Publications by Friends & Readers

I’m not the only poet or writer contributing to this blog. The others are my readers and I wanted to mention them and their writing.


Marv Volta

Marv inspired this post, so to him the first mention. Marv Volta’s It’s Free is what it says: free. You can download it here. The poetry is heavily influenced by the rhythm of hip hop, as I judge it, and offers some of the most creative rhyming out there. Be warned though, Volta’s poetry isn’t for the faint of heart. The imagery and subject matter are on the violent side. Expect abusive language and extreme sexual violence.

I Should Be DifferentThey buried my corpse in the garden.  I saw them,
And hated with certainty, vowing to saw them.
The afterlife marathon beatings continued
(A death god can damage the spectrally sinewed
With leg locks).  In time, though, I finally hardened
My spirit by fighting with Ankou, who pardoned
My losses when petty amusement transmuted
To favor–the mettle could not be disputed.
The psychopomp gave me a decade of training
In Limbo to better my vengeful erasing.
If lessons begin with a Reaper who hits you,
You’ll work on your flying, and meta jiu-jitsu.

Volta’s I Should Be Different can be purchased at Amazon. A while back I coined the term “Trophy Rhyme” to describe a kind of rhyme that can be (or is) in itself the reason for the poem. It’s a kind of showmanship you’ll find in in Volta’s poetry and put to good effect (which, in other hands, it sometimes isn’t). Add a strong metrical drive and Volta puts to paper what you might expect to hear at a poetry jam or from a street rapper.

As with It’s Free, however, this is poetry without a filter—either in subject matter or language. Don’t read it to relax.

The Woodpecker

I leave it to him to identify himself by any other name. Woodpecker’s book, Barking at Bears, is subtitled “Letters and Poems from the WoodpeckerDowneast Maine Woods”. The book opens with a military helicopter and a drug bust. WP and his cat barely stifle a yawn as an armed DEA agent scrambles over the deck. For the record, I’m on Woodpecker’s side. Consider that the government’s puerile obsession with marijuana includes a ban on hemp crops. Despite the fact that Hemp has almost zero THC, it’s still classified as a Schedule I drug – the same as heroin and LSD. Why? For the sole reason that it looks like Marijuana. It’s pure jack-assery if you ask me. You’d have better luck getting high off poppy seeds than hemp. Hemp was a primary crop of the country’s founders, used for making clothes and, most importantly, hempen rope for the US Navy.  Writes Woodpecker:

Barking at Bears (Front)There’s one good thing about getting busted:
It proides a theme for winter writing.
Even though the subject leaves one digusted.
Repression always foments requiting.
To see an armed thug, young and most frightful,
Climbing up to the deck with pistol drawn,
The cat in my lap found it delightful.
For myself, I had to stifle a yawn.
Why be surprised—the chopper overhead!
Conquest abroad brings repression at home.
Fascism’s declared the Bill of Rights dead,
Bush’s return to imperial Rome.
····There are many who will bow to terror
····In my case they’ll find they made an error.

What follows is a year of sonnets, haiku, friendships, anger, politics, joy and just plain life.

Guinness Stout in one hand.
Snow shovel in the other;
The crunch of ice boots.


You will also learn, among other skills, how to avoid a speeding ticket. If you’re a Vet, find  your VA card before finding your license. And if you go twenty miles over the speed limit in Maine, you can be handcuffed and hauled off. Woodpecker never tells us whether he fixed his speedometer.

Hendrik D. Gideonse

Is a builder like me. He discovered his “passion and penchant for building” while in his fifties. I discovered it on the roof of my grandmother’s new porch when eleven years old. I remember Paul Ditto could drive a nail in four strikes. It took me twenty, but I still recall how much I loved standing on the rafters. Framing a building is still something I never get tired of.

Stone WhispererThe only reason I know of Gideonse’s passion for building is because he introduces each of his poems with a snippet of biographical information. I like that. You’ll also find lots of color, humor, nature and honesty. The poems are mostly free verse, but for the occasional exception. His first poem, distinguished by being “the only one I can recite from memory”, is one of them:


My turtle’s means of motion
Aren’t fit for the ocean
But rather the role
Of life in a bowl.

The astute observer may notice a striking resemblance between the cover of Hendrik Gideonse’s book and The Woodpecker’s.

Richard L. Rose

Marking TimeRose is the author of Marking Time: A Memoir and the three part novel FRAMESHIFTS.

Rose himself describes some of the recurrent themes that preoccupy him as “the transience of our lives and habitat and an insistence that we find effective ways to attend to this fact.”

Marking Time is a lovely little book of poems accompanied by color photographs. One of my favorite poems:


A wringer washer in the corner,
the tub beside it
she carried weekly to the wash house,
she washed now only once a week.

The children gone, she stacked the saucers
she used to keep us
from spilling milky coffee
made sweeter than her Cajun drip.

Awake, she rose as if she had him
to do for, and he
would come to sit beside her,
and she would smell his shaving soap.

FRAMESHIFTS is a tour de force of narratives, interwoven plots and poetry. Rose himself describes it this way:

“It is literary fiction made of multiple genres united by theme and character. At first glance, it appears to be a story collection, beginning with a mystery; but look at the back and you’ll find a philosophical poem. Between the covers are mysteries, suspense stories, literary fiction, science fiction, love stories, fictional memoires and letters, adeventure stories, dramatic dialogues, and a section of poetic narrative made of dozens of forms—sestinas, sonnets, terza rima, droeg-kvaet, prose poems, ballads. One may read the stories and poems in any sequence, but as one reads the stories in a given sequence, a novel emerges.”

True to his word, you will find a wide variety of genres tried and explored:


FrameShiftsSome events we elect to ignore—
such as growling under the floor—
but the cautious scratch
that scrapes at the latch
may signify something in store.

The time required to amend
elapses before we intend,
and the clattering scratch,
and rasps at the latch—
these surely—these impend?

Presuming to intervene,
one might inquire of a machine;
if escape wears the latch,
if ratchet wheel catch,
one imposes a thought in, between.

Loose coils that winding deserved
a thought has often preserved.
For a pawl is of tin
and old fittings wear thin
but thoughts last if ever they’ve served.

 From later in FRAMESHIFTS you will find passages like this:

The storm that fattened on our pains,
dividing us from homes, friends, and wives—
and dwindled as we emptied—again arrives:
not as char-black coil or driving rains
hungry for shell-houses and propping-up gains,
but as whispers like a low draft creeping
by an old dog, who sniffs and growls while sleeping.

That’s good stuff and the last lines are worthy of Frost—a beautiful example of metaphor and simile.

jeffrey winke

I’ve reviewed Jeffrey Winke’s haiku a couple years ago. He easily remains one of my favorite writers of erotic haiku:

whats not therestill
swiveling her hips…
pushing a stroller

Erotic haiku don’t get better than that. No anthology of erotic haiku, now or in the future, can justify itself without the inclusion of a few of his haiku. But he also writes classically:

vacant lot
trying to picture
what’s not there

from his heavy glove
winter cafe

You can find these and other haiku in what’s not there.

Gail White

Gail White’s Sonnets in a Hostile World is a collection, a sonnet sequence, of 22 sonnets. What I like most about her sonnets is their wry and shrewd wit.

In a tiny cottage called the Laurel Tree,
Sonnets in a Hostile Worldmy neighbor lived alone. Nobody came
to see her and she had no family,
so week by week her life was much the same:
She went to church and said the rosary,
took in the mail for neighbors out of town,
adopted cats, caught news on BBC,
and at a roll-top desk she wrote things down—
things no one ever saw, although we guessed
a novel, memoirs, poetry, and more—
but we saw nothing, though we did our best.
And when she died alone, at eighty-four,
with no companion but a big gray cat,
we pitied her. We were such fools as that.

Jenepher Lingelbach

I don’t know Jenepher and she’s never commented here, but I include her because I found her little chapbook at a local library book sale and bought it because it’s one of the most beautifully bound and typeset chapbooks I’ve come across. Jenepher’s poetry might remind one of Mary Oliver, but unlike Oliver, Jenepher is unafraid of the occasional rhyme. Her poetry never betrays the sense that she’s gone looking for them, but they show up, almost incidentally, and her poetry is all the more memorable because of it:

Words Like LeavesThe mighty Crow

Crows, raucous crows,
tormenting hawk or owl,
Flinging threats and screaming “Foul” —
Like bullies on a playground.

Protecting Crowdom was their gig
Or ganging up and feeling big?
How well we emulate
The Mighty Crow.

Neal Whitman

Neal Whitman wrote me way back in 2011, never suspecting what a fickle and undependable correspondent I am. So, five years later, a little NealandElaineWhitmanabout his book: Blyth’s Spirit. Way before I started my year of haiku, Neal had already published his collection of haiku/haibun. The book also includes photographs by his wife Elaine Whitman. They’re primarily of national park signs, but why not? I kind of like them. They accompany Neal’s haiku and prose.

“What do you do?
“I’m a poet!”
You know the look that gets. I do explain that I used to be a teacher.
Blyth's Spirit“That’s what I did to make a living. Today poetry is how I live. I read it. Write it. Every day.”
You know the next question,
“Well, hae you been published?”
“You bet,” I tell ’em, “in journals.”
Then they want to know if I get paid.
“Yes, with a free copy of the journal.”
What I do not volunteer is that some publishers expect you to
buy a copy. One more quetsion,
‘So, why do you do it?”

silence in blue hills
speaks to me in secret ways
like fish in the sea

At the time of publishing Blyth’s Spirit, Whitman was a member of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, Haiku Poets of Northern California, and the Haiku Society of America. Northern California sounds like a great place to live. Visited there once, and always liked it.

Jenny Land

Jenny Land is a local poet who also produced a beautiful little chapbook with block prints by Matt Brown, an acquaintance of my wife who, as you know, also produces block prints. Jenny Land writes poetry steeped in the landscape of New England.

Trail Break at the Last Sure Water

After swimming I can feel
The river stream from my skin
Into the sponge of the forest floor.

Finding EarthWhile the pool carries away
Last minute’s reflection, I catch
A glimpse of an orange foot,

Four delicate toes reaching
Out from under a rotten log
Towards my sprawled hand.

Blinking eyes appear, then a neck,
Slender ribs beneath thin flesh
And then the tail—

I am still.
The eft clambers out. thirsting
Towards the small sound of water

Dripping down to the forest,
Fingers and moss
From the roots of my river-wet hair.

Valerie Jupe

Valerie Jupe was a visitor at my blog who shared that she had written a book of poetry despite all odds. I decided to review her book, just because I wish someone had done the same for me when I was starting out.

Robert Bates Graber

Robert Graber is another poet who dared to defy the odds and self-published his own book of poetry: Plutonic Sonnets. This is a collection of 164 sonnets, all written with a wry sense of humor. I reviewed Robert’s book way back in 2009.

Susanne Dubroff

Susanne Dubroff is local poet who I first met in Boston at the Harvard Bookstore. This was years and years ago, before I had started my blog. Her book was in the used book section and she, feeling a little sad about that, inspired me to buy it  there and then. Besides being a poet, she’s also an unrivaled translator of Rene Char. If you’d like to try some of Susanne Dubroff’s poetry, then I’d recommend “The One Remaining Star”.

The One Remaining StarThe One Remaining Star

There are mornings when I think of you
so steadily, what good is it to write?
Trust in its ragged wisps, too close to the abyss,
we circle like the beasts accused of soullessness
and I’m afraid. Cryptic and ravenous, our gift,
our gift. We are the secretaries
of the heart, the one remaining star.

& Others

If I’ve overlooked anyone, it wasn’t deliberate. Let me know and I’ll add you to the post.

Stone Whisperer: Poems • Hendrik D. Gideonse

an exception

In offering to do reviews, I haven’t wanted to review free verse poets. The free verse aesthetic dominates poetry and offers ample venues for its writers. Traditional poets, on the other hand, have far fewer choices (if only because editors and critics don’t know how to read or judge traditional poetry). I also, generally, don’t find free verse as interesting or compelling. Free verse is much easier to write than traditional poetry; and that ethos (of avoiding the hard work) generally carries over into all aspects of the form: in its avoidance of metaphor, rhyme, figurative language and, well, all the stuff that takes time, discipline and practice. But, in matters of art, no rule is worth having that can’t be broken. So the challenge is this: not whether Gideonse’s poetry is up to my standards, but whether I am up to his.

plausible deniability

The first feature the reader will notice in Gideonse’s book is not his poetry, but the brief notes that precede each poem. All the notes are explanatory but differ in content. Some are autobiographical, for example, while others offer brief commentaries on a poem’s form or subject matter. What I find so interesting about this experiment is that it raises a whole host of questions: are the poems sufficient without them, are the poems changed with them, are they now a part of the poem? Do the prefatory material and the poem, in effect, create a larger unified work? I suspect Gideonse would argue that the poems are poems and should be read as independent; but, for the first time reader, these poems and their intros will always be inextricably bound. The only question is how the poems will be effected – not whether.

Are the poems enlarged or diminished?

Poets are notoriously cagey about their own poems (knowing that suggestiveness, after all, is at the heart of great poetry). The best poems are a starting point for the imagination, not an end point (which is why political poetry has such a short shelf life). The greatest poems are as unique to each reader as the reader’s themselves – no two will walk off with the same meaning. For the poets themselves, a refusal to comment allows for plausible deniability. Robert Frost derided attempts to read his poem, Stopping by Woods, as a suicide note, but he never out and out denied the interpretation – plausible deniability. Does Gideonse fence in his poems? Each reader will decide for themselves. As for myself: I have always found that knowing something about the poet adds immeasurably to the poem. However, hearing it from the horse’s mouth takes some of the mystery out of it. After all, some of the fun in reading poetry is the riddle – something that the great poet Richard Wilbur puts to masterful use. Some peculiar moments occur, such as when Gideonse’s diminutive four line poem, Symmetry, is preceded by a sizable, 23 lines of explication. One wonders, humorously, if the poem shouldn’t have prefaced the preface.

Having written all that, it’s worth mentioning that some of Gideonse’s prefaces are less revealing than others.

what you will & won’t find

You won’t find much in the way of traditional techniques.

There is very little figurative language, the imagery is thin, and there is little metaphor. Rhyme, even internal rhyme, is scant. There is no rhetorical heightening (as the poet Richard Wilbur refers to it). In fact, there is little that distinguishes these poems from short paragraphs of prose. But these are all stylistic choices – and to point them out isn’t criticism so much as description.

The Press release for Stone Whisperer gives us some background:

Gideonse is the retired (1996) University Professor and Dean (1972-86) of the University of Cincinnati College of Education. He is the former Director of Planning and Evaluation for the U.S. Office of Education Bureau of Research (1965-71), was professional staff to Senator Abe Ribicoff (1971-72), and taught at Bowdoin College (1963-4). He turned his summer home into his fulltime residence in 1998 and thereafter began the transition from academic and policy scholarship to writing poetry. (….)

Then, in the next paragraph, some of Gideonse’s artistic philosophy is shared:

He strives to make his poetry accessible to listeners and readers using introductions, word choice, phrasing, as one reader put it, to avoid the poem becoming something of a NYTimes crossword. Gideonse says, for example, that he doesn’t try to get published in the New Yorker; he’d rather amuse, enlighten, challenge, or encourage recognition and a sense of commonality.

So, if you love your poetry like a NYTimes crossword, Gideonse is not for you. But who ever thought that anti-establishment poetry would be the poetry that amuses, enlightens and encourages recognition? (For sure, the New Yorker Poetry editors seem to covet what I like to call cosmopolitan kitsch – a sort of turtleneck urbanity. ) But that a poet should feel the need to “defend” the simplicity of his poetry says something. So… Gideonse invites us to judge his poetry not by the standards of the language poet, the surrealist or conceptual poet, but by the degree to which he amuses us, enlightens, challenges, and connects with us.

the poetry

Gideonse’s title poem comes first and, like Frost’s The Pasture, one senses that Gideonse favors this poem both as an introductory poem , an invitation, and as a philosophical summing up. In the poem’s prefatory material, he writes: “Balancing Stones is a relatively new pastime for me, yet it has been an ever-present, quasi-meditative endeavor for more than a decade. I had done it, large stones and small, over and over…

Just as with stones, Gideonse could be decribing the writing of his own poetry.

…she asked hiim
How he’d balanced all those hefty, jagged rocks
On their narrowest points,
To stand however briefly as silent sentinels on crag and ledge,
Full of stored energy subject to release by a breath of wind,
The brush of the herring gull’s wing…

Are we to think of his poems like those rocks, hefty and jagged, balanced on their narrowest points? And are his readers like the wind or the wing of the herring gull, momentary visistors who will release the stored energy within them?

Readers may find that Gideonse later poems don’t quite live up to the sentinel-like imagery of this first poem – the flinty, almost desolate imagery of crag and ledge. In truth, that first impression is very different from the quotidian subject matter of some of his poetry, such as Still Type A, a laundry list of mundane chores with a gently humorous punch line.

But Stone Whisperer nevertheless displays what Gideonse, at his best, is capable of – building a poem on a central metaphor, symbol or parable – the allegorical poem. Many of the greatest poems in the English language are allegorical poems (poems of allegory or parable), such as Frost’s Birches or Keats’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci. It’s one of the few traditional techniques that modern poets haven’t completely discarded, but I still wouldn’t mind seeing more.

Another, in a similar vein, is the poem On a Twisted Sledge Norwottuck’s Called to Rest. Gideonse writes: “Senior year at Amherst I took my fiance for a hike and spring picnic… It was on that hike I saw the rusting sledge impaled by a heavy stand of laurel and set myself the challenge of writing a poem whose rhyme scheme evoked the timeless spirals of creation and decay.” It’s unclear whether this poem was written much later, remembering the hike and the sledge, or written while Gideonse was, presumably, in his twenties. In any case, the poem is one of the few in which Gideonse experiments with more traditional techniques. My own guess is that this is a youthful poem. One finds many of the mistakes associated with younger poets when they first try their hand at rhyme. Notice the grammatical inversion in the second line:

The earth calls back her own,
The straight now gray grain ages grown

The grammar, contorted for the sake of the rhymes own and grown, somewhat confuses the meaning of the line. Worse yet, two lines later one finds the sort of linguistic contrivance that makes more experienced poets cringe.

Iron bleeding into wood and ground
(How dragged here, left near this peak so deep.

And so the poem goes on. Gideonse’s traditional technique, at least in his youth, left something to be desired. In fairness to Gideonse (and to all of us and our youthful poems) I’m glad that he included it. Many poets relegate youthful folly to the oblivion of a shelf or desk drawer. For all its youthful eagerness (and I am assuming that this was a poem written in his youth) the poem shares the same love of detail that readers will find in his later poems (along with some of its drawbacks).

the imagery

Gideonse’s poems are rich with an eye for color, contrast shape, shade and detail.

These qualities are most effective in a poem like Come Spring…

Each year framed a perfect case
Of dandelion lawn in spring –
As Barbara D. would say,
Millions and millions of yellow dandellions –
A molten flow of sunny fire before the door
So solid each year it could only light the
Darker corners of any soul who saw it…

This is Gideonse at his best. The reader won’t find much in the way of extended metaphor, the poetic conceit, or any of the other more complex forms of imagery (such as one might find in Robert Frost’s poetry). The metaphorical description of dandelions in the “molten flow of sunny fire” is, to me at least, an all too rare occurrence. Gideonse’s feel for imagery is very matter-of-fact, unadorned, and almost entirely visual. If we separate imagery into Visual, Aural, Smell, Taste, and Touch, Gideonse is an almost exclusively visual poet. For instance, nowhere in this otherwise lovely poem, does Gideonse mention the smell of dandelions , the touch of them, their texture, moistness, or softness. There is nothing aural. We don’t hear, feel or taste the wind. But in this respect, Gideonse isn’t all that different from other poets I’ve reviewed – like Annie Finch.

That said, there are exceptions. Gideonse’s senses come to life in his erotic poetry. It’s not too hard to guess at what makes this poet’s heart race. The reader enters a different world. Consider Dandelion Seed Puffs:

The silky sepia tones of your skin,
Sensuous curve on curve,
So smooth, were my fingers tongues,
They would slide over you
As easily as an infant downs Junket.
When we held each other in late evening
And finally in early morning’s quiet and warmth,
We were two dandelion puffs
One interweaving with the other…

Or First Fruit:

Inclining lightly to my right
I turned your face toward me
And touched your yielding lips with mine.
An instant later I saw myself
Raising up my chin
Lest one ripe drop of liquid plum
Thus burst upon my mouth
Race down my neck untasted.

Or First Kisses

But of course!
Yet unlike any kiss I’d ever given
Or taken before,
They were a velvet hook,
A honeysuckle flute
Summoning the bee in me.

While the imagery is still primarily visual, Gideonse is engaged with more than the plain fact of what he sees. Some readers may wish for more poetry on the same sensual plane (I do), but the straightforwardness of Gideonse’s imagery is in keeping with his stated desire to offer a poetry that is, above all, ‘accessible and that ‘encourages recognition’. And if there’s any other flaw in Gideonse’s heavy reliance on one sense, it’s that so much visual detail and observation sometimes has a “grocery list” quality to it.

Now they crouched together above the frame,
They seek to measure, fit, cut, raise,
and enclose in just one month.
One hand clasps tape,
a second the square,
a third holds post on beam,
a fourth scribes on the line
defined by the post’s edge… [Love Abuilding]

Leading used to be important to me.
Command was almost second nature,
Intelligence a knife,
Or sometimes glue,
Or leverage or spring a rusted thread,
Or move a boulder from here to there,
And words were Archimedean levers… [Pancake]

This former maker of rockets and stars;
A man of fancy;
A present-day gardener of rock,
Who cultivates his granite
And grows his obelisks and spires, his steps and pavers,
And schools still smaller stones to curves and spiral forms
That hold his flowers, squash, and more, tight to the living stone
And finds water for their lives in quarry filled;

Whose youngest child will etch and polish,
Or work with feathers, silver, shells and such…. [How Much More Do You Need to Know?]

They were finely calibrated sets
Of archeologically defined – and precisely recalled – strata.
The chairs cradled the lanky, solid frame
Whose life force smoldered for ideas and words,
And the worlds those words defined,
Or shook,
Or split,
Or built,
Or canted ever slightly out of whack,
Or blew to smithereens. [Tendrils]

It’s not that the individual poems don’t justify the writing, but the pattern reveals a habit of thought that will appear again and again. It’s the voice of the poet in intimate conversation, one who doesn’t feel compelled to finish the story, but relishes the journey and considers the evening young. I sometimes wish for the single, well-placed image – the image that startles and powerfully suggests – but I appreciate Gideonse’s obvious enjoyment in the richly superfluous.

poetic asides

And that brings me to the way these poems are written. If these were narrative poems, such piling on would sink them. A good narrative depends on momentum (especially poetry), and episodes of syndetic and asyndetic descriptiveness are the death of narrative flow. Gideonse’s poems aren’t narrative. They’re not confessional. Each one is more like an avuncular aside – one might call it Anecdotal Poetry. There is a thread of geniality and comfortable humor that strings these poems together, so much so that the entirety of the book has the feeling of a life told in anecdotes – accepting, unguarded and even intimate. Here is how defines the anecdote: A short account of a particular incident or event of an interesting or amusing nature, often biographical. And that simple, short definition, ably describes the majority of Gideonse’s poems.

Gideonse’s poetic aim is, I think, to engage without pretense.

The price paid for that lack of pretense? I can’t help notice, sometimes, the smarmy rhetorical flourishes, the gratuitously inverted grammar, the unambitious imagery and language, but it isn’t helpful to criticize the poet for what he or she doesn’t attempt. Better to ask if they’re true to their own standards. And to that extent, I think Gideonse accomplishes his goals. He speaks with clarity, honesty, and openness. His effort strikes me as that of a man who warmly invites the reader into his life and the inspiration drawn from it.

Gideonse doesn’t chase new ways to be new (as Frost put it). And his poetry is exactly the kind that editors, the self-appointed guardians of poetry’s quote unquote highest standards, summarily reject (preferring the unimpeachably generic). And it’s for poetry like Gideonse’s that self-publishing is essential and necessary for the health of modern poetry.

Shape Poetry

I’ve noticed that googlers frequently come to my blog expecting to find shape poems – could it be the name of my blog? It’s among the forms I haven’t properly discussed. Happily, Gideonse playfully offers a shape poem – humbly the first of its kind, I think.

Mycelium: My Town

I would harvest for the
people the outcomes of close attendance to the surround
and careful meditation thereon, but it’s like knowing there are mycelia
down there somewhere beneath the composting mulch of public
need and desire and
trying to guess when
caps will
first break
through, in what
shape, what color,
and where.

Stone Whisperer P·O·E·M·S
Hendrik D. Gideonse


The Gandalf Press
Available at