done via informal immersion in a culture, as opposed to research done by conducting formal interviews and distanced observations…

As a practice deep hanging out very much corresponds to Indian ways of gaining knowledge.  It is an older way in which you don’t pursue knowledge as much as you put yourself out there with the hope that knowledge will come to you.  I learned much from sitting on people’s porches, playing checkers with them, listening to their stories, telling stories of my own.  My academic reflections come from hours spent in libraries reviewing anthropological treatises, linguistic reports, and field notes.  I’m proud of the research that I’ve been able to do and very grateful for the trust and the access to their lives that Native people have given me (p. viii).

Consider the wealth of environmental diversity in California pre-European contact estimated to have occurred in 1542.  From the seacoast to the deep forests to the interior plateaus to the salmon rich river valleys natural food sources were readily available to those who lived a sustainable lifestyle that never overexploited their source of sustenance.  Deer, elk, and antelope abounded while flocks of ducks and geese were so thick that they blotted out the sky.  The botanical marvels of oak and mesquite trees provided acorns and pods that could be stored in granaries throughout the winter and feed an entire village.  Statewide, there were well over 100,000 Indians living lightly off the land which was a lifestyle long ago abandoned by the European nations.  The damage that was wrought upon the unsuspecting indigenous inhabitants through oppression, diseases, and intolerance  has been well documented ad infinitum elsewhere, and while Margolin makes solid reference to it, his primary focus is mainly on the living, on the restoration of cultures through a return to their traditional customs and the redemption of their languages, many of which were considered lost to history.

The depth and breadth of the man’s intellect is on high display in his article entitled: Life in a California Mission (1989)  because it answers the haunting question of why would the Indians have ever accepted Spain’s mission system?  Margolin explains:

Part of what drew them was, of course, the dazzle of Spanish goods. Guns, metal, cloth, exotic foods, horses that obeyed people and bore them effortlessly and majestically for great distances, cows that patiently gave them milk, carts pulled by stately and well-muscled draft oxen, boats in full sail that came from beyond the ocean – these were, for a people who had never conceived of such things, bewildering in their power and beauty (p. 169-170).

This is a work filled with kind-hearted admiration and understanding with an occasional undertone of remorse that is quickly dispelled with ample examples of hope.  In short, it is an extraordinary and vitally important account of the human spirit and the will to survive.  In the essay entitled Still Here (2019) the author humbly sums up his life’s work through the publication of News from Native California:

As is obvious from the listings in the very first issue, we didn’t create the cultural revival, we reported on it and, in reporting, spread information about it from one community to another.  I’m proud of what we did.  In that age before the Internet, many areas of California – especially rural areas - were isolated from one another, spreading the news of how, in various communities, members of a younger generation were, by and large on their own, reviving language, dance, song, traditional arts, and skills, as well as spiritual practice, was a laudable service (p. 246).

Malcolm Margolin has done a huge service for not only the state’s original population, but for all Californians.  Deep Hanging Out is a book that is well worth hanging out with and referring to time and time again.

New Book! Hearts Without Sleeves by Jonathan Ferrini

Jonathan Ferrini is a regular contributor of short stories to Cholla Needles, and we are excited to publish his first collection. The stories in this collection are fun to read as a group because the characters in each story are unique, and have a distinct voice. Jonathan is able to bring each to life with a wonderful understanding that the locale of the each story is specific for the motivation and appreciation for the events in each character's life. 

Jonathan Ferrini resides in San Diego, California. He received his MFA in motion picture and television production from UCLA.

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I was born and raised in Pasadena, California.

My happiest childhood moments included watching vintage movies igniting my simmering creative passions. I’d often set out on my motorcycle into the wilderness. Upon reaching a crest, I’d turn off the motor and enjoy the breeze whipping up the forest fragrance, and meet many of its inhabitants.

My earliest memory of school was the telling of original stories to my classmates in the kindergarten sandbox.

My writing career began in a sandbox, lay dormant for decades, and resurfaced when my life’s journey provided abundant story material. - Jonathan

Click here for more information


Sunday, May 1, 2022

New Issue released! Cholla Needles 65


Wonderful art by Michael Byro
and excellent writing by:

John Riley
Laurie Byro
Mark T. Evans
Bettina T. Barrett
Herman Obuhov
Roger G. Singer
Francene Kaplan
Kent Wilson
Timothy Robbins
Michael Anthony Istvan Jr
ayaz daryl nielsen