5 poems & interview from Damien Donnelly in Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020

Illusion Swims Over an Empty Pool

Feet swing above a blue tiled wall of a piscine / sans l’eau
as if the world has cried up all the water on the planet.

I rest my head on your shoulder and you lean in /to my support
as if we were both armbands to each other.

Somewhere behind a day I made into a memory / in my mind
you fake swim in that pool of dried tile / cracked sunshine

and our laughter reverberates between the stain at the bottom
and the gulls flying overhead / in circling sways

in case we chose to be bait for their beak.

Behind us / a taxi rides away / and we are left to decipher
how life drowned in that place / sans rêve.

Sometimes we sleep to dream / other times we slip our feet
into the emptiness / to dream of what we might have found

in its place.

Feet swing above a blue tiled wall of a piscine / sans l’eau
et on ferme les yeux / to lean into that which isn’t really there.

At Least in a Cup of Coffee We can Hold a Caramel of Comfort

In the kitchen / breaking noise before dawn
you grind grains into something more sippable,
stilled / under a shadow of something unsettling,

I shift position / too naturally / while still snoozing,
setting my sleeping skin into that soft spot
your body has since shed

as your tongue lets the caramel of coffee
tingle across taste buds / slowly changing

in that kitchen / swallowing simple warm things
in the morning / before day comes to choke us.

Knowing how Long to Leave Wool in the Water

Spring has left us shy.

We flirted like sheep / cute / clumsy
constantly caught before coming / folding a season into forever.

Words come / cumbersome
you can only swallow so much of a wave of seductive / before you drown.

Sheep don’t swim / wool doesn’t do well in hot water.
Be careful with the laundry.

Spring has left us shy.

We never unfolded another season / no more flock to the flirt,
you do / or you die / the tide isn’t ours to play with.

Sink / swim / shrink /drown / and I was never good at lengths
length of time / length of hold / length of hope.

Sheep need a shepherd / or get washed away.

The Dissolving of Emptiness

I lay down this lake of loss / hope for soil to soak up sorrow,
by side sedge / wedge myself up / all this waste,
bury what turned base at the bottom / this bed
no longer silken sheets / but sludge / to be swept

under / asunder

I lay down this lake / this lough of loss / lost,
waiting for the tide to wash over /the emptiness to dissolve,
waiting for time to refine me / re-find me as buoyant

in place of broken.

An Interview with Damien Donnelly

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

Damien: There is certainly a flow of connecting colours throughout the collection; rickety reds, shades of blue, scarlet rising, grazing greens, purples clouds and cerulean skies. I like painting as a pastime so that often trickles out through the pen. I love wandering around galleries to see the tales painters captured on canvases and wondering how to capture them onto pages. Black is only shadow is a line that comes up more than once in the collection and I think that is where its identity lies, an acceptance of the darkness and a hope that it will not be forever, a line chanted like a mantra to get through to the next burst of light. The collection is not necessarily about easy moments in life but I hope the reader can appreciate the rise after each fall.

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

Damien: I had my first panic attack a few years ago and many of the poems in this book stem from that, looking for ways of remaining light and bright and bouncy while accepting, concurrently, that state of anxiety, fear and sometimes loss. I was searching for balance, we cannot always remove the darkness or the weight or the panic and so I wanted to find a way to hold both at the same time so there was not always a fight between the two but an acknowledgement of each other.

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

Damien: I wrote when I was a kid, a cathartic release before I knew there were people called therapists. But I had a dream of being a fashion designer from a young age and therefore the attention was always focused on a degree in fashion and a life in the industry which overshadowed the writing, even though it was always there. When I moved from London to Amsterdam in 2006, I began to focus more on writing and that was when I started my blog deuxiemepeaupoetry.com, a combination of poetry and photography. I think there was something about the ease of life in Amsterdam that made it possible to do more than one thing in a day, London, for me, was far too demanding for that. A few years later, my grandmother passed away and I was asked to write and deliver her eulogy and that was the first time I saw people really listening to what I had to say and relating to it and from that moment it changed, as if she instilled in me a confidence that this was something to be explored and needed time to develop. Looking back now at notebooks from childhood and even early poems on my blog, my style has changed completely. I started off by telling whole stories and have now fine tuned that into telling a story, not the whole, not always the complete truth, but exploring their essence.

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

Damien: When I was 23, I lived for a year in a one bedroomed, viewless-windowed apartment in Le Marais in Paris with an Irish girl who played piano and Irish drinking songs in bars around the city but late at night, or after Sunday strolls through the Jewish quarter and lugging home sugar-laden treats from the bakeries on rue des Rosiers, she would play me her favourite Joni Mitchell songs before we put the album Miles of Aisles on repeat on our little Cd player. Later it became the Tin Angel and Blue albums on my Walkman, sitting at the table after coming home from work at the bar at 3am, playing Solitaire and listening to her paint words over cords, about living in places and missing others, kissing men and moving on. The influence from Joni has never strayed.

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?

Damien: Photography is something I love. I can take over 100 photos a day, just trying to capture things that might get overlooked, a twig on a lump of concrete, a bag in a tree, a shell sinking back into the sand. I also use those photos a reference points later when writing, the visual falling into the structured lines of a poem. Painting is also something I enjoy though it takes much more time but it is the same thing as writing, taking a blank page or canvas and putting a mark down onto it and following the flow of that first mark. Cooking or baking are the things I do as much as writing because I find it so relaxing; hours, days spent in the kitchen is a dream for me, listening to music or a podcast and smelling the flavours come to life is incredible. And then there is the eating.

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

Damien: I write every day, whenever I can. When I lived in Paris it was on the way to work on the metro, during lunch breaks, at night on terraces of cafes, always in between the job or the duty or the relationship. Now I write constantly, all day. The earlier part of this year was very much taken up with a fictional novel I am now sending out to publishers. During the first lockdown in Ireland, which began in March, just before our famous cancelled Saint Patrick’s Day, I had two main focuses- the garden and its 45 trees that needed chopping with an old rusty hand saw and poetry prompts on Twitter from both the Cobh Readers and Writers group and Catherine Ann Cullen, an Irish Poet, who ran a daily poetry prompt, the pair of which resulted in me writing over 300 poems in about 4 months, after which I focused on the next collection which will be a full poetry collection about my life spent living with Paris, a combination of poetry and photography. So it really never stops. My phone is never far from my hand to scribble down lines that come into my head that will be worked on later, I am very forgetful so never like to lose a thought that might become a treasure.

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

Damien: Paris definitely, I moved there when I was 22 and it changed who I was, suddenly I was completely alone for the first time in my life, in a larger-than-life city, a formerly shy child who’d never studied a word of French. I grew up there and so it will always have a huge influence on my identity, my life and my writing. Now that I have returned to Ireland, this little island has become the influencer. In earlier days, I spent so much time trying to get away from this place and the shy child it still wanted to identify within me but now, coming back after 23 years, it is a foreign object and I am enjoying examining all her sides while she accepts me now for who I became and has given up looking for the shadows of my former self. Family come in and out, of course, in terms of influence, I recently had a short story in the No.1 Irish bestseller A Page from My Life, an anthology of short stories published by Harper Collins Ireland and my story was about my Mother’s first experience in shopping at the supermarket chain Aldi. It was a comedy piece which made it a welcome change from the more serious tone of most of my poetry. And then there is always the constant rise and fall of relationships which ignites the pen. I write a lot about love and all that lies in between beginnings and endings. Torture can be exquisite, on the page, at least

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

Damien: For me it’s that sense of achievement, when you find the right words, the right order, the right atmosphere and you read it back and it pops and you just want to jump up and say yes- I did it. The most frustrating? Having to do it all over again.

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

Damien:  I have never written so much as I have this year. As I mentioned I wrote over 300 poems during the first lockdown thanks to Poetry Prompts on Twitter while also editing my novel. I moved back to Ireland with a dream of setting up a writer’s retreat on the west coast but, at first, I said I’d stay at the family home for a few months to make up for being away for so long. Then Covid hit and it is now one year later and I’m still in that family home on the east side of Ireland. I think I’ve left this village about 6 times in the past 9 months. It has been an extremely strange year from being basically housebound, which is not normally in my comfort zone, to also being a non-stop year of writing, being published, winning writing competitions, starting a podcast and interviewing other poets as part of a series on my blog. I was given the rare opportunity this year to focus solely on writing and am thankful that I will not look back at this year as a wasted opportunity

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

Damien: My bog is http://www.deuxiemepeaupoetry,com where you can buy signed copies of my debut chapbook Eat the Storms in the bookshop there. My publisher is www.hedgehogpress.co.uk For details of the podcast check out www.eatthestorms.com I am on Twitter as @deuxiemepeau, Instagram as @damiboy and @eatthestorms and Tiktok as @eatthestorms

  1. When did you get the idea to start the “Eat the Storms Podcast”?

Damien: I first came up with the idea of the podcast as it came close to the launch of my collection and I realized that because of lockdown restrictions I would not be able to have a normal book launch in a library or a bookstore and there would be no interaction with people. The focus would have to all take place on social media platforms and I was already on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and had a pretty good following but I wanted to find more ways to get my voice out. I started by using TikTok to make short video poems and then someone suggested a podcast but I was worried about setting it all up on my own as I’m not the most technologically minded person even though I’ve used computers for 25 years in terms of creating patterns for clothes but then I discovered the app and podcast platform Anchor which let you produce your own podcast and it was so simple and easy that by the next evening I had the first episode already recorded with jingles and introductions and pauses. It started as a platform just to share poems from my debut collection Eat the Storms, but that changed immediately as I realised everyone was in the same boat, all looking for outlets to be heard and so I opened the show up to have guest poets each week and it had taken off from there and it is showing no signs of slowing down as the audience is picking up more listeners each week so I am very happy to say that I was able to offer connection in a time when we were being told to stay away.

2. What have you found most interesting in the poets that you have interviewed? Are you ever surprised by what the poets have to say when on the podcast?

Damien: For me, personally, I think the most interesting thing about the podcast and having guests on is hearing poems that I know I’ve already read myself, read to me by their author and hearing their original idea instead of my understanding because of the tone of their voice, or a giggle or a pause when perhaps I had missed that moment of stillness that was so vital to how the poem would be. When you hear a poet read their words I think that brings us to a whole other level of understanding

3. How do you scout out a poet to have on your own show?

Damien: Sometimes I have themed episodes which makes it easier to put the content of the show together, like the LGBTQ+ episode that recently went down a storm or the Irish episode I am currently planning. At other times it’s just a question of who’s in my line of sight, who’s the most popular name of the day on Twitter that I happened to hear of, who were the people that I dreamed of taking part and so I just drop them a little message and cross my fingers. Sometimes, with age comes bravery

4.Where can one find episodes of “Eat the Storms”?

Damien: At the moment Eat the Storms, the poetry podcast, is on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Breaker, Pocketcasts and of course Anchor. A new episode drops every Saturday around 5pm but all the shows are there to listen to whenever life needs to be a little more poetic

5.Who helps you with the promotional vignettes for the show? I feel like I’m about to go into a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” style show, but with the souls of poets instead of Rich people’s homes.

Damien: The promotional vignettes for this show are all homemade, its me with my camera positioned somewhere halfway into the sand and resting against a shell while I walk across the beach or me with a tiny tripod because I don’t want to look too much like an idiot or in the garden, or a field or down a country lane or me and the back bedroom here in the family cottage that has been home to my family since 1904. I don’t have any extra help, I’m a fumbling, giggling one man show trying to figure it all out and occasionally calling on the 80-year-old mother to focus the camera.

Wolfpack Contributor: Damien Donnelly

3 Poems from Damien B. Donnelly writer/host of Eat the Storms Podcast

2 New Poems by Elizabeth Castillo : New Start & Black Dolls for Christmas

New Start

In all my languages, I have found there is no word for you. Although most vowels are the same, no matter where they sit on your tongue,
and life goes on, I’ve noticed, and tries to drag one along with it. But my bags are not packed. This time I do not travel light, or alone.
You’re mistaken if you think I’ve folded all this up neatly behind me.
You’re an idiot if you think I don’t know your twitter feed by heart.
I want to be like that crab that builds itself from bits of detritus- that decorates its shell with rubble from the sea floor. To feel and not feel, and breathe while underwater, to be a hundred people, a hundred creatures, and not be anyone at all. 
Who said that healing from mishap and mischief is linear? Who gets to decide the shape of my bruises but me? 
Such a tiny thing! Such small, such humdrum hours- all rolled up together into a quiet avalanche. Like a leech, I can’t shake this nuisance from my ankle, beneath each stone, battalions of fire ants advance. If I can’t carry this on board, I will sew it to my ribcage: (I’d like to see them try and prise it off me then!) Dawn is just the start of another day, when the
aircraft shudders, then dips, then plunges into the horizon. Down below, in the cargo hold, I’ve packed most of myself safely away.
You’re deluded if you think I’m not taking you with me. You’re a fool if you think I’m ever leaving this alone.

Black dolls for Christmas

A pair of black dolls sit under the tree,
waiting for my girls,
with a gripe about how hard they were to find.
And this is veal. Do you know veal?
Oh look! Another book,
Collected short stories from West Africa.
And… is that… a pot of shea butter?
Oh no, false alarm. It’s body cream.
A fruit-based concoction of some kind.
Smells like that pineapple I’ve been asked to carve.
They mean well, his family,
(although their ancestors didn’t.)
It’s the thought that counts
What thought was that exactly?
(I know what their ancestors thought.)
They don’t mean anything by it,
they want you to feel at home.

Home, my home?
(I thought they’d taken my home.)
In the lift, I nudge, and nod towards them,
the mixed-race couple, she- brown, he- white.
He- a tourist, she- a local delight.
“Do you see us?” I ask. You shake your head
and pull me close. I believe you.
But this is what they all see.
They mean well, these people,
when they called me bold. Exotic. “Audace!”
When their eyes snap to you for confirmation
as if you speak for both of us.
They mean well, these people,
with their books and black dolls
and explanations, and pineapples.
They mean well, these people,
But their ancestors didn’t.
Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Elizabeth M. Castillo 

 6 Micropoems from “Cajoncito: Poems on Love, Loss, y Otras Locuras” by Elizabeth M Castillo

photo by Elian Jushari on Unsplash.com

4 Poems by R.D. Johnson : Malcolm & Martin, Angels, Dr. King’s Dream & February 1st (re-post)

Malcolm & Martin

Built like Malcolm, that’s the X in me
Think we just in the middle, the thought perplexes me
Built like Martin Luther, no wonder my name mean king
And continue one day at a time
Walking in his dream

Angels

Angels watch over me
And don’t let the devil get up under me
A lot of evil planning they six feet so they can put me under see
Six feet has become the socially acceptable distance
I have people farther away taken from me in an instance
Thinking about the circumstances got me withdrawing my defenses
See the pain through my lenses
Lather all my feelings, watch it repeat as it rinses

I got angels over me
Waiting to give my wings
I still gotta do a few more things
Reach a few more dreams
Right now things don’t look like what it seems
Feel like we’re in a balancing act
Keeping it together on the beams
Right now the world is holding it together
But trying to bust at the seams

I got angels over me
Watching over ensure I’m blessed
Diminishing my stress
Monitoring my success
Always hungry for more
Never settling for less

Angels watching over me
Since they were taken from me too soon
I wish I could sit and chat with them all
In the same room
Wish I could see my cousin one more time
Call me RJ one, my favorite nickname of mine
Wish I could visit my grandpa like I used to
I hope you proud of me for the things I did do
Wish I was I can see my uncle now
And create my own stories
I want all of them to say in unison to me not to worry
Tell me this world is a scary place at times and that things will get better
And that they’ll be with me all the way no matter the storm to weather

Dr. King’s Dream

If Martin Luther King’s dream became reality
Ope there goes gravity
Or whatever Eminem said
People would lose themselves
Over the realization
That this is not the equality that he spoke of all these years ago
This currently is not the peace he spoke of
People would rather take a piece of justice into their own hands rather than make peace
Because between their two fingers is all the peace some need
Versus putting an index and middle finger up any day to actually stand for peace
If Dr King’s dream became a reality
We could stop living in this nightmare
Maybe the majority could be woke like some of us
To the point that they really open their eyes
See their actions over years have led to this demise
As it come to no surprise
In order for one side to win over the other
There must be an eye on the prize
And look at the fucking trophy they want
A country in shambles
If Dr. King’s dream became a reality
Then none of this strife would currently be happening

February 1st

If you think that February 1st
Is just a recognition of my melanin
Then you would be the first to be mistaken
This is not meant to awaken
Unnerving thoughts but to serve as a reminder
That if last year was any indicator
That Black Lives Have. Will. And Always. Matter
Time has shown only distorted views
Where you see only pigments of achievements
Because the rest of light is darkened by bloodshed and destruction
We have fought so many years just to have a seat at the table
Look these people in the eye
And tell them I have something to say
My voice matters
My being matters
My representation matters
I am more than entertainment
I am more than your fool
I am more than your jester
I am more
Countless movements
And we’re keep walking until we stampede over the divide and minimize the cracks in society
Mother earth’s backbone is aching from the humans stepping on us
We’re not roaches
We’re not pesticides
You’re going to sit and listen to my inner voice
As it resides in the emotions of these lines
I will tell you this
Black isn’t history
History is Black
And when we can see the distinction
Maybe both sides can finally relax

Bio: Follow R.D. Johnson on twitter @r_d_Johnson R.D. Johnson is a pushcart nominee, a best of the net nominee for Fevers of the Mind “(Not Just On) Juneteenth” Reggie is an author reigning out of Cincinnati, Ohio. At the age of 9, he found a love for writing while on summer vacation. With influences from music, Reggie has created a rhythmic style of writing to tell his personal experiences and beyond. Reggie has several books available on all major online retailers and his work can be seen in various literary magazines. He currently has two columns, Drunken Karaoke featured on Daily Drunk Magazine & REPLAYS featured on The Poetry Question. https://thepoetryquestion.com/category/replay-rdj/

A Review from “Thank You For the Content III” by R.D. Johnson (Reggie D. Johnson)

Poem by R.D. Johnson: “Just a Scratch” (new poetry)

Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Reggie D. Johnson (aka R.D. Johnson)

Valentine’s Poetry by Akhila Siva : Lemme Melt Into You

A cradle of uncertainties
are stretching out it’s limbs
to enwrap my futile heart
Embrace me
No..not enough..
Just squeeze me
Lemme melt into you
until there is no space between
this moment and the ensuing

In you
the heart perceives
it’s euphony of love
In you
the poetry finds
it’s crowning asylum
In you
the drizzle rain unfurls
and undresses its ego

You let me float in the waves,
curl up with a book and
follow by crazy beats
You ensured my own space
Now take my breath with you
Press yourself on my wilderness
Make me aware of the worth of my soul
Rhyming with the beats lemme melt into you
like a free falling never ending rain!

Bio: Akhila Siva is the founder and sole contributor of wordsandnotion and qualitynotion. She is a self motivated life long learner who believes in signs from the universe. When it comes to writing, she says “I’m flying across the space between words and whipping up whimsical waves of notion to discern the quantum code of my soul.” She is the author of “Know them, One answer to many questions” (a General Knowledge book) and “I Had a Crush – The 17 Kinks” (A free e-book of 17 short stories). Her works have been featured in several online publications including Fevers of The mind, Opal Writers’ Magazine, Indian Periodical, iwriteher, Spillwords Press and Puzha as well as in The Sound of Brilliance, an anthology. Akhila lives in India with her family and a house full of plants. She is a plants-woman breathing poetries and bleeding out all the intoxicated imperfections of her soul through her blog and twitter handle @wordsandnotion.

“I certify that the given poems are original in its content and doesn’t violate any copyright of any author. ”

Photo from Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash.com

3 new Valentine’s Day poems by Lynne Schmidt : When I Say I Want You to Love Me, Rush, & Awaiting Further Instruction

When I Say I Want You to Love Me


what I mean is –                                                                                      I want you be reckless.


I want you to throw rocks through windows of abandoned buildings,
and make love on the shattered glass
just so we have a story of how these scars covered our bodies.


I want us to spend months creating a garden,
only to rip it the heads from the flowers
uproot tomatoes and leave them to rot
and start over because we got bored.


I want you to buy me every flavor of cotton candy
because you weren’t sure that I’d like it,
but knew I’d like one.


I want you to dance with me
on top of a mountain top
in the middle of a wildfire
until smoke fills our lungs
with no guarantee the firefighters
will be able to save us.


I want to swim out so far,
my arms grow tired and sink under the waves.
And I want you beside me.


I want you to dye my hair
a different color every week of the year
until we have created a palate
with every color ever known.


I want you to sit in the audience 
mouthing the words to all my poems
the way you’d sing along to the radio.


I want a road trip with no destination,
just a hand on the wheel, and your hand in mine.


I want coffee dates that change with the season,
and you to always remember my order.


I want you to say yes to every idea I’ve ever had,                                to be first in line for the roller coaster,
hands in the air, hair free flowing in the wind. 


When I say I want you to love me,
I want you to make the entire universe revolve around me.


Which means —


I do not want you to be gentle with my heart.
I want you to make it burst.

Rush

He tells me as the bleach bleeds out of my hair
as the roots become more exposed by the hour,
that I am gorgeous.


When he pulls me into him,
I feel his heartbeat hammer against my face.


He tells me later,
he wanted to kiss me.


He says, we can wait we can wait we can wait,
and for the first time
I do not rush.

Awaiting Further Instruction


He tells me he is a blank page
waiting for me to scribble on,
he asks me what I want next.


I want to say,
my the inside of my thighs,
my hips, my collarbone…


Want to peel off my skin
and offer it as an instruction
manual that reads everywhere, everything.

His chuckle is an electric cord
and I am water,
begging him to touch me.

Lynne Schmidt is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and mental health professional with a focus in trauma and healing. She is the winner of the 2020 New Women’s Voices Contest and author of the chapbooks, Dead Dog Poems (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press), Gravity (Nightingale and Sparrow Press) which was listed as one of the 17 Best Breakup Books to Read in 2020, and On Becoming a Role Model (Thirty West), which was featured on The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed for PTSD Awareness Week. Her work has received the Maine Nonfiction Award, Editor’s Choice Award, and was a 2018 and 2019 PNWA finalist for memoir and poetry respectively. Lynne was a five time 2019 and 2020 Best of the Net Nominee, and an honorable mention for the Charles Bukowski and Doug Draime Poetry Awards. In 2012 she started the project, AbortionChat, which aims to lessen the stigma around abortion. When given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.

feature photo by Shaira Dela Pena by Unsplash.com