Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Susan Tepper

Susan Tepper is the author of seven published books of fiction and poetry. Her most recent title “Monte Carlo Days & Nights” is a Novella set in the South of France. For more please visit her website at

Petal by Petal

The moon has settled down
to dust, and the sadness
of time overwhelms
your eyes—
Each morning
an otherwise unobstructed view
they scarcely open
Despite the beauty of
the day
beyond window shades—
O darkness
scrape away what you can
gouge them ‘til they open wide
Letting in deliverance petal by petal.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Jesus in the Ghost Room by Rusty Barnes


Jesus in the Ghost Room
by Rusty Barnes
Copyright © 2017 Rusty Barnes
Nixes Mate Books
Allston, MA
ISBN 978-0-9991882-7-9
Softbound, 63 pages, $9.95

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Rusty Barnes’ poetry is cold, hard, raw. That is exactly what makes it an engaging read. It is about Rusty Barnes … at times Rusty and his late father. Barnes is also warm, soft and polished. His poems are down-to-earth, easily accessible.

In “Arrow-Fishing” he recounts his days fishing in what was once fairly deep water and how animals get the best of the quarry he was after.


The pond has become marsh now
but when it was waist deep I would
go to the middle in the depths
of much to arrow-fish for the huge gold-
fish my landlord had stocked years
before. I remember brining the bow
to my eye and sighting like a gun7
along the top of my thumb the string
tense in my fingers and the feeling
as I Barnes f I were going under. I remember
overshooting as I adjusted my shot
for refraction. I didn’t make that one
but eventually the heard heart of the world
won out and the goldfish became bones
on the bank killed by coon or mink.
But I love the tense thrill of the shot still
I have only to close my eyes to recall.

As in his other poems, Barnes reflects on his past and in this poem, “Circus,” he recalls
some aspects of those days.


If the Ringling Brothers were alive today
they wouldn’t know how to begin.

Freak shows today are everywhere
if you know where to look,
there on the common field of life
with the tattooed and the pierced,

the extraordinarily hairy together
with the unfunny and the trolls

who try to ruin it for everyone who
is not so jaded. I can see the tents in

my mind, the huge spikes that serve
as pegs and the groups of rope fest=

ooned with elephant shit and stale popcorn.
It is pur magic and we only have so much.

What makes Rusty Barnes interesting is that many of us have, “been there, done that,” but have not seen it in the way Barnes portrays it in this book.

In “My Father’s Hip: 1972 Flood” Barnes provides insight into not only his childhood and tenderness toward his father, but his daughter as well. He recalls an important moment in his life despite the dangers he encountered.

One day the crick rose a couple feet
after three days steady rain that brought
logs ramming into rocks and a couple
dead dogs floating in the brown spume.
My dad lifted me up and brought me
to the very edge of the eroded banks
that with every rainstorm came just
a little closer to our house. I don’t recall
what he said to me but I felt safe next
to his gritty cheek and the typical cigarette.
Beside me my brother Joes jumped from foot
to foot excited as all hell to be a branch
in that raging water. He slipped down
the bank screaming but dad never lost
a beat still holding me he whipped around
and caught my brother by the back
out pretty heavily once he was safe
but sitting on his hip in the driving rain
I felt overcome by my smallness.
Like all kids I returned to the site
of the scene 30 years later, dipping my
young daughter’s feet in that same water.

These are examples of Barnes’s recollections of life. In particular his poetry recollects memories of his father, the death of his uncle and his leaning on his loving wife for support.

Barnes grew up in rural Appalachia. He weaves those years with his life in the Boston, MA area into a book of poetry that moves along at a rapid, always interesting pace,
with many poetic stories not soon forgotten.

Zvi A. Sesling, author of The Lynching of Leo Frank
and the forthcoming War Zones (Nixes Mate Books)
Publisher & Editor of Muddy River Poetry Review
and Editor of Bagel Bard Anthologies 7,8 & 12
Poet Laureate, Brookline, MA

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Heather Sullivan

Heather Sullivan
Heather Sullivan’s work has appeared in numerous print and online journals, most recently Chiron Review, Paper and Ink Literary Zine and Trailer Park Quarterly. Her debut collection, Waiting for an Answer (Nixes Mate Books 2017), is available both through the publisher and Amazon. She is also the co-editor at Live Nude Poems. She and novelist Rusty Barnes live with their family in Revere, MA.

Piggy Bank

Every happy thought I have ever had
is stored away in a square shaped
piggy bank on my dresser. I dole them
out to pay the toll keeper of existence
like peeled off pesos in that trip south
of the border for low priced pain meds
for my slipped discs that we never took.
When I’m out, I’ll be holding up the line
behind me just like when I’d overshoot
the bucket with my change, digging
through the ashtray looking for quarters,
shoving my hand down the side of the
console for the profligate dimes. You
remember that old joke your uncle would
rib any newlywed with, every time you
have sex the first year of your marriage
you put a marble in a jar on the bedside
table, then pull a marble out every time
you have sex thereafter – you’ll never
empty the jar. My storehouse is almost
empty, and Joseph has left his post.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Three Poems by Geoffrey Gatza: Presented by the Poetry Collection at the University at Buffalo

Geoffrey Gatza

Geoffrey Gatza "Three Poems"
Publisher: The Poetry Collection of the University Libraries of the University of Buffalo
Reviewed by Ari Appel

“Three Poems,” published by The Poetry Collection of the University Libraries of the University of Buffalo, is a pamphlet of three poems by Geoffrey Gatza from his most recent book, A Dog Lost in the Brick City. The pamphlet is an excellent example of what poetry can be in its least inhibited form, when using language becomes painting with pens, paper, and word processing. It is an experimental force rather than a typical poetry collection.

The cover of the pamphlet introduces us to the author's use of font colors other than black, an innovation that seems to have so much potential once the unwritten rule of using black has been broken. In a world in which printers can print pages in color, why should a poet, someone who uses language in its most raw and ultimate form, not experiment with the possibilities that color printing technology has to offer? It seems that this use of color deserves attention and incorporation into more works. The titles of the three poems in the pamphlet, "What Is Done Cannot Be Undone," "Draw Up My Prisoned Spirit To Thy Soul," and "The Truth Is Rarely Pure and Never Simple," come together in a colorful circle of red, blue, yellow, black, green, and purple, with the end of the text meeting the beginning so the titles continue on infinitely. The cover demonstrates that Gatza has something unique to offer.

The inside of the pamphlet does not fail to deliver on the level of creativity promised by the cover. Each poem is composed of the words of its own title written thirty-nine times in three thirteen-line stanzas. Each line contains all the words of the title, with the first and last line of each stanza occurring in the exact order of the title, and the rest of the lines occurring in another order. The three stanzas of each poem are all exactly the same. The order of the words within each line in the lines that do not occur in the same order as the title may have a strict order such that the poem occurs according to a logical rule rather than the creative choice of the author; in other words, the author may have created a rule and structured these poems according to the rule. The colors, the formal nature of the poems, and the repetition within the poems are reminiscent of artist Bruce Nauman's neon displays like “One Hundred Live and Die.” Reading the poems is hypnotizing and magical. Effects like “The Truth Is Rarely Pure And Never Simple / Is Rarely The Truth And Pure Simple Never” toy with the meaning of the first line due to the orders of the words in the next, generating semantic possibilities latent in the words themselves and their formal arrangement rather than in authorial intent. The poems in this short pamphlet are very cool and make a good plug for both the pamphlet series and the author's book.

What I like most about “Three Poems” is that the poems are simultaneously highly formal and highly innovative. While most poetry that is formal reverts to old traditions, while innovation is seen to occur in free verse, this poetry makes its mark through formal innovations, by experimenting with the tools available to the poet. “Three Poems” innovates by using these tools in a new, yet highly structured way.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Somerville writer Shariann Lewitt: A Darkly Clad Scribe of Science Fiction

Somerville writer Shariann Lewit at Remnant Brewing

Somerville writer Shariann Lewitt: A Darkly Clad Scribe of Science Fiction

By Doug Holder

A darkly clad figure with long black braids—loomed outside the Remnant Brewery at the new Bow St. Market in Union Square. I approached her—she smiled and joined me at my well—appointed table that had a handsome view of the market's courtyard. My guest this afternoon was Shariann Lewitt, a prolific creative writer—who works in a number of genres. Her writing includes, but is not limited to: literary science fiction, young adult fiction, and military science fiction. For years Lewitt has taught writing at MIT. Lewitt lives with her husband in the Highland Ave area of Somerville, that is in walking distance to Union Square.

Lewitt told me she came to the “ Paris of New England” from Washington, DC in July of 2000. She is enthusiastic about the city stating, “ I love it in Somerville. We own our own home, the Board of Alderman is fabulous—I like the mayor. Somerville has great energy.” But not everything is a bed of roses for this writer. She reflected, “ I am also concerned about the lack of affordable housing, and how the diversity and uniqueness of the city is likely to suffer.”

Hewitt has not been stingy with her writing. Under the pseudonym Nina Harper she wrote two books: Succubus in the City and Succubus takes Manhattan. Both deal with a fashionable, urbane and seductive woman who is an agent—not for an upscale real estate agency-- but for the devil. This woman lures often boorish men into a sexual liaisons, and after the deed is done she leads them to an even hotter destiny—Hades itself.

Lewitt describes her work as speculative fiction—meaning science fiction or generally fiction that does not deal with the here and now. She has written in the genres of military science fiction that specifically deal with intergalactic wars. She also has written space operas. According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction this genre consists of “colorful and dramatic stories ( sometimes melodramatic—like –well-- a TV soap opera) that deal with interplanetary or intergalactic conflict.” Lewitt has taken a hiatus from publishing—but has expressed an interest in more historical writing rather than speculative.

Lewitt, who graduated from Yale Drama, was first published at the tender age of 23. She /had a number of early influences, like the iconic science fiction writer Philip K. Dick—whose work inspired the movie Blade Runner. She also considers folks like Samuel R. Delaney as influences as well.
Lewitt told me, “ Although these guys were sexist in their writing I still admire their work. I mean they were coming up in the 50s and 60s and this was the status quo back then. Of course I don't endorse that sensibility.”

The writer told me she love teaching at MIT. She is the recipient of the university's Levitan Award for excellence in teaching. It is presented by the School of Humanity Arts and Social Sciences. And to her credit she was nominated by students.­

After our chat I separated from this dark figure and headed away from the wilds of Union Square. I looked behind me and saw her black hat bob up and down in the wind like a brimmed omen of yet more fiction yet to come.