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.

 

 

 

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“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

 

April

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.

 

June

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…

 

November

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

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

1976

 

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
anything

 

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

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.

Tim Peeler: “Last Poem Before Zoloft”

 

 

Last Poem Before Zoloft

Is that an ink pen or a bullet?
I can’t tell, you know how long
Are some of those shells.
I see a teenaged boy child
Listening to “Any Major Dude”
Thinking of when to come out.
Outside the rain drums
The triple pane basement window.
Inside a half-crippled black lab
Watches a baseball game.
I ran through what seemed like
An ocean of time to get here
To find myself invisible.
The ages will be the ages
As the rat snake snugs himself
Around the water pipe in the crawlspace.
What do you mean, how will we go on?
We will wear goggles.
We will carry spears.

 

 

About the Author: A past winner of the Jim Harrison Award for contributions to baseball literature, Tim Peeler has also twice been a Casey Award Finalist (baseball book of the year) and a finalist for the SIBA Award. He lives with his wife, Penny in Hickory, North Carolina, where he directs the academic assistance programs at Catawba Valley Community College. He has published close to a thousand poems, stories, essays, and reviews in magazines, journals, and anthologies and has written sixteen books and three chapbooks. He has five books in the permanent collection at the Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, NY. His recent books include Rough Beast, an Appalachian verse novel about a southern gangster named Larry Ledbetter, Henry River: An American Ruin, poems about an abandoned mill town and film site for The Hunger Games, and Wild in the Strike Zone: Baseball Poems, his third volume of baseball-related poems.

 

More By Tim Peeler:

Modernist Hay Making

Paramnesia 2

Ballers 2, the Star’s Monologue 3

 

Image Credit: Robert Shymanski: “Attic, crawl space, view east and southeast from north center (part 1 of triptych view) – Hegeler Carus Mansion, 1307 Seventh Street, La Salle, La Salle County, IL”(2008) The Library of Congress

Michael Masarof: “Holy Girl”

 

Holy Girl

She parked other people’s cars
We walked on the Long Island Sound
The boats crushing the shore
She fixed teeth
She was in the mouth all day
Open
Close
Turn
She crushed the clutch
Turned the wheel all the way
Motor off
Shoving that steel pick deep into the gums
I howled
With delight
When we walked the night righteous
The limbs cautious
Air ripe I fell

 

 

About the Author: Michael Masarof is a writer and director born in New York and residing in Los Angeles. Michael received his MFA in Film Directing from New York University’s Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television’s Graduate film program at the Tisch School of The Arts, where he was the recipient of the Jane Rosenthal Scholarship and the Warner Bros. Production Grant. Michael’s short film You Should Have The Body won the first place prize at the International Munich Festival of Film Schools. It also screened as a special presentation at the Berlinale, as well as on Channel 3SAT in Germany. First Love, Michael’s debut feature film that the LA Times called intimate, is currently streaming on Amazon.

 

Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Looking out over the marshes in Long Island Sound near Westport, Connecticut” (2011) The Library of Congress

Jay Sizemore: “Fiesta corrida”

 

 

Fiesta corrida
~after Hemingway

Every day it’s the running of the bulls
and every day it’s a fiesta,
alternating sips of absinthe,
brandy, and beer,
tastes of licorice, caramel, and malt,
our bodies just gaseous
place holders for want
for something else,
something beyond these moments.

Let’s go to Paris,
let’s go to Madrid, to every land
in between, where the world
trundles forward
like a train on a track without end
and the people act unaware
of even being onboard,

where the sky opens itself
like the bare back of a bather,
where the mountains and the clouds
rest beyond the horizon
like crumpled butcher’s paper,
and everything just lives
for the sake of living,

never minding the hearts
nor their desires unrequited
their ventricles filled
with cherry-scented smoke,
the mornings will be cold
as the afternoons will be hot,
the beaches bright and reflective
beneath an unforgiving sun,
which only makes the water
more appealing to the flesh.

 

 

About the Author: Jay Sizemore is a poet and author of 15 collections of poetry. He currently works and lives near Portland, Oregon.

 

Image Credit: Joaquim Mir, Terraced Village (1909) Public Domain