Thursday, March 16, 2023

2nd Edition! After The War, The Women Spoke by Katia Hage

After the war, the women spoke highlights the power of quiet and silent witnessing of the suffering of generations of women, which allows to break the chains of trauma and prepare the way for healing. These poems are a look into the opening of the soul and an invitation to stop inheriting the pain of the women who came before us, so as to allow a new dawn to dispel the shackles of the past. It is a look into the wounded trampled feminine by women who have forgotten what is to surrender to a higher power and how to bring community together. The book itself has been designed to allow the simmering of thought and feelings, for the reader to become one with the poet and allow one’s own voice to mingle with hers with the help of paintings and empty spaces. This need for connections and understanding, collaborating and supporting, is a mark of the feminine which never fails but always pulls worlds from dismemberment to wholeness.

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Born in Cameroon, raised in Lebanon during the civil war of 1975, Katia Aoun Hage moved to the United States where she resides with her husband and three children. Graduated from the University of Redlands with a Masters in Music Education, Katia is not a stranger in the Inland Empire’s art scene of Southern California. She has collaborated with choreographer Sofia Carrera at Riverside Community College, performed poetry and music at California State University San Bernardino, displayed her artwork at Art for Heaven’s Sake and performed music in local venues. Katia Aoun Hage listens deeply to the voices inside, of her own people and hers, becoming a bridge between past and present, east and west, through her poetry, translations and artwork.


Friday, March 10, 2023

Book Review - Mary's Confession by Kurt Schauppner


Cholla Needles, 2020
Reviewed by Greg Gilbert

            Mary’s Confession by Kurt Schauppner is a gentle, thoughtful, and frequently witty free verse narration in the voice of Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth. The overall musicality of the poetry is pleasingly engaging with succinct lines, each offering its own rhythmic punctuation and message.

                The confession referenced in the title is that of a mother who is timebound and struggles to navigate the dual nature of her son. Though she has been visited by a divine intermediary, an “errand boy,” she has not experienced directly the “terrible, frightening” voice of God. She has found herself married to “an elder carpenter” who was “willing to have” her, and she has been impregnated. A part of her wishes that she had spoken up, “had said something” to God: “If you are going to get me pregnant / You can at least put in an appearance / Zeus did and he did not even exist.”

                Mary’s glibness is never irreverent; rather, it highlights the dual nature that inhabits the entirety of the Christian story, from the original sin to her own view of her son.  While others see her son as a “troublemaker,” “healer,” “leader,” “messiah,” and “god,” she says that “he was ever and always / And never anything other than / My son.” She speaks of having seen her child “. . . chase butterflies and stare, / Bedazzled, at wildflowers.” This duality serves as a rhetorical device throughout the book. Mary’s narration occurs after her own death, from “heaven,” and, thus, provides a “perspective / you had not enjoyed in life.” As such, her story assumes the role of a heavenly intermediary that waivers between an omniscient past-tense perspective and a present-tense voice that is timebound and suffers the confusions and love that accompany her motherhood.

                There is a surreal duality to Mary’s narration as she describes a life where divine interjection becomes the norm, dreams that guide her elderly husband to have them flee into Egypt, and, thus, experience the relief of saving her child while lamenting the slaughter of the innocents, “mothers / Who have been forced to stand / And watch while their children / Were put to the sword.” In such moments, the reader will appreciate that the earthbound and heavenly incarnations of Mary both understand that there will be a horrific reckoning for her own son. “I wept because I knew that / Soon enough / I would know their sorrow.”

                Meanwhile, there is the day-to-day, “The years I spent chasing after / The Savior of the world / Cleaning up his messes.” The “Savior of the world” offers perhaps my favorite example of duality. One can hear the Jewish mother’s tone, not one of outright mockery but instruction, a voice that brings her son back to earth. You can save humanity after you pick up your clothes!

                In another instance, Mary asserts her role and pushes her son to make wine for a wedding. He proves himself “a superior / Sommelier” who goes on to “spread a handful of loaves and fishes / among several thousand.” She sums up these early miracles as only a mother would. “Any caterer who can pull off a trick like that / Has a fine living waiting for him.” As if in answer to any thought of salaried work, Jesus routs the moneychangers, and she concludes, “ . . . my son was never much of a capitalist.”

                There is so much more that could be said about Mary’s Confession, her views on the disciples, on John the Baptist, Lazarus, and the importance of various notable women of scripture, each a manifestation of her own duality and strength, but I’ll leave that to future readers to explore. What should be apparent is my admiration for Kurt Schauppner’s take on her story.

                Interpretations and speculations concerning the life of Mary have become their own genre, some, like the Gospel of Mary that date back to the second century. Various ancient writings conflate Mary, the mother of Jesus, with Mary Magdalene as the first woman apostle, an individual whose intelligence and devotion to Jesus the prophet and man were disavowed by such as Peter, allegedly due to a combination of jealousy and sexism. Of note is that Schauppner’s Mary provides an effective and liturgical leveling of key disciples. Another speculative publication on the mother of Jesus is Colm Tóibín’s 2014 prose novel, The Testament of Mary, which would serve as a good companion piece to Confessions.

                Christianity’s heaven/hell duality offers an extraordinary menu of conflicts for writers and thinkers to explore, from Augustine to Kazantzakis. While one need not be a believer to appreciate such literature, no thoughtful reader should take offense. The blacklisting of such as The Last Temptation of Christ is, in my opinion, small minded. Such speculative works explore the psychological depths involved in principled and self-examined lives. Kurt Schauppner’s Mary’s Confession is a worthy addition. My singular complaint is that it shares space with Mr. Schauppner’s poetry and journal entries. While they are notable in their own right, their presence undermines the singular voice of Mary, which I believe should stand on its own merits.

Click here to purchase on-line ($6)

Also by Kurt Schauppner:

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Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

More info

Sunday, March 5, 2023

New Issue Release - Young Writers and Artists: Spring 2023

Welcome to our eighth edition of our Young Writers and Artists series. We deeply thank the students for taking their time to create and share the wonderful work you’ll find within these pages. And, of course, all of this would be meaningless without you, the reader. 

We are blessed to continue a great relationship with the Mojave Desert Land Trust to have these special youth issues appear twice a year. Mary Cook-Rhyne leads the educational arm of MDLT, and has created curriculum and classroom units available to teachers of all grade levels that explains the uniqueness of the Mojave Desert with age-appropriate activities.

A special shoutout for this edition goes to Jordan V. James, the 7th Grade Integrated Science Instructor at La Contenta Middle School in Yucca Valley for encouraging her students to participate =:-)


Wednesday, March 1, 2023

New Issue Release - Cholla Needles 75!


This special issue features the work of a group of students at Lutie High School led by the poet Scot Young.

The cover art is by former student Joe Wilson, and the incidental art throughout the magazine is by Emily Linenbrink.

The creative poetry in this issue is by:

Angel Hill
Emily Linenbrink
Robin Schofield
Tyler Mabary
Gage Christine
Bayleigh Guidry
Kayla Delanie
LilyAnna Flygare
Scot Young
Tobi Alfier
and Antonia Richardson

New Book! Our Gray City's Face by Fred Rosenblum


"Once again, and owing this time, to the inevitably eroding cognitive state we all face as we near the end of our days, my episodic recall has suffered a modicum of disorder, finding in what follows, a few chronological discrepancies as they relate to the time my wife and I spent raising a family in the seventies, eighties, & nineties in Anchorage, AK.

If you’ve read any of my previous (re)collections, you’re probably aware that my writing is almost entirely auto-biographical and I’ve remained true to that genre, in this, my fifth body of work, setting-out on the island of Maui in the uniquely lush and beautiful state of Hawaii (in 1973} and winding down 25 years later (in 1998), leaving Anchorage for the inconvenient distance it posed in attending to the needs of our aging parents at that time.

I wanted this body of work to be charged by my off-color sense of humor while concurrently bearing a factual quality—I remain hopeful the deafening peal won’t diminish what I initially set out to convey.

- Fred Rosenblum"

Click here to purchase on-line ($6)

Friday, February 3, 2023

Dorianne Laux & Joseph Millar in Joshua Tree March 1, 2023

 Dorianne Laux & Joseph Millar
March 1, 2023 5:30 - 7 PM

Dorianne Laux’s recent collections of poetry include Only As the Day isLong: New and Selected Poems (2020), and The Book of Men (2012). She is the co-author of The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry (1997). 

Joseph Millar’s recent collections include Dark Harvest, New & Selected Poems (2021), Kingdom (2017), and BlueRust (2012).

Friendship Hall
at The Joshua Tree Retreat Center
59700 Twentynine Palms Highway

Use Front Entrance on 29 Palms Highway, aka Hwy 62

Reading is indoors - plenty of room for social distancing
bring mask for your safety and comfort
Free! Bring a friend!

Supported by Poets and Writers
and The Joshua Tree Retreat Center

Questions? Contact Rich:

Click here to let us know you're coming (Facebook)
ps - COME! - you don't have to let us know, but it helps
us know how many chairs to have out =:-)

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Book Review - This Side of the Fire by Jonathan Maule

This Side of the Fire by Jonathan Maule

Reviewed by Greg Gilbert, Professor Emeritus/Trustee, Copper Mountain College, Joshua Tree, California


How many times did I set this book down, mid-poem, at a phrase, an image, and stare into my own depths, lost within the sharp profundity of the moment? Page after page, no decorative contrivances, but poetry as scalpel, filleting layers of memory to translucence. Maule does not spare himself nor the reader. His poetry is a stunning mix of self-evisceration, absurdist humor, beauty, and insights. He asks, “Have you ever witnessed the death of your ego? / a complete oyster-shuck detachment of self?” He convinces himself “that everything abandoned / is kin,” and we, the audience, are drawn into his complex singularity, a dynamic unity as varied as a clenched fist or an instant of exultation.


This Side of the Fire is comprised of four sections and opens with “Letters to Red,” epistolatory poems that strive to fill the negative space left by his sister: “my mind is not a cage / I can render you here.” He can see her “bringing water to a child / or tucking bullets into the sleep of a magazine.” The author asks, “would I trade you being gone / for what I’ve written?” He says, “I never gave you […] a poem you may fold / into a star.” “Letters to Red” are at once penance and absolution, poems that broke my heart and spilled love into me.


Section II, “Idaho,” serves up the artist as a young man “who blew up mailboxes [and] said so many / stupid things to young women.” The poetry is spare and unsparing while recalling the suicide of “S,” “Anyway, we’re all headed for more death and words.” Maule recalls the summer his father came home after flying over “oceans of Sitka spruce” looking for oil leaks, their days cutting linoleum, roofing, and then the separation, how he “watched him fly away / a coin sinking into the well of the sky.” He writes of his mother who “sang hymns / stirred butter into macaroni / and with the same wooden spoon / played him like a drum.” Memories unspool, truancy from Boise High, boys being boys, nights “pitching empties like sardines,” “a fur of cannabis and pills.” And young Jonathan Maule performing his music at the white Baptist church, “no backbeat, nothing in the shape of a gift / for women and their hips.” The first two sections move us through time, a retrospective of loss and of a young man trying to find his way.


Section III, “California,” and the author has migrated to Hollywood where he waits tables, where “Truth is whatever gets repeated,” and “Every scar is a story.” In Hollywood, he finds himself “fighting upstream with trays of sloshing martinis,” and he finds himself in Wilcox Station, “In a jail cell” and, perhaps once again, invoking his sister, “Suppose I thought of you then / in the falling.” In these moments of samsara, the memory of his sister, or perhaps of “the young man / I nearly killed,” brings him to himself, a theme symbolized by the “stillness” of another prisoner, an unknown helper who “reclines on his bunk / with a copy of the Times.” Maule writes of a stone basin, “the idea of water,” and life where one subsists on “the food of a simple lie: we will be ok / we will be ok.” This mantra to survival, we learn, is a preamble to his subsequent confinement in the Twin Towers, the twins being the world’s largest jail facility and the world’s largest mental health facility, a place where “there are no clocks / so time dies the way it does in a casino.” There, his poems evince a hunger for drugs, “…the wrinkled flag / of a wrecked balloon,” the abyss that must surely fuel the author’s rebirth.


The California section shifts from the Twin Towers to the Hi-Desert, an abrupt transition employing the deus ex machina like miracle of a graduate degree. Maule is teaching composition at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center where he asks “young Marines to imagine their enemies.” He has made a home “next to a blown-out chicken coop.” His proximity to the Base recalls Hollywood, “the night after we carry a / sidewalk couch back to our apartment / we wake to a helicopter / and god’s swinging eyeball.” And he asks the irreducibly poignant question, “what does it mean / that I never know / where the shooting is coming from?” He writes of “the worn logo on god’s gunnysack,” and declares, “The next time I’m arrested / may it be for corrupting the youth.”


The fourth and final section is appropriately titled “CODA,” and leaves us experiencing the final circle of his, of our, shared journey.

This Side of Fire is a hero’s journey, departure, initiation, and return. Jonathan Maule returns to discover his higher innocence and the gift of the goddess, the first-person-plural that remains grounded in the world, “waiting for our dogs to urinate.” While at the Marine Base, Jonathan has become the teacher, the guide for others, the logos for those who are experiencing their own departures.


This Side of the Fire is the winner of the 2020 Hillary Gravendyk Regional Poetry Prize from the Inlandia Institute. His work is available at Jonathan lives in the high desert with his partner, writer and visual artist L.I. Henley.

Other work from Jonathan Maule: Dog Star, Poetry (2015) and Whole Night Through, Soundtrack (2020)

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Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

More info

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Book Review - "Poems for the Lost Because I'm Lost Too by Exurb1a"

Poems for the Lost Because I'm Lost Too by Exurb1a

I'll get the prejudices out of the way. I hated the title. Turns out after reading the book, it's okay. I started off hating the presentation. After reading it I want to share it with everyone. Goes back to the old war horse: "don't judge a book - read it." 

Poetry? Well, if you accept that the poetry of the 70's is poetry, then yes. Hell, I've always loved Greg Wyss, Sam Schraeger, and Dave Maresh - so damn straight, I should (and do) love this work. 

I've learned to read three poems before tossing a book in the trash, and yep - it works! This second poem hooked me   - because I've been there - especially when I was "in college" - afraid that others would see my thoughts as "stupid" - realizing only much later that I was the only one who saw true thoughts as stupid, and abstract, made up, forced inane thoughts as interesting. Here's how Exurb1a puts it:

"when I first started

I used the fractured
line structure
I saw
clever poets employing in
their work; threw in semicolons,
wrote vaguely and incomprehensibly like a
banana in autumn mist
so I wouldn't get
stupid or

That got boring way quickly and I cut it out for the most part,
It felt terribly inauthentic, forever wearing one of those elaborate Venetian masks,
Not to knock style in general,
The thing just wasn't for me. . ."

So, is it, as Ferlinghetti once said, "all modern poetry is prose"? Perhaps. Doesn't matter in the end, because I was hooked and ended up reading every word in the book. Twice. Exurb1a is, quite simply, a writer who is fun to read. That matters. If he wishes to be called a poet, well - too bad for him. He could make a lot more financial gains by being a prose writer or a comedian. It's obvious though - financial gain is not his goal.

I laughed - a lot. Was amused. And even from time to time felt sad - because I saw myself in some of the people he pokes out at. And that's good - I may find myself being changed by a small book of poetry. And isn't that what reading poetry should be about?

Gate 3 Flamenco belongs in the New Anthology of 21st Century poetry:

"Two women dancing at the airport to no music, maybe a mum and daughter,
The departure lounge is wicked busy and the rest of us sit trying to pretend we don't see them,
They carry it on for half an hour, way past the point of performance,
Is this cringe? I think to myself,

Kids yelping and old men and women checking their boarding passes as though they might be in the wrong airport,
I give in to idle worry, that the plane will crash, that my best years are behind me,
All grey porridge and pretending now,
Strange wrinkles around the eyes,
Knowing anxiety will fix nothing
and only getting anxious about being too anxious,
Oh they're still dancing,

Hey, aren't we supposed to dance all the time?
Maybe we forgot to dance all the time?
I'd rather be them than me."

Yeah, the constant commas make me a bit nuts, but that's part of his "style" - - keep the reader uncomfortable with his prejudices. Yep, yep, yep, I liked tis book so much I actually decided to read four more of his books. If I survive the beating I'm given by the words, I'll come back and let you know if those books are worth the effort to find. This one, for sure - if either of the short excerpts made you smile, trust me - the whole book works just the same. Good times!

Click here to find your own copy to carry around!

Sunday, January 1, 2023

New Issue Release! Cholla Needles 73!


cover and inside artwork by debora Ewing

The courageous writing is by

debora Ewing
David Chorlton
Charline Lambert
translated by John Taylor
J. Malcolm Garcia
Miriam Sagan
Bonnie Bostrom
Chase D. Spruiell
Kent Wilson
Marlene M. Tartaglione
Peter Nash
Jonathan Ferrini

New Book! Border Line by Miriam Sagan

border checkpoint
my grandmother tenses up
inside me

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Miriam Sagan is the author of over thirty books of poetry, fiction, and memoir. Her most recent include Start Again (Red Mountain, 2022), and Star Gazing (Cholla Needles, 2020). Her haiku mentor was Elizabeth Searle Lamb and Miriam edited Elizabeth’s collected work, Across The Wind Harp (La Alameda Press, 1999).

Miriam has been a writer in residence in four national parks, Yaddo, MacDowell, Gullkistan in Iceland, Kura Studio in Japan, and other interesting places. She founded and directed the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College.

Click here to purchase Inquire Within on-line ($6)