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.

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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)