Hilary Otto: “Underworld”




We press against the oozing dirt, thrive
on the tang of damp matter. By the time
you become aware of us easing up
from the earth like time-lapse capsules
disturbed, we will have popped out, soiled
as if surprised during private acts, to buff
our bald caps and moisten our pale skin.

Beneath, where you cannot see us work
our spores transform into moons of milk.
Our mycelium threads extend, bind together
and we emerge, fringed with gills to perpetuate
our presence inside those crevices we find
fertile. We look too ordinary to pose a threat.
We are experts at waiting in silence.



About the Author: Hilary Otto is an English poet, teacher and translator based in Barcelona. She reads regularly in Barcelona in both English and Spanish, most recently as part of the Berlin International Poetry Festival. Her work has been published in Popshot Quarterly, Black Bough Poetry and Fixpoetry, as well as in anthologies.


Image Credit: Nouvel atlas de poche des champignons comestibles et vénéneux. v.1.
Paris,Léon Lhome,1911-1912. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/item/24293

Ryan Quinn Flanagan: “Chewy Circle”



Chewy Circle

We watch this show 
where dogs compete in a series of things 
to see who is America’s Top Dog.

First, through a timed obstacle track
where the slowest timed dog and handler team
are eliminated.

Then through a scent challenge 
where they have to sniff out drugs or explosives.
The two slowest times are eliminated.

Lastly, the two remaining teams compete
through another obstacle course 
to see who can do it in the fastest time.

The winner gets to go into the Chewy Circle.
Have bragging rights and $5000 dollars donated 
to the charity of their choice.

The winner tonight wore these blue pair of doggles 
over his eyes.
Even though he was afraid to go in the water.
It was a straight fashion thing with this one,
you could tell.

His doggles made him feel sexy.
Beating out all the other police dogs
and one civilian trained entry.

So he could bark proudly from the Chewy Circle
in his bright blue doggles.

As Curt Menefee wondered how the hell he 
ever got roped into doing this gig.

And the studio audience 
cheered on.


About the Author: Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many mounds of snow.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, As It Ought To Be Magazine The New York Quarterly, Cultural Weekly, In Between Hangovers, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.


More by Ryan Quinn Flanagan:

Robbie the Owl

Artisanal Birds

Listening to Blue Monday on a Friday


Image Credit: Henry Pointer: “Touch this if you dare [little dog guarding a cup]” (1870) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.


John Grey: “I Read It Here First”




This copy of “Moby Dick” is repulsive.
I left it by the humidifier 
and now the pages are like sponge.
I bought that stupid machine 

because of this fixation I had
that my skin was drying out.
I never went anywhere.
I didn’t do anything

but sit in the parlor
in all that wretched humidity 
while one-legged Ahab 
went after that insufferable white whale. 

I’d ended up feeling like a stinking orchid.
But you see, I had to do something.
I couldn’t just let myself 
crumple up like old parchment.

But now the pages of the novel 
are stuck together.
I overreacted as I always do. 
In my own way, I was Ahab.

But now, thankfully, I’m Ishmael,
the guy who survives to tell the tale. 
I ditched the humidifier.
My skin is just fine.

Now I’ve taken up with yogurt
because of some concern 
about not getting enough B12.
Besides, I haven’t read “The Andromeda Strain”
        in years.


About the Author: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in
Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming
in Blueline, Willard and Maple and Clade Song.


More By John Grey:



Move On


Image Credit: “Stack of Old Books” Chase Dimock

M.J. Arcangelini: “Ten Movies”



   (after Tim Dlugos)


Niagara (1953)

Marilyn sings along, breathlessly, with a record.
Can’t remember why she married Joseph Cotton.
Jean Peters studies the way she moves.


The Ten Commandments (1956)

Everything pales before the parting of the Red Sea,
its walls collapsing onto Pharaoh’s charioteers.
Piety and the wisdom of masculine flesh.


Cries and Whispers (1972)

Sisters gather for the death of the spinster.
The nursemaid gives the dying woman her breast.
The husbands are oblivious.


Barb Wire (1996)

Pamela playing Bogie playing Rick
in a gender role bending dystopia.
“Don’t call me babe.”


Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Family values moralist encounters mad
scientist who only wants to be left alone.
We may not all be men after all.


The Cooler (2003)

Limping schlub falls in love with waitress
in the casino where they both work.
Everyone gets just what they deserve.


The Monolith Monsters (1957)

Space crystals multiply, grow gigantic,
collapse onto buildings, turn people to stone.
Just add water.


The Conversation (1974)

Somebody is listening to everything.
Gene Hackman playing saxophone in
the twilit apartment he’s just torn apart.


Quintet (1979)

Everybody’s breath is visible.
Dogs eat corpses in a frozen city.
Paul Newman’s ice blue eyes.


The Letter (1940)

Bette being a bad girl on a rubber plantation
while subjugated natives huddle in huts
waiting for the white men to kill each other.



About the Author: M.J. (Michael Joseph) Arcangelini was born 1952 in western Pennsylvania, grew up there & in Cleveland, Ohio.  He’s resided in northern California since 1979. He began writing poetry at age 11. His work has been published in magazines, online journals, over a dozen anthologies, & four books: “With Fingers at the Tips of My Words” 2002, Beautiful Dreamer Press; the chapbooks “Room Enough” 2016, and “Waiting for the Wind to Rise” 2018, both from NightBallet Press; & “What the Night Keeps” 2019, Stubborn Mule Press. In 2018 he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


More by M.J. Arcangelini:

A Few Random Thoughts


Image Credit: Public Domain still from “The Letter” turned into digital art.

John Macker on Stuart Z. Perkoff



Stuart Z. Perkoff

By John Macker

The Poet is the world’s remembrancer.” [1]
 -Lawrence Lipton

“He told of taking acid in situations that would terrify me,
for instance, a jail cell in Terminal Island.”
-Robert Creeley on Stuart,
from his foreword to Voices Of The Lady: Collected Poems, Stuart Z. Perkoff

Stuart Z. Perkoff was the Southern California Beat Generation’s tortured over soul who gave that movement a lot of its spirit, its sense of place and its relevance. By the end of his life, Stuart would manifest everything that was righteous, precociously outlaw and sui generis about Venice, CA before the bad press and the cops cracked down on the bikers and drug dealers. He was friend and mentor to a generation of wild, original bohemian wordslingers who were (mostly) accepted into the larger extended family of the Beat Generation, in the 1950’s. 

     Early on, Stuart was befriended by the L.A. intellectual cum hipster/novelist Lawrence Lipton, who hosted “salons” that attracted the hip, the disenfranchised, the poets and painters, the poseurs, the dilettantes. Poets like David Meltzer, Tony Scibella, John Thomas, Philomene Long, Bruce Boyd, Robert Alexander, Alexander Trocchi, Stuart, and others, sought out kindred spirits within Lipton’s ever-evolving sphere. (Jack Kerouac had even showed up at one point, with Steve Allen, all surly and swollen and drunk to his core). The Holy Barbarians, Lipton’s best-selling account of this era and its characters was published in 1959 and is now highly collectible in hardcover.

     Stuart appeared as a successful contestant on Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life. He also realized the poet’s vulnerability in the media eye once national word got out about Venice’s role as a harbor for the beatniks’ dark side. The poets and artists (such as Wallace Berman, Ben Talbert, George Herms and John Altoon) of Venice West were suddenly catapulted into the spotlight for most of the wrong reasons, and, subsequently, became objects of ridicule and satire in the press. He disdained such displays and in Jack Hirschman’s generous words, “preferred anonymous best of all.” [2]

     Despite all this he and Lipton were the subjects of John Arthur Maynard’s respectful biography Venice West: The Beat Generation in Southern California. (Rutgers Univ. Press, 1991.) Much of Stuart’s close friend Tony Scibella’s contribution to that book was through an interview I did with him in Denver, in 1986 and originally published in the magazine, Moravagine.3.

     Stuart appeared along with the best poets America had to offer in Donald Allen’s historic anthology, The New American Poetry, 1945-1960. In its scope, originality and audacity it has yet to be rivaled. Although many of the poets included were Stuart’s good friends, he ended up changing the lives of his closest poet-companions, the painter/collagist Tony Scibella, New York gangster/poet-with-portfolio Frank T. Rios and poet/publisher James Ryan Morris.

His rogue early books appeared in mostly soft cover, small press editions lovingly produced by publisher friends. He spent some time in prison for drug offenses in the late 60’s-early 70’s which he never really recovered from and which truncated his publishing “career”. Kowboy Pomes, Eat The Earth, Alphabet, Only Just Above The Ground, some of his best writing— after he had morphed into a great, grey-bearded long-haired bear of a poet— came out in the short span between prison release and his untimely death from cancer at 43 in 1974. Jonathan Williams had published Perkoff’s seminal and haunting, The Suicide Room, in 1956. 

In the mid 90’s, Stuart’s older brother Gerald approached Tony Scibella and others about collecting Stuart’s work into one volume. Later, Gerald contacted Allen Ginsberg about publication of this manuscript and Allen led him to Maine’s National Poetry Foundation, partially funded by Stephen King. In 1998, Voices Of The Lady: Collected Poems appeared with an honorable and insightful  preface by Robert Creeley. It covers all of Stuart’s published work. A substantial tome by any standards and an outlaw masterpiece by a true rebel –Jewish mystic, ex-con, wordslinging junkie genius whose influence is still being felt.

    For 20 years now, I’ve considered Stuart Perkoff a kind of guardian angel riding point  into America’s voodoo bone darkness. I still on occasion sit my wife down by candlelight with two shots of Herradura, and read some of Stuart’s words out loud. They can still send chills up my spine just like they did when the late Denver poet Larry Lake first handed me a copy of Perkoff’s Visions for the Tribe. I couldn’t seek the muse’s touch without encountering Stuart Perkoff’s shadow on the trail. His language, its musicality, its exhortative cadence and jazz rhythms: as Robert Creeley wrote in the preface to Voices of the Lady, “Bobbie Louise Hawkins says that Stuart Perkoff was the only one she knew who could use the common street talk, the then hip phrasing, in a way that felt undramatic, natural, not just an attempt to be like some other side of life or person.” [3]  

Like it or not, being alive finds its own way to live of necessity.” [4]

                                                                   -Robert Creeley

Friends, lovers, muse, children, countrymen, peers, Meltzer, Tristan Tzara, Gary Cooper, Charles Mingus, John Garfield, John Thomas, Thelonious Monk, Kirby Doyle, Dylan Thomas, Abbot Kinney (founder of Venice, CA.), Philomene Long, Ben Talbert, Stuart wrote poems to them all, in all shapes and sizes: hip theatrical dialogue, short prose, spontaneous short line, invocation, many without titles, just Stuart riffing to the earth and sky, praying the poem gets riffed back to him by the gulls, the waves of his beloved “moonwash sea”, echoing off the voices of brother poets, guided by the sound emanating from the Lady’s lips. Stuart’s muse was external, an out of body experience, the “Lady” of his life, cosmic goddess she-fire chanted down to earth and into his soul by the uncharted intensity of his poetics.

     As Tony Scibella has said, as close as the Venice 3 were, none of them sounded like the other and Stuart didn’t sound like anybody. His readings were legendary for his basso profundo voice and intonation, very formal, rabbinical even. 

     As far back as 1951, poet Charles Olson, on the occasion of Stuart’s poems being published in Cid Corman’s Origin 2, recognized his impact:  “i have just been telling creeley how very moved i was last night to find you there (origin 2) with us

                                            That those
two poems of yrs belong with us; and are something neither of us,
or anyone else, can visit as you can such another hell . . .” [5]

Stuart’s “another hell” was on earth, within a dysfunctional family, in the derangement of his senses by heroin and other drugs, the expectations of a soul- destroying, “responsible” society spawned by victory over Japan and Germany, and a cold war that had addicted itself to world arms escalation and the grim potentiality of nuclear annihilation. Stuart recognized the shadow of fear but refused to reside within it. Death was always available, every day, another shadow, kin. But he wrote the Hell out of it, the sweating threat of it, every day, his health and blood on the line, one word ahead of another, in the Lady’s light.

     On his deathbed, he was attended by two Ladies, his muse, ever hovering, feeding him lines until the end and one of flesh, his last love, the fine poet, convent renegade and self-proclaimed “queen of bohemia”, Philomene Long, who captured, on tape, his final words. For the rest of us there is the last poem in Voices Of The Lady, another untitled, handwritten, taken off Stuart’s wall shortly before his death:

So black, the visions. That’s why they
Linked gaunted arms & stumbled towards
the flames in a feeble dance of celeb-
rations. For the visions cannot be
denied, reality is irrevocable &
so, precisely there they found joy
& song.
              Grant me that strength
he who must remain
unnamed. [6]


  1. Lipton, Lawrence The Holy Barbarians  NY: Julian Messner, 1959.
  2. Hirschman, Jack  Privately printed broadside poem, 1998. Used by permission
  3. Perkoff, Gerald T. editor. Voices of the Lady: Collected Poems Stuart Z. Perkoff. Maine: The National Poetry Foundation, 1998. From introduction by Robert Creeley.
  4. Ibid. pg. 12
  5. Ibid. pg. 11
  6. Ibid. pg. 462


About the Author: John Macker’s latest books are Atlas of Wolves (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019) and The Blues Drink Your Dreams Away: Selected Poems 1983-2018 (Stubborn Mule Press, 2018 and a finalist for a New Mexico/Arizona Book Award.) Macker has lived in Northern New Mexico for 24 years.

Larry Smith: “Union Town”



Union Town

Once a month for decades
he brought home the Catholic Worker
folded gently and laid it on kitchen table,
where it would be picked up, read, 
folded, and laid back again.
A fabric in their lives,
like the Catholic missals
she kept in rubber bands
folded in her dresser drawer.
He spoke little of the mill,
except of friends, left it
at the mill gate where others
might stop in bars to drink
their bitterness away.

Their children are taught by Catholic sisters
of Charity, Franciscans who share
Christ’s preference for the poor by
having them bring cans of food each month,
and at some secret signal near recess
gently bowl them forward on the wooden floor—
twenty cans of green beans, corn, tomato sauce
reaching the blackboard with sweet laughter,
as the Sister feigns surprise, then bends
to gather them up, and they all
bow their heads in thanks.


About the Author: Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, and editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio where they feature a Working Lives and an Appalachian Writing Series. He is also the biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lives in Huron, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie.


More By Larry Smith: 

No Walls

The Story of Rugs



Image Credit: Lewis W. Hine “Furniture Factory Worker or Printer?” (1930s) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

John Grey: “Maud”




The parlor
stands for all of life,
even for those things that most resemble death,
because Maud occupies her favorite chair,
knitting a sweater for no one to wear,
out of the necessity to busy the hands,
relieve the mind of its terrible duties,
retell her story in stitch after stitch
so the end result is something warm and lovely.

A crucifix on the wall,
a husband behind glass,
bestow in silver-plate and photograph
the blessings that remain to her,
from her thick mop of white hair,
to wrinkled but active fingers,
all the way down to
the knitting needles,
the basket of wool skeins.

Jesus is nailed and hurting.
The man in uniform 
is off to war, off to heaven.
She joins them in pain
with a bend to her spine,
a much-broken heart.

But there’s still this 
sheer blood-red dreaminess
to her shapeless eyes
And her breath is like a breeze
continually rousing her aged loveliness.
Yes, it’s more of a winter wind these days.
But the chill can never settle.
And she cannot quite settle on the chill.


About the Author: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and Failbetter.


More By John Grey: 

Move On



Photo Credit:  Gertrude Käsebier “Grandmother Käsebier with Knitting” (1895) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

William Taylor Jr: “A Seventeen Dollar Glass of Wine and the Early Works of Matisse”



A Seventeen Dollar Glass of Wine and the Early Works of Matisse 

I’m drinking overpriced wine 
in the cafe at the Museum 
of Modern Art on a Tuesday 

Summer is done and the tourists 
have gone back to whatever sad places
spawned them.

Everything is quiet and civilized
as I sip the Chardonnay of the day
while reading about Baudelaire
and his miserable genius.

The women are pretty
in skirts and dresses
whispering to each other
as they gaze upon some lesser 
work of Edvard Munch.

Everything is clean, white and pristine
while outside are all the things 
the headlines drone on about:

cancer and freeway crashes 
things on fire and the inevitable 
collapse of every decent 
thing we’ve ever known.

But it all seems so far away 
and meaningless when 
compared to what Matisse 
achieved in his later years

and it feels pointless 
to dwell upon such dreariness
when confronted with Warhol’s 
comic book yellows 
and reds.

Here the mistakes of our past
have been captured and neutralized
handsomely framed and placed 
upon the walls with gilded 
plaques of explanation

so that we might see
and soberly contemplate
for a moment or two
before moving on 
to something else 

and then back downstairs 
for another glass of wine 
before everything


About the Author: William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.  He is the author of numerous books of poetry, and a volume of fiction. His work has been published widely in journals across the globe, including Rattle, The New York Quarterly, and The Chiron Review. He is a five time Pushcart Prize nominee and was a recipient of the 2013 Kathy Acker Award. Pretty Words to Say, a new collection of poetry, is forthcoming from Six Ft. Swells Press.


Image Credit: “Henri Matisse Working on a Paper Cut Out” Creative Commons Public Domain

Chase Dimock: A Review of Sugar Fix By Kory Wells


A Review of Kory Wells’ Sugar Fix

By Chase Dimock


       When Kory Wells sent a submission of poetry to As It Ought To Be Magazine last Spring, I was first struck by her sense of history. In “The Assistant Marshal Makes an Error in Judgement”, Wells writes about a census taker in the 19th century whose guesses at the races of citizens become their legal racial identity inscribed in his government ledger. Today in 2020, it took a court battle to resolve the citizenship question on this year’s census. This poem is more than just a historical footnote; its reminder of how the politics of identity and who has the right to recognize it have continually defined American society. In this way, Wells follows the words of fellow southern writer William Faulkner, who famously wrote (and was even more famously quoted by President Obama) “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

       With Sugar Fix, Wells explores the never dead past of today through the personal and cultural memories of sugar. Recipes handed down from generations are clues to her family mythologies, the proustian taste of chocolate ice cream on her tongue is a confessional, the trade in sugar and sweets in the south is a material history of the racial and class tensions of reconstruction to today. It would be easy for a book of poetry centered on the metaphor of sugar to lapse into saccharine sentimentality and syrupy cutesiness, but Wells is a poet who understands the cost of pleasure and the sweat demanded of our brow before we taste the sweet. She knows the personal price of indulgence and the social cost of supplying society with its sugar fix.

       In “Still Won’t Marry” Wells takes on the persona from the traditional Appalachian song “Angeline the Baker,” envisioning her as weary of the constant propositions of trading sugar for skin:

He says a little taste of sugar will cure
my weary back, my aching shoulders, my
singed arms. Like I don’t know what that man wants.

Angeline’s side of the story is wise to the after effects of the sugar fix “The bed a pleasure too short. Babies Chores./ His wants ahead of mine.” Wells connects this folklore of indulgence in sugar and flesh to her own past in a poem whose title conveniently saves me from having to summarize its premise: “He drove a four-door Chevy, nothing sexy, but I’d been thinking of his mouth for weeks.” During a date at a Dairy Queen Drive in, Wells is fixated: Continue reading

Alex Z. Salinas: “Chicano Poets” and party snacks



“Chicano Poets” and party snacks

Not gonna lie, 
After I read “Chicano Poet”
On the cover of Reyes Cárdenas’ book of poems,
I cringed,
As if his last name weren’t enough 

But I’m lying, 
It was actually the painting of a 
Half-naked Latina that elicited my reaction 

As if the point of Reyes’ being a
“Chicano Poet” was to point out 
The doubly poignant swells of a brown woman

So, if I understand him correctly,
It’s probably that “Chicano Poets” 
Just wanna have fun

And for Christ sake, 
After Chris Columbus,
Cab de Vaca
And all them, why not?

When bastard runs in 
The blood, 
Bust out the Chex Mix
Cuz it’s gonna be a rowdy party 

And “Chicano Poets” should know,
At rowdy parties
It’s always a bright idea 
To have salty, corn-based snacks 
(that almost sound like Chex Mex) 
Available to munch on.



About the Author: Alex Z. Salinas lives in San Antonio, Texas. He serves as poetry editor of the San Antonio Review. His debut feature-length book of poems, Warbles, was released by Hekate Publishing in fall 2019.


Image Credit: Public Domain from Wikipedia