Sunday, November 29, 2020

GAS Catfish McDaris, Featured Poet

Catfish McDaris is an aging New Mexican living near Milwaukee. He has four walls, a ceiling, heat, food, a woman, one cat, a daughter, a typing machine, and a mailbox. That’s enough for him. He writes for himself and sometimes he gets lucky and someone publishes his words. He remains his biggest fan. He’s been sliding in the shadows of the small press for 30 years. Catfish McDaris won the Thelonius Monk Award. His work is at the Special Archives Collection at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is listed in Wikipedia. His ancestors were related to Wilma Mankiller from the Cherokee Nation. He’s on vacation from selling wigs in a dangerous neighborhood in Milwaukee. Van Gogh and Catfish were both born in ’53 and Vincent died on his birthday July 29th. Cat’s hometown is Clovis, New Mexico, Gauguin’s father and son were named Clovis.

The Man That Brought a Singing Fat Lady and a Violin to a Gunfight

Of all that is written I only love what is written in blood. Nietzsche


Surrounded by dead guardian angels

listening to: The Mephistopheles of

Los Angeles by Marilyn Manson


Warming hands and face above a hell

fire in a 55-gallon barrel dreaming of

dancing with a senorita in Guadalajara


Palm trees figs and dates in Damascus

driving Thunderbirds through a sequoia

and zebras and swallowtails in the Mojave


Shackled by my years, gravity sucking

my energy, the sky, and ceilings piss

on my head, the walls yawn in boredom,

Nobody laughs at the ugly mirror, guns

mean noise and chaos, death should be up

close and personal with a lovely serenade.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

A Review of Tara Campbell’s " Political AF: A Rage Collection," by Heidi Blakeslee

If I could tie ex-president trump down one time and force him to listen to someone reading him a book, it would be this one.  This book addresses the grievances that have been building up for centuries in the US.  In fact, I would pay someone to sit there and read it to him over and over again until he can’t remember his latest Rush Limbaugh propaganda and mitigates some of his brain damage.

Even just the titles of the poetry and prose inside are astute and visceral.  Ones like “Vessel of the State,” and “Shut up and Dribble,” cut right through the conservative claptrap and get to the heart of what’s important about issues like reproductive rights and race.

“Political AF: A Rage Collection” is the book that you should give your relatives for the holidays.  Be bold and let the questions and discussions that flow from this book awaken the people who need it and comfort the ones who desperately need kinship in this time of social distancing.

Some of the poetry inside is set up to mirror the ridiculous bureaucracy that holds up the judicial system and the scams featured in fine print that no one ever reads.  “US Government Form BC-451: Form to Procure Permission to Purchase Birth Control,” absolutely skewers the double standard that exists for the 1% vs the 99%.  Campbell illustrates the terrifying truth of the real “deep state,” and its agenda for women’s bodies.  Make no mistake, if there is a deep state to be had, it is the white supremacist garbage-mongers who are at the source of current Republican ideology.  Like a criminal prosecutor, Campbell illustrates the sick illogic that permeates current evangelical radicalism. 

 Using her poem “In Contradiction to the Commander’s Standards and Wishes” as a compass, we see that she sets her sights for moving forward squarely where they should be, “on science/ in consideration with community standards and wishes/ based on faith/ in reason/ in empathy/ in data/ in compassion/ in knowledge/ in questioning/ in resistance.

Tara Campbell is a fierce, fierce voice that stands up to ultra-conservative fascist propaganda.  I know I will remember this book and refer back to it time and time again.

Published by Unlikely Books. Available on Amazon is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. She received her MFA from American University in 2019. Previous publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Jellyfish Review, Booth, Strange Horizons, and CRAFT Literary. She's the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and three collections: Circe's Bicycle, Midnight at the Organporium, and Political AF: A Rage Collection.

Tara Campbell

Friday, November 27, 2020

Poetry Commentary by Beau Blue

Talk about poetry? Hmmmm. Today's poetry. On the streets,in bars and coffee houses? Slams? Private lists and forums, maybe some blogs as well? And I'll rail against the ink and paper monsters that won't wake up.

But first is an observation and a disappointment. I'm not crazy about this real short line craze. A line should be a breath of expression. Each line must invite the audience to the  next line or it fails to carry the weight of the poem. At least a foot is required. But a foot and a half is still pretty fast.

The more spoken, the more obvious the line. The line is treacherous if you ignore it. Each line must lead to the next and the next or the tongue tip trips. The journey stops.

Makes me wonder how the single word line smiths keep their audience past the exhaustion of racing toward the end of every phrase.

I can understand being bored with pentameter, nothing moves so 16th century as pentameter, but even jazz has riffs, poetry as pizzicato chops of stones? Will more messages get through? Only if the channel is set to cummings and only cummings does cummings well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Meet Beau Blue, Poetry Columnist for GAS

 Beau Blue is an old man recluse living in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. A systems engineer, he specialized in interfacing computers to machine tools and in networking computer systems. He came to the internet, known at the time as ARPAnet, when he worked with Ford Aerospace and Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in the eighties. 

In 1993 he helped start Cruzio Communications, one of the first commercial internet service providers in the USA. He became one of the first internet literary publishers that same year with the introduction of "The Hawk", an arts and literary ezine aimed at engineers and designers. 

He has been publishing Internet poetry since 1995 when he and Michael McNeilley co-edited 'ZeroCity', one of the first poetry Ezines in the country.

Along the way, during his systems design career, he became involved with San Francisco Bay Area musicians and started a band called the Captec Project, "Community of Artists Patronized by Technology". The band appeared in various clubs in the bay area, performing his poetry to fusion and hard rock blues music. The Captec group was well received and an album, "Human Tricks", was produced in 1980 to positive reviews. Blue moved on from the Captec Project's fusion sound to the Alibi Blues and the Back Alley Blues Bands during the mid-eighties.

Blue retired from systems design in 2002 and he began publishing poetry animations with the advent of his third excursion into Internet poetry publication with "Beau Blue Presents". In 2004 "Blue's Cruzio Cafe" came into being and the two publications became part of the following year. 

Nowadays, Blue hides in the forest and works at keeping a unique and viable addition to the internet poetry landscape. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

GAS Tali Cohen Shabtai, Featured Poet

 Tali Cohen Shabtai is from Jerusalem, Israel. She has three poetry books: "Purple Diluted in a Black’s Thick", (bilingual 2007), "Protest" (bilingual 2012) and "Nine Years From You" (2018).

Tali’s poems express spiritual and physical exile. She is studying her exile and freedom paradox. Her cosmopolitan vision is very obvious in her writings. She lived some years in Oslo, Norway and in the U.S.A.

Tali studied at the David Yellin College of Education for a bachelor's degree. She is a member of the Hebrew Writers Association and the Israeli Writers Association.

In 2014, Cohen Shabtai also participated in a Norwegian documentary about poets' lives called "The Last Bohemian"- "Den Siste Bohemien",and screened in the cinema in Scandinavia. 

By 2020, her fourth book of poetry will be published which will also be published in Norway. Her literary works have been translated into many languages as well.

I have to know the wage of text

For a poet, silence is an acceptable, even flattering response, 

claimed Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette.

Another claimed 

that the calm that is the history of silence 

is the poet's revenge.

Look, I walk around with a quill 

between my teeth

Some people have their sensory hearing absorbed into in the most unexpected organs, and some will qualify in silence, accordingly I have to know the wage 


text —

Surely, the initial reaction in humans 

in their early lives is the voice, after

which everything else is a charade.

Tali will be featured in GAS 10, due out December 5th.

My Beloved Anti-Divas, Part 1: Patti Smith by Kevin Hibshman

Thought I'd kick things off by saluting a few of the women whose music has greatly affected my life.  One of the earliest was Patti Smith. So much has already been written about her. I own three separate biographies! I believe a film about her life was also in the works and possibly, a television series?  She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. The French Ministry of Culture named her a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2005. She also won the National Book Award in 2010 for her memoir, Just Kids. 

      I'm certain almost anyone who would read this column is familiar with Smith in some way. She has recently released a series of three spoken-word Cd's with the Berlin-based band Soundwalk Collective. I'm not reviewing that series because I want to focus on the two seminal albums I personally believe EVERY rock music fan, every poet, every outsider and every female artist should own.  First, let's do a very brief run through of her history.

        Born in Chicago, 1946, Patti spent the first four years of her life in Philadelphia before her family moved to rural New Jersey. After failing in several dead-end jobs and getting pregnant but giving the child up for adoption, she fled to New York City in 1967. She immediately fell in with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and a host of other artists and musicians, including poet Jim Carroll and actor/playwright Sam Shepard. Her incendiary spoken-word performances at St. Marks Poetry Project in New York in the early 70's drew acclaim and by 1974, the Patti Smith Group was formed. The band was signed to Arista Records and released their stunning debut: Horses in 1975.

        Horses was quite unlike any other record before its time. It was raw, the murky production actually enhancing the songs. Smith sang but spent equal time chanting and declaiming verse. On Horses,the songs are built into the poetry. On the other album I wish to talk about, Easter, the poems are built into the songs. It strikes me as ironic that on the cover of Horses, she has a visible light mustache and on the cover of Easter, she is flashing under arm hair.


        Horses, with its wild energy and Smith's animal yet intellectual presence foreshadowed punk, inspiring the kids that went on to form bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash. The opening lines of the album: “Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine” set the tone for all of the hallucinatory imagery and sexual abandon that followed. The band paired a few classic rock tunes ( Van Morrison's “Gloria” and Chris Kenner's “Land of a Thousand Dances”) to Smith's often improvised rants to create a new musical form. 

        After that powerful public introduction and statement of purpose, Patti and the band released their second record, Radio Ethiopia in 1976. It was a commercial and critical flop, though fans will want to own it. To further complicate things, Smith fell from a stage, breaking vertebrae in her neck, while the band were opening for Bob Seger (!) in Tampa, Florida in 1977. The future of the band seemed uncertain. 

        All was not lost, however. In March, 1978, The Patti Smith Group delivered what would be their most commercially successful album, Easter. Produced by then-unknown Jimmy Iovine, the record featured Smith's only hit, Because The Night with music supplied by fellow New Jersey rocker, Bruce Springsteen. Iovine's tasteful production combined with a strong set of songs and Patti's regained commitment to her art, all made for a very spirited comeback. The key ingredient was Smith's voice. She let loose with a new strength and control that was intoxicating and would go on to inspire future female rockers including P.J. Harvey and Courtney Love. 

      Ever expanding on a multi-faceted career that's already spanned over four decades, Smith continues to inspire with her singular vision. She has helped redefine the boundaries of what is possible in rock music as well as exemplifying a new type of female performer. If you are not familiar with her recorded output, I highly recommend beginning with either of the aforementioned albums. You can always go back and score the rest later.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Meet Sylvia Van Nooten, Art Columnist for GAS

Sylvia Van Nooten is an asemic artist and visual poet but once she was a writer of fiction.  Way back in the late nineties she wrote a novel and it almost made it.  Jonathan Franzen’s agent read it and expressed interest, she sent some ideas for a rewrite.  But that novel-- titled Brain Music--which today sits in a cardboard box in Sylvia’s basement, got her started doing art because of writer’s block. Writer’s block, particularly for writer’s of fiction-without-a-strong-plot, heavy on the beautiful sentences, light on structure---well it’s exhausting.  Sylvia took time away from her novel to start playing with oil paints and pastels.  Eventually the writer’s block became permanent but the art continues, twenty plus years later.  

Without all the words and no need for strong plotting, art expresses (to be banal), whatever needs to be expressed.  In this painting, done on November 3rd, 2020, is titled American Dissonance. The tension of that night had to be expressed.  

The next painting is about striving to find strength during these ever so difficult times and was completed several days after the election. It’s titled, Finding Source. The viewer is free to interpret the art anyway they feel.  Once Sylvia births a painting it is on its own, out in the world.

As an art columnist for GAS, Sylvia will be interviewing many of the artists she knows from social media.  They have all inspired her and encouraged her to carry on and they all have fascinating stories to tell about art and process and life.  

See more of Sylvia's work in GAS 9.

"Music is Life Itself" (Louis Armstrong) by Kevin M. Hibshman


  My intense love for music began at a very young age. I hummed pop songs I picked up on from my mother. She had a small transistor radio in the kitchen and she was always humming along to the hit songs of the day. My father, who played saxophone, also enjoyed the radio and music would accompany the family on our car trips everywhere. I grew up during the 70's and 80's when commercial music was at its peak. Music had little competition for public attention then besides television and many music-themed shows were quite popular. In a sense, There was no escaping it. 

        Music truly became indispensable to me during my teen years when I began to form my own tastes and opinions. Being somewhat of an outsider, I found the only voices that spoke to me were the musicians who provided the soundtrack to my youth. I was drawn immediately to punk rock and new wave although I have always had a wide range of favorite bands. I began writing songs with my best friend, Kris, a pioneering female guitarist and she exposed me to even more artists. We formed two bands that played alternative rock, mixing our own songs with cover versions from our favorite bands. 

        Music has been my closest, most dependable life-long friend, speaking to as well as for me. It is its own ever-expanding universe and has guided me to become the person I am today.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Joe Kidd's "The Invisible Waterhole" Reviewed by Belinda Subraman

Joe Kidd is a musician, singer/songwriter, activist, philosopher and poet. He has a new book out called The Invisible Waterhole.  The title invokes the mystical and philosophical nature of the book.
Available HERE.
Joe is a seeker...and a finder.  The essence of each poem is his insight no matter the subject.  He's at the age when introspection reveals a deeper, fuller perspective and wisdom from the journey so far while acknowledging the constant battle with the human condition. From
Great Hunger:  "what I heard is not what was said/there was a pause, a promise/a silent message."  He ends the poem with the realization he is dealing with his own issues not necessarily at all what the speaker meant: "someone released us/(a stained document,/a soiled piece of cloth) / into the cold and burnt sky within."

He knows we all experience roughly the same things but in different order, different times, different cultures.  It really is all about how we interpret and internalize what our experiences have to offer. With his rich understanding it is not surprising that Joe has seminary training and a broad knowledge of spiritual traditions around the world.

Battle Well

EJECT the world beyond your skull

 light now stopping in its tracks

the high walls shattered, sheets of glass

 motionless, a scented form

called for nourishment and bliss

a circling tongue upon a door

a secret held between closed lips

REJECT the generated noise

the burning hum of violence

the vision of a turning blade

that sound of rumbling underground

 friends remembered in a womb

the birth of choice, clean and warm

 walking home on splintered bone

INJECT the fluid deep and dark

 where memory died a tragedy

the word not spoken, long asleep

 tried to touch, but could not reach

 that mask of love upon a face

 beyond a mirrored apparition

this fallen angel's shrunken head

A good place to end is with the blooming peace (and responsibility) of the last stanza of Solstice Part OneTonight I dive deep into eternal solace/at the center and the edge/of a universe that does not exist/ beyond a hearts command.

Since it's hard to mention Joe without mentioning Shelia, here's just a tiny portion of their accomplishments. "Joe & Sheila are 2 time recipients of the Detroit Music Award for Songwriter of the Year, Michigan Governor's Award, World Songwriters Award, 2019 Congressional Certificate from US House of Representatives, 2019 Clouzine Magazine Music Award for Best Acoustic Song, 2020 International Singer Songwriter Association Award for Vocal Duo of the Year.  Joe Kidd was inducted into the Michigan Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on June 1 2017.  Joe & Sheila have each published books of poetry, prose, and illustration."

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Review of Cee Williams’ "Poetry for Cats & all the other mortal things I couldn’t keep myself from loving" by Heidi Blakeslee

You know that feeling you get when you’re reading someone’s work and it just transports you to their time and place?  The words are pure and the voice is so strong you get pangs in your stomach.  When it’s so good you recognize parts of the writing as part of your own ephemera?  You just feel it?

Cee Williams’s “Poetry for Cats” is that chapbook.  As a person familiar with his work, this volume stands out for me as one that is special.  Not just because I love cats, though Cee’s warmth when writing and talking about animals can certainly give me bias.  No, not all of the poems are about cats, though animals are always a running theme in his poetry.  There is a richness to the lines as Cee lovingly and vividly describes characters he knows and has known.  

His voice is at once wise and true.  If you are in the mood for some perfectly polished work that will make your soul ache and your heart nod along in agreement, then this work is for you.  Every time I read this chapbook I sigh and think, “Damn, Cee, you did it again!”  

Psalm 68 Verse 9:
"Rain in abundance thou didst shed abroad; thou didst restore thy heritage as it languished."

As the rain falls
through the flowering pear
a whispered orison to veiled Orishas
lingers long enough to hold in fingers
crossed in hopeful supplication
quiet prayers imprisoned in despair

This book was published by Poet's Hall and is available from

Cee Williams is the founder of Poet’s Hall, the International Fellowship of Poets and Spoken Word Artists, in Erie, Pa.  He was also the Poet Laureate of Erie County from 2014-2016.  He is a poet, playwright, and producer with many published titles under his belt.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Poet/Musician, Heidi Blakeslee, Joins GAS Staff as a Book Reviewer

Heidi Blakeslee is a writer, musician, and artist currently living near Pittsburgh, Pa.  She's been publishing work since the early 2000's.  She got her start in poetry performance at the Erie Bookstore, in Erie, Pa. in 2004.   She came up alongside writers like Thasia Anne, Chuck Joy, Cee Williams, Berwyn Moore, and Greg Brown.   She has published extensively with Alien Buddha and in many online poetry blogs like "Winedrunk Sidewalk," "Nixes Mate," and "Live Nude Poems."  She has written a memoir, two novels, and three poetry books, the latest of which is "Neurotica" with cover artwork, "My mind at midnight," by Belinda Subraman.

Musically, Heidi started the project "Emocat2380," or just "Emocat" for short, in January of 2020.  The music started out as simply a means of relaxing and staying sane during the craziest era our country has lived in for many decades.  The music manifests itself with synths, soft tones, early Nintendo-like soundscapes, and surprising layers of instruments and drums.  Emocat's mission is to create music for cats and the people who appreciate them.

Heidi's plans for the future include continuing to work with Emocat, writing book reviews for GAS, and finishing that darn niggling novel that begs for closure.  

She lives with her six cats and her partner James Trevison, who is also an artist and saxophone player.

Heidi's book is available on HERE.

real men snuggle cats

our jet black panther-cat, Weenie Beans
has taken ownership
of james

his belly in particular

he loves jumping on it and sitting there
kneading it
as he comforts down into
his home sense

sometimes he lies there for an hour
james pets him and we watch tv

real men accept head boops graciously
with eyes closed
and smiling
this is true

Weenie is a very loving cat
he gives boops with abandon

james rewards him with treats to reinforce
the behavior
he loves james and james loves him
an innocent joy
jim's at work now
and Weenie is laying on my back kneading my butt
why? who knows

his nails scratch through my dress

it isn't entirely comfortable
but i let him stay

such is love

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Poetry of Su Zi

Su Zi is equal parts writer, artist, and badass eco-feminist.  She holds an MA in English and has published in such places as Driving DigestExquisite Corpse, and Blue Heron Review (where she was nominated for The Pushcart Prize).  She resides in Florida with her horses, dogs, cats, and turtles where she runs The Red Mare Chapbook Series.

Below is an interview with Su Zi in which she reads a long poem first read at a 100,000 Poets for Change event.

In the video below Su Zi reads a long poem she originally read at a 100,000 Poets for Change event.

Su Zi's newest book, Chicago Poems, will be available from Breaking Rules and on Amazon.

Su Zi also appears in GAS 9.

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Poetry of Kenneth Lumpkin

Kenneth reads from his work in GAS 9.

Kenneth Lumpkin is an educator, writer, poet, musician, Freemason and activist. He has published four collections of poetry to date: "Gather the Ashes", 1984, winner of the Louis Ginsberg Memorial Fellowship from the Chaucer Guild, "Song of Ramapough: A Poetics of Place", 2016, "Love Lake", 2017 and "God Has Many Names and other poems", 2018 and "Slip of the Tongue", 2019. He teaches anthropology online through three New Jersey state universities and resides in London, Ontario with his wife, Kim and cat, Molly.

Song of Ramapough is a work that has some years behind it...38 as of this writing. It is a poetics of place. In this sense, it gets a lot of its direction and inspiration from Charles Olson's Maximus Poems and William Carlos Williams' Paterson. It was my intent when I started this project to write something that bespoke of the land, in this case, the Ramapo Mountain area of upper Bergen County, New Jersey and parts of Rockland and Orange Counties, New York. The idea was that it would be an environmental learning tool as well as a collection of poems. It is, in fact, one long poem to a particular place, the Ramapo Mountains. The personal hope was that if I got to know one distinct place on this planet intimately, I would also come to know the larger place, and therefore, the very Earth, itself.

A sample from God Has Many Names

 From Song of Ramapough

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Bengt O Björklund's "I Missed Woodstock" (Human Error Publishing) reviewed by Belinda Subraman

Buy Here

I have just finished this impressive poetic bio written in free verse. There are many memorable phrases and poetic turns in Bengt's life and his writings. I’ve always felt a kinship with him although we’ve lived vastly different lives. My greatest adventures and experimentations came later in life. As a young man, Bengt says,” I learned to run naked/across meadows and pastures/amongst surprised cows.”  Meanwhile I was merely walking in pastures, singing Joni Mitchell and stepping in poo.

By the time Bengt was in Turkish prison over a few grams of hash and discovering the joys of learning, creating art and writing poetry, I was living in a fantasy (but healing) world of reading philosophy, history, creation with words and art, expressing myself when I could not talk. I found a safe place of wonder and possibilities. It felt like a calling. In more drastic circumstances Bengt says, ”I had long conversations/with Rabindranath Tagore/and I often woke up in Russia/in the late nineteenth century.//The Japanese slowly moved/deep into my eyes/and tales are mixed/with reality/and Dylan Thomas.//I moved through the days/like a monk in his prayers.”

With or without drugs it is beautiful to see the world open up to unlimited possibilities of learning and perception.  People get to this point in many ways and travel is nearly always an important aspect of the never ending wonder of being human.  Alas, many or most seem to keep the same set of guidelines handed them from birth and when an opportunity to expand arises they reject it and choose to remain small and call the opportunity and/or those who offered it, unwanted, not of their kin so it must be “evil.”  How wonderful to finally arrive to a place as Bengt describes. “The world vibrated/in the smallest atom/and everything was just as important/except that which obscured.//An abandoned house/at the edge of the road/offered a ghostly shadow play./Trees spoke to me/of the speed of perception/and of everything/that lies within the possibilities/of angular occurrence. ~Belinda Subraman 

Bengt's voice and art appear in GAS 2, located below.