Moons, Roads, and Rivers

Cover Image by Michael B. McFarland


Moons, Roads, and Rivers, my first chapbook, is about to be released from Finishing Line Press. Click here to order your copy!

The printer is running a few weeks behind, but it looks like any pre-orders should arrive by Christmas or the New Year at the latest.

Moons, Roads, and Rivers is a small collection of poems set along highways and side roads from Pennsylvania to Indiana, from backyards and bar stools to graveyards and broken-down cars. Continue reading “Moons, Roads, and Rivers”


God, Dad, and Cars

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker this morning. Unfortunately, my boss asked for his promotional postcard for my upcoming chapbook to be sent to the main library. So the impression was that I was being pushy since we received “multiple” postcards (I think really only the two unless she’s referring to the other branches as well).

Ah, sometimes the negativity bugs that crawl around work places–they just show up, no matter how good your intentions. The first question asked was why the library wasn’t getting donated, signed copies. I quipped (half-jokingly) that I didn’t write the book to just give it away. But I eventually assured her that copies were being bought and donated to all the branches and I would happily sign them. I just wanted my coworkers to know about it and share my joy.

Then she said that she didn’t “get today’s poetry.” I confess I was annoyed for a half second, expecting the old “but it doesn’t rhyme!” complaint. But then I thought, well, it’s really a fair, albeit broad statement. I mean, I’m not crazy about some poetry today either.

She and I don’t work together often, only once or twice a week when I am down at the main branch. And it occurred to me, what a great opportunity this was to talk about poetry! So I asked what she liked and she quoted the opening lines from “The Children’s Hour.” In response, I shared a recitation from memory, “Ask Me” by William Stafford, which she was surprised to discover she very much liked. “It’s beautiful, and it flows!”

I told her it was a favorite of mine, that the poet had died a few years back, and that he was one of my heroes. While my writing is not as brilliant as his, he was certainly an influence. I like to play with sound and line endings, to find a rhythm in the language that might not be expected, and often isn’t traditional.  Then I pulled up the following poem, originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine. I told her this is a small sample of what’s in this chapbook, though there are some other more surreal pieces as well.

She looked over my shoulder at the screen as I read it aloud to her. She seemed to brighten even more and said she liked it. I’m hoping this was a step toward making a convert.

God, Dad, and Cars

I’m 8 years old, perched
on a headlight under the raised hood
of our white four-door Chevy,

which has somehow stranded us
at Uncle Bob’s farm.
But this isn’t like the time before,

in Canada, when we broke down
along a country road, far from home.
Across the back seat Crystal and I

had played cards with mom while you
paced, and raged how God must hate
you. I wondered, why you thought

He’d bother a little family like ours,
only on vacation. Wouldn’t He
have more important things to do?

No one home at the farm,
but you know where the tools are—
your hands gloved in grease.

You are in control, under sweat
and sun. I hold something in place
while you work. Afterwards,

when the engine cranks,
you thank me, slap me on the back.
“Thank God you were here,” your smile

wide and rare as the words you say:
“I couldn’t have done it without you.
I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine, August 2013

Please consider pre-ordering the chapbook, Moons, Roads, and Rivers, from Finishing line Press. Just click here. 

New release: Wives’ Tales by Marjorie Maddox

I just ordered my copy of Marjorie Maddox’s new chapbook! I still have yet to publish the review of her full collection, True, False, or None of the Above, which came out this past spring. Look for some fun little clerihews of hers in the new edition of Word Fountain as well!

Today marks the release of the newest title in our Editor’s Series: Wives’ Tales by Marjorie Maddox. Get your copy here!

Source: New release: Wives’ Tales by Marjorie Maddox

Skiing, Surfing, Journal Searching, and Jennifer Bullis

Jennifer-Bullis_sq-672x372So, since our gathering here to sing “Auld Lang Syne,” I’ve been working on one of the chapbook manuscripts. Last night I sent that out, after editing and paring it down from 20 to 16 more solid poems in a better order. That’s two chapbooks out there circling the contest world, and one more in the works. That’s good, Self. Very good. Keep at it.

Also good is the fact that I’ve been working on some new writing. I can’t say I’ve actually finished any new poems, but I have several new lines and stanzas that I am chasing around my notebook pages, hoping to see some things come together.

So I haven’t submitted to any journals in the last couple of months, and I figured I should be doing more research to that end. I’ve liked Cider Press Review when I checked it out in the past, so I returned to it last night and serendipitously found a poem there written by my poet-blogging buddy Jennifer Bullis–How delightful! Good job Cider Press Review. I approve.

Click here to go to Cider Press Review, where you can imagine “Skiing” with Jennifer.


National Poetry Month Readings

View of my town.
View of my town.

Well, I said I’d try, right? And if you don’t remember what I said last time, or don’t know what I mean, it’s just as well. Remember how I said I hate to apologize about not posting when I could be posting?

So how goes National Poetry Month in your neighborhood? It’s now becoming international poetry month, officially with Canada taking part, and unofficially with countless others all over the globe joining in the celebration.

So since I have not yet started to share the great stuff my friends are doing on WordPress and elsewhere for the thirty-day festival of lines, why not tell us a bit about what you are up to?

Tomorrow morning I’ll be “guest poet” at the historic Priestley Chapel here in my hometown of Northumberland. I’ll be reading poems from my (hopefully) first chapbook, The School Bus Poems. The manuscript is finished, aside from a few tiny edits I made in pencil today as I poured over it at the sub shop. It’s going out to several chapbook contests, so wish me luck; send good vibes; light a candle, however you try to bribe the powers that be. I don’t mean about the reading; I’m a ham, so I’ll be fine. I mean about the publication.

I’ve been doing months of research now, reading, catching up on what literary magazines and poetry journals are out there, what styles they like, and whether they might be interested in my work. I’ve also been researching various poetry contests, and first chapbook awards, and their previous recipients. It’s been fun and engrossing getting out of my shell, though it’s put me into a bit of a different kind of shell, one that involves reading more than writing, so I’m coming down off that egg (hey, some metaphors sound better in your head than they look in print, don’t they?) and not only editing and polishing my previous work, but writing new poems as well.

I think by now I have at least two other chapbooks worth of material. It seems that the popular thing now, what most chapbook competitions are looking for is a “project,” a body of work that is thematic. Luckily the skeletons of such themed projects are just falling together from twenty years of obsessively writing about my obsessions, but with enough variation to keep them from becoming too predictable I think. My plan is to have two or three out there vying for editors’ attention in hopes of getting one of them published this year. Big dreams, yeah, I know.

Brian and I at Poetry Under the Paintings.
Brian and I at Poetry Under the Paintings.

I’ll also be reading again this week with my favorite bunch of poets at Faustina’s Gallery in Lewisburg for the April Poetry Under the Paintings gathering. If you are local and haven’t popped in yet, we’d love to see you. You are not required, but encouraged to read. And the poems you share need not be your own. Feel free to read whatever you like. We just get up one person after another and read a poem at a time between bouts of friendly applause and a shared love of poetry read aloud. We normally go through the circle at least thrice.

And that is happening on Thursday, the 10th of April. Usually we meet every second Thursday, and you can follow that on our Facebook page. Next month PUP will be celebrating our two-year anniversary and we’ll be planning something special for that. Don’t ask me what, as it will spoil the surprise. Okay, and yes, you’re right, I really have no idea yet what that surprise will be. But don’t you see how that makes it all the more surprising?

Okay, back to my previous question; what are you doing to celebrate National Poetry Month? Go on and brag and share and spread the joy in the comments.

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