Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Last Day of the 2014 Holocaust Awareness Month - Guest Blogger Kim Klett "BITTERSWEET"

Christal Cooper
*This piece first appeared in the Asian American Times in April of 2011.  It has been updated for the April 30, 2014 blog entry.

Guest Blogger:  Kim Klett,
English and Holocaust Studies
In Mesa, Arizona

It took me fifty years to deal with the Holocaust at all. And I did it in a literary way.
Leonard Baskin

April is a bittersweet month.  While the weather warms and the flowers bloom, it is also a time of reflection, for April is Genocide Awareness month.  It is a time to remember, a time to mourn, and a time to make a pledge or take a stand. 

As a high school teacher of a course called “Holocaust Literature,” it is sometimes difficult to get my students interested in events occurring halfway around the world, when their attention is directed to the senior prom and their upcoming graduation.  

Yet it is imperative that my students learn what is happening, especially after learning of the atrocities of the Holocaust.  It is a common reaction, especially at the beginning of the course, for students to ask, “But why didn’t anyone do anything?”  I sometimes ask, “What are we doing today for the people of Darfur or the Congo?”  I am usually the recipient of a blank stare at this point. 

My students spend about three months studying the Holocaust before we delve into the topic of other genocides.  They learn about Hitler’s rise to power, a little about the history of anti-Semitism, and read many firsthand accounts by people who experienced this horrible time in history. 

They read about people in the United States, who saw the headlines and probably shook their heads and then moved on with their days.  They read about people who went into hiding, including one family that hid in a sewer in Lvov, Poland, for fourteen months.  They read about the ghettos and the atrocious conditions in which people were forced to live. 

They read about the camps—labor camps, transit camps, and the six death camps in Poland. 

They hear a survivors speak; In 2011, my students had the privilege to hear Otto Schimmel, who survived Auschwitz and other camps;  Harold Minuskin, who was a child of partisans; and Stephen Nasser, who survived the camps and held a secret for many years.  Three completely different experiences, and three incredible men who lived to bear witness. 

The lessons my students learn from survivors—whether written or in person—are priceless.  They understand why people said “Never again” after the horrors of the Holocaust were brought to the world’s attention—horrors that had been there all the time, but that people chose to ignore.

So I would be remiss if I were to stop there in my class.  For “Never again” did not become a reality.  Genocides continued.  Cambodia.  Bosnia.  Rwanda.  Darfur.  The Congo.  And those are just a few.  We haven’t always called them “genocide,” but they exist, nonetheless. 

I start the unit each semester with hope, hope that maybe a few of the students will realize that their voices do count.  Hope that they will share the information with others.  Hope that maybe they will make a difference, somehow, some day.

Luckily, I have seen this happen.  Nine years ago, when I started following Darfur in the news, I realized this was important.  When Colin Powell called it a genocide, I was happy—somebody finally used the word; now we would have to do something about it. 

I attended a rally in Washington, DC, along with about ten thousand others, in 2005.  It was there that I received a green rubber bracelet reading “Not on our watch,” George Bush’s words scrawled on a memo he received about the situation in Darfur.  I vowed that I would not remove the bracelet until this genocide ended.

My passion carried over to my students.  I took a group of students to NAU to hear Paul Rususabagina speak.  He said six words that resonated with me: “We have been bystanders too long.” 

On the bus ride back, a plan hatched.  We would sponsor an event at our school, a concert with local bands and entertainment.  We started planning, and had a very successful event, attracting over 500 people on a Friday night in our school’s cafeteria.  It has become an annual event, evolving and changing each year, but one that people anticipate. 

Sometimes we earn some money to donate to a related cause, such as the Sister Schools program ( or Doctors Without Borders
(  But more importantly, we spread awareness.  Students bring their parents and friends.  Those friends bring a neighbor.  That neighbor tells his co-workers.  Just as propaganda about the Jews spread quickly during the Holocaust, so does information about these atrocities, when people get involved. 

We recently had the roadies from Invisible Children ( do a presentation at our school.  I watched one segment, as 1,100 students and teachers watched intently, and was so proud afterwards to see them brushing paint on their hands and leaving their handprint on our pledge wall, promising to make a difference.

I’m still wearing that green bracelet.  I never thought I would have it this long—I really believed that once the U.S. knew what was occurring, it would be over in a matter of months.  I was wrong.  

But I am still hopeful.  I send e-mails to my congressman and make visits to his office.  I write letters to other political leaders, and ask my students to do the same.   And I continue to teach. 

Photo Description and Copyright Information

Photo 1
Florida Holocaust museum logo for genocide awareness 

Photo 2
Jacket cover of Holocaust Literature Set- Magill’s Choice

Photo 3
Children in a Internally Displaced Person’s Camp in Darfur.
Public Domain.

Photo 4
Rape victims who have been successfully reintegrated into 
their communities assemble in a “peace hut” near Walungu, 
South Kivu in DRC.
Attributed to Lea Werchick
Public Domain

Photo 5
Hitler stamp

Photo 6
Warsaw Ghetto wall
May 24, 1941
Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-134-0791-29A / 
Knobloch, Ludwig / CC-BY-SA

Photo 7
A group of prisoners of Hitler’s Labor Camp Mauthausen-
Gusen are forced to play “leap frog”; one of many grueling 
physical exercises Nazis utilized as a way of “wearing 
inmates down”.
CCASA Germany

Photo 8
Jews arrival at the Mechelen Transit Camp.
Summer of 1942
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law.

Photo 9
The main gate at the former German Nazi death camp of 
Auschwitz II (Birkenau). Note that this is inside the camp
looking back from the loading ramp to the "Gate of Death".
August of 2006
Attributed to Angelo Celedon AKA Lito Sheppard
Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-2.5

Photo 11
Jacket cover of “My Children, My Heroes Memoires of A 
Holocaust Mother” by Sonia
Translated by Harold Minuskin

Photo 12
Jacket cover of my brother’s voice

Photo 13
Skulls of Khmer Rouge victims
February 2005
Public Domain

Photo 14
Martyrs' memorial cemetery Kovači in Sarajevo.
March 13, 2009 
Attributed to Michael Buker
CCASA 3.0 Unported License.

Photo 15
Photographs of Genocide Victims - Genocide Memorial 
Center - Kigali – Rwanda
July 25, 2012
Attributed to Adam Jones PhD
CCASA 3.0 Unported License

Photo 16
"Children in the refugee camps are being encouraged to 
confront their psychological scars. Above, clay figures depict   
an attack by Janjaweed." In Darfur, Sudan.
June 27-29 2004        Attributed to Sean Woo, general counsel to Sen. Brownback,  
or John Scandling, chief of staff to Rep. Wolf.
Public Domain

Photo 17
"Dem. Rep. Congo: Meeting for Rape Victims Rape victims    
who have been successfully reintegrated into their 
communities assemble in a "peace hut" near Walungu, South 
Kivu in DRC. USAID-supported health programs have 
assisted rape victims with counseling, training, employment, 
and safe living environments."
Attributed to L. Werchick / USAID
Public Domain

Photo 18
Colin Powell on a visit to Google on March 16, 2005.
Attributed to Charles Haynes
        CCASA 2.0 Generic License.

Photo 19
Genocide Awareness Month green bracelet.

Photo 20
Paul Rusesabagina
June 21, 2006
Public Domain

Photo 21a and 21b
        Sister Schools banner and logo

Photo 22a and 22b
Doctors Without Borders banner and logo

Photo 23
Invisible Children logo

        Photo 24
Kim Klett
Copyright granted by Kim Klett

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Chapbook Called "19 Years, 19 Posters, And 19 Poets"

Christal Cooper  - 12, 151 Words  60 Pages

The 2014 National Poetry Month Chapbook:
“19 Years, 19 Posters, And 19 Poets”

This April of 2014 marks the 19th year that America has celebrated National Poetry Month (NPM)
To commemorate the 19th anniversary, we chronicle each year of how the Academy of American Poets (AOAP) celebrated NPM. 

Also included are the 19 NPM posters.   Each year the AOAP commissions an artist to create the NPM poster, in which over 200,000 copies are donated to writers, teachers, libraries, educational centers, and other literary institutions. 
The most important part of this chapbook is the 19 poets who have contributed his or her own poem, background information of the poem, a photo, a short biography, and his or her contact information.  The 19 poets who participated are:  Francesca Bell, Robert Ransom Cole, David Cooke, Nancy Duci Denofio, John Fox, Noelle Kocot, Wayne Lanter, Colleen Lloyd, Helen Losse, Christina Lovin, Freeman Ng, Allison Parliament, Kevin Prufer, Jonathan K Rice, Jan Steckel, David Sullivan, Jon Tribble, Laura Madeline Wiseman, and Sheri L. Wright.
We hope you enjoy reading “19 Years, 19 Posters, and 19 Poets.”

19 Years

         In 1995, members of the AOAP noticed how successful the Black History Month (held in February) and Women’s History Month (held in March) was and decided Poetry should also have its own month of celebration.
         In 1995, the AOAP held a meeting, in which publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary organizations, poets, and teaches were invited to discuss the idea and the need for designating a month to celebrate poetry.  The group agreed and, one year and one month later, the first NPM was celebrated throughout April of 1996.

         President Bill Clinton supported NPM from the very beginning.  On April 1, 1996 President Clinton issued his proclamation:  “National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today's American poetry.  Their creativity and wealth of language enrich our culture and inspire a new generation of Americans to learn the power of reading and writing at its best."

The AOAP focused on the reader and even those who do not typically read poetry and asked the important question, “What are you doing for National Poetry Month?”

         The AOAP joined the American Poetry & Literacy Project (APLP) to distribute 100,000 free copies of the anthology 101 Great American Poems throughout the United States.

         The AOAP and APLP placed more than 40,000 copies of Songs for the Open Road:  Poems of Travel & Adventure in Volkswagen Bugs, and copies were donated to Peace Corps volunteers and U.S. sailors.

         The AOAP and APLP distributed 100,000 poetry books on American Airline planes.

The AOAP invited people to vote for their most favorite poet, and the winning poet would have his or her own postage stamp.  Langston Hughes was the winning poet and in January of 2002 the United States Postal Service issued the Langston Hughes first-class stamp.

The AOAP celebrated the 100th anniversary of Langston Hughes birth, and sponsored the largest poetry-reading group in the world on April 2, at the University of Kansas.


The AOAP  featured the National Poetry Almanac a.k.a.  National Poetry Map of America (   The map featured listings of poets, poetry journals, presses, organizations, conferences, bookstore events, and writing programs.  The AOAP and APLP distributed free copies of  Across State Lines:  America's 50 States As Represented In Poetry.


The National Poetry Almanac a.k.a. National Poetry Map of America ( extended the celebration of poetry from April to year round.  The almanac provides 365 days worth of poetry highlight, activities, and ideas, and history for individual exploration and classroom use.

         The AOAP celebrated their tenth year by having their 10 Years/10 Cities Reading Series; featuring their new webpage; and the re-launch of the Poetry Book Club.  The highlight of the month was on the 5th of April when the Empire State Building honored the AOAP with a special lighting.


The AOAP continued the 10th anniversary by launching a Poetry Read-a-Thon for students. Over 4000 classrooms registered and over 75,000 students logged, recited, and responded to poets for the project.  The AOAP and the APLP published and distributed over 30,000 copies of the poetry anthology How To Eat A Poem.  The AOAP also created their Life Lines Project by collecting the most memorable lines of American poetry form poets and poetry lovers.

The AOAP launched a national contest seeking Poetry’s biggest fan, individuals who exhibited a passion for poetry that goes beyond the usual.  The AOAP received hundreds of entries, and from those entries chose six poet fans, which included a chemist, an art professor and his class, and an independent bookseller.  These winners led NPM and had their innovative ways of engaging with poetry profiled on

On April 17, poems traveled in pockets across the nation, carried and unfolded in bookstores, schools, and workplaces, even in Grand Central Terminal in New York City.  The AOAP’s  staff handed out city-themed poems to morning commuters. 


         The AOAP invited people to capture bits of verse on film.  Hundreds of people participated.

The AOAP launched their landscape map of American poetry by uploading and geo-tagging videos and images featuring poetic landmarks, cities, dwellings, streets, roadside ephemera, and other places immortalized by iconic poems.

         The AOAP featured its 30 guest poets on twitter via its streaming twitter feed @poetsorg.  The selected poets for each day had twenty-four hours to post his or her daily insight before passing the baton.


The same thing as last year, except this time instead of on twitter, thirty poets were to post on tumblr.  selected to 30 days, 30 poets on tumblr:

The AOAP celebrated by focusing on the role that correspondence played in the poet’s development and writing live, using Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet as an example.  The AOAP asked young students to read poems by members of the Academy Board of Chancellors and then to write letters to the poets in response.

On April 24, 2014, the AOAP presented its twelfth annual Poetry & the Creative Mind celebratory reading at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall.

19 Posters

1996 NPM Poster
Photo:  Arthur Tress.  Design:  Michael Ian Kaye.

1997 NPM Poster
Illustration:  Edward Koren. Design:  Jessica 

       1998 NPM Poster
       Design:  Betsy Bell

       1999 NPM Poster
       Design:  Betsy Bell  Photo credits @    

       2000 NPM Poster
       Design:  Betsy Bell
       Photo credits @

       2001 NPM Poster
       Design:  Betsy Bell

       2002 NPM Poster
       Design:  Betsy Bell
       Photo credits @

       2003 NPM Poster
       Design:  Betsy Bell

       2004 NPM Poster
       Design:  Milton Glaser

       2005 NPM Poster
       Design:  Chip Kidd

        2006 NPM Poster
        Design:  Number Seventeen, New York City

2007 NPM Poster
Design:  Christophe Niemann

       2008 NPM Poster
       Design:  SpotCo

       2009 NPM Poster
       Design:  Paul Sahre

       2010 NPM Poster
       Design:  Marian Bantjes

       2011 NPM Poster
       Design:  Stephen Doyle

       2012 NPM Poster
       Design:  Chin-Yee Lai

       2013 NPM Poster
       Design:  Jessica Helfand

       2014 NPM Poster
       Design:  Chip Kidd.

19 Poets

Poet 1           
Francesca Bell  

Francesca Bell’s poems have appeared in many journals, including Rattle, North American Review, Passages North, Poetry Northwest, and The Sun. New work is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, New Ohio Review, Crab Creek Review, Flycatcher, River Styx, Spillway, burntdistrict, Pirene’s Fountain, and Tar River Poetry. She has been nominated six times for the Pushcart Prize.

As If God

Little mouse, lying white on your side
like a child in a christening dress—
I’ve thawed and placed you to wait
on the flat, rock altar, but snake
isn’t interested. He sniffs once,
tongue flickering like flame,
then slides back into the shavings,
concealed again. It’s as if we prayed
and God did not come. Or came, but turned
His face away, refusing to take the child’s
whole spirit deep into His devouring shape
and free it. As each mouse released
by generous jaw and steady squeeze is freed
into the great, gliding goodness of snake.

Background of Poem:
Several years ago, my son had a Kenyan sand boa as a pet. This is a very small, fairly docile boa that spends almost all of its time burrowed, completely hidden in its substrate. My son’s snake was not only functionally invisible to us, it was also a reluctant eater. We fed our reptiles only frozen, thawed rodents then, and some snakes have a harder time accepting dead prey than others. In the wild, snakes mostly eat food that they have personally killed. If something is presented to them already dead, even though it may smell like dinner, it is not always enticing enough to become dinner. This particular snake would often come out of his shavings to sniff a mouse I had thawed and warmed for him, and would then disappear again, leaving the mouse untouched on the basking rock in the warm end of the cage.
One morning, after a couple of years of this recurrence, I woke to find that I had been working on a poem in my sleep. The experience of trying (and failing) to get this snake to eat became the focal point of “As If God,” a poem that deals with a couple of other topics I think a lot about. The first is the struggle to have faith in a God that seems to spend so much of His time ignoring us and allowing us to suffer. The second is the idea that a prey animal, consumed, is released, through death, into the life of its predator and becomes a part of the music that predator’s life makes in the world.
“As If God” appeared in Georgetown Review and was a runner-up in their 2011 contest. It is the first poem in the manuscript for my first book.

Poet 2    
Robert Ransom Cole

Ransom Cole is a poet living in Alabama with his dog Harper.  He has been published in several places and is currently working on his first manuscript. He teaches Composition and is the Composition Publications Coordinator at Auburn University in Montgomery

A Poem About Two Poor Kids & a Witch

So we start with two children who, as it holds, are lost
on a trail in the woods. Poor serf parents or evil step-
somethings set them out, and now they step ever
into a darkened forest that, like so many of this world,
gets darker with more ferocious plants as they, miserable
things of profound weakness, step further.

Next comes the Witch.  She’ll be no surprise to readers
but the children are too naive or pure to notice
how her warts eke out in odd places or how her sugary
voice fades to almost silent cackles. But we the readers
have gone through enough witches in our lives to know.
Even the young among us have seen enough of our world

to know how this witch-infested one works.
How, so opened up before them, do these two children
miss this much evil despite their every breath taken
from a world made out of it? No matter. They follow
the Witch’s every whim—her slightest command or stroke
of finger is notched to both lure the children and give herself
away to anyone who watches. She splits her middle open
to reveal a grotesque heart of smoke and tar, and the children

will wrap their hands around it to feel how it pushes itself
apart to pump warm witch blood. It is a wonderful thing
that emits the center of every story’s point. We know
it will be destroyed by the children that entice it.
What does the heart want with them?  We never
are privy to know. All we can see is how it will be destroyed
by them. A black and rotten grapefruit that will burst
in an oven’s flame or split sickly by a woodcutter’s axe.

Background of Poem:
I was reading Joseph Campbell and my fiancé, Heidi, was watching one of those fairy-tale reinvention series on Netflix that are so popular. I was also reading or had just finished reading Gregory Maguire's /Wicked: The True Story of the Wicked Witch of the West/. I liked the concept of the "other side" of a narrative and how, even though the Maquire text and the fairy tale show were new takes on older stories, they still fit the hero narrative. I liked imagining a world where the audience existed but still knew the story would play out the same way it always has. There's a weird comfort in that. This was a fun poem to play with-- I think this is the third or fourth full version of it. It still doesn't feel finished yet, though.

Poet 3
David Cooke

David Cooke won a Gregory Award in 1977 and published his first collection, Brueghel’s Dancers in 1984.  His retrospective collection, In the Distance, was published in 2011 by Night Publishing, and a collection of most recent pieces, Work Horses (


Before these
Island acquired their history,
A mythology of
Creeds and sieges,
Was a dream of flesh in stone-

Let’s call her Melitensis,
As handsome as
Only a woman might be
Who lies at
Ease with ampleness

Her children
Are scattered.
days are a pampered twilight-
until at
length she floats away

beyond the
ruins of temples,
disfigurement and urban sprawl,
to reach the
furthest island,

a stepping
stone to where,
day, the light comes good
that paints
her lemony limestone dwelling

where the air
in the evening
is a distillation of herbs
and unfamiliar

Background of poem:
I wrote the poem after a visit to Malta.  I found the history of the island fascinating.  For centuries it was the interface between two warring cultures:  Islam and Christianity, an antagonism that still exists, even if its focus has moved elsewhere. My family background is Irish and I found the islanders’ devout Catholicism, with its numerous roadside shrines, reminded me of holidays I spent in Ireland as a kid in the 1960s.  However, since then my own daughter has converted to Islam and I have three Muslim grandchildren.  The famous figuring of “The Sleeping Lady” evokes for me a time in prehistory before the bloody history of religious conflict.  

Poet 4
Nancy Duci Denofio  

     To Nancy Duci Denofio, creativity comes in many forms.  Writing, Performing, Painting, Creating in many genres, and stretching one idea into many forms.  It all began with a dance she would tell you, followed by the music of poetry, acting, and creating a world of make believe.  Her gift grew to reach an international audience, and it reached many levels and several different arenas.  If you talk with Nancy she would tell you she loves words, an audience, and to make people happy.  She believes she has many reasons to continue down the paths she has chosen, and loves her life and everything she does;  far too much to list here.  She enjoyed teaching the art of Voice for fifteen years - and was honored to be asked to be a regular as a young girl on the Patty Duke Show, but she had to say not to the agent.  New doors opened:  you can look for Nancy as Aunt Faden in the movie, Snow Moon, produced by Altman/Howarth.  Many of her writings can be found on Angie's Diary on the web.  Her ghostwriting keeps her busy along with conferences and her own manuscript - hoping one day to see her work come to life.  Nancy writes like she performs, and paints like she sees - it all comes together in her mind. 

Angels and Grown-ups

One angel sits in a tree right behind the
back room where my muddy shoes are
kept on a little rug near a door – grown-ups told
me I slammed – or sometimes never shut – grown-ups
told me so – do you believe me? Not about the door.
Have you ever seen an angel in a tree?

Like the angel right behind me near the back door
where I stand to watch - my feet small, bare -
I am outside, my toe’s touch wet grass – snakes
hide there – that’s what grown-ups say. 
I sit on my cellar door – it's wet; my night-gown is moist.

I wiggle my toe’s – wait – I know angels
travel around the neighborhood -
but my angel promised  – she promised she
would give me my wings and teach me too
fly.  I told my parent’s, “An angel greets me in
the morning as the sun creeps like me out of bed,"
from behind the mountain in the western sky.
Grown-ups think I creep out of bed.  

I wait for a long time – sitting on the cellar door,
so long my hair becomes wet like my toes -  the sun is round – it’s
almost time . . . my eye’s look over the mountain, no longer
do I see a shadow near our drug store
across from the market – she will be here soon, my angel . . .
up in that tree.  I keep waiting, same time every morning.
I keep staring at the sun. 

Now I know she's arrived, she brought sparkles of light, and
diamonds flicker all over my special
tree in my backyard, and the tree comes alive – it sings, dances,
and waves as my angel spreads her wings – by now I
am skipping and waving my arms up and down,
running all over the yard; I hear her laughter. . .
she watches as I slip and slide on wet grass and my
night-gown is stained green – if only angels
were magical then grown-ups wouldn’t complain . . .

Every morning when we meet she says, “Your wings
will grow, be silent.  She told me the time must be perfect -
 for one so young to spread her wings –  "You will
know and you will fly.”  Now I am so excited – I can’t
help but skip around this tree, near this angel who
will help me fly.  I ask, “When?”  She never tells me when,
not like my parents – she tells me I will know –
not like my parents -  who know all the time –
I keep asking and she never tells me not to ask again,
not like my parent’s – who tell me to be quiet. 
Grown-ups never believed I had an angel for a friend.
I did, I had an angel who told me,  “One day you will fly.” 
My parents told me, “You are dreaming.”
I stopped telling my parents about my angel in our tree and
they never questioned the grass stains or why I sat on our moist
cellar door so early in the morning. . .
I hoped one day they would see my wings grow –

So every morning I watch my angel leave – my eyes follow
her – as her wings spread, heading toward the sun . . .
I do not skip, or run or dash toward the house – now it is my
special time to dream; sitting cross legged on damp grass, eyes

Soon my bare feet will walk on grass - no longer moist from a
morning mist -  climb wooden steps – my hands reach to open
the wooden door and I return to a grown-up world until I earn
the right to fly - I knew even when my feet were small – and I
still sat cross-legged on moist grass – angels never lie.

Background of poem:
     As a writer of many genres I tend to focus on my memory of the past and bring them into the present day;  it doesn't matter if I am writing a novel, poetry, short story or even when I am ghost writing, I bring a great deal of "me" into the story.   I believe writing has to be lived - you had to have a backyard with a cellar door to write about the moist grass around it and that market lot and drugstore in the distance, they were there. The mountains were in the background - and yes, those darling lovable parents of mind had rules where an angel would be exactly as I said, an angel, and I always wanted to fly.  The description in the poetry is as it was - and my eagerness to fly, skip and run, was from the inside - it was there all the time.  So my writing is from the inside and it comes out like a painting, which is another hobby I have - I could take most of my writing and paint a picture with the  words.  I guess you could say it could be the beginning of a script, too.  I simply love words. 
Poet 5
John Fox

     John Fox is a poet and certified poetry therapist.  He is adjunct associate professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA.  He teaches at John F Kennedy University in Berkeley, CA, Sofia University in Palo Alto, CA and Holy Names University in Oakland, CA.  John is the author of Poetic Medicine:  The Healing Art of Poem-making (
and is featured in the PBS documentary Healing Words:  Poetry and Medicine.  (
He presents at medical schools and hospitals throughout the United States.  He has presented in Ireland, England, Israel, Kuwait, and SOuth Korea.  John served as President of The National Association for Poetry Therapy from 2003-2005.  John is President of The Institute for Poetic Medicine.

Consider What Happens 

Consider what happens
upon hearing a poem
that moves you.   The nod
of your head, tucking
your chin close
to your chest, as if
stopping to rest, as if you could cry now
in the middle of a long journey.
Here, whatever you regret having forgotten
even with your aching tiredness
(which you cannot forget) all of a sudden 
turns to a surprisingly vibrant sky
as your eyes widen ever-so-slightly
in a recognition that shimmers
under your skin, wells-up
into a calm line-of-sight
that is your own and goes on
almost forever.
Astonished, you walk outside breathing
and slowly stroll in the fresh air
suddenly aware that back in your house
someone new, a stranger you like,
has arrived. 

Background of Poem:
     I believe, or rather feel . . . that in writing poems . . . and in particular when poetry and poems are treated with a respect for their healing power, there is within us a subtle and profound place of perception.  It is not always shared but it is more capable of being shared than the general culture will acknowledge. 
     The place of perception is a deep well of feeling.  As much as the perceiver has a place to go down, submerge, and sink below the surface of things, feelings also have a place to up-well.
     It often seems dark and wet, glimmering and intensely pointed, like starlight.  Unknown and felt, seen and wondered about.
      I don't know, really, if the name for this is soul - because it also feels so deeply joined with the body and the simple gestures of the body - a nod of recognition, a gathering inward to listen with the heart, tears springing forth. 
The action of all this is for me a place of discovery and  surprise, a companionship that again is not recognized by the regular culture.   This whole paraphrase about my poem is an echo of my attempt to capture this moment, these unfolding moments in this poem that I have been blessed to both feel and witness of the years.  

Poet 6
Noelle Kocot

I am the author of six books of poetry, most recently, Soul in Space (Wave Books, 2013).  I also translated some of the poems of Corbiere, and they comprise a book called Poet by Default (Wave 2011), and also a limited edition discography, Damon's Room (Wave 2010).  I have received awards from The Academy of American Poets, The American Poetry Review, The Fund for Poetry and The National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a Lannan Literary Foundation Fellowship.  My poems have been widely anthologized, including in Best American Poetry 2001, 2012 and 2013 and Postmodern Poems: A Norton Anthology.  I grew up in Brooklyn, and now I live in New Jersey and teach writing in New York.

After His Woman is Killed, Conan the Barbarian
Goes On To Become a King by His Own Hand
With Her Spirit Guiding Him

Beautiful lipids

The madness of negatives

Last night the tall dead

Walked the village like giants

While I shot up in a dream

Shall I make sense or shall

I tell the truth—choose either

I cannot do both.

Kind eyes, an unmade bed,

I know you are reading this

As I go. I go, not quite as doctrinaire

As an atheist, I will bend

Someday like a reed over the broken

Mosaic of a suburb, my home you,

Your home, me, and those who

Understand will also die.

“You are the most alive thing in the world”

You too, in my world and in the other one.


*This poem is from the collection Sunny Wednesday.  Copyright 2009 by
Noelle Kocot.  Posted with permission of the author and Wave Books

Background of poem:
I wrote this poem as a hope for myself a month after my husband Damon Tomblin died in March 2004.

Poet 7
Wayne Lanter

Wayne Lanter, English Professor Emeritus, Southwestern Illinois College, is a Writing Fellow from the University of Iowa’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing and the former Aspen School of Contemporary Art Writer’s Workshop. He is a former Contributing Editor of the St. Louis Literary Supplement and of St. Louis Magazine. He founded and for ten years edited River King Poetry Supplement, and has received numerous literary awards. His books of poetry include The Waiting Room, Threshing Time, At Float on the Ohta-gawa, Canonical Hours, A Season of Long Taters, and In This House of Men. He has edited New Century North American Poets, an anthology of contemporary American and Canadian poets, and has published a novel The Final Days and non-fiction works, Defending the Citadel: A Personal Narrative and If the Sun Should Ask. He is currently working on a new novel, Psyaint David, featuring the Son of Sam killer of 1977 and Kojak. He has various poetry chapbooks to his credit and his work has been anthologized in the United States and in Canada.

July 19, 1942

For Harold Reiser catching up to a fly ball
was a moral imperative, as much as
getting knocked off his horse somewhere
between Eden and Damascus was for Saul.
Pistol Pete legging the outfield
on instinct and that great speed he had,
could simply out run the resistance
of turf and air pressure, the physics
of a batted ball, surprising even himself
often enough to believe that if you put
your mind to it anything is possible.
Within the moral resolve to win,
the wall simply drifted out of mind,
maybe set back thirty or forty feet,
invisible, maybe made of glass or myth
or not there at all. Then it was there
with resounding and unforgiving obligation.
This was Saul hitting a wall of white light,
dropped to his knees, the sparks
of the divine fire lighting up his head.
This was the wall of prayer, the wall
of missed opportunity, a testimonial
to human leaning toward something higher,
that luminous sphere of pure intention
and grace slipping from his fingers
and rolling away on the outfield grass.

This is where the moral becomes physical.
No wonder his head came apart.
Approaching the infinite with pure desire,
no wonder he had to be juried from
the field a dozen times or so, transported
through Eden’s gate, onto the road
to Damascus, anointed and given
the Last Rites before being resurrected
in the clubhouse in what must surely
be seen as a lifting of the spirit tribute
to his diminished physical character.

Background of poem:

The Limitations of Desire
The story of Harold Patrick “Pistol Pete” Reiser (1919-1981) is the story of a ballplayer with legendary talents that included a driven desire to play at a peak of intensity every day, in every game, on every play, but who, though gifted physically beyond even the exceptional of most baseball players, was paradoxically undone by his desire and the practical limitations of the physical world. Of Reiser, Leo Durocher said, “Willie Mays had everything. Pete Reiser had everything but luck.”  
The title of the poem is “July 19” a day in 1942 when the Brooklyn Dodgers, with Pete Reiser in centerfield and leading the league in hitting with a .380 average, were playing the St. Louis Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. In the 11th inning Cardinal outfielder Enos Slaughter hit a ball to deep centerfield and Reiser took chase. The expanse of centerfield at Sportsman’s Park at the time featured a flagpole, no warning track and a twelve-foot concrete unpadded wall 426 feet from the plate. As the story goes, Reiser with his legendary speed (one year he stole home seven times) avoided the flagpole and simply out ran the ball and caught it going away only to immediately hit the concrete wall. The ball slipped from his fingers, rolled away on the grass, and though he suffered at least a concussion, and possibly a fractured skull, Reiser returned the ball to the infield before collapsing. Meanwhile, Slaughter circle the bases with the winning run. Reiser was carried from the field on a stretcher.
That was the first of eleven or twelve times (depending on who is counting and telling the story) that Reiser would run into a wall and have to be carried off the field on a stretch. Several times, again depending on who tells the story, Reiser was given the Last Rites at the ballpark. When asked why he ran into the wall so many times Reiser is reported to have replied, “Well, what kind of a ballplayer would stop before he caught the ball?”
That’s the story(s) that intrigued me as an example of a human being, with great talent for doing it, trying to do something beyond the physical conditions in which he finds himself and beyond his capabilities to overcome the time-space restrictions.  Of course, the first collision with the wall changed Reiser’s life irrevocably. Though he played off and on for seven more years (he missed three years serving in the military in WWII – and when he volunteered and was rejected by the military and classified as 4-F, he volunteered again and again until he was accepted) he never played as well as he had before July 19, 1942, and later because of the brain damage of repeated encounters with outfield walls slipped to heart-breaking lower levels of performance.
As a former pro baseball player and poet I was (am) intrigued by Reiser’s history and the moral imperative of his desire to play perfectly, the ideal humans often seek, the celestial sphere, even if it is only a baseball they want to catch, and how they are sometimes impeded and destroyed by perceptions and beliefs that do not account for the limitations imposed on humans by the physical world. Somehow in his pursuit, his desire for perfection, whether it be catching a baseball every time or approaching the divine, Reiser discounted the wall. Possibly he forgot it was there. There was no warning track in Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis in 1942. Maybe in the heat of competition he could not see the twelve foot unpadded concrete wall, or felt that on that day, on that play, that it might move or be moved for him. Maybe he didn’t really care, and/or was willing to suffer the consequences of ignoring the wall – which he did. However it was, that afternoon, and other afternoons and evenings, for Pete Reiser, approaching the wall was a juncture at which the moral meets the physical, and fails. Here finite reality, or limitations imposed by the physical world, intercepted the infinity of desire, where desire prompts us to act and to act in a way that destroys rather than heals us.
All of that being said, I cannot fault Reiser for trying. Nor anyone else for that matter. Humans always push the envelope, trying to do something that has not been done before. That’s part of our nature. So rather than a warning, I suspect the poem is a celebration of the spirit’s willingness to take on the impossible, especially when the odds are themselves impossible. For though the body is sacrificed, we are transformed and in transformation the spirit is sanctified. And I would imagine we are better for the sacrifice. 

Poet 8
Colleen Lloyd

Colleen Lloyd is an artist and a Native American Indian Activist.  She is the creator of the famous Homeland Security T-shirt.  She is presently the Associate Editor and writer at the Las Vegas Tribune, singer/dancer/actress at the Pioneer Theater Company, and theatre director/choreographer at the University of Utah.

The Old Wolf

You are with me when I am drumming 
When I am crying at the moon
When I am singing mournful tunes
Howling like a lone forgotten wolf
Whose kin have fallen one by one to hunters
And she roves on spending only the energy she must 
to make the kill
And if her prey outruns her
Sensible, she turns back for home after a mile
Instinct or luck or skill has favored her
The sole survivor left to return
Familiar territory claimed as home
I offer no explanation
as I climb the sacred hill
Shades of black against horizon
Glimmering pinpoints
Chill is no match for spirit
Even though feeling comes back slower as the years erase
Fresh memory and will
The old wolf may hang her head
Evading foreign intruders
Shy and wild in an advancing scrimmage of settlers
but she knows the day, the time, the hour, the year
To raise her head and howel her feral prayer. 

Poet 9
Helen Losse

Helen Losse is the author of three books of poetry, Facing a Lonely West, to be released in May from Main Street Rag, Seriously Dangerous, and Better With Friends, as well as three chapbooks.  Her poems have been included in various anthologies, including Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont and nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and three times for a Best of the Net award, one of which was a finalist. She is an Associate Editor for Kentucky Review.

Concerning Rock-Hard Questions

I can honestly say,
my inspiration came
from a poet’s pointing finger,

my actual lines
from snippets of memory,
fragments of hope,
whisperings of love.

The nighttime sky
is bedecked with stars
and still millions more
I cannot see.

All drops of water
in the salty Atlantic
are swayed by the cadence
of fresh-water rapids.

Everywhere river joins ocean
grains of sand
that once were hard rock
embrace their personal history.

Surrounded by symbols,
my life becomes question.
prayer abounds. Yes, I’m the one

who watched gathering clouds
form and form,
until they became the picture

of a girl, arms reaching up
toward the down-reaching
arms of the taller figure
standing behind her.

Sure, those arms were
the arms of her Savior.
But think back on what it
took me to remember that.

Often the street in my dreams
is not the street I live on,
the house not our house
or even a house I have seen.

So am I—that cloud-formed girl—
born to wrestle with rock-hard questions,
or just the poet with a propensity to borrow
another poet’s mysticism?

Diamonds are symbols for love,
and a castle is our home,
but perhaps rubies, sapphires, and emeralds
must yield themselves to poems and songs. 

That might be the nature of things,
formed by clouds, remembered,
stumbled upon in dreams.

Limestone covered much of the cliff
above Spring River. Small cedars grew
at odd angles.  We used them like
walking sticks

as we clamored over rocks.
I spent much of my childhood there,
never dreaming I would miss it,
never thinking it could be gone.

Don’t we all want a home in the west,
One day our family motored the river
all the way upstream to Grand Lake,

where we docked our boat and drank Cokes,
the kind you get in cups from
a soda fountain. But when the time came
for us to rescue the land—

where the Cabin itself burned years ago—
we stopped paying taxes and let it all go
for reasons deeper than memories. 

first published in Hobble Creek Review

Background of poem:  
     I wrote this poem because I was not happy with the way my new book Facing a Lonely West ended.  The poem before this, which I liked and had worked hard to perfect, came across too much like "happily ever after," which is NOT the final impression I wished to leave. 
     I had written a book review of Strange Angels by William Pitt Root for Wild Goose Poetry Review, so Bill Pill is the poet mentioned in the early stanzas of the poem, the one with the pointing finger.  He did not literally point finger at me, but he did challenge me as a writer.  The questions were questions he posed to me.  Several of the images in this poem came from poetic tidbits that I had removed from the other poems.  yes, I keep the leftovers;  I never know when one will be just what I need.  And, after all, they are mine to use.   The section of the poem about the girl and her Savior in the clouds is a paraphrase of an older poem, "Clouds," that I wrote and published in 1999.
      Then comes a section about my family's property on Spring River in Oklahoma.  The boat-trip to Grand Lake, where we drank Cokes, actually happened.  The Cabin also burned, years ago no.  But the decision to stop paying taxes, that my mother had done faithfully ever year until her death last March, was a recent one. The reasons for that decision go "deeper than memories," or so the poem says.  The final line is not supposed to clear everything up and make everything right:  life isn't like that.  Life contains a bit of mystery, so a poem should also.
     Facing A Lonely West, which contains this poem, will be released from Main Street Rag in early May.  The book is now available for advanced sales.

Poet 10
Christina Lovin

A native Mid-Westerner, Christina Lovin was born in Galesburg, Illinois, but has lived and worked in states as varied as Indiana, Ohio, Maine, and North Carolina. She now makes her home in Central Kentucky, where she lives with four rescue dogs in a town reminiscent of Mayberry RFD. After having several careers, including minister’s wife, retail shop owner, and VISTA volunteer, she received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree from New England College in 2004. She began teaching college-level writing courses that fall, and is currently a full-time lecturer in the English & Theatre Department at Eastern Kentucky University. Lovin's writing has appeared in over one hundred different literary journals and anthologies, as well as five volumes of poetry (Echo, A Stirring in the Dark, Flesh, Little Fires, and What We Burned for Warmth). She is the recipient of numerous poetry awards, writing residencies, fellowships, and grants, most notably the Al Smith Fellowship from Kentucky Arts Council,
Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, and Kentucky Foundation for Women.  

Why I Don’t Eat Beef

Like young dogs the calves chase each other
then gather to lie down next to a stream,
their knobby knees scuffed and stained
with pasture grasses. Heads too big
for their bodies, nodding until they give in
to sleep. They are tired from their youthfulness
just as their mothers, like any mothers,
are wearied from their duties of motherhood—
the watchfulness, the worry.

On hot days they slide down into farm ponds,
stand withers deep to cool themselves. I imagine
them exchanging pleasantries or gossip
like teenage girls at the lake or pool.

If I stop beside their fields, they come, curious as cats,
to see who it is that visits. When I stand near the fence
they draw nearer to me, my humanness mirrored
in the depths of those eyes that appear
somewhat like souls: some other creature
who like them is gentle and slow.

Sometimes I see them yearning their gazes
across a country road where grass is always greener
and know their intent, their longing, their fear
that something is being missed,
that something better must lie over that hill.

Then when the field yawns open and emptied,
their absence is like a bolt shot through my mind.
For like the young soldiers I have witnessed
moving like steers through the terminal—
unaware of what lies ahead—they did not know
they were nothing but meat
to be ground for some ravenous red hunger.

*"Why I Don't Eat Beef." is published in the book, Hand Picked: Stimulus Respond, a British anthology from the editor of the journal Stimulus Respond.    

Background of poem:
     This poem came about in three stages.  The poems I like best (and like best to write) have three somewhat different points of entry, so to speak.  In this case, I remember being in an airport terminal around ten years ago, shortly after the Iraqi-Afghan War began.  Iw as between flights, so was just sitting watching people go by.  What looked like a large "herd" of young men came by and my first thought was that they reminded me of cattle, going off to slaughter, oblivious to what lay ahead.  I couldn't help but think of the more than 50,000 young men near my age who were killed in Viet nam.
     I moved to Kentucky not long after that, but it wasn't until 2008, when I began making daily 20-mile tripes between the little town where I live and Eastern Kentucky University, where I teach.  As I explored different ways ot make the trip (all of it on two-lane roads), I discovered more and more cow pastures.  I've since learned that Kentucky produces the most cattle East of the Mississippi.  It seemed there were more and more pastures full of cows and calves every week.  I started paying attention to them, stopping beside the road sometimes.  I was touched with how curious the calves were, how much they seemed like dogs or cats (or even human children). I remember looking over one day and thinking to myself:  they don't know they are just meat.  After a year or so of passing 12-15 pastures full of these gentle creatures twice a day, then finding the pastures empty when the cattle were sold for slaughter, I found I could no longer eat beef.  The poem then began to form.  Somewhere along the line, I was reminded of my experiences in the airport years before.  So what started out to be a personal poem about not eating beef suddenly became more; it became a protest poem about the senselessness of war and the loss of thousand of young lives. 

Poet 11
Freeman Ng

Freeman Ng is a Google software engineer who writes on the side.  He’s the author of Haiku Diem (, a daily haiku feed, Joan (, a novelization of the life of Joan of Arc, and Who Am I? ( )a personalized picture book.

Oakland, October 17-19, 1989


When structures already
            improbably huge simply
      break like some toy

they suddenly loom
            like giants absurd
      on the horizon

a fifty foot section
            of the Bay Bridge      
      erector set tilt

like a garage door
            said one witness closing
      on eastbound traffic

on the lower deck
            the ground level shots
      of the upper deck

of the Cypress section of
            the Nimitz
      a mile to a mile and a quarter

stretch of freeway
            collapsed onto the lower
      slabs some 600 tons

with no right to be
            so impossible to lift
      to make survival

so unlikely


My friend Steve
            emerged from the ground floor
      stairwell of

the Mills Building downtown
            joking successfully
      We're the only survivors

from the tenth floor
            and went off
      to catch the bus home

at Candlestick the World Series
            the Giants down
      two games to none
the crowd cheered
      I jumped up from

my castered chair
            to better experience
      the full effect

walked barefoot across
            the room looking around
      at what might topple

            watching the coverage
      the power of TV

to provide desired information
            images like the power
      of the federal government

to provide relief which is to say
            money but what
      then do you do?

phoned my parents
            called around and
      worried about Steve

who had not
            yet made it home


The Marina district
            of San Francisco built
      poetically enough

on landfill
            the hardest hit
      providing most of the

standard earthquake footage
            fire and in
      the dawn rubble

houses fallen
            into one another residents
      and their possessions

gathered into
            the streets and
      the sightseers Pete Wilson
the Channel 7 anchor had to
            become stern
      you're only getting in the way

of everything we need to
            be doing there and
      have the decency

to stay away
            but in an unrelated segment people
      are really pulling together

            neither panache nor nobility
      nor gross insensitivity

those who could help
            did so
      those with opportunity

one Charles Schwab employee
            in a tie and improvised
      I Survived the Big One cap

strolled collecting
            suitable fragments others
      one lady

dispossessed baked
            in the sun for two hours waiting
      for Mayor Agnos to speak but

the shelter volunteers
            have been wonderful to us
      those called

to heroism perhaps
            achieved that end
      which depended

on where you were
            which next Tuesday will be
      according to

Fay Vincent the Commissioner of Baseball
            Candlestick again

just a little nervous
            or forgetful
      or as one newscaster

on the Marina refugees
            these people
      have been denied the opportunity

to surround themselves
with themselves


PDS forgive
            my use again
      of your three line

            and I needed your way
      of applying a structure

to areas too vast
            to be seen wholly
      except by telecopter

the artificial topology
            of downtown
      the delineating connecting

lines of freeways and bridges
            and the prone
      ruin of the Nimitz

the faint patterns of streets
            among houses we build
      over the surface

of this world

Background of poem:
I wrote it in the days following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake here in the Bay Area.  For three or four days following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, I sat mesmerized in front of the TV, watching the coverage and writing this poem.  The poem's title reflects the fact that the medium through which I was experiencing the event became almost as important as the event itself.  Coverage refers to both the media coverage and the houses we build/over the surface/of this world.  

Poet 12
A.R. Parliament

         A.R. Parliament was born in Orillia Ontario Canada and grew up in the great states of Indiana, Ohio, and Alabama.  She attended university at Auburn University Montgomery where she studied Psychology and later English.  A.R.  Parliament is an avid writer and photographer and enjoys spending her time with her two Meezers, her wonderful husband, and friends.  


Drops of ink fall upon the page,
Remnants of tears that will go unseen as always,

She brushes them away, putting back the brave face,
Making the disappointment that seems to be,
The only thing she will ever know, it's how her life always goes.

Constellations marking the failures of her past,
Mapping the steps she's taken,
Each breath a little less than the ones before,
She falls broken upon a cold marble floor

Conversation, like forgotten cups of coffee,
Cold and empty, at least in part.  Scars mark her hands,
Whispers of what once was her life,
The fight, just letting go from once strong soul

Ink following through the painful pages,
Never to be erased, always a part of what and who she is,
Never being able to get rid of the words that haunt her dreams,
That leave her wishing for a place to dream.  

Heaven they say is over rated, lost among the ink-strewn stars, 
Unfamiliar faces mark the blank space around.
Nothingness greets her, plain, unchanging the face she sees,
So much for ageless, there's nothing left for her there.

Background of Poem:
     Constellations was written about a girl battling with depression and hardships.  It came after being diagnosed with severe depression and trying do deal with that.  I think it was a way of dealing with it and the way it's been document through my mind and through my emotions. 

Poet 13
Kevin Prufer
@ Four Way Books

Kevin Prufer (b. 1969, Cleveland) is the author of six poetry collections, including  Churches (Four Way Books, 2014), In a Beautiful Country (2011, an Academy of American Poets notable book and a finalist for the Rilke Prize), and National Anthem (named one of the five best poetry books of 2008 by Publishers Weekly).  He's also edited numerous volumes, including New European Poets (Graywolf Press, 2008; w/Wayne Miller) and two forthcoming volumes: Into English: Multiple Translations (Graywolf, 2016; w/Martha Collins) and Literary Publishing in the 21st Century (Milkweed Editions, 2015; w/Wayne Miller and Travis Kurowski).  Prufer is Professor of English in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston, where he co-directs the Unsung Masters Series.

How He Loved Them

How much the Colonel loved his granddaughters
you will never know. 
                           Their laughter filled his black Mercedes
the way a flock of starlings might fill a single tree
with song. 
     What he’d had to do that day, he’d done
with a troubled heart,
                                     but now their laughter overwhelmed him
with such unarticulatable love
                                           he could hardly
contain it
                 and neither could the empathetic little bomb
in the engine,
            which chose that moment
to burst through the hood with self-obliterating joy.

And the Mercedes burned in front of the courthouse.

And the black smoke billowed and rose like a heart full of love.

And the Colonel rose, too,
                                  like burning newspaper
caught in the wind,
       a scrap of soot, then nothing, then unknowable—

You will never know
                            what dying is like. 

The Colonel’s granddaughters are still laughing in the back seat,

or they are uncomfortable in the new bodies
the bomb made for them.

Oh, darling, darling, one of them recalled,
you are burning up
                    with fever—her mother’s cool hand on her forehead,
then the sense of slipping under,
                                        into black sleep. She’s asleep now,
the voice said, turning out the light,
                                            closing the door.

And in every hand, smart phones made footage
of their bodies,
                          the heaps and twists of metal.

The smoke uploaded the wreckage
       to the screen-like sky
where it goes on burning forever—

You will never know if dying is like that,
the same scenes repeated across a larger mind
than yours—

Is it like a small girl with a high fever asleep in a dark room
recollected for a moment
                                   as the brain closes down?
She’s asleep, the voices say, she is resting.

(My fleeting one, my obliterated device, my bit of pixilated
soot.) Hit Pause
                     and the smoke stops: a black pillar 
that weighs the wreckage down.
                                             Then Play
how much he loved them,

What the Colonel had done that day
                                               had troubled his heart,
but the sound of his granddaughters’ laughter
lifted him high into the air
                                   like a scrap of burning paper
blown from the street into the trees.

Background of poem:
The poem was published in The Paris Review earlier this year.  It's also the subject of a Paris Review interview, if that helps.  It's findable at:

Poet 14
Jonathan K Rice

Jonathan K. Rice is founding editor and publisher of Iodine Poetry Journal, which is in its fifteenth year of publication. He is the author of a chapbook, Shooting Pool With A Cellist (Main Street Rag, 2003) and a full-length collection, Ukulele and Other Poems (Main Street Rag, 2006). His poetry has also appeared in numerous publications. He has been a longtime host of poetry readings in Charlotte, NC, where he lives with his family.
         He is the recipient of the 2012 Irene Blair Honeycutt Legacy Award for outstanding service in support of local and regional writers, awarded by Central Piedmont Community College.
         Jonathan is also a visual artist. His art has been exhibited in group shows at Hart Witzen Gallery, Green Rice Gallery, MoNA (Museum of Neighborhood Art, formerly known as Plaza Muse), AKA Creative, Max L. Jackson Gallery in the Watkins Art Building at Queens University Charlotte, Mooresville Art Depot (Mooresville, NC), Dilworth Coffee (Concord, NC) and Gallery 102 (Lancaster, SC). He has had solo exhibits at Jackson’s Java, Vin Master, Wingmaker Arts Collaborative, The Peculiar Rabbit and University of North Carolina Charlotte Student Union Gallery, all of which are located in Charlotte, NC.
         He currently has work on exhibit in the Pennington-McIntyre Gallery at Cleveland Community College in Shelby, NC through June 30, 2014.


Our Possible Life
                  for K.T.

We muse holding hands,
step through
gates of stone
and bleached-white churchyards,
sun glistening on cobalt domes.

Our thoughts on the sea,
we stroll through a village
toward surf-battered rocks
as the sun begins to set.
We drink wine at a café
that overlooks a bay where boats

sway softly on the water.
Olive trees scattered
on broad hills behind us
rustle in the breeze
as we embrace in a land
not our own.

Background of poem:
I wrote this poem after a friend and I had been looking at a travel book about Greece. I remarked that every year I go the Greek Festival here in Charlotte, NC and I always buy a few raffle tickets to win a trip to Greece. We talked about how much fun that would be to travel there. Writing a poem about it seemed to be the next best thing.
(This poem was previously published in a slightly different form in Referential Magazine.)

Poet 15
Jan Steckel 

Jan Steckel is a former physician who retired early from taking care of Spanish-speaking low-income children because of chronic pain. Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and her poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her writing has appeared in Yale Medicine, Scholastic Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, and many other journals and anthologies. Her work has won numerous contests and has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize. She is shopping a book-length manuscript of short stories for publication.

Man Tells Police Unicorn Caused Crash

So he urinated in the wastebasket once by mistake.
He couldn’t remember if he had taken his pill.
That didn’t give her the right to patronize him.

He used to factor large numbers in his head.
He was unique, she said, like a unicorn.
That’s why she married him.

Now numerals wriggled by like water snakes
too slippery for him to catch.
He couldn’t get the checkbook to balance.

Of course he would drive.
The man was supposed to drive.
His father had always driven them.

When his father drove them across the bridge,
he told them of dead workers buried
in concrete pylons when the cement was poured.
The bridge had fallen now.
Greenland glaciers melted
Sea levels rose. How did that song go?

“Not a rose in Greenland’s ice,
there’s no bird in Greenland
to sing to the whale.”

As the ocean rose, land bridges
connecting his thoughts
were inundated and disappeared.

Look at those silly unicorns breasting the tide.
Don’t they know better
than to cross against the light?  

Background of poem:
         The title of this poem was a headline I saw.  My grandfather suffered from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.  We didn't have the definitive diagnosis until the autopsy, but he got presumptively diagnosed relatively early and spent a long time living in his own home with help.  Nobody wanted to "put him in a home."  One of the final straws for my mother was when he started urinating int he wastebasket of his bedroom instead of in the toilet.  She was afraid he would wander out onto the street and get hurt, even if he lived with her.  She found him a small group home with five other Jewish Alzheimer's patients and a very caring staff near her house.  the group home had staff around the clock to keep the patients company and keep them safe.  My mother visited her father a few times a week even when he could no longer recognize her.  No matter what time of day or night we dropped by (we never had to call first), we always found him in a safe situation with people who treated him well.  It was still horrible.
        Now I have other people in my life who are probably in the early stages of dementia.  Like my grandfather, they are extremely intelligent and compensate well, so that strangers (and those friends who don't want to know) may not be able to tell.  My own memory is lousy and my cognition slow because of the medications I take for chronic pain.  I'm fascinated by what happens to really bright, creative people when they lose their memory but are still pretty smart.  When they can't understand what's going on some of the time, they have to make sense of the world any way they can.  Sometimes they do it by confabulating (what we fiction writers like to call "making shit up" and make a living doing.)

Poet 16
David Allen Sullivan

David Allen Sullivan’s first book, Strong-Armed Angels, was published by Hummingbird Press, and three of its poems were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. Every Seed of the Pomegranate, a multi-voiced manuscript about the war in Iraq, was published by Tebot Bach. A book of translation from the Arabic of Iraqi Adnan Al-Sayegh, Bombs Have Not Breakfasted Yet was published in 2013, and Black Ice, about his father’s dementia and death, is forthcoming. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review with his students, and lives in Santa Cruz with his love, the historian Cherie Barkey, and their two children, Jules and Mina Barivan. He was awarded a Fulbright, and is teaching in China 2013-2014 ( His poems and books can be found at

Wake Up Call           

by David Allen Sullivan, from Black Ice, forthcoming from Turning Point Press

The five-ten AM
garbage truck hoists me from bed.
Trundling along

in the passenger seat,
coffee mug, fingerless gloves.
Hell of a wake up.

My compatriot
in jolting the neighborhood
from sleep jerks a thumb

when the mechanism
sticks and I descend to kick
the son-of-a-bitch

into extending
to grapple another wheeled bin
and bear it aloft.

It’s so beautiful
against the blue-black sky—Wait!
that’s my son inside,

still pajamaed, shut
in sleep, and tumbling in
with rinds and refuse.

I dive in after,
grab his disappearing ankle,
and yank him backwards,

shouting to the driver,
but he’s on auto-pilot,
blind, oblivious,

next load’s coming down,
drowning us in everything
others found useless.

Then I remember
I hate the taste of coffee—
that oily black slick

in the pot when I
was a kid—it meant papa
was working again,

couldn’t be bothered . . .
now my son’s shouting for me
from his bed, wanting

what I once wanted—
hell—just once?—want still, to be
keenly listened to.

I shake off coffee’s
onrush, this nightmare’s wild ride,
shush other voices.

Through parted curtains
the sun’s a thermometer
rising in the gap;

my son’s got a dream
to tell. Quiet, busy brain,
I must listen well.

Background of Poem;
The poem “Wake Up Call” is from my book Black Ice, which will be published by Turning Point Press in 2015. The book is a series of poems dealing with my father’s dementia and death, and my relationship with my son Jules. This poem records a dream I had while writing these poems. Where I live in Santa Cruz, California, the recycling and garbage truck trundle past our house at ungodly early hours. Once, when he was young and both of us woke early, we raced out in our pajamas to take in the pre-dawn sight of the giant grappling arm descending to hook and hoist our bins and fling them over its back. This reminds me of the scene from Star Wars where their escape lands them in a refuse room and the walls begin to squeeze in. In my dream I was pulled out of by the bitter scent of the coffee and realized this couldn’t possibly be reality. When composing the (mostly) playful poem I came to understand how much I missed having my father around when I was young. He was often up in the attic (reached by a steep stair behind a low, narrow door—once he smacked his brow by not bending down enough and I heard my first volley of swears), working on his dissertation. He’d emerge to refill his coffee mug from the pot that was always on the stove, blackening and thickening throughout the day. I still dislike that smell so many relish, probably because it tells me my father’s away, working (or reading James Joyce’s Ulysses, as I later discovered). He wasn’t there to listen to his son’s thoughts or read his first feeble attempts at composing poems. And I wonder if my writing—even about my son—gets in the way of my being with him, and how every father struggles with competing claims.

Poet 17
Jon Tribble

Jon Tribble is the managing editor of CRAB ORCHARD REVIEW ( and the series editor of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry published by Southern Illinois University Press. He is the recipient of a 2003 Artist Fellowship Award in Poetry from the Illinois Arts Council and his poems have appeared in journals and anthologies, including PLOUGHSHARES, POETRY, CRAZYHORSE, QUARTERLY WEST, and THE JAZZ POETRY ANTHOLOGY. His work was selected as the 2001 winner of the Campbell Corner Poetry Prize from Sarah Lawrence College. He teaches creative writing and literature, and directs undergraduate and graduate students in internships and independent study in editing and literary publishing for the Department of English at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Underwater Medicine

I can’t see you through silver clouds of fish,
dark veils of algae tangle between us until
your faint trail of bubbles disappears and I
surface to find the water glancing back
only my solitary reflection.  And if for now

it’s just my face on the side of a frosted stein
of black and tan, the bubbles’ carbonation
floating up to the head as you pour yourself
another and sit back to tell me how the Navy
will train you to dive with welding crews

on offshore platforms in the North Atlantic,
or station you on submarines running silent
for months so no one can find them, I want
to understand your need for this submersion
in a career I thought would take you

into wards, ER, and ICU, places you’d help
others hold together bone and blood and breath,
not hooked up yourself to this iron lung of
diving apparatus.  In emergencies they’ll fly
you out over open water to jump in full gear

where they think the sub waits to let you
in through torpedo tubes, and, as you assure me
they’ve only lost one man in forty years,
I can’t help remembering a young man on
the D.C. Metro with his Pentagon clearance tag

on the wide lapel of his suit who kept declaring
to the woman sitting beside him doing the Post
crossword that he was the only one who knows
where all our subs are at any given moment.
As boys, we made seine nets to drag through

local ponds, revealed worlds of diatoms and
plankton under mirror microscopes, watched films
of underwater volcanoes flaming into steam,
and you even sent off a dollar and a quarter
for a piece of real coral.  But now we know

reefs are sharp and treacherous, not like
that novelty you carried as a talisman,
and the only silt we’re concerned with settles
at the bottom of these bottles of stout and ale
we’re emptying.  It’s not going to change

how you feel, but each time you say the Navy
needs doctors ready to go under, I want
to hold you back, whisper I can feel tides
sucking in like heavy breaths.  You’ll learn
the language of oxygen/hydrogen mix, the threat

of nitrogen narcosis, the benign shadow
of the napoleon fish and knife-like silhouette
of barracuda stalking, but I have no answers,
only my hope your tanks will always be full,
that you’ll be watchful, patient and surface slow.

Background of poem:
“Underwater Medicine” was written at a time my brother, who is a doctor and a public health and an infectious disease specialist, was being offered possible assignments to request in the U.S. Navy coming out of his residency. One of those assignments was working as a ship’s doctor on either an aircraft carrier, a large ship, or a nuclear submarine. We both loved marine biology growing up, and, though the ocean fascinated each of us in a big way, practicing medicine underwater in a sub was immediately at the bottom of his list of desired postings.
I did once sit across from a young man wearing Pentagon credentials on the D.C. Metro who kept telling his seat companion that he was the only person who knew “where all the subs were.”
The poem tries to bring together these different things and the way this circumstance touched on the nature of sibling relationships and the way the ocean lives still in my imagination.

Poet 18
Laura Madeline Wiseman

Laura Madeline Wiseman’s books are Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience, Queen of the Platform, and Sprung. She is also the author of the collaborative book Intimates and Fools with artist Sally Deskins, two letterpress books, and eight chapbooks, including Spindrift. She is the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. She holds a doctorate from the University of Nebraska and has received an Academy of American Poets Award, a Mari Sandoz/Prairie Schooner Award, and the Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, Poet Lore, and Feminist Studies.

The Blue Funeral 

To help us let go of our dead,
all the morticians dress in suits
for the business of paperwork:
death certificates, plots, and permits.
You can reach one always by phone.

In ties and wingtips, they move slowly.
Hands cup coffee or lift cigarettes
in the break-room, but fold before them
as they speak of small things like the weather.

These men laugh and offer witticisms
with a softness around their mouths.
Their eyes hold yours, but glance away
to the thick carpet if you do.

The low tones and slight shake
of the director’s voice can be heard
as he cradles the landline phone
to tell someone of today’s service.

Whenever they receive a call, one leaves
the room to listen to what is required
of him. He bows his head and murmurs,
Yes, I can be there shortly.

During a visitation they escort to chairs,
they open doors, and they stand still,
feet and posture resigned
near the entrance of the funeral home.

After funerals, they shake hands.
With lips pressed together in a line
and wrinkles around their eyes,
they meet your gaze and nod.

These are the ones you want near you
when your world has shrunken
to a catch in your throat, the bend
of your head and shoulders as you feel
the damp corners of a tissue tremble.

from Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink, 2014)

Background of Poem:
“The Blue Funeral” is the final concluding poem in my new book Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink, 2014), which is a campy, contemporary retelling of the Bluebeard myth. It charts the love of three sisters who each marry the same man upon the demise of the sister who preceded her. Bluebeard is usually framed as a story of blood and gore, but this retelling focuses on the love each of his unfortunate wives felt, the first blush of romance and young marriage, the complicated turns of mature desire and the past we bring into our present affections.

Poet 19
Sheri L. Wright

Two –time Pushcart Prize and Kentucky Poet Laureate nominee, Sheri L. Wright is the author of six books of poetry, including the most recent, The Feast of Erasure.  Wright’s visual work has appeared in numerous journals, including Blood Orange Review.  In May 2012, Ms. Wright was a contributor to the Sister Cities Project Lvlds:  Creatively Linking Leeds and Louisville.  Her photography has been shown across the Ohio Valley region and abroad.  Currently, she is working on her first documentary film, Tracking Fire. 

The Unearthing of Sara


The storm found her first,
uprooted her unrest over the gnarls of an elm
that clutched the earth like arthritic fingers,
scattered it underneath chicory
blooming wild in the empty lot.

Someone’s child plucked a femur
from barbs of crabgrass stitched along the sidewalk,
ran home with his misbelieved proof
of a dog poisoned by father.


The phone does not ring this early with good news.
A policeman’s words shuffle like a drunk through my head
and I wonder if I will be arrested before I can claim her bones,
the high school ring tarnished against her breastplate
kept secret from another,
I hold onto the steering wheel like a drowning woman
being towed to safety.
But, there is no safe place.


I snap through the police tape
into someone’s hands covered with the earth
that absorbed her youth, the outline of her face,
the grimace she wore like a death mask
that stretched into a scream under the silence
bound in the roots of trees that took her memory,
whispered her life on the sighs of falling leaves.

Once, I heard them in a dream
words rustled together, pulled down
into the damp of November,
erased like chalk-drawn figures in rain.


And what is rest, if not release
from drifting in another’s desire,
desire that reverses course like The Saint John –
brine roiling into sweet,
pounding back the flow of spring into winter,
suffocating flesh starved for mercy,
one last breath.

Background of poem:
The Unearthing of Sara is inspired by an episode of Law And Order, in which a victim was found long buried.  As she was exhumed, people stood in the dirt that held traces of her existence as it faded away.