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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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

Get to know musician Frank Watkinson

It was a couple of months ago that I was watching videos on youtube for Leonard Cohen, possibly Chelsea Hotel No. 2 and after the song played another version of the song began to play. It was by a man with an accoustic guitar putting his unique interpretation on the song. I dived deeper watching several of his cover songs while with my wife for a couple of hours. He wasn’t just covering folk songs. He had covers of Neutral Milk Hotel, even Slipknot, Death Cab For Cutie, Wilco, the Lumineers & more. I wondered why isn’t this guy more known. He had to have been in bands when he was younger. He has a youtube channel, just him, his guitar, his stories & the most dynamic find of all. He has wonderful original songs. He comes across very humble. He’s done hundreds of cover songs & originals for years & just loves playing music. He’s not looking for fame and money it seems. He’s doing this out of the love of making music.

https://www.youtube.com/user/LOLhi28/featured is Frank Watkinson’s youtube page. Please check his music out & his covers as well.

small interview with Frank Watkinson:

  1. I would just ask how long you’ve been working on your own songs & how do you decide which songs to cover? Frank: I have been writing songs ever since I picked up a guitar, nothing any good, I still don’t think they are that great now but that’s just me , most of the covers I do are requests, I would try anything if asked ,i still do them now but the list exceeds 1500 , so the chances are getting slimmer for those that request them , I was told I should do a Patreon account and people pay for them ,but that would then seem too much like work and i also can’t cover everything ,I’d get stressed out too much ,it’s also not about the money for me I just like what I do right now.
  2. 1. Do you enjoy writing songs more than covers?  What are some of the songs  you’re most proud of? Frank: I think i like writing my own songs because even if they are vague I know the reason I wrote it , I am not good enough a musician to play a cover exact that is why I simplify them , I have always said don’t let your inability stop you from what you enjoy ,you can only get better,
  3. Who have been your biggest influences, or musically who are some of your favorites? Frank: Basically all the older types like Dylan, James Taylor Ralph McTell , it goes on , I like almost anything acoustic ,but i also like a good song no matter what genre .
  4. Does it take you very long to write a song, and do you enjoy the process or feel hurried to get it done? Frank: Some songs take a few days on and off but they are mostly the ones where I came up with a melody first then try to put words to, others can take as little as 20 minutes for the lyrics as they seem to write themselves , then I just put a basic tune on them , it’s the ones that are started and finished in less than an hour that seem to go down the best.
  5.  I have only began listening to your stuff about a month ago, so I haven’t seen every video.  Whereabouts in the UK do  you live?  I have many great poet contributors to my poetry endeavors. It is refreshing to know it still seems relevant unlike in the U.S. as much the arts, the poetry, the music. Frank:  I live in a town called Huntingdon ,about 12 miles from Cambridge.
  6. Have you played in any bands while younger? Frank:  I have never played in a band and i haver never played live anywhere , I have no desire to either ,I’m not a stage performer I dread the thought , sitting at home with a cat and dog as my audience is one thing ,standing up in front of others is another ball game, I just mess around writing or covering a song post it on you tube and set it free , I also have no desire to record them in a studio despite the requests to, I think I’m a what you see is what you get person.
  7. Do you enjoy poetry or particular writers or authors?  I don’t mind listening to the occasional poem but I’m a terrible reader, I struggle to read a book because my mind wanders and before i know it I’ve forgotten what I’ve just read ,thank God for audio books , I can put on headphones and be in another world.
  8.  How were you encouraged to try out the youtube process, and did you use any other internet avenues prior to youtube? Frank: I put some very old songs on Soundcloud to begin with , then one day just to see how easy it was I posted a song on you tube ,easier than I thought so kept on posting , I certainly didn’t plan on the reaction i seem to be getting, I haven’t pushed myself in any way at all , it was supposed to be a bit of fun with one or two subscribers. 
  9. What have been some of your other hobbies growing up? Frank: I honestly don’t think i had any other hobbies ,I used to work almost every hour i could and the only thing I did in my spare time would have been play the guitar for an hour or two.
  10. Have you done much traveling and where are some of your favorite places you’ve visited? Frank: I have done very little travelling abroad ,a few times to Euro Disney with the family , and a visit to Cyprus to see my daughter ,but I do travel all over the UK I like to go to places then leave the main routes and discover places myself.

Just performing songs my way ,nothing too serious, we can’t all be polished professionals but that shouldn’t be a reason not to sing. if you really want to donate then here is a PayPal link ,i’m quite happy either way . https://paypal.me/pools/c/8uPISeE6aB

An interview with Stu Buck of Bear Creek Gazette

1) Please describe your latest book, what about your book will intrigue the readers the most, and what is the theme, mood? Or If you have a blog or project please describe the concept
of your project, blog, website


Stu: My latest book is my third collection of poetry, titled Blue, the Green Sky. I would say the theme is similar to the rest of my work – things that aren’t there, things that you want to be there, the
way childhood affects your adult life in ways you never really understand, the vastness of space and the endless quest for an answer to the questions that matter the most. I have moved away
from confessional poetry in the last few years and this new book actually contains my most varied work. It has two much longer pieces which I would say are still poetic but constitute a
progression of the themes and ideas I always deal with, allowing them to flourish into different
styles and themes. Does that make sense? That seems very pretentious.
Stu


2) What frame of mind and ideas lead to you writing your current book?


Stu: My mental health has got a lot better the last couple of years, which runs alongside the abandonment of confessional poetry. I have become much happier but also much more curious.
am obsessed with death – the ways we die, what lies beyond, whether we deserve to die. To me,
the idea of outer space and death have always been linked. When you read that stars are made up of the same basic thing as humans, you can’t help but be inspired. I want to believe that when we
die we go somewhere beautiful. I want to believe that I deserve to go somewhere beautiful, and in
the last few years I have begun to understand that if that place does exist, I need to work a lot
fucking harder at my life. I am not religious, just confused.


3) How old were you when you first have become serious about your writing, do you feel your work is always adapting?


Stu: I started writing as a way to cope with things I didn’t feel I had a handle on. I am an ex-addict and
someone who has suffered greatly with mental illness. So my first attempts at writing were, I
think, the same as a lot of peoples. Catharsis disguised as verse. Something screamed inside me
and the only way I felt I could handle it was by writing. This was probably ten years ago now,
maybe a little more. So that was when I discovered what writing could be. In terms of
progression, I’d like to think I have got better. Beyond that, I think it is just wonderful that we can
write things down and people will read them.

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


Stu: Huge fan of Andrew McMillan. I have worked with him in the past and he is not only incredibly talented but extremely lovely. His first two books, Physical and Playtime, are classics and the two
best books I own. When I first read his work, I felt like he was writing specifically for me. About me. Poetry and art is subjective and I wouldn’t say there is a league table of poets. But if there
was, he’d have won the title by Christmas. Music wise, I love folk music, specifically 60s and 70s folk rock. I listen to almost anything, although I cant listen much to deep house anymore because it reminds me of the embarrassing
amount of drugs I used to do.

5) 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?


Stu: Jigsaw Puzzles are my latest obsession. I tend to become obsessed with things. I love reading of
course. At the moment I’m working through the Discworld series which is fun. I first read them
when I was too young to understand the satire, so reading them again has been great. I do watch
some television, but mainly nonsense programs like Battlebots or Bob’s Burgers. I used to watch
2 films a day but I live 10000ft up a mountain and we can’t stream anything. So it’s crap TV or
nothing. We have two dogs, one a puppy, so we walk a lot. Its a 35 minute round trip to the
mailbox here. Stupid really but once it snows its impossible to get up the drive.


6) What is your favorite or preferred style of writing?

Stu: I like free verse. I dislike rhyme or constraint. I started out writing haiku and tanka which was a
great way to learn about making the most of a few words etc. but now I just go for it. I dont often
edit. I am writing my second novel at the moment and I find a routine is useless for me. I just
sometimes feel like writing. I can write 4000 words in 2 hours or I can go a week without opening
the laptop. My life has got a lot less chaotic in recent years but I like to think I will never have a
writing routine. That is one step too far.


7) Are there any other people/environments/hometowns/vacations that has helped influence
your writing?


Stu: I have traveled all over the world. So I write a lot about the places I have been. My current
writing project which I mentioned above is half travelogue, half gay love story. I guess both those
things are important to me. I’m not gay. Just confused. I also write about childhood a lot and how
we see things differently when we haven’t been exposed to the strains of adult life.


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


Stu: Someone messaged me on Twitter a while back telling me they read my work when they were sad
and it helped. So that is definitely rewarding. But I am human, so I also love when people retweet
my work or buy my books. My wife is an amazing writer so when they like something I have
wrote I know I am on the right track.
In terms of frustration, I don’t tend to get frustrated with my work too much. It comes or it
doesn’t. But again, I am human, so when I spend time writing something and I feel people have
not engaged with it to the degree that I feel it deserves, that is a negative. I don’t submit my work
much (2 or 3 times a year) so rejections aren’t something I have to deal with much. Not because I
am a good writer but because if you don’t submit you don’t get rejected.


9) How has the current times affected your work?

Stu: I feel like I was really well equipped for the pandemic. I don’t honestly miss anything except
maybe eating out. So my life hasn’t changed a great deal. I feel like I have been more productive
than some people during the lock-downs. I have written well over 100k words split between
projects. So I would say, weirdly, that I am thriving personally. I have also started a lit project,
Bear Creek Gazette, which is a fake newspaper set in a fake town. Its been brilliant to see the
responses and submissions for it. People have really got behind it. Its weird and sometimes
offensive. Which is what people crave when times are hard. Well, its what I crave anyway.

10) Please give us any links, social media info, upcoming events, etc for your work.


Stu: My book is out later this year, in one of the J months, on Broken Spine Arts.
You can follow me on Twitter, where I basically live, @stuartmbuck
Bear Creek Gazette has a website. Its welcometobearcreek.com and the Twitter is @bcgazette

Poetry & Interview with Matthew M C Smith & Black Bough Poetry

Beacons

Figures bright on the ice-white moor
slope-bound to the wilderness
ink of voices
dyeing the snow
A clatter of sledges
riot of children and barking
small fingers point
to the winding wing
conducting in its shadow
It vanishes
over the mountain peak
its cry as cold
as frost-stone


Frost

Concrete is crystalline
cold light of halogen
steel through night
procession of chrome
Smooth arc of moon
at the end of breath
planets bright, pure light
between rise of star-sun
and down of dusk
with all motion
encircling Polaris

Field X

Trees stand sentinel
boughs glisten black
banks of leaves
tumble to field’s edge
a ditch brook murmurs
orange blood of iron trickle
Scare of crow, sky
speck of hawk, high
brook, river
mast, transmitter
red pulse
on signal spire
Fields tilled, stilled
a picking bird
tapping a barren bower
tear-salt winds
bleach a long skull
and whistle wire

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

Matthew: I published my first book ‘Origin: 21 Poems’ in 2018. This is available on Amazon and the poems focus on landscape, cultural memory, layers of time, my father (who died in 2012), family and fatherhood. I’m writing my next collection which will contain poems and poetic prose. I’m really excited about it. Most of the pieces have been published and well-received so seeing the poems in a whole, cohesive collection will be surreal and a jolt – that sense of achievement about something that has been hard to do and involved a lot of tricky decisions. There are some poems that have made people cry and I’ve been contacted by people moved or inspired. I also got a ‘Best of the net’ nomination from Icefloe Press for a group of poems and prose that will be in it so I’m intrigued as to what readers will think. I’ll also use an artist and have a secret or mystery contained within but it will be very hard to find and maybe that’s all I’ll say on it

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

Matthew: The poems in my next collection will focus again on landscape and place, our connection and disconnection with nature, the earliest traces of humanity on the earth and nature as ‘other’ – its mightiness and inhumanity. I use personification in poetry like most poets but sometimes I feel like it is another claiming act made by humans and while we are advanced animals and part of nature, it is much greater than us. There’s been vast expanses of time before humans and there will be vast expanses after our extinction far into the future. I also write about family and fatherhood, loss and some strange imaginative journeys, including cosmic adventures. I don’t feel I write personal poetry but I read over and realise some poems are very personal

3. How old were you when you first have become serious about your writing, do you feel your work is always adapting?

Matthew: I was about 15 years old when I started to write and I wrote sporadically over 25 years amassing a lot of writing, some of it awful. I got serious at 40 as a bucket-list thing – publishing a book by the time I was 40 – and published it without any magazine publications and without knowing any poets. I did it the wrong way round but it was fun doing it with ignorant bliss and naivety and at least I had something to hawk around and promote. I’m now 42 and my work adapts as I read more and more but it still has a particular stamp, I think.

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

Matthew: Before being a published poet, I loved T.S. Eliot, R.S. Thomas, Alun Lewis, Wallace Stevens, Robert Graves, Langston Hughes, e.e. cummings and Sylvia Plath, to name but a few. I also got into poetry via ‘The Doors’ and Jim Morrison. I guess Morrison got me writing even if what I was writing was rambling disconnected utterances. I won’t mention contemporary poets as there’s too many and I’ll leave so many out but the ‘Black Bough’-published poets are utterly inspirational and wide-ranging.

5. 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?

Matthew: Running. I run three or four times a week and have done a lot of running challenges like 10ks, half marathons and the London marathon. Running inspires poems as I go into a more meditative, zoned-out state. I’m also a keen walker, astronomer and deep time site visitor (caves, standing stones, museums, etc) and casual researcher of prehistory. I collect vinyl and vintage Star Wars figures. All of these inspire poetry. Like a lot of people, I’m on social media too much. But I’m also a husband and dad and we do a lot as a family together.

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

Matthew: It starts with spontaneity and free-flow and slows down. I leave my poetry for weeks and come back to it with a lot more control and usually make changes, which involves re-ordering, cutting and looking for better words. And then I come back again, weeks or months later. But sometimes poems are quick and don’t get edited that much.

7. Are there any other people/environments/hometowns/vacations that has helped influence your writing?

Matthew: The people closest to me inspire me to write about them. This is always positive. I don’t wash my dirty linen in public by writing negatively about anyone I know. I always write on holiday – the change of scene is creatively invigorating. I visited Cheddar Gorge and the Mendips this year before Covid and the ancient landscape was staggering and begs to be written even more about. I’ve written in Majorca, France and Italy, usually stunning land and cityscapes. I feel like this with the Gower peninsula near me, an area of outstanding beauty and heritage. Much has been written about this area but there is always more scope for investigation and creative interpretation.

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

Matthew: The most rewarding part is when you’ve finished work and it’s really moved on from its earliest form. When others read it and give you enthusiasm and meaningful feedback, this is also satisfying. When you hold a room in the palm of your hand at a reading because you‘ve learned the poem and performed it well. The most frustrating part is having work that just feels unfinished over a long time and wondering if it’ll ever get to a ‘finished’ state. I don’t get beaten down by rejections – just truck on.

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

Matthew: I think it will give most people, including myself, a long-term, deep anxiety about close contact with others, particularly groups. I watch TV, old films sometimes, and instinctively feel concern about people being too close. This kind of fear doesn’t bode well for the future, does it? Creatively, I’ve had time to work on some of my writing and I don’t doubt there are themes of being trapped and contained across my recent writing

10. Please give us any promotional info for your work, social media, blogs, publishing company info, etc that you’d like to shout out.

Matthew: Matthew’s writing can be read at https://www.blackboughpoetry.com/matthew-m-c-smith Access to past free Black Bough journals and links to buy print journals are at http://www.blackboughpoetry.com

Matthew M. C. Smith is a writer from Swansea, Wales. He is ‘Best of the Net’-nominated and his work is published in Anti-Heroin Chic, Barren Magazine, The Lonely Press, Seventh Quarry, Fevers of the Mind and Bangor Literary Journal. He is the editor of Black Bough poetry. Twitter: @MatthewMCSmith @BlackBoughpoems Insta: @smithmattpoet Also on Facebook. Matthew M. C. Smith (writer)

About Black Bough Poetry:

  1. When did you come up with the idea of Black Bough Poetry?

   Mathew: In March 2019, I’d been working on publishing my poetry for about a year and decided that I needed to learn more about contemporary styles of poetry. One way to do this would be to start a small press. I wanted to give emerging writers a platform, particularly Welsh writers and those lacking support and confidence, and when I announced a micropoetry press, there was a big reception. I also started it because I’d read so many posts on social media about rejections and thought Black Bough poetry would be another opportunity for poets. It’s also helped with making connections and getting readers for my own work. I often publish my own work in Black Bough but pretty sparingly and always ask the team to look over it and be honest.

2.Were you surprised by the amazing poets that you’ve assembled & contributed to making Black Bough quite the success in such a short amount of time?

Matthew: Definitely, I’m really surprised at how many submittters there are and the quality of writing from emerging to experienced writers. The feedback is humbling and motivates me to try new things and push the scope of the magazine. If there hadn’t been such positive vibes, I wouldn’t have done so many editions and ventured into print editions. Social media gives huge opportunities for writers and magazines and the following of Black Bough poetry across the world grows every week

3. Black Bough’s anthologies are thematic in nature, How, do you come to a conclusion of coming up with the themes?

Matthew: Some editions are open-themed but you’re right – there is often a thematic approach. I try to have some connective tissue running through the open-themed ones. I get very inspired by the thematic approach and spend a lot of time thinking of interesting themes that will inspire readers and writers. The ‘Deep Time’ editions (volume 1 and 2), which went to no. 1 and 2 in the Amazon poetry anthologies chart in the UK, were inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s award- winning ‘Underland’ (2019). The focus on deep time and the environment in Macfarlane’s epic non-fiction work really inspired writers and we have such good poetry and artwork in the two volumes. It was amazing to get Robert Macfarlane’s initial and ongoing support for the project as he’s incredibly busy. In 2021, the ‘Freedom/ Rapture’ edition will come out inspired by a mashup song by Jim Morrison and Debbie Harry (‘Rapture Riders’). The themes have to be interesting to me as well as interesting to writers.

4. What is coming up with Black Bough (in the near future)? Any hints on upcoming themes for 2021?

Matthew: Freedom/ Rapture’ will probably be two editions – online and in print. That’s a big project in itself and will probably take six months at least. Then we have ‘Christmas and Winter’ volume 2, following this year’s print volume that’s out on Amazon. I’m excited by these but they are very, very time-consuming to do. I always assemble great teams to help me. There’s also the sister-project, Silver Branch, which is made up of online monthly features of writers’ work. This was inspired by Icefloe Press and their ‘Geographies’ project. After these, I’ll be focusing on my second collection and having a break from Black Bough.

5. The artwork for these books is just as important as the poetry. Who comes up with the illustrations for the books? Is it a group effort, or one particular vision?

Matthew: I hesitate to use the word ‘intuition’ but I look around on the web for talented artists and hone in on artists who I think will match the work and will be easy to get along with. All the artists and photographers have been brilliant so far. I knew Emma Bissonnet (Christmas and winter edition) would be incredible for the Christmas and winter edition as I’d already seen and bought her commercial art for several years. I wasn’t sure how it would go with Rebecca Wainwright but after seeing her first sketch, I felt the potential for an incredible synergy between the poetry and art. Her ‘Deep Time’ art is very special to me and many people who have bought the books. Lizzie Kemball was a revelation for the Apollo 11 edition. That was very exciting as she was a mystery artist, revealed towards the end. Our very own Banksy. I’ve been very lucky so far and the other artists and photographers have been brilliant