Book reviews may be written by members or about the work of a member. Please send us the information or link to how others can purchase your book, and we will try to highlight a few of those each week.
Walter Bargen released Radiation Diary: Return to the Sea in paperback on October 1, 2023.
Available for Purchase: Amazon. com, Lamar University Literary Press (LULP), Skylark Book Shop Columbia, MO)
In Radiation Diary, Walter Bargen considers cancer: not just the revolt of the body against the body, but the many ways a difficult diagnosis undoes, then alters, then describes the victim. How, these poems ask, does one achieve balance or purpose as the body seems to proceed toward its own demise? What do balance and purpose mean under these pressures? And what of poetry and of the memories that create poems? I've been a major fan of Bargen's poetry for nearly three decades now. In this, his twenty-sixth book, he is in peak form, writing with fearlessness, humanity, and brilliance about the Poet's own body, "a navigation chart folded/too many times to find a way out."
Don’t let its title, Swimming with the Fat Ladies, mislead you. Penned by Debbie Theiss, whose clever tone mirrors humorist Erma Bombeck’s, this chapbook shares the humor, ironies, fears, and joys of becoming a female senior citizen in today’s society. In contrast to fat’s negative image, Theiss shows it as a positive adjective. In her Foreword, she defines the term as “the best or richest part; superfluity; substantial and impressive; prosperous; having an abundance or amplitude; abounding in desirable elements . . .” (The Foreword also details a hilarious scene of a swimsuit fitting.) Then, Theiss dances the reader through poems to which most seniors can relate, such as: “Hip Replacement,” “Office Visit” (with a mammogram), “Family Heirloom,” wherein she must “wrestle the jam-packed drawer open,” “I Refuse to Go Digital” (about battles with the scale), and “Shades of Purple” (hair dye). Along with sharing the funny aspects of aging this chapbook still exposes its challenges. Whether thin or not, female septuagenarians would do well by reading it.
—Lindsey Martin-Bowen, author, The Book of Frenzies (Pierian Springs Press 2023)
Theiss’s poetry takes us on a life-changing journey. She has an uncanny ability to memorialize meaningful moments, so that we see and feel them as if they are our very own. A farting mom, a departing son, a splash in the water, a judgmental daughter, a circle of old friends, a worry about gray ends —these are but a few of the enticing topics she covers in her riveting collection. Her vivid descriptions hold a mirror out to the reader, reflecting and revealing our own personal experiences. How well she knows loss and the perils and promises of aging! Yet, how brilliantly she sneaks in humor, wonder, outrage, insights, and celebrations. Plunge into this marvelous book and emerge emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually enriched.
—Deborah Shouse, author, An Old Woman Walks Into a Bar
In “Swimming With the Fat Ladies,” Debbie Theiss invites readers to join her in discovering the superabundance within each of us. Playful, poignant, and powerful, her multilayered poetry is both personal and eminently relatable. I accepted her invitation, dove in, and what a delightful swim it was! From hot flashes and hearing aids to heirlooms and heroes, Theiss’s poems speak of friendship, laughter, love, and loss.
—Judy Hyde, author, Heartland Writers for Kids & Teens
Debbie Theiss (Lee’s Summit, MO) is an award-winning poet and Pushcart Prize nominee. She grew up in in the Midwest and finds inspiration for her poetry in the unfolding art of daily life and nature. Swimming With the Fat Ladies (Kelsay Books, September 2023) follows her debut poetry collection, a chapbook entitled Perfectly Imperfect (2021). In addition, she has poems published in I-70 Review, Skinny Journal, Kansas Time and Place, Interpretations IV & V, Helen Literary Journal, River & South Review, Postcard Poems and Prose, Star 82 Review, Weaving the Terrain from Dos Gatos Press, and others.
“The Dead Pets Poetry Anthology’ is exactly that: a thoughtfully curated collection of contemporary poets writing about their lost pets, with love, pathos, and a touch of humor. Although every pet and their person have a unique relationship, losing a pet has some common, shared experiences. This book will remind you why we do this, and how our lives are enriched and enhanced by our pets. All net proceeds, $9.33 of each book purchased, is donated to animal welfare for each book sold.
Laughter Floats from Somewhere, Shirley Rickett’s sixth book, begins with new elegiac poems in memory of a son. Other new poems deal with themes of grief, and recovery. Selected poems span five decades that include work in her books, magazines, journals, and anthologies. These poems cover threads of war and its detritus, aging, and the unadulterated swiftness of time’s passage.
Publisher: Kelsay Books
Publication date: August 2, 2023
Paperback: 120 pages
Available for Purchase: Amazon.com & Kelsay Books
Over his last three books, Terry Allen, has achieved a flawless melding of serious subject matter and wit that often spills over into laughter. Rubber Time, his fourth book, brings the reader to that level of comedic catharsis that is so rare in contemporary poetry. So when the “rubber hits the road,” we run into the poem “Contemplating Frost,” which is a reflection on Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. This iconic 20th Century poem that is most remembered for one line that readers might love, might remember, might have overheard because they never read/the poem in the first place/or were only forced to read/it once in high school,/under great protest,/since, after all, it is a poem. Allen calls us out for resisting the wisdom and the humor that is found throughout poetry and his poems.
—Walter Bargen, first Poet Laureate of Missouri and author of Too Late to Turn Back
Gentle surprise is a defining element of these poems that present mystery and welcome side by side, sometimes in the same line. Terry Allen’s Rubber Time is both expansive and accessible—a very good combination, in my opinion. Written with a voice that carries the reader with comfort and confidence into Jakarta, onto the Titanic, into the inner lives of compelling characters, and along a path of meditation that never ceases to provoke reflection. This is a collection of fascinating stories, discomfiting bits of wisdom, and disarmingly open-hearted confidings.
—Chad Parmenter, award winning poet and author of Weston’s Unsent Letters to Modotti
Terry Allen’s new poetry book, Rubber Time, offers super stretchy and highly elastic poetic themes and stories. A dramatist, Allen demonstrates that time holds memories and stories that span spacetime. His poems are well-crafted narratives that tug on the heart with their irony, humor, and compassion as the crux of every good story, as a dramatist knows, is tragedy swinging on the same pendulum as comedy. Though memories become ghosts in a world of shadow and shade, we can relate to the keen presence of universal truth in what is Allen’s best poetry collection to date.
—Barbara Harris Leonhard, author of Amazon best-selling Three-Penny Memories: A Poetic Memoir and Editor of MasticadoresUSA
Terry Allen was born in Brisbane, Australia and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. He is an emeritus professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he taught acting, directing, and playwriting. He is the author of the chapbook Monsters in the Rain and three full-length poetry collections: Art Work, Waiting on the Last Train, and Rubber Time. His poems have appeared in many journals, including I-70 Review, Third Wednesday, and Popshot Quarterly. In addition, he has been nominated for an Eric Hoffer Book Award, a Best of the Net Award, and a Pushcart Prize. He currently lives in Columbia, Missouri, with his wife Nancy and their dog Jayden.
Frenzies reverberate with the ghosts of Kenneth Patchen and Kenneth Koch as the poet invents a universe of whimsical revelations. These poems powerfully reject ordinary logic, moving instead by sheer negative capability. Gritty and zany as an early Bob Dylan song, the poems delight, full of iguanas, crocodiles, and people living on the edge. Lindsey captures the absurdity of the bright light of our days and the deep darkness of our nights.
Lindsey Martin-Bowen teaches Criminal Law and Procedure (online) at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon from January 2019 through June 2022. Until August 2018, she taught writing, literature, and Criminal Law at MCC-Longview and taught literature and writing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City 18 years. The BOOK of FRENZIES is her newest collection containing the zany poems she's deemed "frenzies." (Some frenzies have appeared in sections of two other collections.)
A Pulitzer-Prize nominee, her previous poetry collection, WHERE WATER MEETS THE ROCK (39 West Press 2017) contains "Vegetable Linguistics," which received an Honorable Mention in the Non-rhyming Poetry category of Writers Digest's 85th Annual Writing Competition (2016). Her third collection, CROSSING KANSAS with Jim Morrison, won the "It Looks Like a Million" Award for the 2017 Kansas Authors Club competition. The book is an expansion of her chapbook named a finalist in the 2015-2016 QuillsEdge Press Chapbook Contest. "Bonsai Tree Gone Awry" from INSIDE VIRGIL'S GARAGE (Chatter House Press 2013) was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. This collection was also runner-up in the 2015 Kansas Authors Club Nelson Poetry Book Award. Woodley Press (Washburn University) published her first full-length collection, STANDING ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, which McClatchy newspapers named one of the Ten Top Poetry Books of 2008. Paladin Contemporaries released her novels RAPTURE REDUX (2014), HAMBURGER HAVEN (2009) and CICADA GROVE (1992). Her work has appeared in NEW LETTERS, I-70 REVIEW, THORNY LOCUST, TITTYNOPE ZINE, BARE ROOT REVIEW, COAL CITY REVIEW, FLINT HILLS REVIEW, AMETHYST ARSENIC, THE SAME, SILVER BIRCH PRESS, PHANTOM DRIFT, THE ENIGMATIST, ROCKHURST REVIEW, BLACK BEAR REVIEW, LITTLE BALKINS REVIEW, KANSAS CITY VOICES, LIP SERVICE, 11 anthologies, and others. With Dennis Etzel, Jr., she edited GIMME YOUR LUNCH MONEY: Heartland Poets Speak out against Bullies (Paladin Contemporaries 2016). She holds an M.A. in English (creative writing emphasis) and a Juris Doctor.
Before focusing upon teaching and writing poetry and fiction, she served as a full-time journalist and magazine editor for THE LOUISVILLE TIMES, the Johnson County SUN, MODERN JEWELER Magazine, and THE NATIONAL PARALEGAL REPORTER. She also worked as a legal editor for the Office of Hearings and Appeals (USDI) in Washington, DC.
The poems in At Midnight, David Ray’s twenty-seventh book, address themes of grief with a philosophical tone, the environment, oddities and inequalities in our society, and images from visual artists. About a previous book, Burnt Offerings, it was noted that in David Ray’s poems “the emphasis on simplicity of expression, while dealing with the profound, make him one of the most accessible writers in modern poetry.” That quality continues in this latest book.
David Ray’s books include Burnt Offerings, Hemingway: A Desperate Life, Wool Highways, Sam’s Book, and Music of Time: Selected and New Poems. The Endless Search is a memoir and he has published many essays and stories. He is Professor Emeritus from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and former editor of New Letters. He now lives in Tucson, Arizona.
At Midnight can be ordered directly from the author: David Ray, 2033 E. 10th Street, Tucson, AZ 85719 $15 (plus $3 postage), firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.amazon.com.
Three-book biblio-mystery series by Kansas City author Tom Shawver is now available from Rough EdgesPress The series is in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book retailers (Rainy Day Books, J'Adore, the Raven in Lawrence).
The first in the series, Dirty Book Murder, is available in paperback for $12.99, ebook for $3.49. The second in the series, Left Turn at Paradise, and the third, The Widow’s Son, are $14.99. All were published in May, 2023.
Shawver is a former Marine, lawyer, journalist, rugby player, and antiquarian book merchant. He drew upon his 15+ years running Bloomsday Books for this fast-paced series involving murder in the world of used and rare books.
A Kansas City native, Shawver provides an insider’s view of our area’s delights, while also capturing elements of some of the unique characters of the city – including baristas, blue-blood lawyers, the Irish community and more.
The hero of this series is Michael Bevan (also a former Marine, lawyer, and rugby player), who operates Riverrun Books, a bookshop in the Brookside area of Kansas City. In the Dirty Book Murder, Bevan battles inner demons, spars with a recalcitrant daughter, and befriends a feisty reporter for an alternative newspaper who’s far more than what she seems. Bevan’s smart-aleck cleverness and sly wit only enmeshes him into a web of murderous intrigue, centered in deep dark secrets of a rare book.
Kansas City’s renaissance is a vivid backdrop for these biblio-mysteries, which will give you deeper insights into the “gentle madness” that characterizes the antiquarian trade.
Shawver is available for book clubs, readings, presentations, panel discussions and interviews. He welcomes the chance to discuss the lively book scene in Kansas City, his background and writing process, the richness of Kansas City as a setting for mystery, and more (rugby, anyone?). He’s also a source of inspiration for anyone who yearns to write a novel and wants to believe dreams can come true.
What critics have said:
“A page-turner…gripping and engaging…or, as dealers rate rare books, definitely VF – Very Fine!”
Carolyn Hart, New York Times bestselling author of the Death on Demand mysteries
“Anyone who enjoyed John Dunning’s Bookman series will enjoy the Dirty Book Murder.”
Left Turn at Paradise, the second Rare Book Mystery, is “…an entertaining and action-paced adventure reminiscent of Indiana Jones, delicately seasoned with the allure of rare old books.”
Hiram Larew's newest collection of poems, Patchy Ways, has been published by CyberWit Press.
"I’ve lived a privileged life. In a way, I feel honor bound to acknowledge that upbringing, to share a gratitude that never ever assumes luck – but that does try to express an amazement with what’s called living. Said slightly differently, I want to plant a garden with big, hopeful tomato poems growing in it – to share. Yep, I wrote the book as a way of offering red ripe garden tomatoes to folks.
I’ve enjoyed uncertainties, doubts, steps forward and then back – and have learned along the way. Of course, I realize that I’ll always be learning forever. In the meantime, I’ve patched things together – a little bit from here, some from there. I’ve found a way that isn’t perfect, and for that reason, seems perfectly patchy – for me.
I prefer simple covers, and so I asked the publishers at CyberWit Press if they might design a look that isn’t glossy. And I asked that the prime real estate called the back cover be used to showcase a poem from the collection."
Founder of Poetry X Hunger: Bringing a World of Poets to the Anti-Hunger Cause, Larew has had poems appear in recent issues of Contemporary American Voices, Poetry Scotland’s Gallus, The Iowa Review, ZiN Daily, West Trade Review and San Antonio Review. www.HiramLarewPoetry.com and www.PoetryXHunger.com
Call Me Fool, William Trowbridge’s ninth poetry collection, came out from Red Hen Press in September, 2022. His previous collection is Oldguy: Superhero—The Complete Collection. His new and selected collection is Put This On Please, 2014. Over 550 of his poems have appeared in numerous literary magazines and in more than 50 anthologies and textbooks. He is a faculty mentor in the University of Nebraska-Omaha Low-residency MFA in Writing Program and was Poet Laureate of Missouri from 2012 to 2016. For more information, see his website at williamtrowbridge.net.
G. Richard Evans, who goes by Ric for everything but his writing, is a retired Addiction Counselor and Associate College Professor who began writing seriously after his wife passed away. Here is a review of Maniacs, Monsters and a Bump in the Night:
Post by Lunastella, an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Maniacs, Monsters and a Bump in the Night" by G. Richard Evans.]
What are you afraid of? Debt? Rejection? Bullies? Humiliation? G. Richard Evans in Maniacs, Monsters, and a Bump in the Night takes our deepest fears and turns them up to eleven into (twelve) terrifying short stories that go from novellas to ones that comprise only a few pages. All of them have a fantastic or supernatural element, with some leaning heavier into the paranormal and others much more into realism. My favorite one, titled “Scream It’s Dark” deals with one of humanity’s most primal fears: darkness. But why is Peter scared of the dark? And why, if he has this phobia, does he prowl poorly lit nightclubs looking for women?
The stories are relatable, which makes them even scarier. Of course, most of us won’t find a demon or a ghost in our lifetimes, but the core themes, such as envy, superstition, or addiction, are common to the human experience. Maniacs, Monsters, and a Bump in the Night has something for everyone. Paranormal enthusiasts will find their fair share of witchcraft, demons, and ghosts, while pragmatic readers can see characters who struggle with more realistic fears, such as humiliation. However, try to keep an open mind. I usually prefer supernatural horror. So I wasn’t especially enthused about the story, “Ask Your Daughter”, which is about a junkie. I’ve never even tried drugs in my life. But the talented and sinister pen of Mr. Evans put me through such an inferno of aches and chills that I had to take a break from reading.
The author planned every word in this book to achieve its maximum effect. He doesn’t fatten up his stories with unnecessary gore for shock value but uses each word carefully to create unforgettable moments of fear. Take, for instance, the following brief but powerful description: “It was both indescribably beautiful and unbelievably ugly.” The amazing narrative abilities of the author make even the most innocent of themes a frightening one. We’ve all had a cough, right? After you read “You Bet Your Wife” you might never again look at a cough as a simple, annoying malady. This story is also a great example of how even the titles are creative and work as an appetizer for what comes next. Every narrative aspect of these tales is perfectly executed, but the endings were my favorite part because they surprised me every time, with one story (I won’t tell which, as not to spoil the fun) even having a relatively happy ending.
Finally, I enjoyed that G. Richard Evans doesn’t limit to a glum narrative tone, but includes hints of humor and even some thought-provoking passages. Take, for instance, the following reflection: “He knew that things aren’t always as we think they are and that he had been buried in his own conception of life for much too long.” (p. 25).
The poems in HIGHER are at once direct and resonant, celebratory of the natural world and of spiritual aspirations. Rising from a working-class, blue-collar sensibility, these pieces range from a short work about using a sledge hammer on a street crew to a multipart longer work about animals in changing nature. These lyric poems include subtle metrics and enough narrative to drive events, often with elegiac references to a military vet friend, a brother, a Sicilian grandmother, and literary heroes. Their focus ultimately returns to hope and care for children, often with no small amount of humor. This collection – from the winner of a National Magazine Award and Prize Americana – attests to our ability to pay attention, to detail what we see and what we hear, and, as such, aspire to joy.
“Robert Stewart’s HIGHER is a treasure: witty, spare, emotionally generous, it offers the reader companionship in troubled times. No syllable wasted. The poems are delicious and invitee us to read and reread, to taste and take in, into the heart, “where you can see / all things as one. How can a book be humble, idiomatic, and lefty at once? Open this literary treasure chest where the heart beats and the lines sing and begin to find out!” —Marilyn Kallet, author of Even When We Sleep
“Bob Stewart is a superb poet and essayist. His keen eye and supple imagination are among his most remarkable gifts.” —Conger Beasley Jr., author of We Are a People in This World
Robert Stewart was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo., served in the U.S. Navy, worked as an apprentice plumber, ditch digger and sewer worker, attended numerous colleges, and wound up with a career as an editor, writer, and sometimes teacher. His previous books include Working Class: Poems (Stephen F. Austin State University, 2018), The Narrow Gate: Writing, Art, & Values (essays, Serving House Books, 2014); Outside Language: Essays (Helicon Nine Editions, finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Awards 2004, and winner of the Thorpe Menn Award); Plumbers (poems, BkMk Press, revised second edition 2017), and others. Chapbooks and monographs include the extended essay On Swerving: The Way of William Stafford (Literary House Press, 2007), and Chickenhood (seven poems about chickens, 2015).
He won a National Magazine Award for editing, from the American Society of Magazine Editors, the magazine industry’s highest honor, for his work as editor of New Letters magazine, which he edited for 18 years, until March 2020. He is former director of New Letters on the Air, a nationally syndicated public-radio series, and BkMk Press, both formerly at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He founded Midwest Poets Series in 1983 and directed the reading series for 36 years, on behalf of Rockhurst University in Kansas City.
His poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Image Journal, Poetry Northwest, I-70 Review, Prairie Schooner, Salt, Stand, Literary Review and other magazines. Anthology editorships include Spud Songs: An Anthology of Potato Poems, Voices From the Interior: Missouri Poets, New American Essays, and Decade: Modern American Poets. Robert Stewart’s essays have appeared in The Missouri Review, North American Review, Montreal Review, Italian Americana, KCStudio and elsewhere. Feature articles have appeared in Ingram’s, The Kansas City Star, The New Art Examiner, and others.
Wayne Courtois launches first poetry collection, The Old Ambassador and Other Poems
Wayne Courtois has released his first poetry collection, The Old Ambassador and Other Poems. Courtois is author of the award-winning memoir A Report from Winter, the literary novel Tales My Body Told Me, and the gay erotic novels My Name Is Rand and In the Time of Solution 9. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in many anthologies and journals, including The Greensboro Review, Chelsea Station, Hibernation and Other Poems by Gay Bards, and Assaracus (poetry) and Jonathan (fiction) from Sibling Rivalry Press.
To purchase: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-old-ambassador-and-other-poems-wayne-courtois/1143174860
Praise for The Old Ambassador and Other Poems
If you’re looking for a light read, The Old Ambassador and Other Poems by Wayne Courtois is not for you. In this collection, Courtois simultaneously paints an elaborate portrait of and gives voice to an oppressed, undervalued, and essential part of our society. Bigotry and discrimination are tackled in these poems, but never given the forefront; the poet deftly highlights the injustices without succumbing to the elusive dangers of diatribe.
At its core, this book is about love and togetherness. Sometimes that is shown in traditionally idyllic ways, other times Courtois admits, “it felt good to hit things together.” Though love is at the center of this book, the poet never steers the reader too far into the land of fairytale, but instead reminds us that “Only the hooker down/the hall guarantees/a happy ending.” As bleak as that sentiment may be, only a few lines later we are told to “never forget/we love each other.” In “Heteronormative Bar-B-Q Sandwich,” the reader is treated to brilliant comparison of two couples and their varied acceptance by the outside word. “City of No Return” is a tour-de-force of a poem documenting the rise and fall of a relationship, and the life after the fall.
Of course, the centerpiece of the book is the epic “The Old Ambassador,” which is roughly half of the collection. This long piece gives the reader a vivid glimpse of a building, a city, a life, and an entire section of our community and what they face on a daily basis. Right away Courtois grabs the reader with expert lines like, “Have you ever grabbed a/doorknob that’s been painted/Over? It’s like shaking hands/with a ghost.” As heavy as this piece (and the book as a whole) is, the poet deftly weaves in snippets of humor: “As usual,/every cloud looks like a/penis.”
Ultimately, Wayne Courtois new book is a masterpiece of bombastic understatement, a call to arms, a soothing lullaby, and a love letter and a middle finger to a city. But in the end, The Old Ambassador and Other Poems expertly proves to us that “We’re all in this together.”
-James Benger, author of From the Back
In The Old Ambassador and Other Poems, Wayne Courtois gives the reader a sense of the queer experience in America from the onset of the HIV epidemic to current times. This collection displays a mastery of making the personal universal. So often these poems could slip into sentimentality, rants, and political diatribe, but instead Courtois keeps the reader in the poem and, by default, in the poetic moment. His lexicon is often surprising, and his measured use of poetics is sly — opting for slant and internal rhyme instead of predictable hard end rhymes. Whether one flies a rainbow flag or wants to understand better those who do, this collection fills the reader with all of the splendor of being human in a world where one’s inclinations towards love can still be opposed, violently, by the dimmest misinformed minds.
– Shawn Pavey, author, Survival Tips for the Pending Apocalypse
With grace and wit, Courtois depicts an unforgettable community of passionate survivors who not only fight and confront but also strive for a brave love deepened by experience. Elsewhere, Courtois’ poems traverse a journey of his own love—triumphant and sweet, yet dangerous and sorrowful in a heteronormal world. Something wise and human comes from this: “. . .the straight/and the gay, the blessed/and the sinners journeying/home to lookalike dinners.”
--Catherine Anderson, author, My Brother Speaks in Dreams
The Old Ambassador and Other Poems is a singularly impressive achievement. These poems whisper with poignancy, with broken promises and old sadness. Yet at the same time, they uplift us. The attention to detail is rich, yet grounded in the everyday—in the broken concrete, cracked paint, and heat that pervade these lines and verses. These are not poems to read in a few short moments and then forget; these poems will haunt you. And that's a good thing. I've followed the writings of Wayne Courtois for a long while, and with this new book, I can truly say -- I am in awe.
--Robin Wayne Bailey, author of The DRAGONKIN Trilogy and Shadowdance
Review of The Old Ambassador and Other Poems from the Out in Print queer book review blog, April 17, 2023:
The Wayne Courtois always brings a fresh point of view and impeccable follow-through to his work, so I was to dive into his latest, The Old Ambassador and Other Poems, which did not disappoint. As he’s primarily a fiction writer, Courtois’s work is often rooted in reality rather than imagery. His images are certainly telling, but he approaches them from a more grounded perspective, telling the reader what’s on his mind. And what’s on Courtois’s mind lately seems to be mortality, evident from the first piece, “When It Comes,” about the moment of death. He does approach other subjects, such as the normalcy of gay couples, as in one of my favorites here, “Heteronormative Bar-B-Q Sandwich,” which illustrates the difference between a straight couple and a gay couple waiting in line for food; but the long centerpiece of the book, “The Old Ambassador,” reeks of age, must, and death. A piece about the demise and refurbishment of an old apartment building in Kansas City, Courtois’s current home base, it leaves plenty of room for thinking about finality as well as renewal and how to embrace both with equal fervor. It’s solemn yet hopeful, focusing on transition–as you can tell from the cover. Skilled and assured, The Old Ambassador and Other Poems is a welcome return from one of our finest writers.
--Jerry L. Wheeler, Editor, Out in Print (https://outinprintblog.wordpress.com/2023/04/17/spring-poetry-roundup-2/)
Trish Reeves releases The Receipt
Trish Reeves’s latest collection of poems, The Receipt, from Cynren Press, released April 2023. In The Receipt, poetry blends with history and its lessons in a tribute to the human spirit. Reeves’s poems are a receipt for life lived through the ages. Whether pre-cataclysmic Pompeii, Michelangelo on horseback to Bologna, or a plague doctor’s first encounter with Angel Island, Reeves’s imagery, metaphors, and language create rhythms of history.
Available from Cynren Press: https://www.cynren.com
and Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
ISBN 978-1-947976-41-2, 6 x 9 paperback, 82 pp, $12.00
$4.99 EPUB (non-Kindle) $4.99 Kindle
Charles Forrest Jones lives with his wife and dogs in Lawrence, Kansas and Creede, Colorado. He has a BS in Biology from Kansas University, an MPA from Harvard University’s Kennedy School, and spent the majority of his professional life in public service. From 2003 to 2014, he served as Director of the Kansas University Public Management Center and taught MPA ethics and administration. Each of his academic courses included at least one reading to inspire creativity, such as The Glass Castle or On Writing. Public policy is rooted in the human condition, there is a place for the articulate, compelling, even beautiful.
“Charles Forrest Jones has written an unflinchingly intimate epic: a patchwork portrait of lives that are far from simple, in a rural Kansas county that is anything but barren. The story pulses with life, teems with gorgeously understated description, and glimmers with truths that are violent, beautiful, ugly, gutting, funny, and real. In these pages, the world is cracked wide open to reveal people who should be stitched together by shared wounds instead of pitted against each other for survival. And all the while, political machinations churn as they do: absurdly theatrical, unethical in execution, and farcically bureaucratic. The Illusion of Simple is an important book—one that pries open life, bigotry, and love and its limits.”—Chris Harding Thornton, author, Pickard County Atlas
“Deftly rendering the desolate landscape and agrarian politics of Ewing County, Kansas, Jones reveals a rural community riven by sins and secrets. A dusty, dark novel full of twists and turns, grief and regret . . . and hope.”—J. Todd Scott, author, Lost River
“I swallowed up The Illusion of Simple in a few sittings. Rather, it swallowed me. From its opening pages, the novel drew me in and wouldn’t let go. Charles Forrest Jones does a masterful job composing a narrative that is compelling, artful, and timely. He takes dead aim at the reader and doesn’t flinch; there is no illusion of simplicity here.”—Andrew Malan Milward, author, I Was a Revolutionary
"The Illusion of Simple is a sharp mystery novel about the grudges, gossip, and politics that define life in rural America." Starred review in Foreward Reviews Magazine
In Midnight Glossolalia, three poets braid their voices into a kingdom of dark matter, speaking in tongues on subjects both modern and mystical. These 63 poems are an alchemical brew composed of gods, ghosts, UFOs, alternate dimensions, ancestors, science, technology, math, music, nature, and Fruit Loops. They are the chemtrails of lost songs, a muffled heart piano swelling with the mystery of existence.
Praise for Midnight Glossolalia:
“Midnight Glossolalia: three distinct voices dancing an image-rich, biographically-generous pas de trois; an innovative braiding of lyric and prose poetry; vital and creative table talk; a call and response and response; a trialogue. Listen. Listen in. These three have created an intimate and inventive beauty.”
-Gary Barwin, author of Yiddish for Pirates
“Poetry not as linguistic acrobatics but as necromantic practice: that’s Midnight Glossolalia. In this haunted book, three radically different yet outstanding voices have forges a liminal trialogue, summoning their often traumatized yet also extremely resourceful dead. Like most of America’s dwellers, our dead were born elsewhere. In a nugget, perhaps, this text helps us contemplate a harrowing question: how to make sense of your life when the lineage breathing down your neck is amputated? The last line of the book might offer a first step: ‘feel the wind as my father and my mother, as a life coming for me.’”
-Giorgia Pavlidou, author of Haunted by the Living: Fed by the Dead
“Cloaked in spiderweb, infinite echoes - a hallway without end. This trio of masterful poets distills spirit into syllable, gives voice to each tremor of window and wall, where dreams leak through as dark water. Midnight Glossolalia is a seance, a breathless outpouring of ancient lore, protection spells. Oceans of myth and stars. Tales passed on in whispers, of life and death and embryo. Mercy for the frail creatures caught in broken light. Each a mirror, wing, and skeleton. Specters erupt in birdsong, welcome their offerings. Verse bloodied lovely; cries of ancient future, a heavy, violent past. This book is a fist straight through the solar plexus - the kind the heart aches for, each ghost an exit wound. I will read it forever. Spiderwebs glistening, a million open eyes…” -Tanya Rakh, author of Posthuman Poetry & Prose
Meat for Tea Press:
Scott Ferry helps our Veterans heal as a RN in the Seattle area. His seventh book of poetry, The Long Blade of Days Ahead, is now available from Impspired Press. More of his work can be found @ ferrypoetry.com.
Lillian Nećakov is the author many chap - books, as well as the full-length collections il virus (Anvil Press, Hooligans (Mansfield Press), The Bone Broker (Mansfield Press), Hat Trick (Exile Editions), Polaroids (Coach House Books) and The Sickbed of Dogs (Wolsak and Wynn). Her new book, duck eats yeast, quacks, explodes; man loses eye, a collaborative poem with Gary Barwin is forthcoming in May 2023 from Guernica Editions. Lillian lives in Toronto, Canada.
Lauren Scharhag (she/her) is an award-winning author of fiction and poetry, and a senior editor at Gleam. Her latest poetry collection, Moonlight and Monsters, is forthcoming from Gnashing Teeth Press. She lives in Kansas City, MO. https://linktr.ee/laurenscharhag
Catherine Browder’s newest collection, RESURRECTION CITY: STORIES FOR THE DISASTER ZONE, is just out from Willow Springs Books, where it won the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction.
Cate is the author of three previous story collections, a Feuillet, a Ploughshares Solo, as well as numerous produced plays. She’s received fiction fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Missouri Arts Council. To support “the writing habit,” she’s taught ESL in Japan and Taiwan as well as the USA; worked as a facilitator for the Memory Project at the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education; and taught creative writing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where she was also an advisory editor at New Letters magazine. Her first novel, The Manning Girl, won the Petrichor prize from Regal House Publishing and is forthcoming in late 2023.
Resurrection City is a captivating collection inspired by the 2011 triple disaster that devastated Northeastern Japan. Browder takes the reader on a journey through communities rocked by each facet of the disaster—earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear meltdown that followed. Browder’s stories provide a deeply human perspective on a disaster whose impact was often relayed in the form of statistics, soundbites, and clips. The reader is reminded that no matter the magnitude of a disaster, real human stories of heartbreak, resilience, survival, and love exist and must be told if communities impacted by such tragedies are to heal. —the Publisher
Writes New Letters Editor Emeritus, Robert Stewart, “Catherine Browder’s short stories represent both the best of fictional talent—invigorating readers with memorable, authentic characters—and great reportage. Readers actually learn things, and not only about Japan’s earthquake and tsunami disaster of recent years but about Japan’s culture....”
Willow Springs Books: Eastern Washington University: Inland Center for Writers (© Dec, 2022)
Alexej Savreux Publishes New Book of Poetry and Satire:
The Ballad of Lady Vigilance
Alexej Savreux’s most recent book is a book of uncensored, lightly edited poetry and satire chronicling life as an eccentric teenager in the American southwest during the first years of the twenty-first century. Savreux’s new book has been described as “Howl in the midst of another malignant century,” by writer Jose Faus. Author Patrick Dobson writes, “Alexej Savreux has committed a great crime in these days of capitalism, thought control (social media), and consumerism: he has disturbed the field and upset the status quo…these poems serve humanity in its little bits and pieces as well as in its massive self. Unfortunately for us, the book comes to an end. But the act has been done and we are better for it”
Savreux ’s poetry collections include Graffiti on the Window (Illogical Conceits), Eat Me & Other Short Poems (Wilshire), Asoak in the Knight’s Moat (Illogical Conceits) and the arithmetic of <3 (Lulu). He has received awards from Writer’s Digest, The Charlotte Street Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation For the Visual Arts, The KU Spencer Museum of Art, and The Red City Review Literary Journal. In 2015, he was a national indie finalist in the poetry category for his collection, Graffiti on the Window. He lives in Kansas City, MO and Oneonta, NY where he works as a journalist, serial entrepreneur, and linguist.
The Ballad of Lady Vigilance
• Publisher : Spartan Press (December 26, 2022)
• Language : English
• Paperback : 74 pages
• ISBN-10 : 1958182249
• ISBN-13 : 978-1958182246
The author is available for readings, media appearances, and lectures and can be contacted at: email@example.com
Deborah Shouse is a writer, speaker, editor, laughter facilitator, and dementia advocate. She has an MBA but uses it only in emergencies. Her writing has appeared in a variety of publications including The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Natural Awakenings, Reader's Digest, Newsweek, Woman's Day, Spirituality & Health, and The Chicago Tribune. Deborah has been featured in many anthologies, including more than five-dozen Chicken Soup books. She wrote a Love Story column for The Kansas City Star. Deborah and her life partner Ron Zoglin co-wrote Antiquing for Dummies and she co-authored several volumes in the Yes, You Can financial series.
For years, Deborah has worked with and written about people who are living with dementia and their care partners. She has authored two books on this subject: Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver's Journey and Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together.
Now, hundreds of articles, essays, and short stories, dozens of books, plus a myriad of editing and ghost-writing projects later, Deborah is living out a long-time dream: writing a novel. An Old Woman Walks Into a Bar is a work of her heart and she is honored to share it with you. Visit her website at DeborahShouseWrites.com
If the story resonates, she'd love to hear from you at DeborahShouse@pobox.com
Praise for An Old Woman
I am in love with this book, its protagonist Grace, her town, and the divinely delicious details. It's all delivered via glorious writing: each word is just right and there's never an extra one. Finally, kudos to Deborah Shouse for a story showing that old women can indeed walk into bars, stand up for themselves, and be fully alive.
Victoria Moran, author of Creating a Charmed Life
An Old Woman walks into this wonderful novel that's full of kind people and small, important happenings of love, loss, laughter and chocolate cake. Deborah Shouse has created a world that is so charming you'll wish you could sit around Grace's kitchen table and drink her special coffee with these good folks.
Nancy Pickard, author of The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Deborah's gifts for laughter, creativity and positivity shine through beautifully in this inspiring and heartwarming novel. She entertainingly addresses ageism leaving readers wiser for having read the book. I recommend this book highly!
Karen Love, CEO, Dementia Action Alliance
A wonderful read! Witty, whimsical and plenty of life lessons tucked in between the lines.
Jan Phillips, author of Still On Fire
Jenny Molberg’s third collection of poetry, The Court of No Record, serves as both evidence and testimony against a legal system that often fails victims of physical trauma and domestic abuse. Drawing inspiration from true crime investigations and artifacts, including Frances Glessner Lee’s crime scene dioramas and the tragic aftermaths of two serial killers who preyed upon women in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Molberg probes a cultural obsession with violence that performs active erasure of victims’ lives. By engaging with historical texts through a personal lens, she sheds light on survivors who do not find justice and looks toward a future of positive systemic reformation.
Jenny Molberg is the author of three poetry collections: Marvels of the Invisible (winner of the Berkshire Prize, Tupelo Press, 2017), Refusal (LSU Press, 2020), and The Court of No Record (LSU Press, 2023). She edited the Unsung Masters book, Adelaide Crapsey: On the Life & Work of an American Master. She has received fellowships and scholarships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sewanee Writers Conference, Vermont Studio Center, and the Longleaf Writers Conference. Her poems and essays have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, The Cincinnati Review, VIDA, The Missouri Review, The Rumpus, The Adroit Journal, Oprah Quarterly, and other publications. Molberg is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Central Missouri, where she directs Pleiades Press and co-edits Pleiades magazine. Find her online at jennymolberg.com or on Twitter at @jennymolberg.
Praise for The Court of No Record:
“In Jenny Molberg’s harrowing new collection, the witness of documentary poetry meets the fearlessness of the confessional mode. What results is a book of powerful testimony.”—Shara McCallum
“Molberg’s The Court of No Record questions our fascination with violence—specifically against women—and our woefully inadequate and misogynist response to it. Dead, abused, or threatened women (the stuff of so much of our detective/thriller entertainment) are given voice in these fearless poems. This is gorgeous poetry of witness, of social and political examination, of deep intelligence, and of a valiant heart.”—Denise Duhamel
“The Court of No Record takes us on a Dantesque journey through the infernal landscapes of toxic masculinity, intimate partner violence, and legal chicanery as the speaker’s poems are used as evidence against her.”—Philip Metres
Catherine Anderson Publishes Fifth Book, a Memoir: My Brother Speaks in Dreams Of Family, Beauty & Belonging
Catherine Anderson’s most recent book is a memoir chronicling life with her brother Charlie who had intellectual disabilities. Anderson’s memoir has been described as “an unflinching portrait of a unique family and brother facing uncommon circumstances over changing eras and environments,” by writer William Cass. Poet Maril Crabtree writes “the reader will come to know intimately what life with Charlie taught the author and what her insights can teach us: that language is only one way to communicate, and our culture often fails to recognize and honor other ways.”
Anderson’s poetry collections are Everyone I Love Immortal (Woodley Press), Woman with a Gambling Mania (Mayapple Press), The Work of Hands (Perugia) and In the Mother Tongue (Alice James Books). She has received awards from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, The Crab Orchard Review and the I-70 Review. In 2019, she was a finalist for the Jake Adam York Auburn Witness Poetry Prize from the Southern Humanities Review. She lives in Kansas City where she works with new interpreters from the city’s immigrant communities.
My Brother Speaks in Dreams: Of Family, Beauty & Belonging
Publication Date: Sept. 15, 2022
Paperback, 163 pages
Ingram Book Distribution
Wising Up Press
The author is available for readings and lectures and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since Corona Ruined Our Trip to the Library,
a collection of poems by Beth Gulley is available from Finishing Line Press
Since Corona Ruined Our Trip to the Library captures it all: the truth in the words of a poem that once “just rolled like a chocolate drop” from her 6th grade tongue, the amazing gift of a twenty dollar bill in “the pocket of some forgotten jeans,” the way someone’s eyes light up when she enters a room. All those incredibly precious moments we might not note, much less celebrate, had Corona not ruined our trip to the library; had we not lived in a time when we dared not assume we’d make it to summer. Yes, we humans are absurdly inconsistent. We invest in the future with purchases of coffee and snacks and “stamps from the US Postal Service” while insisting that our youth set goals, plan steps for a future we hope to enjoy; do-gooders are do leave a daunting task of cleaning up a nature trail for another day. Sure, we have our differences. For some, strike two is just one strike from the end. For others “life is a game of t-ball with our dad,” who provides “unlimited chances to hit the ball,” while for still others, “getting out of bed and walking on the diamond” means they’re “in the game.” Reading Since Corona Ruined Our Trip to the Library. . . is like coming “into the light” and finding “a familiar face.”
Beth Gulley is a writer of profound insight, someone who can see both the catastrophe and the miracle in almost anything. These poems are proof. In them, there is a cat that rides thirty miles on the motor of a car being towed. There is an asteroid that almost hits earth on a beloved’s birthday: “Your birthday will still be sweet / without the explosion.” This is the world of Aimee Bender or Judy Budnitz, but it is also our world, as Kansans—or your story, wherever you live.
–Kevin Rabas, Poet Laureate of Kansas, 2017-2019, More Than Word
Beth Gulley is a Kansas City based poet whose work has appeared this year in 365 Poems/365 Days Anthology vol. 4, Dragonfly, 105 Meadowlark Reader, Kansas English, Kansas Letters to a Young Poet, Flying Ketchup Press, and The Thorny Locust. She has three full-length collections of poetry: The Sticky Note Alphabet, Dragon Eggs, and The Love of Ornamental Fish. She teaches English at Johnson County Community College. She volunteers with The Writers Place, The Riverfront Reading Committee, Kansas Association of Teachers of English, and My Father’s House Community Services. Mostly, though, she is a messy person who likes to try new things. She recently took up gardening.
The book is available at
Maryfrances Wagner's new book Solving for X is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon or from her. https://www.amazon.com/Maryfrances-Wagner/e/B00C44TYSY/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
Maryfrances Wagner’s Solving for X reveals a soul infused with Dickensian mysteries and also love for the literal earth, as in mushrooms and mulch; a soul who nurtures plants and young student minds; and who turns the art of poetry, itself, over, like soil, as a form of revelation. Solving for X solves a crucial poetry conundrum—the intersection of two disparate demands of the art—that poems satisfy our desire for tangible experience, and also our desire for language that transcends our familiar lives. Hold tight, then, for the directness of Williams, where “the dog comes in smelling of sunlight” (depicted here in one of several collages), and the incantations of Ginsberg, seen “cross-legged on a rug, strumming and humming,” or the invocation of Lewis Carroll, when “we kept silent and recited ‘Jabberwocky’ / in our heads,” accumulating for the reader wonders tangible and glorious as ripe pomegranates with their “Tart spark of truth.”
—Robert Stewart, Working Class (poems) & The Narrow Gate (essays)
Nietzsche famously said, "The devil is in the details." If that's true, move over Mephisto. In Maryfrances Wagner's new book, Solving for X, truth too lies in the details, and Wagner is an expert at telling truth. Honest and unblinking, she tells stories so real they come alive on the page. So clear her vision, so close to the bone, we know for sure we are not among the angelic orders with their harps and halos. There's too much toughness here, too much down-to-earth life, fierce, raw, and uncompromising. A devilishly good read.
Alice Friman, author of Blood Weather
Solving for X reveals a poet, image by dazzling image, trying to solve the old equation of what makes a life worth living. Textured and quirky in the best way, these poems of lovers, family, and the natural world are full of the beauty of a life well-lived, with all the questions still open.
Catherine Anderson, The Work of Hands
In much of Solving for X, Maryfrances Wagner focuses on memory, childhood to recent-without the sticky lacquer of nostalgia. In lines that are fresh, precise, and musical, her eye for evocative detail includes the dark as well as the light. She often discovers "fabulous realities" within the commonplace. Her empathy, with plants and animals as well as people, keeps her vision free of self-absorption-a refreshing turn from a current trend of poets obsessing on their victimhood. And these poems invite the reader in rather than coyly turning their backs. It's an invitation that offers considerable rewards.
William Trowbridge, author of Call Me Fool
Nietzsche famously said, "The devil is in the details." If that's true, move over Mephisto. In Maryfrances Wagner's new book, Solving for X, truth too lies in the details, and Wagner is an expert at telling truth. Honest and unblinking, she tells stories so real they come alive on the page. So clear her vision, so close to the bone, we know for sure we are not among the angelic orders with their harps and halos. There's too much toughness here, too much down-to-earth life, fierce, raw, and uncompromising. A devilishly good read.
Alice Friman, author of Blood Weather
"I'm from red sauce, garlic, and fig trees," writes Maryfrances Wagner. An Italian world re-created in Kansas City is her childhood, and this informs her rich poetry filled with wry humor and wisdom. She tells stories, describes recipes, weddings, wine club, and family card games. The poet amplifies attractive and accessible moments with original, surprising language. She blends story and song masterfully. Solving for X might be my favorite book from this talented writer-so far!
Denise Low, 2007-09 Kansas Poet Laureate, winner Red Mountain Press
Open and available to readers from different backgrounds, experiences, and faiths, this book dissolves the myths that keep you from prayer so you too can see God’s work in your life, in the life of your family, your community, and world.
Devoid of "Christianese" or hard-to-get religious concepts, McCann shares fresh insight through twelve easy-to-remember prayers like "basket prayer," "patchwork prayer," and "flag prayer."
Blended with stories from her real life: working with migrant workers, standing in bread lines, visiting hippie nuns, Polly Alice shares her journey from budding college student to Pastor's wife; from single mother to small businesswoman; from writer to speaker; believing in God for both small and big miracles of the heart.
Artist, Polly Alice McCann, has served in every capacity at your local church except lawn care and Pastor (and well, she has never baptized anyone.) Just when her hope seemed the most shattered, Polly was blown away by the story of Tabitha–an artist who came back to life. With the images of Tabitha's grieving friends holding up her creations fresh in Polly's mind, she set out to explore the idea of healing through prayer. First through small textile collages, then large oil paintings, and finally sixty-six letters to friends. Twelve of those meditations became this memoir, "Pray Like a Woman."
There's pulp fiction: true crime, true confessions, true romance, and these are titles of poems in this wonderful collection titled Pulp. Magazines with these titles are meant to be lurid and lure the reader in to turning the pages. But the poet Robert Dean mixes in the supernatural of misplaced things and feelings, so his poems become exquisitely crafted page turners that is poetry at its finest. What is pulp but something formless, perhaps beat to a pulp in some dark alley of the soul, but the pulp in Pulp is urgent to find form, a desire longing for its ultimate manifestation, for its object in order to express and contain the longing that is simultaneously the promise of resurrecting love and a drop by drop drowning in thirst for love. Pulp is loss, in the closing line of the poem "True Romance": dripping with the absence of you. The language of these poems is sharp, colorful, and electric as in "The Tear" ...rivering my heart down the Rushmore of your cheek. This book is haunted by love or love refused and love lost. Doors slam behind the person who is leaving and doors slam around the person who is left behind. All the entrances and exits are barricaded. The frustration morphs into violent imagery: The naked heart is a loaded gun. He continues in the poem "True Crime": ...Words chamber there / like shells, like bullets, waiting for the ventricular shotgun pump, / the vagus nerve hammer-cock that will load them into / the barrel of the throat, explode them from the muzzle of // the mouth,.... And yet there is hope in these wounds in the possibility of surviving the hurt and the healing to come. In Pulp, Robert Dean has written an intense, tough book and declares love to be unrequitted:
Only I go on forever, scratching. A cold, cold case. (True Detective)
-Walter Bargen, first Poet Laureate of Missouri, author of Pole Dancing in the Night Club of God
Dean knows well the night and jazz and detective novels and ancient China, and Pulp showcases these disparate, but connected, sources-and a number more. Consummately intelligent (and witty), Dean wears his learning lightly, but gives us a short tour of the darkness (and light) in his skull-and also the depths of his large large heart.
-Kevin Rabas, More Than Words, Poet Laureate of Kansas, 2017-2019
Robert Dean's book Pulp inspires, confounds, and amuses. He shifts perspectives often as he considers Icarus's mother and Bela Lugosi, for a few media stars. Dean's contemporary mashup mixes unexpected debris of the 21st century and elevates it into compelling lyric. This is a fun book.
-Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-2009
New Release: The Potter's Wheel by Mark Scheel
The year is 1967. Mel Steadman, a Midwestern farm youth recovering from a severe head injury, becomes dissatisfied living at home and hops a bus to California. He finds work in a low-rent hotel chain and mingles with the young drifters along Hollywood Boulevard. Soon he bonds with an estranged night wanderer named Burch who clerks in a shop called The Potter’s Wheel and encounters a free-spirited femme fatale named Maureen. Adventure follows adventure, culminating, however, in abandonment and violence. Young Mel accrues many hard lessons of the street coming of age, echoes of a Holden Caulfield wrapped into a Day of the Locust during the sixties’ Summer of Love.
“The sixties may now be history, but that history lives again through Scheel's faithful rendering of the street scene in the Hollywood of 1967. The war protests, frenetic youth, and a lonely Midwesterner’s search for life's purpose are deftly depicted here by an exceptionally talented writer.”
—Ronda Miller, former State President, Kansas Authors Club, and author of MoonStain, WaterSigns, and I Love the Child.
“Mark Scheel is one of the best writers I know, bar none. And The Potter’s Wheel is a testament to that fact!”
—Edna Bell-Pearson, author of Headwinds and Fragile Hopes, Transient Dreams.
“Having experienced the turbulent California sixties myself, I can vouch that Scheel’s portrayal of the people and the times is spot on. Once again, turn on, tune in, drop out!”
—Paul Goldman, ecstatic poet, author of Silence Speaks and Upon Your Canvas.
Victoria Garton’s work has appeared in or been accepted by Gasconade Review, River City Poetry, I-70 Review, Thorny Locust (featured poet 2021 issue), The Writers Place Yearbook 2021, Prairie Schooner, Cimarron Review, Quarterly West, Poem, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and many others. Her first book, Kisses in the Raw Night was published by BkMk Press. Garton taught composition and literature for Crowder College, retiring in May of 2020.
Victoria Garton’s Pout of Tangerine Tango is a deeply observed journey through Hungary and Poland within the decade following the fall of the U.S.S.R. “At Szoborpark near Budapest the giants [Lenin, Engels, and Marx] stood.” Of the Fulbright-Hays Seminar participants with whom she travels Garton writes, “we tossed Molotov cocktails/of vodka and juice down our own throats/ . . . danced in monumental shadows.” Later, “tyrant faces and mushroom bombs/ invaded sleep,” as the poet relives her own Cold War childhood in Middle America.
Lisa D. Stewart calls Garton’s book a remarkable study in restraint and specificity. In her title poem, a printed Madonna on a pennant twirled, “Her lips/in a pout of Tangerine Tango, the very shade/I wore in junior high.” Garton scuffed among vegetable rows planted on a former killing field, where “swollen melons/on hardened ground roll like heads.” Garton anchors us in places with names, freeing us to canter into her art, where “sunflowers and Lipizzaners look away” and “Dark colts and light mares lift on hind legs.”---Lisa D. Stewart, author of The Big Quiet—One Woman’s Horseback Ride Home (Meadowlark Books)
These poems capture the details and images of life in Eastern Europe from an outsider’s perspective. Garton masterfully crafts her lines and metaphors. In Riding Moxie the Silver buttons on his vest/brighten an overcast day. She exposes the differences of attitudes where serious hosts/. . .. are not yet attuned to the iron cage/of happy, consuming Americans.
Silvia Kofler, author of Gambol the World: Eine Weltanschauung, is editor of Thorny Locust.
Janet Reed says, “Rich as these poems are in the details of foreign travel, richer still are the questions raised about the people we Americans think we are. This book is more timely now than ever.”
Janet Reed, author of Blue Exhaust: Poems (Finishing Line Press).
Victoria Garton’s chapbook Pout of Tangerine can be ordered from
In her debut collection, Annie Newcomer tackles the enigmas that haunt every poet. She leads us through her life, exploring and marveling at the fragility that, over time, invests every secure space. Newcomer is a thoughtful and joyous poet. She notes that over a lifetime, people are like comets: some reassuringly reappear whereas others veer off into deep space, never to return. Even the most present personalities such as parents, partners, and siblings, eventually fade or disappear. In one poem, Newcomer passes a photo of her deceased mother and reflexively enters into a mental conversation with her. In that conversation she brings in memories of her nine siblings and her father, essentially drawing them back into her orbit.
However, unlike poets who mainly explore their emotional past, Newcomer also lives in the future, anticipating and experiencing emotions towards unrealized events. For example, she is saddened that a grandson will never see a stone arch at a National Park because it is deteriorating. It is this fascinating ability to move between past, present, and future that permits Newcomer to paint a nuanced and satisfying picture of life. Specifically, Newcomer's work is worth reading because she is able to project her emotional presence both forward and backward in time, and in doing so, she reveals the remarkable fabric of our reality when viewed from outside the present time frame: while we depend upon the unshakeable present to sustain us, the slipping memories of the past inform us otherwise. Newcomer reveals the future as an emotional space not yet entered, but open to viewing: equal parts hope and loss, adventure and consolation.
- Jemshed Khan
Annie’s book can be purchased through this link- https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/comets-by-annie-klier-newcomer/
In the debut poetry collection, Perfectly Imperfect, Theiss explores the transformative powers of lived experiences that create the imperfectly perfect person. The collection is divided into three sections. The first selection of poems, It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see(Henry David Thoreau) considers not only what a person perceives but how interpretation forms meaning for that experience. In the second section, We are shaped and fashioned by what we love (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe), poems reflect how love of persons, things, and places shape the person we become in our lives. In the last section, Sometimes the only way to ever find yourself is to get completely lost (Kellie Elmore), the author deliberates through the messy and sometimes confusing circumstances that help us accept being perfectly imperfect.
A copy of the collection is available from Kelsay Books Perfectly Imperfect – Kelsay Books and Amazon Perfectly Imperfect: Theiss, Debbie: 9781639800179: Amazon.com: Books.
Debbie Theiss (Lee’s Summit, MO) grew up in in the Midwest and finds inspiration for her poetry in the unfolding art of daily life and nature. Her debut poetry collection, a chapbook entitled Perfectly Imperfect was published in July 2021 by Kelsay Books. In addition, she has poems published in I-70 Review, Skinny Journal, Kansas Time and Place, Interpretations IV & V, Helen Literary Journal, River & South Review, Postcard Poems and Prose, Star 82 Review, Weaving the Terrain from Dos Gatos Press, and others.
Literary Alchemist: The Writing Life of Evan S. Connell
A new biography by Steve Paul
Evan S. Connell (1924–2013) emerged from the American Midwest determined to become a writer. He eventually made his mark with attention-getting fiction and deep explorations into history. His linked novels Mrs. Bridge (1959) and Mr. Bridge (1969) paint a devastating portrait of the lives of a prosperous suburban family not unlike his own that, more than a half century later, continue to haunt readers with their minimalist elegance and muted satire. As an essayist and historian, Connell produced a wide range of work, including a sumptuous body of travel writing, a bestselling epic account of Custer at the Little Bighorn, and a singular series of meditations on history and the human tragedy. This first portrait and appraisal of an under-recognized American writer is based on personal accounts by friends, relatives, writers, and others who knew him; extensive correspondence in library archives; and insightful literary and cultural analysis of Connell's work and its context. It reveals a tender and multidimensional representation of a 20th-century literary master worthy of broader attention. “With his iconic Bridge novels, Evan S. Connell inspired a generation of writers and left an indelible mark on twentieth-century American literature. Steve Paul’s illuminating, highly readable biography paints a vivid portrait of a writer who eschewed fashion and maintained an almost monastic dedication to craft. Informed by a deep understanding of Connell’s work, Literary Alchemist is a satisfying exploration of the demands and pleasures of the writing life.”—Jennifer Haigh, author of the forthcoming book Mercy Street: A Novel.
After more than four decades as a Kansas City journalist, Steve Paul, longtime member and supporter of TWP, turned his research and writing efforts toward literary biography. Literary Alchemist: The Writing Life of Evan S. Connell (University of Missouri Press, December 2021) follows his biography debut, Hemingway at Eighteen (Chicago Review Press, 2017). Steve also is the editor of Kansas City Noir (Akashic, 2012), a collection of contemporary short fiction by 14 writers. A former winner of the Stanley Hanks Prize from the St. Louis Poetry Center, he has published poetry in New Letters, I-70 Review, the Jerry Jazz Musician website and elsewhere. He's currently at work researching a potential biography of the poet William Stafford. And he regularly writes cultural commentary for KC Studio, the bimonthly magazine and website.
Three A.M. at the Museum is Alarie Tennille’s third collection of poetry from Kelsay Books. It features a large selection of ekphrastic (inspired by art) poems with an introduction by Lorette C. Luzajic, Editor of The Ekphrastic Review.
I’ve never read a book quite like this. Three A.M. at the Museum becomes an exhilarating, multi-media exploration of the power of art to transform and enlarge us. In one poem, “Rothko,” Tennille praises the intrepid museum visitors who have stopped to look deeply into this perplexing mass of color and energy. “So what if you’re still confused,” she asks. “Something has shifted. / You’ve begun to talk back.” The moment recalls Rilke’s magisterial “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” with its timeless injunction that if you, the observer, are to rise to the challenge of great art, “you must change your life.” These are poems that delight, enthrall, and ultimately transform us. My idea of the perfect afternoon would be to stroll through a museum with Alarie Tennille, learning how to see.
George Bilgere, author of Blood Pages and Imperial
Alarie Tennille understands that sometimes we must inhabit another world in order to understand our own. Three A.M at the Museum is more invitation than book, just “waiting for someone like you / to visit.” Some of these poems are inspired by the poet’s life, some by iconic works of art, some by “the mist / between.” Don’t all of us enter another realm when we walk through a museum, when we lose ourselves in a book? This dreamy collection offers us the chance to do both. More than that, it offers us the chance to consider who we are and why we’re here.
Melissa Fite Johnson, author of Green
In Three A.M. at the Museum, Alarie Tennille asks us to walk with her through an art museum like the Nelson-Atkins, to stand undisturbed for as long as we wish before any painting we choose, even the security guards have made themselves invisible. She writes in the quiet hours after the noise has settled. Her poems, both ekphrastic and personal, are meditations, a stroke of the brush, a daub of color from the palette knife. They are as accessible as oil on canvas, as transparent as watercolor. A whisper in the long hall.
Al Ortolani, author of Hansel and Gretel Get the Word on the Street, Rattle Chapbook Prize winner
How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems brings together over 30 years of Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's poetry on what it means to be human in a particular place, time, body, history, and storyHer book launch is happening virtually at 7 p.m., Nov. 11, sponsored by the Raven Bookstore and Lawrence Public Library. You can register for the reading and celebration here: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/howtimemoves/register
"She is our teacher speaking from the sky, from the field, from the heartland," writes Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford. "Like William Blake’s 'doors of perception,' these pages lead readers inward and outward at once," Denise Low, past poet laureate of Kansas, says of the new poems. The collection also includes poetry from Mirriam-Goldberg's previous six collections: Following the Curve, Chasing Weather, Landed, Animals in the House, Reading the Body, and Lot's Wife.
"In How Time Moves, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg offers us a magical gift: a compilation of new and selected poems, rich with memory and meaning. 'Expect to be startled,' the poet tells us. And we are," writes poet Joy Roulier Sawyer. Poet Patricia Traxler adds, "This is the real work of a poet--to see and speak the often-hidden truths of a human life in a way that enlightens and informs." Poet Diane Suess points out that "True to its title, time is a paramount issue in these poems—not simply its passing, but its potential, in complicity with imagination, to invent and resurrect the future."
The new poems include a special section on pandemic time, exploring how the nature of our hours, days, and months change during this unprecedented era in our lives.
Denise Low, winner of the Red Mountain Editor's Prize, 2018
Life Inside the Body sings like the ship's guy-wires in its opening poem, "Harbor," of the body of life and life in the world. These poems are so inevitable that it seems they must have always existed, helping us better engage with the beating heart of whatever life brings. Altogether, Life Inside the Body embodies both the daily and the mythological dimensions of life, tilting our view of the stories we live so that we can better align those stories and experiences with our truths.
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita and author of Miriam's Well
Susan Whitmore's poems remind us that great poetry rings spiritually and, at times, elegiacally, like her porch chimes through an open window. Loss, as it happens, leads this poet to enormous generosity and an expansive life, where a lion can become the image of love, tearing us open. "Cover your transgressor with kisses," she writes. The exuberance of these poems grows out of immediacy yoked to myth, classical and biblical. The poet's lived experience is as joyful as pasta carbonara in bed after the lights go out. The poems resound with determination in a world where nothing can be considered ordinary.
Robert Stewart, author of Working Class, poems; and editor of New Letters magazine
Pat Lawson’s fine new collection, Odd Ducks, reminds us that engaging stories can be found anywhere, including the modest households of both Kansas Cities. Among her subjects are adolescents bemused by the odd rituals of their parents; school librarians beguiled by a charming student; and Latino fourth and fifth graders who show more imagination than their teachers. Then there are the well-meaning neighbors who learn the singular lesson—running like a leitmotif through the collection—that no good deed goes unpunished.
—Catherine Browder, Now We Can All Go Home
In this funny and touching book, Patricia Lawson takes the reader on a deceptively simple journey into the jagged minds and hearts of characters who struggle to be or at least seem other than they are.
Odd Ducks is alive with characters who endure, who persist. Yes, they are lonely and unsure, and yes, they are desperate for connections that will not come. And yes, they take many wrong turns. But their strengths are evident, their goodness and resolve never missing for long, and though their paths are not direct, they are true.
—Mary Troy, Beauties
Pat Lawson’s Odd Ducks is a quietly intense collection. The stories are especially profound in dealing with states of vulnerability—a middle-aged divorcee, recently out of the closet, stumbles to find a place for himself in a new neighborhood; a disadvantaged child begins to understand how the odds will be stacked against him; a young man catches a glimpse of a life he desires but can never have. Though the stories occur in the context of the urban Midwest, Lawson’s range of empathy will engage all readers. She gives us stories that feel true and stick to the bones.
—Brian Shawver, Aftermath
Patricia Lawson’s work has appeared in Pleiades, Dalhousie Review, New Letters, and elsewhere. She taught for many years at Kansas City Kansas Community College and was an associate editor of The Same. She is a Riverfront Readings committee member at the Writers Place in Kansas City and a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Odd Ducks is her solo fiction debut.
Many artists have imagined Jesus transposed to their day, shopping where we shop, working where we work. “Just a slob, like one of us,” as songwriter Joan Osborne famously crooned.
Walter Bargen’s latest poetry collection explodes this concept, ushering a cast of Biblical proportions into a moment that harbors remnants of the past, proceeds in the present tense and might easily be read as a dystopian future.
The title, “Pole Dancing in the Night Club of God” (Red Mountain Press), might set some readers back on their heels. But understand the phrase in context: In the poem “Drought,” Missouri’s first poet laureate looks in on Moses, who “stands watching / from the glass cage of a window as if he’s still pole dancing in the night / club of God. / He wants to reach out, but the panes won’t part.”
The collection is shot through with the light of recognition: we are all naked, or most of the way there, and living coram Deo — in the presence of God. This sense, of exposure craving consolation, animates the way Bargen’s characters move through each verse.
Bargen opens the book with characteristic parched wit — “Thumbing Through the Book of Days” is quite literally an ode to the poet’s thumbs:
... not overly long nor out of proportion / with the rest of my hand, though longer fingers might have helped, / if I’d ever followed through on racing up and down the neck of a guitar, / stretching for impossible chords, or the reaching down into a warm / moist cleft for that other music.
The poet puts readers on notice: For the next 90-plus pages, I am your spiritual guide, he seems to say. Take my psalms and proverbs with a grain of salt from the side of Lot’s wife.
From there, we follow Bargen into an overgrown Eden, populated by Adam, Eve and the weeds growing through the concrete cracks of their life together. The poet elides the contours of their existence into the present. “Adam stands, his lungs a fully exposed page from / Gray’s Anatomy. The bars of his ribs are all that keeps him from / exploding on stage. In the ceiling fan, a heart-shaped helium balloon rips / apart its letters of L-O-V-E” (“Global Warming on a Friday Night”).
Eve chafes against her own vulnerability: “Forget the fig leaf, Eve hasn’t really tried on anything yet, and probably / won’t, but she’s shopping around for the right disease” (“Stylish”). Later, the first couple “sit across from each other, arguing all night: her / sensations versus his rationality, her Spinoza against his Hume” (“Hound Dog Philosophers”).
Much of Bargen’s best work here revolves around Moses. “God’s Juice” finds him scribbling his own ideas down, trying to have a single, solitary thought apart from divine inspiration. In “Mowing,” he does just that, spending the Sabbath “converting his / push mower into a self-propelled believer.” “Dinner Party” presents a touching scene, as Moses commiserates with a leaky and understandably depressive water heater.
“Rusting Place” follows Moses as he walks his weary body toward retirement. He bequeaths beloved spiritual possessions to others, who fail to handle them with care. Bargen writes:
He’s flying to Utah. Plans to live rent-free in Moab at a friend’s house / who is gone most of the year, chasing the sun like a pharaoh in a fifty- / six-foot-long RV.
Elsewhere, we ride shotgun with Mother Mary as she criss-crosses America in a car, listening to the Beatles and Allman Brothers (“Lost Music”); keep company with the gospel writers as they sort geographic and historical markers (“Confounded World,” “Buying the Commute”); and witness Judas’ disgust at tales of wartime valor (“Post Post”).
The novelty of Bargen’s storytelling would mean little without lyricism and a grounded sense of perception. Both abound here. Certain images reach out to caress — or suckerpunch the reader into a confrontation:
“At winter’s end the lake loses its white wings and grows black legs.” (“Evolution of Morning Coffee”)
“The steering wheel wants to set its own course, turning right, turning left, / trying to center on three roads or no road at all as Paul begins to cry for / the median.” (“Sigmund Road”)
“Open suitcase, a tent in the soot-stained snow drift. Forever unlocked, / but not broken. / ... Why worry, theft so common it’s natural. So natural, everyone carries a / handful of dirty snow in their left hand.” (“Blind Mice Travel Troubles”)
The real soul of Bargen’s work reveals itself as he places us as close to these characters as our faces come to morning mirrors. When God, or at least some of his famous children, are one of us, their stories shrink and ours expand in equal measure. We are all living Biblically, whether we like it or not. We might as well shake what our maker gave us.
Barbara Loots has published poems for fifty years in literary journals, online magazines, textbooks, and anthologies. Her collections, published by Kelsay Books, are Road Trip (2014), Windshift (2018)--3rd place finalist for the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence--and The Beekeeper and other love poems (2020). Retired since 2008 from a long career as writer for Hallmark Cards, Barbara volunteers as a docent at the renowned Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, where she resides in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood with her husband, Bill Dickinson, and Bob the Cat.
About Beekeeper, Vera Ignatowitsch, Editor-in-Chief of Better Than Starbucks, writes: "Barbara Loots wields language with the delicacy of a surgeon wielding a scalpel. Here she evokes life's essence in a delightful panorama, and the resulting worldview is entirely captivating."
The Beekeeper and other love poems can be purchased at Kelsaybooks.com or Amazon.
Tania: The Revolutionary, a short novel by Michael Pritchett (2020), 81 pages.
Article by Robert Stewart
Michael Pritchett’s style here is intense to the point of poetry. He uses historical events and characters, e.g., Patty Hearst, aka Tania, the American war in Vietnam, and more from the late 1960s and early ‘70s, to re-engage the complex and—I add from experience—unsettling swirl of those times. Yes, that includes the explicitly bloody murder of actress Sharon Tate by the maniac Charles Manson and his women. As main character, Judy, says to her mom in this novel, “Calamities tend to cluster around certain dates.”
“It’s called bad intersection,” Mom replies to her daughter. We tend to forget, or I do, not so much the events of history but the hollowing out of hope and love and compassion when such calamities eat at our civilization. As in a good poem, the details that Michael Pritchett brings to this novel revive other details in the mind of the reader. Pritchett mentions the My Lai massacre and does not need to mention all the other outrages, such as President Johnson’s defense secretary Robert McNamara, who helped orchestrate, obfuscate and lie about the expansion of the war.
The novel’s mastery comes in creating the very effect of these many events on the individual psyche, on a single character, Judy, her family and then her marriage. Judy’s husband, Terry, who rarely sleeps for his own unsettled life, has had enough of Judy’s obsession with the violence of the Manson murders. “You need to stop this,” he says to her over coffee at 4 a.m. “It happened okay are you gonna go nuts yourself trying to act like this isn’t really about what happened to you—?”
There it is, what this is really about: the same emotional captivity and violence to the human psyche many of us are experiencing now, in 2020, under a compassionless political system, children separated from their parents, ineptness in managing the pandemic, and so on. It is, indeed, happening to you, and sometimes only through novels of the highest order do we see ourselves, presently, in our past. The job of a great novelist, a great novel, stretches outside of plot.
The separation of the character Judy from her own dad is the psychic hole in the world through which everything else becomes personal. All she has left of him are his books, and she reads them all, quoting from them in her attempt to cope in that world we, even now, under sell compared to the traumas of 2020. Don’t be duped. Judy and her family live with us today and will, if the reader allows, comfort us with insight. I remember Judy’s world well and needed to revisit it, faced, as we all are now, with events that cluster around these times.
The Big Quiet—One Woman’s Horseback Ride Home by Lisa D. Stewart, Prairie Village, launched from Meadowlark Books June 6th and is available everywhere books are sold, including Lisa’s website, www.lisadstewart.com.
At 54, Lisa Stewart set out to regain the fearless girl she once had been, riding her horse, Chief, 500 miles home. Hot, homeless, and horseback, she snapped back into every original cell. On a homegoing longed for since she was a girl, Lisa exhausted herself, faced her past, trusted strangers, and stayed in the middle of her frightened horse to document the truth and beauty of modern rural America—its people, animals, and land.
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