Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Afric McGlinchey's The lucky star of hidden things

     Afric McGlinchey's debut collection, The lucky star of hidden things (copyright 2012 Salmon Poetry), is an unusual literary gem. lucky star is not a book to be read in one sitting. I can attest to this fact; lucky star contains poetry that is spare and lovely, yet, I found myself treating her work with reverence. The world McGlinchey offers the reader is dark, mysterious, and all-together accessible... however, if one is willing to revisit the sacred spaces McGlinchey has created, the reader, in this case, myself, finds the landscape deliciously altered – for the better.
     In the interview below, McGlinchey discusses her poetry collection, as well as other current literary matters. I would like to thank Afric McGlinchey for her patience, artistry, and honesty. I look forward to reading more of her work – with pleasure – in the future.

   A-KP: Please explain the inception of The lucky star of hidden things.

   AM: Chance really had a hand in it. I won a prestigious award in Ireland, and soon afterward, Salmon offered to publish my collection.
    As I have lived in a number of countries, a strong impulse all my life has been trying to find a way to belong to wherever I am. Usually, however, as is the case with many writers and creative people, I have felt an outsider, and feel that I am often more of a witness than a participant. So I decided to make that the focus of my collection.
   As for the title, that came about by chance. Someone mentioned that they found my imagery very ‘celestial’ so I looked up stars, and discovered Sadalachbia, the nomadic star, which translates into English as The lucky star of hidden things, so I thought it fitted perfectly, as I sometimes use private coded symbols when writing about difficult subjects.

  A-KP: What part of your life influenced your poetry more, and why: your Irish heritage, or, your time in Africa?

  AM: Interestingly, I only began writing seriously when I returned to Ireland in 1999, when I discovered the Munster Literature Centre and started attending workshops. This is where I am creatively stimulated, where I read, and study the craft. But my image base is strongly influenced by my years in Africa (Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and time spent in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and the Transkei too). I also return regularly, as my father still lives there, and my daughter, who was born there, has returned to live there too.
So, both influence my writing.

   A-KP: Your poetry is quite arresting – cinematically - and, the language is immediately accessible, which gives your work broad appeal. Given your academic background and training, how do you feel about the idea of poetry being available for mass consumption? 

   AM:Interesting question. In his essay, ‘In praise of difficult poetry,’ Robert Pinsky argues for ‘difficulty’ as opposed to poems that are too easily understood, and I agree. It is infinitely more satisfying to read a piece of writing that offers itself up more slowly, where the reader is rewarded for his or her closer attention. Then again, there is a level of difficulty which can be alienating, where the writer, rather than communicating, is simply building walls. While accessible poetry can be dismissed by the academics, everyone gets offended by insular arrogance, although not everyone is brave enough to admit it. It’s a fine line. But I’d rather err on the side of clarity than perverse obfuscation – the act of writing is intended to communicate, after all. For my first collection, I felt the need for a narrative thread to run through the poems. Although, as you say, most are ‘accessible’, I wouldn’t say they are equally so. Ideally, I’d like my poems to communicate on a number of levels, and be open to more than one interpretation.
     A-KP: The Tokoloshe sequence (Late, Exorcism, Curse), a three-part narrative of an exorcism, is profoundly disturbing. I felt, while reading Tokoloshe, that this was a very brave piece to write, not in a confessional way, but, in a 'bring the fear out into the daylight so people can see it's for real' way. Was this based on real events, and, if so, what inspired you to write it?

  AM: Yes, the three poems were all based on true events, although the only factor linking them really is the spectre of the tokoloshe. They took place at different times. I lived on a farm where fear of the tokoloshe was a very real thing. I know of a perfectly healthy person who simply lay down and died after being cursed. The poem Curse refers to the time of land invasions, when a curse was put on us, in an attempt to scare us away; but we don’t believe in the tokoloshe, so it didn’t have power over us, although for the purposes of the poem I altered that detail slightly. 
The ‘Exorcism’ experience was amazing. We hired a n’anga (witchdoctor) to do the exorcism on our farm, as all our workers were convinced they had been cursed. So he did his ritual, with everyone watching, and just as it says in the poem, at one point, everyone screamed and ran. When I asked them later what had happened, they said, ‘but didn’t you see? Small men, knee-high, running out of all the rondavels!’ So the exorcism did the trick.
Late’ describes a tragic event, one that I’ll never forget. I find that I need to write about events that have affected me emotionally.

     A-KP: The current trend of modern poets is to employ the device of 'travels through life, both internally and externally', but none as distinctively as yours. Would you agree/disagree, and why?

    AM: I think a number of poets use this device as you say – I wouldn’t have thought my method was particularly ‘distinctive’. Perhaps you are referring to the clarity of my approach – the use of sections to allow for differing themes along the journey to date: my African life (In my dreams I travel home to Africa); returning to Ireland and taking on new challenges, as a mother, an individual, and, as a writer (The road); some witness poems (What we saw), and learning to trust again, after a long relationship had ended (Leaning into your world). My life has been more of a physical, literal journey than usual, so it was easier to chart the collection this way, and perhaps that’s what you mean by distinctive? Although I have seen divisions into sections used elsewhere, for example in Sujata Bhatt’s Pure Lizard, JohnFitzgerald’s The Mind, Jane Kenyon’s Constance, Harry Clifton’s The Winter Sleep of Captain Lemass, or Grace Wells’ début, When God has been Called away to Greater Things, to name a few.

     A-KP: There is an undercurrent of vulnerability that runs through your work, particularly in the poems “Totems,” “Invasion,” and “Wolf House.” Do you feel that it's necessary for a poet, in keeping with her work, to maintain, as well as cultivate, a constant state of openness? Why/why not?

   AM: I don’t feel it’s necessary to be open; it’s probably a matter of temperament. Some poets are open, others are more reserved. In some instances, it might be harmful to be too open. But when combined with a cool editorial eye, poetry that allows itself to reveal vulnerability, can be very effective.

   A-KP: What kind of feedback are you receiving from your poetry colleagues with regard to The lucky star of hidden things?

   AM: They’ve been pretty positive, on the whole. Certainly, they’ve been supportive. The book’s only been out since summer, but already it’s on its second reprint. My work has been described by reviewers as melodic, sensory, exotic, scattered with interesting non-Anglo language and imagery, and immersed in the flux of life.

     A-KP: notice that many publishers are not yet offering poetry collections in e-book format, though I know that Salmon Poetry has an e-book category on the homepage of their website. How do you think the transition from physical books to virtual books will affect literature, particularly poetry, in the next five to ten years?

     AMSalmon are good at spotting trends, and staying abreast of the market, and no doubt most books will end up as e-books too. But Salmon have also just opened a bookshop, so they obviously trust that there’s going to continue to be a market for the physical product. And as a book-lover, I agree. There’s something about turning the pages, the physicality and aesthetics of the thing, even the smell, that e-books just can’t compete with. There’s something intimate about a book. When I’m asked to review e-books, I always refuse, and say I need to read the hard copy – and then they send it to me. I’ve resisted getting a kindle so far – maybe that’s a little more tactile, and includes the sound effects of turning a page…I don’t know. But I’m hoping there are more people like me, who will ensure that physical books don’t vanish altogether. And you can’t sign an e-book!

     A-KP: What is one piece of advice you would share with a poet who is getting ready to put together a début collection of work?

    AM: Be able to stand over the integrity of every single poem.

     A-KP: Now that you have “arrived,” with your début collection, what are your future literary plans?

     AM: Well, while the début collection is the most exciting one of any poet’s career, the second is probably the most challenging! I’ve already been given a date for the next one, but plan to wait until I’m really ready. This time, I’ll work to a specific theme, and try out different voices and forms, I think. But so far, I’m simply writing the poems that are arriving, and am going to allow the theme to emerge organically.

Note: If you would like more information on Afric McGlinchey, you can visit her website:

The lucky star of hidden things, Afric McGlinchey, copyright , 2012 Salmon Poetry,, ISBN 978-1-908836-083, 83 pages, $17.90 (USD).

Author photo and book cover photo © 2012 Afric McGlinchey and Salmon Poetry

Article content © 2012 Marie Lecrivain

Sunday, October 28, 2012

In Time for Halloween: Denise Dumars's "Paranormal Romance"


     In time for Halloween/Dia de los Muertos, readers can find all sorts of spooky poetry, or, for the more discerning reader, there is Denise Dumars's Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal (copyright 2012 Sam's Dot Publishing).
     Paranormal Romance approaches the spirit world without fear, trepidation or hubris, telling tales (sometimes cautionary), of the “thinning of the veil,” between the living and the dead with a strong narrative, and a well-honed sense of humor. There are Egyptian gods taking a vacation (“Djehuti in Las Vegas”); a paen to ectoplasmic motorcycle riders (“Ghost Riders”; and, instructions on the proper way to honor 19th century Voudoo Queen Marie Leveau (“Mam'zelle”). There are also a series of “what if” scenarios, where Dumars imagines what it would be like to exist in more than one universe - with unforeseen consequences - (“Parallel World''); and, the colors, as well as the communication spectrum of ghosts (“Home”).
     The reverence with which Dumars approaches those who have shuffled off this mortal coil is apparent in all her poetry. The dead are not “dead,” in anything other than a corporeal sense; Dumars's awareness of both past and present coexisting/overlapping rend the veil as she explores the positive advantages of leisure activities with the spirits ('Wasting Time"), a capricious game of hide-and-seek with a ghost (“Victorian Fantasy”), and, the all-pervading current that comes through with the commingling of both worlds in the city of New Orleans, as in the poem “Magic”:

And we knew the first time we visited:
Vodou veves in the gang graffiti ,
Guys dressed like Baron Samadi riding bicycles
near the statue of Jefferson Davis,
the ghost of your long-lost love
walking down a street in the Bywater
at dusk.

     We live in a society obsessed with not only staying young, but, also, a society that increasingly views the unseen world as a curiosity to be made fun of/debunked on B-minus reality programs. Sadly, honoring the dead, and acknowledging death as a vital part of our existence are highly discouraged. Dumars's Paranormal Romance gives the reader permission to break these taboos, and to gain back the truth; death is a part of life, and life goes on after we cease to breathe.

     Author Bio: Denise Dumars is a widely published author of poetry, short fiction, articles, essays, and reviews. She has had a variety of occupations, including library technician, film journalist, technical editor, literary agent, and college instructor. She lives in the beautiful South Bay area of Los Angeles County, but her heart is in New Orleans.

Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal, copyright 2012 Denise Dumars, Sam's Dot Publishing, 978-0-9828975-4-6, 122 pages, $10.00.

Poem “Magic,” © 2012 Denise Dumars
Article Content © 2012 Marie Lecrivain

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Alternate Lanes debuts at the West Hollywood Book Festival!

Mr. Lawrence of Rabbia, a rider of the Expo Line, poses pretty with a stack of Alternate Lanes.

     This past Sunday (9/30/12), Sybaritic Press vended at the West Hollywood Book Festival. Despite the triple digits, Carmegeddon 2, and the L.A. Triathalon, which cut down on the attendance, we managed to sell off 93% of our print run of Alternate Lanes (copyright 2012 Sybaritic Press), meet some great people, and reconnect with friends.:) As a personal bonus, I found some new poetry books to review from What Books Press, and Le Figues Press, as well as a near-pristine copy autographed copy of Buddhism and Psychology by Manly P. Hall.

 Alternate Lanes writers Jerry (grateful, not dead) Garcia, and Tess. Lotta. 

Special thanks to the following: Sigrid Hudson Bishop (for her patience, most of all!), Angel Uriel Perales, Anthony Torchia, B.C. Petrakos, Rina Rose, Lynne Bronstein, Deborah Edler Brown, Jim Bolt, Julia Stein, Tess. Lotta, Jerry Garcia, Sunshine Lliteras (The pretty girl with the umbrella and Mr. Lawrence of Rabbia), Phil Macnamara, and, every new customer who purchased a book, and braved the heat to support literacy.

Sunshine Lliteras and Mr. L. are ready for their close-up!

     Check back here for a schedule of readings for Alternate Lanes. And, don't forget, we have both a trade paperback version, and, an ebook version available for purchase!:)

article content and photos © 2012 marie lecrivain

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Now Available: "Alternate Lanes Anthology" at Amazon!

Alternate Lanes: An Anthology of Travel Using Alternate Transportation in the City of Angels (copyright 2012 Sybaritic Press) is now available for purchase through Amazon! You can purchase a trade paperback for $9.95, or you can order the Eco-friendly Kindle version for $3.99.

Thank you to all those who contributed their words, and art. We'll be at the West Hollywood Book Festival  on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, so, come on by to purchase a copy, meet the authors, or, just say, hi. Note: Pan Pacific Park is easily accessible by the MTA bus, so, save yourself some money on gas, and, help the environment at the same time.:)

List of contributors in Alternate Lanes:

L.Ward Abel
E. Amato
Michelle Angelini (aka Rina Rose)
Jim Bolt
Lynne Bronstein
Deborah Edler Brown
Gully Burns
Charles Claymore
J. de Salvo
Meg Elison
Jerry Garcia
Sandra Hunter
Alex S. Johnson
Scott Kaestner
Deborah P. Kolodji
Eric Lawson
Tess. Lotta
Gregory Longenecker
Tamara Madison
Matt McGee
Brenda Petrakos
Rick Lupert
Daniel McGinn
Scott Nichols-Collier
Apryl Skies
Julia Stein
Anthony Torchia
Mary Torregosa
D.L. Warner
Florence Weinberger
Hilda Weiss

article content  © 2012 marie lecrivain

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Words Cast Upon the Water: the Trouble With Simultaneous Submissions

(Original article previously published in Magnapoets, Issue 2, July 2008,
minor updates/changes have been added to reflect recent events.)
One morning as I opened my email, I noticed one marked "regarding submissions from 1/12/08," from a poet whose name I will not reveal. He notified me that one of his poems had been accepted elsewhere for publication, stated I that had his permission to publish the others, and hoped, if I liked his work, I would re-publish it and the other poems in an upcoming issue. After re-reading his submission, I congratulated him and told him, "No thank you."
For the record, I applaud the poet's honesty in admitting that his work had been simultaneously submitted (he stated so in his first email). However, this poet's work, while technically sound, did not resonate with me, which is, ultimately, why I turned him down.
As a writer/ editor, I find myself walking a precarious tightrope on the subject of simultaneous submissions. In publishing, this is a conundrum that has plagued me for years. Within this essay, I will explore the matter based on my own and other others experiences to shed some much needed light on the matter: why poets/writers brazenly - or not so - simultaneously submit work to the "quickest" bidder.
According to an article I discovered in the online magazine Ink and Blood, Norman Mailer was the first to pioneer simultaneous submissions, utilizing the natural frustration and subversion that go hand in hand with a writer's persona to send out manuscripts en masse to publishers. If I ever had the chance to meet Mailer (alas, he's since shuffled off this mortal coil), I'm not sure if I would've shaken his hand, or kicked his ass, in that order. (Note: with manuscripts, simultaneous submissions are another story for another time).
I'm not a prolific writer, though many people would disagree with me. In my opinion, it's vital to me that my work is read by as many people as possible. Yet, I want the "life" of my prose and poetry to last. This means, in accordance with my literary ethics, to refrain from sending the out same five poems to ten different literary journals, which, according to aspiring novelist and Subtle Tea editor David Herrle, is "like a guy 'poking' several women to raise the chance of impregnation."
As the editor of poeticdiversity: the litzine of Los Angeles, I no longer accept simultaneous submissions, In doing so, I find that many poets/writers choose to believe I'm being disingenuous when the rules of my publication clearly state:
7) Previously published work will be considered for publication, but with the following caveat; please cite where the work was published for the former, and contact us if your submission was accepted elsewhere for the latter. This will not bar submissions from getting published in poeticdiversity, it's just that every publication has its own rules and we don't want to step on anyone's toes. Simultaneous submissions will not be considered. And yes, we do check!
More often than not, these same submitters assuage their conscious with the fleeting validity of publication rather than risk the opportunity to be honest in return. Before I made my decision to stop accepting simultaneous submissions, I would do the following: perform a Google search to determine if the work had appeared elsewhere. If the work had already been published, I would request a publication date and name. Nine times out of ten, my request is ignored.
Because of this, I routinely reject work of those who are less than forthcoming. It’s not in my best interest, nor in my nature to represent the work of liars, the notable exception being, in quite a few cases, the poet/writer in question who accidentally omits the mention of previous publication. This is an honest mistake, and one that I made on occasion. Poets/writers who generate a body of work that spans a few years can easily fall prey to forgetfulness, as poet and Magnapoets executive editor Aurora Antonovic states, with unforeseen consequences:
"While there are honest mistakes (sometimes poets forget to where they've submitted what, or editors reject a poem only later to publish it, and the unsuspecting poet has already sent it off elsewhere), anyone who knowingly does this is engaging in unethical behavior. If poets (or anyone for that matter) want to be taken more seriously, they have to begin by behaving responsibly.
I've never knowingly simultaneously submitted somewhere, but I have made mistakes with records or an editor has made mistakes. Human error is one thing, but deliberate misleading of submissions records is serious enough, in my book, that repeat offenders ought to be no longer considered for publication. After all, no serious publication wants to get into copyright trouble."
I have yet to hear of a small press publication/literary journal suing another for violating the "exclusive" or more specific (though it reeks of nationalism), "first time North American serial rights" rule, and Antonovic raises an excellent point: The frustration writers and poets are exposed to, caused by editors who are not timely or courteous enough with responses, which compels them to simultaneously submit. Time lags have inspired Richard Beban, ex-pat, poet, and author of What the Heart Weighs (Red Hen Press 2004) and Young Girl Eating A Bird (2006 Red Hen Press), to take a hard line with journals, and to seek alternate and more selective means of publication:
"Since I began work as a poet in 1994, I don't bother sending to any publication that wants:
            2.) simultaneously claims a response time of six months or beyond.
I think six weeks is reasonable, no matter how "understaffed" a publication claims to be. Part of staffing should include the commitment to give writers enough respect that you don't hold their work for inordinate amounts of time. Writers like to see their work in print, yes, and particularly within their lifetimes. I also query about the work after six weeks, unless the specified response time is longer.  I even bug The New Yorker, which apparently has NO specified response time, judging from the black hole my poems go into when I send there.  I give them (the publication) three months in any case, and then gleefully simultaneously submit elsewhere."
Not everyone is as organized or as adamant as Beban. In my opinion, his approach is straightforward, and somewhat fair - because he has clearly established guidelines. Many newer poets/writers, legitimately bound by time constraints, don't have the time to research ALL the publications that they wish to submit work to, as one anonymous writer/editor/poet shared with me:
"I do send out to about five different publications at a time when I submit sets of poems. I do that with publications who say they accept simultaneous submissions, because they agree to take that risk. And writers take risks; too, when we send work out to journals because it's more likely than not that we're rejected. Of course, odds of acceptance depend a lot on the match between quality of work and quality of publication, but if we only submitted serially we'd be hard-pressed to have any kind of publication credits at the end of the year. At the end of the day, getting published is either important to you, or it's not. And if it is, you want to be smart about it and increase your odds by increasing your submission sights.
Groups like Writer's Relief make their living getting people published by doing that very thing: targeting about 30 publications with a single set of poems from an author. I know a handful of poets who use that service, and it does seem to work for the writer. I'm sure it's hard on editors when work is pulled at the last minute which is why a lot of them don't accept simultaneous submissions."
While the writer quoted above is acting responsibly by employing an intermediary like a writing/publishing resource to act on his/her behalf, there are many more poets/writers who are not, either because they are new to the submission process, and become overwhelmed by the plethora of submission rules, or because they experience frustration caused by the increasingly iconoclast rule of "exclusive rights," which has caused a potential pandemic of dishonesty between poets/writers and editors. As the rift widens, not only does the relationship between the poet/writer and the editor disintegrate, but the standard of a publication can become compromised, as John Amen, poet and editor of The Pedestal Magazine, maintains:
"Pedestal does ask for firsttime rights; i.e., we don't (re)publish previously published material; we do accept simultaneous submissions and ask that folks let us know if/when work is accepted elsewhere. This policy doesn't seem to be creating too many problems, although we've had a couple of situations that led us to consider changing the policy. Personally, I've never been into simultaneous submitting. I don't know why, it just doesn't appeal to me.
Now, there's another thing that goes on from time to time: someone wanting to publish a particular piece in various publications at the same time. It's not a question of whoever says "yes" first gets the piece; it's that the writer wants everyone/all the editors to publish the piece. As we ask for first rights and don't republish material, this clearly doesn't work for us. But more importantly, I think this practice does a disservice to the literary landscape. It fosters homogeneity and compromises the uniqueness of a particular publication."
I'm in accordance with Amen - and - I firmly believe that homogenizing one's art is the ultimate form of self-sabotage. I base my opinion on personal experience and a hard-won work ethic. Which is more important: elusive popularity coupled with the fleeting validation I receive every time my name gets into print, or the TRUTH that exists in my words? This is the question I ask myself as a writer when I submit work for consideration of publication, and, as an editor to whom work is submitted to on a weekly basis. I strive to respect myself and others in this capacity, and I believe that honesty is the key to bridging the chasm between poets/writers and editors.
This responsibility rests with the poets/writers. After six years, I have found that it IS possible to build a CV of publication credits without casting out my poetry and prose like the proverbial bread upon the waters. The following guidelines may help:
1) Be clear and careful. Study a publication's guidelines. Follow them to the letter. If a rule is unclear, take the initiative and contact the publisher.
2) As Beban illustrates, construct clearly established parameters regarding submissions. One suggestion: Unless the publication in question takes submissions on a rolling basis, consider your submission to be defunct if you have not heard from the editor by the publication date, and then take it somewhere else. Or, if the publication gives permission to contact them after a specific time, do so. You and your work deserve respect.
3) A writers' resources, like Doutrope, offer over 4,300 venues for publication, along with (daily) updated listings, a submissions tracker, notification of changes to publications (defunct, dead, temporarily closed to submissions). Duotrope is free, though I would encourage those who use it donate money to its upkeep once in awhile.
4) Keep a log of your submissions; dates, titles and email correspondences. Duotrope offers a log,. Many online publications are now using Submittable's Submissions Manager program, or you can create your own in an excel spreadsheet. A lot of confusion and anger can be avoided by getting organized in this fashion.
5) Be patient. Getting published en masse does not guarantee your literary immortality. Turn off the little voice inside your head that urges you to disseminate your work like fish food in a tank full of guppies. Too much food can kill the fish!
6) You all have heard this one, and it bears repeating. Carefully PROOF your work before submitting it anywhere; that stray comma or missing period can make a difference between a "Yes," or, a "No. Thanks for playing."
7) If all else fails, publish your work on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger or Live Journal where the whole world can see it, and where you can be fawned over or condemned to your heart's content.
I fear the day is coming - , no - it may already be here, where instant gratification outweighs the desire for quality literature. Of my own volition, I do my best to stem the tide. I wish each and every one of you "good luck."
(Note: Thank you to all those who answered my questions regarding this matter, which, of course, we all know will not be resolved any time soon.)
© 2012 marie lecrivain

Sunday, September 2, 2012

John FitzGerald's "The Mind"

     JohnFitzGerald's new collection, The Mind (copyright 2011 Salmon Poetry), is one poet's journey through his internal cosmos. In The Mind, the poet wanders through the realms of life, beauty, truth, death, The Self, and possibility (or, prophecy), but... to what end? FitzGerald's, The Mind is a 21 Century companion to Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, but one endowed with an immediate, vibrant accessibility; a Hero's Journey not soon to be forgotten.

     FitzGerald, an attorney who fights for the rights of the disabled, took some time to answer questions regarding the inception, as well as literary process that went into his latest collection of work.

     Q: Please explain the what events led you to form the concept behind The Mind?

     A: A couple ideas collided. My father died unexpectedly at forty-two, while I was in Europe. It was ten days after his burial I first learned of his death. My own forty-second birthday was approaching, and I reached it. I felt it worthy of some memorialization. I had been working a long time on a piece that didn’t pan out, wherein I catalogued aspects of the mind, as if descended from one another genealogically. Those efforts transformed into this.

     Q: Your use of the article “The,” in the title is telling. Are you referring to the “universal” mind, as in shared global consciousness, or to your “own” mind, by removing yourself from The Center and placing yourself in the role of observer. Why/why not?

     A: I’m working on a non-fiction book, in which I answer that question like this: There was a time before language. Suppose you are a hunter, with nothing but your wits and a spear you made yourself. You don’t just wander aimlessly, hoping some piglet impales itself. You track. That’s what hunting is. Reading signs. And those signs speak much as any words. I may never have seen the particular creature I’m after, but it came through the brush here, scraped its fur against this branch, put its right front foot just here as it drank from the stream. I have no doubt it is an antelope, a heavy male. It marked its territory there, a sign for other antelope to read. But I speak antelope. It nibbled from those shoots then took off in that direction. This story told itself in my head. Earth spoke it directly to me in a voice no other can here. Once we have words to describe this process, that internalized voice of Earth is ‘The Mind.’

     Q: The first stanza, in poem “Three,” caught my attention:

     The mind could be a very long poem.
     It could pick up where you left off, so many years ago,
     before you became law abiding.”

     This could infer that the poet is an outlaw. Based on that, as an attorney, how do your reconcile your dual roles of lawmaker and poet?

      A: My forthcoming book of poetry addresses that question directly, with a ‘fictional’ poem about the conflict between an attorney and his inner poet. Actually, I think the selected lines not merely infer, but directly states the opposite: that I am not an outlaw now, but may once have been. I understand how disappointing this can be. My first poems were published before I began law school in 1993. Once law school began, I had to give up writing poetry.

     Completion of law school left quite a vacuum. I wrote four poetry books between 1998 and 2004, of which The Mind was the first. When they were done I adopted the notion I would not write more until I published these, so applied myself to that. The fourth book I wrote, SpringWater, was the first published in 2005. The third, TellingTime by the Shadows was published in 2008. The first, this one, was published in 2011. And the second book I wrote will be published by Salmon in 2014. I became an attorney to learn how far law could be stretched before breaking. Knowledge of law allows one to exist at its limits. Law school changes a person, makes one foreseer of liabilities. With these four books all published, I was freed to go back to writing again, and am now working on non-fiction.

     Q: There are many references to your own mortality, and the death of family (father, uncle), in your collection, particularly to the ages where both these men both passed on. Would you say that gaining a greater awareness of your own mortality is a gift, or a detriment, to your poetry, and, is it something that you will continue to foster? Why/why not?

     A: The men in the line I find myself die relatively young. The aforementioned uncle set a record reaching sixty. I would say I am acutely aware of the limitations. It makes me feel as if I never have enough time, or things are not getting accomplished quickly enough. Still, I consider it advantageous. There’s something intrinsically rewarding in fascination, at least for me. I love to be fascinated, and spend time making myself that way.

     Q: The Mind reads like a philosophical treatise, with you, as The Poet, hypothesizing/researching/and possibly concluding where He stands in the universal order of things. Did/did you not you intend for your book to be so?

     A: Absolutely. By the time I wrote The Mind, my father was dead longer than I knew him. His death was so unexpected. I have both his birth certificate and death certificates, as if they prove he ever even existed. Cause of death was retropharyngeal abscess dissecting into mediastinum with bilateral serofibrinopurlent empyema. His body produced its own poison, and he choked of unpronounceable words. Turns out that is just an infection, and had he gone to a doctor, might even be here now. The awareness became even more acute when, at age 42, I found myself in a hospital bed breathing through tubes, and I realized then how surprisingly death can come upon you.

     Q: The Mind contains nine lines per poem, all the poem titles numbered “One” through “Eighty-nine.” Why such specific structure?

     A: When I began, I did not expect to write such a long poem. That aspect just evolved. I set out only to write nine lines, and it grew from there. When I first finished parts one through ten, I considered it done, but couldn’t get that format out of my head, so just kept at it. Originally it had 111 parts, but was scaled down to this, with remnants found in Telling Time, which indeed takes its title from a line in The Mind. I find that establishing artificial rules for the poem provides a sort of frame into which a picture must be forced to fit. In Spring Water, for example, every poem is 32 lines, 4 parts of 8 lines each, with no line longer than 65 characters. In the mind, I wanted each tercet to stand alone, and each part to stand alone as they form a comprehensive whole. So when you’re reaching that ninth line you know you’re time is running short and you’d better get to the point.

     Q: Now that The Mind, is a published collection of poetry, what kind of feedback are you receiving from your readers?

     A: The Mind was completed in 2002. I have been reading it at venues since, so it’s been known to many for a long time before publication in print. It has an oral tradition. The feedback has been overwhelming. Everybody loves it.

     Q: As a poet with dual citizenship, where do you find your true inspiration, in the Irish poetry tradition, or in the American? Why/why not?

     A: I do not think I am inspired. There is a thing that makes me write and that is the need to record what seems to cross through my awareness. I am an avid note taker. Day to day life tends to become so routine, it’s rare to think something new and original. But I set that goal for myself, and have note pads everywhere, in my car and every room of my house. It’s not so much inspiration as a conscious effort to notice a good line when it occurs.

     Q: According to your bio, you have several literary projects: Primate, a novel and screenplay; The People of the Net, a work of poetic literary non-fiction;  and the poetry collection The Charter of Effects, currently in progress. Which one can we expect next to come to fruition?

     A: Well, Charter is scheduled for publication by Salmon Poetry in 2014. Most likely, that will be next, though it may have a different title. Primate is out there floating around. The other works continue to progress. I find that works I once thought complete tend to be absorbed by more recent writings until they’re basically sucked into a black hole and no longer exist in their former incarnation. So People of the Net no longer exists, it is part of something else now. All will be published at some point, it’s just a matter of making them known to the right people. 

Note: Jon FitzGerald's books can be found at, or at .

article content © 2012 marie lecrivain

Thursday, August 2, 2012

poeticdiversity finalists for "Best of the Net" Anthology 2012

     poeticdiversity:the litzine of Los Angeles, has chosen the work of the following poets/writers to be nominated for Best of the Net 2012 Anthology (Sundress Publications). Best of the Net is heading into its seventh year. Congratulations, and good luck to the nominees, whose work can be found at the urls below:


- Alice Constantine “Happily Ever After


- R.D. Armstrong, aka Raindog - “The Bucket is Suddenly Empty

- Dawnell Harrison - “Clouds of Fog

- Cat Angelique McIntire - “Playing With Fire

- David McIntire - “Stare

- David Mclean - “evening becomes electric Madonna

- Angel Uriel Perales - “Six Faces

article content copyright 2012 marie lecrivain

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Terry McCarty's "Interloper: New Poems"

      Terry McCarty's new chapbook, Interloper: New Poems, (copyright 2011/2012 McCarty Press), contains a collection of works that successfully make the case for narrative poetry, and poetry as social commentary. McCarty, an integral part of the L.A. poetry scene since the mid-1990's, is the kind of poet whose work will be appreciated by those who will listen to the voice along with the message. McCarty has an illuminating voice; unadorned, honest, and unapologetic. McCarty, to coin an oft-worn phrase, “tells it like it is.”

      McCarty's poetry does not contain the usual language tricks; i.e., rhyme, cleverly misspelled words, etc., though, he does employ bits of poetic satire when the occasion calls for it, as in the poem, “Herding Occupy L.A./ Out of Sight/ Out of Mind Blues”:

get along little protesters
get out of the street
get onto the sidewalk
fold your banners
and pack up your tents
because you are making
and television journalists mad
as Heck
now the hounds are baying
for Charlie Beck
to tear off his peaceful-
and emerge as the Incredible
Two-Headed Hybrid of Darryl
Gates and Ed Davis
crying havoc
and unleashing the tasers and
get along little protesters
business must do whatever it
we're not going to listen to you
Occupy people
since our city is not a city of “the
but a city of, by, and for
the Very Important People
of AEG

      Interloper, as a whole, is cohesive. McCarty's intelligent, caustic style dovetails well with short, direct lines of verse that lead the reader through a unique perspective of Americana on both a personal, and political level. There is also an engaging vulnerability in McCarty's poetry: not the “poor me,” confessional doggerel deliberately designed to elicit sympathy, but, a vulnerability that is more universal, and immediately appreciated; the struggle to come to terms with a part of ourselves, the part that does not let us instantly divine who we are/what our ultimate purpose may be, as in the poem, “Dropping Anchor”:

Threw my weapons overboard.
Wrenched my hand from my
Opened the galley refrigerator.
Enough rations to survive.
There will be books to read,
clouds to watch,
chances to say hello
to temporary people
who come for day-trips
in other boats
and stop to eat, drink,
wade in the shallows.
When they are gone,
maybe I'll learn to listen
until I hear the music
inside the silence.

     My recommendation: make room on your poetry shelf for Interloper:New Poems. You'll be glad you did.

Note: You can purchase Interloper: New Poems (copyright 2011/2012 McCarty Press, All Rights Reserved) at the following places:

1) Terry McCarty's blog:

2) Beyond Baroque Bookstore

poems copyright 2012 Terry McCarty

article content copyright 2012 marie lecrivain

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Interview: Brendan Constantine discusses "Calamity Joe"

To say that Brendan Constantine is a force of nature is like saying that plant leaves contain chlorophyll. For many L.A. poets, his work and performance are indelibly etched in the memory – and will stay there. His poetry is iconic (among other things, he's been nominated for California Poet Laureate), as is his generosity, in his work with other poets of all ages (particularly with young adults). One can't go to an open mic without hearing someone read a poem written by/inspired by Brendan, who continues to inspire a level of creativity, and literacy that is sorely needed in the So Cal poetry scene.

Brendan very graciously took time from his current tour to answer a few questions about his new collection of poetry, Calamity Joe (copyright 2012 Red Hen Press). Thank you, Brendan!

AKP: Please explain, in detail, what events - internally and poetically - led to the formation and publication of Calamity Joe?

BC: The original cycle of ‘Joe’ poems (there are three in the final book) appeared in 1997. Without going into a prolonged diagnosis, I was experiencing some emotional disorientation at the time: a death, challenges in the family, you know... life. I’d also begun to notice a strange nostalgia for things that I’d never experienced. I started to write poems about this ‘place,’ but I was uncomfortable naming names. How could I share these poems with anyone? And then two things happened:

The first was I read the work of Fernando Pessoa. Among other things, Pessoa is credited with a literary device known as the Heteronym. Unlike a ‘persona’, a heteronym doesn’t commemorate anyone actual: it is (to my mind) an alternate psychology created by an author as a means of speaking in a particular way. It is not an alias or nom de plum. Neither is it just a fictional character OR anything more than that. Wow, I could do this for a long time... Moving along now...

The second thing was I got to see this principal in action. Poet Peter Everwine came through on a tour for (I think) Carnegie Mellon’s reissue of his 1972 prize winning book, Collecting The Animals. In it, there’s a poem where the speaker admits to jealousy for his brother’s carefree life, his drunken returns with pollen in his hair and a moony face. At the end of the poem Everwine describes what he wants to do to his brother, how he’d like to punish him by sending him back out with a stone in each shoe, “and no bread in his pocket.”

He read this poem at a venue downtown and afterward a woman in the audience asked how he could be so cruel to his brother. Everwine said he wasn’t cruel. Then added, “And, I don’t have a brother.”
These may not seem like big epiphanies, but they were what I needed at the time. I dove into my work, liberated by these examples. Somewhere in the process I became aware of a feeling that many other artists have described as discovering their art rather than creating it. Joe ‘appeared’ and began to coach me. We talked for the next ten years.

AKP: Calamity Joe is represented by a cast of characters: The Cancer, The Mother, The Brother, The Old Man, The Boy, The Nine-Fingered Girl, and The Lily. What parts of “you,” are contained within these archetypes, and how much is based on people you actually know?

BC: Well, I don’t work in a lab (like Joe), nor am I soon to be the last living member of my family. I’ve never joined a search party and, like Peter Everwine, I didn’t grow up with a brother. All I can say is that Joe’s grief is mine. His hope is mine. But I’m not Joe.

AKP: How are your readers reacting to Calamity Joe over your previous book, Birthday Girl With Possum (copyright 2011 Write Bloody Press), and what, on tour, are you – as an author - experiencing for better/worse, with this new volume than with the previous collection?

BC: Response to the book has been very encouraging. People really seem to be enjoying it. What I find very gratifying is when I hear people say they’ve re-read it. I’ve been blessed (no, DAMN lucky) to be able to publish three books in three years, and, in each case, I have tried to create volumes that can be re-read in different ways. That is, I don’t think it’s enough just to compile my ‘greatest hits,’ I want a book to be its own complete experience, its own larger poem. In other words, a book of poems isn’t something to solve, it’s a place to dwell.

On this most recent tour, I’ve had only positive responses. No one has declared a preference for one book over the other. At least, not to me! I must add that my previous book, Birthday Girl With Possum, is not yet a year old and I’m still actively promoting it. While both books have very different aims, they don’t seem to conflict with each other. I’m able to read from both books in the same venue and they ‘get along.’

AKP: Obviously, there is a HIGH level of craftsmanship with each of your books (Dante's Casino, Letters to Guns, Birthday Girl With Possum), however, with CJ, you appear to have committed wholeheartedly to your role as a poet, and all that implies (artist, prophet, social commentator, anarchist, etc)? Why/Why not would you agree with this?

BC: That’s quite a statement. I like to think that I grow and change all the time, but in regards to Joe, I’m not aware of a shift in my approach; there are sections of Joe that are at least as old as my first book. What is perhaps different is that with Joe I needed different tools, but they came from the same box. You see, I think that the cause of the poet is poetry. All of the tools – meters, sonics, conceits, even contexts – are there to help the poem become. That’s not to say that I’m not responsible for what I say, but every word is an effort to say more than itself, to say something I can’t, in fact, say - something higher than prophesy, social commentary, anarchy, etc. Everything I use, every subject I raise, is a means to something above it, a means to the ineffable, which is art.

AKP: Creatively speaking, what is next on the horizon for you?

BC: I had one project ready to go but it got shot down. I’d hoped to do a book of poems in the voice of a minor character from American literature, a woman in prison for murder during the Great Depression and all of WWII. When I approached the estate of the character’s creator, they were very kind, but ultimately uncomfortable with anyone developing the character beyond the original story. I totally understood, but it left me rather spun – I was really inspired and dying to start work and then, suddenly there was no point in doing it. I’m being very careful not to say too much because I really admire this author. I know some people might say, “What the hell, be true to your muse! Write it anyway,” but ethically I can’t bring myself to work on something that would annoy the family of a writer I love. What kind of tribute is that?

So, I’m writing something else, and as always, trying to do so outside of my zone(s) of comfort. There’re a few publications on the way: a new piece coming in Zyzzyva, three new poems in the Beloit Poetry Journal. I’m truly honored to have the regard of these editors. Don’t know what I did right.

Beyond that, I continue to teach. Before resuming my classes at the Windward School this fall, I’m going back to Idyllwild Arts and the amazing kids at the Children’s Center. Both of these schools provide exceptional environments for cultivating creativity.

What I’m proudest of these days is the work I get to do with a group called The Art of Elysium. This organization brings artists of all disciplines to work closely with children challenged by serious medical conditions. I hope everyone who reads this will check them out.

They’ve only recently started to work with writers and I believe I’m their first poet. Actually, they’re still trying to figure out what to do with me! For the last couple of years I’ve been visiting facilities like Kaiser Hollywood and going from ward to ward, doing workshops with various kids. Some are too sick or encumbered to even hold a pen, (I may have to wear a mask, smock and gloves just to approach them), so we craft things by talking them out and they dictate. It’s always different, always a surprise. By the way, I’m on the lookout for good prompts that can be done at a bedside. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know!

Note: All of Brendan's books are available through his website, as well as tour dates.

photos courtesy of the Brendan Constantine website
article content copyright 2012 marie lecrivain