Monday, March 18, 2013

Soon to be revived

There haven't been any posts for awhile here. Life gets in the way sometimes. But I will be reviving this soon. Sign up to get email notices of new posts!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

How To Wolf A Cook by Leslie McGrath

How To Wolf A Cook

Prepare the mise en scène: lower the lights
and pour from her slim-necked carafe a half glass
of something chilled, astringent. Now let
your ravening gaze travel her nether-curves
as she spoons the stew or ladles the soup
into a shallow bowl and dresses it
with thyme she's torn from the stem.
You notice her thumbprint in the biscuit
as you bite down, a bit of gristle buried
in a chunk of lamb, the potatoes
neither row nor soft, but to the tooth.
She's in your mouth, wrestling 
your tongue into an admission
of hunger—no, need—you'll speak
her words, your breath scented of her resin.
And once you've polished her off, toe to toque,
you'll wipe your trembling mouth on her red cloak.

© 2006 Leslie McGrath
previously published in Alimentum, Issue One Winter 2006
and in Opulent hunger, Opulent rage, Main Street Rag Publishing Co. 2009


1) What first sparked this poem?

I love everything to do with food, including cooking it. The idea for the poem was inspired by MFK Fisher's book, How to Cook a Wolf. I flipped it around and voila, I could write a poem about sex and food at the same time!

2) Tell us about this poem's life.

This was a case of lightening bolt inspiration. It took me about a week to write a first draft, then another week to tweaking. I try not to use words I'll have to explain to audiences when I read, but the couple of French words seemed necessary at the time. And the ending, with its allusion to Little Red Riding Hood, struck me on waking up one morning. I knew it was right. I don't have this feeling very often, unfortunately.

3) How long did it take to go from inspiration to published?

I did what I usually do with poems, having taken Donald Hall's advice that the poet live with the work a bit before casting it out there. I sat on it for a couple of months, then sent it out to Alimentum, one of my favorite literary magazines, which focuses completely on food. They took it, along with a couple of other poems, for their first issue. I had the pleasure of reading it in New York with non other than Oliver Sacks and Mark Kurlansky. It was a little intimidating. 

4) Are you satisfied with this poem?

Not completely. I'm uncomfortable with the phrase mise en scene which comes in the first line. It was a jokey nod to mise en place, a term for the preparation done before cooking so the cook can simply fling chopped herbs into a dish with great panache. A mis en scene is a stage setting. It's correctly used, but I think a term like that coming so early in a poem can create a distance for the reader—and that's something I want to avoid.

5) What, in particular, do you, the poet, like about this poem and why?

This is one of my favorite poems to read at readings. It speaks to a cook's power in feeding her loved ones something she's chosen and labored over. Her food, once eaten, becomes part of their bodies, their very thoughts. It's a very intimate act. I think the poem succeeds because it's as delicious to say as it is to hear. I feel as though I've eaten something right along with the audience, and we're connected because of this. 

Leslie McGrath's poetry has appeared in Agni online, Alimentum, Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, Connecticut Review, DIAGRAM, Nimrod, Poetry Ireland, and elsewhere. Her literary interviews have appeared in the Writer's Chronicle and on public radio. She is the winner of the 2004 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, her chapbook, Toward Anquish, won the 2007 Philbrick Poetry Award. Her collection of poetry, Opulent hunger, Opulent rage won the 2009 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. She is also the editor, along with Ravi Shankar, of Reetika Vazirani's posthumous poetry collection, Radha Says (Drunken Boat Press, 2010). She is the former managing editor of Drunken Boat, an online journal of the arts. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Confession by Faith Vicinanza


When I would lie jumbled across the length of you –
all that was lost between us a little more or less
each day, or pushed aside – always arching
over the not-lost, the not-pushed-aside –
I pretended not to lean to the curve of sorrow's belly,
your hand on my knee, your tongue in my mouth
and then we would stumble, or is it that I stumbled
and nothing ever changed, black always claiming
to be something paler, cherry blossom pink perhaps
or simple yellow. I do not miss holding myself apart,
a defense against your pointed intellect. Oh, but I miss
your wicked sense of humor. I don't miss wanting
something more, or thinking there was something
more to be wanted. I miss my head on your shoulder.
Please forgive me. For this, it is too late to make amends.
For the rest of everything that faltered between us,
I forgive us both.

© 2008 Faith Vicinanza
previously published in Caduceus, 2008 Fall Issue, Tony Fusco, Editor
and in Husband, a collection of grief poems, December 2008, Hanover Press
and at YouTube: January 2009 and January 2010
Forthcoming Spring 2010 in Confluencia Anthology, Marianela Medrano-Marra, Editor


1) What first sparked this poem?

Grief over the death of my husband, regrets, guilt, loss, emotional meltdown.

2) Tell us about this poem's life.

It came in one pass, it has been edited a few times, but little editing, not my typical style, but this one held up from the first draft, mostly I think because it was a simple and somewhat disparate letter to my late husband, very much from the most inner place of loss and grief.

3) How long did it take to go from inspiration to published?

The poem was published within a few months, then published at least three more times since then.

4) Are you satisfied with this poem?

Very much so, it provides a small solace to the things I cannot change.

5) What, in particular, do you, the poet, like about this poem and why?

It gives voice to the wrenching and broken spirit, and provides an opening to heal the gaping wound of loss that is aggravated by the salt of if only, I should have, why did I, how can I keep going – this poem and other grief poems gave me a place to retreat to, to live when it seemed impossible, a quiet space of my own, protected, and comforting.

Faith Vicinanza is a poet, avid gardener, amateur photographer, Ms. Corporate by day, grandmother by night, poet always, with four collections in print and working on her fifth collection of poetry and a memoir. Her website is

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kindle by Shanna Germain


This is the story you like best of all:
How, my first year of fighting fires found me
naked in the bunk, Nick with one finger

against thigh, one at nipple. Station silent,
only tip of pipe into skin. Nick’s thrusts
a thing I might like if I didn’t fight fires.

In that silence—sirens—saved by the bell,
skins slipped separate, zippers zipped up,
Nick spit, “fuck!” to remind himself of where

we almost were. Me, I didn’t care where
we were, only where we were going
in that long red truck. At eighteen, flames

were finer than fucking. On scene, house burning
down to bone. I humped hose up stairs, gear heavy
as a body, breath hot kisses against the mask.

Hands and knees stigmata warm against wood,
sheets of heat torched derma to flush, flamed something
deep in the structure of center. At eighteen,

I could extinguish. Now I know how to ignite.
Fire tetrahedron of the senses:
oxygen, heat, fuel, chemical reaction.

Anything will learn to burn given
air and time and flammable liquid.
Now, you like the way I light thin wick

of candles before you come, watch when I strike
fingers to match your kindle. This sizzle
is true as it gets with you. Here is my secret:

It is better without you. Me on my knees,
one hand to center, one to candle, press and press,
heat and heat, and the burn the burn this burn.

© 2007 Shanna Germain 
previously published in Coming Together: Under Fire


1) What first sparked this poem?

I was a volunteer firefighter when I was in college, and I fell in love (and in lust) with the adrenaline, the excitement, the heat that came with fighting fires. I was barely 18, I was really just discovering my sexuality, and I was surrounded by all these fit, energetic men -- and yet, it was the fire that appealed more than any of them. I wanted to explore that idea, of what we find arousing and why. 

2) Tell us about this poem's life.

Typically, I write poems in one sitting and then go back and revise them once or twice. This poem, however, took forever for me to mold and shape. I started it when I was still fighting fires -- I knew what I wanted to touch on, but I didn't know how I wanted to say it. So I put it away. I just happened to find it about ten years later, long after I'd moved onto other things, which allowed the narrator to look back, just as I was doing so.

3) How long did it take to go from inspiration to published?

As soon as I finished it, and got the ending the way I liked it, I sent it out to Coming Together: Under Fire, an erotic anthology that donates all the proceeds to charity and it was accepted right away. Which, I have to admit, is typical for me when it comes to poetry. Usually poems get accepted on the first go-round or else it takes about six submissions before I get a yes. 

4) Are you satisfied with the poem?

Well, I'm not sure I'm ever satisfied with a poem, but I am mostly with this one. It has the sensuality that I was aiming for, some elements of firefighting, as well as an exploration of growing as a young, sexual woman.

5) What in particular do you, the poet, like about this poem and why?

I like the way it became a story told to someone else, presumably a current boyfriend, and how the narrator tells much, but not all of her secrets. I'm a fan of the way she reveals the information at the end. I worked with the sounds here too, using a lot of 's' sounds to simulate the hiss of smoke and skin, and other sounds to emulate the crackle of fire and wood. 

Shanna Germain is a leximaven and wanderluster. When she's not writing, she can be found traveling the world. Visit her at and at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How Many Drops? by Mark McGuire-Schwartz

How Many Drops?
for my father

How many drops of water
does it take to fill
Wanaque Reservoir? I bet you always
wanted to know. We can figure it out.
Let’s say it is fifteen miles in length.
Later we can use the odometer to check.
Or a map. Now we’ll project the width at one mile.
We assume, of course, a rectangle. By cutting
and re-assembling jagged edges, that is probably
pretty close. Most things irregular hide
a core of regularity underneath. We can guess
the depth. Again, we take an average, and soon
the volume is in our grasp. Length
times width times depth. Smoothing irregularities.
More or less. Now for the drop of water – that is easy.
We do not have to calculate that.
Already ours. I know its size.
Experiments have been conducted – some
by me – for a secret government project, to determine
the size of a water drop. Also its weight,
But that does not count here. And its shape,
Of course. Its content and luster are also known.
But, for our purpose, just the size. How many fit in a teaspoon? And then into a cup?
And convert – yes, convert – to cubic inches, and voila,
we are almost done. Soon you will have the answer that you seek. Six hundred billion,
seven hundred and fifty-eight million,
nine hundred and thirty thousand,
six hundred and forty-five. Point seven eight nine, but we’ll just round it
to point seven nine. Two decimal places should be enough.
And there’s your answer. Give or take
half a dozen. You have solved for X.
Depending, of course, on recent snow.

But tell me again about the water.
About the luster, about the sheen.
Can you see yourself reflected in each drop?
Or does that require an aggregate? If so
Can we calculate for that? And should we
Compensate for the displacement of fish? Or must
We remove the fish before calculating the depth?
And if Archimedes runs naked through the streets,
Will he find love? And will that love
Be purified and reflected and true?
Do the drops crystallize to predict our fate?
Is the density equal to that of our common blood?
When we solve for X, do we turn back time
And bring our future to meet our former
Past? How many deaths can one heart hold?

How many? You’d be surprised,
Not all deaths weigh the same, you know.
The heart can hold thousands of the tiny, and hundreds
Of the small, dozens of the medium weight.
But heavy deaths add up fast. In fact,
Some are supernovas. These cannot
Be held in one heart for any time at all.
These deaths act as quantum particles, and bounce
From ring to ring without ever existing in the space between.
How many deaths can a heart hold? First,
We must measure the weight.

© 2005 Mark McGuire-Schwartz
previously published in The Fairfield Review (Winter 2005)
and in a shortened version as "Reservoir" in 2007 Long River Run.

1) What first sparked this poem?
Honestly, I am not sure. What I remember is this: I took my wife’s car to get an oil change, and I walked across the road to have some lunch while I waited. It was about five months after my father had died. And I remember that, sitting alone in that small Chinese restaurant, I began to cry. There were no other customers eating at the restaurant, but one or two customers came in to pick up an order. At some point the sobbing stopped and the writing started. By the time I finished my meal and went to retrieve the car, the poem was done. (I do not remember what the fortune cookie said.)

2) Tell us about this poem's life.
The poem sat in the notebook for four months, and then I typed it up. I revised it about a week later and then about a month and a half after that. At some point I shared the poem with my family, including my siblings. I first read How Many Drops in public at Wednesday Night Poetry at the Bethel Arts Junction in September, 2004, a little less than one year after my father died.

The featured readers that night were Ed and Janet Granger-Happ, the editors of Fairfield Review, and they asked me to submit HMD. It was published in their Winter 2005 issue. A shortened version was published in the 2007 Long River Run, under the title Reservoir.

3) How long did it take to go from inspiration to published?
Around one year.

4) Are you satisfied with the poem?
My father actually did lead a discussion about how to calculate the volume of Wanaque Reservoir. I also remember him telling me the story of Archimedes. I am not sure I understood right away what physical principle Archimedes had figured out. But I knew that he was excited, jumped from tub, ran naked. My father saw a similar beauty and excitement in understanding how things work, and he passed that excitement to me.

A number of people have told me not only that they like this poem, but that they found it touching. As it is very personal poem, that is nice.

5) What in particular do you, the poet, like about this poem and why?
There are a number of lines and phrases here that I find pleasingly original. But that is really just technique, which, in the end, is just technique.

I’ve always liked a touch of poignancy in my literature, and what is more bittersweet than remembering a happy moment from a lost childhood?

My father was not a poet, but there is a lot of my father in me. I think some of it comes out in this poem.

Mark McGuire-Schwartz learned to speak in full sentences and to
express complex, subtle thought at the age of seven months.  However,
he still has not been known to do so. Mark is also part of WNPS.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Art of Death by Mar (Mistryel) Walker

The Art of Death

The ice sheets returned in 2113
in relentless methodical advance
ceaseless snows layering without a thaw
northern towns devoured in the frozen maw
planed smooth under a grinding crush of fluff

And the sea's edge receded as the freezing swept
down over Canada, New England
the north pacific and the upper middle west
and forgiving winds of warmth that brought the southern rain
forgot to churn and so the once lush Southland
dried and slowly burned
and there a sterile, chilly desert spread
desiccated freely, depressed the thirsty living,
mummified the dead

There was no escape - the ice came on,
Hartford and New Haven bowed, plowed flat,
Farmington and Glastonbury gone
starving millions overran New Jersey and New York
where in the howling streets snow buried
all the first and second floors
and those still moving found their entry
at the fire-escape's third landing door

Deep inside the city's steel and concrete,
under its failing brackish lights
journalists, historians, meteorological theory-posers
painters, poets, playwrights, choreographers, composers
found renewed delight and labored ardently and long
to document the dying world's new winter song.

As third-floor studios in old Tribeca hummed
the Chiller Gallery
opened up a shocking show that stunned
a splash designed to make the Ice Age think
and maybe drum up end-time business
for Millenium Cryogenics Inc
corporate sponsor of this
centennial retrospective - "100 Heads on Ice."

The exhibition featured human heads
in a frost-encrusted temperature-controlled displays
thoughtfully chosen from among thousands
frozen in each year of the companies successful marketing forays
Each bust began with one swift surgical stroke
scientifically suspended amid a steam of cryogenic smoke
- hoary heads guillotined alive from willing fools,
frozen in a flash
and for the privilege each of these 100 sculptures
coughed up enormous wads of cash
to pay the freight for time travel by refrigerator resurrection
- immortality by this un-natural selection.
Art critics gushed,
the pundits gnashed their teeth.
The display's descendents banned together
their attorneys blew up blizzards of class action briefs.

But more swiftly than court dockets, glaciers grew
plowing up the brittle weight of man's debris
jumbled, jammed high, like jagged mountains or volcanic spew
a soaring continental dump
pushed before the ice sheets coast to coast,
drawing dump pickers and scavengers,
like sullen dentists pulling teeth from winter's mouth,
while sensible millions
loaded up their goods and sought salvation in the south.

As snow filled, refilled each major road
many sat bumper to bumper,
far too many to be towed
And hundreds standing by the roadside,
thumbs extended, froze in place,
the horror of resignation, a still life,
painted in each blackened, frost-edged face
each remaining visible for hours
just above the growing drifts
100 heads and more,
in death, crystallizing
life, crystallizing
art, crystallizing crystallizing

Subway tunnels beneath the city became home
to nomads huddling for a little warmth
and there they drew pictures
of central park in bloom
to brighten up the endless subterranean gloom
and history digging up the evidence
once again ponders mysterious pictures
on cavern walls.

© 1998 Mar (Mistryel) Walker
previously published in Inverse Origami: The Art of Unfolding... by Mar (Mistryel) Walker
and in the premiere issue of The Underwood Review.

1) What first sparked this poem?

I attended a poetry event in 1996 during the Ct. Poetry Festival where Leo Connellan, the state’s poet laureate was reading at the Buttonwood Tree in Middletown Connecticut. At the time, there was an exhibit of “art” books at the Buttonwood, and each book was in a Plexiglas box to prevent viewers from touching , moving, breathing or spilling coffee on the books which were one-of-a-kind. The event was crowded and I was standing pretty far back. From where I stood I could just see Leo Connellan’s head through one of the Plexiglas boxes, and it looked for all the world like his head was inside the box.

2) Tell us about this poem's life.

I imagined an art show of similar works in Plexiglas boxes, and I had just read an article about cryogenics featuring people who paid a lot of money to be frozen. Some wanted only their heads frozen which struck me as fairly bizarre. I started thinking about what conditions in society might allow cryogenics company to put on a art display of its frozen heads, and what such a show would be reflecting about society. An oncoming ice age seemed fairly appropriate. This idea of art reflecting life or life reflecting art became the theme of the poem.

3) How long did it take to go from inspiration to published?

I included this poem in my first chapbook “Inverse Origami, the art of unfolding” Later, when Faith Vicinanza was preparing the premiere issue of the Underwood review, she said she didn’t mind previously published works or longer works. I sent it to her and it was included in the first issue.

4) Are you satisfied with this poem?

Oddly I am disturbed by it, considering that subsequently, there have been movies about a oncoming ice age, and several art shows of cadavers.

5) What, in particular, do you, the poet, like about this poem and why?

One has to maintain a suspension of disbelief to enjoy this poem since it seems unlikely a glacier could advance with such crushing speed. This poem is also really of the horror genre and I have not re-entered this territory. What was satisfying during the writing was imaging the details of New York filling up with snow and how people would get in and out, of the detritus of civilization that a glacier might plow up, and the lawsuits that would arise from such an art show even with the end of civilization rapidly approaching. And then how to end it... I have read this only about four times in public, and have not considered how I might re-edit it. hmmm

Mar (Mistryel) Walker, is an innocuous but opinionated eccentric, a poet and visual artist, a job-hopper, an odd-jobber, an escaped journalist turned blogger, web-tweaker, mezzo-soprano, songwriter, human being. She is founder and editor of Bent Pin, a lit e-zine at, and webmistress for the Wednesday Night Poetry Series. Her other websites include,, and

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Key by Gemma Mathewson


Step - sweep - tap,
Step - sweep - tap,
the monk advances.
His garnet robe
grazes the floor.

As still as the Himalayas
that rise above his gompa
he stood while we viewed
ancient tonka paintings.

Why now this curious dance?
I let the protective silk veil settle
back over the delicate pigments
and turn to watch the ritual
that now engages him.

Catching sparkles
from devotional oil lamps,
motes of dust billow from his toes
like the stylized oyster clouds
above the painted Buddhas.

Before his foot,
a large moth flees
buttery and translucent
in the flickering light.

Advance matches retreat until,
the moth senses the threshold
of the courtyard
flusters his wings, holds fast.

An impasse.
Toes curl in thought,
the veins of his temple
thrum beneath a crescent scar,
the monk reaches for an offering bowl,
redistributes the water
among the rest
and scoops the moth inside.

Above a row of sandals
and hiking boots
the monk uncups his palm
from the brass bowl.
The moth, denied a nest
of precious kangyur scrolls,
samples the wisdom of the wind.

© 2007 Gemma Mathewson
Previously published in Spring Issue of Remarkings, Chandigarh, India

1) What first sparked this poem?

My friend worked in Delhi India for six years, as director of the Fulbright program. She repeatedly invited me to visit her, but due to work constraints I could only go in monsoon months, which she had warned against, being too hot. Finally, in her last year, I went anyway, and she arranged for us to travel to Himachal Pradesh, where the Himalayas determine the Chinese border. Because of the political sensitivity of the area, we had to obtain a special restrictive innerline permit for the trip. Unlike so much of India, the land is underpopulated, vast and mountainous, and the culture is Tibetan Buddhist, not Hindu. I was intoxicated with the exotic culture, and sparse beauty of the land. Every fall hard-scrabble switch back roads (met twice by the edge of glaciers) wash out and every spring when the snow recedes, teams of people rebuild them by breaking rocks with mallets and basket-carting the gravel. The mountain side temple at Key is approached by one of these switch-back trails and the last ten minutes of ascent are by footpaths.

I was privileged to experience the ancient art, exotic beauty and religious fervor of several Buddhist Temples and monasteries. I intended to take excerpts from the diary I kept of this trip with the idea of distilling the experiences into poems.

2) Tell us about this poem's life.

The pilgrimage to Key was a day trip off the main circuit road of Himachal Pradesh. I wanted to include everything, the vast panorama of the roof courtyard offering views of alien rock formations, ice capped mountains in July, the intense colors and intimate detail of the religious paintings, the tabby cat with two silver earrings, the huge prayer wheel requiring full body thrust of both arms to set into motion. We were invited to have a lunch hosted by the monks, rich brown molasses bread with sharp flakey yak cheese. (and the ubiquitous dreaded rancid yak-butter tea!) I began this poem about Key with too many details, needed to hone my focus, and kept coming back to the monk and the moth. They seemed to be the perfect vehicle to illustrate what kept inspiring me throughout the trip - that amidst cultural and spiritual diversity, the human spirit is called on to solve the same problems over and over, and that we solve them best by accepting that we are a part of a bigger whole.

3) How long did it take to go from inspiration to published?

I wrote this and three other poems about my experience in India when I arrived home. Through my friend I met several academics, one a professor of English Literature in Chandigarh. He edits a literary magazine called Remarkings and showed me the most recent issue which featured a critical overview of Doris Lessing, who happens to be one of my favorite authors! Learning that I wrote poetry, he invited me to submit to his magazine for publication. "Not many Indians get to travel into Himachal Pradesh! Your perspective on your experiences could be of interest." Due to my delay in getting a short bio together, it was actually not until about a year and half later that Key got published, along with two other poems.

4) Are you satisfied with this poem?

Mostly. Some small visual connections, such as likening the dust stirred by the monk's feet to the stylized clouds in Buddhist paintings are the kind of images I enjoy playing with.

5) What, in particular, do you, the poet, like about this poem and why?

The monk's dance, my initial interpretation of it and subsequent reevaluation after observation, describes a type of experience I kept having over and over. I kept seeing what seemed incomprehensible or mystical, only to discover a more universal meaning and experience, often humble, humorous or both. The ironic contrast of the monastery as a repository of ancient wisdom of the kangur scrolls from the 10th century and the monk's simple solution (to redistribute water in the brass offering bowls so he would have to tool to scoop up the moth) was a nice balance. Also to my western mind, disturbing the offering bowls on an altar seemed a bit scandalous, however practical!

For 18 years Gemma Mathewson was director and teacher at an Early Childhood program called Nursery On Notch Hill. Recently she has coordinated special projects for I-Park, a 450 acre multidiscipline artist retreat in East Hampton, CT and illustrated a German fantasy novel, Sargon's Schatz. Her enthusiasms include open mic poetry, hiking, and world music. Her work has been published in USA and India, and used in collaboration with "Plays and Poetry" by the East Haddam Players and in contemporary compostition with Nihan Yessil. She is a lifetime insomniac and omnivorous reader. More of her poetry can be found at her blog, The Museum of Rain.