Monday, May 31, 2021

GAS Featured Poet: Thomas Graves

Thomas Graves was born in Hawaii and grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, attending the Dalton School. He has a Masters in English from Iowa. He adapted and wrote music for Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" for The Childrens Theater at Tufts University. He read his poems at a poetry festival in Romania in 2016. His book
Ben Mazer and the New Romanticism was published in 2021. He is the editor of Blog Scarriet


As a boy I learned to accept the fishes’ death.
On fishing trips with my grandfather I silently hoped the fish
Would live.  After a long drive from the lake,

When the trunk was opened,
The pickerels would still be breathing,
Their gills quivering in the murderous air.
I sensed my grandfather’s indifference;
My sorrow brooded without sound on my lips.

The pity I felt
for the fish who solemnly lazed in streams,
Inscrutable monsters who lived in the flood!
My pity moved against me like a flood,
Weakening everything but memory,
Death disguised in dreams,
Dreams of dream lakes, peering within.

Fishing in dreams, fish
Of strange dimensions, the writhing
Of colors hidden partially by the dark.

Before I learned to fish, when sex
Was only something disguised in dreams,
I dreamed of two creatures,
One fat, one long, fighting to the death
In a wooden container of water, barely large enough to hold them.

I founded my religion in a pond.
You could see a boy hunched over on summer days
Salamanders hiding in the slime.

I feared for the safety of worms
We used for bait.  Fish devoured worms, and so I felt
Less pity for fish, and then less pity for all.

I stood frozen once, when I saw a minnow
In the mouth of a snake.

Does anyone know what anything is just before it happens?
I remember feeling sex for the first time.
Poetry hinted at sex; sounds of words
Saying what was underlying, 

Here’s the brook, the forest, the hungry trout,
The dream of sex which is not sex,
The hungry sweetness of desire,
The sunlight, the mist, the mad-life child.

You returned from the woods with your books,
You brought your books back; poetry failed you;
Poetry in books was too full of silences.

Sex, the adolescent feeling sex,
Suddenly coming for the first time
While just lying on the bedroom floor, alone;
You live with it, marry it,
It keeps you company,
And poetry, lying before you in piled books,
Becomes your companion too.

If we could get back
To the dream of sex which is not sex,
The meadow, the arms, the face,
The whispers, the explanations, mother, father,
Brother, sister, the conquering, the sand,
The water, the coughing, the poetry;
The light just above you as you look up;
You’re a fish, swimming towards him,
The boy in the boat with his grandfather;
He is listening to his grandfather tell a joke;

You will interrupt, you will startle the line;
You will be pulled up on the boat;
You will die; you will die, slowly,
And the boy will no longer know what to think.
But the idea was to die for him.
The idea was to save his life.


That summer we were devoted to baseball
And counted dexterity highest of all things.
Under high trees we learned what we could do on our feet
With the wiffle ball---make it soar or run and with its curve
Baffle both the left handed and the right handed batter.

Our umpire was the venerable Henry Wadsworth Longfellow;
On Brattle Street in Cambridge,  Longfellow's house stands,
Between it and the Charles River, Longfellow Park;
A dozen stone steps on either side descending to the river
Frame a monument fifteen feet high, featuring the bust

Of Longfellow, with his fictions carved in low-relief
On the wall behind him; the base on which his bust sits
Is a pedestal forming a strike zone perfect in width,
The wall a fine back-stop to the field of play, formed by
A three foot stone wall enclosing the infield, lamposts

Perfect foul poles just beyond the short wall's two corners;
Three stone steps opposite the statue twenty feet away
Lead to the grass outfield and a curved path: homerun.
Two is all that's needed; one bats, one pitches.
Singles need to clear the three foot stone wall,

Doubles are any hit which hits an outfield tree on the fly,
Triples those hits which on a fly strike the distant path,
Homeruns those which clear the path, sixty feet away.
Home is the vertical area behind the batter,
Under Henry's beard.  He watched the called balls and strikes

We threw against his pedestal all summer.  My fastball
Was okay, but then I changed speeds---she'd lunge at the ball
Before its anticipated arrival; that was the change-up,
My best pitch.  She threw hard and learned a spot
Where I just couldn't hit it and threw it there all day;

She shut me out once; we'd play nine innings
And we took it seriously.  We fell in love with the game;
We hated to stop when tourists came by to peek at Henry,
Or when it rained, or grew dark, or when lovers
Were there ahead of us, sighing in our perfect field.

THE GIRL AQUARIUM by Jen Campbell, reviewed by Ren Powell

Reading this collection, I began to question the definition of surrealism. The leaping images in Jen Campbell's poems in The Girl Aquarium seem at times more playfully associative than Freudian. These poems make the wild, imaginative connections of childhood’s make-believe worlds. Though at times they allude to a darker kind of fairy tale than any I've ever read. 

Reading through once, for the individual poems, the collection compels me to read again to find all of the details of the narrative, to understand and fully embrace the brokenness and the strength of these girls with equal appreciation.

The collection includes free verse, "formal" verse like list poems and prose poems, and Campbell is a master of utilising internal rhymes and assonance when referencing fairy tales.

From The Doll Hospital: 

My mother claimed I had changeling feet
dancing in dirt water         pulling a ragged doll
through fairy rings when she summoned me home for tea.

I cup my palms. 

Little fishling.
I wonder if we should roll her hair like starfish.
Watch it flicker the colour of raspberry-plum. 

We hum, take turns.                  Pirouette
her little body so her organs align like marbled planets. 

While five of Campbell’s poems are so rooted in the culture of Northern England they are written in dialect, they hit close to home for this reader. The freak shows and sides shows that conjure up Coney Island and the stained, canvas tents at county fairs across the American heartland. The Girl Aquarium isn’t difficult to imagine: 

At half-term the aquarium is at its busiest.
They hire street vendors to come inside and hand out beer.
Candy floss for the kids whose parents don’t care.
The corridors heave with barbecue.
Too damp to strike a match. […]

In the feeding room: girls with extra limbs.
They scuttle into corners, pretend they’re shy.
In the sunroom: girls with beetle eyes.
Iris headbands blinding
at all the mobile phones.

Hashtag girls.
Hashtag half-girls.
Hashtag nothing you’ve ever seen before in your tiny little life. 

A teenage boy bangs the window, gives them the finger.

This collection conjures up the all too familiar atmospheres of xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny… 

From What the Bearded Lady Told Me:

That between her legs is volcanic.
That men are terrified.
That she loves how terrified they are.
That she likes the sea.

And zoanthropy. Here is a world-full of woman forced into a half-creature existence. From The Woman’s Private Looking Glass

Take the physician’s advice. 

Forget imagination and do not look straight at the moon.
Up there devil-girls cradle silver eggs. They slide
from roller coaster innards, trickle tales
of the greats. 

Leda, Lilith, Sirin — all owl-chested women. 

 And do not peer into the sea; for there salted-tadpoles twist around your organs and turn your body into stone. 

This collection was so painful to read, so familiar and so fantastical that I sit back and wonder now how I ever negotiatedmuch less survivedbeing a girl. But there is more here. The poetry is infused with the poet’s personal experience with very real physical disabilities. This knowledge forces the reader to interrogate the poems further. The reader has to question the limitations of empathy with regard to experience, has to explore the boundaries between metaphor and metonymyand even the literal. 

These poems left room for me to find myself within the pages. But then they also pulled me out of myself entirely, which is what great poetry does. 

Jen Campbell

JEN CAMPBELL grew up in the northeast of England, and graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA in English Literature. She is an established writer of children books and short stores, but The Girl Aquarium is her first poetry collection, published by BloodAxe books in 2019. She has a YouTube channel where she talks about (not surprisingly) fairytales and disfigurement. Her website is Her book is available through Bloodaxe and Amazon.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

From The Vault: Rainer Maria Rilke, presented by Matthew Bowers

Rainer Maria Rilke 1875-1926 

"I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.”  In his time Rainer Maria Rilke was considered one of the greatest German lyric poets of his day. He became famous with such works as Duineser Elegien and Die Sonette an Orpheus. They both appeared in 1923. 

He created the 'object poem' as an attempt to describe with absolute detail and clarity, physical objects. He called it the 'silence of their concentrated reality'. 

Rainer was born in Prague as the son of Josef Rilke and Sophie Entz. A particular fact that was important in the developmental years of Rilke's life was that his mother called him Sophia. She forced him to wear girl's clothes until he was five years old, allegedly compensating for the earlier loss of her previous baby daughter. Rilke's parents separated when he was nine. 

As a poet Rilke made his debut at the age of nineteen (1894), his style of writing similar to Heinrich Heine (a German poet, writer and literary critic). In Munich he met the Russian intellectual Lou Andreas-Salome, who was an older woman who deeply influenced him. She was a Russian-born psychoanalyst and a well-traveled author, narrator, and essayist. In Florence, where he spent some months in 1898, Rilke wrote: "I felt at first so confused that I could scarcely separate my impressions, and thought I was drowning in the breaking waves of some foreign splendor." 

While Rilke was with Lou Andreas-Salome and her husband, Rilke travelled through Russia in 1899. Here he visited Leo Tolstoy, among other authors. Rilke was deeply impressed by what he learned of Russian mysticism and he focused passionately on seeking truth; he found that one must go through all kinds of suffering to finally break through into Love and Light. During this period he started to write The Book of Hours: The Book of Monastic Life, which appeared in 1905. 

In Letters to a Young Poet (1929) which he wrote from 1903 to 1908, Rilke explained, that "nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether you would have to die if it denied you to write." Quite a powerful sentiment for sure. 

Rilke had married the young sculptress, Klara Westhoff in 1901. She had been one of Auguste Rodin's pupils. François Auguste René Rodin was a French sculptor generally considered the founder of modern sculpture. Rilke and Klara had a daughter, Ruth, but marriage lasted only one year. During this period Rilke composed in rhymed, metered verse, the second part of The Book of Hours. At this time he was expressing his spiritual interests and beliefs. After Rilke had separated from Klara, he settled in Paris to write a book about Rodin and to work for his secretary from 1905-06. 

In the Spring of 1906, an overworked Rilke left Rodin and revised his work Das Buch der Bilder, publishing it in an enlarged edition. He also wrote The Tale of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke. The poem recounts the adventures of Christopher Rilke, who traveled with a company of soldiers and then, after a night in a castle with a lover, fought and died in a war in Turkey and is mourned by an old woman. This release became a very popular success. While in Paris during this time, Rilke developed a new style of lyrical poetry. After Neue Gedichte: New Poems (1907-08, )came a notebook named Die Aufzechnungen des Malte Laurdis Brigge (1910), his most important prose work to that point. It took the form of a series of semi autobiographical spiritual confessions but written by a Danish migrant in Paris. 

Rilke took a hiatus as a poet for twelve years before writing Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus, which are concerned with "the identity of terror and bliss" and "the oneness of life and death". Duino Elegies was developed in two bursts of inspiration which was separated by ten years off. According to a story, Rilke heard in the wind the first lines of his elegies when he was walking on the rocks above the sea - "Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies?" 

Rilke visited his friend Princess Marie von Thurnun Taxis in 1910 at Duino, her remote castle on the coast of the Adriatic, and returned again next year. There he started to compose the poems, and the work proceeded easily. Then after serving in the army, Rilke was afraid that he would never be able to finish the writings, but finally in 1922 he completed Duineser Elegien (Duino Elegies) in a chateau in Muzot, Switzerland.  

In the philosophical poems Rilke meditated on time and eternity, life and death, art versus the ordinary. His tone conveyed melancholy. Rilke believed in the coexistence of the material and spiritual realms, but "human beings were for him only spectators of life, grasping its beauties momentarily only to lose them again. And with the power of creativity an artist can try to build a bridge between two worlds, although the task is almost too great for a man." The work deeply influenced such poets as Sidney Keyes, Stephen Spender, Robert Bly, W.S. Merwin, John Ashbery, and W.H. Auden, who had Rilkean angels appear in the collection In Times of War (1939). 

In 1913 Rilke returned to Paris, but he was forced to return to Germany due to the coming of the First World War as part of the Austrian army. Duino Castle was bombed to ruins and Rilke's personal property was confiscated in France. After 1919 he lived in Switzerland, writing and gardening. From time to time he went to Paris or Italy for a few months. Rilke's companion during his last years was the artist Baladine (Elisabeth Dorothea Spiro), whose son, Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski), had also become an artist. Rilke wrote a foreword to a book illustrated by Balthus's drawings of cats. 

Shortly before his death, Rilke had an illness that was diagnosed as leukemia. He had been suffering ulcerous sores in his mouth, while pain troubled his stomach and intestines, as a result he struggled with increasingly low spirits. Open-eyed, he died in the arms of his doctor on December 29, 1926, in the Valmont Sanatorium in Switzerland. 

Here are a couple of selected works by Rainer Maria Rilke: 

Torso of an Archaic Apollo 

We cannot know his legendary head

with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso

is still suffused with brilliance from inside,

like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise

the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could

a smile run through the placid hips and thighs

to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced

beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders

and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,

burst like a star: for here there is no place

that does not see you. You must change your life.


Come thou, thou last one, whom I recognize, 

unbearable pain throughout this body's fabric: 

as I in my spirit burned, see, I now burn in thee: 

the wood that long resisted the advancing flames 

which thou kept flaring, I now am nourishinig 

and burn in thee. 

My gentle and mild being through thy ruthless fury 

has turned into a raging hell that is not from here. 

Quite pure, quite free of future planning, I mounted

the tangled funeral pyre built for my suffering, 

so sure of nothing more to buy for future needs, 

while in my heart the stored reserves kept silent. 

Is it still I, who there past all recognition burn? 

Memories I do not seize and bring inside. 

O life! O living! O to be outside! 

And I in flames. And no one here who knows me.

[Written in December 1926, this poem was the last
entry in Rilke's notebook, less than two weeks before his death at age 51.]

*,,, Wikipedia, Images-Tumbler and Wikipedia* 

Friday, May 28, 2021

GAS Featured Musician: Kate Bush, presented by Kevin M. Hibshman

Copyright: Noble and Bright

The Weird and Wonderful World Of Kate Bush

Kate Bush began writing songs as a child and was nineteen years old when she first topped the charts in her native UK with the whimsical “Wuthering Heights.” Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd) assisted her in procuring a recording contract. Her first album, The Kick Inside was released in 1978. It was piano-based , off-kilter pop that belied a precocious intelligence and a quite active imagination. Each subsequent release showed a marked progression in her musical abilities and her further exploration of often literary or cinematic themes focusing on the human condition. She became an instant pop star in the UK while maintaining a loyal cult following in the U.S. and many other countries.


        Bush would swiftly move to producing her own material and 1980's Never Forever saw her branching out in that capacity for the first time. Always theatrical and lyrically unbridled, this album was her first number one in the UK and spawned the hits “Babooshka,” “Army Dreamers” and “Breathing,” The follow-up album, The Dreaming was released in 1982 and was her most experimental

and non-commercial album yet. Critics weren't sure what to make of the album upon its release but it has gone on to become a favorite with fans and has been influential to many other musicians including Icelandic avant-pop artist Bjork. Bush has always included exotic instruments in her music and made use of uilleann pipes and a didgeridoo on this album. The Dreaming also features extensive use of the Fairlight CMI digital sampling synthesizer, a tool she would use to create her masterpiece, 1985's The Hounds Of Love.

        During the Summer of 1983, Kate built her own recording studio in a barn on her parent's property. Over the course of a year, she would create what would be her most commercially and critically successful album, Hounds Of Love. The album features the hit “Running Up That Hill,” which peaked at number 3 in the UK and at number 30 in the U.S. The accompanying video displayed her skills as a dancer. The album was split into two suites: Hounds of Love and The Ninth Wave. Critics have labeled the album “post-progressive” as it is a rare foray into the progressive rock genre from a strictly female viewpoint. She followed up this daring effort with 1989's The Sensual World which features one of the most haunting movie theme songs ever recorded: “This Woman's Work,” from the film She's Having a Baby. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1991. 

       Bush has, to date released three other original albums: The Red Shoes,1993 which included guest appearances from Prince, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, the double album, Aerial, 2005, and 50 Words for Snow, 2011. These albums reflect a calmer, quieter Bush but still retain the mysticism and visionary quality she is known for. Kate Bush is a true artist who transports the willing listener to worlds only she holds the keys to, so abandon your previous perceptions and allow her to unlock the gate to a universe of infinite experience.

GAS Featured Poet: Henry Stanton

 Henry Stanton is a painter and a writer of poetry and fiction living in Old Ellicott City Maryland, though he is really only a conduit for the many remarkable and beautiful revelations offered to him by his loved ones, by strangers, by the sentient and otherwise.    His paintings, poems and fiction have appeared widely in print and online journals internationally – most recently in Gnashing Teeth, High Shelf Press, Paper and Ink Zine, and Rust Belt Review.  He has two books of poetry published by Holy & Intoxicated Press, The Man Who Turned Stuff Off (2019) and Pain Rubble (2020).  His third book of poems, Moonbird, was also published in 2020 by Cathexis Northwest Press.  His poetry was selected as winner of the A3 Review Poetry Prize  and was shortlisted for the Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry.  His fiction received an Honorable Mention for the Salt & Syntax Fiction Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual Writing Contest.  Henry Stanton is a regular illustrator for Black Petal Press and Yellow Mama Press.  He is also a regular reviewer for GAS: Poetry, Art and Music and publisher/editor for UnCollected Press/The Raw Art Review.  A selection of paintings, poetry and fiction can be found at


Looking into the speckled blue throat of this iris

could a mind do this

can a thought finely turned

open like this

for two glorious weeks

and be shimmering blue beauty hanging in memory

this beautiful throat has opened 

and says nothing so quietly it can be heard

it is a bottomless throat

i have heard it called an artichoke

an onion

i have called it other things myself

and now the iris is singing

and i am as silent as it sings 

and can hear petals shiver the air


I want to hear your heart 

so I push my head up under your shirt and listen

the other night after heaving and sobbing

you said

my heart hurts again

I gather up all the innocents in my arms at these times

and now you laugh with your brother over the phone

it washes away all the upset I feel

I am both joy and sorrow wearing your robe

outside the wind cries

the names

carrying them away.

(For Jennifer)

Thursday, May 27, 2021

CITIZEN RELENT by Jeff Weddle, reviewed by Hex'm J'ai

CITIZEN RELENT, published in 2019 by Unlikely Books, provides us a temporal triptych. 


The Future.  In this section we are provided Jeff’s musings of very potential future(s).  Whether the bitter-sweet and wistful future in “Responsibility of Eggnog” which makes clear the fleeting of youth or the dystopian probabilities of “In the End” we are engaged with a very tangible concept of time slipping into entropy and a feeling of the inevitable.  This cold inevitability of times march is presented in his “An Archeology”, which is a musing I, myself, and I’m sure many others have entertained.  That said, this not just doom and gloom as there are multiple potentials.  We are reminded to savor those fragile and fleeting moments as in “Please Pay Attention”.


The Present (2019 EV).  Alright friendly friends, here are the politically leaning meat and potatoes of our Americana pie!  Mind you, as I was reading the pieces contained in this section I quickly flipped back to the publishing/copyright page to see when this was published as these poems are eerily prescient of the calamities that ensued the following year.  So, I conferred with the author and he assured me that he is not a prophet of doom.  Indeed, Weddle, the Great and Powerful is not the man behind the curtain but is someone who actually pays attention!  Through pieces like “Twilight Empire” we are presented the dystopia of NOW that became clear to us during 2020 but were always prevalent, hence why Jeff’s ability to be socially astute could be confused with prescience.  We see the undercurrent of social injustice, cultural war, division and threat of fascism as always being there as echoed in “What We Now Endure” and “Charlottesville”.  Also, Jeff employs biblical references, evangelical language, macho MAGA rhetoric and general obliviousness against the very institutions that perpetuate these problems in pieces such as “Just Saying”, “Quiet Jim”, “Oh Beautiful” and “MAGA”.  Again, Jeff has painted for us the very real and crystal-clear image of an ugly unmasked Americana that is lit to pop.


The Past.  This completes the countdown, grounding Jeff’s futuristic musings and present observations in shining nostalgia.  Shining memories for sure but not all are painted gold, that would not adhere to Jeff’s penchant for veritas.  Again, shining with powerful imagery such as painted in “When we Left that Day” or “Sweet Life”.  We are also given my personal favorite from this section “The Deadliest Man Alive” where one can feel the texture of the thin comic book pages and even smell the print.  It made me miss my X-ray specs and the sheer escapism which embodied even the ads in the comics in that lost era (I never got the submarine either Jeff).   

From Citizen Relent:

The Deadliest Man Alive 

I wanted Telecult Power 

and voodoo 

Count Dante’s secrets 

I wanted to be the world’s

 most dangerous something

though I would of course 

use my powers for good 

I wanted to be the one 

kicking sand in some guy’s face 

if there was going to be any sand kicked 

I wanted flying saucers overhead 

and landing in the empty lot 

down the street 

Charles Atlas and dynamic tension 

seemed an answer 

to questions I didn’t know to ask 

and masked ninja masters called to me 

I definitely did not want 

to make extra cash selling flower seeds 

and I never considered 

learning guitar by mail 

or looking suave with a false beard 

though I really did want to send off 

for a pet monkey 

but my parents said no 

so I ordered sea monkeys 

and I got x-ray specs 

and vampire blood 

and a life size poster 

of a moon monster 

the submarine big enough 

to get inside and fire torpedoes 

never came 

even though I sent a check 

from my very own bank account 

and those days are gone 

and most everyone I loved is dead 

or might as well be 

and they haven’t made 

a good comic book 

in forty years

Jeff Weddle grew up in Prestonsburg, a small town in the hill country of Eastern Kentucky. He has worked as a public library director, disc jockey, newspaper reporter, Tae Kwon Do teacher, and fry cook, among other things. His first book, Bohemian New Orleans: The Story of the Outsider and Loujon Press (University Press of Mississippi, 2007), won the Eudora Welty Prize and helped inspire Wayne Ewing’s documentary, The Outsiders of New Orleans: Loujon Press (Wayne Ewing Films, 2007). He teaches in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

GAS Featured Poet: Wayne F. Burke, presented by Belinda Subraman

Wayne F. Burke’s most recent book is Black Summer:  New and Selected Poems .  "Black Summer is more than a book of poetry. It is an experience to be lived and relived. Burke taps into our most shared experiences of humanity. His conversational verse entices the reader to continue following the exploits of this wandering everyman who searches, yearns for definition, only to find definitions lacking. But the road is all-encompassing. This book is for lovers of a good story, a good life, and is a roadmap for all of us who often find ourselves on the shoulder of life's highway."  Wayne's poetry has appeared in a wide variety of publications online and in print. He is author of seven published full-length poetry collections. The most recent book before Black SummerEscape From Planet Crouton published by Luchador Press, 2019. His poem “Prepositioned” was nominated for “Best of the Net.” His poem “Max” won Poem of the Year Honorable Mention from The Song Is magazine. A collection of his short stories, titled TURMOIL & Other Stories, was published by Adelaide Press, NY, 2020. He is currently at work on a hybrid of memoir/novel. He has lived for the past thirty-five years in the central Vermont region, USA. 

From Black Summer:


for M.R.

I asked the famous poet to read

my poems

and he did

and then

arranged to meet me

in the cafeteria

where we sat in a booth

across from one another

and he looked down at my manuscript as

he spoke, his black bangs

over-hanging his face, and

never looking up, not

once, until the

end and


I wished he would have looked back down



something in his eyes,

anguish of some kind

I could not bear to look at--

he was known as the Poet of Loneliness and

was married to the Poetess of Bereavement.

Before leaving, I asked what he really thought of

my things, and

he said,


they are all on the surface

no depth to them

read other things beside literature, he suggested

like "Kramer's book on aesthetics."

I thanked him and he left.

I was the Poet of Surfaceness.

Wayne F. Burke


Be: These poems are clever illuminations in common language about un-glorified everyday life. The listening brain takes note and smiles but you didn’t see it coming among the punks, herpes and smashed flies. Has your writing style developed over time or have you always been honest, clever and humorous?

MB: My writing "style," has been developing since I was nineteen (I am now 66) and began practicing the art, and craft, of writing poetry.

I dislike, distrust, cleverness in writing. Dislike cuteness as well.

Ditto sentimentality. These things are the enemies of good writing.

I try and keep a sense of humor about things: I am serious about my

writing, but try not to take myself seriously. I think there is room

in poetry for jokiness, so why not joke around a little? Seriousness

and meaningfulness in writing, are good, I think; but also can, I

think, be limiting (as can "truthfulness"). There is no limit to usage

of the form--limits are placed only by oneself. The poem is without

boundaries (beside page size and language usage), so why not exploit

the freedom the form allows us as writer's of "free verse"? Why not

use such non-poetic forms as bulletins, menus, recipes, etc.? Joke it

up a little, fantasize; the form promotes creativity, so, be creative

with it!

Be: Do you feel you get more appreciation for your poetry than the other types of writing you’ve done and is that what spurs you on?  Is this the perfect medium for you?

MB: Appreciation of my poetry has been extended to me regularly: I have been widely published online and in print (plus ten published poetry collections). This appreciation has not been extended to my prose (I have published one short story collection). If the prose I wrote, and continue to write, received the same appreciation--meaning, to me,

publication--as my poetry, I suppose that prose-writing, instead of

poetry, would be my main focus.

Be: I find it interesting you became an LPN.  How long have you worked as nurse?  How much does working with patients influence your writing?

MB: I began working as an LPN at age 56 after having worked many

entry-level jobs--so-called "shit-jobs"--available to someone, like

myself, holding a BA Degree in Liberal Arts (Goddard College) but no

professional certificate. Working ten years as LPN enabled me to save

enough money to make possible retirement without undo anxiety as to

how or even if I could survive on Social Security.

     When one of my shifts in the nursing home, where I spent my

"career," ended, so did my association, for that day, with the medical

field. I did not, have not, written anything about being a nurse, and,

presently, have no ambition or inclination to revisit, imaginatively,

that particular scene.

Be: Your poetry is new to me (as I am probably new to you) but I’m glad to find it.  Is there any topic you won’t write about?  Why or why not?

MB: I can not think of any subject, which has to do with the human

condition, as being off-limits to me as a writer.

Be: Who are some of the poets you admire who may have influenced your style, at least subconsciously?

MB: Reading Bukowski gave me the idea that my life, though not

particularly exciting or even interesting, to me, could be used as

subject. The writing about a life, no matter the circumstances of the

life, could be, via the writing, interesting and exciting. Bukowski

infused the quotidian with drama, and hence, excitement. Through the

magic of his language he made the ordinary seem something

special...What I had to work with, I realized, was the life I was born

into. Being  a "somebody" or having extravagant experiences was

incidental to the writing. The writing gives value to the life, rather

than vice-versa.

     Fascinating, to me, is the cryptic weirdness of Frank Sanford's

work; I am an admirer of the late great Alan Dugan who could consider complex, even abstruse, ideas or theories, and make them communicable through a poetry of plain stark language. Poets currently writing, whom I find interesting, include Mather Schneider, James Benger, Amirah Al Wassif, Carl Kaucher, John Patrick Robinson, among others.

Be:  Any advice to writers?

MB:  Advice? I quote you my poem, "Advice."

burn all bridges

as soon as you cross


because you are going to

want to

go back, and

if the bridge

is still intact, you


Believe me, you


Wayne F. Burke