A Virtual Poetorium Interview With Poet James R. Scrimgeour

Poet James R. Scrimgeour

People who read this blog regularly may be familiar with the Virtual Poetorium,  a unique monthly online poetry journal in transcript form that is actually the pandemic version of the Poetorium at Starlite, a  live pre-Covid poetry reading series in Southbridge, Massachusetts that was founded and co-hosted by myself and Ron Whittle. One of my favorite aspects of both the Virtual Poetorium and the Poetorium at Starlite are the interviews Ron and I conducted with our featured poets. Today I thought it would be fun and informative to repost in its entirety one of these interviews taken from the Virtual Poetorium for July 28th, 2020 when we questioned—via email—the poet James R. (Jim) Scrimgeour…

James R. Scrimgeour received his BA from Clark University, his MA and PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is Professor Emeritus at Western Connecticut State University. He has served as Editor of Connecticut Review, published ten books of poetry, been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, and given over 250 public readings of his work, including one at an International Conference on Poetry and History, Stirling, Scotland. He has, in addition, participated in NEH Seminars on Modern Poetry at NYU and Princeton and has recently served on panels at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. He currently conducts poetry programs in libraries, both in New Milford CT and in Rockport MA, where he and his wife spend much of their time. His most recent book, Voices of Dogtown: Poems Arising Out of a Ghost Town Landscape (Loom Press, 2019), was listed as a “must read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book and can be purchased at the Loom Press online bookstore by clicking here.

A Virtual Poetorium Interview With Poet James R. Scrimgeour

RON: Paul and I really appreciate you agreeing to do this. You know, Jim, I too, spend as much time on the beaches and shoreline as I can.  Our attachment to the ocean is probably much the same.  I have a great deal of respect and fear of its capabilities, but I also love it. My question is “Was there any single reason that made you fall in love with the ocean?”

JIM: No single reason — don’t think there is a single reason you fall in love with anything (or anyone). Love is more complex than that. But I’ve always been attracted to the ocean (since I first saw it as a kid — love at first sight?) My wife and I have been living at the ocean in Rockport MA for five months of the year for the past nine years, and so it is not surprising that the ocean has seeped into so many of my poems or that my son, who, as you know, also writes poems, said one day: “Dad, haven’t you used up your quota of ocean poems?” And, of course, I had to write another ocean poem to answer his question.

RON: After reading some of your poetry, I couldn’t help but notice how you seamlessly blend history into much of your poetry.   What do you call your style of poetry?

JIM: History is a part of life, and I believe that it is an important task of the poet to keep the past (including the child within us) alive, to provide some continuity between past and present (and our past and current selves). This is a task that I have always taken seriously. As far as style goes, I am who I am. My poetry is what it is.  It is, I believe, my job to write my poems; it’s the critic’s job to try to define my style. I wish him/her all the best.

RON:  You also write as though you were from a different era in time, such as in the Sunset 1904. That must require a considerable amount of research to depict the scene you write about accurately. Is that a fair question to ask?

JIM: I think that any author (poet or prose) has to do the research necessary to create a world that is distinctive, original, and his/her own, a world that the reader may wander around in for a while and maybe even learn something before returning to life in early 21st century America. I hope that I have created such a distinctive original world in all of my books, but especially in the Dogtown one.

RON: Who are your favorite poet or poets and why?

JIM: In alphabetical order:  Emily Dickinson (explosive imagery and word choice) John Keats (musical language — sound and content seamlessly merged) Robert Frost (for being his cantankerous self) Mary Oliver, William Wordsworth and so many others (for experiencing and sharing the divinity in the natural world) William Carlos Williams (for showing that poetry can be found everywhere and in everything) William Butler Yeats (for his musical language, vision and willingness to tackle political issues). There are, of course, many others but I have to stop somewhere.

RON: Being a professor you must have seen a great deal of talent from authors and poets in your classes.  Did you ever teach anyone who went on to be famous? If so who?

JIM: No — I have taught many who went on to prestigious MFA programs (including Iowa, Emerson, and UMass) and who published books of poetry and poems in  well known journals, and are currently teaching at universities, but no one I would call  “famous.”

RON: If you had to chose a book of poetry to tell someone to read, who would be the author and what would be the title of the book?

JIM: It depends on who the someone is. I would recommend different books for different people.  A person should, I believe, begin with poetry that connects with his/her life in some significant way. If I didn’t know a person well enough to make this kind of connection for him/her, I would say “See my answer to the  question about my favorite poets and throw a dart!”

RON: Who was the biggest influence in your becoming a poet?

JIM: My wife has always been my muse, and all of the above mentioned “favorite” poets have been significant influences, but there also have been others, Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, Langston Hughes, Elizabeth Bishop, e.g., come immediately to mind. I don’t think there was a “biggest” — they were/are all big; they were all there when I needed them.

RON: What could you tell us about your own poetry,  I guess what I’m asking you to do is define your work?

JIM: I’m not comfortable with defining my poetry, but I’ll be glad to tell you a little bit about my writing process and my work. Like Monet, I like to work “in plain air.” I like to take my camera, my notebook, my five senses and go out into the natural world “fishing” for poems.  Whenever I come across something odd, unusual or beautiful (or all of the above) I snap a photo or two and then sit down in front of it and write a first draft of a poem in my notebook. Then later, as I revise, tighten, and type it into my computer, I will, if I am lucky, come to a realization as to WHY this experience was significant and then I will have the focus necessary to finish the poem.

RON: Okay…Paul, do you have any questions you’d like to ask Jim?

PAUL: Yes, I do. Thanks, Ron!  Congratulations, Jim, on having your book Voices of Dogtown: Poems Arising out of a Ghost Town Landscape selected as a “must read” by Massachusetts Center for the Book! Could you talk a bit about the history of Dogtown itself and what about it that inspired you to write this book?

JIM: Dogtown is a ghost town located in the highland of Cape Ann, Massachusetts. I became bitten by the Dogtown bug shortly after I first began visiting Cape Ann over 20 years ago; I was especially interested in the lives of the last inhabitants who lived there from the end of the Revolutionary War until 1830 when the last inhabitant was taken, shivering and cold, to the poorhouse. The more I read about them, the more interested I became, and I started to take contemporary walks over this semi-mythical terrain with my notebook and camera in hand. I’m not sure exactly when it was that I began to hear the voices of some of these old settlers speaking to me.

PAUL:  What was your process for writing this particular book like, and did it differ in any way from writing your previous volumes of poetry?

JIM: Many of my previous projects (like my long poem “The Route” in which I retrace the route in modern day Salem that the authorities took my great great great great great great grandmother on when they hanged her as a witch in 1692) involved significant historical research, but, as I see it, the main difference between this book and my previous ones is one of degree, is the amount of historical research involved. I still took my camera, notebook and five senses with me as I strolled the boulder strewn Dogtown terrain, but this book contains a couple of new dimensions — one of ordinary historical research, of course, but another dimension was made possible by my feeling of kinship with all the other poets and writers who had become fascinated with Dogtown over the years. Also, this is the first time that I “channelled” people who had died many years ago and made them an important part of my work. And, one final difference, another important dimension of the Dogtown book is that it contains a perceptive, well-written introduction by Carl Carlsen.

PAUL:  How would you personally define “Poetry” and what do you feel are its most important aspects (imagery, rhythm, word choice, etc.)?

JIM: As noted previously, I usually resist attempting to define my poetry, but here is a working definition: “Poetry is the sharing of significant, valuable, intense human experience.” I believe the most important thing is for a poet to have the courage to share his deepest and most intense feelings openly and honestly with others. Imagery, rhythm (the sound of the language) and precise word choice are all important tools (but only tools) that help the poet say what he/she has to say, that help the poet write his/her stanza in the great poem of the world.

PAUL:   In your many years of writing, have you developed a regular writing routine, and if so, can you describe it to us?

JIM: See my answer to Ron’s question about defining my work for a routine that I have found useful, but some of my strongest poems have arisen suddenly and unexpectedly from many different situations. For example: being assigned to do a lecture on Kafka, talking with my father-in-law over his kitchen table, picking up an old photo of my grandfather, sitting in the waiting room of an urologist’s office, or trying to find a can of chicken soup in a cupboard are a few of the situations that triggered some of my best poems.

PAUL: My final question for you is what advice would you give to someone who is just beginning to write poetry?

JIM: I would advise a beginning poet: 1)  to be very careful with your diction, your selection of words. Keep in mind the words of Mark Twain: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” 2) to ground your poems in actual lived human experience and avoid philosophical abstractions — remember “nesses are messes,” i.e., don’t write about “lonliness,” write about human beings who are lonely, 3) to pay some dues, to spend some time thinking seriously about the ultimate questions of human existence. As Socrates said long ago, the unexamined life is not worth living; as I say today, the unexamined life is not worth writing about, and 4) to keep your senses and your notebook open — wherever you are, wherever you go.

The Virtual Poetorium for June 29, 2021

Although I decided not to post an invitation to participate in the Virtual Poetorium last month on this blog (like I usually do), I thought readers still might be interested in reading the latest edition: https://poetorium.home.blog/virtual-poetorium-june-29-2021/. Warning, it’s a bit weirder and different than our others since instead of having a featured poet who is currently alive, our feature is a long dead one courtesy of an imaginary time machine. I also want to thank my fellow blogger Brad Osborne for once again contributing. I hope you enjoy it!

The Virtual Poetorium Father’s Day Poetry Project

Dear Readers,

I am so pleased to report that our Virtual Poetorium Father’s Day Poetry Project, that I announced earlier on this blog, turned out perhaps even better than I thought it would. In spite of a few glitches with the Zoom invitations and links,  our Father’s Day Poetry Zoom Event, with fourteen poets presenting their original poems (or in one case, a song) about their fathers, was held on June 20th, and quite a success. Although it may be a bit rough and unedited, here is the link to the video recording  of that very special evening: https://youtu.be/BJgYhmocm00. Unfortunately the part near the end where I read our special group ode to Fathers, “Remembering Our Fathers: A Group Ode in Two Parts” (compiled from contributions from eleven poets) turned out a bit garbled, so I’m also including another separate video of myself reading the ode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INgQj9JQ64M. I hope you will enjoy them both, and please feel free to share them with your friends.

I am still working on the Poetorium Father’s Day Poetry Anthology to be posted on the Poetorium website that will include all fourteen poems read at our Zoom event as well as our group ode, but here is a sneak preview for my readers of this blog. This is the finished version of “Remembering Our Fathers: A Group Ode in Two Parts” (you may notice this version is a bit different from the one you hear me read in the videos—I revised the poem after receiving feedback from some of the contributors):

Remembering Our FathersA Group Ode in Two Parts

1. In Hushed Rememberance

I remember my father as a silent presence,
a volcano smoking in the dark,
erupting not often, but memorably—
a presence to keep your eyes on. 

I remember my father now mainly in dreams
(though more and more less frequently),
ones in which he’s behind the wheel 
of our second-hand Ford Granada,
his own eyes on the road ahead, 
while demanding irrevocable quiet
from all the other occupants,
as we drive into deepening darkness
down lonesome one-lane byways.

I remember my father on his 80th birthday
(to grow old is to be drowned out by the cacaphony
of change, as your entire world is dismantled 
all around you). The next day my mother called,
she was crying. He passed away in the hospital
without saying a word. Now cremated, he rests
in sulking stillness on my mother’s bureau in her room…

2. The Braid

I remember my father when I was a child
of eight or nine, trailing him through the cornfield
with my instamatic camera, clicking and clicking the shutter,
the visor of his soiled gray cap turned up,
as I captured what I beieved was the eternal twinkle
in his eyes and a joyous grin animating his face,
but now with hindsight, more likely just
his natural reaction to the harsh rays
of the glaring afternoon sun.

I remember my father’s blue-eyed smile,
his laughing approval, his circling arms
how he walked me up hills holding my hand,
took my picture in the wind. He still has
the moustache, the jawline, the straight shoulders
of a movie star, and the kindest, gentlest heart.
Wine should be sipped he taught us,
a knife respected, the truth told.
And the first kiss after shaving was a gift
only our daddy could bestow.

I remember how our father didn’t have time to stop
to close the driver’s side truck door as he dashed around
loading mowers, filling tanks, changing blades
before hustling out for the next job
but did have time to stop to steal our basketball, show off
footwork in work boots: fake one way, spin, drop
to the other, a beautiful hook shot arcing, falling, kissing
the net, my brother and I cheering in the sun.

I remember my father taking me to Pathmark,
reading all the labels, and teaching me how to shop.
I remember my father teaching me jazz—
asking me to tape five variations of Monk’s Misterioso.
Listening to that tape over and over with Dad,
we were both smiling.

I remember my father—there could be no other—
black-and-white-suited on the train that he commuted.
I remember him on bended knees at his bedside at night,
his familiar plea to the divine above “Please help
us raise the seven children in our family”.

I remember my father for his worthless words,
but also watchful eyes and softest touch,
that he always remembered all my favorites… 
Everything. Every time. My father’s love
seldom spoken, always certain.
I remember my father telling me 
I didn’t owe him anything. I didn’t believe him
until I had a child of my own, long after he had passed.

All these combined memories, the stories of our families
(our interactions intertwined) becomes the braid
we make down through time (father to son or daughter),
the rope we lower or climb that keeps us together.

—Compiled by Paul Szlosek with contributions from Tom EwartMishelle GoodwinHoward J KoganJonathan AndersenCarla SchwartzRob JaretPatricia O’ConnorDee O’ConnorSusan O. Neddand Natasha S. Garnett

I hope you enjoyed reading the Poetorium Group Ode to Fathers, and thank you so much for your continued support of this blog!

An Invitation to Participate in the Virtual Poetorium Father’s Day Poetry Project…

 Dear Readers,

I am so excited to announce that this month, in addition to our regular edition of the Virtual Poetorium,  I am working on a very special poetry project. Although we may be too late for Mother’s Day, there’s still time to celebrate our fathers this year, and so the Poetorium, with the help of my good friend Dee O’Connor, is organizing two ways to do that (and would like to invite you to participate):

1. A Group Ode: To contribute, please send 2-8 lines inspired by the prompt “I Remember My Father” (the phrase may or not be included in the lines). The lines will then be compiled and edited by myself who has prepared many similar group poems for the Poetorium in the past  (bear in mind your lines may be split up and recombined with others to form new stanzas). This ode will be modeled after a similar poem by national poet Kwame Alexander who released “The Ceremony of Giving” on Mother’s Day (you can find his poem and read the full story behind it here @ https://www.bonappetit.com/story/kwame-alexander-mothers-day-community-poem).

2. Father’s Day Virtual Reading: Join us for a poetry reading honoring fathers on June 20th.  Up to 20 poems will be selected and posted in a Father Day’s Poetry Anthology on the Poetorium’s website AND will be read by their authors on Zoom starting at 7:00 p.m. (ET) on Father’s Day.

We’re hoping to have a diverse representation of poets and poetry forms, so please pass this invitation on to anyone anywhere (but especially those living in the Worcester County area of Massachusetts) who may be interested. The group ode, along with up to 20 poems about fathers will be read on the 20th. Please submit one or both of the following either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of your email by June 13th at the latest:

· A poetry stanza inspired by the prompt “I remember my father …”

· One original poem about a father/father figure (be sure to include where your poem has appeared if it was previously published)

You don’t need to submit an entry to participate in the virtual event, but registration in advance is required. To register, please send your name and email address along with any submissions by June 13th to poetorium@mail.com. If you are submitting a contribution to the group ode and/or a poem,  please be sure to include a short bio.

If you have any questions about this special Father’s Day Poetry Project including the group ode, the Zoom reading, the Father’s Day Poetry Anthology to be published on the Poetorium website, or anything else, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.

Thank you so very much for reading, my friends! I appreciate everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope that you will join me and your fellow poets in participating in this special Poetorium Father’s Day Poetry Project!

The Virtual Poetorium for May 25, 2021…

Dear Readers,

Here is the link to the May 25th, 2021 edition of the Virtual Poetorium celebrating  the the second year anniversary of the Poetorium posted last night on the Poetorium website for you to hopefully peruse and enjoy at your leisure: https://poetorium.home.blog/virtual-poetorium-may-25-2021/. As a special bonus, I am also including a link to a video of myself performing this month’s Poetorium group poem “A Multitude of Blessings”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE-HI_wHrLs

However, I have come to a decision not to repost the entire Virtual Poetorium here on this blog like I have done with previous editions in the past, because I feel that in its entirety, it would probably  be too long a read and thus far too overwhelming for most readers. As a result, some really excellent poetry would probably be skipped, and that would be a real shame.  So instead, I will just post the opening poem, which originally appeared in Street Signs: A Worcester Anthology complied by David Nader and published by BatCity Press over twenty years ago. I sincerely hope you like it….

Poet or Stripper

If I ever have a seventeen-year-old daughter,
(I admit the possibility is becoming quite remote)
and one morning, as we are chowing down together
on Pop Tarts and Coca Cola, she tells me
she can’t decide on a career,
wavering between poet and stripper,
I would have to advise her to choose the latter.

Now, not even considering economics,
and I heard a good stripper call pull down
a couple thousand a week, but as a poet,
she’d be lucky to see half that in her lifetime,
stripping is obviously the much more moral,
much less degrading profession.
All you have to expose is skin.
And the audiences are always so enthusiastic and responsive,
filled with respected members of the community,
like businessmen and politicians.

But as a poet, you got to perform
in sleazy run-down dives
reeking of amaretto and hazelnut
and cater to the whims of all those underground,
on the fringe, alternative lifestyle types.
You know who I mean:
Liberal Thinkers,
and the like.
And they are usually so indifferent
to the poor slob on stage.
You practically have to beg them on hands and knees
for them to listen, to pay any attention at all,
and if they do, they are never satisfied.
They keep demanding
“Take it off!!
Take it all off…” –
the pretenses,
the false facades,
the masks you wear in public.

And you oblige, teasingly peeling away
all the layers, one by one
until your soul is laid bare,
your essence revealed
and you’re left standing there
with your psyche hanging out
for a room full of strangers to gawk at.

Well, if you ask me,
you have to be an attention-craving fool
with no self-respect to want to do
a humiliating thing like that.

—Paul Szlosek (from Street Signs: A Worcester Anthology)

Invented Poetry Forms – The Kindku

In today’s post, we will be discussing the Kindku, a newly invented poetry form inspired by both traditional Japanese forms (like the haiku and tanka) and Found Poetry.  Co-created  by Cendrine Marrouat and David Ellis, here are the rules for writing one taken directly from their website, Auroras & Blossoms @ https://abpositiveart.com :

“The Kindku is a short poem of seven lines. The syllable pattern is 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 or 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5.

The Kindku must include seven words that are taken from one specific source — a poem, a book, a newspaper article, etc. In the case of a book or long piece of writing, those words must come from the same page.

Words must be used in the order they were found. Their placement also depends on the line:

  • Line 1 starts with word 1
  • Line 2 ends with word 2
  • Line 3 starts with word 3
  • Line 4 ends with word 4
  • Line 5 starts with word 5
  • Line 6 ends with word 6
  • Line 7 starts or ends with word 7

Kindku poems can have titles and punctuation. No matter the topic covered, they must sport a positive tone.

Kindku poets are encouraged to credit and link to the inspirations behind their pieces.”

I’d also like to add that I was curious if the seven keywords had to be exactly how they appeared in the original source material or could they be in a modified form.  For example, if one of the words was a noun and was plural in the original, could it be singular in your kindku, or if it was a verb in the past tense, are you allowed to use the word in the present tense? I contacted Cendrine, one of the co-inventors of the form, and she told me the words, indeed, have to be exactly as found in the original text (which does make writing a kindku a bit more of a challenge).

Cendrine, also graciously gave me permission to reprint two of the first kindkus ever written (one she wrote, and the other by David, her co-creator) on this blog as examples (I also need to note, if you wish, you can emphasise the seven words taken from the original source material by highlighting them in bold, like Cendrine and David did in the following kindkus, but that is totally optional):

Art Writes Itself

Art writes itself in the heart
before other things;
intent lingers for a while
inviting practice,
lost hope to find a new map.
on this continent
you are the only master.

Kindku inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art

© 2020 Cendrine Marrouat

True Self Remains

Antique, old, not forgotten
Celebrate passions
Heart wants to be filled, always
True self will appear
Mighty are our selfless deeds
Happiness remains
Fear and doubt we chased away.

Kindku inspired by Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias

© 2020 David Ellis

Like in all my posts about poetic forms, I am also including my own humble efforts at writing some for you to use as models. I must confess that I did find the Kindku at first extremely difficult to write. Surprisingly, it wasn’t sticking to the exact syllable counts or word order that gave me problems, but the primary rule about the tone of the poem. I wouldn’t say that my first two attempts (one based on Robert Frost’s “The Witch of Coos” and the other from “The Fish” by Marianne Moore”) were exactly negative in attitude, but I wouldn’t describe them as positive and upbeat either, just rather neutral and detached in tone. According to the Auroras & Blossoms website, one of the main purposes of the kindku is to be “an invitation to promote kindness, positivity and inspiration through poetry” (as you can see, the word “Kind” is even a part of the form’s name), so I must emphasise that in order to write a true kindku, you should try to follow this rule as closely as you possibly can, even though what one considers positive probably varies from person to person. Hopefully, in these later efforts, I was able to achieve that goal, but I will let you, dear reader, be the judge:

Isn’t it Obvious?

Visible things often change
from invisible,
fluctuating in between.
Like a magic charm,
your own sense of perception
detects and opens
surrounding unseen doorways.

Kindku inspired by Marianne Moore’s A Jelly-Fish

All Your Uncertainty (Like the Weather) Will Soon Pass…

Fog creeps across the landscape.
Stealthily, it comes.
Little by little, things fade
(you can’t see your feet).
It seems the world’s dissolving
(so ghostly-looking),
then turns solid once again.

Kindku inspired by Carl Sandburg’s Fog

The Way of the Seasons

Summer simmers like hot soup,
cools into Autumn.
Winter, impatient, waits to
be relieved by Spring,
Sowing snow which will melt to  
feed crops planted and
thriving neath the vernal sun.

Kindku inspired by e. e. cumming’s anyone lived in a pretty how town

There is a technique I discovered while working on the above kindkus that I feel makes them easier to write which may prove helpful to you too. Instead of randomly deciding on which seven words to use beforehand, just go through your source material, and choose a word to begin. As you finish the first line,  scan for a succeeding word that will work in your second as your train of thought develops, and so on and so on, making sure to use the words in the order they appeared in the original work.  You will find this way provides flexibility and flow, and you won’t be forced to stick in a predetermined word that just won’t fit in your poem.

If you are like me, you may even find that writing kindkus will become addictive. As you grow more confident in writing them, here is a variant you might like to try using an entire (or partial) line from one of your favorite works (be it a poem, a song, a short, a quotation, etc.) as the source of your seven words. For an example, one of my favorite lines ever from poetry is the final line of “Refrigerator, 1957” by Thomas Lux – “You do not eat that which rips your heart with joy.” Using its last seven words, I came up with the following (which I found quite pleasing):

What’s That?

That unexpected feeling 
in your stomach (which
rips away complacency,
thoughts of despair), your
heart pounding in pure delight
(each thump pulsing with
love), is known, dear friends, as “Joy“…

Kindku inspired by Thomas Lux’s Refrigerator, 1957

So I hope you enjoyed today’s post on the Kindku, and will try writing some for yourself (it is a wonderful way to pay tribute to some of your favorite poems or other written works). Remember, even if you do find the rules a bit restrictive and intimidating at first, don’t give up. Keep going, and I can almost guarantee you’ll be more than satisfied with your results. And please don’t be shy about sharing them, either with me, or the kind folks at Auroras & Blossoms. I am sure they will be thrilled to see them!

An Invitation to Participate in the Virtual Poetorium for May 25th, 2021…

Dear Readers,

I am pleased to announce that this month’s Virtual Poetorium will be marking the second year anniversary of the Poetorium (some of you might be a bit puzzled right now, thinking “Wait a minute, Paul, didn’t you guys just have a first anniversary edition this March?” Well, yes, we did, but that was celebrating the anniversary of the Virtual Poetorium, while this month will be two years since we  launched the very first live Poetorium show at the Starlite Bar & Gallery in Southbridge, Massachusetts on May 28th, 2019).  I am happy to say our featured poet for this month’s edition will be fittingly the person who started it all – our very own Poetorium co-founder and co-host, Ron Whittle

Like I did in previous months, we’d like to once again open up this May’s Virtual Poetorium for anyone who would like to participate and invite all my fellow bloggers and faithful readers (or just anyone just happening to read this) to be a part of our unique online poetry gathering in print. However, I have come to a decision not to repost the entire Virtual Poetorium here on this blog like I have done in the past, but instead just post a link to the Poetorium website so you can read it there if you like. I feel the Virtual Poetorium in its entirety is probably too long a read and thus too overwhelming for most readers. As a result, some really excellent poetry will probably be skipped, and that would be a real shame. So as a solution, I hope to break this edition of the Poetorium (as well as others) up into more easily digestible segments, and perhaps post them here sometime in the near future. 

To be part of our virtual open mic this month, please send us one of your own original poems or stories (under 2000 words please) either in a Word document file or pasted in the body of an email along with your name, any opening remarks you care to make, and where your poem has appeared if it was previously published to poetorium@mail.com  by Friday, May 22nd. Also if you like, you can send us a photo of yourself to be posted above your poem, but that is totally optional.

Once again, we also need contributions to the Poetorium Group poem which this month will be tentatively titled “A Multitude of Blessings” To participate, please send us a blessing (or a wish) consisting of one to six lines with the first line starting with the word “May” such as “May you always have peace in your heart.” or “May your smile be your umbrella.”.  All contributions (which will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested) will be compiled to create our group poem which be included in this month’s Virtual Poetorium. Once again, the deadline for submissions is the night of Friday, May 22nd.

For this month’s Poetorium writing form challenge, you are all invited to write an American Sentence, a poetry form invented by the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in the mid-1980’s as a twist on traditional haiku. Like haiku, American Sentences consist of 17 syllables, but instead of being arranged into three lines, they are written as a single line or sentence. They also may or may not have a title.  As far as the other rules of the form, there seems to be varying opinions. Many seem to feel the poem should be just one complete grammatical sentence, while others have written them as two, three, or four or even just as series of phrases. Paul E. Nelson (the poet most associated with the American Sentence, besides Ginsberg) emphasizes the use of concrete images though ones written by others often deal with abstractions. Ginsberg, himself, stated that the poem, if possible should mention either a time or place (or both) and the use of articles such as “a” and “the” should be avoided. But even he didn’t always follow the last suggestion as seen in these four of the original American Sentences composed by Ginsberg:

Nov 1991 N.Y.

Put my tie on in a taxi, short of breath, rushing to meditate

—Allen Ginsberg

Tompkins Square Lower East Side N.Y.

Four skinheads stand in the streetlight rain chatting under an umbrella

—Allen Ginsberg

On Hearing the Muezzin Cry Allah Akbar While Visiting the Pythian Oracle at Didyma Toward the End of the Second Millennium

At sunset Apollo’s columns echo with the bawl of the One God

—Allen Ginsberg

Approaching Seoul by Bus in Heavy Rain

Get used to your body, forget you were born, suddenly you got to get out!

—Allen Ginsberg

In comparison, here are four American Sentences I wrote that originally appeared on this blog:

Boulevard Diner

The ham slices squeal on the smoking grill like the ghosts of dying pigs

The Sad Truth About Aging

To grow old is to witness your world being dismantled around you

The Gambler’s Mantra

Luck is a middle finger waved in the face of probability

An Urban Stroll a Week After a Winter Storm

Propelled by my feet, chunks of frozen snow skitter down gritty sidewalks

Using the above poems as models, please try writing some for yourself and send us your best efforts by Friday, May 22nd to be included in this month’s Virtual Poetorium.

If you have any questions about submitting to the virtual open mic, the group Poetorium poem, the writing challenge, or anything else about the Virtual Poetorium itself, please leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to answer them right away.

Thank you so very much for reading, my friends! I treasure everyone’s continued support of this blog, and hope to hear from you soon with your contributions to this month’s edition of the Virtual Poetorium!

The Virtual Poetorium For April 27th, 2021

Dear Readers,

Here is the April 27th, 2021 Virtual Poetorium reposted from the Poetorium website @ poetorium.home.blog. I want to thank my fellow bloggers Brad Osborne & Diane Puterbaugh for graciously accepting the invitation to participate which I previously posted on this blog. As as extra special bonus, I am also including including a link to a video of myself performing this month’s Poetorium group poem ” Well, Just What Is a Poem, Anyway?” here. I hope you will enjoy both my performance and this edition of the Poetorium…


The Virtual Poetorium April 27, 2021

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Ron Whittle

RON: Hey, hello everybody! Now that everyone has found a seat, it’s time again for me to start the Poetorium show. Believe it or not, this will be the ninth of our pandemic series (the tenth, if you count the special holiday Ho-hoetorium that Paul baked up last December). And speaking of baking, you’ll find Anne Marie Lucci, the Poetorium’s official caterer, really outdid herself this evening with her delicious freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. If you haven’t tried one, you better get one soon before I gobble them all up. So tonight we have as our guest speaker Eugenie Steinman, an amazing poet, all the way from the West Coast. Genie has graced the Poetorium stage before in previous virtual open mics, so if you are a regular, you might remember her. I have no doubt that we’re all going to love her feature!

Once again, I am going to dispense with the rules of the show. I believe we all know what they are by now. And as I usually do, I’m going to kick off the show with one of my own poems…

Between January and March

About the only thing
you can count on in February
is Valentines day
red red roses, a box of chocolates
and twenty-eight days to the month
The weather is iffy
Could be snow 
Could be cold
Hell, it might even rain
The sun only shines
when it’s raining
on the west coast
and the mock laughter
is on the east coast
Winter isn’t over 
not by a long shot
and it has no bearing on 
whoever sees there
shadow and for how long
Winter’s length is only 
determined by the length
of the icicles that
hang on the roof eaves
of airports and the wings
of airplanes readying 
their seasonal flights south
so says the farmer’s almanac
I’ve never known spring
in New England to arrive
until long after February is gone
and the icicles and my
thermal underwear, have been
put away in the closet
for yet another year
We keep the snow shovels out
because you can never trust
the weatherman’s predictions in March
when a dusting could be a foot and a half
of the white stuff

—Ron Whittle (2021)

Okay, Paul, its time to once again for you to do your spiel, the microphone is all yours…

PAUL: Thanks so much, Ron! I think tonight I am going to take a cue from you, and keep it short and sweet, skipping the “Mystery Poet” segment I usually present at this time, so we can hurry up and bring Eugenie Steinman up to the stage for her interview and feature. But before we do, I’d like to let you know a little more about Genie…

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Eugenie Steinman

Eugenie Steinman, originally a native of Brooklyn, New York, but now living in Northern California, is a  poet, former teacher, radio programmer, and the host of both the popular call-in radio program Radio Jail as well as the Poetry and Prose show (part of the Word Weaver radio series) on KPFZ 88.1 FM, Lake County Community Radio in Lakeport, California. Her first book Persimmon: Poems and Recipes, a collection of poems about people, places, and the beyond with corresponding recipes has been reprinted twice (first in 2008, then as an e-book in 2011). Eugenie is currently working on her second, Chinese Apples.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together and give a big Virtual Poetorium welcome to Eugenie Steinman!

RON: Welcome to the Poetorium stage, Genie! Please take a seat, and make yourself comfortable. The reason we interview the guest speaker at the beginning of the show is to let our audience get to know them a bit better before we hear their work.  So with that in mind, here is my first question for you tonight … Who is Eugenie Steinman?

EUGENIE: Who am I? Well, I call myself the president of the Bleeding Heart Liberal Party – a joke that kinda describes me. I live alone in the woods here in north California. I am a loner who will go to a party any chance I get. My friends and I agree on one thing. Let’s have fun. And make things better for the needy people, e.g., we make food and have free meals in the park.

RON: Could you please tell us a bit about about Radio Jail, the radio program you host, such as why and how it first got started?

EUGENIE: I have always wanted to help those who need help. I taught poetry in our local schools until I realized that the children who could benefit the most were in our local juvenile hall. That’s where I taught poetry for seven years. I had been a programmer on KPFZ for several years when I heard about a program in Texas where people could call into a jail. I knew I had to do that with my time on the air. Andy Weiss, the Station Master, and I streamed that show. We knew ours would be different. Jail is not a joke and we would not present it that way. With Andy’s support, my next task was to convince our sheriff. After many pleading phone calls, he let it happen as did his successor! This was an impossible dream. It couldn’t really happen and it did. It’s been almost ten years. This show is more meaningful than I could have imagined. Inmates write from jail telling how important the calls are that come in every Sunday from their friends and families. It changes the jail experience for the better. People I meet recognize my voice and thank me. It’s a one way conversation, but they make contact and reassure inmates that they are there for them and love them. Every call has the word love in it. Many calls are from ex-inmates who say they miss them. “I’m doing great there’s lots of work out here. I’m making decent bucks. Call me when you get out.” Or they will even say “I put money on your books” which means inmates can go to the commissary for a treat. I say I am filling a need, my need. I am thankful to be doing Radio Jail. This show can be streamed live every Sunday 6pm-7pm Pacific Time at http://www.KPFZ.org. My son Rob Jaret developed a podcast which can be accessed through Facebook.

RON:  What do you call the type of poetry that you write?

EUGENIE: My poems are spontaneous. I am really not a disciplined person. When I feel a love that I have to share, a poem arrives. For example, one I wrote for Queen Elizabeth which I will include. One I wrote for my sister “To Diane“. I love science and several short poems I hope express that I sometimes have a thought or an idea that I need to share. That comes out in poems I feel are liberating, e.g. “Asana”, “To Mind”. When I found out that Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe actually met, I had to write a poem about what I imagined took place that’s called “Le Rendezvous”. So I guess I call my poetry “spontaneous”. They are inspired by love, liberating ideas, and need to comment. I don’t actually plan to write a poem.

RON: Who are your favorite poets, and why?

EUGENIE: I like Allan Ginsberg for his clear crisp observations, e.g., a bird perched on a cross atop of the roof on the church across from his apartment. I like Robert Frost’s “Mending Fences” because in a class I can use it for interpretation, e.g., “How does Robert Frost feel about fences?” I like e.e. cummings for his good cheer and blatant disregard for capital letters.

RON: What is your favorite poem (this could be one of yours or someone else’s)?

EUGENIE: Rumi’s The Guest House. Taking on the mind, I appreciate that endeavor.

RON: What is your favorite recipe from your book Persimmon: Poems and Recipes?

EUGENIE: My favorite recipe from Persimmon is Cashew Soup. Cashews are the base. My friends love it!

RON: Do you have any other books available?

EUGENIE: I have no other books available yet, but I’m working on Chinese Apples.

RON: Paul, do you have any questions you would like to ask Genie?

PAUL: Yes, thanks, Ron, I do… Genie, how and when did you first get started writing poetry?

EUGENIE: I was about 25 when I wrote my first poem. It was about a woman who came to visit my mom and she seemed like a caring person. I sent it to Seventeen magazine, and they sent me a nice letter, but they didn’t print it.

PAUL: As you probably know, Ron and I definitely consider you as a vital part of our Poetorium family, but do you have another community or group of poets & writers that you belong to back in California, or is writing poetry for you mainly a solitary endeavor?

EUGENIE: I belong to the Writers’ Circle. We meet once a month at the Lake County Arts Council. At first, I attended to recruit writers for my Word Weavers radio show Poetry and Prose. Then I became a participant. It is so much fun! At first, we are given a subject and for ten minutes we write about that. Then people read their work. Only positive criticism is given. I am amazed at the dedication these people have to their writing. They are serious writers who diligently work every day. They make inspiring guests for my show.

PAUL: What do you feel is your primary motivation for writing?

EUGENIE: I think I am motivated by my need to communicate, and by my interest in Buddha and books about him, and a Sutra – the Lankavitsra Sutra.

PAUL: Could you tell us something about your process for writing a poem (especially how you usually begin)?

EUGENIE: I have an idea [for the poem] usually while walking in the woods near where I live, or while running like “Time and Space”. The poem is in my head before I write it. “The Third World Rides the Subway” was written on the Subway. I am also motivated by an idea, and when that happens, I have a need to tell people about this thought, e.g,. “The Baby.” Or if I love or admire a person, I have to write a poem about that person, e.g., “The Practically Perfect John Kirby”.

PAUL: I guess my final question of the evening for you, Genie, is do you have any advice for beginning poets?

EUGENIE: I tell a writer to always have a pen and paper without failure. And there is no such thing as writer’s block. Write anything, just write. [Write] a list of your favorite words or simple rhymes. As long as you’re writing, there is no block.

PAUL: Wow! That is great advice! So unless someone in the audience has another question… no?…well then, I guess that concludes our interview for tonight. Genie, you were fantastic! Thank you so much for such thoughtful and engaging  answers. Now, everyone, let us put our hands together and give our featured poet Eugenie Steinman a humongous round of applause while she walks to the podium to present her poetry…

EUGENIE: I was really excited to hear about the meeting [between Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein], and I feel the characterization of Einstein was informative.The Freudian slip in the beginning showed his desire is alive. Yet he had to identify the Reaction in scientific terms first. Well, we know he is an energy freak. He was able to accept no answer, and change what he thought he knew.
And he has students who he cares for…

Le Rendezvous

It’s been said through the ages, you will find
The more beautiful the woman, the more she’ll seek the perfect mind.
Logically Marilyn, beautiful to the core,
Said, “There’s only one man in this whole world who will not be a bore.”
She put In a call to to Einstein, who happily said
”Of course you can come to visit me to get Into my bed…
I mean head, I mean head.”
When Marilyn entered his study, there was Bim Bam Boom all around.
Though Albert was happy to see her, he had to identify the force that was sweeping him off the ground.
He sat down at his table where letters and numbers abound,
But even his favorite formula did nothing but confound.
“I cannot find the answer, nothing will equate,
This must be some kind of an incalculable state.”
He threw away his papers, into the fire went his pen.
He sat down next to Marilyn and said, “This must be the end.
Notify my students. I don’t want to let them hang.
Tell ’em from everything I can gather, it all seems to end with a bang.”

—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)


Listen, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve caught the greatest catch.
You have run the distance, you have won the match.
You can go where the mind can’t go, where there is no shadow.
You can go where the mind can’t go,
Beyond the shadow of a doubt.

—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)


Buddha sat under the enlightenment tree,
and said,”Something is going to happen to me,
And until something does happen to me ,
I won’t eat or sleep, just sit under this tree.
Then all of a sudden, he saw so clearly
What some of us have yet to see,
That the birds and the flowers and all creatures have as much personality
As you, me, and he.
At last, he said, “Something has happened to me.
To think I can see what I could not see.
The people all said, “Who is he?
He says he’s enlightened, who would agree?”
“The earth,” said he.
”And so will the tree.”

—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)

Time and Space

Running along the lake side
When the redbud blossoms
Where the mallards reside
When Konocti disappears from view
For another curve or two
When the sun is barely over the eastern hill
Where I can see the blackbird’s red wing quill
When the purple iris and the wild flower match
When new duck eggs are about to hatch
Where as I keep running I elongate the place
When summer comes closer as I continue to race.
The earth and I run through space
And time is the measurement of the pace.

— Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes*)

*Originally published in the Lake County Record-Bee


One day when I went to see mother to talk about what’s new,
She said, “Look out the window, do you see a garden view?
That lot belongs to Richard. There are apple trees, take what you need.“
Mother looked at Richard, and Richard agreed.
On an afternoon in November, I went there just to be
Among the apples, grapes, and walnuts,
And under the persimmon tree.
Veiled by branches of persimmons looking out from under the tree,
I saw a Garden of Eden surrounding me.
There I tasted an apple,
No snake predicted my doom,
It is truly Eden where there’s not a hint of gloom.

— Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)

To the Queen

I know she’d be the Queen
If her father had never been King. 

I know by the way she treated the intruder,
So loving. 

I know because she chose Bob Geldof for honoring.

And because she’s against apartheid,
Even if it means sanctioning. 

Her crown does not symbolize riches,
But that humanity is the thing.

I know that she’d be the Queen,
Had she never known a King. 

—Eugenie Steinman (from Persimmon: Poems and Recipes)

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An Official Letter From Buckingham Palace Sent in Response to Eugenie’s poem “To the Queen”

I was taking a walk when it occurred to me that there may be a shared space between the unborn and those who die. The following poem “The Baby” was never published anywhere, but will be in my book Chinese Apples, another poetry and recipes book…

The Baby

I always wondered where people go when they die.
I ask those who are supposed to know, but they could only opine.
I figured I better go straight down the line
and ask someone who recently came
from a place that may be the same.
To the baby, I said, ”Do you have any recollection
of where you were before your conception?“
She giggled and gurgled and with a face full of drool,
looked at me as though I’d never been to school.
She lifted her arms. I held the little dear
with her cheek next to my cheek, her mouth to my ear.
She said in a voice surprisingly clear,
“I’ve always been here..”
Back in her crib, she gave her mobile a kick.
I said, ”That’s a good trick.”
She said, ”Bye-bye.”

—Eugenie Steinman

PAUL: Thank you ever so much, Genie. That was really fantastic! Everyone, now let’s show our appreciation for her amazing feature, and give a rousing round of applause for Eugenie Steinman!

Okay, it’s now that time once again to present this month’s Poetorium group poem. This month, in order to keep it fresh, we changed it up a bit, and asked people to send us three separate lines with each starting with the phrase “A Poem Is… “.  The end word of each of their lines also had to rhyme with the words ” tea” or “fee”.  The reason we requested three separate lines was in case we received duplicate or very similar lines and needed to make substitutions. It turned out I had a bit of foresight, because we ended up getting a lot of similar lines using the same end words, for example, six lines ending with the word “free” and two with “Waikiki”. I also decided to edit a few of the lines such as changing “The Poem can…” to “A poem is…”  to keep the lines uniform, or substituting synonyms such as “liberty” and “released from captivity” for “set free”, as well as making other alterations such as merging two short lines into one.  I do apologize for this, but be assured, I used at least one line from every contributor (if not all three). Actually, I am very pleased with the way the poem turned out (and hope you will be too), and want to thank all the contributors including Diane Puterbaugh and her husband Ron (whom Diane told me also “wanted to get in on the act”), Dwayne Szlosek, Joan Erickson, Karen Warinsky, Brad Osborne, Mishelle Goodwin, and Howard J Kogan, along with the others who wish to remain anonymous.

So here now is the finished Poetorium group poem….

Well, Just What Is a Poem, Anyway?

A poem is a melody,  a song to be.
A poem is a dream set free.
A poem is a passageway to liberty.

A poem is often read while sipping tea.
A poem is a little brie, glass of chablis read on my deck in West Tennessee.
A poem is warm bread, we’ll all agree.

A poem is best composed by the sea.
A poem is a word jubilee best read on the beach in Waikiki.
A poem is a force pulling on the human spirit like gravity.

A poem is always giving like a gift when it is given freely.
A poem is being put up and taken down every year like a Christmas tree.
A poem is like putting up a decoration that you’re meant to see.

A poem is pleasing to a large degree.
A poem is a vital respite from the troubles of a harsh reality.
A poem is a window to the soul, or possibly a colloquy.

A poem is often about a memory.
A poem is walking through the woods one day, and seeing this serpent lunge at me.
A poem is literately a literary lock, and the reader’s mind is the key.

A poem is like the scream of a banshee.
A poem is wild words tamed in the poet’s head, then released from captivity.
A poem is dangerous sport like slipping and sliding on only one ski.

A poem is a flower whose best friend is a bee.
A poem is a solitary heart’s soliloquy.
A poem is linguistic calm amidst verbal calamity.

A poem is sometimes written from sorrow, but sometimes from glee.
A poem is often someone’s sole outlet for creativity.
A poem is (for all intents and purposes) a single unit of poetry…

Normally, we would be taking a short intermission at this time in the show, but tonight we are going to do like we did last month and completely skip it. So onward and forward…

Ron will be beginning the virtual open mic in just a few minutes, but first, I’ll be presenting the submissions we received for this month’s Poetorium Writing Challenge, the segment of the Virtual Poetorium in which each month we challenge you to write in a different flash fiction or poetic form. This month’s challenge was to write some New-Style Twitterature, which are short stories written in 280 characters or less (for our purposes, this includes letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, but not spaces) – the same limit length of the most recent version of a tweet (as an alternative, you could also write Old-Style Twitterature which are just 140 characters or less  which was the length of a tweet before Twitter changed the rules). Like a lot of flash fiction forms, twitterature may or may not have a title.

Unlike the contributions for this month’s group poem, we received very few submissions (just four, including one by myself). The sole example of old-style twitterature was from longtime Poetorium regular, Dwayne Szlosek

The Origin of the American Revolution

The British are coming, the British are coming.
They want to tax my tea for a fee, bad British just wanting my fee..

—Dwayne Szlosek

Brad Osborne kindly sent us some untitled new-style twitterature:

Aoccdrnig to a uinervtisy study, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

—Brad Osborne

Karen Warinsky’s submission was in the new style and with a title:

Turn Around

Broad daylight, 3 p.m., and the second- hand furniture store was closed. Disappointed, walking back to my car a voice said, “Turn around.” “That’s odd,” I thought. Then louder. “TURN AROUND!”

Spinning about I saw a man coming at me, crazy grin on his face. I danced away, kept my purse, and he walked up the hill.

—-Karen Warinsky

And last and least, here is my own humble effort…

An Ever-Present Scent of Artemisia

I’ve heard tales of ghostly creatures, a phantom dog, cat, or even horse, but I believe I’m the first to be haunted by wormwood, an herb. I keep glimpsing those velvety green-grey stalks that grew in my granny’s garden out of the corner of my eye. Each day I wake with that familiar bitter acrid taste on my tongue and a craving for absinthe…

—Paul Szlosek

Thank you so much Karen, Brad, and Dwayne for your submissions and keeping the Poetorium Form Writing Challenge alive!

Now please welcome, Ron Whittle, back to the Poetorium stage so he can host our open mic…

RON: Thanks, Paul! As you probably know, I usually begin the open mic with a poem of own. Tonight is not going to be any different…

Don’t Leave Anything Unattended –
The Stars Are Always Looking
For Souvenirs

I knew better than to share my secret
The moon can never be trusted
Once I told him how beautiful you are!
and every night since the stars
come out, just to take a peek at you
If you listen closely you can
hear them whispering in agreement
with one another
Every once in a while
one or more will shoot on by 
just to get a closer look
and later on, tell their tales
of wonderfulness
Please, I beg of you
Close your curtains at night 
just as a precaution
as they gather in your front yard
while you sleep, just to worship
the universe you walk on

I heard they take photographs
and God only knows what they do with them

—Ron Whittle (2021)

First up on the open mic is Joe Fusco…

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Joe Fusco Jr.


The Good-Humor Man
(for Jack McCarthy)

When the Good-Humor ice cream truck drove slowly
by our triple-decker, my Dad would often challenge
my cousin Alex and me.

If we could catch three balls in a row that he would
throw to us in the backyard, he’d buy us ice cream.

He always threw the first ball right at one of us.

The second toss was always difficult to catch
but well within the range of two athletic ten-year-old boys.

He would then launch the third ball over the fence
into our neighbor’s garden or just drop it casually by his feet.

Alex and I would loudly lament the unfairness of the third throw
but Dad would chuckle and say the same words:

“Getting you ready for the real world.”

One Saturday afternoon, my cousin anticipated the third throw
would be a long toss, ran through the neighbor’s fence,
and caught the tennis-ball while sprawled in her garden.

Alex had a toasted-almond ice-cream bar
and I enjoyed a strawberry-shortcake.

Dad never played the three-ball challenge with us again.

—Joe Fusco Jr.

RON: Next up is Dwayne Szlosek…

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Dwayne Szlosek

DWAYNE: Before I present my own piece,  I’d like to do a poem written by my late mom, Hazel Szlosek:  

I Was a Cat…

I was a cat.
Then I was a rat.
Then I found a bat,
so I can hit the cat
and squish him flat
to stuff him underneath the welcome mat.
Then once I did all that, 
I think I will pay a fee
for some tea,
and that is that…
—Hazel Szlosek
And now, here is the latest installment of Nine Gun Billy…

Nine Gun Billy #3

It’s the day after. I clarified my killing with the sheriff of Brownwood.
The barkeeper said it was a fair fight. I also found out the owner of the saloon
did not like Lucky or Bison, he was glad that they were both dead.
They never paid for their drinks. They owed 4 dollars and 35 cents to the saloon.
I sold Lucky’s and Bison’s horses and saddles, I took what money
they had between them, it was 45 dollars. I decided to pay the bill
that Lucky and Bison owed. The bartender was grateful.

I started to head back to Frisbee, back to the family ranch.
Along the way, I thought about Bison, a clean cut and shaved man.
A scar across his forehead like if someone tried to cut his head off
sometime ago. He wore a brown derby for a hat, a dusty white shirt,
black pair of pants, and black shoes. He was a thin man, very tall
with  white pearly teeth.  He looked like he was in his early twenties.

It took me 7 days to get back home. Once there, I saw my shed
that did not burn to the ground. I cleaned it out, set up a bed inside to sleep in.
Once I settled in, I knew I had to get ready for a fight by getting good with my pistols.
I had to learn to shoot, my life depended on it. Because once they know I killed
two of their friends, they will be gunning for me…

Nine Gun Billy

—Dwayne Szlosek (Copyright 04\08\2021)

I hope you all like “NINE GUN BILLY”. There is still more to come…

RON: Now please welcome Mishelle Goodwin to the Poetorium podium…


The Affair of Butt Kiss and Turkeys

He is bad. I only destroyed his pride and rewind his ego only if I had that ego. It was too late. It was not meant to be watching on the machine, the noise took me as I continued. I kept betraying him. What would he do then? I couldn’t leave him there. I remembered when it was our back yard where we played games, it was so easy until then. I did not really care.

With the statement Boone and “She is too young to have sex” and too young too cheat. Instead she would run off to go to see me, Gallian, instead. To the last chance – a scene. “Breaking the bank” Terrorizing Japan, Tokyo, and China. Instantly is partying with the president , while having sex, and Miami-vice encounters the same hubbub.

Meanwhile there is nothing but Acer is a loser. By breathing fire and putting it out. Acer did not like them; it gave him too much power over them and disturbed him as a person, a whole person who was as a man. You could do wonders just by being yourself and not to worry what someone else did. Crimes were hate crimes just trying to start when I finished. On your own you are impossible to finish and can become impossible but where did you go for help?

But Kick is in charge of the duty roasters. Making jokes all day long for three months makes you feel like giving someone a knuckle-sandwich as well as a total disaster. A joke of the man outside on the porch was living with three blondes that want to play hookie and likes playing hockey. Decides to kill him on sight.

While he is in his study he hears a knocking of his cellar door. It doesn’t say much to start it up. When both mom and Dad can learn how to take two weeks to Paris. Both they love us and the same while some things cannot change. I do love “you don’t I. “ Great news-The program came with the equipment. Telling whether the contents should be used.

He meanwhile is telling about snakes and monks, apes, and other monks can wish them to steal if you do not exchange them all.  A form against what comes within him to win. Sometimes we’re going to earth after the death star puts out a fire so that they won together. Should they go there, Rome it got kicked out and put out a fire.

Jousting and putting them out onto the sales floor every day 9-2 pm. While all of the clothes were on a 50% sale rack. Also not a very good one but it would do. For now anyways. More than likely he said “ Thanks” for putting the padlocked into and shipping them out.  Maybe laying low would work for them and now. U R not scared.

Without realizing a robotics drone bot is the cause of a fifty million heist. As well as the disturbance over the loss of appetite. Always lying in the sun. It was just his style, Torture! How much more can I take before I realize trying to relax? I live for hating her and missing you. Makes you wish that you can “ When hell freezes over”

Over and you’re eating jelly beans black rum good try one . Eating ice cream with a spoon  until it is all gone. Love isn’t enough it never is. I’m just so sick and tired of all of this sex a Clambake. “Pass” then go hungry. and not another word. If your death is not horrible then who is she? Mangled by a car, stubbing your toe, and having a cramp in your foot is your lumbago to cause you to even to look like a slob not lunging around outside.

Like forgetting to look like a crook, ever again. You don’t and can’t give a fuck in this facility this house. or  the other house. Telling them you don’t. “ Want a marshmallow” Watching the news, “It fits our life.” It is our problem. Another dirty rotten Mother F****r that is mistaken for our girl friend. Thursday left and venture always the same and starting to get real?

Finally it’s gone, swearing then saying,

“That is ok she won’t get two there. A turkey in three of them if you had too. Needing to feel better and the other at home. The death at 9am.  Put me in a bad mood or call for my help. Let me help you.”

Although the Queen’s death never went lightly because she never knew him before his own death. Nobody ever told you and I had building 19. Working there I broke my nose, my glasses, and a cheese cake. Oh, Boy, here the cookies that I made for my mom. So don’t take or put my love on a shelf called 6 dollar.

He should have kept his mouth shut. To X’s and O’s. It is not too sweet and you should have kept that lover for yourself. Why? The # 1 reason is revenge over the special person in your life. So sludge here you are. OH; My new wallpaper and you wonder why I blow your brains out and like to see the new me and is even a stupid mother to want to take those bad boys on.

“ Hey, That N****r is Rich!” What will I think of next? He is in the middle of reading a book, cooking supper, and watching the news. He’s a crime. Damn him can’t stay out of trouble for one minute. And if I can’t get it back I’ll be swindled. Be good, no blowing jobs all day today. O.K, Oakey Do key Pops. What do you have in mind? Something I want to do, We’ll meet her somewhere.  Then we can beat him up that’s how.

It doesn’t matter Macbeth. You don’t believe in me at all. If they did I would not be here. Don’t like it do you? Maw, it’s lonely and nothing to do. Only watching T.V., listening to music, cooking, and activities during the day. But that’s like therapy.

I mean what do you do during the day? Like I said. I guess you could say I clean the house. Why? Curious that’s all. OK. talk to you later. I hope you feel better. We don’t need any more accidents. Especially around this time of year. OK, Pops, later. He pulled up in his Vega the one he built himself. Next to me he needed help. I did not respond. I ignored him then it was late. I walked past that home too many times. I did not expect it then. Now I panic. I took out my gun, put it on silent and loaded it repeatedly. Shooting them calling out they octroyed. Thinking to be like they would be one more round alone.

He was just curious making sure that he himself gets that chance some day. He did not respond; it was only a dream. My guns were still and loaded. I had to make it back. Hated leaving them here. After everything they did. The only thing was when i made it back the lights were on and if this was the chance i had i took it. They would not come back; they had a curse and I was going to play it all.

Hating those bastards it was really them where I left it. Dick is just tired, cold, and nowhere it makes me angry. That way some body could know how. Not me. Silence Henry and a foreigner who had come bye saw him the night before last. So how many times does he take the bull and they get the shit. I was wondering why it was fun but did they know how to do anything else.

Just left as taking up a request. Sex huh. What you do best, well your best was never enough. Henry went to jail. Just last night. Dad stopped, bye. I was making a living that was just their style until they met death, maybe a veggie sandwich. Why, Henry fancy meeting you hear. Well it was a painting of Madonna painted in charcoal. Yuta be on my wall. Good luck in everything you do nursing you do? Wild horses drive yah nuts. She got what it takes with a body of a venues demolished. What Cha thought made them myself when he was getting dressed his aunt did that’s how fights started. Actually he figured as much. I was selling what he was buying and that is not all folks. Picked up on my planetoid you need a chance and maybe next time keeping a simply kissed her life back to reality. Anytime danger sounds like giving. Welcome to my place. He doesn’t live like that but he might get you there.

Henry tries crazy. Actually it was ornery like a war on the highway with the gang. As Henry braces himself and he turns his head and slowly keeps driving. Henry gets punched in the face and the patrol car’s officers grab at a bunch of kids when his song comes on the radio. Henry just finished his coffee. Needs to use when he gets home he thinks to himself Get The F T and totally forgets to meet friends and family when he was supposed to. Dragging a body from the lake, “yup you did this why well I had to say an unkind word to the cooks uses dental floss and just because I built my own private bathroom, I just pulled over and he gets a ticket.”

—Mishelle Goodwin

RON: Our next poet will be Diane Puterbaugh…

DIANE: Hi! I am Diane Puterbaugh, and I live in Jackson, Tennessee, where I just planted tomato plants and dahlias while continuing my grandmother’s wishful chant, “Now you dear things grow.”

This poem first appeared in Visitant Lit. in August 2019…

Toast With Jam

Toast with jam is bread with berries.
Browned bread with boiled berries
is toast with jam. Browned bread
with boiled berries is breakfast.
Bread toasted turns brown. Berries
boiled turn brilliant. Toasted brown bread
with brilliant boiled berries is breakfast.

The gold finch is green in the winter.
In the winter the gold finch is a green finch.
A gold finch that is a green finch
in the winter is eating thistle seed.
Thistle seed is breakfast for the gold finch
that is green. My husband asks why
the gold finch is green in the winter.
I say, “Eat your toast with jam.”

—Diane Puterbaugh (originally published in Visitant Lit.)

RON: Next up is Brad Osborne, who was our featured poet last month…


The Mist

Is it cloud that falls so gently
When mountain top is kissed
Or does it rise from the valley
This cold and haunting mist

All pale shapes and grey shadows now
Sight rendered all but blind
Like whiskey drunk too fast somehow
A fogging of the mind

Unknown fears in every crease
The fears of never knowing
My will cannot command you cease
And keep my fears from growing

Being trapped in ghostly blanket
Suffered your icy chill
Yea sun would come I’d thank it
And temper failing will

If but scant rays could break rampart
And glimmer added hue
A warmth to spirit and to heart
Gained strength to see this through

Should graced light fail and hope abide
My journey will not stop
All my fears must be put aside
If goal the mountain top

So, taunt me now you evil mist
You cruel, sadistic haze
Battle you, my will exist
Earning my brighter days

Set upon me your eerie wrath
You may have chosen me
But I the chooser of my path
Will choose my destiny

—Brad Osborne

RON: Now please welcome Karen Warinsky…

KAREN: This poem was read for the first time on the April 25th edition of Rattle Online and can be viewed on Rattle.com.

Forgotten City

Life returned
to the stubbled hills
to the ancient stones
though archeologists with lithified hearts bewail:
refugees are moving the rocks!

Who cares about refugees?

pommeled and pounded
ten years now
live among the ruins of Byzantine,
ruined themselves.

Nestling against half-walls
rose-pink in the dawn,
they pen their animals,
prop their tents,
hear the wind call their ancestors;
Nefeli, Justus, Theodora, Kadir,
hear it repeat
old glories of the past in this northwest land,
Assad’s poisoned hand not yet touching this final sanctuary
while cement-filled historians and archeologists
fret about the displacement of the marble,
the zahr, the basalt,
the integrity of the site,
as the people maneuver themselves
inside the consequence of war.

Worry about the consequences
of refugees living there,
worry about the integrity of the…….

—Karen Warinsky

RON: The next poet in the open mic tonight is Joan Erickson…

JOAN: This is from my group of poems from A to Z, where every word begins with the same letter…

Environmental Ecological Experiences

Elephants eat enormous entrees.
Eagles encounter environmental elements
especially explosive enemies.

Egrets eat elegantly – effortlessly – easily.
Ethan’s essay eschews environmental
excesses. Esther eats Easter eggs eagerly
every Easter – exposes excuses.

Ellen entertains everybody every-time –
easing energy. Even Esther excels easily –
ecological examples exist.
Eventually everything eases.
Excellent energy exists.

Environmental elements equal efforts –
excellence. Echos envelop everything.
Elbert examines envelopes – expects
evidence – efficiency.

Elizabeth expounds environmental entries
eloquently. Ethel empathizes – expects efforts.
Ezekiel exhausts estuaries. Environmentalists
experience extreme exhibits evermore
expanding expert expertise.

—Joan Erickson

RON: Paul, I think you might want to introduce the next poet yourself…

PAUL: Thank you, Ron. Yes, it would be my pleasure! Please welcome back after several months’ absence from the Poetorium, poet and the love of my life, Ariel Potter!

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Ariel Potter


The Nightmare Artist

Every night I dream of brushes
Oozing with oil paint,
Huge canvases and floods of color,
Pigments scratched, dotted, and glazed.
I am entranced by the developing image –
The figures grow and grow until they are wall-size,
Huge women dancing, castles burning,
Sea green waves crashing.
During my sleep, I am an artist.

Every night a malevent figure,
Demonic and chaotic, a familiar unknown 
Comes to me and interrupts my work,
Ruining my efforts. I see the paint fade
And dissolve everytime I touch the palette.
My acrylics become muddy,
The lines become broken and tangled,
The gessoed paper degrades and tears
As if it is my fragile heart itself.
If I can’t make what’s in my mind’s eye,
I will die. Never making a picture again
Is like never eating again.
The flavors of ebony black and enveloping yellow,
Pink hues and whites so clean,
I want to feast upon them like a starving wolf.

Every night I am startled out of sleep
And the frustration chokes me up.
My grief arrives like a haunted package
Delivered by creativity thwarted.
Will I never stand back,
Taking in the tones and shades again?
Let me breath; let me paint.

—Ariel Potter

RON: And our final poet in the open mic tonight is our featured poet from last November – Howard J Kogan…

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Howard J Kogan

HOWARD: Of all the poetic forms, I’m drawn most to dramatic narratives.  Poems you could imagine as scenes in a play.  I think of two Robert Frost poems as examples, The Death of the Hired Man and Home Burial, but, of course, there are many others.

This poem in particular fell into my lap since the incident that forms the kernel of the poem was told to me many years ago when we lived in a rural area of upstate New York.  It’s written as a dialogue between a couple, Lily and her husband Calvin.


Cal, you got to shoot me.

Lily, what are you saying?

I’ve been thinking and thinking; it’s the only way.

I’m not shooting anybody; shoot yourself!

I can’t do it; don’t you think I would if I could?

And if I shoot you, what do you suppose they’ll do to me?

I thought of that, you’ll need to shoot yourself next.

You’re talking crazy.  I swear you’ve lost your mind.

I can’t hardly get across a room even with the damn walker and you’re
not far behind.  I see you struggling with your cane, the look on your face
like a man on hot coals.  How long before you can’t walk or drive?
You shouldn’t be driving now.  I thought it out.  You know I’ve always
been the sensible one.

Lily, what brought this on?

The Visiting Nurse come today.  She said she spoke to Dr. Cleary,
they both say it’s time to think about the nursing home.
Of course, I said, No! She got insistent, said it was something we had
to do, and sooner not later.  I said, it’s up to us, isn’t it?
She had the nerve to say, it is today, but the next time either of us
ends up in the hospital, we won’t be let out to anywhere but
the county home.  Her and Dr. Cleary agree we’re not capable
of caring for ourselves.  I couldn’t believe it, her sitting at
my own kitchen table talking to me like I was a child.

It’s come to that?

It’s come to that.  You have to do it.

Why do I have to do it?

It’s a man’s job.  Women have the pain of childbirth.  Killing is men’s work.

Jeez Lily, I believe you mean it.  You could ask your sister, could we

You know I won’t.  It’s not that way between us.  If Nancy hadn’t passed
so young, it’d be different.  A child is different than a sister.

It wouldn’t be different though; you never asked anyone for help, you’re
too proud or too foolish.  I don’t know which.

I’m asking you for help right now though I wish I didn’t have to.

I’d ask kin for help if I had any.

Things are easy to say if there’s no doing them.  I tell you we need to do
this. I won’t see us in a nursing home with those pathetic old people, sitting
there drooling, out of their minds.

It might be better than you expect.

I tell you I don’t want to go where they’ll put us; I want to end it now!

Lily, it’s not something I can do, we’ve been married sixty years.

It’s more like seventy and it’s more than enough.  I’m tired of pain
and now they got me scared to death.  You know I’m right, it’s merciful,
that’s what you said when you put down Patch, the last of the beagles.
The poor thing couldn’t walk and you carried him out back of the barn
and shot him.  In an instant all his pain and troubles were over.
I remember your very words; you said it was a kindness.
How dare you not show me that same kindness!

—Howard J. Kogan

RON: Okay, folks, before we close out the show, Iet’s bring back to the microphone, my co-host and cohort, Paul Szlosek…

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Paul Szlosek

PAUL: Thanks, Ron! Although this poem was written over twenty years ago, it was only published 3 years ago in Contour as part of “the Worcester Tale of Two Cities Poetry Project”:


He could barely conceal his astonishment when his mom
revealed his birth was the result of planned parenting,
always figuring his origin was an accident like the rest of his life.

In grade school, the child no one wanted to babysit,
not because he was a mean-spirited hellacious brat
but the source of potential lawsuits, hapless victim
of habitual broken bones and bloody noses.

In high school, voted “Class Klutz: Most Likely to Be
the Epicenter of a Disaster of Global Proportions”.
Avoided by others in hallways, invisible clouds of chaos
swirling around him as he stumbled through corridors.

In the science lab, the forces of entropy flowing
through his fingertips, the glue between molecules disintegrating,
shatterproof beakers shattering with his touch.

Have you ever witnessed such grace as a clumsy boy
slipping on a patch of black ice? Arms flailing, fingers fumbling,
books and balance lost and caught, caught and lost.
His untied sneakers continuously slapping the ground
In a choreography of precision awkwardbatics.

The one lesson life taught him? To keep his distance, to be careful
to never get too close to glass or people (and other breakables),
feeling, fearing that when he leaves this plane of existence,
he’ll take a small chunk of the surrounding universe out with him…

—Paul Szlosek (originally published in Contour: A Tale of Two Cities Special Edition)

Before I turn the microphone over to Ron, I just want to thank everyone that participated in tonight’s program including our feature, Eugenie Steinman, and everyone in the virtual open reading as well as the contributors to the group poem and the form writing challenge. You are all amazing and without you, there would be no Poetorium!

And now, back to Ron so he can close up the show…

RON: Well, folks, this is the last poem of the night, and it goes something like this…

The Old Cape Cod Farmhouse Not Far From the Beach

With its old age this old house creaks and groans
with any movement within the scope of its walls
The floorboards the noisiest
when walked upon
The old door hinges squeal and growl
as they are opened or closed
and will challenge the most horrified of minds
in the midnight darkness
Even the old furniture has something to say 
about being sat on
I’m left to wonder if the beauty
of its age is objective or subjective
or waving furiously somewhere in the middle
I’m in the kitchen making friends
with the bottoms of golden brown beer bottles
and this sixty year old church key 
The damp and dusty odor permeates
all that will absorb the ocean’s moisture 
creating that nightmarish scent 
neither a vile stink nor an aromatic scent
The chatty front porch deck announces the arrival
long before the doorbell is rung
While the weather on the other hand 
sings up a storm of pitter-pattering
as the roofs runoff, splashes on the ground
creating a noise 
that is comforting and soothing
My smile is both unconvincing and unnerving 
in my wait for the others to come
I have joined the sand in the hourglass 
unraveling one grain at a time
letting the imagined story 
of this old farmhouse unfold
in my thought filled mind                                                                                 

—Ron Whittle (2021)

As much as I always hate to do these close-outs and say goodbye, it’s that time again.
God bless, and please be safe – we need you back (I’m waving)! 
Until next time that we meet, have a great evening and keep on writing.

Good night, Mrs. Cowart, where ever you are…

My Poem “A History of Hardtack (in One Sentence)” Featured in the “Backstory of a Poem” Series by Christal Rice Cooper…

I am so pleased to announce that my interview with Chrystal Rice Cooper about the creation of my poem “A History of Hardtack (in One Sentence)” has been featured on her blog as part of her  wonderful ongoing series called “BACKSTORY OF THE POEM” (being an uninformed idiot, I just discovered it has already been published for almost a month in the wee hours of this morning). Having interviewed poets myself as part of the Virtual Poetorium, I have to say it was such an honor and a delight to be finally on the other end of the process. You can check out the entire interview along with plenty of relevant photos on her blog here:


In order to entice you to click on the above link, I’m posting the poem here which was the subject of the interview: “A History of Hardtack (in One Sentence)” that first appeared in Silkworm 12: Survival in 2019 (I’m hoping after reading it, you will be intrigued enough to want to learn more about it’s unusual origin)…

A History of Hardtack (in One Sentence)

Centuries ago, twice, thrice, or quadruple baked
rock-like slabs of flour, water, and sometimes salt
known as hardtack, brewis, pilot bread, sea biscuits,
ship’s crackers, (or disparagingly) sheet iron, molar breakers
and worm castles filled the holds of most seafaring vessels
(along with daily rations of beer or rum), sustaining
royal sailors and merchant mariners, pirates and privateers,
whalers and fishermen, sea dogs and old salts,
the hardiest of men, who endured perilous ocean voyages
lasting multiple fortnights crossing the Atlantic
and Pacific through squalls and dead calm,
while I now stand rubber-legged on the bow of a ferry,
clutching a wax paper sleeve of their frail descendants,
unsalted saltines, which I nibble as I sip from a can of flat Coke
in an attempt to quell a tsunami of queasiness in my stomach,
praying to both Neptune and Nabisco that I be allowed
to survive this hour-long excursion across the bay
from Boston Harbor to George’s Island.

—Paul Szlosek (Originally Published in Silkworm 12: Survival)

Thanks so much for reading!