Thursday, November 30, 2006


Relief~ is seeing your manuscript to the Poets and Writers - Writers Exchange contest off at the post office.
You "proof" and have others do the same. You make sure all the rules have been followed. You count and recount... check the page order, recheck the address, secure the mailing and see it off like it were your son or daughter heading off to school the first day.
Our weather here turned nasty yesterday. Rain and sleet and finally ice. We wait now for the next wave that is supposed to be snow. They say we may get noting and we may get 6 to 8 inches.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wednesday Poet Series No.9 Mbembe Milton Smith

The poet I've selected for this week was a local Kansas City area poet. He would have been 60 this month had he not taken his life at age 36.

He grew up on Kansas City's east side during the 1960's civil rights movement. His poetry resonates the struggles of black urban America in those times and to some extent is very relevant today.

Initially he was self-taught but he eventually became the first person to receive a double major in English and Creative Writing in the Master's program at UMKC.

In the 1970's Smith took the name Mbembe, Swahili for "smooth-tongued one."

Mbembe was more of a locally known poet, though he did move to New York and was in Chicago at the time of his death. He did publish a couple of books. He also went on to teach. His work left a major impact upon a number of people. Had he lived longer and had greater exposure, he quite possibly would have achieved more national recognition.

There was a lot of goomaterialal presented on our local NPR affiliate station KCUR and I am simply going to link to it.
You can hear the segment by Sylvia Marie Gross with Mbembe reading as well as interviews and other material on him. [ click here ]


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We Have A Lot of Thought Police These Days....

I'm sure there are incidents many of us never hear of, but two situations of recent times have become high profile enough to make the news.

On a 3-2 vote, the town council in Pahrump, Nevada, (town of about 30,000 near Las Vegas) passed an ordinance that makes it illegal to display a foreign flag unless an American flag is flown above it. Those in violation face a $50 fine and 30 hours of community service.

Meanwhile, in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, the Loma Linda Homeowners Association decided Lisa Jensen could not keep her holiday wreath with a peace sign on her home. Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association sent her a letter that said the association "will not allow signs, flags etc.That can be considered divisive." He has threatened to fine her $25 a day until she removes it.

Have we not progressed any further than this? That people in roles of authority are still trying to mold everyone into the same shape, the same thought process and tell us what is and isn't "correct"? Can a great nation lacktolerancee? Isn't that what this nation was founded upon? People came here because they did not want to be told how to worship.

I expect this kind of rule in closed societies. Such coercive measures as censorship and forced subordination are trademarks of totalitarian rule. In thesesocietiess, free expression, the arts, the free exchange of ideas and knowledge arecontrolledd or restricted altogether. Yet, there are people who seem to feel this is the only way that they can protect this country. They feel the urge to "clean" and "purge" it of whatever they fear. Have we not learned lessons from the past? From the histories of Hitler and Stalin?


*[Note - picture above is a photo taken recently along the bank of the Missouri River]

Monday, November 27, 2006

Unconscious Mutterings week 199

  1. Rhyme:: Dime
  2. Substantial :: Raise
  3. Instant :: potatoes
  4. Greed :: land grab
  5. Brad :: Pitt
  6. Season :: Seasoning salt
  7. Accomplished :: musician
  8. Invite :: dinner party
  9. Sparkle :: cake decorations
  10. Rainbow :: somewhere over the rainbow

Get your own list here

Did I mention the rolls were awesome?

Four day holiday over. {sigh}

Wednesday night I took the family out to Longview Lake for the annual Christmas in the Park - sponsored by Jackson County. Great night.... Tremendous fireworks display that the lit up the sky and rained comets upon the lake. We all enjoyed it except for the long lines to leave.

Thursday - we had our traditional thanksgiving meal - only lighter this year. We cut backs on extras like stuffing and sweet potatoes, etc. Just Turkey, Mashed potatoes with gravy and home made rolls which were to die for. It was nice Not pigging out. Of course we were all waiting for Friday and what has become a Wells family tradition... turkey flautas. Later Thursday Meghan and I went to the movie to see Bobby. Friday we went to my son's house and my wife worked her flauta magic to everyone's satisfaction. Two wonderful relaxing days.

Saturday and Sunday however we turned the house upside down cleaning, rearranging, making messes and cleaning some of them up. I think we were all pretty whipped last night. I have mussels this morning hurting in places I didn't know existed. Above is a picture taken in my office. Should have done a before and after shot. On second thought... nah.


Any writers looking for a pad? The family of Stanley Kunitz, who received every possible prize and praise before his death in May at 100, is selling his co-of for $2.25 million. It’s located in Butterfield House, a graceful 1962 building by architects William Conklin and James Rossant. (Paul Goldberger has called it one of the best postwar buildings in the city.)

Here is a list of poetry for just about everyone on your gift list.Complementsss of Kelli Russell Agodon.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Rogue Poetry Announcement

Wishing all of you a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving with friends and family.
Please take a moment over the holiday to stop by and see the exciting announcement at
Rogue Poetry Review.
Happy Holidays

Wednesday Poet Series No 8 - C.E. Chaffin

Another Wednesday has come. They seem swoop in so fast since I've been doing this series. Almost too fast at times. The selection for today was made really upon reading one poem. There are some topics that even exceptional poets must have nightmares about writing. They are so often attempted and seldom is justice done to the topics. One of them is war.

The first poem of C. E. Chaffin's I read was At the Vietnam War Memorial . Perhaps it was the opening lines: Black granite stretches its harsh, tapering wings / up to pedestrian-level grass / but sucks me down, here, at the intersection of names. I've seen the memorial and those lines brought me back to my own experience. Coming from the "Vietnam" generation I can appreciate the upheaval, the unreconciled in this poem. Towards the end, Chaffin profoundly writes, It's said you cannot write a good poem / until recollected in tranquility. / Let this then be a bad poem, bad as the war, / dividing author from reader and reader from page. I appreciate the fact that he did not wait for tranquility, this poem may never have been written.

Chaffin was born in Ventura, California, in 1954. A graduate of UCLA in 1976, While he won honors in English, he also received awards in medical school, in psychiatric residency, and later as a medical director. He went on to teach Family Medicine at UCI but retired at age 40 as a result of chronic spinal pain and manic-depression. It was in the early retirement that the literary pursuit took off.

He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in by Rose and Thorn. His only book, Elementary (Poems) from 1979 is out of print, as is The Best of Melic, 2003, which he edited. I was amused by his bio at Melic Review....

He has never been published in Poetry, Ploughshares or The Paris Review, has no personal website, and lives mainly in his head but resides in Long Beach, CA, presently on disability for manic-depression and intractable spinal pain. In other words, if he were a horse, he'd be shot. But he is a happy horse, with three young fillies from previous stud duties and a beautiful new mare.
Besides poetry Chafffin has written fiction and reviews. Ah yes, poetry reviews. He fears he may be remembered more for the reviews than his poetry.

A few of Chaffin's poems:

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Did I mention the free wine?"

Felix Dennis - his list of experiences might look something like this:

  • former crack-cocaine
  • prosecuted for obscenity
  • sex
  • facing a life-threatening illness

So Dennis, who now has amassed a significant wealth has turned to what else? Poetry!

Intriguing story about a man who has turned to poems and buying up land under pseudonyms, and planting forests on it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Long Time Since....

It's been a long time since I resorted to Unconscious Mutterings or subliminal on here. But I will undertake Week 198 ~ with one hand tied behind my back. Here goes:

  1. Teacher :: teacher, teacher I declare
  2. Fifty :: fifty is nifty but forty is better
  3. Crossword :: The New Your Times Crossword
  4. Stuffed :: Cabbage not animal heads
  5. Family :: Family Affair
  6. Purr :: After the purr you are never in control
  7. Toad :: The Toad in the road got mowed (down)
  8. Cocktail :: Shrimp Cocktails are just little bitty ones, right?
  9. Insecurity :: Insecurity gripped her
  10. Magical :: The magical mystery tour

The words courtesy of Unconscious Mutterings.

And the Short Week Begins ~

Took number three daughter on a picture shoot this weekend. I shot some stuff myself with far less sophisticated equipment. Meghan really seems to enjoy not only shooting pictures but the process of manipulating images later.

We had a good time - went through some wooded area along a river, part of the Louis and Clark Trail. We had to do lots of climbing and balancing to get some of the shots, all in the name of art, we kept telling ourselves. Then we drove back a ways to another location and shot some railroad pictures. I'll have a few more pictures to grace the blog for a while.

Friday night, Cath (wife) and I went to the movies, browsed at Barnes & Noble then made a Cold Stone Creamery run. The movie was Stranger than Fiction... The Cold Stone flavor pumpkin pie.

I'm pulling together 10 pages of manuscript to submit to a Poets and Writers Exchange contest. Decisions, decisions. I need to be finished with this by the end of the week. Really like to be done with it by Thursday just to be safe. This would also be a good week to get more submissions off - hopefully on their way to new homes.

Now to Tackle the week....

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Inventing One's Self

I was reading this quote by poet Philip Levine, "I have a sense that many Americans, especially those like me with European or foreign parents, feel they have to invent their families just as they have to invent themselves," when I realized how much I identify with this.

Growing up I had an overwhelming awareness, almost haunting, that there was a mammoth void in my life. That void was not only the absence of a father but perhaps more dramatically the absence of any knowledge of that whole paternal lineage. It is as though my father were a test tube as was his parents and theirs and so on. I think the fact that this whole genetic side was scrubbed from any existence was the most disturbing aspect. It in fact tended to support the feeling that I was significantly different from others. A difference that as a child was not framed in the context of something special, but rather something unusual, something defective, something amiss.

I have to admit as I grew older it was necessary to keep reinventing myself as I struggled to figure out who I was. To fill in the holes. This struggle to reinvent myself continues to a lesser degree today. I have to credit poetry to some degree for allowing me to explore attitudes, fears and expectations in ways I would not have before. It is through such creativity that the void is being filled. Mostly now, I am working on pot holes.

Friday, November 17, 2006

New Plath Poem

Saw the film trailer for Happy Feet this morning. What an enticing few moments of video to perk up my Friday morning.

  • Teacher Observation (here) on Crag Hill's poetry scorecard - I say ditto!
  • Thanks to for the plug!
  • What a coup for Blackbird -an online Journal of Literature and the Arts! Anna Journey, Contributing Editor of Blackbird made a remarkable discovery concerning a poem Sylia Plath wrote as an undergraduate. The poem had never been published. Blackbird was granted the first serial publication rights to the poem "Enuui" by estate of Sylvia Plath, Frieda Hughes, and Ros Edwards of the Edwards Fuglewicz Literary Agency. The poem and Anna Journey's insightful findings are here.
  • At 79, the poet W.S. Merwin shares his craft the elegance that has marked his poems for half a century.
  • Denise Low, interim dean of the College of Humanities and Arts at Haskell Indian Nations University to become the next Kansas Poet Laureate.
  • Thirteen are nominated for the State Poet Laureate position in Oklahoma.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wednesday Poet Series No. 7

To be able marvel as the world passes before us is a good thing. Of course some things rise to a higher level of marvel then others. This morning I marveled at the $51.1 million price tag the Boston Red Sox agreed to pay the Seibu Lions of Japan for the rights to "talk" to their pitching ace Daisuke Matsuzaka. I repeat talk to. Then it could easily take another $30 million plus to sign him. If the Sox cannot sign him, they will get their $51.1 million back. What has this to do with poetry you ask? I believe it is critical for poets to always be open to the possibility of astonishment in whatever form it comes along. It is a process of exercising our perceptive instincts.

A few poets I have read this week: Cecilia Woloch, Kelli Russell Agodon, Gloria Vando, Edward Hirsch, Catherine Daly, John Ashbery, Janusz Szuber, and Donald Hall.

My selection for this weeks Wednesday Poet Series is: Kelli Russell Agodon

Kelli Russell Agodon is 37 and she hails from the Pacific Northwest. She was born in Seattle, Washington and was educated in the Northwest as well earning her bachelor's degree from the University of Washington and an M.F.A. from the Rainier Writers Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.

As I read through a number of her poems I was struck by the versatility of her subject matter. Every once and awhile I struggle to broaden my own subject matter so I always respect those who have been able to successfully do so.

Obviously others have noticed her work favorably. She has received The James Hearst Poetry Prize, the Lohmann Prize, the William Stafford Award, the Carlin Aden Award for formal verse and grants from the Washington State Artist Trust as well as the Puffin Foundation. Her book Small Knots, was a finalist for the 2004 Cherry Grove Poetry Prize and Geography, winner of the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award.

Her work has been featured on NPR's "The Writer's Almanac" with Garrison Keillor, The Raven Chronicles, Literary Salt, Branches Quarterly, The Poet's Canvas, the Alsop Review, and The Adirondack Review (which nominated her for the Pushcart Prize 2002).

Kelli was anthologized in the book, Poets Against the War edited by Sam Hamill. A lot of her writing energies seem focused on peace and utilization of poetry as an instrument of peace. For example, she edited the Poetry Broadside Series: The Making of Peace, which was displayed international throughout National Poetry Month this year and she has served as the Regional Coordinator for Poets for Peace.

According to her own web site, she is involved in writing workshops and provides one-on-one consultation.

Here are a selection of some of the poetry of Kelli Russell Agodon:

Neruda's Hat <- I particularly enjoyed this one. A Mermaid Questions God

Of a Forgetful Sea

Three Poems <- Reading Poetry to Cure Insomnia, It is Easy to Wake Up in Someone Else's Poem, and Limbo

Two Poems <- Reality Cooking Show ( a favorite of mine), and Picking Cherries ( enjoyed the Catholic touch here)


Monday, November 13, 2006

An Interesting Consideration...

Had it been up to the poets,
perhaps peace between Syria and Israel
would have been established long ago.
I have often said that I firmly believe that through poetry we are able to create greater understanding and break down barriers. It seems only natural to me that it can serve as in instrument of peace.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Why Do You Write Poetry?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Emerging Voices

This months Poets & Writers magazine had a letter from a Massachusetts woman who was bemoaning the emphasis on young writers in the magazine. She wondered if there wasn't anyone over sixty that was an emerging voice? While I am not sixty, I am certainly aware of the difficulty associated with developing into an emerging writer after starting later than many.

Ironically, this same issue of P&W has their selection of 12 emerging voices this year. How nice it was to see an 80 year old among the group. Landis Everson - winner of the Poetry Foundation's Emily Dickinson First Book Award.



Was looking at my submission tracker the other day and one of my submissions was flagged for query. For some reason, I always hate to query on work I have already sent out, but I did. The response was "are you sure you sent it to us? We don't see it." So I dutifully resubmitted yesterday, and received this reply this morning, "Well, Michael... We like it! Very Much! We want to include it in our winter issue..." Sure beats the hell out of a rejection letter.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rogue Poetry Review

On a more personal note, my wife has created her own little political dynasty. She now controls a block of 20 votes for Dancing with the Stars. She exercises her control to deliver them all for Emmitt.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wednesday Poet Series No. 6

One of the things that has impressed me about this weeks Wednesday Poet has been the gift of her art to others; teaching children, young people, professional writers, educators, senior citizens and inmates at a prison for the criminally insane. Cecilia Woloch is the author of at least three poetry books. They are Late, Tsigan, and Sacrifice.

The poet Maxine Kumin said about Woloch and her book Late, the newest of the three, "To write movingly about love in an era infused with hate requires a special gift: nostalgia hard-edged with realism. She has that gift."

Woloch's talent has not only been directed to the printed page, but has been transformed to instruction with others through her many teaching and workshop assignments.
Those include University of the Redlands, New England College MFA Program in Poetry, Emory University, The Cider Press Review, California State University at Northridge, and Western Connecticut State University. She is the founding director of Summer Poetry in Idyllwild and the Paris Poetry Workshop.

Her credits are extensive - Nimrod, New Letters, The Chattahoochee Review, Zyzzyva, Good Poems for Hard Times, edited by Garrison Keillor to name a few. Her poetry has been translated into at lest three other languages, German, French, and Polish.

Woloch has received numerous awards for her work including:
  • Pushcart Prize Nominations: 1999 (awarded Special Mention), 2000, 2002, 2003
  • California Arts Council, Artist-in-Residence Grants, 1987, '88,'89, '91, '92, '93
  • 2004 Georgia Author of the Year in Poetry, Georgia Writers Association for her book Late
  • 2001 Anhinga Prize for Poetry, Finalist
  • 2000 CEC/ArtsLink International Grant
  • 2000 Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers Fellowship
  • 1999 Sue Saniel Elkind Poetry Prize, Kalliope Magazine, Finalist
  • 1995 Literal Latte Poetry Competition, First Prize
  • 1994 Marianne Moore Prize for Poetry, Finalist

Here are a few of Cecilia Woloch's poems:

You can find more on Cecilia Woloch at these sites:


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

No matter where you live in U.S. there is a House seat up for election and in many states there are important Senate races as well as other State and local measures. If you have not voted already, please get to the polls today and cast your votes.

A little election poetry here

Monday, November 06, 2006


"A poet must leave traces of his passage, not proof." ~ Rene Char
I cannot pretend to speak for this poet, but I find a commonality with these words in more than one way. First of course in verse itself. I am a firm believer in the magical mystery of poetry. To those who take the strong belief that poetry must be crystal clear I say hogwash! As children and then again as parents we often cheer the magical nature of children's literature, of movies that are presented as children or family oriented. The idea that as we grow old we should cast all which creates an atmosphere of wonderment to the wind and get totally serious about everything is crap. I like to see poetry that evolves into something that still clings to the notion that you or I can add our own finish or spin or derive something very personal from it that the author could not even possibly know about.
But I like to believe too that poets themselves in their work leave traces of who they are behind. Just a bit of themselves in written passages to contemplate in amazement. The very personal side of their work.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Put your ear down close to your soul...

Sent off three more submissions yesterday. I am hoping this gets way more habit forming during the next year.

The early afternoon is sweetly fall. Wife and I took the dogs for a walk earlier and while it was cool, it was most comfortable. The trees are looking elegant in the breeze. This is the kind of afternoon when the world around seems still. It brings to mind these words of Anne Sexton, "Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard." This is the kind of day when the soul is much easier to hear. A day perfect for poets and lovers. I suppose lovers of poetry as well. ~0~

Jilly is forever finding interesting and worthwhile items. This one on literary wills is worth looking at. Complete with a PDF file of a sample will form.

I was delighted to learn that Poet Laureate Donald Hall will be coming to Kansas City the latter part of January.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Reverse Psychology

Poet Nikki Giovanni toned it down a bit in her first public appearance since the ruckus she caused on October 14th at the dedication of Fountain Square. [here]

You knew it would happen... Poetry Reading Phone Line. [here]

Amanda Shipman: To read or not to read at poetry open mic. [here]

Eileen Tabios Wants you to ask her anything. [here]

Poetry Portal: Arteroids - Yes another fine job Cindy has done at finding procrastination tools for those in need. [here]


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wednesday Poet Series No 5

The Wednesday Poet Series was due for a female poet this week. I do hope the female readers of Stick Poet will indulge me while I take the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Howl to feature poet Allen Ginsberg. I promise to do back to back women to even the series out.

Allen Ginsberg is perhaps the most noted of the beat generation poets. These would include Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs among others. They came into prominence in the late 1950's and early 1960's and represented a counter-culture that was given to spontaneity, open form composition, in their work and a rejection of what they believed was the psychological repression of their times. There were a number of other attachments suggestive of these writers and their friends and followers, many which were negative. Among them was a drug culture. But the writings and works of these people, and most assuredly Ginsberg would have a lasting effect, not only upon poetry and the arts, but significant impact on other areas of American culture.

I am presently reading:The Book of Martyrdom And Artifice - First Journals and Poems 1937-1952. The first thing that struck me about young Ginsberg is the degree to which he was exuberated with himself. Yes, I know there is a common belief that we poets are all about ourselves, but in all seriousness, the degree to which Ginsberg, as early as 1944 outwardly projected extreme confidence in himself was striking. He clearly was intellectually astute and very well read. He had an opinion on just about everything and was not timid in sharing it.

His best know work, Howl, a work that combined biographical references and abstractions. It was first publicly performed in San Francisco on October 7th 1955. Sometime thereafter, Lawrence Ferlinghetti published the work. He was part owner of City Lights Bookstore, a small press publishing house. In 1956, a reporter for the NY Times wrote a piece on the new poetry scene that helped bring Howl into national attention.

In 1957, copies of Howl entering the U.S. from a London printer were seized by customs officials. Obscenities charges were brought against Feringhetti for the publication. The trial only served to give Ginsberg and Feringhetti more exposure for the work. With the support of the ACLU, the publisher won the legal action. The judge deciding that even with the questionable language in the book, the poem was of "redeeming social importance."

Howl- in all three pasts can be read here. (here)

Here are a number of other Howl related resources you might find of interest:

Howl at Wikipedia


Howl at 50 - NPR

The following are some more examples of Ginsberg's writing.

A Supermarket In California America Five A.M. War Profit Litany

Fourth Floor, Dawn, Up All Night Writing Letters Sunflower Sutra Nagasaki Days

I would be remiss if I did not make note that Allen Ginsberg's activism included vocal opposition to the war in Vietnam. This in addition to often targeting institutions in his writing as well as frequent mention of drugs and sex made him an easy target for authorities. Herbert Mitgang wrote a 1988 piece on the FBI and writers. It is interesting and focuses mostly on Ginsberg. (view here)

Ginsberg's poetry clearly has a dissonant style to it. He used his writing to speak pretty much what he felt at the moment.

I have selected a few very telling quotes from Ginsberg to close with. I believe these too will give greater insight to both the man and his writings.

"Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does."

"I have a new method of poetry. All you got to do is look over your notebooks... And think of anything that comes into your head, especially the miseries... Then arrange in lines of two, three or four words each, don't bother about sentences ..."

"Wherever I go I see myself in a mirror- it used to be my own selfblood, now it is god's."

"America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel."

"Fortunately art is a community effort - a small but select community living in a
spiritualized world endeavoring to interpret the wars and the solitudes of the flesh."