Krysia Jopek reviews John Swain’s Rain and Gravestones

John Swain’s Rain and Gravestones [published by Crisis Chronicles Press] weaves the natural and sacred. The poems place the readers at the precarious intersection of the quotidian and spiritual—with the poet mediating as shamanistic consciousness. The transformations that take place are gentle, yet profound. Through language, experience is cast into the ritual of catharsisfor “light painted my craft” (in “Coracle”) to “inspire / like a holy book” (“In the Sand”). The poem “Goats” recreates the experience of the persona carrying out such ritual:

I scraped her [the sick girl’s] neck
with a dog fang
and dusted her face
with clay powder.
Then her spirit
like a cure
and I drove a peg
into the ground.
She only came back
To go away.

The short lines of the poems in Rain and Gravestones deliberately unscroll and turn, leaving the reader at a new place at the end of the poem, transformed.

— review by Krysia Jopek, author of Maps and Shadows

Click here for more about Rain and Gravestones.

Click here to buy Rain and Gravestones via Amazon.

Click here to contact author John Swain.

Krysia Jopek’s poems have appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Phoebe, Murmur, Windhover, and Artists & Influence. She has written reviews of poetry for The American Book Review and a review of literary criticism for The Wallace Stevens Journal. Maps and Shadows, her first novel (Aquila Polonica 2010), won a Silver Benjamin Franklin award in 2011 in the category of Historical Fiction. The Glass House of Forgetting, her second novel (literary fiction), is forthcoming.

Featuring for Writing Knights Press’ new Write Club tonight at the Lit Cafe

I’ll be writing, reading and thinking about how today is the eleven month anniversary of Mom’s death tonight at the Literary Cafe in Cleveland as Writing Knights Press debuts their new Write Club series.  I’m not 100% sure how this will work, but the novelty is part of its allure for me.  As I said on Facebook, I’m just gonna show up with poems and paper and do what I’m told.

Three featured poets: Serena Castells; Nandi Nefertiti Wilson; John Burroughs.
Three book releases: 2013 National Poetry Month Anthology; 200 Years by Serena Castells; Last Chance for Rain by Sharon Gariepy Frye.

Literary Cafe
1031 Literary Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44113
(216) 308-1962

And here’s WKP’s flyer for the event:

Martin Willitts, Jr, reviews Secret Letters by j/j hastain

Secret Letters
j/j hastain
Crisis Chronicles Press, 2013

[Editor’s note: Xe and xyr are the personal pronouns preferred by many including j/j.]

Entering into one of j/j’s books is to always enter into interesting visions of language and surprise. To call xyr work hybrid is too easy and lazy, because xe defies narrow boxes of description. Xe is more deceptive than a surrealist. j/j is clever, with great vocabulary and xyr landscapes challenge perception, interpretation, and often reality. Xe is more like the trickster Coyote with xyr choices.

Xyr latest book, Secret Letters is written like a letter to someone, unknown, left in the most unusual places, waiting for someone to discover the letter’s secrets. It does not matter if the letters fall into the wrong hands, or if the wrong person reads them. What matters is if the person who finds the letters dares to read what is clearly not intended for them. It makes us voyeurs. I feel like I am at a peek show, or Snowden looking at numerous tapped phone messages. I feel dirty and thrilled.

j/j leaves these Letters in a “bowl of a Baobab tree’s trunk.” The only things I know about Baobab trees is that they are in Africa somewhere, and they are mentioned in the book The Little Prince. Neither of these pieces of information helps me to understand. What I need to know is that the letters were placed there and nowhere else. Some of the letters are addressed to “Dear still unforeseen,” and some are only addressed to “Dear.” j/j expects a stranger to find and read these letters.

These are not prose poems, although they appear like them; nor are they strictly letters, although they appear like them. The poems are poetic, but they are not poetry. What they do, and do well, is startle. Some are nothing more than a single line: “There are ways to turn the orbs inside out without having to break them.” You wonder why anyone would want to turn an orb inside out, plus you want to know how to do it, but you are not told these things. You are left with a mystery.

I have read xyr poems over the years. Xe always challenges gender identity. I think j/j has evolved from gender into something else. A shape-shifter always leaves you guessing. In one of these poems j/j writes, “Genders are and are not related to skins.” I think j/j shed xyr skin a long time ago.

I suggest people buy, read, and become transformed too.

Secret Letters cover art by Marnie Weber

[Reviewed by Martin Willitts, Jr, author of Searching for What Is Not There (Hiraeth Press, 2013) and William Blake, Not Blessed Angel But Restless Man (Red Ochre Press, 2014).]

Read a selection from Secret Letters in the Crisis Chronicles cyber litmag.

Buy Secret Letters for $7 from Amazon or directly from the press.

Find [more] j/j hastain at

My Poems Are a Plague

My work is a plague – and hopefully contagious (in a good way). Thanks to Brandon Stroud for disseminating my germs [poems] “Perfection Per Fiction” and “Disciples” as part of HobGob Press’ Poetic Plague Project, beginning yesterday at the Cleveland Mini Maker Faire.

You down with PPP?  For more on turning your work into a contagion, visit

To track where my (and other participating poets’) germs have spread, visit

“Perfection Per Fiction” first appeared in The Squire (a journal published by Writing Knights), and subsequently in my most recent chapbook, It Takes More Than Chance to Make Change (published by The Poet’s Haven).

“Disciples” comes from my first full length poetry collection, The Eater of the Absurd (published by NightBallet Press).

Krysia Jopek reviews Blue Graffiti by Dianne Borsenik

As usual with Crisis Chronicles Press founded by its editor, John Burroughs, this hand-produced chapbook is gorgeous as a physical object—comprised of a crisp cover design with original artwork, front and back, a cardstock interleaf with appropriate floating fans, thick ivory paper, and a well-chosen font. Borsenik’s “little” book of “little” poems is told in haiku form in a series that seemingly floats like the Asian fans of the interleaf. With no capital letters aside from proper names nor punctuation between poems, two haiku per page except for the last poem, these postmodern fragments weave a delicate whole. Borsenik welds the typical haiku subject of nature with the urban details of the twenty-first century: “the only cloud / in this perfect sky / nuke plant’s vapor[.]” Like graffiti, these poems write themselves onto the man-made landscape: “origami: backhoes folding, unfolding / atop the debris[.]” The last poem leaves the series in thin air to direct the reader into an ellipsis of the unknown of sorts as well as back to the beginning of the collection to reread: “no guardrail / between us / and the[.]” This chapbook is a pleasure to read over and again. 

— review by Krysia Jopek, author of Maps and Shadows

front and back cover — photos by Steven B. Smith, white text added by JC

Click here for more about Blue Graffiti.

Click here to buy Blue Graffiti via Amazon ($5 for paperback, $2.99 for Kindle book).

Click here for more about author Dianne Borsenik.

Krysia Jopek’s poems have appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Phoebe, Murmur, Windhover, and Artists & Influence. She has written reviews of poetry for The American Book Review and a review of literary criticism for The Wallace Stevens Journal. Maps and Shadows, her first novel (Aquila Polonica 2010), won a Silver Benjamin Franklin award in 2011 in the category of Historical Fiction. The Glass House of Forgetting, her second novel (literary fiction), is forthcoming.

Took a face from the ancient gallery and I walked on down to Mahall’s

The Monday at Mahall’s Poetry and Prose Series happens the first Monday of each month at Mahall’s 20 Lanes, 13200 Madison Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio.  It’s almost right across the street from the long gone Bela Dubby beer cafe and art gallery where Dianne Borsenik and I hosted the Lix and Kix Poetry Extravaganza for years.

Beginning on April 7th 2014 I will be helping to carry on the great tradition of hosting Monday at Mahall’s. We hope to make founder
Catherine Criswell proud, and we are very excited to meet and hear this month’s acclaimed featured poet Frank Giampietro!

About Frank [stolen from
his website]:

While earning an MA at Washington College and an MFA from Vermont College, Frank Giampietro was the president and general manager of a retail appliance business in Dover, Delaware. His first book of poems Begin Anywhere was published by Alice James Books in 2008. He is the co-author of Spandrel with Denise Bookwalter and Book O’ Tondos with Megan Marlatt. Awards for his poetry include a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, a Kingsbury Fellowship from Florida State University, a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a Florida Book Award. He is the creator of La Fovea, and Poems by Heart. His poetry, nonfiction, short-short fiction, and book reviews have appeared in journals including 32 Poems, American Book Review, Barrow Street, Black Warrior, Cimarron Review, Copper Nickel, CutBank, FENCE, Hayden’s Ferry, Ninth Letter, Poetry Daily, Poetry International, Ploughshares, Rain Taxi, Subtropics, and Tampa Review. He was a resident scholar at The Southern Review from 2010 to 2011 and the managing editor of Alice James Books from 2011 to 2012. Currently, Frank Giampietro serves as the interim director of Cleveland State University Poetry Center and visiting assistant professor of English at Cleveland State University and in the North East Ohio Master of Fine Arts program.

So come hear Frank, buy his book, have some brews, roll a few strikes and spares (if you dare) and share your latest spoken word masterpiece-in-the-making at our open mic.  RSVP, if you wanna, on Facebook.

Frank Giampietro [photo also stolen from his website]

Thank you, Snoets!

What a beautiful day Sunday was with Snoetry 4. I’ll be posting photos on Facebook soon.  Thank you to everyone who made it so, including Dianne Borsenik, Ra Washington, Gork, Mark Sebastian Jordan, Heather Ann Schmidt, Serena Castells, Azriel Johnson, Skylark Bruce, Amy from Ashtabula, Alan Mathos, Clarissa Jakobsons, John Dorsey, Ian Hannold, Kathy Smith, Steve Brightman, Blaire Bommer, Juliet Cook, Steven Smith, Veronica Hopkins, Marisa Moks-Unger, Jeffrey Bowen, Marissa Hyde, Chuck Joy, James E. Stanley, Jennifer Hambrick, Luke Kuzmish, Eric Anderson, Claire McMahon, Tracie Morell, Bradley K Meyer, Alex Nielsen, Dan Smith, Bridget Kriner, Shawn King, Josh Romig, Amanda Oaks, Mary O’Malley, Elliot Smith, Christine Howey, Jeremiah Walton, Andy Roberts, Ryan Sagert, Theresa Göttl, Steve Thomas, Cee Williams, Lennart Lundh, mark s. kuhar, PoetJoe Gallagher, Shelly Ann, Christina M. Brooks, Zach Ashley, Shelley Chernin, Vladimir Swirynsky, Christopher Franke, Mark Cronin, Cavana Faithwalker, Steve Goldberg, Terry Provost, Lyz Bly and Julie Ursem Marchand. And Guide to Kulchur was the perfect venue for it.  Much love to you all!

Ashley furniture truck driver lies

I’ve learned that the guy who hit my car on I-490 is trying to say I swerved to the left and cut in front of him.  Fortunately, I’m fairly certain there is a witness who saw that I was firmly established in my lane when his truck struck me (I saw police approach and talk to a vehicle that was on the shoulder behind me).  I did not swerve.  I intended to get off at the Broadway exit that was coming up on the right to pick up Geri from work. The dog didn’t run out in front of me; it ran out in front of the SUV that slammed on its brakes in front of me.  I slammed on mine and was lucky I was able to come to a stop and avoid hitting the SUV.  There was no room in the 4pm traffic for me to go right OR left.  Only then did I notice the dog running out from in front of the vehicle in front of me, whereupon the truck hit my rear end, I went into a short spin and the vehicle in front of me drove off unscathed.  If anything, the truck driver swerved slightly to the left while slamming on HIS brakes.

Here’s the police report:

Tuesday’s Accident

Tuesday at 4 p.m. I was on a bridge on I-490 east, just west of the Broadway exit, on my way to picjk up Geri from work at the prison, when an SUV/van in front of me slammed on its brakes to avoid hitting a dog that had run onto the freeway. I slammed on mine to avoid hitting the SUV (and was successful) – but I couldn’t go left or right because there was too much traffic. The big Ashley furniture truck behind me didn’t have anywhere to go except up my ass. Fortunately the truck driver did a pretty good job of getting it almost stopped before hitting me. Then my car spun into the traffic coming onto 490 from I-77, but fortunately no one else hit me.

I took these photos and posted them on Facebook after the police came and had us move our vehicles to the side of the road.