Whistling Past the Graveyard   Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A new world is on the horizon and it is an unfriendly place for American patriots.


I am America

I am America
in exile...

yet still I have the faith
of my forefathers and foremothers,
and my brothers who served,
an all those who served with me,
and all the others who served, those
who died and those who didn't,
and those who built the railroads
and the dams and those who tell the land
to bring home each year a harvest of bounty,
and those who dug the ore for those who smelted
the iron for those who built our bridges, those
who built our tall buildings, all the Sandbergean heroes,
O, how he understood the promise of America for all,
for those women who marched for the vote, those men and women
who marched for freedom and for those who died
in that freedom war as well as all the other wars, how my faith
is with them, heroes all, as well as with those who teach
and those who heal, those who protect our streets
and our livelihoods, and those who write our great novels,
and those who only try for greatness, and those who pen our
poems and sing our songs, those who make the news and truth
available to us who care to listen, those
who make the art and music and dream of us
for us...

heroes all and many more, in them I put my faith,
my conviction that those who have lost confidence in America
and it's history and principles and the simple values of human
decency will lose in the end, that their day will end and ours will
come again in my country , my America, cleansed and worthy again
of its dreams and of its heroes,  those heroes who built
America, those who have temporarily lost their way and those 
who never will, those who will make its stars
bright again in a new, bright day of freedom and justice and
decent respect for all...








Same-o, same-o.



Me
afire with desire

Robert Hass
The Problem Describing Trees
That Music

Me
1969

Michelle Boisseau
Tariff

Me
being of dual purpose

Diane Wakoski
Some Pumpkins
Seeing Robert in the Crystal Ball
Stones
Smoke  

Me
what we found in grandma's attic

David Rivard
Little Wing

Me
looking through the tall wall of windows

Marcos McPeek Villatoro
To Miguel Angel Asturias

Me
out of thin air

Charles Simic
Leaves

Me
when it gets cold in San Antonio

Margarita Aliger
I Live with a Bullet

Me
so, I'm a second life poet

Rosie Bailey
Watersheds
7:30 A.M.

Me
walking the dogs

Tony Hoagland
Lie Down with a Man

Me
rear guard

Thomas R. Smith
Loon's Flight
March Wind

Me
retaining appreciation
                 









This is a poem from before Christmas.











afire with desire

a red Corvette
convertible
pulled up beside
me
in the supermarket
parking lot
and a beautiful
young woman
climbed 
out of the driver's 
seat, blond,
of course, shapely,
her smile
in the early light
brilliant,
a smile for me,
brilliant
or maybe for my
beautiful
dog
Bella
with her head
hanging
out the window

(did I mention the
yoga pants?)

anyway, 
afire with desire
my heart
commenced to
pounding
at a fearsome
pace, my eyes
near
watering
with 
the craving
for the long
desired...

I want what
I want,
damn the
impossibility
of it, and
I
really 
really 
always wanted
one of those, my heart's
desire, a candy-apple
red
Corvett4e
convertible

broken hearted now
as the red Corvette in the yoga pants
and my little orange
Hyundai
go our separate 
ways

and the day begins  with
another dream
denied









First from my library this week, here are two short poem by Robert Hass. Born in 1941, Hass was Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997. Since then he has won the National Book Award in 2007 and the Pulitzer Prize in 2008.

The poems are from his book Time and Materials (for which his Pulitzer Prize was awarded), published by Harper Collins (Ecco) in 2007.










The Problem of Describing Trees

The aspen glitters in the wind
And that delights us.

The leaf flutters, turning.
Because that motion in the heat of August
Protects its cells from drying out. Likewise the leaf
Of the cottonwood

The gene pool threw up a wobbly stem
And the tree danced. No.
The tree capitalized.
No.  There are limits to  saying,
In language, what the tree did.

It is good sometimes for poetry to disenchant us.

Dance with me, dancer. Oh, I will.

Mountains, sky,
The aspen  doing something in the wind.



That Music

The creek's silver in the sun of almost August,
And bright, dry air, and the last runnels of snowmelt.
Percolating through the roots of mountain grasses
Vinegar weed, golden smoke,  or meadow rust.

Do they confer, do the lovers' bodies
In the summer dusk, his breath, her sleeping face,
Confer -, does thee slow breeze in the pines?
If you were the interpreter, if that were your task.












More old poems beginning with this from 2015.

Photo from 1969.








1969

finished my military
service
and back after four years
to finish my education
at Southwest Texas State University
living
with my dog Sam
in a tiny trailer on the Blanco River
living poor
on the GI Bill
eating pinto beans
drinking Lone Star
watching snakes and gray-skinned
river cows
bask in the dark
green
water
flowing
watching Sam chase
rabbits
through the woods and high
grass meadows
great leaps
like an  African gazelle
to follow the movements
of her prey
through the grass

me writing
staying up all night
beneath a fluid sea
of hill country
stars
my first concentrated
effort at writing

drinking Lone Star
beside my tiny trailer
eating pinto beans watching snakes
and river cows
and the diamond field
of stars
staying u  all night
writing poetry
drinking Lone Star
writing

being poor
in a free kind of way









Next from my library, Michelle Boisseau, from her book, Trembling Air, published in 2003 by the University of Arkansas Press.

Born in 1955, Boisseau is author of five poetry collections. She is professor of English at  the University of Missouri - Kansas City,  with her textbook, Writing Poems in its 8th edition.











Tariff

It takes time to appreciate how I once
made a friend so unhappy the next night
on the road from Chauncey to Amesville, Ohio,
she  steered her Fiat Spider head on
into an on-coming truck. Her boyfriend
identified her waitress uniform.
She's been dead now for more than twenty years.
What I did to hurt her I won't tell you -
so you're free to imagine any vicious,
self-indulgent, hapless blunder or crime

while I go bout turning this into a poem again,
turning over heavy marl, the garden
in spring, and the wind picks up, flinging soil
against my neck, behind my ears, into my teeth.
You have to get dirty: what appreciate
means is to price. After living a while
you understand the ways you have to pay.










Another post-election consideration. I expect this will keep up for the next four years.










being of dual purpose

I've been
a mighty grouch
since the election
and while I don't want
to loose the attitude entirely,
still vigilant for the next four year,
righteous wrath sustained, always ready
for conflict, always ready to fight back, always
judging and denying cover to the evil that is upon
us, but knowing also beautiful days are upon
us as well, bird that will sing, babies that
will tremble with laughter, dogs and
cats that fight and yet forgive, that
 still flowers remain, horses
grazing in their fields,
family and good
fellows to
sustain
us

two circles of life to live, necessary, but also necessary
to never let the one overwhelm the other,
the duality of life during times when
siege engines loom dark and
ominous at out
gates









Several poems now by Diane Wakoski from her book The Rings of Saturn, published in 1986 by Black Sparrow Press.

Born in 1937, Wakoski has published more than 40 collections of poetry. She has taught at Michigan State University since 1976.










Some Pumpkins

lie
on our patio brick

Robert  says
now
I can read
each autumn morning
by pumpkin light.


Seeing Robert in the Crystal Ball

He's in the corner,
a figure like a crow
with one long shoe, like a tree reaching over
water.
An upside-down lighted lamp
floats on the other side of the room,
like a cow grazing in a field.
There are three other people
in this room,
but none in the ball. Only crow-Robert,
on his cottonwood shoe, with his
lighted-cow,
that once was a room.


Stones

Cast a white grid
still as oil.
The reflecting water
shrugs  its undulating shoulders,
the stones' light, a shawl
over this sleeping woman's torso.


Smoke

Smoke  from chimneys
in winter
is the breath
of the house.  Makes you wonder
as you see people on
the street, and their breath billowing out
of mouths as clouds
if there is not also some fire of snapping flames
consuming logs of ash and cedar, oak,
maple, birch. Right in
the belly,
an orange-flamed fire,
burning and pushing
those steamy  clumps of language
into the air.












From 2014.












what we found in Grandma's attic

memories,
boxes of memories,
trinkets and seashell treasures
from county fairs
and rodeos
and neighborhood garage sales...

a straw hat,
a guitar with three broken strings
and two missing frets,
a cane  pole with lead sinkers
and a red and white bobber, a catcher's mitt
and a wooden bat,  a
tiny ring inscribed
"Baby Charles"
and none of us know who
Baby Charles is or was, a train ticket,
Laredo to Del Rio,
never used,
a sun bonnet, yellow
with purple flowers,
a collection of Comanche arrowheads,
old maps
with lines drawn in dark, soft pencil lead,
tracing country roads
long since abandoned,
rebuilt for faster, sleeker cars
than ever drove there before, an
old wallet with two five dollar bills
tucked away in a secret pocket,
a bundle of letters
written
in  fine, feminine hand -
we read the first page
and no more for from the first
it  was clear the thin, jasmine scented
letters, still smelling so sweet
after so many years since
sent and received,
were saved
for her to read again
and not for
us...

and photographs,
like memories, old,
faded, torn, and blurred

forget-me-nots mostly
forgot,

the only one who might remember
now lying beneath soft
grass in an after-life park of the dead

all
left behind for us
to  try to understand,
to try to know a person
familiar to us all out life, but
still at the end
unknown...

a  last chance for her to speak...

a last chance for us  to
listen










Next, this poem by David Rivard from his book Wise Poison, published in 1996 by Graywolf Press.

Born in 1953 and educated at the University of Arizona, Rivard publishes frequently in literary journals. This book, Wise Poison, won the 1996 James Laughlin Award.











Little Wing

Of all the questions
I have been lucky enough to ask
only one wants to know whose
feeling are most like my own -
just as easily
a way of asking
whose are not.
                           Like those soft
scented brushes, flourished hastily
over the back of your neck after a haircut,
some feelings, some of
mine, are too obvious
to notice, or distracting, disturbingly
vague in their swath of powder & sable.
This one is like loneliness.
It could be everyone feels it
walking the ruins
at Land's End, the Sutro baths where
sixty years ago, winter & summer
the nine mosaic-tiled saltwater pools filled
with swimmers
stroking along, bobbing, stroking.
Until the night the  palladium  dome,
an intricate Victorian lattice
of timber & glass, burned,
and was razed. The cement sluices,
the ducts for the ocean water
crumbling now, sewn with pondweed & widgeon grass.

A pleasing loneliness, don't doubt it,
to walk where so many swam.
Back & forth, under the sun.
All on my own I drift, & drift off.

The grandson
of a man & a woman who sweltered
in the pitch-humid sheds of the Connecticut Valley
rolling tobacco into cheap  cigars,
I a never surprised to hear
in the astral & swampy songs of a cardinal
an undertone of cheerfully French gloom.
So suppose the melancholy Quebecois ballads they sang
fluttered  past the heavy, resinous leaves
and,absorbed by each other's genes,
encased & encoded,
passed down to me.
                                 Then
my loneliness might need to be
protected,
by everyone else's.












I wrote this right at the end of last year.









looking out through the tall wall of windows

looking out through the tall wall
of windows
to trees, protected on four sides,
leaves lost in last week's freeze
already budding new
leaves

like life
always reasserting itself,
like me,
losing the part of my life
I most cared about
outside of family, re-inventing
myself in the years since
over and over again, something
new with each passing year,
not the life it was, but
life, the ultimate
point of it all,
take it
for
it is
what is...

my thoughts 
at the beginning of each
new year, happy 
new life
to me









Marcos McPeek Villatoro is a writer from the United States who has spent much time in South and Central America. He is author of six novels, two poetry collections, a memoir and was producer/director of the documentary "Tamale Road. A Memoir from El Salvador." He has also written essays for NPR and PBS.

His poem is from his book They Say That I Am Two, published by Arte Publico Press in 1997.








To Miguel Angel  Asturias

Scratched on the back page of my copy of "Hombres de Maiz"

Here I am, don Miguel,
in an international  airport
far from the dark women who
walk on  leather feet
and who slap tortillas so that
the sun falls into the frying pan.

Here,  where there is no earth,
only borders, stamps, passports
valued more than bodies.
The gringo stand around me,
and I detest them, as they speak
about Guatemalan colors, how cheap they are
to buy,
and those simple little Indians,
and the development of our western civilization.
("Pass me a coffee in a styrofoam  cup, please.")
I haste them, while I walk with them.

I was in your land for a short  while,
getting to know the corn man's life,
touching a few people,
risking friendship,
leaving a few tears and the hollow
vibration of echoes
under my ribs.

Please be so  kind as to permit me
to carry you to my passported country.
Thus I may stunt the pain
of nerves ripped off
the bones of land that stands
beyond this plexiglass window, beyond
the jets, the cement,
the foreigners.

Allow me passage into your works.
Though I don't know you (except by sight-
behind the faces of chapin friends)
guide me though the words and
the paragraphs,
through the colors, the  men
stopped over with machete in hand,
the women who make  tortillas out of sunlight.
Thus, perhaps I can
return to you soul-pricking county,
Guatemala.












From 2013.











out of thin air

stray dog
sniffing at  a
hypothetical
bone

doesn't know
where
it came from

doesn't know
why
it's there

not sure how
to chew
on a hypothetical 
bone
but 
knows
it's better
than chewing on
no bone
at all

~~~~~

shhhhhhh...

hypothetical  poet
at 
          work









This poem is by Charles Simic, taken from his book, Sixty Poems, published by Harcourt in 2007.

Born in 1938 in Serbia (then part of Yugoslavia), Simic was co-poetry editor for the Paris Review and Poet Laureate of the United States in 2007. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990 and was a finalist for the same award for an earlier books in 1986 and 1987.









Leaves

Lovers who take pleasure
In the company of trees,
Who seek diversion after many kisses
In each other's arms,
Watching the leaves.

The way they quiver
At the slightest breath of wind,
The way they thrill,
And shudder almost individually,
One of them beginning to shake
While the the others are still quiet,
Unaccountably, unreasonably -

What am I saying?
One leaf in a million more fearful,
More happy,
Than all the others?

On this oak tree casting
Such deep shade,
And my lids closing sleepily
With that one leaf twittering
Now darkly, now luminously.











Winter comes, even in San Antonio.











when it gets cold in San Antonio

a dim, cold morning
bathed
in yellow light

freezing
rain,
half the world hides
under last night's covers,
the other half goes crazy
on the interstate

I walked the dogs,
urged
rapid completion
of morning duties
warm
and comfortable now
in my coffeehouse,
looking out the tall wall
of windows to the
cold and quiet
yellow
day








Next I have an anthology, It's a Woman's World - A Century of Women's Voices in Poetry. The book was published by Dutton Children's Books in 2000.

For this post I chose from the book Russian poet, translator, and journalist Margarita Aliger. Born in the Ukraine in 1915, she died in Russia in 1992. A popular poet during the Soviet period, in one noted instance she spoke back to power. In a conference when Khrushchev was berating artists and writers for interfering in politics, Aliger was the only person at the conference to speak up against his stand. Later, after his forced retirement, Khrushchev wrote to the poet, apologizing for his behavior.







I Live With a Bullet...

I live
with a bullet in y heat.
I'm not going to die so soon.
It is snowing
Bright.
Children  are playing.
One may weep,
one may sing.

Only I shall not sing and weep.
We live in town, not in the forest.

I shall forget nothing as it is,
all that I know, I shall carry in my heart.

The snowy, transparent, bright
Kazan winter asks:
"How shall you live?"
I myself  do not know.
"Will you survive?"
I  do not know myself.

"How is it you did not die from the bullet?"

Already not  far from the end,
I continued living,
not because
in a distant little Kamsk town,
where the midnights are bright with snow,
where hard frost makes itself felt,
my joy and immortality
picked itself up and spoke.

"How is it you did not die from the bullet,
how did you survive the burning led?"

I continued living,
not because, when I saw the end,
my heart, beating high,
manage to persuade me
I would  be able one day
to tell of our suffering.

"How is it you did not die from the bullet
how is it the blow did not lay you low?"

I continued living,
not because,
when no strength at all was left,
I saw
the day of victory
stirring,
dawning
over the remote railway stops,
the sidings choked with snow,
beyond the moving
tank masses,
the forest
of shouldered bayonets -
the earth lay in the shadow of its wing.

Through my own
and through the misfortunes of others
I walked, regardless of obstacles, toward that day.

        Translated from Russian by Daniel Weissbort












From 2012.












so, I'm a second-life poet

so, I'm
a second-life
poet

one of those old fellas
who after several retirements
discover
we have exhausted the patience
of the labor market
and, starting to feel like we've begun
the long slide into the dark, dry well
of irrelevancy,
become partisans of the fading class
who seek to fight back against
the indifference
of the world
and our over-achieving
grandchildren
by growing a beard
and writing poetry which
we put into books hardly
anyone reads, just enough, barely so that
our relatives can convince us to  believe
they believe
we have finally made something of ourselves,
even though we know otherwise, that
when we're not at the table
there is
a lot of discussion
about what the hell is he up to now

but that doesn't discourage  us
because, you know,
we're not hurting anything
except the reputation of poetry
among those few paying any
attention,
and it turns out that whatever
its other merits
the whole poetry business
is a lot cheaper
than gardening
or playing the ponys








Next, another anthology. This one Not for the Academy - Lesbian Poets was published by Onlywomen Press, Limited in 1999.

The poet is Rosie Bailey. Born in 1932 in Northumberland and educated at Whitley Bay Grammar  School, Girton College, Cambridge and St. Anne's College,  Oxford. Taught Spanish and later became lecture and then Principal Lecturer in charge of Humanities undergraduate programs at the University of the West of England.

I really like this poet who I had never heard of  before reading these two poems. It is the kind of discovery which is the principle pleasure I get from doing "Here and Now."








Watersheds

Somewhere along the way
There must be a place
Where rain stops, and the road
Is all of a sudden dry. Or somewhere
A breath in the night where the radio's voice
Slips into dreams. The edges of things,
Where now becomes then.

You sense it sometimes when a leaf
Drops or an ambulance
Cries round the corner and you know
That for somebody - for all of us -
Things will be different. A change
Of the light. A glimpse
Of how it will be. In the middle
Of worry, haste, boredom, laughter,
The post goes. Letters.  Photographs.
Dust.


7:30 A.M.

Here is the day again
Crisp as a starched shirt
Smelling as bright.

Look what the darkness
Puts it through: those ghosts.
Those midnight doubts.
The end-of-everything
At 2 a.m. And yet

Here are the cats wanting breakfast
As if nothing had happened.

Toothpaste, marmalade, tea:
Even at the end
This is how it will be.













Another cold day in San Antonio, completely unlike the last.









walking the dogs

walking the dogs
at 7 a.m., down by the river,
two strong dogs
rarely
in agreement as to where
and what next,
I tag along,
a dog to each arm
criss-crossing,
each pulled by the dog's
temperament,
Bella,
impatient and impulsive, always
rushing to the next scent,
Ayla,
larger, but more laid-back,
content to follow
until
she isn't, stops the train
for a leisurely pee
on the perfect dandelion...

bright sunshine,
but twenty degrees,
arctic weather in South Texas,
so the street and the river
are deserted
but for 
me
being pulled willy-silly
by two dogs,
furred and frisky,
excited to see the cloud of their breath
as they play








This poem is by Tony Hoagland, taken from his book Donkey Gospel, published by Graywolf Press in 1998.

The poet was born in 1958 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. With a BA from the University of Iowa and an MFA from the University of Arizona, he teaches at the University of Houston and the Warren Wilson MFA program. Recipient of many awards and honors, this book won the 1997 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.






Lie Down with a Man

In those days I thought I had to
do everything I was afraid of,
so I lay down with a man.

It was one item on a list -
sleeping in the graveyard, under the full moon,,
not looking away from the burned girl's stricken face,
strapping myself into the catapult
of some electric blue pill.

It was the seventies, a whole generation of us
was more than willing to chainsaw through
the branch that we were sitting on
to see what  falling felt like - bump bump bump.

Knowing the worst about yourself
seemed like self-improvement then,
and suffering was adventure.

So I lay down with a man,
which I really don't remember
except that it was humorless.

Curtains fluttered in the breeze
from the radio's black grill, Van Morrison
filled up the room like astral aftershave.

I lay my mass of delusions
next to his mass of delusions
in a dark room where I struggled
with the old adversary, myself

in the form, this time, of a body -
someplace between heaven and earth,
two things I was afraid of.











From  2011.














rear guard

it's about
age 50 when men
begin to lose their butts

nobody knows why
and nobody knows where they go

maybe they all go to Vegas
and spend the rest of their days
flat-cheeked on a bar stool, or

maybe there's and old men's butt
graveyard, like the elephants
have,
just instead of ivory tusks
scattered across
a valley of final elephantine rest,
there's piles and piles of Sans-a-Belt
pants like Ed McMahon used to pitch
on the Johnny Carson show, just laying around
butt-less on a field of white cotton
underpants...

well past the age
of backside backsliding
I have, so far,
maintained my posterior,
mostly through careful and constant
monitoring, making sure said body part
does not be away from me by,
several times a day,
grabbing my ass
and whistling Dixie

it is clear
in hindsight
that this was an effective prescription
for protecting my assets,
seeing that it has worked very well
for me,
having still,
even in these later years
my own carry-on
cushion
whence-ever
I roam











And so, last from my library this week, a poem by Thomas R. Smith from his book, Horse of Earth, published by Holy Cow Press in 1994. Smith is a poet and teacher with many journal publications, awards and honors.










Loon's Flight
        For Melanie Richards

The loon glides above the lake at sunset,
sharp wings creasing the over  brimming light.
Hers is a life lived best offshore,
of perfect landings and difficult departures.
Riding low among the waves, she wallops
her  watery runway taking flight, her voice
pitched to the quavery frequencies of adolescence,
a beginner every time. Aloft, she steadies,
her black neck tapering after an airy quick
never to be possessed, touched only by what changes,
found again in each ungainly ascent.


March Wind

Across the channel of the Minnesota River,
a long shiver passes through the body of a pine grove.
Scaly ice shelves up along the waterlines,
the walker beside it easily lost in the great silent day of spring.

I walk with you on a sandy path on the island.
In the maple trunks a slender sweetness rises and falls.
The nights are still cold. Maple sap boils dark and heavy.
I catch the clear drops, almost  flavorless, on a torn branch in
     the wind.










At a certain age one appreciates such reassurance as one can get.









retaining appreciation

tall young woman,
long hair
to her back, dressed
in black but for high brown boots,
a winter vision

another
seated in front of me,
working as do I on her computer,
here every day, always like me
seated at a favored table, a
little older than the first
but still a lot younger than me,
though not so old am I that I fail to
not the boots of the first
and the tiny freckles across the
shoulders of the second...

it feels good, as so much else fails,
to still have appreciation
in this crowded,  noisy
morning world for
such passing
beauty as
this







As usual, everything belongs to who made it. You're welcome to use my stuff, just, if you do, give appropriate credit to "Here and Now" and to me



Also as usual, I am Allen Itz owner and producer of this blog, and a not so diligent seller of books, specifically these and specifically here:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, Sony eBookstore, Copia, Garner's, Baker & Taylor, eSentral, Scribd, Oyster, Flipkart, Ciando and Kobo (and, through Kobo,  brick and mortar retail booksellers all across America and abroad





Poetry

New Days & New Ways


Places and Spaces
 




Always to the Light




Goes Around Comes Around



Pushing Clouds Against the Wind





And, for those print-bent, available at Amazon and select coffeehouses in San Antonio




Seven Beats a Second





Fiction


Sonyador - The Dreamer




                                                            

  Peace in Our Time
 

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Loch Raven Review
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