Poetry Showcase from Kushal Poddar

Braids of The Short Dreams

Mamma braids her daughter’s thoughts.
The cuckoo cooing in the back of the brain
sounds shallow and floating between
the weathered Coca-Cola sign and the dog barking.

And the dog barks for hours in this short dream
the way the watchmaker grandpa winds
a long spiral ribbon into a tiny coiled spring.

During the noontime the houses, lanes, half naked
men working on a cancelled project and the trees, all
become the Sun. Mamma has a small and big hand
that screens the eyes of her daughter, and they’re
the Sun; ropes of their entwined hair bounds toward
the hole of the burning maws of awakening.

Flesh of the Republic

Body and flesh float away.
Rivulets. Entire sky
seeks an address, finds
my vein instead.
Where will you lose
the threads that sew a quilt,
patchwork, tales?

Winter comes and goes;
frost never melts;
you know what I mean.
Body and flesh float into
my vein, and I ask them for their permits;
they can inside, but can not permeate;
I won’t let them be the citizens
of this rotten republic.

SERIAL

He records his chitchats

with the cab drivers, not all,

those with the ones

he kills.

There exist avenues

and lanes of cabs taxiing

driverless,

and recordings replayed

over and again in his id,

and then

he finds his son working

for an app-cab using

a forged license.

He records his son, as if

his ears metamorphose themselves

into two answering machines,

defunct.

These annals are better

than any psychiatrist’s,

the father of everything

listening to his killer instinct.

BITCHING ANAMNESIS

Deluge, the bitching mistress on our backs,

bites our earlobes as

I sent your claim – I can

efface life memorized.

I can. Only mine. The process

involves adding more, not less,

the same way you do most of the days,

except those when it rains

in the excuse of this balcony or

when it shines and you stare downwards,

see the hissing serpent of the traffic

looking up at you, out of reach.

I do not rerun the tapes, listen

to the protest pops from the Nam times.

Rain writhes to arrest my mind,

albeit an antiquated man has his disinterests.

I say, “Just forget.”

I Was as Cold as a Razorblade

In the late autumn winter

whimpers in her oxygen tent,

and we nurse this premature child,

see her wither, bloom, sear, brown, exsiccate.

Hence December surprises us

when she arrives for a date

wearing white sleeveless

and drinks from someone else’s chalet.

The potion was red. The poison bears no effect.

We toss our fedoras, shuffle to dance,

tire out and stroll outside,

our feet disappearing inside

the heart of crushed water.

Our hands in the pockets of warmth

seeks for a tinge of Yes

and finds some forlorn gums

we keep for protection’s sake.

*The title is wordplay on Leonard Cohen’s So Long, Marianne

Milestones

We sit there, oracling,

drinking for ages; we

chat about different drinking-ages

and different countries;

sun sets in liver tinge;

pigment of the stream cooling,

fibers of our thoughts unreeling,

we sit there, eyes on nil.

We sit there, nothing,

and water pegs down our shadows

as if those will be its

Maypoles and wheel – time will swing by.

Raising The Time

The torn dress from

the fundraising dance

taps some memory cells;

half of you desire to

make a mop out of its residue,

but since you cannot wipe

enough memories

your hands force it down

against your thighs.

I suggest –

“Let’s raise the time again.

Time and again.”

A GLACIER FOR THOUGHTS

The eye in the pink sky
denies any foresight.
“We have a glacier melting
in
Himalaya.” Says pop folding his freewill.

This means it will be
the rush-hour of depression
in his ecosystem,
and the day remains naïve native
accepting gifts from our invasions.

A coin decides
whether my sister
will enter in her classroom
and
shoot everyone or waive this.

“Don’t!” I whisper.
“Yes.” Pop says
on a topic irrelevant.

A crow on the ceiling fan
caws a dream
melting as my pop’s coral reef
corrodes away within.

Love Thy Father

You still love your father,
and do the one thing
that destroys him every day

and rebuild him again
as if he is naphtha or plastic.
His quick silver hand quavers with

the weight of your
nocturnal telephone calls-
“Hello! How are you?”

You always say,
“Talking to you dad,
is a remembrance of my mom’s winter.”

The State of Being During An Autumn Day

Autumnal gloaming, chill-filtered,
retains most of the darkness.
I stare at the pecans a hit-and-run
windy incident has crashed into the yard
I can always trespass leaving no evidence.

The rolled newspaper, asleep, on my table
wets its staple. A shiver walks my spine as if
my backbone recovers from a wheelchair
worthy trauma. Ticks, the Casio clock.

All these state the state of being.
Sometimes, since the outbreak, I hallucinate
my being shrugging off my body and staring,
first, at the mass of flesh, and then, at distance
ever vague and ever everything.

Death And Desire

That night you towel wrapped
the thirst of your partner.
You both died. The butterflies
in a painting behind your head
tried to escape, but the flight was cancelled.

The panes paved a shortcut to winter.
You picked up the towel dropped
around the ankles still wearing black
metal anklets you bought for her,
and wrapped her flesh. You both grieved
the death in the family. One craved for
flesh and the otherness in you sought for
the space where darkness garden blue agave.


An October Murder

“Did you see who shot you?”
“It was October. I opened a door
the size of a bullet hole.”
I whisper from a distance a whisper
can cross in its lifetime
to reach you almost dead. You hear,
and it withers. Withering seems
a garden, silent, and I on my bare feet,
grass appeasing one sensation
to swell me up with another.
“It was October. I opened the door.
It was a muzzle and a flash.”


Intimate, Unknown

The way one cleanses his October refrigerator,
without any provocation, without his partner’s hints,
almost as if that moment has been scheduled
or seen in the past, as if his muscle reaction
picks up the bottles and vegetables, packets and tubs,
casseroles and bowls full of forgotten experiments
with vegetables, and the contents of those packets and tubs
and a dram from the bottles’ nozzles, places them on the floor,
dismantles the shelves, sponges them gently and puts all together
I find me in intimacy with you, unknown.
Your hair unlocked by my hands, whisked back by my reflexive fingers
reveals the unknown in the unknown. I disassemble
your chrome and beige dress and unlock the sweat beads.
We could have been talking about the pestilence
or war or patience or the dire dearth of the same.
We could have been pondering over a jigsaw puzzle.
It does not matter. We are intimately unfamiliar.
Famously alone. The quagmire of cold water on the floor,
or our bodily fluids puddled around us evaporate. October.
The mellow songs are served at room temperature.


An Interview with Kushal Poddar

  1. Please describe your latest book, what about your book will intrigue the readers the most, and what is the theme, mood?

Kushal – This Christmas, my book ‘Postmarked – Quarantined’ shall be published by IceFloe Press, Canada. The highlight of the book is the plague, human reaction, my daughter’s birth, and how a person, vulnerable the way I am, may interact with the rules of the universe he must abide.

  1. What frame of mind & ideas lead to you writing your current book?

Kushal – As I said, the book encases my own vulnerability, albeit I always endeavor to scriven in a universal tongue. The idea is – write from personal experience, blend with news, and then read and rewrite the poem from a neutral perspective.

  1. How old were you when you first have become serious about your writing, do you feel your work is always adapting
    Kushal – I was fifteen, and although I imitated writing rhymes since I was a six years old child, it was during a summer holyday of my sixteenth year in this world I began to adopt my only identity as a writer.
  2. What authors, poets, musicians have helped shape your work, or who do you find yourself being drawn to the most?
    Kushal – The list may lengthen itself but the salient influence, I must say, oozes from Wilfred Owen, Frank O’Hara, Charles Simic, Franz Wright, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser, Mary Oliver, Graham Greene, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Borges, Milan Kundera, Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, Philip Roth, John le Carré, and Neil Gaiman and the music of Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Jethro Tull, Billi Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Nina Simone (as of tryst, and the list drifts).
  3. What other activities do you enjoy doing creatively, or recreationally outside of being a writer, and do you find any of these outside writing activities merge into your mind and often become parts of a poem?
    Kushal – Sketching and painting often clear the cobweb of my mind. I used to take photographs. I often write whisky criticism. These activities add curves to the flesh of my writing (writing includes, poetry, short stories, and now a fragmentary novel).
  4. Tell us a little about your process with writing. Is it more a controlled or a spontaneous/ freewriting style?
    Kushal – Writing is a continuous process. I write in my mind when I am not on paper or computer. I mumble an entire poem or short fiction sometimes to my daughter or to my wife, and then when time permits scribe it down. Is it free-writing? Not actually. The process is curated by years of reading and syllable counting presently made into a reflex.
  5. Are there any other people/environments/hometowns/vacations that have helped influence your writing?
    Kushal – There are all my fellow poets I met online and offline. There are my wife, daughter and a difficult relationship with my parents. There is political news and the news of sports. I deliberately created a fictional hometown for my poems or other kinds of writings. This town consists of elements of East and West, and can be felt as the reader’s own one.
  6. What is the most rewarding part of the writing process, and in turn the most frustrating part of the writing process?
    Kushal – The rewarding part is mental peace attained after writing it down as if I have cleansed a part of my memory, and also whenever a piece is published I receive the thrill of a junkie. The frustrating part is not having enough time to write everything I desire to write.
  7. How has this past year impacted you emotionally, how has it impacted you creatively if it all?
    Kushal – I had many premonitions about this past year. I was living a tale written by Stephen King or Camus. The part that took me by surprise and that made me defenseless was the news of my wife’s pregnancy during this pestilence. I was deeply worried about the safety of my wife and my daughter. I began to write a poetry-journal about the day-to-day emotion that surged inside out.
    Author Page Amazon – amazon.com/author/kushalpoddar_thepoet
    Author Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/KushalTheWriter/
    Twitter- https://twitter.com/Kushalpoe
    An author and a father, Kushal Poddar, edited a magazine – ‘Words Surfacing’, authored seven volumes including ‘The Circus Came To My Island’, ‘A Place For Your Ghost Animals’, ‘Eternity Restoration Project- Selected and New Poems’ and ‘Herding My Thoughts To The Slaughterhouse-A Prequel’.
    Find and follow him at amazon.com/author/
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Poetry Showcase on Megha Sood in Fevers of the Mind Anthologies

Nothingness

Some days are like days
where sorrow creeps out
from every nook and corner
trying to pull you in

like hoarfrost on the succulents
the bright shining death
shining through your smiles
devouring you
slowly but surely

like the snake taking you all in
and spitting you out
your hands are covered in sorrows
devoid of you lines

you look into your empty hands
mirroring your life
when the pain creeps up on you
death shrouded like a mystery

where nothingness
is a well-acquainted feeling
the lonesome feeling
you ever felt so
deeply in your pores

Loneliness Begets Second Chance

The half-finished wine glass on the windowsill. A pile of books collecting dust and memories in equal –
measures. Loneliness screams through every nook and corner of my room. Dying Lilies in the broken –
vase with its serrated ends gaping for its last breath in the muted stench of the water. The paint –
scraping off the walls is a reminder of the scratched pellicle. Remembrance is a metaphor for –
acceptance. The unfinished sweater once tangled around the bony fingers of my granny now remains –
orphaned at the base of the couch. Dangling specks of dust in the ray of light, a measure of the –
congruous amalgamation of the despair and agony seeded in the porous soul of this deserted room. –
They are huddled together for warmth for the company. The parquet floor still waits for its due from –
the summer sun and begs for its apricity. A humbled heart strives for its sustenance. The sun-soaked –
mahogany desk has a pile of unsent letters. The longing and unfulfilled desires piled high up as my –
disappointment. Waiting to be acknowledged, waiting to be read. Skewed painting on the walls waits –
for its due, a second chance. A hand to wipe off the dust, a gesture of love, a gesture of acceptance.

The Uprising

The calm and serenity of my demeanor
is a facade for those hunger laced eyes

who like scavengers are circling me
poking me to get a rise out of me.

Their indifference towards me
Their sharp razor words are slicing and shredding me

Indolent words laced with blatant ignorance
that not all hearts are sliced the same way.

Our hunger speaks in different ways and languages
not known to everyone. Not aware of this, they keep poking

& my anger rises like a steaming kettle till I scream
like a whistling pot failing to keep my thunder within.

She Never Had the Chance

Those warm untimely hugs
Precious smiles with a caring persona

Buried under the string of the incessant fights
And the trauma which hides within the fold of her skin

Breathing, slithering, and coiled in the corner of her room
Waiting to strike at any given moment

Pain which traveled and mold and morphs
every fleeting moment of her childhood

Those giggles and laughter lost in the meaningless
fights and incessant screaming across the room

There is pain carved in every corner of her room
She still waits for her share of happiness

In the house now which she never calls home
Nine years old and she never had a chance.

Juxtaposed

Suspended between the intangible state of dream
and reality a state so profound yet so surreal

the tangible moments slip through my open palms
as the gossamer truth of realities weaves a noose

around me tightening like a storm around my waist
with each repetition cutting close to the wounds

pushing deeper and deeper till the flesh gives in.
This juxtaposition state of carnal and survival desires

are the secret language of the soul when it
whispers closely to you, a hushed whisper with

a heaving bosom and a bated breath
syncopating surreptitiously with our heartbeats

ONCE MORE

The deep long treacherous shadows
cast on the bedroom wall
the hallucinations of the clock
the monsters lingering in the hall
the clever and long nails
of the desires clawing their way in
your deep supple soul
and with an ashen mouth
soaked with the crimson
a touch of your tangerine love
I ask for the forgiveness,
Once more.

Sitting in the pews
reading my verse from the holy book
trying to absolve my sins
by dipping my
knuckles in the holy water
shedding my sins
and lecherous desire
to clean my tainted soul
Once more.

Stretching my legs
and arching my back
to stand in the long
wretched queues of the soup kitchen
looking away from
those empty glances
scraping away the curse and abuse
from my sullen mouth
washing it again
to make it pure
Once more.

I stand for forgiveness
in front of my creator
and a devil on the shoulder
perched and feeling at ease
crooning my neck as he, please

I’ll be the god’s holy son
until I stab that knife
in your chest
Once more.

That grim smile on the
devil’s face
I’ll fall down from my grace and
ask for forgiveness
to be absolved again
like a hamster on a wheel
Once more.

BLIND MEN

Our whole life is nothing but a sine wave
the rise and fall of our deeds decide our fate
the crest and trough of our wealth
decides our relations and friends
The ups and downs of our life
decide about the strength
and grit in our character
and the lows and highs in the life
tests our faith.

Anybody showing you the mirror
otherwise is a bad reflection of reality
a pseudo-truth
a distorted reality
based on the dark and dystopian future
which will suffocate any
hope for your fragile
dreams.
will prejudice your dignity

You are on a rollercoaster with no breaks
the speed and the place
where you stop
decodes your faith
so stop believing in destiny
and pull your own breaks
carve those lines in stones
let them see the daybreak

Cause no one can ever tell you
who to believe in
we are all, in the end,
a group of blind men
trying to feel the actuality
a face of the stark reality
we are living in.

SILENT CHAOS

Sometimes there are
hushed whispers under the bated breath
sometimes there is a cacophony
the dissonance
drowning our minds
leaving us numb and frozen

sometimes the laughter gets lost
floating through the trees
frozen on the moss
on a cold misty morning
a frozen ghost

Sometimes a loud thud
when the old chestnut
breaks down and opens itself to the wild
love is always a sacred offering

sometimes the scars tell the whole story
untouched yet cutting through the bone
sometimes the silence seeps in the wrinkles
those folds on the skin
bereft of any emotion

Sometimes a pale face
holds the mystery for the closed palms
and sometimes the crow’s feet
carries the laughter for eons

a still face holds the mirror to life
look closely at the reflection
floating in the swirls
of the deep those obsidian eyes
sometimes silence screams the loudest

Choked

Your vapid thoughts
lodged in my throat
stuck between
the ashen dreams and the reality
like an illusion
a mirage,
like an impossibility of the summer rain
Your pungent thoughts
settled like arid leaves
with its stench carried
throughout my body
those capillaries of failed promises
like the bowl of milk left overnight
left to curdle
baring the stench of a failed ambition
a continuous struggle of my existence
I’m feverishly trying
to regurgitate these sullen thoughts of you
from my reticent mind and screaming soul
a moment sublime:
to breathe fully
to finally feel alive.

That Searing Pain

How can a fleeting emotion
a mere mention of your name
or a visage bearing a semblance of yours
torments and rattles my soul
the searing pain hasn’t stopped yet
the blood hasn’t
chipped or dried yet
those memories
hasn’t turned into a bookmark
a thing of the past
an affair to be forgotten
that smile
still not foreign to me
as the memory of
your warm embrace too
these old memories
with pointy and dagger precision
splits and shreds me to pieces
the pain comes flashing back
as I trample the
unburied consciousness of time
moments so precious
spent in the company of yours

It leaves me baffled
startled how much
a mere sense of your presence
can rattle me from within
aching from the core.

BROTHERHOOD

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

We are all broken, crumbled
rounded again
made from the same clay
caked and baked in the same
unforgiving oven

We all have cracks in us
from where the light gets in
frayed at the border
pulling apart at the seams

Peeling off and
breaking down into pieces
in all our miseries

We are all the same
living under the same
ashen cloudless sky
and blue moon in its reverie

Breathing the same air
swooning over the same
melody of the souls
and crooning our necks
to the same broken chords
in unison, we roll

We all are the same
laughing and cracking up
With welled up eyes
With bruises we endear

Getting stabbed by the same knife
bloodied by the same bullet
cast creed or religion
doesn’t seem to discriminate
Or beg to differ

We are all the same
same heartbeat
sliced and splintered
in million pieces
and the same God we worship
holding books with different verses

We all are the same
from within
laughing at our scars
with abject profundity.

We are brothers
together we shall live.

SCARRED MOON

Untethered,
Unhinged
like the other half of the moon
denied existence by its bright half
a deception like no other.

We sing the songs of the moon
of its beauty and serenity
while the other hides the darkness
the scars,
rejected by its own self

never been a sonnet written about it
bathed in the beauty of the gibbous moon
when the crescent white
is engulfing the other half
devoured slowly and completely forgotten

the night scowls and screams
at the injustice.
I sit and sing my songs of despair
imbued in the silken moonlight
while the two halves
continues to struggle

More About Megha Sood

Megha Sood is an Assistant Poetry Editor for the Literary Journal MookyChick and a Literary Partner with the “Life in Quarantine” Stanford University, USA. Her works are widely published in literary journals and anthologies including Better than Starbucks, Gothamist, Poetry Society of New York, Madras Courier, Borderless Journal, WNYC Studios, Kissing Dynamite, American Writers Review, FIVE:2: ONE, Quail Bell, Dime show review, etc. Three-time State-level Winner NAMI Dara Axelrod NJ Poetry Contest 2018/2019/2020 and First Place National Winner Spring Robinson Lit Prize 2020, Finalist in Pangolin Poetry Prize 2019, Adelaide Literary Award 2019 and Erbacce Prize 2020, Nominated for the iWomanGlobalAwards 2020 and many more. Works selected numerous times by Jersey City Writers group and Department of Cultural Affairs for the Arts House Festival. Editor of ( “The Medusa Project, Mookychick) and ( “The Kali Project,” Indie Blu(e) Press). Chosen twice as the panelist for the Jersey City Theater Center Online Series “Voices Around the World”.She blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/ and tweets at @meghasood16
Description of the Projects/Chapbook

  1. Co-Editing the “The Medusa Project” by Mookychick, UK Based Arts and Literary
    Journal
    “The Medusa Project” drives inspiration from the magical winged warrior and a Greek
    Gorgon “Medusa” who rose above all the struggles, atrocities, and abuse in her
    patriarchal society and carved a niche for her, finally becoming a beacon of strength and
    resilience for generations to come. This anthology celebrates the 100 years of the woman
    suffragist movement in the United State which led to the 19th amendment of the US
    contribution allowing women to vote.
    This anthology is a deep exposition of that pain and angst carried by the women for
    generations. It encapsulates the entire angst, rage, and passion and transforms it into
    thirty poems, mixed with art, poetry, fiction, and the magical rituals spreading throughout
    this e-book. Released on October 31, 2020, this e-book is free to download. You can
    know more about the e-anthology here.
  2. Co-editing the “The Kali Project” by Indie Blu(e) Publishing, USA
    An anthology of Indian women writing poetry. The Kali Project is a once-in-a-lifetime
    speak-easy for Indian women of today. Their struggles, their triumphs, their truth.
    The Kali Project is another example of setting alight the inequality of women in India by
    sharing their talented voices with an English-speaking audience. We want to introduce to
    our Western readers, those talents within India who speak with the same fierce voice and
    share the same goal of equality and an end to oppression. Indian writing has gravitas and
    brutal honesty that has existed for millennia, influencing poets from around the world.
    The Kali Project has brought together the voices of Indian women speaking their truths.
    Be it infanticide, family violence, the emerging LGBTQ community in India, or the
    marital inequity Indian women face, these struggles are penned in exquisite poetry to
    enlighten and bring awareness. You can know more about the project here. The
    anthology will be published around January 2021
  3. Literary Partner in “Life in Quarantine” Project by CESTA (Center for Textual
    and Spatial Analysis)
    Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is a Digital Humanities initiative
    sponsored by the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA) at Stanford
    University. Launched in March 2020 by three doctoral students and a group of
    undergraduates, LiQ is an online community platform that addresses the transformations
    we’re experiencing in the age of COVID-19.
    At the core of the project, there is an online historical archive that houses personal written
    accounts in a wide range of languages from various countries. These stories document
    how the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the lives of people from various backgrounds
    across the globe. Additionally, our website provides a space for different types of creative
    expression; personal stories, creative writing, blogs, and visual art.
    The website is designed as an open education resource for students, educators,
    governments, organizations, and businesses to promote cultural solidarity and global
    interconnectedness with inclusivity at its center.
    I’m acting as a Literary partner for the Life in Quarantine Project, responsible for curating
    the works from the literary community for the “Words in Quarantine” section of the Liq
    Website. You can learn more about the project here.
  4. First Chapbook “A Potpourri of Emotions”, Local gems Press, NY
    https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/2020/09/18/chapbook-published-by-the-local-
    gem-press-long-island-new-york/

Poetry: Dysphoria by Ethan Jacob O’Nan

I was told this is what I had to do
So my eyes seek a shape, pattern – fixation
Numb the mind
Climb inside the dark circle of the paneling
Twist into the loops & swirls of the curtain
Trace the maze of the tiles on the floor
It will all be done soon
This is what I was told I should do
That body isn’t mine
But I lug it around
And with it a persona to puppet
Who was I with her?
How did I behave around them?
No one really knew…me
I can’t say hello to you of five years ago.
I took this skin out & we spoke words that had meaning then, maybe
I don’t remember them now
How forgetful, unthoughtful, you’ll think
Who was I? How much of me did you really see?
Better to burn the past than pick through splinters
I suppose this life is akin to living in a suitcase
Taking out this being, this flesh to engage
A misfit to the mind
Desperate to love, but moments of love felt like terror as well
Numb the mind
Find a shape
And if I were to change this skin
Receive stitches and sutures to be a more fitting form
You might be perplexed
You might think it a joke
Those who felt closest
May just deny, grow angry, grow sad
Call on the name of ghosts now gone
But a puppeteer’s arms grow heavy & sore
After half a lifetime of shows
And once the rubble of the mind is cleared
The choice must be made to live life’s remainder
In a performance for others
Or to stop staring at patterns

Ethan Jacob O’Nan is a trans man living in North Carolina, he has a wife and 2 children. Ethan only dabbles in writing these days. His whole life has led to the last few years fully understanding what to do to make him feel on the outside like he has always been on the inside. The older brother of EIC David L O’Nan, Ethan is a business owner along with his wife Kristi. Ethan enjoys 80’s music, art, crafting, making soap, & comedy.

photo by Scott Webb (unsplash)

An Interview with Robert Frede Kenter of Icefloe Press

Please describe your latest book, what about your book will intrigue the readers the most, what is the theme, mood?


Robert: My last book was Audacity of Form (2019). It was published by Ice Floe Press. It emerged out of late-night conversations with New-Orleans based photographer Julia Skop, who was the main caregiver for her sister, a well-known New Orleans dancer, Sara, then dying of cancer. The poem(s) and prose pieces, with a pastiche of Julia’s photos, and drawings by Toronto-based artist (and Ice Floe Press logo designer, Cathy Daley), evolved through 32 transformations. It was published in the summer of 2019 and is composed of two intersecting suites that deal with illness, love, friendship, family history, travel, grief, New Orleans, performance and music, working class economics, the Katrina Flood, and other elements. The book is designed as a series of set pieces and is an amalgam of poetic fragments/narratives.
Currently, I’m continuing work on a multi-sectional, (likely) multi-volume exploration of family histories which will deal with various sides of my family (whether it be Bobby, the carnival-circus performer, junkie, and cousin from Detroit, or reflective landscapes examining my European-Jewish ancestors, the relations between my parents & what I call “Mayhem” poems, dealing with my father etc.). The work is a multitude of voices and image-dense narratives, what a colleague of mine has described as, “a chorus of radical Jewish consciousness and layered imaginings, alternative versions of a Diaspora culture.”

What frame of mind & ideas lead to you writing your current book?


Robert: The work emerges out of narrative and out of fragments. It’s a searching landscape of violence, beauty, and expansiveness of dislocation and alienation, the amplified noise of displacement and its distortions. The historical journey of exile and Diaspora, intimate and intricate in interiority, was persistent growing up in a family where a swirling intensity of mental and physical abuse and illness and marginalization and isolation melded to rich vagaries of attenuated storytelling. Breathless is the search for naming. In geographic wandering, displacements contextualize and make sense of the mournful & the ineffable.

How old were you when you first became serious about your writing Do you feel your work is always adapting?


Robert: Seriously, I have a little flipbook I wrote when I was age 6. It was a story, Horses on Venus, that turned into a wild classroom recess improvisational game with my other outlier pals 😊. When I was about 12 to13-years-old, I was blown away by Allen Ginsberg. I went to see him perform at a local university, and around the same time, I saw an early Leonard Cohen concert, half music, half poetry reading. I used to read at local cafes & hung out with theatre-workers, Vietnam draft-dodgers in the little industrial city where I grew up. In early poems, I wrote odes to the polluted red sky of a town whose economic heart was immersed in the manufacture of steel. I wrote eco-poems about a love affair with a backyard tree, then mourned its death. I’ve always listened and gathered up what’s around me, and my work always changes. Some of the earliest pieces I’ve written, I’m just sending out now.
David, you published a couple of them in the beautiful Avalanches tribute to Leonard Cohen. One of them is “Song of a Healer.” I try different things, and right now feels like a very invigorating time in the world(s) of poetry. I’m very happy and feel grounded, blessed to be part of new emerging communities exploring poetics with an emphasis on discourses of radical change, rooted in vision and emotion. It is another reason I re-animated Ice Floe Press which had an iteration in the early 1990s when I got together a crew to put out Women Writing: An Anthology, a chapbook of NYC-based women poets involved in a curated reading series that included Kimiko Hahn, Cheryl Clarke, Pamela Sneed, Cheryl Boyce Taylor, and many others. We had a great packed launch in NYC at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café. In those early days I also published a book of stories by working-class NYC-based writer Ernie Brill, and a prose poem by then-emerging Canadian poet, Margaret Christakos.
Now, Ice Floe Press Managing Editor Moira J. Saucer and I are publishing amazing poets with world-wide platforms – from Nigeria, Ghana, USA, Canada, UK, Syria, Europe, on and on. I’ve found that the poetry communities on Twitter are rich, vibrant, and totally engaged, and many are carving out expressive spaces, joyful, celebratory, confrontational and aesthetically expansive. These new scenes are doing a great job of breaking down some of the old hierarchies, inducing a carnivalesque energy of DIY that is very exciting, despite the many dire things going on in the world from proto/fascism to the Anthropocene. All of it, of course, being interrelated.

What authors, poets, musicians have helped shape your work, or who do you find yourself being drawn to the most?


Robert: Oh, there are so many. Music encompasses a universe of possibility, joyful to write to. Whether its Texas-swing, ‘free-jazz’, atonal, orchestral, garage, field recordings, Northern Soul, Tex-Mex, African High-Life, No-Wave, etc. I like textured, complicated, beautifully realized, immersive music. Through listening – and at some points, involvement in music-based projects — I access the wonders of lyric, voice, breath, and sound, both recorded and live, soundscapes spark new ways of feeling and understanding; the embodied, kinesthetic, the numinous. In the musical pantheon, my go-tos include John Cale, Velvet Underground, Monk, Ornette Coleman, Count Basie, Louis Jordan, Nina Simone, the Ellington Orchestra, Biber, O.V. Wright, Sun Ra, Louis Jordan, Chopin, Coltrane, Dylan, Willie Nelson, Johhny Cash, the Carter Family, Nono, Billie Holiday, The Roots, The Animals, William Parker, John Cage, Brotzmann, Lighting Hopkins, Mark Lanegan, etc. (I could go on and on and on.)
With regards to writers, again, I don’t know where to begin: whether poets, novelists, essayists, hybrid creators, I like being immersed in highly textured writing. In our lifetime of the modern, post-modern, the apocalyptic, I contemplate the works of Celan, Brecht, Anne Waldman, Ngugi, Bulgakov, Virginia Woolf, Erin Moure, Adonis, Kamu Braithwaite, Don Mee Choi, Phil Hall, Amos Tutuola, Whitman, Olson, Burroughs, Genet, Nicole Brossard and Fred Wah, for starters. Again, I could go on and on.

What other activities do you enjoy doing creatively, or recreationally, outside of being a writer, and do you find any of these outside activities merge into your mind and become parts of a poem?


Robert: There are a range of activities that all seem to be part of a circular returning. Art making, reading, exploring visual art, taking photos. I’m all about gathering, listening, and weaving, the haunted, joyful, the juxtapositions and hybrids. And, when I can, I like to run. It depends on my energy at any given time in the cycle of living with ME/FM.

Tell us a little about your process with writing. Is it more a controlled or a spontaneous/freewriting style?


Robert: I often write in the middle of the night, i.e. two hours uninterrupted by hand on notebook paper. The images develop in narrative and associational patterns. From this process, I’ll engage in a long revision period until the piece(s) acquire voice and story and approximate a kind of musical-notational score. I return to older work, revisit, rewrite, incorporate, scatter, and coalesce. The work is performative – it comes out of body-physicality-and-memory.

Are there any other people/environments/hometowns/vacations that have influenced your writing?


Robert: Wow –I have always been ‘a traveler’. My goal though is not endless ‘movement’ from place to place, but focused and extended time in a locale of choice or circumstance, whether NYC, London U.K., Berlin, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal, Missoula, Montana, etc. The idea is also to ‘do’ something else there (work on a project, take some sort of ‘undetectable ‘job’ (ha that sounds like a radioactive half-life) that enables me to survive. There have been actual ‘travel’ writings as well, long cross-continental bus odysseys that are also generative.
People I’ve known and know, participate in the realization of my inner world and the parallels between the creative, the actual and the transformational. I engaged in the kind of ‘transformational’ world idea in my studies in theatre, esp., in the experiences I had studying with the Talking Band and the Wooster Group in NYC, many lifetimes ago. My sense of urgency, that poetry emerges out of witness and coalesces around community, prepares me for the silent and engaged relationship I have with performance. The shape and dynamics of the page and my inspired connection to my ancestors are all intersecting aspects that propel me, always grounded in a physicality, whether of possibility or pain, of rest and meditation. My visual art also feeds into my working process: whether it is drawing, photo-based digital work, VISPO, or painting, at some point, they all ricochet and are centrifugal to each another.
And somehow, I hope, we bring that informed sensibility to our work at Ice Floe Press.

What is the most rewarding part of the writing process, and in turn the most frustrating part of the writing process?


Robert: I have had a few periods in my ‘writing’ life where I simply was unable to write, or I didn’t know what I was writing, where it was going, or why. I guess those are periods of dormancy and transition. That’s not true these days so much. Ever since I was hit by a streetcar in Toronto, in 2014, I’ve been on a more steady roll of focused ongoing production, whether my own personal work, or working to re-centre Ice Floe Press and help create a space for a new generative community, an international family of artists who I hope find an engaging, interactive, non-alienating locale that is inspiring, a proximal zone for sharing and promoting work. You know, speaking of this accident-catalyst, my ‘ancestors’ pulled me ‘back’ from the brink of another world, and the TTC Red-Rocket streetcar formed a new metallic opacity of tautness in my thinking. I was KO’D, but got back up, this on top of a long era of social dormancy due to acquiring ME in the 1990s. After the onset of ME, I spent long stretches in isolation. Illness chiseled away at the foundation of my identity for many years fractured by more than a decade living in a kind of vicarious relationship to the world. Submerged, the external became largely about basic survival. When you are ‘down’, the system kicks you hard. I developed a deeper internal compass.
Even more than before I became ill, marginal, expressive, celebratory voices are the fountain I draw strength and inspiration from. Voices, elegant in expression of pain, rebellion, trauma and struggle most move me. I’m drawn to art positioned outside of the ‘ableist hetero mainstream,’ work where the creator(s) had to travel somewhere very deep, and remerge as witness and documentor. Both in a realist sense, or through expanded imagining and iteration, in the possibilities of fable.

How has this past year impacted you emotionally, how has it impacted you creatively if it all?

Robert: In the beginning of the 90s, my life was completely transformed by ‘a virus’ that was subsequently diagnosed as ME. I spent about a year (solid) in bed with high fevers which left me with a huge deficit of energy and a need to re-investigate what it means to be alive, from learning how to walk again to figuring out ways to make money in the Saturnine Depths of poverty’s marginalization. This year, 2020, with all its pain and variegated ruptures, I think I’ve managed vaguely well. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been in some advanced guard of the despairing and the ache for change that being sick exposes us to: the sedimentary process of sinking into the hopeless grind of capital and its insidious priorities etches into our deepest sensibilities and instinct.
We have been overwhelmed and sucker-punched by the terrifying last four years of dictator-mania, and what it means. Also, the swirling pain, world-wide, of the Pandemic has added new layers of trauma that oddly creates a whole new kind of shared experience (though the inequalities of economic division have been made even more evident as a main complexity/complicity of COVID).
I’m proud of what Moira and I, along with our team of co-editors, Adedayo Agarau, Jakky Bankong-Obi, Ankh Spice, Elisabeth Horan, and newest addition, Khashayar Mohammadi (Kramer) have been able to achieve inside the framed confines of 2020.
Moira and I went full steam ahead with our international year-long Geographies project, followed by the ongoing Dispatches from a Pandemic series, and finally, our triumphant collaborative Mother/Service/Voice project. We invited Jenny Mitchell, a phenomenal UK poet, who in her incisive body of work explores the Middle-Passage, British-Imperialism, the impact of slavery, indenture and institutionalized racism on contemporary UK life (with beautiful and brutal lyricism) to create a prompt for the series. It was our first open-call project with over 75 participating writers and artists.
When I think about it, I’m really pinching myself to realize that we have done so many rich and nuanced projects and attracted worlds of talent whose visionary works tie so sensitively and boldly into what is actually going on in the world(s) we share. I say all this with deep humility and awe, like we have somehow been a conduit for energies that pass through spaces of intention.
So, everyone reading, here’s a plug! Check out http://www.icefloepress.net for some kickass, overwhelmingly fierce, subtle, delicate, experiential, experimental and ruminative works of sensitivity and courage. We have published over 140+ writers and artists from around the globe. We have gathered a convergence of voices who have responded, magnanimously and polyphonically, to our various prompts, and we, at Ice Floe Press, under their formidable wings, have enabled the song, the roll out of daily and weekly anthology projects for the past year and a half or more. I think we are and have been building a reader-writer & art community. I live in wonder and gratitude.

  1. Please give us any promotional info for your work, social media, blogs, publishing company info, etc that you’d like to shout out.
    Robert: Well, as I say, we are thrilled and in awe at the gathering of voices that we have conducted, like electricity, to a ground swell of intersecting, joyful convergence. Ice Floe Press feels like a total blessing, a confluence of generosity of writers and chance elements. Again, to anyone reading thru this, please do come check us out our website.
    In addition to our on-line projects, we have recently published books by Nigerian-Canadian poet, Bola Opaleke (Skeleton of a Ruined Song); a full-length vol. of poetry, Boy, Bestiary, a ferocious extraordinary text by U.K. author, artist, musician and publisher of Burning House Press, Miggy Angel. Boy is a complex book about growing up in the estates of South London and ensuing gentrification. My own hybrid volume, Audacity of Form includes my writings and photo-works by Julia Skop, with digital paintings by Canadian artist, Cathy Daley. Upcoming volumes planned for 2021-2022 include: a full-length book of brilliant, edgy, poetic lyricism by Moira J. Saucer; a new chapbook of love and break-up poems from Welsh queer poet, David Hanlon; a hybrid of poems and drawings by Toronto poet and Floodlight publisher, Sam Strathman. A full-length book of VISPO and accompanying texts by Boston-based writer-artist Whiskey Radish is in the queue. Hand Book (Manual) will be a compendium of interviews, film script, misc. texts, art, letters, poems, theory and other surprises by the wondrous writing/directing duo of Lynne Sachs & Lizzie Olesker, exploring the making of and book project re-iteration of a film, Washing Society, about laundry-workers, that toured worldwide in 2019; also, Kushal Poddar’s ‘complete’ Lockdown Diaries in the form of an E-book (our first) is forthcoming. Jaclyn Piudik, NYC-Toronto experimental poet’s new chapbook, poems of mirrors and embodiment and many other projects are currently in development.
    Also, check out Adedayo Agarau’s New International Voices series of new works (essays, CNF), and Kramer’s anything goes column on experimental poetics reviews and Islamic poetics, called Subterranean Chatter. We have a bunch of other projects in development from a new web-series to a new e-book series, an Ice Floe Press reading series, TBA, and sundry. We think it’s gonna be awesome.
  2. How you come up with the themes, and all the artwork that goes into it?
    Robert: Themes for our projects emerge from us as individuals and collaborators. Moira and I talk a lot to generate the writing prompts and decide on future book projects. Then we meet as a team to talk over possibilities. This whole working process we have developed began with an invitation to be Guest Editors for the month of July, 2019 at Burning House Press (UK). Eli, Moira and I were deeply honored to be asked to put together a theme, which became Secrets and Lies. BHP is a creative, inspirational ‘monster’ of a site, now in a semi-hiatus, which has archived all of the work by writers, artists and curated projects. A publisher of edgy, innovative, queer and anti-oppressive experimental/political writing and art, BHP has been a catalyst for many creatives for at least a couple of years, if not aeons. It’s worth visiting the site, and I expect it will likely emerge in a new iteration any time soon, under the mentorship of its founder, Miggy Angel.
    Thinking more about Ice Floe, when it comes to the art component, the creation of banners, Moira and I talk over visual possibilities and both contribute work. I have an enormous library of generative images that I have made over the years and continue to create. They are the ‘working’ material for manipulation and are largely thematic, atmospheric, non-programmatic. We intuitively select relational art to accompany the curated texts, whether a digitally altered photo, a painting or a VISPO. I believe, between myself and Moira, we have embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime partnership, a form of cross-pollinating of collaboration and energy magic that is so rare, and that I know is a blessing. It is a dream from which I hope to never awaken. 😊
    At times, we also ask contributors to provide us with their own images, and there will definitely be further iterations as we move forward into 2021. I also like to ask visual artists whose work I admire such as Cathy Daley or UK photo-artist, Robynne Limoges, and most recently, German photographer Vera Schmittberger to contribute and participate with their own energies and visual templates.
    Toronto-based poet Jaclyn Piudik is currently putting together a project on “Bodies” for the online blog for Spring, 2021. Montana based triple-threat MS Evans is also working on a project for the blog. We finalize prompts and choose whom to invite and when to open for submissions in a gentle, collaborative way that I hope provides a sanctuary, a welcoming engagement of energies in a competitive literary/art field. We are interested in moving beyond hierarchies and aim not just for ‘publishing’ for its own sake, but in choosing projects and interrogating them with breadth and interactivity and encouraging writing-as-a-gathering space rather than a zone of stress, competition, and alienation. I think this is why we attract such intense, hard-hitting and personal work, and it is what makes Ice Floe Press, hopefully, a project of merit that shall continue into the future.
    The magic that is indeterminate, underground, and symphonic in its scope, concerns, and international contexts feels like a gift to continue to nourish and nurture. To conclude, though I now live in Toronto and Moira is living in Alabama, the focus for Ice Floe Press is international, and collaborative. That’s the mandate.

Logo follow at http://www.icefloepress.net (print)
https://icefloepress.net (e version) Twitter: @icefloeP @frede_kenter

Several Poems from Anthologies by HilLesha O’Nan

Blackout

We head towards the East…
To escape the chaos
The sky
Starless
Is thickened with darkness
With no cars passing through
Dare any light shine?
No longer human
They
THEM
Watching
Waiting
To pounce any innocent passerby
Flesh for flesh
There’s nowhere to turn or hide
This is the blackout

Run, Run, Run

We’re surrounded
By a sea
Of trees
And darkness is closing in

Run, Run, Run

We need to hide
Or
They’ll find us

Run, Run, Run

We’re gasping for air, but we’re almost there.
Don’t look back…

There’s no time…
They’re lurking.

The shadows.

Run, Run, Run
Or time will escape us once again.

Drive

Drive, Drive, Drive
I’m on a mission to nowhere
I was lost
Until I found you
And now i’m here
With my foot on the gas pedal
And no destination in mind.

I was forced to breathe
When you ripped my heart out of its cavity
And only left me a box of memories
At my doorstep
No goodbyes
Just a box
Of memories

There’s a long road of possibilities ahead
And i’m going to
Drive, drive, drive
You out of my mind
My memories of you
Are going to be 5,000 miles behind me.

The Pale Horseman

Pale as ice
The horseman took out his sword
And wielded it across nation to nation
Striking the young and old
The healthy and sick
The poor and the rich
The humble and arrogant
As well as the innocent and guilty
He will continue to ride

Without remorse

A Brush of Death (cap) (an ode to Shirley Jackson)

Their green and brown caps
Glistening after a Fall rain
Merricat plucked one of the mushrooms
And brushed it against her lips
A brush of
Death
Cap
She inhaled its slightly ammoniac smell
Calmingly,
And briefly slipped into a trance like state
Merricat? Merricat?
The “spell” broke as her name was called
Merricat quickly plucked each mushroom
One by one
And threw them in her knapsack
For she had to make tea
For Constance
That she will send her
10 feet deep in the boneyard.

Marybelle

Marybelle
Her name means star of the sea
Rests beneath a sea of stars
Each night

Dare anyone who tries to disturb her slumber
Beneath the mortsafe
With its cage-like wrought iron,
And her headstone as if guarding it
A garland of roses are beautifully –
Etched in the sandstone.

Her name and epitaph
Deeply carved
Have defied the test of time.

Marybelle “Dingy” Rose
1834-1853

“We shall find you in the grey
Summer Garden amid the rain wet roses
Stir of wings, and the morning hills behind you”

The Price of Being Alice

I’m at the thrift store…
It’s Dark
And no one is in sight
I’m looking for something for the house

Instead, I stumbled upon an oddly-shaped
Ceramic of a white rabbit that is inspired by Alice in Wonderland

$3

And then I spot an Alice ceramic

$20

Why $17 more?

Being Alice comes at a cost yet
It doesn’t cost much to be the rabbit.

Its noted that the rabbit is the one that sparks the curiosity
After all,
It is the rabbit that leads Alice down the rabbit hole.

Alice runs after the rabbit,
Searching for it
Endlessly,
In Wonderland
This symbolizes her quest for
Knowledge.

It is the End (as we know it)

Internal wars raged on
In their minds.
Until they could no longer be contained
And spilled onto the streets –
With a parade of hatred.

Hearts became calloused
As children cried out
In their cages
FREE ME!

And those in needing to feed
The beast
Of hunger
Wearily held up their signs
FEED ME!

Yet they were unheard
Unseen
The forgotten
And that Summer they dropped like the flies
Buildings burned
Bridges collapsed
Mountains crumbled
The oceans dried their tears
Stars fell out of the sky like confetti
And the sun went out like a birthday candle
As if the world made its final wish

Off the Edge

There is something ominous
About the cold, grey skies yet –
The angels harmonize
Beautifully
All of a sudden
There is a suffocating stillness –
In the air and I feel like i’m being
Pushed off the edge.

HilLesha O’Nan is a blogger, writer, photographer & marketer. She is co-editor, suggesting ideas for Fevers of the Mind Poetry Digest & Fevers of the Mind Press. She runs the blog tothemotherhood.com for over 15 years. @HilLesha on twitter