Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Already?

Once again I completed a poem-a-day challenge in November, “sponsored” once again by Robert Brewer of the Poetic Asides blog. November was his second annual “chapbook challenge”, with the object being to write enough poems to compile a chapbook. Themes are always a plus, but not required. Last year I tried writing on a theme (music), but this year it was a struggle just writing a poem a day, let alone on a theme, in fact I ran about two or three days behind for most of the month. But I did average 30 poems in 30 days, some of which actually turned out to be not bad. I’ll post one of them below.

My poetry group, Quick and Dirty Poets, is still reading for our annual journal, Up and Under: The QND Review, so if you are interested in submitting, go to

Thanks to my friend Kelly Fineman for giving me props for my new book on her blog, which you can find here. I’m impressed by anyone who can keep a daily blog, and hers is one of the best I’ve read.

Music: It’s the holiday season, and time for all the tired old musical chestnuts to be trucked out and played ad nauseam. Don’t’ get me wrong: I love Christmas music, and I have a CD collection to prove it, but I understand how people get tired of the 113th version of “White Christmas” or “Winter Wonderland”. That’s why I’m always on the lookout for seasonal tunes that may a little off the beaten path. This season I’ve been enjoying Holiday Spirit by Straight No Chaser, an a cappella men’s group that apparently has been a Youtube hit with their amusing version of “Twelve Days of Christmas”. They do a very pleasant doo-wop/jazz presentation, and Holiday Spirit is actually their album from last year – they have another out this year.

On the other hand, I was shocked by how bad Bob Dylan’s new Christmas album is. I love the man – he has written some of the greatest songs in pop music history, and I still listen to much of his earlier work. But let’s face it: he’s in his late 60’s, and his voice is shot. This can be forgiven when he’s singing his own great compositions, but when he croaks his way through an octave on some hoary old holiday tunes – well, I’d rather be waterboarded.

Here’s my latest best-of list. I’ve done best albums of the year and the decade, so now I present my votes for best songs of 2009:

1. Percussion Gun – White Rabbits
2. The Rake’s Song – The Decemberists
3. Sugarfoot – Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
4. Summertime Clothes – Animal Collective
5. Sleepyhead – Passion Pit
6. The Great Defector – Bell X1
7. Lisztomania – Phoenix
8. Pulling on a Line – Great Lake Swimmers
9. Slow Burning Crimes – East Hundred
10. I Live in a Lot of Places – Woodpigeon
11. They Done Wrong, We Done Wrong – White Rabbits
12. I and Love and You – Avett Brothers
13. People Got a Lot of Nerve – Neko Case
14. Two Weeks – Grizzly Bear
15. Little Bribes – Death Cab for Cutie
16. Detroit ’67 – Sam Roberts
17. Eden Was a Garden – Roman Candle
18. Bastard of Midnight – The Damnwells
19. My Girls – Animal Collective
20. Low Rising – The Swell Season
21. Belated Promise Ring - Iron & Wine
22. Who Will Comfort Me – Melody Gardot
23. Kingdom of the Animals Iron & Wine
24. Bluish – Animal Collective
25. The Reeling – Passion Pit
26. 1901 – Phoenix
27. Actor Out of Work – St. Vincent
28. Wicked Blood – Sea Wolf
29. Fitz and the Dizzyspells – Andrew Bird
30. The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid – The Decemberists
31. Shot in the Back of the Head - Moby
32. The Changeling – A.C. Newman
33. My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille – Beirut
34. Blood Bank – Bon Iver
35. Can’t Go Back Now – The Weepies
36. Cocaine and Ashes – Son Volt
37. Bluebird – Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses
38. I’m Broke - Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
39. Why Modern Radio is A-OK – Roman Candle
40. All of My Days and All of My Days Off – A.C. Newman

Poetry: As promised, here's one from my November poem-a-day project:


…you sweet thing, you’re driving me mad… J.J. Cale

If we had built a mythology around you,
we may have said you were a musician
with long fingers, all the better to play
the harp or the lute. Perhaps you
wore flowers in your long brown hair,
and you bathed in a sweet perfume,
one that all men would find irresistible.
But for some transgression,
perhaps rejecting a young god’s advances,
you were transformed to a majestic tree.
Your long leafy fingers, dark green,
keep their color all winter, and in spring,
you put magnificent blossoms in your hair,
petal-bowls of white velvet,
with an intoxicating fragrance
we cannot resist, even if it lasts only a day.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

OK, I'm Over It Now....

Yes, my beloved Phillies bit the dust, losing the World Series 4 games to 2 to the Best Team Money Can Buy, the New York Yankees. In all honesty, the Yankees played like the better team. The Phils didn't get the consistent pitching they needed (other than from Cliff Lee), and their bullpen just couldn't do the job. (So much for Brad Lidge's "comeback".) Yankees pitchers tied up the Phils' left-handed bats (except for Utley) - Howard for the most part looked just awful at the plate. Oh well, it was still a good run - the first time the Phillies won back-to-back National League pennants, and I have to say they still exceeded my expectations this year. So you Yankees fans go right ahead and gloat over your 27th World Championship - it's easy to root for a perennial winner.

Poetry: It's been a busy week for me - went to the launch of Edison Literary Review's Issue #8, which includes my peom "Mosquito Truck", on Sunday the 15th, at South Brunswick NJ Library. It was a fine event featuring ELR honchos Gina and John Larkin and Tony Gruenwald, as well as contributors like me and an open mic. Monday the 16th I was featured poet at Poetry in the Round, Barnes and Noble in Marlton NJ. Not a real big turnout, but I did sell four copies of my book afterward. Wednesday was editorial meeting for Quick and Dirty Poets and our journal Up and Under: The QND Review. We're accepting submissions until December 31 if you are interested - click the link above.

My new book, Breathing Out, is finally out and looks great! Thanks to Leah and Kevin Maines of Finishing Line Press for a great job. Visit their website if you would like a copy but haven't ordered yet. It's also available on

I've also received word on two acceptances: "Dream" and "Monster Accosted by Telemarketers" have been accepted by Fox Chase Review for their next issue, and Schuylkill Valley Journal has also accepted a poem of mine, though I will be changing the title.

I've been doing Robert Brewer's Poem-a-day Chapbook Challenge on the Poetic Asides blog - running a couple of days behind, but managing to get a poem out almost every day.

Music: Well, most of the musical pundits from various publications and websites have released their best-of-the-year album lists, even though it's still the last half of November, so why shouldn't I be any different? So here is my list of top 20 albums and songs of the year. These are always hard because intellectually I can appreciate some of the albums that are declared "best" by the so-called experts, but I just went with my personal favorites - no apologies:

1. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

2. White Rabbits - It's Frightening

3. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

4. Decemberists - The Hazards of Love

5. Bell X1- Blue Lights on the Runway

6. Iron and Wine - Around the Well
7. Various Artists - Dark Was the Night
8. Passion Pit - Manners

9. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone

10. The Swell Season - Strict Joy

11. Death Cab for Cutie - The Open Door (EP)
12. Woodpigeon
- Treasury Library Canada
13. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears - Tell ‘em What Your Name Is!
14. Roman Candle
- Oh Tall Tree in the Ear
15. Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
16.Moby - Wait for Me
17. Beirut - March of the Zapotec and Realpeople Holland
18.Melody Gardot - My One and Only Thrill
19. Sam Roberts - Love at the End of the World
20.Son Volt - American Central Dust

1. White Rabbits - "Percussion Gun
2. Decemberists - "The Rake's Song"

3. Animal Collective - "Summertime Clothes
4. Passion Pit - "Sleepyhead"

5. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears - "Sugarfoot
6. Bell X1 - "The Great Defector
7. East Hundred - "Slow Burning Crimes"

8. Phoenix - "Lisztomania"

9. Great Lake Swimmers - "Pulling on a Line"
10. Woodpigeon - "I Live a Lot of Places
11. White Rabbits - "They Done Wrong, We Done Wrong"
12.Neko Case - " People Got a Lot of Nerve"
13. Grizzly Bear - "Two Weeks"
Death Cab for Cutie - "Little Bribes"
Sam Roberts - "Detroit ’67"
16.Roman Candle - "Eden Was a Garden"
17. The Damnwells
- "Bastard of Midnight"
18. Avett Brothers - "I and Love and You"
19. Animal Collective - "My Girls"
20. Melody Gardot
- "Who Will Comfort Me?"

Poem of the Month: Here's one I wrote for this month's poem-a-day challenge, and dedicated to every baseball fan whose team didn't have as good a season as the Phillies and Yankees.

Another Long Season

S. is a slacker, D. is a drag,
W. can’t hit his way out of a bag.
P. is a slowpoke, B. is a bum,
G.’s a good shortstop, but boy is he dumb.
C. is a closer who can’t save a game,
N. has been called every kind of bad name.
R. is a choker, H. a hot dog,
L.’s got less hustle than a hollowed-out log.
O.’s overpaid, V.’s over-the-hill,
U.’s been suspended for using some pill.
F. is a flake, M. plays for the money,
K. strikes out so much it's not even funny.
These guys haven’t given me much reason to cheer;
all I can say is: Just wait till next year!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The "Frillies" vs. The "Yankers"

Yeah! Getting ready for the Phillies’ second consecutive World Series! I think the series versus the Yankees will be hard-fought and will go to at least six games, but I think the Phils will prevail. I’m still a bit ticked off about an article in that bastion of responsible journalism, the New York (Com)Post the other day. The headline read “The Frillies Are Coming” and featured a Photoshopped picture of Shane Victorino with a cheerleader’s skirt and legs. The piece of tripe that accompanied it proceeded to trash the team, its fans, and even the city. I won’t repeat all the nonsense that came out of the mouths and pens of the three alleged “writers” and the Yankee fans they quoted, but they even went as far as to say the Phils arrived in New York in true “second-class” style – by train. Now who travels from Philly to New York by plane anyway, unless they want to pay more and take longer to get there (or unless they have a private jet – like maybe A-Rod)? Anyway, I hope the Phillies take the series and make those Post morons eat their words – like a cheesesteak “with”.

Another reminder that my group’s journal, Up and Under: The QND Review is now accepting submissions for poetry. Go to for more details. You’ll also find links to two other journals that members of my group edit, Chantarelle’s Notebook and The Barefoot Muse.

I’m not doing a lot creatively these days other than an occasional so-so poem, but I am helping edit our journal and submitting to others. My new book Breathing Out has been slightly delayed but hopefully will be shipped out the end of October. Thanks for your patience to all of you who ordered copies in advance. If you didn’t get around to it and still would like a copy, check the publisher's website:

Music: Besides enjoying the new album from The Swell Season (Glen Hansard and Marketa Inglova, the folks who brought you the indie film “Once” and its Oscar-winning song “Falling Slowly”) and turning my 13-year-old on to the joys of Bob Dylan, I’ve been thinking about lists again. I’ll have a best-albums-of-2009 list soon enough, but for now I’m thinking of the best of the decade, the 00’s if you will. I’m still tinkering with a list of 70-some candidates, but for now, here’s a list of my favorite 30 albums from the years 2000-2009:

1. The Crane Wife – The Decemberists
2. Illinois – Sufjan Stevens
3. Kill the Moonlight – Spoon
4. Twin Cinema – New Pornographers
5. SMiLE – Brian Wilson
6. We Were Born in a Flame – Sam Roberts
7. The Shepherd’s Dog – Iron & Wine
8. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – Spoon
9. Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective
10. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
11. Asleep in the Back – Elbow
12. Stay Positive – The Hold Steady
13. Flock – Bell X1
14. A Rush of Blood to the Head – Coldplay
15. The Boxing Mirror – Alejandro Escovedo
16. Magic – Bruce Springsteen
17. Picaresque – The Decemberists
18.Gimme Fiction- Spoon
19. Fate – Dr. Dog
20. Okemah and the Melody of Riot – Son Volt
21. Sound of Silver – LCD Soundsystem
22. Viva la Vida – Coldplay
23. Electric Version – New Pornographers
24. The Rising – Bruce Springsteen
25. Boys and Girls in America – The Hold Steady
26. Boxer – The National
27. The Stage Names – Okkervil River
28. Separation Sunday – The Hold Steady
29. The Hazards of Love – The Decemberists
30. Come Away with Me – Norah Jones

Poem of the…Month:

I entered this limerick in a Halloween poetry contest – it didn’t win, but I thought it was fun in a slightly macabre way, so in the spirit of the season, here it is:

Nice Mask

“A Halloween full moon is neat,”
thought the werewolf, “I’ll go trick-or-treat!
They’ll think it’s a mask,
so they won’t even ask –
I’ll come home with a bag full of meat!”

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Broken Knees, Phillies and Mosquito Trucks

Things have been a bit busy around my house lately. We sent Son #3 off to graduate school in Washington earlier this month, and he seems to be doing well so far. Two weeks ago, though, Son #1 tripped and suffered a serious injury near his Brooklyn home – a fractured patella. He needed major surgery and ended up coming home with his mother, who spend several days with him up there. We provided nursing care while he recovered – on top of having a vertical line of staples in his kneecap and a clunky immobilizing leg brace, he suffered from nausea and a spinal headache for several days. He’s starting to adjust to his limitations, but it will be tough for him for a while. Among other things, he can’t return to his apartment, which has a long flight of steps and no elevator, and his job is a long commute from his home. My wife drove him to New York today to see his doctor and to try to teach his first class since the injury. We realized these past couple of weeks that you never stop being a parent, and never stop wanting to take care of your kids. I’m glad we could be there for him.

Poetry: Not writing a lot these days, but I’m anxiously awaiting the release of my new chapbook, Breathing Out. If you’re not already sick of hearing about it, and still want to get a copy, here’s the link to the publisher, Finishing Line Press. I did get confirmation that my poem “Trivia” was accepted for the next issue of US 1 Worksheets, and that I have been invited to submit work to a new online journal, the Fox Chase Review. I’m honored because submissions are by invitation only, and there are some pretty respectable poets from the area who have been published there. My merry band of bards, the Quick and Dirty Poets, had an invitational reading at the Mt. Holly Fall Arts Festival a couple of weeks ago - it was a swell time.
Speaking of local festivals, if you are in my area (Philly/South Jersey), check out the Collingswood Book Festival this Saturday, October 3rd.

I’m glad to hear that the Dodge Poetry Festival has been revived and will take place next year after all. I’m not crazy about the location (Newark) because it won’t have the idyllic feel that Waterloo Village did, but I’m happy that it will at least be held somewhere.

I registered for Peter Murphy’s Winter Getaway writer’s conference in Cape May next January. I attended this three-day affair a few years ago and had a great time. This one boasts two top-notch poets giving special workshops: Stephen Dunn and Mark Doty. Dunn has been there the last several years, but this is Doty’s first appearance at the conference. I just missed getting into his workshop (I’m high on the waiting list) so I will plan to take Stephen Dunn’s workshop instead. I know several people who have workshopped with him and they say he’s really good, so I’m looking forward to it.

Music: WXPN is starting their countdown of 885 “Desert Island Songs” – as I explained before, the premise is to pick 10 songs that you couldn’t do without if you were to be stranded on a desert island. The songs near the bottom of the list have been interesting and diverse, and generally really good, but I might make a list of songs that have been played that would make me want to swim for the mainland. “New York, New York” would be the first one on that list.

Baseball: Looks like my Phillies are on their way to their third consecutive division title, but not without making me bite my nails. Their once-comfortable lead over Atlanta has shrunken a bit due to their listless offense the last several games and Atlanta’s hot streak. As I write, though, their magic number is down to 1, so they could clinch as early as tonight. I’m not extremely confident they’ll get back to the World Series again this year, though, as there are a few question marks, the biggest one being the bullpen. Brad Lidge went from superhero to goat in one short year, and there really isn’t another consistent closer on the staff. We’ll see, but I’m afraid it may be another Dodgers-Yankees World Series. At least the network ratings folks would be happy.

Poem of the Post: Since I blog so sporadically, maybe I should stop calling this the "poem of the week" or "month", or "quarter" or whatever. It's the poem of this post, no matter how frequent or infrequent it is. This poem, a bit of nostalgia for now-departed summer, as well as an earlier, more innocent time, appears in the new issue of Edison Literary Review:

Mosquito Truck

In my neighborhood
with the exception of the ice cream man
no one attracted kids
like the mosquito truck guy.
He’d cruise down the streets
in that battered gray tanker
with “County Pest Control” stenciled
in no-nonsense black on the side.
Behind him a nozzle spewed a cloud of insecticide,
pluming and roiling like a sudden white fog.
And we were close behindon our red and blue Schwinns
plowing through this haze
pretending to be jet fighters
cutting the cumulus toward the stratosphere.

Who knows what we were inhaling
on those muggy summer evenings?
I’m sure DDT was in the mix.
But these were innocent times
before cancer was something everybody got,
before we wondered what was killing
all those fish and birds,
before we worried what our enemies
might put in our air,
or what we had done to it ourselves.
All that mattered to us at the time
was imagination, aspiration, purpose.
We would plunge oblivious
through those dangerous fumes,
pedaling willfully toward the unknown.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bonus: a "999" Poem

Here is a poem I wrote for a contest run by online poet friend Don "Kingfisher" Campbell. The premise is to write 9-line poem of nine words per line, on a subject that has something to do with the number 9. Here's his site: http://999poetry.

This concrete poem is in the form of a sudoku. I presume you could solve it with the numbers provided, if you were so inclined.

Click the image to enlarge it.

If you like it, go to the above link and leave a positive comment for the poem. Apparently these will help determine the winner of the contest. Thanks!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mission Accomplished!

I made it! I sold the 55 books required during the pre-sale period for a full printing from Finishing Line Press. I actually had 66 books sold for the period ending August 28, so that means I get a full first printing of 250 copies, plus 25 free copies for me to sell at readings, give away, or do whatever I want with them. I have to admit, it's a bit of a relief to have that pre-sale over with. Thanks to all of you out there who made this possible with your orders and your faith in me and my work. I got orders from family, co-workers, poet friends, online friends, and maybe even a stranger or two. Thanks also to Leah and Kevin Maines (the publisher-editors at Finishing Line Press); and to Anna Evans, BJ Ward and Therese Halscheid for writing wonderful blurbs for the book. If you are didn’t order yet but are still interested, the book is available at:

Music: I’ve been touting the website music club known as eMusic for some time now. It has been a great source for downloads of independent labels and hard-to-find albums. Recently I was a bit disappointed when they reduced the number of downloads per month with my membership, apparently to offset the increased price of bringing in some major labels like Columbia. But I must admit they have sweetened the pot with bonus downloads and such to keep me in the club. And I recently realized that Bob Dylan is one of the new artists they offer – virtually his whole catalog. So I snatched up about 50 favorite Dylan songs that I don’t already have on CD or elsewhere. That got me to thinking: what are the top Dylan albums I would recommend? Here they are, in order of preference:

1. Blonde on Blonde
2. Highway 61 Revisited
3. Bringing It All Back Home
4. Blood on the Tracks
5. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
6. John Wesley Harding
7. Another Side of Bob Dylan
8. The Times They Are A-changin’
9. Desire
10. Time Out of Mind
11. Oh Mercy
12. Modern Times

The other find on eMusic was one of my favorite “New Age” artists, George Winston. His “Seasons” box set (which includes his albums Winter into Spring, Summer, and Autumn) is available on eMusic for 12 download credits – that’s for 33 tracks – quite a bargain.

Poem of the Fortnight: I had fun with Robert Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog weekly prompt this week, so I thought I’d share it here. The prompt was to write a poem about something mislabeled. My subject was a little bit of a stretch for the topic, that’s okay. The title is the word for misheard or misinterpreted lyrics in a song – it originates from an old English folk song that contains the line, “and laid him on the green”, which has been misinterpreted as “and Lady Mondegreen”.


We do not pledge allegiance
to the republic for “Richard Stans”.

“Gladly the Cross I’d Bear” is not a hymn
about a cross-eyed bear named Gladly,
and “Silent Night” is not about “round John Virgin.”

Creedence Clearwater Revival
did not sing about a “bathroom on the right”,
and Jimi Hendrix did not want to “kiss this guy”.

And as for the Beatles’ “Michelle”,
they’re singing in French, not about
a “Sunday monkey” who won’t play a piano song.

So get it right, people!
Now if you don’t mind,
I’ll listen to my favorite classical pieces,

like Mozart’s “I’m Inclined to Knock Music”,
or the "Cannon" by Paco Bell.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Flooding, Desert Islands, Tomatoes and the Hard Sell

It was good to spend a few days with my sister, down from Maine. We don't get together much these days due to the geographical thing, but she came down to visit us, and her son, and some old school chums. She'd be the first to tell you, though, that her trip here (and to Ohio to see her daughter) was full of mishaps, the last and probably biggest being the flooding of her car. She was visiting in Glassboro Saturday night ater a huge rainstorm, turned onto a side street into a large puddle which turned out to be more like a small lake. The water came up to her headlights and rushed into her floorboards, and she could actually feel the car floating. Fortunately she was able to drive through it, and though the car stalled out temporarily, it seems okay now. Damp, but okay. It should be good for the trip back to Maine tomorow.

Poetry: It's me again, the broken record! One last reminder that pre-sales period for my new poetry chapbook, Breathing Out, ends this Friday the 28th! If you like my poetry and would like to have a handsome collection of it, plus help me meet my publication goal, please go to:

Music: Once again WXPN is having their annual top 885 list and asking listeners to compile a top ten list based on this premise: If you could take only ten songs with you to a desert island, which ten would they be? This is the list I compiled and submitted at the XPN Fest after about an hour's cogitation in the hot sun. I went somewhat eclectic with this, figuring if I were to be stuck with ten songs for God-knows-how-long, they'd better be fairly diverse.

10. Gaudete - Steeleye Span: representing the folk genre, this gorgeous a capella piece is indicative of a great band's harmonies - it's also made just about every Christmas mix tape/CD I've ever compiled, so it can serve double duty as a seasonal number. It was a toss-up, though, between this and Fairport Convention's "Matty Groves".

9. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning - Richard Thompson: Maybe a bit too obvious, but I have never grown tired of this one, the best acoustic song ever done by one of my favorite all-time artists. (His best electric song? "Shoot Out the Lights".)

8. Kashmir - Led Zeppelin: Big and bombastic, heavy with Eastern modality, this song still gives me goose bumps whenever I crank it up.

7. My Girl - Temptations: One of the smoothest, most romantic songs ever recorded, period.

6. I Heard it Through the Grapevine - Marvin Gaye: Not sure why I included two Motown songs (maybe it was the sun), but this is just one of the most perfect pop songs ever.

5. Sshh/Peaceful - Miles Davis: My all-time favorite jazz artist, with his best lineup ever, doing one of the prettiest numbers of the genre. (I had it picked before I even saw Mezz's list - honest!)

4. (Stuck Inside of Mobile with the) Memphis Blues Again - Bob Dylan: I had to include something by the greatest pop singer-songwriter ever, didn't I? It was a toss-up between this one and "Desolation Row".

3. The Four Seasons: Winter - Antonio Vivaldi: Any good recording of this will do - I love baroque, and this is one of my favorite works - also, like #10 above, it can do double duty as a seasonal piece (I'll need something on that desert island to remind me of snow and winter!)

2. I Am the Walrus - The Beatles: Can't go anywhere without my Fabs, and this is still my all-time favorite song of theirs - psychedelic, goofy, obtuse, overproduced, and just friggin' wonderful.

1. 9th Symphony: 4th Movement, "Ode to Joy" - Ludwig von Beethoven: I'd prefer to take the whole symphony, but if limited to one movement, this is the one - glorious, inspiring, just one of the most incredible pieces ever written. Again, any good version will do, but I'm still partial to the version from the 1960's with Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra. (Honorable mention: Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus")

Just missing the cut:
Brandenburg Concerto #2 - J.S. Bach
The Boxer - Simon and Garfunkel
Baba O'Riley - The Who
My Favorite Things - John Coltrane
Sister Jack - Spoon
Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect - The Decemberists
Use It - The New P*rnographers
Shine On You Crazy Diamond - Pink Floyd
The Great Curve - Talking Heads
Music for 18 Musicians - Steve Reich

Poem of the Week (more or less):

It's been ten years this summer since I started writing poetry again after a long, long hiatus. This is one of the first ones I wrote that summer, and it appeared in a journal called Maelstrom in 2001:


Three plump tomatoes,

products of my late summer garden,

sit on the kitchen cutting board

in a triangular array,

each a bit smaller than the other

but every one just as red,

awaiting their fate.

Today, they are almost decorative;

tomorrow, they’ll be someone’s salad,

split open by serrated knives,

sliced, cubed, even crushed,

their thin seeds and juices

staining the wood.

They look so peaceful now, so red

in the terrible white kitchen.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Buy My Book! Buy My Book!

Those of you who are fans of the short-lived animated series "The Critic" will get the joke. For those who don't, "The Critic" was about a movie critic named Jay Sherman, voiced by Jon Lovitz, and brought to you by the same folks who produced “The Simpsons”. It was a wonderfully funny send-up of the movie, TV and entertainment business in general, and chock full of movie spoof scenes. One episode was a spoof of the Stephen King-based film “Misery”, with Jay held captive by a deranged fan. In the fan's apartment was a life-sized promotional animated cut-out Jay holding a copy of his latest book, waving its arms and shouting, “Buy my BOOK! Buy my BOOK!” That’s what I feel like doing, yet I don’t want to get that obnoxious about it. It’s just that the arrangement I have with Finishing Line Press makes it necessary to push it hard during the pre-sale period. I’m getting worried because as of this writing, I have only sold 18 copies so far, and I need to sell 37 more by August 28, or I won’t get a first printing (250 copies including 25 free to me). So this is my final appeal: Buy my BOOK! To those of you who have already: thanks so much, and please be patient till it finally is released in mid-October. Those of you whom I see in person, I will be glad to autograph it if you wish. To the rest of you: I know you have the best intentions, but don’t procrastinate – please order it today! Go to, click the tab for new and forthcoming releases, and scroll down alphabetically to my name and my book. Thank you for your time and attention. Sincerely yours, Bruce.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Rehearsals for Retirement?

Well, blog, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and post more often, even at the risk of becoming inane and boring. Well, more inane and boring, anyway. The summer has been a pretty good one so far. This week my wife and I are “childless”- our youngest is off to Boy Scout camp again and our second-youngest, who has been back home for the summer, is off on a cross-country road trip. So the missus and I planned a two-night getaway at a B&B in Lancaster County, PA. Unfortunately, the owner called us the night before and told us he had air-conditioning problems, so we decided to cancel our plans and spend our three days off at home. It was wonderful, kind of a “rehearsal for retirement” – doing things at an unhurried pace, going out to dinner, sleeping in, puttering around, shopping, even setting up a new bed for ourselves (wink, wink). I could get used to this. No bingo or bus trips yet, though.

Good news in poetry: My poem, “Old Man at Bedtime”, has been nominated for a Best of the Net Award by the online journal Thick with Conviction. It’s one of two poems I’ve written about my late father-in-law, and both have earned me some accolades. I think he’s smiling down on me.

Baseball: How ‘bout them Phillies? Seven games ahead in first place, last time I checked. Let’s hope they can keep the lead and make the playoffs again – and dare I say it – even the World Series, for the second year in a row. (Pardon my skepticism, but as a long-time Phillies fan I’m old enough to remember their colossal collapse of 1964.) Their hitting – especially Rollins – is picking up again after a bit of a slump, and they have a surplus of good starting pitchers all of a sudden. Getting Cliff Lee was a major coup, and that kid Happ is looking like a Rookie of the Year candidate – what a gem he pitched the other night! GM Amaro even suggested they may go to a six-man rotation. It’s a pleasant dilemma when you have to decide whether to keep Jamie Moyer or Pedro Martinez in the rotation. The only weak link is the bullpen – Brad Lidge this year seems like a shadow of his former self.

Music: I just realized that I never posted anything about the XPoNential Music Festival, the annual event I attended about two weeks ago at Wiggins Park in Camden. It’s a 3-day affair, but I went on Saturday (all by myself, it turns out). A bit hot, but a fine day for music. Steve Wynn and Pete Yorn rocked, local bands East Hundred and Illinois were excellent, John Gorka was great as always, The Bacon Brothers were surprisingly good, Yeasayer (see below) were a revelation, local gal Sharon Little was sexy and bluesy, They Might Be Giants were quirky and fun as expected, and The Hold Steady were awesome and rockin’ as expected, till rain shortened their set.

I just downloaded two albums that I’m enjoying:

1. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix – This French band is upbeat, breezy and poppy with a splash of electronica, and the album kicks off with two of the best songs of the year, “Lisztomania” and “1901”. It’s already making a bunch of best-of-the-year lists, and will probably make mine as well.

2. All Hour Cymbals by Yeasayer – I saw these guys at the XPoNential Music Festival this year, and they were impressive, with an eclectic, progressive mix of rock and world music styles, and tight harmonies. This is their debut album from last year, and it too got a lot of favorable reviews. The music is almost impossible to describe, so all I can say is give it a listen.

Poem of the Week: Here’s a summer poem with a slightly erotic edge that appeared previously in Thick with Conviction:


On the weekend, you were a steady rain.

Yesterday, when you were mostly cloudy,

it was hard to read your sky.

But today you’re bright sunshine and warm

with a light southerly breeze

and a high in the upper 80’s.

Everything blooms around you

and fragrances follow your path.

I want to meet you on the veranda

as lemonade glasses sweat the afternoon.

Let’s generate a strong Bermuda high.

Tonight, let’s make a little thunder in the bedroom,

and glisten afterward, twisted in dampened sheets.

It’s not your heat, baby,

it’s your humidity.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Readings and Holy Tango II

It’s been an active summer poetry-wise for me. Not only am I beating the drum for my new chapbook (and in case you’ve forgotten, it’s called Breathing Out and is available from Finishing Line Press), but I’ve already done three readings in the past month or so, which for me is pretty busy. “Real life” keeps me from getting out to read more often, which would be weekly if I had a chance. As I mentioned before, my poem “Record Store” was published in the new issue of Philadelphia Poets, and I attended both of the book launch parties. The South Philly reading was great, but the one at Robin’s Bookstore in Center City last night was even better. Despite a stormy evening, there was a very good turnout. I was one of a baker’s dozen of featured poets reading, so I only got to read three of my poems, but they got a big, enthusiastic response, and hopefully I sold a couple of books as well. It was an excellent evening of poetry all around. Kudos to editor Rosemary Cappello for putting together both events, and for an awesome journal.
I also read with Kendall Bell for the Burlington County Poets on the 23rd, and that went very well too. Thanks to Sheila McDonald, Adele Bourne and the rest of the BC Poets for inviting us.

Music: Just got the new albums by Moby (Wait for Me) and Son Volt (American Central Dust). Moby’s album is better than anything he’s done since his 1999 classic, Play. Musically it’s not as varied or adventurous, but the man still knows how to write some gorgeous, cinematic themes. Son Volt’s last effort, The Search, was a bit disappointing after their terrific 2006 release Okemah and the Melody of Riot, but this new one is a solid effort, if a bit mellower than the last two albums.

Poem of the Week:
It feels good to say that again. Here is another offering inspired by Francis Heaney’s very funny collection, Holy Tango of Literature. Again, the premise is to take a famous poet’s name and anagram it into a word or phrase that can be a title, then write a poem with that title in the style of that poet. So here’s a poet that everyone knows well:

Dress Us
by Dr. Seuss

“We’re going next week to the Burbletown Ball,”
Said Louie and Zooie McGrundle-O’Grall.
“We need something fancy to catch all their eyes,
So do you have something that’s nice in our size?”
“Oh sure,” said the salesman, a Mr. Galoot,
“Here’s something for you sir, a wonderful suit!
It’s made from the finest Bodinka-cat hide,
with purplish stripes and green lining inside.”
“But the Bodinka-cat’s such a cute little varmint,”
said Louie, “I never would put on this garment.”
“Okay,” said Galoot, “Here’s something for madam,
a red gown spun by the silkworms of Zhaddam.”
“But the silkworms,” said Zooey, “work all day and night,
without any lunch break – I’ve heard of their plight!”
“All right!” huffed Galoot, “I don’t mean to pester,
But look at this rack – it’s all polyester!”
“Oh no, that’s from oil,” Louie said with disgust,
“Non-renewable resource – we must save it – we must!”
“I can’t help you,” Galoot sneered. “You’re both on a mission,
“So now please excuse me – I work on commission!”
So Mr. and Mrs. McGrundle-O’Grall
Finally went to the Burbletown Ball.
They never did really intend be rude,
But they shocked everyone when they came in the nude!