Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Audio of my reading at Parkside Lounge, 11/12/17

This is recorded from a reading November 12 at the Great Weather for Media show at Parkside Lounge, 317 East Houston Street, in New York City. I featured with Dean Kostos, Mike Jurcovic, two wonderful writers and readers who I wish I had their recordings as well. New York legend and poet George Wallace hosted and set it all up.

Parkside Lounge 11/12/17

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pleased to announce a poem of mine being nominated for a Pushcart by Big Table.

Robin Stratton posted----
November 20, 6 PM 

CONGRATULATIONS to Big Table's 2017 Pushcart Prize noms!!
“The Lynching of Leo Frank” by Zvi A. Sesling
"Balance" by Richard Fox
“Unforgotten” by Elizabeth Szewczyk 
“Making American History” by Timothy Gager
“When I say ‘you’ I mean all of us” by Annie Stenzel
“White Coats” by John Cuetara

That makes twelve nominations total for me. Although people say a Pushcart nomination has no meaning----as anyone can nominate anyone from any webpage---even yourself from your own--it means a lot when a publisher/editor (Robin Stratton) who has put out a large amount of work names you in their Top 5. Loved that it's a "made America greatly worse" poem. Thanks @realdonaldtrump--you're an inspiration and a fucking peach. 

Who else has 12 nominations? Drake, that's who!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Todays Match Chief Jay Strongbow vs. Delaney Lester. Making Poetry real.

Here is Chief Jay Strongbow---played by an Italian, Joey Scarpa, and racism brought to you by the WWF. Chief Jay for those keeping score = Not Real.

In the poem, "Chief Jay Strongbow is Real" I was trying to show that now in 2017,  as in the past, we are still taking land from the Native Americans at Standing Rock. We still depict those of “featured” ethnic groups as people to fear, and enact travel bans against all within that group. We have overwhelming police action, force, and incarceration in higher percentages from those dis-empowered. We have leadership treating addictions as personal weakness rather than disease. Things are viewed as true or real because society is telling us they are true and real. In other words, if we are not advancing in all these thought patterns, we have been regressing.

As I wrote the poem, I wanted a line, and I needed a real wrestler from Standing Rock. It would make a perfect metaphor for what is "real" vs. fake--(pro wrestling). I searched and I found a champion named Delaney Lester

Last year at Standing Rock, Junior
Wrestler Delaney Lester won

the 152 pound class in a pin.
No one will remember Delaney

And who was Luke Joseph Scarpa?
He was a fake, an actor within


Fast forward to releasing the book. I'd read the poem and say something like, "There's this kid out there who has no idea he's in a poem..." I spoke about it when I was on TV with Doug Holder

at 24:47 or so...full poem before at 23:45

Which brings us to the magic or the obtrusiveness of the internet, where on Facebook I found Delaney Lester and contacted him out of my own curiosity. Things like this make poetry more real and it was awesome!! Delaney is real and he is a champion.

Chief Jay Strongbow is Real

His war dance began when wounded ,
Desperate, he’d rally—proud warrior

The show is real, dammit, the native American
will make that comeback, always fighting

harder when down, then full of fist-chops,
he’d punch, Handsome Jimmy Valiant

the rival’s white hair was bloody and disheveled—
Valiant was formally a partner, as champions

They fought Mr. Fugi and Professor Toru Tanaka
a tag-team battle of racism. The bout was over

when we enacted The Indian Removal Act
colonial conflict, disease, discrimination

because that was too real, dammit—the money
is what it’s about. Value

Last year at Standing Rock, Junior
Wrestler Delaney Lester won

the 152 pound class in a pin.
No one will remember Delaney

And who was Luke Joseph Scarpa?
He was a fake, an actor within

the theater of our absurdity. It’s all fake
Chief Jay Strongbow will beat the white man.

Monday, November 13, 2017


Today my inteview on  MassPoetry.org is up. 

It is something they did with me right after "Chief Jay Strongbow is Real" came out.

Cool. Click the above link or read it below, but the site has a poem on it. The book is also available elsewhere not just on my website, which sounds amateurish.

So there is some history here. I've had many great associations with MassPoetry. I've filmed rides with Kim Addonizio, and with Nick Flynn, Greg Pardo and Rachel Eliza Griffiths on their way to Mass Poetry Festivl.

I've taught workshops for High School and Middle School students. "Say It a Different Way!"-I put on that blackboard at U Mass, Boston.  Damn straight

Student Day of Poetry UMass Bosto
Student Day of Poetry Bristol Community College

I've read poetry on trolleys and also appeared on panels. Here's a picture from Poetry of Grief panel. I'm not pictured, probably grieving..

The Interview is in their Getting to Know series....which puts this song in my head.


When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover you wanted to write poems?
More or less in High School. I was a big music listener as a kid—it drew me in and that was the age of the singer songwriter. Lyrics told stories, had meaning, were poetic. In college I joined a band and I wanted to write poetry just the opposite way I had listened to it. I wanted to write poetry so I could compose better lyrics.
Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write? 
I’m a morning person now so I like to write before or just after lunch. I like to work at a desk, with limited distraction. When I was writing my novels I wrote and stopped at between 500-750 words a day, so that I could start fresh the next day without writing the idea dry. For poetry, I like to pick at it—write a draft, pick and have a much better draft by the end of the day. Then I’ll look at it in the future and with fresh eyes, and do a more serious revision.
Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
All of the above, but most often, a feeling, or vamping off a word or phrase.
Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
Dead. Seriously, at different points of my life different writers have influenced me. Influences or more subtle these days now I rely on my own voice, often using the cadence of other poets as influences.
Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was it a project book? etc
19873850_10154430072976511_334013970_n.jpgTell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was it a project book? etc.
The book is in eight acts or sections. The first act starts with the titular Chief Jay Strongbow is Real. Strongbow was a Pro Wrestler who worked for Vincent J. McMahon's World Wide Wrestling Federationfrom 1970-1985. He was 57 when he retired, and his persona of fierce warrior was all an act. An Italian named Joe Scarpa played the chief. 
That said, there are no wrestling poems in this collection. What I was attempting in this work was, in general, the question of what exactly is real.? What do we believe? What do the people in power tell the masses which influence us into believing that the lies are the truth. This began in America when America began. Unfortunately, it still happens today. Funny thing is I never wrote poems about social consciousness before, because I felt that beliefs are beliefs, mine are mine and yours are yours, and nobody cares or is swayed by any of it.  In today’s world, what is going on is something I just couldn’t avoid in my writing. It is important. I tried to not make the work preachy, and more observant from one person’s point of view. Then there are seven other acts dealing with the conflicts of being human: love, loss, family, recovery and food. Never forget food.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Seven years at midnight, without a drink. Some poems and a story written during recovery about recovery

 Usually when I hit a milestone, I have something to say, something to blog about. Each day is the miracle, waking to midnight. Hell, usually I'm in bed by ten, so it's less than one day at a time. So tonight at midnight, on a lazy Sunday it'll be seven years sober. It's such a lazy Sunday I don't want to find the links related to my story but you can either go to the search box on the top right and type in "sober" "alcoholic" "recovery" etc. and get the results. 

To celebrate...here are some previously published work, written during recovery about recovery. I always worried that I couldn't write anything of any worth sober. There is a solution and I'm always willing to help.

The Shutting Door   

We are solid oak doors that shut
on our past, close on dead mothers,
sons, daughters. These doors swell
often, won’t open. One midnight

we walked towards woods, the moss
cold under our toes, as we were,
caught in the light for a moment;
a glimpse of half full. We are dim

lights on dark nights, sending out calls
to the wolves howling at the sun
because the moon hanging there,
yet never seems to hear them.

If I should need to step back to see
how you glow in this light,
illumination, I can be at one with that,
us, growing like violets in the dark

 1. The Shutting Door-Written in 2011 during year one. Originally published in Red Fez Issue 43 as "All the Days And Nights". Also the titicular poem in my book of recovery poems (mostly) published by Ibbetson St. Press 2013. 



When I raised my hand
told a gray room the reasons
I started drinking, I wanted
 to start again immediately.
Told people, whose faces looked like
The End of the World, the truth.

Then I told them I would pour a girl
I’d lusted after, down like whiskey,
her lovely legs spread
until they snapped,
so I could feel like I used
her, an orgasm, I gulped,

running down my neck
like streams of veins.
Oh, I said I never used dope,
when I asked her for it, nicely,
she said,  No, she would never

give it up, just got up, waltzed
out of my life. So I begged:
Please, God, stay with me tonight,
here in this church basement.
Please, I can't picture heaven.

2. Missteps, written very early in sobriety, published March 2012 in Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Also appears in The Shutting Door. A favorite of my friend Christy Marx. RIP .  


It can exist
drink coffee

milk, three sugars,
stirred with a straw.

Sit on the sofa,
legs curled under

view the oil paintings
hung boats and fields

thousands of brush strokes

 3. Sobriety. Written in 2017-published in Chief Jay Strongbow is Real, 2017, Big Table Publishing

But you forgot, To remember

It rains cats and dogs
and images of baby animals
made the blues go away

Billie Holiday scratched
to the end, the needle dragged
never piercing her center, which

was glued on, nevertheless,
I related.  Her story intrigued,
I never understood the song’s

connotation, why the singer’s depths
of despair, strung me along with
desperate notes, desperate measures.

Lady-you once spoke to me,
but never knew me, all the times
I slipped this record into the sleeve

Keep sending me stars and the sea
distant is not an obstacle,
for what I believe.

4. But you Forgot to Remember-written in 2013. Published on the Mass Poetry webpage in 2015. Also published in Chief Jay Strongbow is Real, 2017, Big Table Publishing. Metaphors are badass. 

 Coffee maker 

Al took the job as the coffee maker as the last one person holding that job died. It helped to bolster Al’s sobriety by giving him responsibility. He’d lost more important jobs in his life, but he wasn’t about to lose this one. It was a very important job.

Al would show up at 6:30 in the morning and reconstruct the percolator. Fill the pot up three-quarters of the way with water, then place the stem, basket, canned coffee in, then cover and plug the cord into the socket. The outcome was that the brew was watery and bitter, so most people brought their own to the meeting anyway.

“Hey, old-timer,” Al said to one with a Dunkin’ Donuts cup. “Why not try some of mine. I take this job very seriously.”

“The coffee is terrible here,” he said. “It’s been terrible for years.”

The old-timer was one of the nicer ones. Many of the others that came in drooping would just swear at him or his coffee and Al would internalize it. It made him want to drink vodka instead of coffee, and Al realized how bad it would be if he let that happen.

Al used to own his own business in the real world. It was a moving company where he would supply the truck and help the client out with half the labor. He called his business “Al Co-Haul: Rate Negotiable” and he never realized how his love of booze ended up ruining his business. He found he was drinking more than he was working, which led to his truck being repossessed and him having no income. It was time to turn his life around, but failing at his new job of coffee maker wasn’t helping.

So, as his head cleared up he thought about replacing the crappy brand of coffee. The group’s kitty did not have enough money to pay for the pounds of ground Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, so he looked into ways to roast his own beans. He chose a three step method.

Step 1: Choose a roasting method
Al picked a radiant drum roaster for large amounts of beans. It was symbolic. His life used to simmer and slowly everything would turn and the voices he heard in his head were echoing like sounds in a drum—telling him to drink…drink. The company that made the roaster offered to sponsor Al as long as he mentioned their name once a day during the meeting. He accepted them as a sponsor.

 Step 2: Choose green coffee

 Al used to wake up green in color. He loved that the beans to roast were the exact same color. He asked the company for help in selecting the type of bean, and that was a good step for him to take as well—asking for help.

Step 3: The Roasting Process

            He wanted a dark, rich finished cup of brew, something that went from nothing to a wonderful finished product. He called an expert to help him perfect his beans, and he was open to suggestions.

                                              *   *  *

Al’s addiction ruined his family life. He thought that recovery would fix everything, but instead his wife now resented the fact that all his time was being taken up in his bean roasting job. They would fight about it. “You don’t understand,” he said. “My recovery has to be the most important thing in my life and without that, I can’t be any good at anything else.” His wife was able to let go and walk to another room. She’d been through worse with Al.

Instantly Al’s coffee became a big hit. The early morning meeting was running out of chairs, and no one brought in any outside cups anymore. The word was spreading as more and more people were coming in to get help. Some only needed a small amount of help, such as fixing their inferior types of coffee by drinking Al’s. Many of the folks that came weren’t even alcoholics either.  They were there for the best coffee in town.

The old-timers from the group started to get angry. When the coffee people raised their hands to share their story there was never anything about drinking alcohol, it was more about coffee drinking The former beer and whiskey drinkers were getting out numbered. When they voiced their objections they were told that the fellowship was not there to judge and categorize others. The old-timers began to attend different meetings that they could relate to more and Al began to modestly charge for his drinks and found someone to print fancy designs on the cups. It was remarkable that everyone said he was a changed man.

At Al’s one year celebration, he stood up in front of a packed house. He told them how he succeeded in the coffee business by attending meetings, asking for help, and getting sponsors. Al’s wife presented him with a silver bean, mounted on a chain for him to wear around his neck. He accepted with gratitude and closed by suggesting that every morning begins another day and if ever the job of coffee maker opened up, it would improve someone’s life the same way it had improved his.

5. Coffee Maker. Written on my one year anniversary and published in trnsfer magazine Issue 5-on the 500th day of being sober. Also will appear in the upcoming Every Day There is Something About Elephants, a book of 108 flash fictions. In sobriety it's ok to poke fun at things, as long as you're not taking your recovery for granted. Here I satirized the job of coffee maker in AA and what if the coffee was so damn good, people came to the meetings just for that.  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

200th Dire Literary Series and is it The End?

UPDATE 11/4 December's Dire will happen thanks to The Middle East Restaurant. To see updates, as the series may be changed month to month--- always go to Direreader.com

That's an ominous headline. Is it just click bait? I've known some people that promote that way. You know the gimmick, click-ish, free drink, somewhat of a circus, welcome to me reading series promotion thing.

 Here's one and not to call out this particular series, which I've never heard of, but I did google "reading series drinks" to find it:

 Here they promote laughter, because as people know from dating sites, "we like to laugh", and also they like drinks and jazz. At least poetry is listed first.

Is this really the end to the Dire Literary Series? Say it ain't so, Joe, but my rented home, the Out of the Blue Gallery Too is having financial issues and has to move (but donations are being accepted.)

So here are the possible scenarios:
I have a Dire event on next month December 1, and I'll do my best to find an alternate venue for that one. If the gallery is successful in their move, I'll probably stay with them whenever they are up and running, sometime in 2018 (?). If they are unsuccessful I'll end the Dire, because a new setting would be 1) expensive 2) not guaranteed on a Friday 3) Not guaranteed for anything else for any amount of time (sort of like tenancy at will 4) would probably be a hassle.

So lets enjoy the 200th. It's a great one with
Aaron Tillman
Daniel Hudon
Alexis Paige 

Also it's being held on my birthday but as you read above, I won't use that as a promotional tool--see above but I will let Puddles the Fucking Clown take care of it. It's been one hell of a ride especially if you remember Paul the cop, Murray the tax adjuster, The Match Game feature of Nadine Darling, the Dire BBQ's and the author of S/M.


Does anyone remember the laughter?