Wednesday, February 29, 2012

There is an essential crossroads every person, in some life-changing way, will face: whether to live within the beauty of Gaia or whether to ignore it.

Setuva puma-dancer, Coven of the Calyx and Rowan

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Poem: Levis

This piece originally appeared in Chelsea, a legendary magazine that published Sylvia Plath. Sadly, Chelsea has gone dormant. I hope it returns!




blue denim,
oceanic, faded field,
furrowed yet soft,
taut from a frozen writhe of threads
eating each others’ tails
through hypnotic loops,
minutiae that cascade,
waterfall cleansing ankles and waists,
flexing with skin and muscle,
dancing with strides.

you are even more intimate
with my knees when dissolved
into fluff, unraveled
toward the memory
of being a plant, when metal fins
swam through waves of soil,
and you wandered an island
lush and flouncy green,
paraded by trickles of sun,
until one day there arrived
tin locusts fumed by oil.

drowned, dismembered,
strangled and spun, you came
to me on a shelf once resinous,
under a grid of false noon;
and i purchased you with
woebegone paper that wore an
old man’s political smile.
now, who is more threadbare,
you or i, sitting in our park,
speckled by morning through a bough?
and do you regret, i wonder,
not being fashionable or
a farmer’s bib, or
a rollicking blur atop
a motorcycle?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

a revelation

This is the kind of revelation that could save humanity. If only enough of us realized ...

[quote from an actual email today]

Dear Red Booth Review Readers:

Three days ago we made a terrible error by shifting to a submission policy that included a small fee. Our readers have spoken, and we have done away with it. The 91 cents we made on each submission was not worth the bad will. We feel horrible. Please accept our apologies.

It will always be free to submit poetry, photos, and artwork to Red Booth Review. Please give us another chance:

We're reading for volume 7 now.

Red Booth Review


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Acceptance: Barnwood International Poetry Magazine

Visit Barnwood

Editor Tom Koontz recently informed me that he is taking my piece “Out of Place,” to appear in April on the site. I’m super-thrilled about this. He rejected my submission last year, and it is very hard to get in.

Koontz is a legendary presence, involved in publishing poems since 1978. In my review of Barnwood, I argued that if a Hall of Fame is created for poetry editors, he should be included as one of the first few special names:

My Review of Barnwood

Always exciting, wide-ranging and fresh in his poetry choices for Barnwood, Koontz is also a talented philosopher. Over the years, his website has morphed and branched to include many valuable self-written essays on diverse topics.

And recently he did something almost no other editor has done: he took an inspiring and well-argued stance to support the Occupy Wall Street Movement, offering extensive ethical and social analysis of the issues:

Koontz on Occupy!

If you are ardent about OWS, or interested, or just plain curious, I highly recommend Koontz’s enlightened, passionate, intelligent and occasionally quirky discussion, at the above link.

He starts off this way:

The urgent need for a Resistance

This is it. If not now, never—for we might never have another chance.

Let’s be clear about what now requires thought and actions. This is about whether we will care for our people, and whether we can keep our democracy.

At this moment in America (and not ignoring the rest of the world) hundreds of millions of persons are under assault by a few. This is about abusive power, huge and unrestrained, derived from wealth, and exercised by certain persons with the purpose of accumulating more wealth, and more power, in ways that injure others. The 99% of Americans who are being abused must act together to end the abuse, to take back our lives by creating a healthy, sane lifestyle in America, and by protecting our democracy from a new Ignobility.

There is much, much more after this stingingly good proclamation (can you say, “Thomas Paine”!)

The only other editors I know taking such a full and ferociously ethical role against Wall Street corruption are Karla Lynn Merrifield and Dwain Wilder, who organized the first OWS anthology. The title is, Liberty’s Vigil, The Occupy Anthology: 99 poets among the 99%:

Liberty's Vigil Link

Merrifield and Wilder, in conjunction with the 99 poets in the book, are heavily involved in organizing readings across America (and other countries, too). What I’m hoping is that they can work with Koontz to have him and some poets associated with Barnwood give a reading to raise awareness.

I will write an email to Merrifield, whom I have become well acquainted through the OWS anthology. Koontz writes eloquently, incisively and with new insight on the dangers to America, if greed continues to ravage the fabric of our society. We need brilliant voices like Koontz to be heard!

Let us all take an active role. Anything. There are countless ways to protest, from writing anonymous postcards to changing the bank with which you do business, and beyond!


PS: There are three deer outside my window right now. These beautiful animals live 24/7 outdoors in all kinds of tough Maine weather. They have never used electricity. They have never had a light to alter the moonlit starry velvet. They have never had a roof or walls to dim the orchestras of snow or rain. Can you and I even imagine?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review Of My Chapbook, Gordian Butterflies

My chapbook Gordian Butterflies was originally reviewed in Arsenic Lobster a few years ago. Now, thanks to the original reviewer, Lissa Kiernan, the review has been re-posted, as fresh as a spring daisy, at her poetry workshop website,

Read the Review of Gordian Butterflies

Thanks to the considerable attention in Arsenic Lobster, I had over 200 hits on the online version of the chapbook, and I sold 63 hard copies over the next year.

This chapbook indeed contains some of my best writing, and if you want you can view it here:

Read Gordian Butterflies

If you would like a signed personal copy, write to me. The cost is $10 including postage. If you want to support my poetry, for $60 I will hand-write a poem inside the cover. Send requests here:

162 N. Lubec Rd.
Lubec, ME 04652

Donations are always welcome, too.

Read On,


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

For the American Empire As It Falls

I want to tell if I am or I am not myself
It's hard to know how far or if at all could go
Waiting far too long for something I forgot was wrong ...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Junot Diaz Can Save Your Mind!!

I just started reading the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Díaz. Right away, two brilliant and immortal things occur.

First, Díaz realizes that the "discovery" by Columbus in 1492 initiated the anthropological equivalent of a Big Bang. We all dwell, heavily and irreparably influenced, in the aftermath.

The very first sentence of the novel presents this blood-red ruby of wisdom. It is an insight so vast and terrible that we shallow denizens of materialism, in inverse proportion, vastly and terribly deny it.

They say it came first from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Tainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that is was a demon drawn into Creation through the nightmare door that was cracked open in the Antilles. Fukú americanus, or more colloquially, fukú--generally a curse or a doom of some kind; specifically the Curse and the Doom of the New World.

(Note: The Taino people were encountered by Columbus on Hispaniola, and the island of Hispaniola is part of the Antilles)

We are all inheritors and victims of this Grand Curse, or great fukú, as Díaz goes on to say when discussing his homeland, the Dominican Republic.

No matter what its name or provenance, it is believed that the arrival of Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed the fukú on the world, and we’ve all been in the shit ever since. Santo Domingo might be fuku’s Kilometer Zero, its port of entry, but we are all of us its children, whether we know it or not.

(Note: The Dominican Republic is one half of what was once called Hispanola; the other half is Haiti)

The megabrutality and continuous influence of this Euro-Indian contact is absolutely true, in deep, depressing and dangerous ways. Díaz demonstrates one of the consequences of the fukú americanus through example--

And that brings me to the second brilliant and immortal thing at the beginning of this great novel: it slams the United States for supporting dictators in Latin America. It does this by focusing on the incredible monster we supported in the Dominican Republic for over 30 years, Rafael Trujillo.

On Page One of the novel, the Curse and the Doom of the New World. On Page Two, the indictment and embodiment of US stupidity in the form of an evil puppet:

For those of you who missed your mandatory two seconds of Dominican history: Trujillo, one of the twentieth century’s most infamous dictators, ruled the Dominican Republic between 1930 and 1961 with an implacable ruthless brutality ... [he] came to control nearly every aspect of the DR’s political, cultural, social, and economic life through a potent (and familiar) mixture of violence, intimidation, massacre, rape, co-optation, and terror; treated the country like it was a plantation and he was the master ...

Díaz goes on and on. The condemnation of Trujillo takes up many hundreds of words; and be sure, the United States is thoroughly implicated, from the original occupation by US Marines through the whole of Trujillo’s rule.

Díaz doesn’t go into the sick details, so here's a little: the US provided support of all kinds to Trujillo, including CIA-backing, military funding and also covert training in how to torture (provided by the infamous School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia).

Every citizen of the United States should know and grapple with the two brilliant and immortal things on Page One and Page Two:

(A) Those of us rooted in the US have thrived off the slaughter and hatred of Natives across North, Central and South America. When two worlds came together, Spain and Taino, the fuse was lit for a Big Bang of anthropological horror. You and your future ones will live in its wake, surrounded by its hissing static, forever. You are cursed by this, and you have to deal with that curse, or it will own you.

(B) The United States, in the wake of the Big Bang, continued on a despicable path, installing puppet dictators who tortured, oppressed, and terrified their people on a national level. Genocides and massacres included for no extra charge. If the US manages to survive into the far future, some President, hundreds of years from now, will stand stiff and teary-eyed at a podium and announce to the world a profuse apology. “We are sorry for vast evil we inflicted on our Latin American neighbors, dreadfully sorry.”

Page One and Page Two of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” are a Grand Philosophy in themselves. They show you a force that inflicts atrocities on the world like a Satan or an Iago or a Darth Vader. Or as Díaz says, describing Trujillo:

At first glance, he was just your prototypical Latin American caudillo, but his power was terminal in ways that few historians or writers have ever truly captured or, I would argue, imagined. He was our Sauron, our Arawn, our Darkseid, our Once and Future Dictator, a personaje so outlandish, so perverse, so dreadful that not even a sci-fi writer could have made his ass up.

Awake folks! These are the dystructive forces that surround, herd and needle us until we are numb. Awake and live aware, in the light!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Poetry Coop Opens, Offers Great Workshops!

If you are looking for high quality online poetry workshops you absolutely need to go to


and see what's happening. The site is run by Lissa Kiernan, the Poetry Editor of Arsenic Lobster, which is a well-known, excellent, impossible-to-get-into-because-the-demand-is-so-high journal. However, Kiernan defies all stereotypes and isn’t snooty, pretentious, supercilious or any of those things you might expect from the editor of a high prestige venue.

Kiernan, in fact, is one of the kindest, most giving leaders in the poetry world that I know. Her Poetry Coop workshops are the latest incarnation of the Rooster Moans poetry community. The website has been completely updated, changed and in fact is a whole new website. There's a spectacular line-up of workshops, run by incredible writers. The cost ranges from free up to $325.

That’s right, you can get into FREE workshops, and some more expensive ones, led by outstanding people, such as Amy King, Susan Yount, Brenda Hammack, Maureen Alsop and (dare I say it) Owl Who Laughs himself is running a workshop, too!

Space is limited, so sign up to be a member of the coop now!

The first workshop is in progress as I type. The impresario is none other than Lissa Kiernan herself. The title is “Unbecoming Numb: Nuclear Poetics” and the topic is nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, how these are part of a destructive mindset that infects the general population. And yet poetry is an antidote, a way to become “unnumb” and face these threats to your body, your friends' bodies and, yes, civilization itself.

The workshop is booked up full, and I am a lucky participant. Kiernan’s first prompt was unforgettable, and yet I don’t have permission to reprint it here.

Shucks ...

Oh heck. Here I go.

I am going to take a big risk and reprint a single paragraph, merely one, chosen from the middle of Kiernan’s workshop lesson. I could get in trouble for this, but what can I say? Consider this a random teaser:

An audience member said she had heard that the fight vs. flight phenomena arises from our limbic system, one of the older, lower parts of the brain—the very stem of the brain. Traumatic memories got encoded and stored differently than other memories, she said, on a more primitive, primordial level, one that stores memories in images, not words. Trauma, in other words, was thought to shatter the narrative memory. And according to poet and critic John Gery, living with the constant, silent threat of nuclear trauma has produced a generation of citizens who have adapted by going numb—or going the “way of nothingness” —as he puts it in his book Nuclear Annihilation and Contemporary Poetics.

I completely agree that the American people have gone numb. And that poetry is an antidote to that numbness. The problem is that poetry itself has been exiled by the great Numbness that rules our society. The people of the US Empire have been conditioned to think that poetry is a sideshow freak.

Adrienne Rich, in her essay, “Blood, Bread, and Poetry,” shows it:

The Miami airport, summer 1983: a North American woman says to me, “You’ll love Nicaragua: everyone there is a poet.” I’ve thought many times of that remark, both while there and since returning home. Coming from a culture that encourages poets to think of ourselves as alienated from the sensibility of the general population, that casually and devastatingly marginalizes us (so far, no slave labor or torture for a political poem--just dead air, the white noise of the media jamming the poet’s words)--coming from this dominant culture that so confuses us, telling us poetry is neither economically profitable nor politically effective and that political dissidence is destructive to art, coming from this culture that tells me I am destined to be a luxury, a decorative garnish on the buffet table of the university curriculum, the ceremonial occasion, the national celebration--what am I to make, I thought, of that remark?

The United States buries its poets in irrelevance because they are dangerous to the conformist daze. Fluffy TV and avoidant video games are fine--but never let a poet get into a citizen’s heart. The citizen will start to feel deeply and empathically for all of life, not just the chosen ones--and this is very dangerous to the callous greed of Empire, its need to control the masses.

Anyway, visit Join a workshop. This is one of the most amazing opportunities available online today in the entire poetry world.

I mean it!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Acceptance: Wilderness House Literary Review

Wilderness House (often called WHL Review) has been a great supporter of my work, this time taking all five of the poems I submitted.

One thing I like about the editorial skill of Irene Koronas, who guards the gate, is that she is not afraid of the dark side. She doesn’t revel in gore, or specialize in tragedy; but she is aware that dark poems can be as sensitive as they are wounded. Such poems can hurt terribly, not just for the writer, but also the reader. Who wants to deal with someone's battle with suicide, addiction, depression or grief, even if it is beautifully limned in masterful verse?

Visit Wilderness House

Editor Koronas can handle my darkest pieces. I noticed this about a year ago, and started sending more of them her way. This may seem mean on my part, but the truth is that dark poems come from that part of us that especially wants to be heard by a worthy ear. They crave validation, at least mine do.

I trust this editor with these expressions of mine as I trust few others. She doesn’t hang them up in garish spotlights, or bury them in shameful cubbyholes. She respects them but doesn't give them too much or too little. She can deal with pain in art in a way that validates the artist. And in a special way, that is healing.

For this I am eternally grateful. It is indeed a rare gift.

Below are the titles of these hurt poems. Although many people might read them and even shrug (“agony and loss, seen it, lived it”), I often start to cry when I revisit the place they summon. It is my life, after all.




Titles of the WHL Poems (soon to be published)

Alone Nude
Cameo By a Stranger
Trying To Shovel
Rio Scene


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Release: Lily, Volume 5, Issue 9, Feb 2012

The latest issue of Lily has arrived, including my poem "New Skin":

Volume 5, Issue 9, Feb 2012

(Note: if you are reading this 'in the future', please go to the Lily archives to find the issue)

Editor Susan Culver-Graybeal has been entrancing readers since at least 2003 with her stunning presentations of poetry and photography. I love the artwork paired with "New Skin"--is it really a photo???

Brilliant orchestration by Culver-Graybeal, as usual. Read my latest review here:

Praise for Lily


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Poem: Song For A Forest

This poem was published in Lily Lit Review in 2004. It was also used by artist Shanna Wheelock as part of her sculpture-tapestry exhibit at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, Maine.




Song for a Forest

no one can tell me
the forest has no flesh.
my feet have tasted its roots,
licked across arteries
even as their spirals split
again and again
below a simmer of fallen leaves—
pumpkin, pale, russet—
and a dark brewing depth
of drunken earth.

why are leaves drumming
and oak limbs swaying to a beat
as ripe as a lover’s heart?
why are raindrops sad or joyous
on the eyelashes of pines?
ants are red cells in a greater blood,
sparrows breaths in a windy lung.
owls are nothing but the pupils of elves
half torn from fetal sleep,
deer nothing but caresses
of brown fingertip.

i kiss streams with my eyes
and they kiss back with pouts of sparkles;
or whisper into my ear, soft as sensual lips.
i follow them where they feed cushions of moss,
toes of alders, visions of blue pools sky-entranced.
i hear messages in warbles and whirs
that come together like bits of a thought.
i watch sunlight splinter into bright lines,
the outer edges of a smile.