Tag Archives: Poetry

Tracking madness

By Penel Alden

I asked Leslie Hunter
If any of the old miners
Could describe the darkness
The way they could describe their trucks

Warm familiarity
Ambivalent hostility
Caressing the machines
Tracking madness through stone’s marrow

She said their hoary beards
Smelled of things that their eyes
Knew should remain buried

What the proletariat will achieve
By expelling the excrement
Through the pipes of our collective nightmares
Is no clean exit
No flight from the Minotaur’s labyrinth
Each of us still Pasiphaë

And perhaps our only salvation
Is enveloped in the violent
Chaotic crashing of the submerging ocean

Penel Alden is a mediocre and degenerate academic living on California’s central coast. Her recent poetry has appeared in Sierra Nevada Review, California Quarterly, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and in her forthcoming collection, California (Kelsay Books, 2021).

Forgot Kid in Bar

By Pete Mladinic

Schaeffer has his favorite this
and that.  His favorite female singer,
Nancy Bradley, would be his age,
she died decades before he heard her
voice, such depth, clarity and range.
She chain smoked, and cigarettes
were not helping, nor was alcohol.
She married and had a daughter,
a short troubled marriage and finally
her ex got custody of the daughter,
but before that, there was a day or
night Nancy, in a bar, got so drunk
she walked, or stumbled or staggered
out of the bar, not aware her kid
an infant was there.  Good singers
do bad things sometimes, or don’t do
what they should, or like leave
the infant with a sitter or something
Nancy neglected to do.  It’s a story
Schaeffer heard, but mostly her voice
what remains is the thing, a voice
to his ear like no other, such range
clarity, the voice of Nancy Bradley,
what she’s remembered for, renown
to those who appreciate her songs.

Peter Mladinic’s poems have recently appeared in Neologism, Adelaide, the Mark, Ariel Chart, 433, Art Villa and other online journals.  He lives with six dogs in Hobbs, New Mexico.

the beats are all dead now

By Dylan Gibson

About as soon as I stopped drinking, I started smoking again.
This is how it goes, said an old AA head I knew years ago:
“always gotta keep one.”
It’s true, but for god only knows why.
The death drive, bad alchemy of the head, or perhaps
a part of the strange little litany of daily performances that are
birdsong for the American definition of “free.”

We wrote new songs to kill all our cowboys and, in doing so,
made them into monsters big enough to blot out the stars.

In my dream the elevator is plummeting from the sky
while the bald man beside me smiles without a face
and tucks his head into the corner, says “it’ll go quicker this way.”
Like some kind of weekend warrior.
But we’ve both been here countless nights before. 
Even in my dreams I’m thinking about work.

Take down the bukowski posters from your wall and concede
that moloch, mental moloch, has at last devoured us all.
When we smoked on the balcony together I told you we’d 
eaten all those mushrooms five years too early in our lives 
but it’s five years too late now and we know all the pretty colors 
are just travel ads for tropical getaways that’ve been glowing 
in the dark since the 1950s.

Maybe he’d have been a better writer if he hadn’t been so fucked up, anyway.

Dylan Gibson is an American writer living and working in Taipei. His work has previously been published in the Blue River Review.

Red giant

By Dylan Gibson

I know but not by choice a big ruddy man who’s
made himself into a special kind of machine
the mighty productive power of which lies in its ability
to erase itself from recent memory.

His colleagues and detractors alike know him to be
ever-present yet perennially useless like a Godhead, a ravenous
gaping chasm where the elders threw the undesirables,
where the suicides teetered and gawped,

a pockmarked red giant on the verge
of implosion under its own gravity.
Glowing red yet ever dimmer in the twilight of his 30s,
doggedly stumbling on well after last call,

scouring the recesses of 3am
for some last trace of 25.

Dylan Gibson is an American writer living and working in Taipei. His work has previously been published in the Blue River Review.

Interview with author Stephanie Roberts

By Lauren Garguilo

It is fitting, that our first interview on our blog is with a poet from our first issue. Stephanie Roberts’ new book rushes from the river disappointment is available here from the publisher. 
Her poem “set fire to stop fire” was included in our first issue, which is available to be read here. 

GM: What does the title of your collection “rushes from the river disappointment” mean in context with the book’s cover. 

sr: The cover was a 2020 Communications Arts Book Design award winner! It was designed by David Drummond using a sentence synopsis and very little input from me (no pink and my name in all lowercase). Mr. Drummond talks in detail about the cover here. I was apprehensive and intrigued about subjecting my work to someone else’s artistic interpretation, but I am beyond thrilled by the result. 

GM: What is the significance of lower-case letters for you? 

sr: Thank you for this question. My usage is not whimsical; I grew gradually and firmly in that direction. The dominance of all lower-case letters is an aesthetic decision as well as a political one. It feels important to be cognizant of the beige flavors of tradition and delusional stereotypes in quotidian glances as in art. Perhaps we could be a little more curious about the capital “I” in English as a reinforcing agent of the centrality of our ego in society. The joking rebuttal to the adage there’s no I in team that there is an “I” in “win” leads me to wonder, what are we winning exactly? Vocabulary has creative force. It is why Black Americans have struggled to embrace an ethnic and cultural designation (having discarded colored, Negro, Afro-American) that feels like ours and not a white supremacist framing of our existence. An element of rebellion feels vital to my consideration of the inner integrity of particular poems. To use a lowercase i is to begin being deliberate about my vulnerability. When writing a poem it’s not evident before starting if a poem is going to be a lowercase poem. Grammar should be about clarity not a cage. If some fucker is biased against lowercase i and the usage of all-lowercase poetry the mind is agitated because the heart is already corrupted in which case they are correct to eschew my work as there will be no pleasure for them there. Maybe one day I will stop using lowercase letters in my poetics but today is not that day.

GM: One of the poems in your book was published by GM in our first issue, has the poem changed at all? How have you grown as a writer since being published by GM? 

sr: Your question made me pull out your first issue to compare the original to the collection version. They are almost identical except for the addition of a strophe break after line four. I feel grateful for my early publishers like Goat’s Milk Magazine whose editors recognized my work letting “Set Fire to Start Fire” be the leadoff hitter in the inaugural issue. I think my poetry has taken a gut to head journey that reaches for a musical centre of heartfelt truth, funneled through a growing Plinko board of craft.

GM: What do you love about literary magazines? 

sr: Their archival manner. Lit mags are our most fine-boned histories and psychologies written by our most popular, erudite, and weird-ass bards.

GM: Currently, there is a lot going on in the world, what are you doing for self-care? 

sr: What do you mean when you say self-care? I am afraid to assume I know.   

GM: What is one word that describes your work? 

sr: Irreverent.

GM: What’s next for you? 

sr: I want to travel to Panama when I can. I want to experience the barrio where my father grew up, the hospital where I was born, and the Panamanian rainforest.

GM: Do writers have an obligation to be political? What do you think the writer’s role should be during events like the COVID-19 pandemic, and the BLM protests? Should they have a role? 

sr: Barton Smock, the editor of {is acoustic*}, lists contributors as “person” not “poet.” At first, I felt put off because I Am a Poet! Now, I see the imperative of intentionally cutting away exteriors to continually uncover the root of our interdependence. If a writer considers them self within humanity they are obligated to strive to act humanely and have courage to err on the side of greater and greater compassion. It is pathological to fundamentally view one’s particular will as a force outside of and above humanity. Even Picasso that great egoist made Guernica. If when faced with political and economic questions we sought the most compassionate answers we would eliminate a great deal of pain and our baffling present cruelties that become our historical ones. A major difference between Canada and the United States is that Canada, as inelegantly and imperfectly as it happens, houses cultures and leadership that attempt to move a mixture of origins together toward a more and more just society. There is a sense that compassion is a Canadian ideal beginning with the compassion that First Nations have long held for nature and the environment. Compassion is not a key value in the United States that nation is punctuated at every corner with snarls of cruelty. Let poets be the Sirens who sing those snarls to their drowning.