Saturday, July 31, 2021

Small Press History 3: Zen Sutherland/Mockersatz/1980s


BE: When and why did you start Mockersatz?  What was your day job at the time?

zS: I got started in the early ‘80s as a poet submitting really bad poems around and getting no replies or empty rejections from many of the poetry magazines from the Writer’s Market book borrowed from the library, but really nice and helpful rejections from small press editors and thought “these are my people.” So after a few acceptance poems and some urging from others I started my own litzine. Though I felt like I wasn’t quite qualified, I remember Ron Androla saying “Nobody is. We just do it.”  

It’s funny, one of the pressing reasons I got an office job was to have access to a Xerox machine. Todd Moore chidingly called us the ‘Mimeo Mafia,’ but a majority of the publishers I ran with used copiers, referred to with the eponym Xerox. I had done statistical typing so I worked as a teletype operator for a financial institution and they had nice, fat, feature-rich Xeroxes that could even do 11x17 and the employer didn’t mind me staying late to ‘get caught up.’ Of course I was pushing poetry and blazing through their toner, but bringing my own paper because I preferred not to use plain white. 

BE: How did you land on the name, Mockersatz?  Was it tongue-in-cheek?  Did you feel you published good work?

zS: Mockersatz is a combination of ‘mock’ and ‘ersatz’ and my thinking was maybe two ‘fakes’ will make it ‘real.’ That seemed to encapsulate my mixed feelings of jumping into publishing with no parachute or experience and maybe having and making fun of the whole poetry thing while still taking it seriously if that makes sense. I really felt it needed some lightening up. It was the era of raw-feeling, gritty poetry with a touch of over-seriousness, over-stating it’s worth. So I guess it was a little tongue-in-cheek, but also I felt I had something to contribute to the overall movement. My first issue of Mockersatz even included an insert that was a mock version of itself, called “Mockersatz Fake” poking fun at the poets, the art, and all its seriousness.

I’ve always been most creative around an existing structure rather than creating from thin air. I’m just going to leave that sentence here.

I felt I did publish pretty good works by both poets I knew and those I didn’t. I published some marginal works too that I either didn’t understand or wanted to get a ‘name’ poet in an issue. There was a lot of energy and the feeling was we were subverting the system of larger publishing houses because we could say ‘fuck it,’ when we wanted and just send out a broadsheet to our subscribers and reviewers and just each other. It was a great mail community and we felt giddy at times, overworked at times and defeated sometimes. 

I got a lot more submissions than I thought possible and because I had been treated so lovingly as a fledgling poet by other small press people, tried to reply to each and every one – especially with rejection. I wrote back with what I liked; what I didn’t like; and how I thought their writing could be improved, along with the caveat that I was describing what worked and didn’t for Mockersatz, not whether it was good or bad poetry. I felt pretty comfortable in that role, but was frequently overwhelmed with working, living out in the sticks as a former suburb rat. The first couple of issues were typed and then I began ‘composing’ on a Mac, printing in horrible dot-matrix.

After not too many issues, I found I would really enjoy a set of submissions or a poem in another small press mag and would approach the poet with an idea for a chapbook. Chapbooks were all the rage. We were vomiting chapbooks. I had an electric saddle stapler that my mom had given me – we were both graphic artists – and this made the folded half-size 8 ½ x 11 chapbook size a good format. I even did an issue of Mockersatz in that size. But anyway, chapbooks intrigued me because a single author/poet’s work never seemed like enough in a magazine format, even if there were a couple poems. We had to think of size too – we were generally mailing small press mags in a manila folder and chapbooks could be mailed book rate with an address cover and either stapled or taped shut. It also seemed more immediate that way. It gave the poet a real chance to have their breathing room, and it gave the editors a chance to give their expression in the choice, order, style and artwork (if any) to bring it all home. See my previous sentence about where I’m most creative. 

As a ‘publisher’ Mockersatz Zrox did chapbooks of favorites like Todd Moore, Ron Androla, Don Wentworth, Lyn Lifshin. Lyn was a special case. She wrote so abundantly, and submitted everywhere and you always got an envelope ghastly stuffed and folded with her poems that had obviously seen many submissions and probably many rejections. She was in her ‘Madonna’ phase. I accepted one poem of hers called “Madonna of the Dreams” and made an entire chapbook with that title repeated 20 times and that was it. But it was all with love and intensity that small press had at the time.

BE: What were some of your favorite small mags around that time and who were some of your favorite small press poets that maybe young poets of today should read and why?

zS: I cannot overstate the impact Ron Androla had on me. While embracing the aforementioned gritty and brutally honest ideas of a poet stuck in suburbia and low wage factory work, his word choice and rhythm usually delighted the thinking and musical side of my brain. His Northern Pleasure press put out small but outstanding mag and chapbooks.

Ron Androla and Bart Solarczyk

Don Wentworth, whose poems are minimalist stories of synchronicity I still enjoy. Others, like Todd Moore, Sheila E Murphy, Tony Moffeit, Stacey Sollfrey and Patrick McKinnon all of whom I did chapbooks of. I miss that I never got to do a chap of Bart Solarczyk, but he’s still out there doing his wonderment.

Other small press poets/ mags I enjoyed greatly were: John Elsberg’s Bogg, Dan Raphael’s NRG, Steve Doering’s Random Weirdness, Kurt Nimmo’s Planet Detroit, Michael Hathaway’s Kindred Spirit, David Griesman’s Abby - the list is long and the production values were highly variable – which made it all a beautiful chaos.

I also loved the tapemags: Chuck Connor’s Skate Tape/IDOMO, Lloyd Dunn’s Phonostatic and your own Sanctuary had outstanding compilations.

BE: What were some of your greatest accomplishments with Mockersatz?  How long did it last?  Did it help propel you into other collaborations or adventures?

zS: I started off with the idea that I wanted something different, distinct and fun. Mockersatz’s first issue was a ‘press run’ of 250, each with the unique cover of a tire inked and rolled on it. I remember the covers spilled out into the front yard separated to dry. In each issue I put the poems and artwork in the magazine with the attribution to the poet at the end with a bio. I wanted the flow of the magazine to be it’s own thing without skimming for a favorite poet. I’m not sure that went over well with a few poets – we were all used to seeing our name below our poems. I did issues where all the poems on the right side page were readable, but you had to turn the issue upside-down to read the other half. I drew crazy line drawings, included people’s collage poems and wrote rambling rants about all kinds of shit.

I enjoyed reviewing magazines, chapbooks and cassettes and put out quite a few issues of MockreviewZ and reviews in chapbook size like “Small Pet Repair” and “Accupinchure.” I enjoyed getting review copies and tried to give each their due, strength and falterings. 

In the spirit of Mock and Ersatz, I created “Reviews of this Chapbook,” a chapbook of reviews of itself as would appear in other magazines, by real reviewers like Factsheet Five, Planet Detroit, Gypsy and Dog River Review among others. A fun excursion into recursion.

For me it lasted about 4-5 years which also got me started in doing local readings, mail-art and a wider variety of ‘poetic actions.’ It was crazy and crazy good times. We drank, tripped, read poetry and mostly helped each other with love and energy. I wouldn’t take a second of it back.

BE: Any advice (or musings) for POD mag publisher/sellers of today?

zS: Not really. I’m not one to give advice because when you’re young and impassioned, you probably need to find your own electrical socket to stick a tongue into. We made the most of the technology we had and that’s what I see others doing today, careening in virtual reality driverless cars across artisanal interstates of new networks. Nowadays, I still read poetry in virtual open mics, do graffiti, repurpose goodwill electronic toys to spout haiku, photography and dabble in synth-noise fests. It feels like an extension of those wonderfully explosive days of small press.

Zen Sutherland skips thru life like a smooth flat river rock tossed over a calm lake. Late in life he discovered his greatest love, Helen, who feeds, loves and supports his mad scientist soul. He lives in Asheville, NC painting, writing, photographing, doing graffiti and other renegade art projects along with taking electronic toys he finds at thrift stores and makes them do things other than originally intended. He and Helen hope to live to 85 whereupon they’ll take Dr. Kevorkian’s formula and make room for the next generations.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Small Press History 2: Steven Hirsch/Heaven Bone/1980s-2000

 BE:  When did you begin Heaven Bone and what/who inspired you to do it?

SH: I wanted to continue my education after having left the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute while I ran the family business and raised a family of my own. My professional life was complimentary to my literary publishing side-line as I became an expert in 4-color magazine publishing and color management, having managed workflows and technology for magazines such as Elle, Woman’s Day, Cycle World, Car & Driver, Food & Wine, Travel and Leisure, and Departures magazines. I wanted to publish spiritual and surreal work to keep my own writing practice vital. It became much more and opened doors to many wonderful relationships and memorable reading events.

BE:  Who were some of the people you published?  My memory is wonky but I recall having a poem in an issue that also included Alan Ginsberg.  Am I dreaming?

Found it!

SH:  No, I don’t believe I ever published Allen ironically. It might have been Charles Bukowski, or Diane DiPrima, I need to look at my archives. Over the years we published some really great work from poets and fiction writers such as Anne Waldman, Gerard Malanga, Keith Abbott, Jonathan Brannen, Jack Foley, Janine Pommy Vega, Michael McClure, Jake Berry, Ivan Arguelles, David Chorlton, Mikhail Horowitz, Lyn LIfshin, Jack Collom, Reed Bye, David Cope, Antler, Richard Kostelanetz, as well as Diane and ‘Buk’. So many I can’t list them all here but our criteria was always to select work that moved us in some way at the heart. Hyper-Intellectual or overly academic poetry bores me.

BE:  What were your greatest accomplishments or rewards both as editor and multi-dimensional artist in the 80s?

SH: I think when Anne Waldman won our chapbook competition with her manuscript “Dark Arcana” and we published it with a cover photo by Patti Smith. I was really proud of that production and I think the book stands up as a powerful and timely multimedia collaboration as well as a potent political statement.

I used the prevailing software at the time (Quark, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator) to feed my daytime career skills in publishing and to create as beautiful and interesting a literary journal as possible. I think straddling 2 worlds like this was an accomplishment; one hand washed the other so to speak. Most small press concerns are maintained in parallel to gainful employment; I tried to make the best of it. The 80s was surreal enough as it was so it was easy to ask poets for experimental, yet heart-grounded work. I loved the rich balance Heaven Bone had with art, fiction, poetry, reviews, essays, visual poems and I used the tech of the time to enhance what I could. 

BE:  How long did you publish Heaven Bone  and what caused you to stop publishing it? Did you move into other publishing projects and what were/are they?

SH:  We started in 1986 as a mimeo mag with a stapled edge and our final issue was our millennium issue #12 in 2000, done with full 4 color covers, perfect bound, filled with hi-res art and graphics. 

We stopped publishing for the same reasons so many independent publishers stopped. No money. The distributors like Ubiquity and others destroyed more copies than they sold. Unless you had a grant or an angel with deep pockets, it was not sustainable.

Last issue

Recently, I have been helping poets self-publish on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. My friend Kirpal Gordon and I are putting out books under the collaborative marketing imprint Giant Steps Press. We find grants and other funding sources to cover the book prep and cover design, then I show the poet how to upload their mss and cover to the KDP platform. This way the poet gets all the profit from their work and the GSP website maintains an author’s page for each poet as well as a blog, interviews and videos. It’s working well; I just published a book of letters between David Cope and Allen Ginsberg titled The CORRESPONDENCE of DAVID COPE & ALLEN GINSBERG 1976 – 1996   Available on Amazon.

Next book is Poet's Apprentice a book by Randy Roark. It is a memoir of being Allen Ginsberg’s apprentice at Naropa Institute in Boulder, CO, starting in 1980.

BE:  Any advice or musings about editing/publishing in today’s electronic age?

Digital mags can be fun but there’s nothing like having paper and ink in your hands. Short attention span browsing is a pandemic of psychic attrition. A books’ colors are reflective instead of transmissive; the paper has weight and tone and texture. The experience of digital poetry is far less tactile. There’s nothing like holding a beautiful magazine or journal in your hands and carrying it around with you to share, watching it get worn with study. Virtual reality holds promise for immersive poetry experiences and I am looking to see how that evolves. Thin money for arts in general has slowed down innovation in digital creative media for artists and writers. 

As far as advice to writers goes: Don’t try and write to satisfy an editor’s stated needs or target a specific magazine or contest. Write ‘yourself’ and then find an editor that gets you. Give up on any idea of money, fame and notoriety, just write and give yourself completely to it.

Advice to poetry publishers: Community…Community…Community. This is where the digital landscape excels, building community among artists in various medias. Note that a poet won a major talent competition (AGT?) recently so the opportunity is present for poetry to become more relevant (and more profitable). When things get tough, the poets get heard.

Steve Hirsch is a poet, musician, electronic publishing guru, and former editor/publisher of the literary magazine Heaven Bone. He studied writing and drama at Naropa Institute in Boulder, CO, where he was a student and apprentice of Allen Ginsberg and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche as well as at Bard College where he studied with Robert Kelly. In recent years he has been riding his Harley all over the Northeast, studying buddhism, poetry and writing, and playing latin and african hand drums as a founding member of the drum circle "Spirithawk". Steve is the author of Ramapo 500 Affirmations (Flower Thief, 1998) and he has had poems appear in Hunger, Napalm Health Spa Report, Pudding, Big Scream, Hazmat Review, Muse Apprentice Guild, and Etcetera among others.

Sunday, July 25, 2021


It gives me a lot of pleasure to encourage people to be creative. I want others to find the freedom and joy in expression that I’ve found.  As I have always been fascinated by art, music and writing, I’ve tried them all.  This has allowed me to experience reading, listening to music, looking at art on a deeper level.  Want to know how hard it is to write a novel?  Write one yourself, the same for playing an instrument and the visual arts.  

I think anyone can do this, we’re just not allowed to be bad at something long enough to get good at it.  As a child I loved drawing and painting but—I couldn’t draw a house or a person like the kids who were ‘good’ at art—so I gave it up.  It was imprinted on me, “You are not an artist.” I repeated that for years until I hit my late thirties and was writing my novel.  When I got writer’s block, I started doing art, not caring if I was any good because, “I’m a writer, not an artist.” The art inspired the writing, as did playing the piano.  Creativity is not limited to one genre, just check out Margaret Atwood and Joni Mitchell for genius level examples.  

One thing I hear from many people is, “I don’t have any inspiration.”  I’ve said it myself but now it’s not an excuse.  Inspiration isn’t a Magic Fairy who appears and illuminates one.  Inspiration requires suspension of that culturally programmed brain that’s always telling you what you can’t do.  Inspiration requires work.

Whenever I sit down to work on my Clyde series, I’m not experiencing inspiration.  My internal dialogue goes like this, every single time.  “I don’t want to do another Clyde.  I have no ideas. I can’t.” But I pick up the pen and start drawing.  Eventually a shape takes form, then an idea for the writing and suddenly I’m excited and joyful.  I push through doubt and find....INSPIRATION. 

Here is a painting I did titled, “Creating Neural Pathways”.

This is how I feel about inspiration, it must be created, the neural pathways formed, the doubts and anxiety about being good enough eliminated.  We are all creators conditioned to doubt ourselves.  One might as well try.  

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.  

Saturday, July 24, 2021

"i saw god cooking children / paint their bones" by John Compton, reviewed by Hex'm Jai

Greetings and salutations bibliophiles!

This is a small and powerful collection.  I make it no secret that I am sucker for well crafted imagery.  If poetry or the literary canon were an organized religion, I would be a devout zealot of the deities Rimbaud and Baudelaire.  That said, there is imagery and then there is IMAGERYIMAGERY being beyond the aesthetically pleasing window dressing of ‘imagery’ which, unfortunately, is the more prevalent of the two.  ‘Imagery’ is decorative, it is filagree, form without function and therefore, though beautiful like a floral arrangement, ultimately free of substance.  IMAGERY on the other hand is a fantastic delivery system.  It provides the same aesthetic nature of ‘imagery’ but with function and purpose.  It’s not just ‘pretty,’ it is engaging and transportive; it can be beatific / horrific but always has an effect beyond two dimensions.  IMAGERY is visceral.

Reading this collection is like being emersed in barrage of film shorts…each image or scene carefully crafted and delivered to your core.  Through his concise use of IMAGERY, John paints images into your eye that you can feel, taste, hear and smell as well as see.  Through this delivery system you are provided with both emotion and meaning that you can experience.  These are not longwinded, verbose bouquets of language.  You will not become lost in impressionistic imagery and texture.  You will BECOME the imagery and texture and therefore experience it.

Sample poem from i saw god cooking children / paint their bones:

like & but & &

i went into the room


a song bleeds from my ears

i am deaf

i lie on my back

floating          the river

is dense

saltwater like

the dead sea

like the salt


somewhere in utah

like a log like a

dead fish like a leaf

i drift

in my current

unharmed but


but screaming

but somewhere there is an old lady


swimming to me

paddling & clawing

through the liquid substance

digging at my eyes

my mouth my chest

clotting my ears

with her fingers

with cotton

breathing into my lungs

her oxygen her carbon

dioxide her meager life

When you have finished this collection, you can put it on the shelf right next to “Les Fleurs du Mal”. 


i saw god cooking children / paint their bones

is available at Etsy via Blood Pudding Press

john compton (b. 1987) is gay poet who lives in kentucky. his poetry resides in his chest like many hearts & they bloom like vigorously infectious wild flowers. he lives in a tiny town, with his husband josh and their 14 dogs and 3 cats. he feels his head is an auditorium filled with the dead poets from the past. poems are written and edited constantly. his poetry is a personal journey. he reaches for things close and far, trying to give them life: growing up gay; having mental health issues; a journey into his childhood; the world that surrounds us. he writes to be alive, to learn and to grow. he loves imagery, metaphor, simile, abstract language, sounds, when one word can drift you into another direction. he loves playing with vocabulary, creating texture and emotions. he has published 1 book and 5 chapbooks published and forthcoming: trainride elsewhere (august 2016) from Pressed Wafer/tba; that moan like a saxophone (december 2016) from kindle; ampersand (march 2018) from Plan B Press; a child growing wild inside the mothering womb (june 2020) from ghost city press; i saw god cooking children / paint their bones (oct 2020) from blood pudding press; to wash all the pretty things off my skin (sept 2021) from ethel zine & micro-press. he has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Small Press History: Michael Hathaway/Chiron Review 1980s-Present


BE: It is my recollection that I was in Germany and I had already produced at least one perfect bound issue of Gypsy, some chapbooks and cassette collections of original poetry and music from many countries when I received a letter from you asking advice about starting a new magazine. Is that in your recollection too and what are a few other small mags you were following at the time and what did you like about them?

MH: I do remember writing you a fanboy letter and asking for advice after seeing Gypsy for the first time! I fell in love with it. Gypsy was among the publications that introduced me to the “small press,” when anyone asks about my favorite literary magazines, Gypsy is always on the list, you’re a publisher and poet I’ve always respected and looked up to.

I remember asking you once for Bukowski’s address, as he had poems in Gypsy, and I wanted to invite him to send some poems, which he did several times. I do believe publishing him put us on “the radar,” so I have you to thank for that!

I also remember a compilation issue that Gypsy did, which I thought was just brilliant and gorgeous. (When it’s my turn to host Poetry Rendezvous, that’s how we do our anthologies.)

To name a handful, other mags that I enjoyed back then were Calliope’s Corner, Fire!, Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream, Poetry Motel, Raw Bone, Wyoming: Hub of the Wheel, Forum for Universal Spokesmen, Raw Dog Press, Yellow Butterfly, Newsletter Inago, Mockersatz, The Devil’s Millhopper, Bogg, Impetus, Abbey, Gargoyle, Psychopoetica, Tears in the Fence, Atom Mind.

I liked them because they were all so individual, so different from each other in style, tone, subject matter, life experience, and voice. They didn’t censor, didn’t hold back. They were a refreshing antidote to mainstream literature. Some were intense, some profound, some irreverent, some funny AF (Mockersatz). The artwork was always interesting, all the different mediums of presentation fascinated me. And they came from all over the place! To a country bumpkin stuck in rural Kansas, all the return addresses on the envelopes were exotic places.

BE: What were some of the deciding factors to begin Chiron?

MH: I’ve told the story before, but history doesn’t change. My cousin Connie showed me a sheaf of poems she’d written. I thought they were wonderful, and tried getting publishers interested. Of course, being 19, I had no idea how such things worked and encountered one slammed door after another. (Two of Connie’s poems appear in the forthcoming All the Colors of Life: An Anthology coming very soon from Ruth Moon Kempher’s Kings Estate Press.)

A year after graduating high school, I took a job working as a typesetter at a nearby daily paper. After a year of working there, I realized I could publish Connie’s poems myself. And anything else I wanted! I wrote to a few friends and pen pals and asked for poems, stories, art and photographs, and that’s how the first issue was born. My supervisor, Jim, let me use the composing room to put the issue together, the guys in the press room printed it. I paid for the printing.

At one point, my supervisor told me I could use the photocopier and any of the machines in the composing room as much as I wanted at night, if I would stay as a typesetter until he retired. I typed 126 wpm, and he said I typed the cleanest copy he’d ever seen since he started in the newspaper business (1961). Whether that was true or not, I don’t know, but the praise did wonders for me at that young age. (And believe me, I took Jim at his word and gave that photocopier a workout!)

But I was extremely restless (still am). I quit work there and returned four times in 13 years. Even though I was immature and could be a pain in the ass, I think my work actually was good enough that he wanted to keep me on anyway. He (and his successor) would always hire me back. I did enjoy and take pride in the work, and had great respect for the role a free press plays in society.

My longest stint was three years. The last one saw me promoted from the composing room to society editor. That lasted six months. Chiron was actually the reason for that job ending permanently, but that’s another tempest in a teacup for another day …

BE: When did you first publish Chiron and how was it received? I remember most of us reviewed or mentioned other small mags in our publications. 

It was first published Feb. 19, 1982. I was oblivious to the small press world then. The first issue went to friends and family. It got mixed reactions. My great-aunt Goldia, was scandalized as was my elderly piano teacher, Mrs. Budge, and her sister. But a lot of people had positive reactions. Many readers liked Connie’s poems as much as I did; and there was experimental fiction and poetry that was fascinating and fun. I especially loved the work by my friend (now Rev.) Maggie Duval, who also created the beautiful unicorn that graced the cover of the first six issues. Robert O’Hara’s photography page was perfect and beautiful.

Then browsing at the Great Bend [KS] Public Library, I found a copy of Len Fulton’s International Directory of Small Presses and Little Magazines. That opened up the world to me and the magazine. I sent copies to them, got listed in that directory (“the Bible of the business”) and Small Press Directory. And ordered a few “sample copies” of the other mags, and sent copies of my magazine to them. I had no clue that was the beginning of the most amazing, far-flung, life-long network of writers, editors, publishers, and friends that I could have ever dreamed up.

I was totally enamored of other alternative/underground/small press publications, all of them. From the traditional to the experimental, to the hand-made stapled booklets with rubber stamp art, and collages, to the high-end glossy journals. I exchanged with other publishers frequently, was honored to promote them in Kindred Spirit/Chiron Review. We helped each other with “exchange subscriptions” and “exchange ads”. I wrote a column titled, “News, Etc.,” in which I tried to mention and quote from every single publication that crossed my desk. I didn’t live up to that, but tried.

One publisher told me back in the 90s, that a mention in my column would bring “$60-$100 in sales” (for publications that were 50 cents-$5 each back then). That made me happy. We ran lots of book and magazine reviews, I had a nice staff of writers who would review books I sent them, or books they obtained other ways. And we accepted unsolicited reviews. Being part of, and helping to foster the small press community was a marvelous joy. (I didn’t realize that’s what we were doing back then, I was just making friends, “participating in the dialogue,” having fun.)

BE: What were some of the high points in your publishing history, both Chiron and personally?

MH: High points were publishing great poets such as Bukowski, Wanda Coleman, William Stafford, Lorri Jackson, Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, Marge Piercy, Lyn Lifshin, Gerald Locklin, Robert Peters, Felice Picano, Charles Plymell … Lorri Jackson’s poem, “A Prima Donna Poet Replies” was selected by Robert Peters for Morty Sklar’s Editor’s Choice III anthology, back in the 1990s. That was the highest “award” we ever received. But we had lots of good reviews in various places, including Library Journal, and one by Merritt Clifton in the final issue of Samisdat. I was on Cloud 9 for weeks after that. Judson Jerome named us one of the “Top 100 Poetry Markets” in the USA in Writer’s Digest.

Other high points include making such amazing friends, and the poetry gatherings and parties, such as our Poetry Rendezvous, which started in 1988. It brings in poets from many other states, and since 1998, sometimes happens in other states. I’ve likened Rendezvous to seeing the pages of Chiron Review “come alive.” If you look on a map and see where St. John, Kansas is, you’ll see how isolated we are from civilization. Where they were a nightly, weekly or monthly occasion in the big cities, poetry readings here were nonexistent. These gatherings meant the world to Mom and me. She’s one of the reasons I kept doing them, to bring all these wonderful folks to central Kansas so we could meet them, hear them read, and enjoy their company.

And there were the cross-country travel centered around poetry readings/parties, meeting such wonderful poets, artists, musicians, and publishers all over the USA. 

BE: I remember how every small mag editor/publisher sent a contributor’s copy to each contributor as a matter of honor and respect and it was quite expensive. In the new era of POD the expense is now on the contributor to buy a copy and the editor/publisher makes a little money from the contributors by charging a couple more bucks over the print price. Many book and mag “mills” have popped up. While POD gives everybody a chance to publish whatever and EVERYBODY (who wants to) has books and POD is here to stay, I don’t see how they would ever be collectible and the vanity stench still lingers a little, to me. Any musings on the subject?

MH: I don’t think I can add anything new to that, you said it all, rather perfectly. But have a few thoughts on it. I only began noticing what you’ve described as “book and mag mills” in the last couple of years, the glut of publications due to Internet and POD. This won’t be a very popular opinion, but it somehow does make being published seem less special.

I recently saw a Facebook thread that discussed “contributor copies.” A poet was upset because he didn’t get a free contributor’s copy. The publisher was insulted and explosively hostile about the concept, which shocked me.

Like you say, contributor’s copies were always a matter of honor and respect. It was simply the custom, the unwritten rule. Since I couldn’t pay writers with cash, I figured the very least I could do is give a contributor’s copy. It was a matter of integrity, the mark of a credible publisher.

It is expensive to send contributor copies. But I never published Chiron for the money. With Chiron, it always balanced out. Writers frequently bought extra copies and subscribed when they could. I’ve always sent free or discounted copies to readers/writers who can’t afford it. Patrons who can give more support, do. If you let it, it will balance out. (And just for the record, I’ve never been rich. I work for our local history museum for $10.64 an hour.)

My thought is that if one can’t afford contributor’s copies, one maybe shouldn’t be publishing? It seems exploitive to give a poet nothing in return for use of their work, to make them pay to see their work in print. As you said, there’s a “stench of vanity press” to it.

But then again, things are changing, and I’m just an old dinosaur who will soon lumber off into the sunset, so what do I know?! haha

Monday, July 19, 2021

DRIVING W/ CRAZY by Jack Henry, reviewed by Belinda Subraman


This book begins with multi-layered poems and stories/essays recalling Jack's relationship and memories of his father.  It rings true with no sugar coating. Anyone who has sat with or attended a dying parent will identify strongly.  Even if you’ve never sat with a loved one dying you will find the writing beautiful, moving and deep.  Below I will give excerpts from a few pieces.  Hopefully you will buy the book, Driving W/Crazy to gather a full experience and appreciation of Jack Henry's writing.

From My Father

as my father grows older / i watch intently / knowing one-day i will be in the same place / the same space / the same chair / fighting against and losing against / time itself / 

at 80 he's lived a while /
at 55 i am not sure i will make it that far / 

From Finding the Strength to Lead my Father Home

for a moment. 

we share the same eyes,
same nose,
same giant head that could be used as advertising space. 

we share everything. 

my reflection is 80. his is 55.
he is dying.
i am barely here. 

Last paragraph from The Time I Remember Best

"We probably got home late and I probably fell asleep in the car. But I know I couldn’t wait for the next game, and there was a next game, but not like that one. That game was the best, the kind of baseball game that becomes a memory, not because of the game, but because of a father that stood up for his kid, and lost his voice in the process." 

By page 30 poems appear with tales from youth which sometimes involve fist fights, kicks, knives, guns and bullies woven in among poems about his father’s bi polar behavior.

From Lemons and Oranges

on the day i took
lemons and oranges
to the crossing guard,
the big kids,
the bullies,
quickly cornered me
and my friends, trying to tear the bag away from me. 

my mom always
told me not to fight, she thought i
would hurt someone. even in 4th grade. 

turns out, she was right. 

Sweet and tough, like life, this book will resonate with all.

From My Father's Eyes

we all dance in front of a mirror 

and only stop when they take 

the mirror away, 

and blue eyes slowly close. 

Jack Henry is a writer/publisher/editor based in Southeastern California and has been an announcer on the Blogtalk Radio show Rob&Jack America, publisher of Heroin Love Songs, and editor in charge at d/e/a/d/b/e/a/t press. In late 2009 Jack started to gain acceptance with a variety of on-line and print lit zines. Several chapbooks followed as well as two full-length collections, With the Patience of Monuments (NeoPoesis Press) and Crunked (Epic Rites Press).

After a 9-year hiatus from all things writing Jack returned in late 2019 to the small press world.

Driving w/Crazy, from PUNK HOSTAGE PRESS, is Jack’s first full length publication in 12 years.