Saturday, April 30, 2016

Another April, Another Poem-a-Day

So here's the final tally: 44 poems, most of which were written for Poetic Asides' Poem-a-Day Challenge and/or Tiferet Journal's Poem-a-thon. Only three were written outside of those two projects, and they were two limericks and a three-line tribute to Prince. Most days I submitted the same poem (or a version of the same poem) to both websites, combining their prompts into a "dual prompt" for the poem, but on eleven days I did write separate poems for each in response to their individual prompts. I think I might have raised the recommended sponsor donations total of $100 for Tiferet, which means I will get a copy of The Crafty Poet by poet acquaintance Diane Lockward (I've heard it's very good) and a year's subscription to Tiferet. I'm also told that at least one of my poems from this month will appear in a future issue of Tiferet. In case you still want to donate in my name, click here to link to my poetry and a button to get to the sponsor page.

In other news, I am about to begin a poetry workshop course at the Eilandarts Center in Merchantville, NJ. Here is the link for that announcement. If you are in the Camden County or Burlington County areas, you might want to consider registering - it will be fun!

Lastly, here are two more poems I wrote exclusively for Poetic Asides. The first is an "index" poem - the prompt was to write a poem with a title that begins with "Important" (Pardon my politics - I don't sound off that often.) The second prompt was to write a "haphazard" poem.  I used a haiku-like structure on this one.

Abortions, punishing  women for, 301

Apprentice, The, 190, 193-195

Bankruptcies, financial, 78-79, 134-144, 230-239
                           moral, 100-101, 167, 205, 212-213, 300-301                                

Daughter, would date if she wasn’t, 330

Deal, Art of the, 67-68, 74-76, 110-111, 135, 156, 200-201, 234, 270-273

Important, self-, 11-13, 22-34,36, 40, 42-57, 60-79, 82, 84-110, 120-183, 200-335

Megalomania, definition, 1-335

Mexicans, drug dealers, 223, 227
                   rapists, 224, 226

Mexico, build a wall around, 222-225
                paying for wall, 225-226

Misogyny, definition, 1-335

Muslims, banning, 215-219, 300-305

Obama, Barack, See Birth Certificate

Seven-Eleven, See 9-11

Small Hands, See Penis

Steaks, Trump, 135-136, 200

Taj Mahal, Trump, 68, 83-85, 185-186

Towers, Trump, 135-136, 177, 201-202, 256, 274

University, Trump, 142-145, 213-216

War Hero, not a, See John McCain

Water, Trump, 173-174

Waterboarding, 302
                                and worse, 303-304

Whatever, blood coming out of her, See Kelly, Meghan

White Supremacists, See Endorsements

Woman’s Card, See Clinton, Hillary

Women, ugly, 35, 47, 68, 79, 101, 123, 144, 186, 200, 201, 213, 245, 267, 290, 302, 313, 321, 344


I cling to the belief that the haphazard and the hopscotch,
the creature that sips among many flowers,
may actually come up with something....
                                                                                - Brad Leithauser
We could talk about
monkeys and typewriters,
but that's so shopworn.

We could watch ants
on a hot summer sidewalk,
an organized swarm.

The butterfly flitters
at random, or so it seems -
he has favorites.

Nature's not random,
it progresses by numbers,
said Fibonacci.

Golden Ratio
in the chambered nautilus,
the sunflower's eye.

is not as manifest
as we once thought.

There is a design,
a dance around the center,
that makes us wonder.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Poem-a-Day Update and Happy Birthday to Me!

OMG, I am 65 years old today. How could this have happened? Got my Medicare card and all.  I can't call myself "middle-aged" anymore - I am now officially "old".  Oh well - I hear that 65 is the new 55.

My wife and I just got back from a great "destination wedding" of sorts in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Her good friend and former work colleague has had two weddings in the past two years - first her son and now her daughter.  Both the ceremony and reception were at a local hotel, where many of us guest also stayed (we made a weekend of it and stayed two nights). The ceremony was beautiful and a family affair - her brother-in-law officiated, and his young son and daughter (from his previous marriage) were the best man and maid of honor. It was very cute. The reception was a lot of fun, and I danced more than I have in years. (I usually need at least three drinks to get on the dance floor and not give a damn how I look.) The bride's family also hosted a fire pit party the night before, and the night of the wedding, and treated everyone to breakfast the next morning. We even had time to spend an afternoon at Old Sturbridge Village, a re-creation of a New England rural town circa 1830. It was a fun weekend.

Anyway, on to poetry: I am excited because I got a gig to host an eight-week poetry workshop at a local arts center. And I'll get paid for it! I'm thinking up themes for each session, but I will focus on visual art and poetry, since there is a gallery where we will meet. I'm sure we'll be writing some "ekphrastic" poetry (that is, poetry inspired by a work of art).

I mentioned before that I had three poems accepted into the "Art of Poetry" project at the Hickory Art Museum in North Carolina. For the second time, one of those poems was featured on their website (click here).

I am still running my "poetry marathon", writing a poem a day to raise funds for Tiferet Journal. (See prior post.) If you'd like to read my poems and consider a donation, go to
 - click the "sponsor a poet" button if you would like to donate. I'm almost at my $100 goal but just need that final push!

I've written 39 poems in 27 days, with three more days to go. Some of them were written for Poetic Asides, whose Poem-a-Day Challenge I have also been following dutifully, as I do every year. Here is one of them. The prompt was to write a "cool" and/or "uncool" poem:

What Goes Around… (A Double Limerick)

I always collected LPs,
but then came the dawn of CDs.
This new format digital
made me a bit fidget-al;
I got worse when they made MP3s.

Now vinyl has come back in fashion,
and hipsters collect it with passion.
Their needles all jog
to the new analog.
I’m cool again – I think I’ll cash-in!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Poem-a-Day Update and Three New Poems

Well, it's 17 days down, 13 to go, and I've written 25 poems in April, 18 of them for Tiferet Journal. I am still trying to get sponsors for this poetic marathon, and I have got three so far (thank you Sharon, Ina, and Brad & Melissa!) but I am still $65 short of my goal.  Please visit my designated website at Tiferet Journal (click here) to see the poems I've written for them so far, and thanks for your support!

I paid my first visit last week to a nice little venue called The Station in nearby Merchantville, NJ. It's a convereted train station which now houses a coffee shop and arts center. Matt and Nicole Eiland manage the arts end of it, and I went one evening to an open mic poetry reading hosted by Matt. The bad news was that I was one of two participants, not counting the host. The good news was that I had a really good time. Matt is a good poet but an even better singer-songwriter - I told him he reminds me a bit of Amos Lee, a local artist who's made it big in the adult-alternative music scene. The other person there said she was just listening, and has written poetry but wasn't ready to share it publicly yet, but Matt and I convinced her that if there was ever a time to "come out" with her poetry, it would be for an audience of two, so she read a poem, and it was good. I got to read several poems from my new chapbook and sold a copy of it too. And I will be speaking to Nicole this week about possibly starting a poetry workshop there.

As I said before, you can view my Tiferet poems on their web page, but I have also been writing poems for Poetic Asides. Sometimes I submit the same poem to both if the writing prompts blend well enough together. Other days I write two separate poems, so the ones I'm sharing on the blog were exclusively for Poetic Asides. There are three new ones to share this time:

The Five-Year-Old - A Limerick

Little Donnie would holler and shout,
On not getting his way, he would pout.
With his blocks, built a wall,
then he said, “Screw you all!”
Now he sits in a chair for time-out.


after they turn off
all the landscaping machines
woodpecker drumming

Diner Date

First date with her, you'd think he'd realize
he did not make the best of first impressions:
"Hey, are you gonna eat all of those fries?"

His favorite diner, famed for apple pies
and chicken waffles, decor out of fashion -
first date with her, he might not realize

that she likes restaurants with suits and ties
required, where they don't blurt indiscretions
like, "Are you gonna eat all of those fries?"

Yet she enjoys it all, to her surprise -
the greasy food and chrome she doesn't question.
While dating him, she starts to realize

he's nice, so down-to-earth compared to guys
she's known, and then she makes this self-confession:
she doesn't mind if he eats all her fries.

Fast-forward fifteen years, and we surmise
it's still their favorite place, their love's not lessened.
First-born's with them, we come to realize:
"Hey, dad, you gonna eat all of those fries?"

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Poetry Month Update

Okay, I decided I might post more often here this month - maybe not daily like l did last year, but often enough to share some of the poems I have written for Robert Brewer's Poetic Asides Poem-a-Day Challenge.  I am still also participating in the Tiferet Poem-a-thon to raise funds for that non-profit journal - see my prior blog post for more details. But to repeat, I ask you to consider sponsoring me in my poem-a-day quest over there by donating a small amount. My goal is to raise $100, and if I get 20 people to chip in $5 each (or ten people to give $10), then I'm there. So far I think I only have one donor . (Thank you, Sharon!)  Please visit my page over at Tiferet and click the "Sponsor a Poet" button. You can also read the poems I wrote for them on that page, some of which are variations on ones I wrote for Poetic Asides (or vice versa). Here's the link:

I attended an excellent reading last night at Inkwood Books, a nice little independent book store in Haddonfield, NJ. The featured poet was Rocky Wilson, a popular and colorful figure from Camden NJ. You can read about him and see a short video on the Camden Courier Post website.  It was standing-room-only, and I got to see several poet friends I haven't seen in a while. I also read three poems from my new chapbook, Hits and Sacrifices, and got a very positive response which included interest in the book.

So here are some more of the poems I've written for Poetic Asides. (Don't forget to visit Tiferet Journal to see the rest of my April poems!) The first one is composed of song titles by Jimi Hendrix.

[Day 5 prompt: Write an "experienced" and/or "inexperienced" poem]

Are You Experienced?

Sitting here
in my red house

on the third stone from the sun,
watching the crosstown traffic,

in a purple haze
of manic depression,

pacing all along the watchtower,
I ask myself,

"Hey, Joe,
is this love or confusion?"

Please may this be love.
I don't live today,

but I'll wait till tomorrow
for that foxy lady

to set me on fire,
while the wind cries. "Mary,"

I will ask her,
"are you experienced?"

And she'll say, "Yes I am,
in voodoo, child."

[Day 7 prompt: Write a poem with the title "Urban ______"]

Urban Tanka

looking for breakfast
on a sub-freezing morning –
optimist squirrel

but he won’t find much outside
my refrigerator box

[Day 9: Write a "hideout" poem]

Hide and Seek

When she was a toddler,
she thought she could disappear,
so she just covered her eyes,
thinking if she couldn't see him
he couldn't see her.

Later, when she was three,
she always hid in the same spot,
and he would pretend to be stumped,
looking all around till he found her
in her favorite hiding place.

But soon she learned
to hide much better, to be stealthy,
always finding a different corner
in the bowels of the house,
especially when he came home drunk.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Happy Poetry Month Again!

Yes, it's April, and in the spring a (not-so-) young man's thoughts turn to... writing a poem a day!  This year I'm doing something different. I will try to keep up with Robert Brewer's Poetic Asides Poem-a-Day Challenge, as I always do, but more importantly, I am participating in Tiferet Journal's "Poem-a-thon", another daily poem challenge which is being run as a fund-raiser for the non-profit journal. Tiferet's mission is to convey a sense of spirituality (of any persuasion) through its poetry and prose. It's a highly-regarded journal that I admire (even though they haven't published me - yet), and I'm glad to help out. What I'm asking of my friends and family is to visit the Poem-a-thon page, find my bio, and click to make a donation. I suggest a contribution of $5 or more, which goes directly to the journal, and which will inspire me to write daily. I won't be posting poems here daily as i have done in past years; instead, you can read the poems I produced so far by clicking my name on the Poem-a-thon bio page, Thanks for your help!

Finally, my chapbook, Hits and Sacrifices, is out! I got my author's shipment about a week and a half ago, and to those of you who have pre-ordered it and have waited since early January, I have been assured that your copies are in the mail and should be arriving any time now. If you haven't ordered one yet, you can get it directly from Finishing Line Press or on

I'm glad that April is here to rekindle my poetic production, nut I really need to start submitting more again. My third of three poems written for the Steve McCurry exhibit at the Hickory Art Museum in NC has been presented and put up with the photo that inspired it. The poem is called "Holi Day", and it may eventually end  up on the museum's website, just as my previous poem "The Yemeni Woman Votes" has been posted there.

I've been assisting my wife with a one-day conference for social workers that she has helped organize. She asked me to do a poetry workshop on gratitude, and I had some fair success leading two sessions. I'll be doing it again this week. I'm also looking at the possibility of doing a regular workshop at a local coffee house

Easter was a whirlwind of preparation and entertaining, and spring arrived here very early - my flowering trees (and everyone else's too) are about two or three weeks ahead of time. I saw my first robin of spring in February. (Global warming?)  My youngest son is in Japan for a semester of exchange study, and he is enjoying it immensely.

Poem: I think I'll share one of the poems I wrote for the Poetic Asides challenge:

Fool's Snow

Waking this morning to wind at my window
I rise to see white flakes whipping past.
I am shocked - snow in April? - but then realize
they are petals from my cherry tree
stripped from their blossoms to ride the air.

The cherries have bloomed weeks ahead
of what we consider their schedule,
thus all but ruining cherry tree festivals
all around the region.  I saw the first
robin of spring in February.

There is madness in the weather these days,
and Nature doesn't give a damn
about our preconceptions. If we do nothing,
predictions will be obsolete, and we fools
will be stripped from our trees in the wind.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Poetry Update: Chapbook, Marge Piercy, Haiku, etc.

It's way past time to update the old blog, especially since I've directed a few new poetry friends to check it out. So here are some updates and news:

1. My chapbook, Hits and Sacrifices, is still pending publication - the original release date was January 8 but was pushed back by Finishing Line Press due to some printer problems, and I suspect a backlog of publication jobs. A few fellow poets have told me they have also experienced delays recently. I did get final galleys just today, but they still need a couple of minor corrections. I'm hoping now that the book will be out to coincide with baseball's Opening Day.

2. I recently signed up for, and was accepted for, an intensive three-day workshop with Marge Piercy this October in Cape Cod. This will be the second time I've had the opportunity to work with Marge - I took a week-long workshop with her back in the summer of 2012. She's a great teacher and a fascinating woman, so I'm looking forward to it.

3. Not much going on submission-wise, partly due to my own laziness.  I'm waiting to hear from my friends Nancy Posey and Jane Shlensky to see if any of my three poems submitted will appear in their planned anthology of narrative poetry, The Well-Versed Reader.  

4. I didn't make the cut this year for the Poetic Asides Poem-a-day Challenge anthology, Poem Your Heart Out, even though I did get a poem in last year's edition.  I did have four poems make the daily list of top 10 finalists, though, and a few friends also made it into the book, like my aforementioned friends Nancy and Jane, as well as Joseph Harker.  Oh well, at least now I can shop my better poems from that month elsewhere.

5. I mentioned in a previous blog entry that three of my poems that were accepted by the Art of Poetry project at the Hickory (NC) Art Museum. Here's a link to their website which features one of the three poems and the photo that inspired it. I was unable to make the live event, but my friend Nancy Posey read the poem for me. I was also happy when I sent a copy of that poem to my friend and mentor Jane Hirshfield, and she loved it.

6. I have been writing a haiku a day this month for National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo), and participating on a Facebook page run by haiku poet Michael Dylan Welsh. He gives us daily word prompts and has been running through the alphabet (a letter each month). This month's letter is Z, which makes for some intriguing word prompts. I'll post a few examples of mine below.

7. I've been invited to participate as a featured poet at this year's Collingswood Book Festival here in NJ in October. It's a one-day street fair (weather permitting) that features local, regional and national authors and poets, booksellers, kid's activities, and so forth, and is always a great day out. This year's headliner is Gregory Pardlo, recent Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and South Jersey native.  There's a "poetry tent" that offers poetry-related activities all day, and I will be part of a group who will be reading poetry about baseball.  (My chapbook should be out be then!)  Here's a link if you want to know more about it. (Last year's events still appear there, but they give you an idea of what it's all about. Last year's special guest was Matthew Quick, who is another South Jersey native, and the author of Silver Linings Playbook.)

As promised, here are some samples of the haiku/senryu I have written this month:

[Feb. 2 prompt: zazen]

melting snow
forms fog on the hill -
morning trance

[Feb. 7 prompt: zenith]

sniff in brightly-lit snow -
hunger moon

[Feb. 11 prompt: zest]

grating lemon zest
for the cake icing -
her smile

[Feb. 12 prompt: zeugma]

icy morning -
my plans frozen
with the car door lock

[Feb. 15 prompt: zinfandel]

my respect for you -
like a wine connoisseur
for white zinfandel

[Feb. 22 prompt: zodiac]

you the lion
versus me the bull -
we make it work

[Feb. 26 prompt: zucchini]

neighborhood gardens -
there's always someone who brings
surplus zucchini

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Favorite Music of 2015

I post at least one list of favorite songs and/or albums about this time each year, and this year is no exception. However, I must admit I have been a bit underwhelmed by the year in music. Maybe it's because my listening habits have changed - I don't seem to be listening to as much new music these days, but most of what I've heard just hasn't bowled me over. That said, there are still some worthwhile albums to list in a top 10 for the year:

1. Alabama Shakes - Sound and Color: Brittany Howard is a force of nature - what a voice! Their sophomore album is just as impressive as their debut, with several great bluesy, soulful songs like  the title track, "Don't Wanna Fight", and "Gimme All Your Love".

2. Kurt Vile - b'lieve i'm goin' down: A favorite native son (Philly) and former War on Drugs member is carving an impressive solo career, and this year's album has a lot of catchy, quirky pop-rock, especially the propulsive "Pretty Pimpin'", quite possibly the best song of the year.

3. Richard Thompson - Still: He's become the elder statesman of British folk-rock, and still writes some of the best, albeit dark, lyrics in music. He also can still play a mean guitar. You can always rely on a quality release from Mr. Thompson, and this is no exception. Highlights: "Beatnik Walk", "All Buttoned Up", and "Guitar Heroes" (in which he imitated the styles of several of his guitar influences). (Get the deluxe edition with an extra CD of five songs.)

4. Los Lobos  - Gates of Gold: It was great to see this venerable East LA roots-rock band nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. They didn't get in, but they can still grind out some dynamite rock and are not afraid to take chances creatively,.while remaining true to their roots. Highlight: "Made to Break Your Heart"

5. Adele - 25: I listen to precious little mainstream pop, but this Brit impresses me every time. This album is a bit more mellow and darker than her previous smash, 21, but there's a maturity in her voice and writing that really pulls you in. "Hello" is shaping up to be the Song of the Year.

6. Decemberists - What a Beautiful World, What a Terrible World - Another dependable band whose new work I always eagerly await. Colin Meloy's bookish lyrics are intriguing and the music is impressive, as usual, and even if this may not rank among their very best albums, it still has some satisfying tunes, like "Make You Better" and "The Wrong Year". Also, look for their EP from this year, Florasongs.

7. Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space: The first of two rather unique albums on my list - this UK electro-rock band has taken recorded material from the US/USSR space race from the 1950's and 1960's and created a captivating soundtrack around it. It's a brilliant concept with striking results. from the peppy "Go!" to the haunting "Fire in the Cockpit" (about the tragic fire in Apollo 1).

8. Africa Express - Terry Riley in C Mali: In C was the seminal work of American minimalist music, and here it gets a unique treatment, featuring Brian Eno and others with a troupe of African musicians. The piece, written 50 years ago, was always a rhythmic masterpiece, but with new instrumental and vocal interpretations, it's practically re-invented. The best world music I've heard this year.

9. Viet Cong - Viet Cong: Dark, menacing hard rock doesn't usually appeal to me, but this Canadian band does it brilliantly.  The murky sonics enhance the effect of pulling you down and in. Ironically, I don't find this album depressing at all, but exhiliarting.

10. Wilco - Star Wars: Count on Wilco to produce an entertaining and challenging collection of songs, and this one was even offered as a free MP3 album earlier in the year. Some favorites: "Random Name Generator", "You Satellite".

Honorable Mentions:
The Arcs - Yours, Dreamily
Gary Clark Jr. - The Story of Sonny Boy Slim
Tame Impala - Currents
James Taylor - Before This World
Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
Sufjan Stevens - Carrie and Lowell
Bjork - Vulnicura
Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - It's a Holiday Soul Party
Bob Dylan - The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12
Drive-by Truckers - It's Great to Be Alive!