What the Cat Dragged In   Wednesday, March 25, 2015






After about five years of writing a daily poem every day it finally occur ed to me that I am writing a daily journal of my life and my life's interest, with all the good and bad that implies. This past week, it's the bad, as my daily poem, which I always share here, were mostly expression of the frustrations of a blocked poet.

Maybe we'll get some of the good next week. This week, to offset the bad, I'm also using some old poems that are  generally of a better nature.

My anthology for his week is Exchanges, sub-titled "translation and commentary," issue Number 8,  Spring 1997. It was published by The Translation Laboratory at the University of Iowa.

My poems, new and old, and poems from my library as  always.


Me
 a piece of all that was and  will be 

Zehra Cirak
Grandmother's Nods

Me
two mornings in a row

David St. John
The Reef

Me
from behind the clouds

Nenrik Nordbrand
At the Gate

Me
coffeeshop shorts, six to a cup

Frank O'Hara
River

Me
overdrawn  

Christian Morgenstern     
The Pike

Me
too late

Seamus Hearney
The Clothes Shrine

Me
insufficient

Liutauras Degesys
Your Girlfriend is a Day 1
Your Girlfriend is a Day 1 (literal translation)

Me
ennui

Aleda Shirley
Plaint

Me
waiting for a day-bright star

Gyrdir Eliason
Visitation
Under a Spring Sun

Me
a.m. Tuesday

Cathy Song
The White Porch

Me
two years on the Blanco

Ozdemir Asaf
Third
Full Point
Step
Lavinia  

Me
hep, hep, hep to  the jive  
                  

    








I like science news in general and this kind of  science news especially. It seems with ever fossil unearthed we learn more about what we are and how we became it.









a piece of all that was and will be

they have found
perhaps
a part of the missing link
between late Lucy
and early us

part of a jawbone
and several teeth from
a million or so years ago,
part of the face of a creature
who walked the earth,
not-Lucy and not-us,
an in-betweener
who bridged
some portion of
the near endless break
between us,
the missing  links
being found again piece
by piece, bone by bone...

and I think of all of them,
those not-us and those
almost-us and their great
and bloody
thrashing that weaved the way,
for now,
to the time of us,
and I wonder if they
might have taken another
junction had they knows
that their struggle
would lead
not to the angels
that even then in some part
of their primitive brain
they might imagine,
but to
us

~~~

might they be comforted
knowing
that the essences
of themselves
that traveled all this way
through time continue
that timeless march,
and that we, like they,
are not the end of creation
but only another stop in between,
a genetic roadhouse, a place
to be for now, but not a place
to stay...

we, with all our vanities,
like them, a tiny part of what was
and, in time, a tiny part
of what will be










The first poem from  this  week's Exchanges anthology is Zehra Cirak. Born in Istanbul, the poet moved to Karlsruhe, German as an infant in 1963. She has lived in Berlin since 1982 and has her work published in various anthologies and journals.

Her poem was translated from German  by Elizabeth Oehlkers.











Grandmother's Nods

Is it true?
Can it be that in those years lived long ago
she had lips
that pressed like a hot iron
on Grandfather's mouth
till he glowed with her love?

Today Grandmother's  face is lipless
since Grandfather's beautification
she's drawn them within like here soft words
the folded slit
which once so flattened Grandfather
rarely open now

Today Grandmother will be 99
and to all our begging and bothering
for her to tell us stories from long ago
she nods without a word
sometimes she shakes her head
looks through us and smiles
as if she sees Grandfather
she blinks and still  knows despite the distance
his sore lips














This is an old  poem from 2013.










two  mornings in a row

two mornings
in a row,
moon above the mist
on Apache Creek,
a button,
bright as a baby sun,
surfing
the stream on the vapor
above it...

two
December  mornings
in a row,
Christmas moon
bright
as the star
atop the tree,
watching
over the pale  drifting shadows
of slow winter
night










The first poem from my library this week is by David St. John, taken from his book Study for the World's Body. The book was published in 1994 by Harper Collins.

Born in 1949, St. John has been honored over the course of his career with many of the most significant prizes for poets.










The Reef

The most graceful of misunderstandings
I could no keep close at hand
She paused a moment
At the door as she adjusted her scarf against
The  winds & spray across the inlet to the shore

I sat alone above my pale vodka
Watching its  smokey trails of peppercorns
Rising toward my lips

& while I flicked the radio dial
Trying to pick up the Cuban station or even
The static  of "The Reggae Rooster" from Jamaica

I watched the waves foam above the coral & recede

They foam breathlessly again & again
As a school of yellowtail
Rose together to the surface & then suddenly dove
Touched I knew by the long silver glove

Of the barracuda she loved to watch each afternoon
As she let the boat drift in its endlessly

Widening & broken arc.











I haven't done much good in the way poetry recently, but I keep slugging, looking for help from wherever it might come.










from behind the clouds

dead, damp quiet
chokes the day

overhead
Chopin's light voice

like an angel
whispering

through the
silent smothering  veil

I wait
for a sign

a secret something
from the angel's  murmur

to  suggest direction,
to  show  a course

from this shrouded now
to a new day

waiting
behind the clouds









Next from this week's anthology is Danish poet Henrik Nordbrandt who has published more than 20 collections of poetry. His poem was translated from Danish by Thom Satterlee.

This poem is one of a number of elegies he wrote after the sudden death of his girlfriend.










At the Gate

1.

In the dream
at the gate to your grave
you stopped me
with the same  words
I had spoken in a dream
where  I was dead  before you

now I can no longer dream.

2.
Rusty and on squeaking hinges
all the gates I have ever
seen, heard, or described
closed one after the other
under a gray sky.

That was all there was
in my consciousness, earth.

3.
What else can I say about a world
where your ashes sit  in an urn
other than that?

4.
On every trip you travel ahead of me.
On the platforms I see you tracks in fresh snow.
When the train begins to move
you jump out of the back car

in order to reach the next station before me.

5.
Outside the small towns with their sleepy street lights:
sports stadiums as bright as  capitol cities.

Your eyeglasses glimmered under the spotlights.

Where else should you search for the ring
which, the night the power went out,
rolled under the bed and was gone.

6.
"Likewise"
was my last word to you
on the telephone
when you said you missed me.
Likewise, Eternity!

7.
You are gone.

Three words. And not one
of them
now exists in any

other context.












Here's a coffeehouse observational from 2007. This was about four or five coffeehouses before my current hide-out.












coffeeshop shorts, six to a cup

1
wouldn't it be  cool
to read the poems
the giants
chose to never write
and compare
them
to  mine

mine
I bet
are just as fine

2

the vastly
pregnant
woman
rubs her belly
imagining
with  her fingertips
the slight
vibration
of a sigh

3

all the pretty girls
say
"hi"
to me

good father
figures
I guess
are hard
to find

4

the south Texas
girl
born and raised
wears  a fur hat
and a fur coat
and fur boots
and though
it's fifteen degrees
above freezing
imagines
snowflakes
landing softly
on the open palm
of her  fur-lined
glove

5

a broad
broad
round
woman comes in
with a trim and handsome
young man
like from the cover
of "GQ" or such

she laughs
in peals
like bright balloons
and all is explained

6

everyone
has a story
bur rare
are those
I have the skill
to tell

still
I keep looking
listening
searching
collecting
anyway

satisfied  to find
just those few








From my library,  this  poem  is by Frank O'Hara and it's taken from his book, Meditations In an Emergency, published by Grove Press in 1957.

Born in 1926, O'Hara was a writer, poet  and  art critic. Through his job as  curator at the Museum of Modern Art, he became a prominent figure in New York City's art world. He died in 1966 after being run over while vacationing on Fire Island.








River

Whole days would go by, and  later their years,
while  I thought of noting but its darkness
drifting like a bridge against the sky,
Day after day I dreamily sought its melancholy,
its searching, its soft banks enfolded me,
and upon  my lengthening neck its kiss
was murmuring like a wound. My very life
became the inhalation of its weekly ponderings
and sometimes in the sunlight my eyes,
walled in water, would glimpse the pathway
to the great sea. For it was there I was being borne.
Then for a moment my strengthening arms
would cry out upon the leafy crest of  the air
like whitecaps, lightning, swift as pain,
would go through me on its way to the forest,
and I'd sink back upon that brutal tenderness
that bore me on, that held me like a slave
in its liquid distances of eyes, and one day,
though weeping for my caresses, would abandon me,
moment of infinitely salty air! sun fluttering
like a signal upon the open flesh of the world.











More of the same struggling to find the lost moment when inspiration might strike.










overdrawn

back
by the interstate,
searching through  the mist and fog
for the lost key
to my bank of morning
momentum

overdrawn
I  think, account balance
zero

an empty vault
echoing
with the  pain
of  passions broken,
inspiration
lying on the weed-choked  roadside,
waiting for the Samaritan
who will come
and pull the carcass
from the
ditch
and push it on its
crippled
way










Next from the Exchanges one of a number of poems in the book by Christian Morgenstern, a German humorist know for his  word play, which apparently makes him difficult to translate. Born in 1871, he died in 1914.

His poems in the book were translated from German by Mark Herman and Ronnie Apter.










The Pike

A pike, converted by Saint Anthony
together with his wife and family,
aspired to morals prelapsarian,
resolving to think vegetarian.

On water weeds alone he dined:
on water groats and water grass.
But groats and grass disgorged,  alas,
as gross green globs from his behind.

The whole  polluted river stank.
Five hundred dead fish lined the bank.
Quickly summoned, the Saint said solely
these words: holy! holy! holy!










 Here's another old poem, this one from 2008.

When I wrote this, I  shared my morning coffeeshop with a table of old guys in their 70's and 80's. There was always some good-natured  heckling between us early on, before we all went about our regular business, mine writing a poem, their's second-guessing Wall Street.












too late

the geezer table
is one short today

Robert
of the long white
sideburns
who can quote
from memory everything
Rush has said
for the past 15 years,

is absent

which is a worry
given the average age
at the table
is at  least 10 years older
than me,
all subject
to the miseries
and unexpected calamities
of old age

it is not  good
when one
does not appear
where and when
one always appears

is he wandering
in his car,
lost on I-10,
heading for El Paso
when all he  wanted to do
was make his regular short  trip
to  the coffee shop

or is he stroke-afflicted,

lying
on the cold tile
in his bathroom ,
unable to get up, unable
to call

or is he  dead?

telephone calls
are made
tracking begins

should they do more?

would he be embarrassed
if  they went to his house
and he came to his front door
in his pinstripe Hugh Hefner pajamas, awakened from
a long-overdue late sleep ?

but what if the worst had occurred,
should they risk their own
and his embarrassment?

men,
decisive
in their youth,
cannot decide what to do

but
then,
Robert comes in and takes his seat

howdy, fellas
what's up? he says
as he sits

you're late, they say,
we were  going to buy your coffee today

but
up you're too  late









This poem is by Seamus Heaney, Irish poet, playwright,  translator, lecturer and the 1995 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The poem is from his book  Electric Light, published  by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2001.










The Clothes Shrine

It  was a whole new sweetness
In the early days to find
Light white muslin blouses
On a see-through nylon line
Drip-drying in the bathroom
Or a nylon slip in the shrine
of its own electricity -
As if St. Brigid once more
Had rigged up a ray of sun
Like the one she'd  strung on
To dry her own cloak on
(Hard-pressed Brigid, so
Unstoppably on the go) -
The damp and slump and unfair
Drag of the workaday
Made light of and got through
As usual, brilliantly.











More angst  from  the empty-headed poet.











insufficient

day dark
sky wet
rivulets of misty-gather
fall
from the brim of my
insufficient
hat

~~~

day
like a blank  line
on a hot
check

insufficient
ambition
to transit dreams
of the night

~~~

combination
gym/church/coffeehouse

coffeehouse room filled with
young women
in stretch pants and skimpy
tops
waiting for their yoga class

insufficient
ambition
to stretch with them


harvest
night dreams instead

~~~

the day waits
but
I don't think it waits
for me

~~~

the poem hidden
under my
pillow

waits for me
to  find it

but
insufficient ambition
for the search
I  settle for  drivel
instead








Lithuanian poet Liutauras Degesys has the next poem from the anthology. He is associate professor  of philosophy at the Vilnius Pedagogical University where he also directs a writing project. He is the author of five books of poetry and at least  forty pop songs that have been set to music from his texts.

Actually, this is the same poem twice, illustrating the difference between a poetic translation and a literal translation, thus also illustrating the art of a good translator. Both versions were translated by both the author and Jennifer Tanner.






Your Girlfriend is a Day I

Gray bookworm, always by yourself -
A dormouse,silkworm.
The day - your girlfriend, on the shelf -
A doll-girl, lovelorn.

She shimmers in the golden  dust
So bright, so virgin -
These smiles can't stir up any lust.

You spin through the words of silk and sand -
Outside it's raining.
Your heart can't hear it's one fine strand
That's stretching, fraying.


Your Girlfriend Is a Day I (literal translation)

You alone are the gray eater of books
The mouse - the silkworm,
With a futile effort the pretty day-dolly
Is looking at you senseless.

She is all covered by the golden dust,
She radiates the love
She is so innocent, virgin, bright,
And at  the same time absolutely sexless.

You are reading and do not hear anything
You don't hear the rain that starts
You do not hear that one small thread
Somewhere in your heart became thinner.












This old poem is from 2009.

Sometimes, you know,  you just get so tired.













ennui

ennui -

ennui -

always liked that
word

sounds like some
rare
African antelope
or anteater
from South America
or maybe a bird
high in the trees
on some small South Pacific
island,  crying
ennui...
ennui...
ennui...

maybe I caught it
from the birds

12 hours sleep
last night
and another hour
already this afternoon
and I  feel like I ought to go
back to bed right now

the sun seems dimmed,
sound smothered
as if through a thick wool blanket,
brain like a blind  dog
in the fog,
all  sharpness
dulled,
all passion
banked,
curiosity
buried in a burlap bag
on a dull plain
under
suburban crab grass

I
think
I'll  quit this poem

my fingers
are tired of typing










The next poem from my library is by Mississippi poet, Aleda Shirley, from  her book Dark Familiar, published in 2006 by Sarabande Books.

Shirley, born in 1955, died in 2008.











Plaint

 Here, the sky to the north is a bright slate blue,
full of portent & ready to go.
But it won't snow,  the leaves have just peaked.
And the gingkos, the one by the library on State Street
& the one two houses  down on Pinehurst -

those leaves know the past is bright & warm
& can be held, briefly,  aloft. But a night,
if not this one, then Thursday or Friday, will change
all this & the trees will spend their wealth
recklessly into the street & onto the lawns

I'll hear it as I try to sleep, the sound of falling
beneath other  sounds. And the next day
someone will pay someone else
to rake them, blow  them, bag them:
up & down the street black vinyl bags

that might be mistaken, from the distance of the  sky,
for treasure washed up, bags of gold
swathed in seaweed. On the weather channel
scraps of azure mean snow is general in Kentucky.
For years I waited fro the dust to settle on the past

& dim the auric-rose of maple leaves
on a path in Cave Hill, to soften the tattered sleet
on the windshield of my old blue car, but this dust
is like that of a volcano, a lie, a lens distorting dawn
& sunset into luster for years after the event.












I didn't realize what  a mealy-mouthed whiner I was becoming.









waiting for a day-bright star

Sunday morning
at Starbucks again,
a  place between places

waiting on a wet,  dim
day
for a dry sun to  rise,
waiting
for clouds to break,
waiting
for a message
to be  written  by some more
confident hand on the new-
morning blue,
any message, just a hint
even if only a small one of
a new track to follow,
waiting
to  know what's  waiting for  me...

Sunday morning at  Starbucks
again,
a time between
time,
a place between places,
waiting
for a star, a day-bright star,
to follow...

waiting for the time of no  more
waiting











Here, from the week's anthology is a poem by  Icelandic poet Gyrdir Eliason who has published twenty books since his debut in 1983 at the age of 22. One of the best known contemporary Icelandic poets, he has  also produced two novels, several short stories, and translations. His translators were Astradur Eysteinsson and Christopher Mattison.










Visitation

All winter long, night
moves over the mountain
and comes upon the green lamp
in the window
of the green house

Night presses up against
the lamp, wanting
this faint light, but
the light's glimmer
is from the stars and
moon

A transparent thread
connects the lamp
and astral bodies, so
the light won't go
out

Inside the window -
two shadows
one large, the other smaller
are slowly lit up


Under a Spring Sun

I think I hear
the sharpening
of a scythe

But that's
unlikely this
early in
spring

Even so, the steel
glimmers by
the blue house












From 2010, a report  from a Tuesday, early.













a.m. Tuesday

my new
coffeehouse

run
by a bald guy
in  a kilt

and,
oh...
a green ponytail

on the very
back
of his head

while
in the corner
a woman in a low-

cut blouse
and very white breasts
texts

continually
for two hours
fine thin fingers

peck peck pecking
like a chicken
pulling elegant worms

in the
farm yard

~~~

7 a.m.
give  or  take
ten minutes

the morning
ambulance passes
on the interstate

red lights blazing
siren unheard
behind my glass

wall
finally
someone making

the commuters crash
on time
Italian fascists

everywhere
applaud
bravo bravo bravissimo

~~~

dogs bark
for miles around
at 5 a.m.

I get up
to see  what they know
see nothing

jealous
of their  secrets
I go for breakfast

I leave  them
behind
for I am human

and they cannot
drive

~~~

black coffee
crispy bacon  one
egg  over easy

yoke
running
like it  knows

what
's next
but

there is no
place
on my white place

for
yellow
to hide

~~~

three days
no wind
at all

when
it finally starts  blowing
again

birds
in their nests
will be needing

a dose or  two
of
Dramamine











Last from my library this week, a poem by Cathy Song, from her book Picture Bride,  published by Yale University Press  in 1983. The book was the 1982 winner of Yale Series of Younger Poets competition.

An Asian-American poet born in Hawaii in 1955, Song has continued to write and publish since that early award.










The White Porch

I wrap the blue towel
after washing,
around the damp
weight of hair, bulky
as a sleeping cat,
and sit out on the porch.
Still dripping water,
it'll be dry by supper,
by the time the dust
settles off your shoes,
though it's only five
past noon. Think
of the luxury: how to use
the afternoon like the stretch
of lawn spread before me.
There's the laundry,
sun-warm clothes at twilight,
and the mountain of beans
in my lap. Each one,
I'll break and snap
thoughtfully in half.

But there is this slow arousal.
The small buttons
of my cotton blouse
are pulling away from my body.
I feel the strain of threads,
the swollen magnolias
heavy as a flock of birds
in the tree. Already,
the orange sponge cake
is rising in the oven.

I know you'll say it makes
your mouth dry
and I'll watch you
drench your  slice of it
in canned peaches
and lick the plate clean.

So much hair, my mother
used to say, grabbing
the thick  braided rope
in her hands while we washed
the breakfast dishes, discussing
dishes and pastries.
My mind often elsewhere
as we did the morning chores together.
Sometimes a few strands
would catch in her gold ring.
I worked hard then,
anticipating the hour
when I would let the rope down
at night, strips of sheets,
knotted and tied,
while she slept t in tight blankets.
My hair, freshly washed
like a measure of wealth,
like a bridal veil.
Crouching in the grass,
you would wait for the signal,
for the movement of curtains
before releasing yourself
from the shadow of moths.
Cloth, hair and hands,
smuggling you in.










This is a new  poem from a couple of weeks  ago, before I fell in the funk I have so completely demonstrated with my poems so far.

This time, a bit of personal history instead.









two  years on the Blanco

two years living on the Blanco
River  in a 30-ft trailer
with Sam...

after four years in military
dormitories, 30 feet seemed
expansive,  and Sam, good  Sam,
born on my bed, was the only
companion I needed...

watching the sun climb across
the tiny wooded island
in the middle of the river, new-cut
wood chips shining in early light
like jagged nuggets of gold
scattered across the riverbank...

binge-thinking and writing
after driving back  roads, drinking
through the darkest hours,  beer can
snuggled between my legs...

living on a monthly GI Bill check,
poverty-fed on the staples of  pinto bans,
cornbread and the never-far-from-reach
beer...


ramblings through  my mind
of stories and poems
in the first half-light, stories and poems,
rarely good, but presenting a promise to me
that something was there, something
found on the small mid-river island,then lost
until found again
30 years
later...

~~~

the bearded Vet, the writer in a fatigue jacket,
another ex-military staple,  sitting with my dog
in a tiny forest of island trees,
smoking through the first shadows
of dawn, thinking and writing
about the day and night just gone, the day
and night to  come, uncertain of  all
but the power of the  pen in my hand
if I could just find the key that would
unlock it...

knowing I was a kind of living cliche,
enjoying the living of it
until real became
real,
unsure I would recognize
that real when
it came to
me,
hoping that  when  it did
it would come with  something
better than pinto beans
and cornbread...

so that I could be
rid at last
of the feeling of songs
unfinished

and a life  too long undone








Next from the anthology, several small pieces by Turkish poet Ozdemir Asaf. His work is translated from Turkish twice, into both English and Spanish, by two translators,  Marta Guirao and Ayhan Kaya.

The poet was born in 1923 and died in 1982. Originally a student of law and economics, he worked for a translator for a while, then opened his own publishing house where he published seven books of poetry.







Third

When a word meets another,
When a sound meets another,
When a person meets another,
They grow, grow,  grow before death.


Full  Point

I would have  been  content if she had told me lies.
But she lied  to me.


Step

I know three things.
I'll tell them to whoever makes them four by listening.


Lavinia

I won't tell you don't go.
You're getting cold, take my jacket.
These are the most beautiful hours of the day.
Stay with me.

I won't tell you don't go.
It's up to you.
If you want lies, I'll  tell you lies,
But you will get hurt.

I won't tell you, don't go.
But don't go,  Lavinia.
I'll hide  your name
Not even you will know it, Lavinia.












Been feeling down for a couple of weeks now. What I need is to break out one of Cab's CD's. He always makes me feel good.











hep, hep, hep to  the jive

how sad for us
the loss
of Cab Calloway
some years
back

forget all that Glen Miller
schmaltzy stuff
and all those other big band legends
from the 1930s and 40s

it was Cab,
Minnie the Moocher's very best man
who, tossing his long
straight hair,
had all the fun, who sang
"everyone eats at my house,"
his music, laid out for everyone,
an unequaled table of delight

where is the joy in  today's music?

with Cab Calloway we had it
and now it's
gone

RIP









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3 Comments:
at 11:31 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

i never see any other comments? do other people read this?
ALLEN! ALLEN?
the pome by o harra is prose
the photo underneath it- desert dottings? fabulous
congratz

at 11:52 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

ms shirley's pome is also prose
tree w snow behind it another grt photo-
concentrate on photos
especially black & white
advice to allen he will not follow)

at 10:55 AM Blogger judysnwnotes said...

Enthralled by "Grandmother's Nods" and her line about "lips that pressed like a hot iron..." wow!

Be back later to read more..
- judy

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