Poetry Soundbite: An Interview and Reading with Mike James



Welcome to AIOTB Magazine’s first Poetry Soundbite, an on-going series of poetry readings and interviews. For our inaugural Poetry Soundbite, we welcome Mike James, author of over a dozen books of poetry, including the soon to be released Leftover Distances, from Luchador Press. Below the video, you can find the text of the poems from James’ reading.









“Falling as We Go” and “Drunk Butterflies near the Missouri River” previously appeared in The Rye Whiskey Review.


About the Author: Mike James has published widely in places such as Plainsongs, Laurel Poetry Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Gargoyle, and Tar River Poetry. His poetry collections include: Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), and My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle.) He has served as an associate editor of The Kentucky Review, of Autumn House Press, and of The Good Works Review, as well as the publisher of the now defunct Yellow Pepper Press. He currently serves as an associate editor of the prose poem journal Unbroken. His 18th collection, Leftover Distances, is forthcoming from Luchador Press. A multiple Pushcart nominee, Mike has read and lectured at festivals and universities throughout the country He is strong supporter of cats, literacy, coffee, white wine, top hats, crows, and free range poetics. He is an opponent of plaid, rigidity, salads, and quiet parakeets. He currently makes his home right outside Nashville.

Sue Blaustein: “On Hubbard Street”



On Hubbard Street



My new friend
is the northern end
of Hubbard Street.
Hubbard is a homely

name! Old Mother
Hubbard’s bare cupboard;
fall wagons heaped
with warty squash.

Hubbard Street comes
near my house too. But
the northern end – the terminus –
feels like a distant

village. By going there
this spring I learned
that I need a distant
village. It has outskirts.

Where a copter-beanie
wind turbine
in a warehouse parking
lot goes whup whup

whup whup whup.



East Side Stor-Mor
is on the outskirts. Not
Store not More.
We shaved e’s off

naming places
in the 20th century.
Not anymore – too
corny. I’m scuffing

a heated mix of brown
pine needles and litter.
A cups-and-bags-and-wrappers mix
that clogs catch-basins

and recurs;
piling ahead of your same feet
in all the summers of your life,
to appear again

across lifetimes, suffusing
you with feelings
about eternity. Everything
simultaneous… could be…



The curbstones are soft-edged
along the street
between Stor-Mor and what
I call my village proper.

Where there are
seven houses – residences!
Modest, and I don’t know
who lives there. I’ve

dwelt in houses and flats
I might’ve passed;
circumstances and years
before I lived there.

Hubbard Street –
I feel something in your ether.
You seem to know where I’ve been.
I sense you know

where I might be, when one
day another now
turns to then. It’s 2:00 PM
and the turbine blades whirl,

casting shadows
on the units of Stor-Mor –
garage doors 29, 30 and 31 –
whup whup…whup whup whup




About the Author: Sue Blaustein is the author of “In the Field, Autobiography of an Inspector”. Her publication credits and bio can be found at www.sueblaustein.com. Sue retired from the Milwaukee Health Department in 2016, and is an active volunteer. She blogs for ExFabula (“Connecting Milwaukee Through Real Stories”), serves as an interviewer/writer for the “My Life My Story” program at the Zablocki VA Medical Center, and chases insects at the Milwaukee Urban Ecology Center.


More by Sue Blaustein:

A Song for Harvest Spiders

A Song for Noise

The Old Ways


Image Credit: John Margolies “Thrift Store, Baseline [i.e. Base Line] Street, San Bernardino, California” (1991) The Library of Congress

Nadia Arioli: On “The Fourteen Daggers” by Kay Sage

(You can view Sage’s painting “The Fourteen Daggers” here)



On “The Fourteen Daggers” by Kay Sage

All the prosaic thin places you will visit
are before you. The places where reality
shifts a bit to the right like a staircase
or fourteen daggers that fail to kill you.

A movie theater in a foreign city
where you are alone. You sit in front
of the projector directly. A story bounces
around your head. A laundromat,
any time, any place. Things are getting
clean without you.

The tobacco store where the man
with thick glasses coughs a little worse
each year. A gas station with maps
of the Midwest for sale. The state-lines
look menacing. The old ship,
below deck, where buckets cluster
like drippy ulcers.

A smaller place is your mouth after
your first nosebleed. You saw what happened
to your teeth when you smiled for the mirror.
When you were a teenager, you filled your palms
with wet bees for the watery shudder.

The eighth dagger is you.
O my Angelica root,
O my toothy abortion.

I will not say what the other six are.
I can’t even see the last. Perhaps
it is shaped like a gun.

If a third were to see us,
they would know which was you
and which was I.
I am the beginning, you are the middle
and more like a knife.

But perhaps we are in each other’s houses
now, switched like interpreting a dream badly.
The waiting room was the thinnest place.
My breasts are scalloped like fingernails.



About the Author: Nadia Arioli (nee Wolnisty) is the founder and editor in chief of Thimble Literary Magazine. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spry, SWWIM, Apogee, Penn Review, McNeese Review, Kissing Dynamite, Bateau, Heavy Feather Review, Whale Road Review, SOFTBLOW, and others. They have chapbooks from Cringe-Worthy Poetry Collective, Dancing Girl Press, and a full-length from Spartan.


More by Nadia Arioli:

On “I Walk Without Echo” by Kay Sage

Jonel Abellanosa: “Marbled Cat-Eyed Snake”


Marbled Cat-Eyed Snake

And aren’t my skin’s patterns
from the mandala? From a magic
carpet. Spots of my scales glisten
reddish-brown, dark brown, chestnut.
My whitish underside spotted with brown.
I’m a marvel of colors, created
by the sun and the moon gods
for your lucid dreams, light-edged
shine of your vision. I’m transitory,
like mist that rides the wind’s carpet.
By the time you realize
you’ve seen me, I’m gone.
You know where to find
me in your dream’s gardens.
There, I’m not shy, don’t
scuttle easily away.


About the Author: Jonel Abellanosa lives in Cebu City, The Philippines. His poetry and fiction are forthcoming in Poetry Salzburg Review, Chiron Review and Eunoia Review; and appeared in hundreds of magazines, including As It Ought to Be, The Lyric, Thin Air, Rigorous, Loch Raven Review and The Anglican Theological Review. His poetry collections include, “Songs from My Mind’s Tree” and “Multiverse” (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York), “50 Acrostic Poems,” (Cyberwit, India), “In the Donald’s Time” (Poetic Justice Books and Art, Florida), and his speculative poetry collection, “Pan’s Saxophone” (Weasel Press, Texas). His works have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Dwarf Stars and Best of the Net Awards.


More by Jonel Abellanosa:




Image Credit: Image from: Descriptiones et icones amphibiorum. Monachii ,Stuttgartiae et Tubingae, Sumtibus J.G. Cottae Image courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Paul Koniecki: “timmy neuman and the zippo of the apocalypse”


timmy neuman and the
zippo of the apocalypse 

in back my mom
was listening to greensleeves
or clair de lune
or otis redding sitting

on the dock of
the bay your eyes ran
manic ovals like a
free dog in an

occupied carrier banging on
the door you said
you wanted to come
in and watch hong

kong phooey cartoons because
roger your father who
no one called father
or papa or dad

was watching the saturday
morning fishing show back
when we could only
see our favorite cartoons

one morning a week
you ran through six
inches of new snow
without your shoes again

the neumans lived two
blocks over which was
closer than two blocks
down because nobody had

fences then i noticed
as you spooned our
loveseat and i plopped
back down on the

couch that you had
a carton of pall malls
and a lighter that
could only be roger’s

and i wondered if
scatman crothers would put
on a mask and
jump out of a

random dumpster to save
you later when roger’s
show was over and
he needed to smoke

i rubbed the burn
scar on my arm
and asked if you
wanted to stay for pufnstuf



About the Author: Paul Koniecki lives and writes in Dallas, Texas. He was once chosen for the John Ashbery Home School Residency. He is the Associate Editor of Thimble Literary Journal.


More by Paul Koniecki :

today the sky is
a flag that helps everyone



Image Credit:Ignition of a cigarette lighter” from Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

Shawn Pavey reviews “The Prettiest Girl at the Dance” by John Dorsey



John Dorsey Tells Us of Pretty Girls

By Shawn Pavey



Book Review: The Prettiest Girl at the Dance by John Dorsey

Blue Horse Press, ISBN-10 : 0578818787, ISBN-13 : 978-0578818788


Reviewing John Dorsey’s work is never an easy task. The greatest challenge comes in finding new things to say about his consistently exceptional poems that, over the last decade or so, come with more frequency and ferocity. Dorsey is a prolific poet. His previous collection to this one, Which Way to the River? by OAC Books weighed in at just under 500 pages and only collected four years of work. Yet Dorsey still manages to create, in each poem, a fresh revelation about being human in a world moving so fast that people spin off to collect in convenience store parking lots, truck stop diners, and low rent tenements. These are John Dorsey’s people.


The subject of each of the poems in this collection are women he’s met – waitresses, lovers, passing acquaintances, and dear friends. I know this because I know John. I’ve witnessed the events in at least one of these poems, met some of the characters from others. To be considered a friend of John’s is an honor and one I don’t take lightly. But as a reviewer, I must set that friendship aside to speak honestly about this book. That, in this case, is the easy part.


The Prettiest Girl at the Dance is some of Dorsey’s best work to date. Victor Clevenger’s insightful foreword to this book makes the same assertion. It is a bold thing for either of us to say, but Dorsey’s legion of readers will most likely agree.


Let’s look at The Prettiest Girl in Austin, Texas:


claims to have the best ass
in the city

a perfect apple shape
for roaming hipster bars

this town used to be so cool

now she has to drink malt liquor
out of an empty bag
in an empty field

just to stay ahead
of the curve


As I wrote in the foreword to Dorsey’s 2019 collection, Your Daughter’s Country (also from Blue Horse Press) if one finds one’s self the subject of a John Dorsey poem, he loves you. But it doesn’t mean one is free from a little good-natured teasing. The subject of the poem above laments how “cool” only lasts long enough to be recognized. Once “cool” is overrun by “common,” we are, quite literally, sent to new pastures to find the thing we lost once everybody else found out about it.


Readers new to Dorsey’s work and longtime fans will delight in how much weight each of these poems carry in so few lines. There are only two poems in this collection that run longer than a page and none longer than a page and a half. Dorsey makes his verbs do the heavy lifting. His modifiers are sparse and absolutely necessary to paint his images. His use of imagery is damned near alchemical as he creates tiny little worlds where the reader and the subject interact. In The Prettiest Girl in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dorsey writes:


had red hair & kind eyes
& wore a backless sundress
in the middle of february

she had a mind as big
as the milky way

& freckles all over her body
that kept me from writing


It is in the small details where we see Dorsey paint vast canvases with a fine-tipped brush: sundresses, freckles, red hair – these are the words that create the thumbnail sketch that he fleshes out throughout this brief poem. Freckles become the Milky Way, all of the details combine to create a person that affects the poet so deeply that he cannot do the thing that defines him.


Another distinctive characteristic in these poems is that many contain a structural hinge, much like a traditional sonnet. While Dorsey rarely writes structured verse, he’s studied it plenty. Take  The Prettiest Girl in Fisherman’s Wharf, for example:


places her hand on my shoulder     
to keep my absent-minded legs
from stepping in front
of an oncoming streetcar

her fingers long and cool
like the summer breeze
remind me that I don’t die yet
want to die alone
or take the form
of a dying bird

i want to love her
just long enough
for a beer to get warm

just long enough
to mean it


In a mere 15 lines, Dorsey takes us from mindlessly walking down the street to recognizing an act of kindness to contemplating his own mortality to falling in love “just long enough / to mean it.” The hinge happens in the line space before the next to last stanza. The three lines prior take us out of the moment and into the poet’s contemplative spinning out to his eventual end and back again. But he changes direction in those last five lines. What can the poet offer in thanks? Love, adoration, if only for the briefest time.


One could argue that in the title of this book and in the title of each poem, using the diminutive “girls” does a disservice to the subjects of these poems. That is a valid point, on the surface. After reading these poems, however, it becomes evident that Dorsey’s use of the term “girl” is intentional to portray a sense of the innocence of beauty, kindness, and feminine vulnerability and strength.


Dorsey’s view of these characters is also unflinching. In The Prettiest Girl in Kansas City, Missouri, Dorsey concludes:


working as a museum security guard
where she stole loose bills
from the donation box

to buy enough whiskey
to put in the baby’s bottle
to help her make it
through the night.


This is an unflattering observation of somebody struggling to make it through the world the best she can with the tools available. Not all of Dorsey’s pretty girls are life-saving angels, their beauty might be hard for many of us to see. But John Dorsey sees beauty in everyone and that beauty permeates every single one of his poems.


The Prettiest Girl at the Dance is Dorsey at his best – telling entire stories with a handful of lines that are at once both intimate and universal. It is a quick read, but by no means light.


Shawn Pavey, February 12th, 2021


About the Author: Shawn Pavey is the author of Talking to Shadows (Main Street Rag Press, 2008), Nobody Steals the Towels From a Motel 6 (Spartan Press, 2015), and Survival Tips for the Pending Apocalypse (2019, Spartan Press) which was 1st runner up for the 2020 Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award.  He co-founded The Main Street Rag Literary Journal and served as an Associate Editor. His infrequently updated blog is at www.shawnpavey.com.

Daniel J. Flore III: “They gave me the last rites”



They gave me the last rites

walking out of a restaurant
I hear a family saying grace
like they were giving me the last rites
they pray in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit
I think I’m going to get shot or something walking out the door
It’s like trying not to step on butterfly wings to stay alive

I am in my deathbed
my family is all gathered round
crumpled tissues are clouds of heaven
I want to speak
but have nothing to say but the tears
I wiped on my wrist
there is a stupid fluorescent light there
hanging like the tease of life
I am going to walk the shorelines I decide
and learn about death
in glistening waves
somewhere in Cape May
the closest I can get to Galilee
Grammy’s ghost in the ocean smiling at me
but there’s nothing here
just sand
and I didn’t even make it out of bed

there are birds at my burial plot
and I smile like I’m taking a train to my mom’s
but I keep hearing this opera music
I am in a garden
with petals like wings
that wrap around me
I’m alone
the past
plays in the music
like chandelier tears
leading me into its sadness
deeper and deeper
until I can’t hear the music at all
just the silence after it



About the Author: Daniel J. Flore III has had many writings published and is the author of 4 books of poetry from GenZ Publishing. The latest is titled Pink Marigold Rays.


Image Credit: Col. Henry Stuart Wortley “Study of Clouds” (1863) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Jason Baldinger: “time went the way of the buffalo”



time went the way of the buffalo (for diane wahto)

I know wichita
from a gas station
overlooking the interstate

a jaw dropping sun
rise over the flint hills
I pulled my hoodie
against october

with eight hundred miles
ahead, one last
gasp of wichita
before wagons west

it’s sad we never met
we should have had breakfast
but time went the way of the buffalo

I would have loved to hear
in person, your story
of marching five miles in kalamazoo

you and your friend
against the vietnam war
you and your friend
all dressed up in high heels



About the Author: Jason Baldinger is bored with bios. He’s from Pittsburgh and misses roaming around the country writing poems. His newest book is A Threadbare Universe (Kung Fu Treachery Press) with The Afterlife is A Hangover (Stubborn Mule Press) coming soon. His work has been published widely across print journals and online. You can hear him read his work on Bandcamp and on lp’s by the bands The Gotobeds and Theremonster.


More Poetry by Jason Baldinger:

This Ghostly Ambience

It was a Golden Time

Beauty is a Rare Thing


Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Mounted buffalo head at the Hotel Paisano in Marfa, Texas” (2014) The Library of Congress

Agnes Vojta: “Love, After Fifty Years”



Love, after fifty years,

is an old woman
riding the bus
for an hour
to a nursing home.

Her husband does not speak.
She does not have much
to say, but today his fingers
closed around her hand.

She stays until the end
of the allowed time.
She will have just missed
the bus. She wanders

the cobblestone streets
of the small town.
Most shops closed at five.
A bakery is still open.

She buys a cookie
to eat on the way.
It is autumn, the dusk
falls early. She rides

home through the dark.
When she steps into her empty
house, she hopes
she will get to do this
again soon.



About the Author: Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T and hikes the Ozarks. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019) and The Eden of Perhaps (Spartan Press, 2020), and her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines.


More By Agnes Vojta:


Sisyphus Calls It Quits



Image Credit: Jack Delano “Old woman waiting for a bus in front of her house. Newtown, Connecticut” (1940) The Library of Congress (Public Domain)

John Dorsey: “The Prettiest Girl in Byron, Missouri”



The Prettiest Girl in Byron, Missouri

hasn’t seen the sun in months
she sits cross legged in the rain
waiting for her turn to dance

scratching out the image
of a paper heart
in the mud

it’s the only way
she can remember
what her grandmother’s face
even looked like now

water rolls down her tin roof
in search of deliverance

overgrown weeds hiss in the wind
wrapping around her toes
like jump rope

squealing in an empty field.



John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Press, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019),Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020) and The Prettiest Girl at the Dance (Blue Horse Press, 2020. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize. He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com.


More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion


Image Credit: Frances Benjamin Johnston “Port Tobacco Houses, Port Tobacco, Charles County, Maryland” (1936-1937) The Library of Congress.