Hjemkomst by Rodney Nelson

The first Middle Island Press release of the year 2017: Hjemkomst (ISBN 978-0-9980732-6-2) by Rodney Nelson reads as a glimpse into the perceptions of a poet who has lived enough years to witness the perennial coming and going of the seasons with an understanding that the ways of the landscape are undying in contrast with human mortality. This is Nelson’s seventh title published by Middle Island Press, and it’s one of my personal favorites. We wish him many more!

(Readers can browse the interior and purchase copies of Hjemkomst at

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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Literary News


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The Reality of Poetry Publishing

Poets are dreamers, so reality is sometimes unfortunate, but it is as it is.

Most poets who are newly beginning to spread their wings into the realm of publishing are dismayed when they realize that getting published isn’t free unless the poets do all of the work themselves. About 75 % of those who approach me are under the impression that design and listing (not to mention the ISBN and bar code–a $50 cost) are complimentary services in a hopeful world of selling enough books to split royalties of a best-seller. Unless, miraculously, poetry becomes the hottest selling genre in books, or one is the niece or nephew of a book reviewer for The New York Times, such magic likely isn’t going to happen.

I’m just being frank here.

A very small percentage of poets might win a contest and get published for free, yet they pay entry fees–usually $20-25–and publishers who hold contests can rake in a few thousand dollars, make a nice profit, and upset a lot of non-winners. That’s beneath my personal ethical standards, so I won’t be making money by hurting people’s feelings.

Still there are some–usually seasoned poets–who understand that nothing in life is free and everyone has to make a living, and “where your talents and the needs of the world cross, therein lies your vocation” (Aristotle). So I’m grateful for my repeat clients, some of whom have published through several small presses before settling in at Middle Island Press, and of course I welcome the new poets who are just getting their feet wet and are accepting of reality.

I’m also willing to share my knowledge and understanding of publishing with those who have questions, and to offer suggestions, but most people simply walk away and hope for a miracle of some sort. ”Aha!” one man said to me as though I were a deceptive villain. There are all kinds of people in the world. There are all kinds of poets and all kinds of publishers. I rate myself among the most talented (having been told so by designers and editors with decades of field experience) and probably among the lowest priced, because in all honesty, I’m not out to profit from an unpleasant literary reality, but I am glad to have such a pleasant, luxurious career, however modest the means.

(Middle Island Press specializes in poetry publishing. We also do short-story collections–all with 100% annual royalties to our authors–and we are proud of our many titles and the poets/authors who dream them into being.)

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Posted by on March 24, 2017 in Articles


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Coffee With Barbara Wirkus

Barbara Wirkus is a Jill of all trades and mistress of none. In her lifetime she has been a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, Emergency Medical Technician, Medical Technologist, poet, tap dancer, gardener, photographer, writer, political activist, birder, and art gallery curator. She loves baking cookies, movies, books, Broadway shows and The Rolling Stones. She resides in “The Little House That Could” in a small New Jersey town. Now 83, she is coasting toward the finish line…


[Barbara Wirkus has become a dear friend of mine. She’s intelligent and wise. She lets her heart lead the way as she analyzes its silent language. She’s earth, fire, air, and water in harmonious cohesion with consciousness along for the ride…but it’s that heart of hers that overflows onto the paper, finds its voice in metaphor and translates into lush and poignant narrative poetry. I’ve studied Barbara’s poems closely for two primary reasons: their intense emotive power (she seems to mirror my own self—perhaps everyone’s true self); and they are so poetic that they inspired me in a voiceless time to simply “be real” from both the heart and the gut, and then to infuse that “realness” with poetry.

Barbara had published a chapbook, Echoes From the Bell Jar, through Middle Island Press in 2014. This collection is a deep chamber of memories of the different types of love. It reflects a struggle against time, a longing in which she relives moments and crystallizes them in poetry, immortalizing everything within those moments in true form of the magic of poetry.

That said, she takes her coffee—usually decaf—with a tiny splash of low-fat milk and no sugar. “When I can,” she says, “I opt for a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee but that brings me in close proximity to their donuts which I have a hard time resisting!” Ah, yes. Everyone loves a good donut…]

Hi, Barbara. 🙂 Many of your poems are dedicated to particular individuals. Would you mind choosing a few of your favorites and sharing some background on them?

This will require a look back over ever so many years. Let me start with “Reflections”, “Requiem” and “The Departure” which were written for my (ex) husband after his death. Ours was an uncommon relationship, beginning when I was 12. We wound our way through the teen years and finally married in our early twenties. We moved from our home state of Connecticut to Texas, where I gave birth to 2 of our 4 sons. At some point, he began drinking heavily and I realized we had grown apart in every way possible. We eventually moved to New Jersey, and I began preparing myself to live on my own, finally divorcing him after 21 years of marriage. Soon after that, he somehow gave up both drinking and smoking and although we never really reconciled, we became heartfelt friends until his passing at age 62. I shed sincere tears of grief and “…still hear the measured beats of your absent heart”.

I’d like to share “The Departure” if you wouldn’t mind:

You left.
Unwillingly perhaps,
but now
great gusts of time
echo relentlessly.
Reminders I am
unable to escape
keep tears flowing.
Surely the sad songs
will cease and
silence will prevail.
But in the quiet times,
I will still hear
the measured beats
of your absent heart.

“Almost” is a poem dedicated to a man, a writer, who became the clichéd “love-of-my-life”. He never returned my feelings, in spite of my best efforts to convince him we belonged together. (“Your soul declined to mate with mine”). Instead, he held out false hope over a period of three years causing me the loss of my self-respect, self-esteem and self-confidence which I have slowly been reclaiming. And yes, I still “weep for what might have been”.

…and a section from “Almost”:

Shadows of
unfulfilled dreams
move in, occupy areas
in my shuttered heart,
while this wasteland
of wanting reigns unopposed.

I could have gently
lead you to warm places
on sandy, sun-filled beaches.
Lifted you on soft waves
that rolled us back to shore.

But your soul declined
to mate with mine,
choosing instead
to remain
in safe spaces,
reluctant to explore
uncharted waters.

Then there was Randy and Nathan and others whose presence in my life I did not document poetically. They were all the same, however, and “Terminal Fishing” sums it up with “I am too small to keep” which is as good an explanation as any as to why I never loved a man who loved me back.

I’d also like to share “Terminal Fishing” (winner of the New Jersey Wordsmith Competition)…

Turning into you
I meet myself
in the mirror of your eyes.

We do not touch,
deliver only glancing blows
to each other’s hearts.

Swimming through tears
of past years
I surface,
twist and tunnel
like some flat-backed fish
you’ve reeled in
on your line of love.

you throw me back.

I am too small to keep.

The poems I feel are my best work are those I wrote for my grandson Christopher: “Winter Walk”, “Beba and Beyond”, “The Visit” and “Grandmother’s Reverie”. I called him “Beba”; he called me “Macca” and “we rode on rainbows…” Experience had taught me however that our bond would be short-lived and so it was. He has since taken “manly strides…away from us” and I rarely hear from him. Because I had anticipated it, the pain is not as great as it could have been.

“Beba and Beyond” makes the eyes mist even now.

You shine with the glow
of a thousand candles,
sparkle like moonlight on wave peaks
illuminating my opaque heart.

You are generous enough
to kiss my dry and straight-lined mouth,
gentle enough to curl against me
when I read to you.

You are a miracle in the making,
an icon for life’s renewal,
an arrow pointing the way to courage.

As my years wind down, I find
all the lost loves of my life
distilled in the purity
of your dark eyes.

You protect me from fear
with the lilting cadence
of your laughter
as we kneel in the street
to find trees mirrored
in the puddles left over
from yesterday’s rain.

You bring tears to my aging eyes
as we explore, hand in hand,
the jungle at the end of the block.

I yearn to transfix you in time
as the sunlight filters
through high trees,
gilding your golden hair.

But you forge forward,
the joy of discovery
urging you on,
leaving me to follow slowly
burdened with memories
until you disappear
into future days
without me.

“On the Death of My Son” and “June 15th, 2004” were written out of untold agony that is still with me some 12 years later. Billy was my first-born and left life after a short 47 years. A series of medical mistakes led to his death and caused me to have a deep-seated distrust of doctors. Every year, on the anniversary of his death, I procure a helium balloon, write “I love you” on it and release it at dusk. This is small comfort, however, to the “hard black knot” that “slowly replaced my heart”. I have not been, nor ever will be, the person I was before I lost him.

Your method of dealing with pain is so romantic. It comes through in your poetry which has such clarity of wisdom. How has your life shaped your poetry?

Interestingly, I wrote my first poem for a class assignment when I was 12. It was included in an Anthology of High School Poetry. Reading poetry and writing my own quickly became my primary procedure for dealing with emotions that often threatened to overwhelm me. My first efforts were predictably awkward but as years passed, I took classes and slowly learned to express my feelings in a more disciplined way. Still, my work has always been dark and frequently focused on death which I came to see as both my enemy and the answer to my pain.
I took refuge in my own words and was thus able to navigate life successfully these past 83 years. Somehow, the work of choosing words, similes and metaphors forced me to focus on the situations I encountered along the way. Writing the hard truths as I saw them, without trying to mitigate them, gave me the strength to endure and move forward.

Yes; things are what they are, and pain is like childbirth: “The only way out is through,” so it’s a valuable insight that your own words have been the “refiner’s fire” that has kept you strong. What else keeps you strong, what takes you away from the pangs of life?

The earth in my yard and gardens. The smell and feel of it in my hands and under my feet. I plant and weed and water till my back aches but the sense of peacefulness I experience gives me respite from my demons. Then, when I’ve coaxed buds into blooms, I take my beloved Nikon film camera to record them in all their colorful glory. In February, when I think I can no longer endure the dark days of winter, I select flower images from the previous summer and display them on a poster board. A feast for my eyes and soul till spring actually arrives. Lastly, but by no means least, is my devotion to dance. I have been tap dancing for well over 20 years and the sound of my tap shoes coupled with the music never fails to lift my spirits. Miss Kara, my wonderful friend and teacher, “tweaks” the steps so they are doable for my arthritis-ridden back. Tap class is arguably the best half hour of my week. My original goal was to tap till I turned 80 but I’m still at it!

I love it!!! I understand that you are grounding yourself, so to speak, from the deep sky of thought and the deep water of emotion. Terra firma lends its own solidity to “Here Now” and has its beauty that pulls one out of the pain, and your tap dancing is like drumming with the feet. I love it! I’d like to go back up to where you said “I took refuge in my own words.” Would you care to shed some light on how you (or anyone, for that matter) can “take refuge” in words, and what value or praise would you give to words in the sense of emotional healing?

I read somewhere that “Everything worth saying has already been said in the Bible or by Shakespeare”. The poems I wrote over the years in times of great stress were comforting to me but broke no new ground in the world of poetry. I still reread my poems because they refer uniquely to myself and say exactly what I was feeling at the moment. The words I chose were a snapshot in time much like the images I make with my Nikon. This affirmation of emotion wraps itself around me, saying “Yes, yes, you were here and there and you are still standing.” I tell my writing students that writing is simply talking on paper. Words give voice to the emotions that so shape our lives. Although when I wrote my poems, they were inspired by specific events in my life, I have discovered that by keeping the words simple and straightforward, other folks have been able to relate them to their own life. These “shared experiences” can bring comfort and healing when one realizes they are not alone.

So true! Your subject is LOVE, plain and simple, and you’ve learned a lot through it and touched the hearts of many with your words. I’d love for you to express what you’ve come to understand about how the power of words and the power of love fuse together.

Love is a kaleidoscopic word! It means so very many different things depending upon who is loved and who is doing the loving. I have experienced many different forms, if you will, of love. And yes, there is power in saying “I love you” or hearing it. Writing poems that define that love can distill it into a pure form that affects deeply both the writer and the person written about. Alas, most of the subjects of my poems will never read them, although I did experience the joy of having my grandson read aloud one of the poems I had written about him! (“Winter Walk”). Love is a primal emotion and as necessary, I believe, as air or water is to life. Being able to “talk” about it through my poetry satisfies a very basic need and although I have ceased writing, I still cherish the words I have written as well as those of others whom have trod the same path. I want to add here, that love does not always need to be expressed in precious words. Giving a gentle massage, preparing tomato basil soup for the loved one, lending them a sympathetic ear can also convey your love rendering the actual words unnecessary.

How beautiful. Thank you so much, and I wish you endless joy and peace. If there is anything else that we haven’t yet touched upon that you would like to share, please do so.

Bringing this wonderfully pleasant interlude to a close, let me thank you dear Christina for the opportunity to clarify my thoughts and feelings about my writing. As I mentioned, I no longer write simply because after a certain age, life is all deja vu. The names, faces and places change, but the emotional reaction remains essentially the same. Therefore, writing something fresh and new becomes exceedingly difficult. Having said that, let me assure you that my creativity has not dissipated, only transformed. I still make good use of my camera, recording images of things, people and places that speak to me. I frequently post them on Social Media and have the pleasure of people’s responses in real time. It is both uplifting and satisfying. I also have joined an online organization of photographers from all over the world who have banded together to promote the use of film rather than digital cameras. They, like you, have become my virtual friends although not quite in the same way you and I have connected.

I must add that I never expected, when I sent my poems to you to be published by Middle Island Press, that we would establish such a close relationship. We are indeed kindred spirits. I knew that the moment I received my copy of Echoes from the Bell Jar. You had executed my vision perfectly and for that I am grateful. The friendship that ensued was a bonus.

In closing, I wish I could say that after eighty-three years of living, I had some great insights to pass along. Unfortunately, all I can offer is that time does heal, and the sharp edges of life soften as we age. Compassion and empathy are easier to come by and one no longer judges oneself or others harshly. Life is, and always will be, difficult. There are no shortcuts or loopholes. My mantra has become “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” The rest is in the hands of the powers that be, whomever they are. One can only hope they will be merciful…


Barbara’s poetry collection, Echoes from the Bell Jar, was originally printed as a saddle-stitched chapbook, which she prefers for its hand-made charm; however, it is now an Expanded Edition (inclusive of this interview) in paperback form via

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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Coffee with the Poets


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Book Review: In Perpetuity by Mark Andrew Heathcote

(Reviewed by Christina Anne Taylor)

I received my copy of In Perpetuity, the first poetry collection of Mark Andrew Heathcote, a literary friend from the UK, and enjoyed reading it over coffee this morning. I’d call it a chapbook at 58 pages, but it’s perfect-bound with a beautiful, simple cover design of which the book’s preface is printed on the back and serves as an adequate summary from the poet to the reader:

“These poems are a snapshot of twenty-five years of poetry in the making. My words have given form to a living, breathing diary of one man’s life. Come take my hand and travel with me through moments of disparity, passion, and joy in my first collection of poetry [ . . . ] I give you my words, forever leaving you a piece of me.”

What strikes me about Heathcote’s work is how natural and honest he is through these 53 poems (“a living, breathing diary,” as he said), and I’d like to just quote some of my favorite parts of poems that struck a chord with me.

In “A Temporal Vision,” the poet begins with a tight “2/4 time” opening, then expands the lines briefly before lifting into a poetic flourish of inspiration:

Did I trace the wind backwards through its red iron clay root?
Trace it back to the core of a cavern in the mouth of a cave,
Back into them dank, dark smells of England’s thorn and fire,
Green-oaks tall as a bluebell’s spire,
English yews, soft scented, with a slow-growing desire.

In “Betel Leaves,” he gives us a more structured verse (many in his collection are melodic yet structured and with random rhyme). Lines 5-12:

And much like them tasty betel leaves
She folded in and around me, tucked me
Into her opium mouth, tucked me
Inside a secret sacred part of herself.

“Our eternity has no windows,” she said:
“Whatever direction you take yourself,
Be sure your heart has partaken and dined,
And your soul is well fed.”

Then placing an emerald leaf around my head,
She embellished me with a silken thread.
“Our eternity has no windows,” she said,
“But we too are butterflies jointly cocooned in a web.”

“Graced Am I,” lines 3-11:

Sunlight is our first brush with love
But moonlight, even when eclipsed
In its shadowy bloom
When it falls on our lips,
Is second to none:
It tugs at us in its ocean swell
It points us in ever unexpected new directions
It is the eye of a hurricane
It is the lily pads swaying…

In “How Wrong Was I,” we feel again what too many of us have felt at least once in life, and we empathize. The first half:

Once I came close to your Magnum Opus
I thought I was your inspiration
How wrong was I
Once I came close to your whispering soul
I thought I was its constellation
How wrong was I
Once I came close to the vortex of your heart
But I never entered; you didn’t want me there
Oh, how I drowned in deep despair.

And the first stanza of “Steps of Heaven”:

Morning glory must open
To seed the steps of heaven
And on her nap of cloud
Might yours be a halo, a crown
Opening the gates of heaven.

We see a common theme of the contemplations of a thoughtful, romantic soul who poured his human experience into this poetic heart-full collection. In Perpetuity serves to remind us that we are not alone in our struggles and our moments of joy through the beauty of the simple things. It’s available via and is also formatted for a free Kindle download, but of course I recommend a print copy.

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Posted by on January 12, 2017 in Literary News


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Chicken Train: Poems from the Arkansas Delta by Terry Minchow-Proffitt

Our latest Middle Island Press release, Chicken Train: Poems from the Arkansas Delta by Missouri poet Terry Minchow-Proffitt, is already selling like cookies at a bake sale. Unlike cookies, though, this title will always be available via  Terry is looking forward to a release party within the next few days. I wish I could be there!

His daughter, Hannah Minchow-Proffitt, did all of the design of Chicken Train and specializes in design for nonprofit organizations. She is also the choice of Middle Island Press if ever we have design needs that are beyond my capacity. It was a pleasure to work with both of them on this meticulous project with beautiful results.

Read more about Terry Minchow-Proffitt at the Middle Island Press website.


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Posted by on December 27, 2016 in Literary News


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Songs of the Mist by Loni Hoots

Middle Island Press just released its third title of poet Loni Hoots. Songs of the Mist (ISBN 978-0-9980732-3-1) is a collection of clear and concise poems in which the poet’s specialty, imagery, continues its starring role alongside personification in the forefront of fine poetic qualities. Loni is a young lady who understands the value of being One with nature for maintaining clarity of mind and heart.

hoots-songs-of-the-mist-cover-jpegFrom page 37, “Made from Nature”:

The sound of the water roaring fills my ears
As the sight of the fog devours the scenery.
The sweet smell from the air captivates my soul,
Making me yearn for it even more.

Although I am certainly lost,
I do not feel that way when I am trapped in the fog.
For the river is the blood I bleed,
The fog is the skin that covers every inch of me,
And the sweet delicious smell has created my heart, mind, and soul.

(Songs of the Mist is available now at the Middle Island Press website and will soon be available via

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Posted by on December 14, 2016 in Literary News


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Every Chicken, Cow, Fish and Frog: Animal Rights Haiku

Robert Epstein, psychotherapist, haiku poet and anthologist, has recently published his sixth Middle Island Press title with the assistance of co-editor Miriam Wald, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and animal rights activist. They poured their hearts and souls into this 218-page anthology with a considerable amount of well-wrought front matter and a lot of selection and arranging of the poetry of some of the most bright, witty and compassionate animal-lovers in the world. I consider Robert Epstein to be a ground-breaker in animal rights awareness (with this current title, Every Chicken, Cow, Fish and Frog: Animal Rights Haiku, as well as his Turkey Heaven: Animal Rights Haiku) and feel that no vegetarian’s library is complete without these books.

epstein-animal-rights-haiku-cover-jpegcrimson dusk–
the cowbells tinkling along
their last journey

~ Shrikaanth Krishnamurthy

a caged chimpanzee
injected with hepatitis
signs hello

~ Allan Burns

Every Chicken, Cow, Fish, and Frog is a special compilation tribute to animals. The magical place where human and non-human animals briefly connect, and share an understanding, is here, in this powerful book.”

~ Hope Bohanec, Executive Director of Compassionate Living, Projects Manager of United Poultry Concerns, and author, The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?

Every Chicken, Cow, Fish, and Frog presents us with a unique, engrossing and deeply thought-provoking anthology of poetry and haiku from a global authorship for the animal- and planet-conscious reader. The subtle power of this word art will inspire many to think with greater clarity, vision and focus about some of the greatest challenges we face today.”

~ Robert Grillo, Executive Director of Free from Harm, and author, From Farm to Fable: The Fictions of Our Animal-Consuming Culture


(Every Chicken Cow, Fish and Frog is available online and will shortly be available also in Kindle format.)

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Posted by on December 13, 2016 in Literary News


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Jack Phillips Lowe: “A Poet With His Boots On”

I recently received a letter from poet Jack Phillips Lowe, author of Middle Island Press titles Cold Case Cowboys and Jupiter Works on Commission, among several others by this dedicated writer. Attached to his letter was a photocopy of a few pages from Poets International, a print publication from India which published a review of Lowe’s Cold Case Cowboys written by Toledo, Ohio reviewer Teresinka Pereira. Poets are always elated when their works are reviewed; and overseas reviews, whether in print or online, are especially gratifying.

For copyright reasons I cannot scan the pages, but I’ll summarize:

Ms. Pereira seeks to review the work of American poets with truly enjoyable, non-angsty, out-of-the-ordinary subjects, so she was happy to order a copy of Cold Case Cowboys. One of her favorite poems therein is “Think Highly” from which she quoted (in prose formatting), “Prayer tower, I answered him, is a convenient term. I meant this to be a place for free-ranging introspective thought of every creed and idiom…” She also quoted from (my personal favorite) “Cured”: “After the fifth time, I quit seeing the doctor. If my issues were dull enough to lull him to sleep, I figured I must be cured.” Then she commented on another: “The poem ‘Him Alone’ is the most original reference of the 9-11-2001 terrorist attack of the Twin Towers in New York. He remembers (or read…) that ‘in 1974, a French daredevil crossed a tightrope that had been stretched between the Twin Towers,’ and wondered how the acrobat he calls ‘Bastard’ felt when the towers were destroyed… ‘He might have mourned the loss of two giants he’d come to know intimately as they performed the stunt of the century together. And perhaps he mourned the fact that no one would be able to recall their outstanding achievement without it being shrouded in gloom.'”

Pereira, as many readers, appreciates her ability to connect with Lowe’s many references to real-world characters such as J.D. Salinger, John Wayne, John Lennon and so on, which helps to paint clear mental images; as well as Lowe’s ability to make readers laugh, smirk, chuckle. She says, “He satirizes society and comes out clean. Readers always agree with him. I do. I could have written a poem like ‘A Damn Thing At All’ about the use of Twitter, YouTube, etc… His poems express my thoughts in ways I cannot explain.”

So all is well that concludes well!

Cold Case Cowboys and other titles by Jack Phillips Lowe can be purchased at Ms. Pereira can be contacted at


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Posted by on November 27, 2016 in Literary News


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Hermit Thrush by Amy Minato

(A book review by Christina Anne Taylor)

I’ve been enjoying Amy Minato’s Hermit Thrush, which was recently gifted to me by a friend in the literary scene who thought I would appreciate it. The poet’s educational background is Environmental Studies, and that’s precisely what her poems are: assessments, translations from one language into another so that readers might sense her perceptions. Multi-colored, multi-textural, reading her poems is like walking through a lucid dream, which is why this slim yet sufficiently full-filling collection is a perfect read first thing in the morning when one is still in alpha waves and needs a gentle awakening while the coffee is brewing.

hermit-thrushThis morning I awakened to “Body of the Earth”…

A swish through flakes

of the forest’s dead skin

where maple leaves lay yellow palms

on the tibia of beetle-burrowed sticks

and tresses of brown needles.

And from “Field Study at Harvest Moon”…

Across the meadow, sunset alights

corn lilies’ lacy tops,

a procession of candles

in a green night.


A doe grazes the margin

between meadow and pine rim,

one ear twitching for bugs,

the other for us.

Amy Minato artfully unfolds a mind that recognizes life in all things and frequently personifies to awaken what is silent, to set to motion what is still, and to present a layer of magic as she perceives it. She is the author or two other titles as well as Hermit Thrush, which was beautifully designed and published through Inkwater Press in August of this year. Copies are available through Powell’s Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Inkwater Press, and many local independent booksellers.

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Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Poetry Book Reviews


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Obsessions: A Novel by Gene McCormick

mccormick-obsessions-cover-jpegObsessions (“A cup of coffee and a walk in the park through the feral cityscapes of daily life”) is a novel written in poetic form and is the latest work of Illinois poet and author Gene McCormick. This is his second title published by Middle Island Press this year.

From the Middle Island Press website:

Obsessions of daily life including passion, mystery, and even a minute or two of off-center romance provide emotional heft to a highly nuanced, uniquely evocative exploitation of minutes and hours ticking by in a multi-layered, thought-provoking, genteel insanity. Obsessions is, on the surface, accessible to the brink of literal transparency but a walk in a forest preserve, being parked in a shopping mall in a thunderstorm, going fishing, rubbing on lotion prove not so routine. As Neil Gaiman has said “Things can mean more than they literally mean.” 

McCormick’s titles are available via and elsewhere online. I recommend Obsessions to people who are naturally curious about humanity and enjoy the humor that abounds through observing the nuances of others. It’s an intriguing read!

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Posted by on October 10, 2016 in Literary News


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Turkey Heaven: Animal Rights Haiku by Robert Epstein


Animal Rights is a theme that California poet, editor and anthologist Robert Epstein takes rather seriously yet sometimes in a playful fashion. Turkey Heaven: Animal Rights Haiku (ISBN 978-1535070829), recently published through Middle Island Press, is witty and wise in its approach and persuasive “food for thought” regarding Epstein’s respect for animals and the vegetarian diet.

what about your shoes / the cheeky carnivore asks? / broccoli

Read the poet’s comments on Turkey Heaven at the Middle Island Press website.

Copies are available through and elsewhere online.

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Posted by on September 13, 2016 in Literary News


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Nasty, Brutish and Short by Todd Millick

(Review by C. A. Taylor)

One of the best parts of my job as a publishing service-provider via Middle Island Press is that my clients sometimes send me copies of other books that they’ve published elsewhere. Such is the case with Todd Millick, author of Short and Sweet published by Middle Island Press, who recently sent me a copy of his first book of prose titled Nasty, Brutish and Short: Lessons and Laughs from an Overseas Officer.

(Continuing with my review at…)

I immediately felt the “funny” and consider this book to be genuinely healing in that sense. I feel so good when I read these stories, two or three at a time with my morning coffee. Though this book has a masculine “feel” and would appeal mostly to men, it appealed to me as well, and if my dad were still alive and residing in a VA hospital, I’d surely send him a copy of this book to help him recover from the inside out.

The title is a bit harsh, imo, to the reality of the stories in this collection. Yes, the well-traveled author is in touch with reality, and his accounts are complete with observations of crude and strange human behaviors in places like Bulgaria and Egypt, but the stories are intelligent lessons in geography; they are travel insights with a witty narrator who happens to have been a governmental “insider” who adds interesting tidbits such as telltale signs of whether or not countries have joined the EU. Recycle bins? Chances are, they’re in.

Most amusing to me are the author’s accounts of taxi drivers and drivers in general in Cairo. He claims that one cannot simply jump in a cab and expect that the driver knows how to get to one’s destination. One must, in most cases, tell the cab drivers where to turn, and if their horn quits working, they just might suffer a major internal crisis with a lack of “voice” on the road.

These and similar stories make for a delightful overall read. I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone. Pick up a copy of Nasty, Brutish and Short at

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Posted by on August 12, 2016 in Literary News, Poetry Book Reviews


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Disinheritance: Poems by John Sibley Williams

Some weeks back I received a copy of Disinheritance by e-friend, poet and literary agent John Sibley Williams. It’s the kind of book that I like to savor slowly over time, because each poem is rich with what I define as true poetry: not words describing situations and sensations so much as situations and sensations finding the right words through the poet’s mind. In other words, I don’t see poetry as being manufactured in the poet’s mind. I see poetry as entering the poet’s mind and being translated, which Williams demonstrates in this collection.

First things first: the cover design is flawless, truly created with love. It’s nice and silky and the interior is equally well designed. The book is divided into three parts; it is well-crafted and well-ordered, and it returns throughout the book to a “Dead Boy” theme (the poet apparently being the “Dead Boy”). Here, a few lines from “A Dead Boy Learns Metaphor”:


The poetries of white blood cells

help us make sense of the body.


The comfort of abstraction,

of self-defining

by our creations.


Something clots.


I rename the white hospital walls swans.

Now they are feathered         and I

can finally be their pure spring lake.


The wolves at my bedside say my heart is an ocean

so I construct a simple ark to fit two of each limb.


The sheets are a canvas of long-

fallen leaves

so I rake my fingers over cotton and gather their falling.


I read these free-verse poems with the intent of penning a review, so I kept paper in the book and took notes firstly in search of my favorite poem. I found that each poem became my new favorite, or I should say I couldn’t choose a favorite, but I took the contents in slowly and thoughtfully because that’s what the poems require of the reader.

It took me years of reading poetry to arrive at appreciating free-verse. This is among the best of free-verse, the kind of poetry that those who aspire to express poetry should study and take note from literary lessons such as this from “In Apology”:


Not even earth can describe our harvest, not even the sky

and all its burning can speak for ash.

But there comes a time

abstractions must choose what shape to take.


For justice, please look down into my hands

as into a mirror. For truth, here’s

a cord of kindling. For you, a midnight river of stars.


I enjoy the quiet contemplations throughout Disinheritance. From “Oppenheimer”:


Mother we call the beauty in

what cannot be possessed,

and father, where are you

but in the violence it takes

to create her?


So the book flows…one pause, one sigh after another, and I’ll surely read it again and am grateful for my copy which will fit snugly on a shelf in our poetry room. Thanks, John!

Disinheritance (*click*) is now available at


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Posted by on August 11, 2016 in Poetry Book Reviews


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On the Ordering of Poems

(By Christina Anne Taylor)

We’re all familiar with the saying “variety is the spice of life,” and the same can be said for the way in which poets order their poems within manuscripts for poetry collections. My personal preference resembles, by theme, a bag of trail mix, which I’ll explain in a minute. Firstly, a few common approaches:

  1. Alphabetically by title
  2. Chronologically by date of creation

These alleviate the soon-to-be-published poet of wringing hands over which poems are favorites and where to put favorites and so forth; however, it’s my personal opinion that the flow of content is most important, and one of the greatest threats to a collection of poems is redundancy.

As Kathleen Raine said, there are those who pen about a different subject with each poem, and there are those who know their favorite themes and pen about the same subjects over and over again. With the former, the voice, the lexicon, the overall structure can be consistent throughout the book without boring readers; but with the latter, the bag needs to be shaken up a bit. Here’s how I do it:

Say you have four recurring themes: love, nature, children’s poems, and miscellaneous poems.

  1. Create a table with the themes as headings.
  2. Go down your list of poems and place the letter “L” (for love), “N” (for nature), etc., as it applies beside each poem.
  3. Go back to the table and place a tick-mark under each heading as you scan down your list of poems.
  4. Count the complete number of poems, and count the number of tick-marks beneath each heading.
  5. Do a bit of percentage math. (We’ll keep it simple.) Say you have 80 poems total: 20 are love poems, 40 are nature poems, 10 are poems for children, and 10 are essentially “miscellaneous.” You can see that nature poems are half of your collection, love poems are a quarter, and the other quarter is divided among maternal and miscellaneous poems.
  6. Create an ordering pattern that coincides with math results. The above would result most logically as proceeding through the book as follows: nature, love, nature, children, nature, love, nature, miscellaneous; repeat throughout the collection.

What to do about which poem to place where? We know that if you use all of your best poems at the beginning of the book, it begins to fall flat mid-way through. Likewise, it’s foolish to save your best for the end, because then you’ve lost the reader before even getting to the good stuff. With that in mind…

  1. Get another sheet of paper with three columns titled: beginning, middle, and end.
  2. Place your BEST poem of the most prominent theme as the first poem, your best poem within the second theme as the second poem, etc., at the top of the “beginning” column.
  3. Hopefully “second-best” is excellent as well. Go to the end and structure the last few poems of your book with the “second-bests” in theme-order. Draw a line through each poem title as you work them in.
  4. Now jump to the middle with the best of what remains, and then work your way down the list of poems and take turns adding to the beginning, middle, and end columns until all poems are accounted for.
  5. Paste the three sections together.

Now you have a logical order by theme. Order your manuscript accordingly, and then give it a thoughtful read. Look for the following possibilities of that dreaded redundancy (variety being “the spice of life” and all).

  1. You might notice overuse of certain words too close together, such as “passion” or “morning.” Choose a few substitutes (minding syllables, feet, alliteration and all else as much as possible). “Morning” can be “dawn” or “day-spring” or “sunrise.” Spice it up a bit. The thesaurus is a wonderful tool!
  2. You might find certain styles too close together, such as three sonnets in a row when there are only five in the collection. Swap and trade if necessary.
  3. There might be too many shorter poems to the left with long poems to the right. It’s my personal opinion that it’s best to have longer poems on the left. Not only does it look right but it feels right.

Try this: Read a poem while holding it in your left hand and looking to the left. Read it again from the right hand and look to the right (or if on screen, simply turn your head and read from the peripheries). You’ll notice something that’s very telling about our neuro-wiring. You probably absorb more “deeply” what you see to the left! I do.

After you’ve gotten redundancy in check, read the collection again and continue relocating and refining until the end result is a feeling of something fresh and new with each “bite”: a peanut, a raisin, an M&M, a peanut, a raisin, an M&M. It’s time-consuming, but you deserve to let each subject or quality juxtapose against its neighbor to keep things spicy, and your readers are worth it, too.


(Christina Anne Taylor is the publisher, editor, and graphic designer at Middle Island Press.)


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Posted by on April 12, 2016 in Articles


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Big City Nighttime Stories: Book Review

We’re happy to have received word of a review of Big City Nighttime Stories (ISBN 978-0-6926-12682) in the Winter-Spring 2016 edition of The Rockford Review, published by the Rockford Writer’s Guild. The reviewer is editor Connie Kunst.

McCormick Cover JPEGBig City Nighttime Stories (Middle Island Press, 103 pages, $16)  by Gene McCormick is a collection of poetry available on Amazon or directly through the author.  Email: for more information or mail check/money order for $16 to PO Box 51, Wayne, IL 60184.

Gene McCormick captures the “ugh” moments of places and people a little too well.  I’ll just say it:  his writing makes me uncomfortable. What is he going to unveil next? What dysfunction is he going to uncover?  What underdog is he going to reveal?  He’s unpredictable.  I’ll just say it:  his writing is fascinating.  In this collection, we are reintroduced to “Ed” who is a regular in McCormick’s poetry.  Ed sleeps with prostitutes, drinks too much, has a terrible diet, and regularly judges others, but I like the guy anyway.  Sure, Ed is a loner and goes to all the dark places, but he does it all so colorfully.  Ed and all of McCormick’s poems make for delightfully dark reading.

Thank You, Connie, from Middle Island Press!


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Posted by on April 3, 2016 in Literary News, Poetry Book Reviews


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Insane in the Quatrain: a Book Review

(Reviewed by Christina)

I’ve been focusing on tying up literary loose-ends in my life, and I awakened at 2 a.m. with the thought of the book Insane in the Quatrain in my head. Strange, considering that I haven’t read it in a few years, but it was mailed to me as a review copy. I was overwhelmed by it and didn’t know what to say, because it’s as though the whole concept of the book is a joke.

Insane in the QuatrainThe author uses the name Bradley Lastname. He is unidentifiable by the cartoon photo, and what I gather from the “About the Author” page at the end of the book is that he’s also known as B-Dog Lastizzle by his peeps in the hood. (?) I don’t know many “peeps” who get into subjects such as 33rd degree Masonry and cultural devolution, but okay… (?) He does seem to be prolific. Insane in the Quatrain is 188 pages, and he also lists five other books by title “and several other books of poetry and fiction.”

Insane in the Quatrain is really quite sophisticated in content in a city-slick sort of way; it’s word-play gone rampant, often with a catchy rhythm and infused throughout with a potpourri of prosaic thoughts (in quick scanning, I only see one actual poem written in quatrains). The content IS funny – not just entertaining but Laughing-Out-Loud-Funny, but at times it’s crudity and obscenity on the hard offense, which is probably why I haven’t picked it up in a few years. Today I have it in my lap.

Even the layout of the book brings to mind a giant middle-finger as the page numbers are much larger than the text and they’re deliberately placed all over the page. The font size varies throughout, but this is all part of the jibe against the modern world and modern poetry in general.

Here I’ll quote his poem “the seven deadly SINaesthesiaS”:

at first I was amBIValent about Roy G. Biv,

but I have since gone from curious to furious.

  • O is BLUE, not orange, Roy.
  • U is green, not G, Roy.
  • O is BLUE, not B, Roy.
  • I is RED, not indigo, Roy.
  • Red is I, nor R, Roy.

I’m beginning to feel like young Vladimir Nabokov pointing out the errors on his wooden blocks.

And don’t go telling me that Rimbaud didn’t really have synaesthesia.

If he didn’t have it, he sure knew where to get it !!

Too bad he never shared it with you.

…and another poem: “SEVEN DAY WEEKEND”:

Saturday – Went bowling with the Bolsheviks

Sunday – Honorably mentioned by the Mensheviks

Monday – Beat eggs with the beatniks

Tuesday – Shaved legs with the neatniks

Wednesday – Picnicked with the sickniks

Thursday – Mutinied with the nogoodniks

Friday – Procrastinated with the woulda*coulda*shoulda-niks

So, on that note, Insane in the Quatrain (a product of The Press of the Third Mind, Chicago) is available at for people who need some intelligent amusement in their life and don’t mind occasionally being mentally assaulted.

Oh, and THANKS, B-Dog, for the copy. Peace-Out.


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Posted by on March 27, 2016 in Poetry Book Reviews


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Villanelles & Varia by Christina Finlayson Taylor

Christina - Villanelles & Varia PB CoverVillanelles & Varia is special to me as it’s my first perfect-bound collection of my own poetry. These poems were written during a precious chapter in my life, a time when (as I told some friends recently) I had “too much playtime and a lot of growing up yet to do”! This collection is very personal; it’s ME turned inside-out, and I can only hope that this introspective poetry will resonate some familiar chords with readers.

I’ve been blessed to have received my first review of Villanelles & Varia at by Fran Stewart, a personal friend, fellow poetess and author of a few collections through Middle Island Press and other sources. I owe a lot to this inspiring lady.

Look inside my book at

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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in Literary News


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Middle Island Press Release: Short and Sweet by Todd Millick

Millick - Short and Sweet Cover JPEGWe at Middle Island Press are glad to share in the enthusiasm of our poets and their successes. Short and Sweet (ISBN 978-0692646083) by Todd Millick is no exception to this as his book has made it into the hands of readers far and wide. That’s what it’s all about.

We encourage you to check out Mr. Millick’s book page at Middle Island Press as well as where several poems can be previewed within the book’s interior. If you like what you see, consider picking up a copy.


(Middle Island Press supports living poets.)


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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in Literary News


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Jupiter Works on Commission: Jack Phillips Lowe (a Review)

We have yet another review on Jack Phillips Lowe’s most recent collection of narrative poems through Middle Island Press: Jupiter Works on Commission. It was penned by a thoughtful editor at Misfit Magazine, and rather than paste it here, I’ll provide the link:

Misfit Magazine Review of Jupiter Works on Commission

We’re always gratified when new reviews come in and hope you readers continue to enjoy our titles.


(Middle Island Press specializes in poetry and poetic prose.)

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Posted by on March 13, 2016 in Literary News


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Jupiter Works on Commission by Jack Phillips Lowe: a Poetry Book Review by LB Sedlacek

THANK YOU, North Carolina poet LB Sedlacek, for taking the time to review Jupiter Works on Commission by Jack Phillips Lowe:

Volume 15 / Issue 6

“Jupiter Works on Commission”
by Jack Phillips Lowe
ISBN 978-0-6925-0688-2
Copyright 2015
Middle Island Press
57 Pages

Review by LB Sedlacek

Jack Phillips Lowe’s narrative poems in
this collection all tell work related
tales.  Subjects like using technology
to make a simple task harder, shopping
in a discount store, product packaging,
imaginary friends, employees talking
at breaks are to be found in inventive
poems such as “Captain Nitro Returns”
and “Box Wars.”

An inventive approach to working and
professions, each poem offers a
unique perspective on jobs.  “Coo-Coo-Ca Chew”
is a humourous look at customer service
in the returns area of a department
store.  “Cheer Up, Subversive Jean”
is a humourous account of the FBI
looking into the band The Monkees
for what the rock band was “really”
up to in 1967 at a concert.  “Godspeed,
Myrna” talks of unemployment and how
someone might spend their time good or
bad when not looking for a new job.

From “Jupiter Works on Commission”:
“Tomas and Vinny were welders./Until
they got laid off last November, that
is./Now, to keep in touch, the pair
meets once a week/for coffee in the
only restaurant they can afford–…”
This is the title poem.  It’s the
story of Tomas and Vinny praying to 
find work and how they decide they
need to quit praying to saints but
instead to the Roman gods and
goddesses, specifically Jupiter.  This
is my favorite poem in the book.  I
could read it over and over again.

Jack Phillips Lowe has accomplished,
or rather put into print a realistic
view of the working life (a life we
spend so much time with whether we are
employed or not it surrounds us; 
unemployment; spouse’s jobs; graduating
and looking for a job, etc.)

From “Survivor’s Stripes”:  “The night
before the job interview,/Reed stands in
front of his bathroom mirror/and stares 
at them peeking through his sideburns:/
curly gray hairs.”…//”standing tall,
Reed decides to wear/his grays proudly
to the interview/as badges of wisdom–…”

Lowe writes with a certainty
that captures the everyman soul — poems
in touch with the world working or not
working.  He delivers a contemporary
narrative of down to earth poetry for the
working souls.


(It means so much to poets and their publishers when there are readers who support their dreams. Jupiter Works on Commission is available at and the Middle Island Press website.)



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Posted by on March 11, 2016 in Literary News, Poetry Book Reviews


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Middle Island Press Release: Billy Boy by Rodney Nelson

Billy Boy, North Dakota poet Rodney Nelson’s SIXTH Middle Island Press title, was released this month and is unique insomuch as its contents are more relaxed in theme and “reachable” likely to a broader audience. He says this about his new chapbook:

Nelson - Billy Boy Cover JPEG“Most often, my poetry tries to take the reader out to prairie and desert and mountain—“the sticks”—but on occasion it can wither into something that only a stickman might have written. Find evidence of this in the wry, dry sticks of Billy Boy. I attempted to bind them all together with a string of “action” poems. It didn’t work, but the pile of remains may be worth a laugh. Here’s one: While Billy Boy was going on, a health lapse turned once-mesomorphic me into a stickman.” –Rodney Nelson

Billy Boy is now available at where several pages can be previewed. Poets appreciate the support of readers!



At Middle Island Press, we specialize in poetry and poetic prose.


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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Literary News


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POETRY: Letting Go of Your Words

I was talking with a client recently who makes me smile when I recognize similarities that are both a blessing and a curse to poets: I’m talking about perfectionism and the obsessive nature that usually is a side-effect of perfectionism.

It’s really hard to “let go” of a poem for such a person. We are constantly changing words, lines, meaning (why?). It gets time-consuming for better or for worse. Sometimes it’s an improvement to us but not to our spouse or “second opinion”; other times it’s entirely destructive to the poem itself as we pick it apart without mercy for the process that shaped it in the first place until it’s foreign to its source.

At some point, five or ten years up the timeline as we evolve as poets and humans, our poems can make us cringe—either because of the subject (a negative or embarrassing wayward focus) or because we’ve realized a different “signature” and no longer sign our thoughts in formal blocks or whatever be the case.

Obsessing over our own poems causes us to throw out stacks of papers or documents at a whim and then regret it later. It makes us wonder how we can release our words at all, and more severely, it can make us wonder why we write and why we don’t do something else with our time.

Poems are like children. We create them. We love them in the moment, and then it’s best if we can let go of them and accept that they were perfect in their shining moment within the satisfied self, and in that, hopefully at least one other person can appreciate our poetry. That should make it worth the time spent fussing toward perfection of sound, structure, and meaning.

“Everything has a way of landing perfectly into place, like a leaf that lands exactly where the wind pulls it,” a wise poet once told me.

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Posted by on February 21, 2016 in Musings & Other Things


Big City Nighttime Stories by Gene McCormick

McCormick Cover JPEGThe first Middle Island Press book to have been published in the year 2016 is Big City Nighttime Stories by Illinois poet Gene McCormick. The back cover contains some commentaries that I’d like to share:

“The language of the poems [In Tanya, Queen Of The Greasy Spoon] is sometimes conventionally attractive, but more often than not many things are ugly, grotesque, or simply commonplace. Whatever the subject, however, the clarity, crispness, and aptness of the language elevates the subject matter to the level of true poetry. This is a quality much rarer in English and American poetry than in French, and especially so at the turn of the 21st century when   the language of even many admired poets is flat and turgid. …Aside from the language, this collection is rich in humanity. The author moves with seeming effortlessness into the minds and souls of people of both sexes, of old and young, and of widely varying social situations. The author never moralizes, and never slips into the false superiority of gratuitous irony. The result is one of the most readable collections I have come across for a long time.”  —Jack Hart, editor, Ship of Fools.

“Hand-hewn poems of the America behind the headlines, away from the glitz and glamour, far from the tall buildings and high finance. Mr. McCormick is   the anti-Norman Rockwell, painting not the ideal, but the dirty bricks and stone, the flat tires and lives, and the one for the road that goes nowhere. The poet has no agenda but to depict the plain truth of observable reality. The 99% we seldom see outside of crime blotters and obituaries.”  —Phil Wagner, editor, The Iconoclast, reviewing An Ice Ax At Dusk.

“Probes the height and/or depth of mankind. That’s the stuff that separates distinguished poets from wannabees. The way McCormick weaves poetic   insight and imagery into prose format is a gift.”  —David Ross, Rockford Writer’s Guild.

“McCormick’s poetic prose hits no false notes, and he sketches the story out as quickly as we can follow it. Read straight through, the narrative is heady, taking us in just a few minutes from the “primordial days” of childhood to the world as it appears after death. Each piece also stands on its own and entices the reader to look long and look again, as with a set of installations, souls built word by word.”  —Leslie Bary, University of Louisiana, reviewing Lives of Passion for Cybersoleil.

…and Gene McCormick’s own words:

Big City Nighttime Stories is my world, the world as I know it, spelled out with nuanced, evocative writing that is at once accessible while encouraging interpretations.”

I, personally, find McCormick’s style of writing relaxed and readable, edgy yet sophisticated, and was amused and entertained at his perceptions and analyses in poems such as “An Average Woman In McDonalds” in which I found myself wondering how often I’ve been stared at and analyzed without knowing it!

Big City Nighttime Stories is available at and the Middle Island Press website. We encourage readers to leave a kind review at Amazon.



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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Literary News


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Middle Island Press Release: Beyond the Pillars by Loni Hoots

Hoots - Beyond the Pillars Cover JPEGSpritely Loni Hoots, a young poetess currently residing in New Mexico, has been busy promoting her well-received second Middle Island Press poetry Collection: Beyond the Pillars (ISBN 978-0-6924-6730-5). It’s inspired by the fantastic realm of time-travel with each poem transporting the reader with “vivid imagery that bounces from the words off the page and into your mind.”

Beyond the Pillars is available through the Middle Island Press website as well as, and also in Kindle format. Please consider sharing a kind review!

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Posted by on December 17, 2015 in Literary News


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Middle Island Press Release: Inside the Dark Room by Laken Brooks

Laken-Brooks-Cover-Image-e1444318703731Inside the Dark Room (ISBN 978-0-6925-5205-6) by Laken Brooks, a young and intelligent Appalachian poet, was recently released through Middle Island Press. It’s essentially a contemporary haiku collection on “the beautiful and destructive perceptions of women” – poignant, meticulously arranged thoughts from her own unique perspective.

From the Middle Island Press website:

Brooks’ insights as a woman permeate her writing of Inside the Dark Room, encouraging her to hold a mirror to the cultural standards of health, beauty, domesticity, and criticism of females in contemporary society.

(From page 24 of Inside the Dark Room…)

In the post is a
Refund from the matchmaker:
Enough to buy a heifer

Copies are available via Middle Island Press and We encourage supporters of Brooks’ work to pen a kind Amazon book review.

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Posted by on November 29, 2015 in Literary News


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Beyond the Grave: Contemporary Afterlife Haiku (Edited by Robert Epstein)

Epstein - Beyond the Grave Cover jpegBeyond the Grave: Contemporary Afterlife Haiku, a Middle Island Press poetry anthology edited by Robert Epstein, is a full-bodied collection with a remarkable introduction by the editor.

From the back cover:

How much thought have you given to whether there is life after death? Some religions, like Christianity and Hinduism, posit the existence of heaven and reincarnation, while others are silent on the question. Those not guided by faith are inclined to relegate this haunting mystery to the outermost margins of their lives. In these pages, contributors from around the world have trained their poetic eye on this all-important quest. Relying on the power of intuition and creative imagination, the poets in this collection give us a glimpse into the great mystery of life after death. Suspend your skeptical mind and accompany the poets here on the adventure into the afterlife; you may not only be surprised, but forever changed.

fragrant wind
my mother’s voice calls
from beyond

~ Roberta Beary

a deceased friend
taps me on the shoulder –
plum blossoms falling

~ Chen-ou Liu

In this collection, poets share brilliant and moving glimpses of immortality and continuous renewal. To read these poems, therefore, is to accept death as the watermark on every one of life’s pages. It is to feel at home in the vastness of existence.

~ Sheila Bender, Author of A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief, and Founder of

Epstein’s collection is a treasure pot of tiny jewels. Because haiku conveys experiences of the ineffable, it is perhaps the best vehicle for transmitting the impact of encounters with the mysteries that lie beyond the grave.

~ Julia Assante, Author of The Last Frontier: Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Death

248 pages with cover art by Ron C. Moss.

(This anthology is available via and direct through our printer. Readers should consider picking up an extra copy for gift-giving.)

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Posted by on November 19, 2015 in Literary News


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Jupiter Works on Commission by Jack Phillips Lowe: A Book Review by Megan DiBello

We’ve received a review of Jupiter Works on Commission by Illinois poet Jack Phillips Lowe (a poetry chapbook recently published by Middle Island Press) which we would like to share here at Poetica~Place.

It was penned by NYC writer/singer/teacher Megan DiBello and was accepted by Midwest Book Review for the November edition of their “Reviewer’s Bookwatch”:

“Like an acrostic poem of the words “average joe”, Jack Phillips Lowe’s book, Jupiter Works on Commission, runs like the x axis of vignettes defining the relationship between social classes in real life chronicles where humans wear their career to work. A harsh reality most encounter is the need for survival on an economy of living to learn to love to work. If you want to know what it’s like to live in America’s society, read what feels like a biography of one who built this country with generations of hard work. From the normalcy of Norman Rockwell to those stepping outside of his paintings and into a more modern summation of a Dorothea Lange photograph, Lowe creates citizens who wear a library of masks; made from hourly wages, salaries, and the emotions that derive from tired feet, the need for a good meal, and a safe place to call home. In his honest approach towards defining a civilian, with non-cynical commentary, it is aptly remarkable how his historical timeline, drives off the x and y axis of this acrostic lifestyle he creates, to show how life is more like a parabola. Like getting a rejection letter in the mail, his words push kind to a new xy generation.”

Thank You, Megan!

Copies of Jupiter Works on Commission are available via

Jack Phillips Lowe also has a new poem posted on the Poetry Super Highway, and his book is in the hands of a few reviewers, so we’ll keep readers posted.



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Posted by on November 4, 2015 in Literary News, Poetry Book Reviews


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Middle Island Press: Poetry Publishing

Middle Island Press

The early days of Middle Island Press looked a lot like this relaxing picture: lots of collating, folding, trimming that I took pride in and hope to return to soon, but for now, I’m enjoying the benefits of perfect-bound poetry publishing. I’m focusing on layout and design, feeling a bit less like a hands-on craft-person and a bit more like a publisher, but it’s all good.

It wasn’t so long ago that I reached timidly out to my first “stranger” who has become one of my greatest supporters over the years, and a fantastic poet and flash-fiction author (Salvatore Buttaci). One referral led to another and projects grew from quarterly to monthly, and sometimes two or more in a month, but one thing that hasn’t changed over these past seven years is the gratitude that I feel for the poets who have trusted me with their words, built me up with their praise until my head was swelling and my heart was glowing, and – I’ll say it again – kept the coffee flowing in this house.

Thank You, Poets. Your words are both my business and my pleasure!

Christina Anne Taylor


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Posted by on September 5, 2015 in Musings & Other Things


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Jupiter Works on Commission by Jack Phillips Lowe

Jack Phillips Lowe, a hard-working poet from Illinois, has published his second Middle Island Press poetry title: Jupiter Works on Commission: a perfect-bound poetry chapbook that is available at our website (see the flyer attachment below) as well as

Jack is a natural salesman and editor, so it’s always a positive experience working with him. I’ve also done an interview with him here at Poetica~Place which features a reading from his first Middle Island Press title, Cold Case Cowboys.

Lowe – Jupiter Flyer



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Posted by on September 5, 2015 in Literary News


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Christina Anne Taylor: Publishing and Book Design Services

People generally know me under this name through Middle Island Press. My family and the local community know me also as a poet. Beyond penning my own poetry and providing publishing services for poets worldwide via Middle Island Press, I also provide independent cover design services for those poets who aren’t so much visual-spatial thinkers as they are literary musers. In other words, not all poets are visually or technically “equipped” to be designers. Fine enough. That’s where I come in.

Between two presses I’ve designed nearly a hundred book covers, always taking guidance from clients until they’re satisfied, which is usually on the first or second attempt. I’m proud of how pleased my Middle Island Press poets and “outside” clients have been with my designs, and I very much enjoy doing what I do, so it’s not “work,” per se. It’s more like fun that requires my time, so I simply charge for my time – a fraction of what most designers charge: the cost of a restaurant meal – so if you’re one of those poets who is intensely haptic or auditory and not so much visual, consider bringing your project my way and I’ll be glad to help out.

Contact me, Christina Anne Taylor, for design services at For full publishing services, contact me at

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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Literary News


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West Virginia: Poetry of the Heavens

This qualifies for my poetry blog, right?

I Love West Virginia - Aug 2015


What about this one?

West Virginia - Deep Mauve Sky - Aug 2015


(Photos by Christina Anne Taylor, August 2015: Skyscape over the hills of Doddridge County, WV – poetry in frozen solar motion painting the sky in purple and mauve…)


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Posted by on August 6, 2015 in Musings & Other Things



Haiku Edge: New and Selected Poems by Robert Epstein

Epstein - Haiku Edge Cover JPEGThe realm of American haiku poetry has been exceptionally blessed by Robert Epstein, undoubtedly one of California’s most studied and accomplished haiku poets. Epstein’s third Middle Island Press title, Haiku Edge: New and Selected Poems, was a long time in the making but is a beautiful finished product that is generously showered with the artwork of Ed Markowski. The “edge” that the title aptly implies is a sense of morbidity with sections throughout the 135-page collection such as “Tarot Reading” and “In the Morgue.” Bear in mind that Robert Epstein is a psychologist! This makes his haiku particularly intriguing as he wrestles with the perpetually haunting ghosts of the unknown, unabashedly questioning with rationality. We recommend this title to everyone who enjoys haiku and seeks a refreshing (or hair-raising) twist on it, or for those who enjoy pondering subjects such as the afterlife.

Haiku Edge: New and Selected Poems can be purchased through and elsewhere online.


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Posted by on August 1, 2015 in Literary News


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The Nymph of the Unknown Forest by Loni Hoots

(A Middle Island Press poetry book release)

Hoots - Cover 1 JPEGThe Nymph of the Unknown Forest (ISBN 978-0-6924-6730-5) by Loni Hoots is a beautiful perfect-bound poetry chapbook that was released through Middle Island Press earlier this month.

From the Middle Island Press website:

In The Nymph of the Unknown Forest, the deep waters of the subconscious surface softly in this fantasy-full collection of narrative poems rich with the romance of youthful imagination, ethereal as whispers in wind and waves, yet clear and multi-sensory as a lucid dream that returns night after night… 

Browse several pages of this chapbook at It’s also available at the Middle Island Press website. Booksellers may contact me (Christina) directly at if interested in wholesale purchase.

(Middle Island Press supports living poets such as American traveler and writer Loni Hoots. Please consider sharing this page or penning a review.)

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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Literary News


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Cross Point Road by Rodney Nelson

(A Middle Island Press book release)

Nelson - Cross Point Road Cover JPEGNorth Dakota poet Rodney Nelson’s Cross Point Road (ISBN 978-0-6922-6780-6) is his fifth Middle Island Press title, his second full-length poetry book that we’ve published in the past several months.

It’s a beautiful collection on a variety of subjects. His work in general possesses a quiet sort of panache–sophistication without pretense–and with much to offer readers and poets who genuinely seek to improve their own craft. Nelson has decades of professional literary experience, and he pens his own personal experience in Cross Point Road.

From the Middle Island Press website:

Poet Rodney Nelson’s home region, the Red River prairie, has been called a valley but is in fact a seabed with hidden beaches rimming it. The native and restored grassland of Felton Prairie is up on one of these. Nelson walks there often and has borrowed its name for this collection of poems.

Copies can be purchased through the Middle Island Press website, and elsewhere online.


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Posted by on June 6, 2015 in Literary News


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My View on Poetry Editing

(by Christina Taylor of Middle Island Press)

When I began publishing, I took more editing liberties than I do today. I changed words for the sake of sound, I shortened lines, even completely rewrote them. Most poets were in agreement with my changes and some were not, so the first quality that I recommend that poets look for in editors and/or publishers is EXPERIENCE.

Through experience, through reading many manuscripts while simultaneously getting to know clients more personally, we (editors) tend to soften our critiques, especially in this day and age in which the Internet allows a voice to everyone and we realize how passionately people desire to share something of themselves with readers. We (poets) fall in love with our own creations because we love ourselves; we value our personal experience and our expression.

That considered, I am an editor who believes that ALL poetry is worth sharing.

Whether people will listen isn’t guaranteed, but those who share their poetry share it from the heart or from the gut. Formal or structured poetry is a bit different as I personally see it, more often than not, as passion filtered more heavily through the mind; passion (or mere “content”) diluted to give prominence to structure for the sake of the structure’s merit. That’s okay, too, and much easier to critique or edit, because it resides in a world of poetic rules: iambs, feet, meter, structure.  As for the rest–those who come from the heart or the gut–I just let them speak their own way, and I’m happy for their courage to let their thoughts stand on their own without leaning on structure.

It’s not easy critiquing love letters. It’s not easy critiquing impassioned rants against the world except to illuminate facts. Yet in the professional literary realm, I must “clean up,” sweep commas, hang apostrophes (as “they” say), and I leave it at that whenever possible, because my voice isn’t anyone else’s voice, and poets have a need to share their own voice.


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Posted by on June 5, 2015 in Articles, Literary News


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Hills & Hollows: First Paperback Edition Available

(A Middle Island Press book release)

H&H First Paperback Edition Cover JPEGHills & Hollows: A Collection of Doddridge County Poetry (ISBN 978-0-6924-4773-4) began in 2008 as a saddle-stitched chapbook. It then became a Second Edition which was trimmed in size. From there, it “graduated” to a perfect-bound cover with a photo by Cheri Postlethwait, an area certified organic farmer and friend who loves taking photos. We also “padded” this First Paperback Edition with front-matter and the addition of one more poet.

The thirteen total contributors are: Olivia Bochicchio (my daughter), Cleo Swiger Horton, Laureen D. Kelley, Mari McColl, Gilbert W. Neely, Judy Neely, A. L. O’Prunty, Wanda Osborne, Norma J. Owens, Frances McColl Stewart, Larry Homer Swiger, Christina Taylor (myself), and Robert Taylor (my husband).

This collection of West Virginia poetry sells at the café on Main Street (Porter’s Grinds & Finds) as well as online via We’re proud to have seen this book into anonymous hands around America!

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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Literary News


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The Sweet Surrender of Love and Nature by Mwati Mwila

(A Middle Island Press book release)

Mwati Mwila - The Sweet Surrender Cover 2 JPEGThe Sweet Surrender of Love and Nature (ISBN 978-0-6923-4953-3) was completed in 2014 and recently copyright-registered and made available for purchase.

It’s a 103-page book of poetry in which “…poet Mwati Mwila muses on love and society, expressing the longings of her soul for a world of balance and a life complete with love and peace. She finds respite in the quiet corners of the world as an objective observer, a subjective feeler, and an aspirer toward spiritual heights and the comfort therein. Her thoughts and emotions flow like rivers, at times serene, and at times breaking passionately around the cruel stones of life, yet always true to the inmost core of her wisdom through experience that has made her both delicate and strong.”

Middle Island Press works to support living poets in sharing their words and inspiring others. Pick up a copy of Mwati’s first full-length poetry book for yourself and a friend through the Middle Island Press website, (browse the book here), or the CreateSpace eStore.

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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Literary News


Middle Island Press Poets’ Readings and Award Nominations

It always makes me smile when my poets send me notes on how they’re doing; it’s good to feel their enthusiasm. I’ve received news of two readings within the first quarter of this year:

Georgia poet Stephen Godfrey (formerly from WV) did a reading on January 23rd at Christian Books and More in Moultrie, GA.

New Jersey poet Barbara Wirkus did a reading on March 24th at the Kenilworth (NJ) Public Library.

Furthermore, there was a recent award nomination. Robert Epstein, a haiku poet and anthologist from California, had his first Middle Island Press title (chapbook: What My Niece Said in My Head) chosen for the “shortlist” of the Haiku Foundation Touchstone Book Awards, 2014.

Blessed be the poets who enrich the life of myself and others with their heartfelt words. In the end, “heartfelt” is really what it’s all about.




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Posted by on April 1, 2015 in Literary News


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Frances McColl Stewart: A True Friend in Poetry

Stewart - Mac and the Princess Cover JPEGMac and the Princess by Frances McColl Stewart is a very special release for Middle Island Press. It’s a children’s story with coloring pages which made it a unique publishing project, but beyond that, Fran and I “go back,” so to speak. She lived in this tiny town of West Union, WV when I arrived here in 2005, and it was poetry (of which she’s a true patron) that brought us together. I might have considered her a “closet poet,” more capable than what she would humbly admit, though I saw the adeptness of her poetry which she balances with the meek humility of her spiritual being. So anyway…

Fran was the one who founded the annual West Union Fest and stirred up all kinds of activity, gathered vendors, residents and the Press, and really made this place “happen,” put it on the map alongside a few other movers and shakers. She attended town meetings and had one of my poems nominated as the official poem of the Town of West Union. I was so touched that I wanted to do something in return, so I decided to create a chapbook of area poetry to sell at the first annual event.

HillsHollows-CoverI gathered the work of twelve poets—Fran, myself and my husband included—and created Hills & Hollows: A Collection of Doddridge County Poetry. I came up with the title even before I had a press name. My Robert and I sat musing one night over a name and I was amazed when he spoke aloud what was floating in my mind: Middle Island Press. That sealed it, and so began what originated as a hobby and has flowered into a business that brings in just enough to keep the coffee flowing and leaves me with enough time to enjoy it.

Fran has since moved, but I hope to pour her a cup this year when she visits. I also wish to do a “Coffee with the Poets” interview with her (I remember that she takes her coffee with cream unstirred so she can enjoy the swirls, the poetry of coffee), and I hope for her that Mac and the Princess sells as well as Hills & Hollows has. Both are available via, and I hope to find time this year to reformat Hills & Hollows and make it available in perfect-bound form, perhaps as an expanded edition complete with acknowledgments to Fran and my husband. From dreams to reality, onward and upward!

Thank You, Fran.

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Posted by on March 13, 2015 in Literary News


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Terry Minchow-Proffitt’s Debut Poetry Collection Published in February

Minchow-Proffitt - Full Cover JPEG

“In a sense, Jesus is always living, dying, and living again. Terry Minchow-Proffitt’s poems compress the energy of that then-and-there, here-and-now event into language which cannot finally hold it. His words have their feet on the ground of pain, but they head for an unrealized but real hope.”

—Dr. Guy Sales, author, former pastor, and member of the religion faculty at Mars Hill University



Terry Minchow-Proffitt, poet and retired pastor from St. Louis, Missouri, published a comprehensive chapbook, Seven Last Words, wherein he presents seven poems based on the seven sayings from the Gospels. “Forged within the crucible of suffering, they have the capacity to awaken, to transform our way of beholding God and one another.” Also included in this already widely disseminated collection is an in-depth interview with Mud Season Review. “With brevity that begs to be savored, Seven Last Words renders a powerful portal into the love that continues to radiate during the darkest of times.”

Terry Minchow-Proffitt received degrees in Philosophy from Arkansas State University and Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. He has done further graduate study in English at the University of Mississippi and in Christian Spirituality at Washington Theological Union. He received certification in Spiritual Direction from The Haden Institute.

His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Arkansas Review, Big Muddy, Christian Century, decomP magazinE, Deep South Magazine, Desert Call, Freshwater, Hash, Mud Season Review, OVS Magazine, Oxford Magazine, Penwood Review, Pisgah Review, Prick of the Spindle, St. Ann’s Review, Tower Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Wild Violet, Words and Images Journal and The Write Room.

Terry Minchow-Proffitt can be reached on Facebook or by email at

For more information visit his website at


Seven Last Words can be purchased via




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Posted by on March 4, 2015 in Literary News


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Book Signing with Stephen Godfrey

Stephen Godfrey, author of six chapbooks published by Middle Island Press, is active and enthusiastic when it comes to his poetic spiritual message.

We want to let our readers in the Moultrie, Georgia area know that he, in partnership with Christian Books and More, will be hosting a book sale and signing on the 23rd of January, 2015, from 12:00-4:00pm at Christian Books and More in Moultrie.

All support is appreciated!

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Posted by on December 29, 2014 in Literary News



The Red List by Stephen Cushman

(reviewed by Christina Anne Taylor)

I recently received a copy of The Red List by Stephen Cushman, poet and Robert C. Taylor Professor of English at the University of Virginia. Published by Louisiana State University Press, the cover is velvety to the touch and the design and layout are pleasing to the eye, but the real “candy” is in the sound and the delivery of the seventy text pages.

Though it’s noted that Cushman’s eco-theme and statement were clear before he began composing this long poem, it reads not as a rigid list of points to be made, but rather as a fortified flow of consciousness along what feels like “the path of least resistance” yet meanders like a river. He “goes with the flow” of his effervescent thoughts, a long bird-chatter that is playful and pleasing to the ear. It’s easy to become enchanted in the sound, to forget what was just said while hungrily digesting what’s being said in the moment and having no idea what the poet will say next!

Poetic in sound, The Red List is a pleasing potpourri of alliteration, assonance, word-play in general; it’s heavily anapestic with a lot of feminine endings, rolling and rolling from one thought-wave to the next, and then…

suddenly, quiet…
a little haiku stylet,
respite for the mind.

Carefully placed tercets serve as little transitions like hallways between busy rooms aswirl with adeptly verbose flights of fancy (champagne comes to mind, bubbly and sprightly), and I find myself asking, “Does Cushman’s mind ever tire?” I’ll have what he’s having!

Frankly, I couldn’t select a favorite passage. I love it all, but being a lover of flowers, I’ll quote from page 39 which underlines all that I’ve said above:

“Out the kitchen window first open daffodil, tentative yellow-head sticking its neck out
to fence-sitting February, genus Narcissus, can’t get away from him, family Amaryllis,
thank goodness a shepherdess, Daffadown Dilly, come munch on that bulb and maybe wake up
Elysium-blissful, eternally elite, surrounded by asphodel, which Dutch turned to daffodil.
Associate at this rate, past Wordsworth’s sad couch, and soon caress everything
except the kitchen sink, but why not caress the kitchen sink too, what better place,
if you must be inside, to have it both ways and be outside also…”

In this musical, magical voice, The Red List enchants readers with symphonic sound, and the substance simply becomes the lingering afterglow. I’ll bask in that substance when I read this poem again, and then I’ll lend it to a friend with the admonishment, “This is my copy. You’ll have to buy your own.”


Pick up a copy of The Red List at

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Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Poetry Book Reviews


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Coffee with Jack Phillips Lowe

Jack Phillips Lowe is a native Chicagoan. His poems and short stories have appeared in Barbaric Yawp, Clark Street Review, Nerve Cowboy and Open Wide Magazine (UK). His chapbooks include So Much for Paradise, Pariah Tales, Revolt at the Internet Café, and Cold Case Cowboys. Lowe currently resides in Addison, Illinois, an enchanted land of foreclosed houses and fast food restaurants. In his spare time, Lowe serves as chairman for the Abe Gibron Appreciation Society.


Coffee with the Poets

[Despite Jack’s edgy sense of humor, I (Christina) have found him to be one of the most amiable poets, and he takes his humor and wit quite seriously! I appreciate how his uniquely casual style has evolved my own perception of poetry, so here he is…]

Greetings, Jack. Coffee?

I’m sorry, but I don’t drink coffee. The bitterness and the caffeine don’t agree with me. And since it’s too early in the day for a beer, I humbly request a cup of decaffeinated black tea, please.

Fine enough. Black tea it is…

I returned to and very much enjoy your reading of “The Satisfaction, ” one of your most popular poems, via YouTube:

You admit that you don’t like doing poetry readings, that you prefer the written word as opposed to the spoken word. Why?

The short answer is that I just don’t do spoken word well. No matter how I try, I always end up (to my ears, anyway) sounding like a train conductor reading off a list of stops.

I think I did okay in the YouTube video—with plenty of help from my computer genius nephew, Joe, who skillfully assembled the whole project for me. But that was after much rehearsal, with Joe and his laptop as the only spectators. Put me before a live audience and I start stumbling over my own tongue like Ralph Kramden—“hummina, hummina, hummina. . .”

Still, I respect any poet who can do justice to oral reading. My friend in England, the poet Salena Godden, is a prime example of that. Her written work is lively and studiously crafted. When Salena reads her words aloud, though, her warm and personable voice just takes them to a higher level. It’s like she’s talking directly to you.

As for me and my thick Chicago accent? I think it’s best that I stick to the written word.

You did great; don’t sell yourself short. That poem is one of my favorites in your poetry chapbook, Cold Case Cowboys, which is very natural and “readable” as your poems are basically narrative. What’s your opinion on narrative poetry as poetry?

My opinion is that narrative poetry is poetry. I’ll never understand why some people insist on treating narrative poetry as the red-headed stepchild of verse. The ancient Greeks and Romans had no problem with this genre, which is at least as old as they are. Who would argue that Lord Byron’s Don Juan, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Carl Sandburg’s The People, Yes or Gwendolyn Brooks’ In the Mecca aren’t poetry? All of them are narrative poems. What about Charles Bukowski, who revived the free verse narrative poem back in the 1960s? Not poetry? No way.

On this subject, I take my cue from Ray Foreman, himself a terrific narrative poet and the editor of Clark Street Review, which specializes in such writing. By limiting oneself to an insular, navel-gazing format, it’s easy to get bogged down by the Overwhelming I—“I feel, I think, I want.” It’s just you yammering on about you all the time, which can get damned tedious, for both writer and reader. I’m not saying that this type of poem isn’t valid or necessary for some topics. But it’s like painting exclusively in one color. Eventually, you paint yourself into a corner.

About five years ago, I was feeling similarly cornered myself. I didn’t know where else to go with the Overwhelming “I” and feared I was washed up. Sure, I wrote narrative poems before, but like Dr. Frankenstein, unleashing some jerry-rigged monster on unsuspecting readers. Through Clark Street Review, I learned that narrative poetry wasn’t just a natural and time-honored form. It was also liberating and energizing to me as a writer. I wasn’t stuck in my own voice and viewpoint. I could create countless characters, with as many viewpoints to go with them. I could converse in their voices in addition to mine. I didn’t have to just say what I felt—I could illustrate it. Imagine going from using just one crayon to coloring with the whole 64-count Crayola Big Box. That’s how it felt.

I don’t mean to imply that writing narrative poems is easier. Quite the contrary. You don’t have the novelist’s or short story writer’s luxury of leisurely developing plots, characters and themes. You have lines in which to do these things, as opposed to pages. So you’d better have your flight plan filed, Sonny Jim, well before taking the runway.

In fact, that’s a good analogy for writing narrative poetry. The novelist builds a B-52 bomber. The short story writer, an F-15 fighter plane. The narrative poet, though, constructs a hang glider—canvas sailcloth stretched over an aluminum bird-skeleton. It’s you versus the wind and the raw elements. For this reason, with the poem, you have to reduce the narrative to its essentials. The language is concentrated; you’ve no room for extras. What you leave out is as important as what you leave in. But when it’s built right the narrative poem, like the other two aircraft, can soar high and far.

So, coming to the narrative poem was like rediscovering myself as a writer. It’s the genre that I (primarily) want to continue working in, because I get such a kick out of it. For this rejuvenation, I thank Ray Foreman and the poets of Clark Street Review, who continue to inspire me.

Great! Something else I really love about your poems is the nature of the “flourishes” that conclude most of them.

Ah, yes. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoy them. Others I’ve heard from don’t share your enthusiasm. To each his or her own.

This, though, also pertains to the narrative poem. With a narrative, you can’t just stop. A story requires a proper ending. To simply slam the door shut, a la The Sopranos, smacks of English 101-style showboating and results in nothing more than a pissed-off, unsatisfied audience. I happen to respect whatever readers I have too much to be rude to them for the sake of a literary cliché.

Beyond that, a poem’s ending is the natural place to make your point. It’s like a cymbal-crash at the end of a song. It’s underscoring the main idea of the piece. For those who don’t agree with this practice? It’s my party and I’ll “flourish” if I want to.

Good for you. Yet another standout feature of your poems is the prevalence of popular culture (movies, television, books, etc.). What value do you see in Richard Brautigan, for example, or why do you place so much emphasis on media and entertainment?

Books, music, films and TV are the things I use to feed my creativity. I don’t see them as objects fixed in time. These works are part of an ongoing dialogue called our culture. They’re as alive now as the moment they were first released, in that they continue to help push that dialogue forward.

Example? I once saw a silent movie called Mickey. The movie was made in 1918 and it starred Mabel Normand, a then-famous comedienne. So taken was I by Mabel’s humor and personality, I sought out her other films and read her biography. This led to my writing my poem about Mabel, “WTF?” Maybe one person will read my poem, be moved to seek out Mabel Normand’s films and be enriched by the experience, as I was. So the dialogue continues, unlimited by time or place.

Here I’ll share “WTF?”

Laura and David Clawson spend the night
in adjoining rooms a world apart.
She’s in the living room, Facebooking on her first iPhone
which she bought after saving six months for it.
He’s in the kitchen reading a biography
of Mabel Normand, the silent film funnygirl.

David isn’t a fast reader,
but he burns like a fuse through this book.
To him, Mabel seems like a lost friend found.
David learns that the comely Ms. Normand
was a sharp feminist battling in a man’s business—
armed with a tongue that was even sharper.
Mabel ate ice cream for breakfast,
made and spent money by the truckload
and used men like sticks of Doublemint gum.
Rock & Roll before rock was invented,
Mabel even managed to check out by age 40,
just a heartbeat before soundies arrived.

For half a minute, David wants to go in
and tell Laura all he’d read.
Learning was a joy they once shared.
Then David recalls the monster mask
Laura made of her face
whenever he interrupted her surfing.
Without lifting her eyes from the screen,
Laura would grunt, “WTF?”
cutting her man off at the knees.
David neither understood nor responded;
Web was a language he never could speak.

Instead, David decides to say nothing.
He goes to the fridge and scoops himself
a dish of chocolate ice cream.
He takes it to the kitchen table
and pretends he’s sharing it with Mabel.
There, they sit and David tells Mabel
everything he read about her that night.
The flickering black & white beauty listens closely,
smiling through a free-and-easy expression.
Mabel doesn’t say “WTF?”
In fact, she says nothing at all.

As for Richard Brautigan? He’s one of my favorite poets and a major influence of mine.  Brautigan made poetry out of everything.  The first moon landing, the Andy Warhol starlet Ultra Violet, a moth in a room in Tucson, Arizona.  And he manages to say something memorable, if not poignant, about them all. His poem “What Happened?” tells the story of an old woman, who went from being the darling of the Class of 1927 to a blue-haired pariah, abandoned by everyone, including her kids, because she “make[s] them nervous.” Immediately, you picture this lady in your mind and start speculating about her backstory. And Brautigan’s poem is only eight lines long!

I eat that kind of stuff up with a spoon. It’s what I aspire to do with my own work: find memorable subjects in everyday places, unusual analogies, surrealism and a sense of fun. Referring back to the aforementioned cultural dialogue, I recently wrote a poem based on one of Brautigan’s. His 1970 poem, “The Amelia Earhart Pancake,” is about him abandoning the “Earhart” title after trying, and failing, to

Like I said, it’s an ongoing conversation. Read Richard Brautigan’s poetry—it’s a mind-blowing ride, for all the right reasons.

“The Amelia Earhart Pancake”

I have been unable to find a poem
for this title. I’ve spent years looking
for one and now I’m giving

Richard Brautigan November 3, 1970


Richard Brautigan spent years
searching for a poem
to match up with a title:
“The Amelia Earhart Pancake.”
He quit on November 3, 1970.

On April 24, 2014, I revived the cause.
Dig this, Rich:
it’s a pancake so light,
it disappears somewhere
between the pan and the plate.

Jack Phillips Lowe

Thank you for bringing this issue to closure! Much appreciated. I did read a Brautigan paperback recently, Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt, and found it to be an entertaining read.

Okay, delving into poetry and “society,” you and I have discussed the mutual disappointment that poets, particularly in America, seldom support each other by purchasing books or penning reviews; we have to work so hard to sell our words if we want them heard. Feel free to expound however you choose.

Wow, where do I start? Sometimes, it seems like certain members of the literary community prefer to exploit that neighborhood for their own benefit, like the Once-ler in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, instead of living in and contributing to the community in order to help it survive and grow.

For instance, it boggles my mind that a poet like Fred Voss—who’s so utterly American—has a larger following in the UK than he has in his own home country. Voss’s latest chapbook, Tooth and Fang and Machine Handle (Liquid Paper Press, 2013), totally rocks. It deserves to be on the New York Times Bestseller List. Yet, Voss’s very worthy effort receives only a fraction of the readership of the often dubious titles which occupy that list. And that’s truly unfair, because Voss’s work speaks to the masses.

The poet Gene McCormick is another case in point. Gene’s poems are approachable, insightful and vividly descriptive, to the point of being “mind-movies.” His chapbook, La Vie en Rose: Paris Today (Chicago City Press, 2014), is all these things. Reading Gene’s work in a small chapbook is like finding Billy Joel working the piano bar at the local Holiday Inn. After a while, you wonder why people can’t hear what’s so plainly there. Unless, of course, it’s because they’re not listening.

I believe in a writer actively promoting his or her work. I’ve no time for that Emily Dickinson/J.D. Salinger “reticent artist” crap. If the writing’s worth doing, it’s worth sharing and, gentle snowflakes, the world ain’t going to come to you. When Cold Case Cowboys was published, I spent as much time banging the drum for the book as I did writing the poems that are in it. I believed in my words and in your artful chapbook design and obviously, felt they deserved to be seen. So I tried everything my budget would allow—YouTube, Craigslist, Goodreads,, e-mail chains, flyers sent via snail-mail and lots of Old School networking. Got some nice reviews and sold a couple copies, I did. But at the end of the day, I finished up feeling like a hot dog vendor at a vegetarians’ convention.

Of course, I can’t tell anyone what to do with their time and money. Lord knows, everybody’s budget is stretched to the limit these days and I’m no different. So, I’ll just tell you what I do. If a magazine publishes my work, I subscribe to it. When a writer I like publishes a chapbook, if I can afford it, I buy a copy. If there’s a writer or editor whose work I enjoy, I drop that person a brief note saying so. I feel less like the Once-ler this way.

I understand. Thank You for your compliments and for setting a fine literary example for our fellow Americans. You have persevered with your efforts as only a small percentage do. What keeps you motivated in this regard?

First, I’m a stubborn bastard. I, for real, actually know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. But because I’m also a smartass, I will keep that number to myself.

Outside of that, I just truly enjoy writing. I’ve been playing this game for nearly thirty years. I long ago abandoned any notions of “fame and fortune.” These days, it’s all about arranging words on paper in a meaningful way and then getting those words into outlets where a like-minded audience, however small, might read them.

Nothing else I do in life brings me as much fun and satisfaction as writing does. As I get older, it keeps my mind from atrophying by making me wrestle with ideas and concepts. Gray matter exercise, if you will. I feel most alive when I’m writing. That’s why I keep at it.

Excellent. I hope you keep at it for decades yet! Thank you for your time and a most enjoyable conversation.


(For an example of Jack’s most recent work, read “Where the Wheels Fell Off” at The Bitchin’ Kitsch, a literary ‘zine in which Jack features his favorite British comedian/explorer, Karl Pilkington. “I’m kinda proud of it,” says Jack.)


Posted by on December 23, 2014 in Coffee with the Poets


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De Natura Melanoma by Sharad P. Paul (Published by Middle Island Press)

Sharad - De Natura Melanoma Cover JpegDe Natura Melanoma (ISBN 978-0-6923-0827-1) is unlike any poetry collection that we have published to date. De Natura Melanoma (on the nature of melanoma) is a collection of poetry by internationally respected cutaneous oncologist and skin cancer surgeon, Dr. Sharad P. Paul. It ends up a short, sumptuous and beautifully written chapbook of a medical doctor and established writer’s literary foray into the world of melanoma, the tumor of melanocytes – which are the cells that make up skin color. It ends up a memoir about life, narrative medicine and battling cancer. 53 pages.

Copies may be purchased through the Middle Island Press website, and other places (links forthcoming).

A Kindle-downloadable version is also available.

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Posted by on November 23, 2014 in Literary News


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Middle Island Press Release: Felton Prairie by Rodney Nelson

Nelson - Felton Prairie Cover JPEGAs we at Middle Island Press delve into the world of perfect-bound book-publishing, it’s with a glowing sense of accomplishment that we present North Dakota poet Rodney Nelson’s fourth Middle Island Press title, Felton Prairie.

Nelson’s home region, the Red River prairie, has been called a valley but is in fact a seabed with hidden beaches rimming it. The native and restored grassland of Felton Prairie is up on one of these. Nelson walks there often and has borrowed its name for this 105-page collection of poems which is available through the Middle Island Press website, and also through and elsewhere online.

A Kindle version will soon be available for download.

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Posted by on November 23, 2014 in Literary News


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Haiku Forest Afterlife by Robert Epstein

Epstein - Haiku Cover Image - FinalHaiku Forest Afterlife is a very special title to Middle Island Press. It is our first full-length perfect-bound book of poetry, and it was Robert Epstein, full of patience and encouragement, who essentially led us to a greater course which is keeping us busier than ever.

From the back cover:

Most religious traditions have some fundamental belief about what happens to us after we die. Heaven and reincarnation are just two such notions with regards to the soul that offer comfort to those who fear death or have lost a loved one. In truth, we, the living, cannot say what happens to us after we die because, by definition, we are not dead yet; what happens after death remains the great mystery. At the same time, the human imagination is capable of venturing out into uncharted territory–the landscape of posthumous consciousness. In this book, Robert Epstein explores this landscape through the poetic lens of haiku. Suspend your rational, scientific mind and join him in contemplating the afterlife where the invisible and unknowable take poetic form. If time stops, what then?


Copies are available at various online locations. We encourage lovers of haiku and philosophy of life and death to purchase a copy of Haiku Forest Afterlife and leave a kind book review at Poets and publishers alike appreciate the support of readers!

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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in Literary News


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Echoes From the Bell Jar by Barbara Wirkus

Wirkus - Echoes Cover  JPEGNew Jersey poet Barbara Wirkus has published her first poetry chapbook through Middle Island Press. Echoes From the Bell Jar (ISBN 978-1-4951-2136-4) contains twenty-six nostalgic and insightful poems on various types of love that she has experienced in her eighty years of living. Barbara has had quick success with distribution and has been touched with feedback in general, and we look forward to giving her an opportunity up the timeline via “Coffee With The Poets” to expound the history behind her poems.

Visit Barbara’s page on the Middle Island Press website to read “Bridges, Revisited” and purchase a copy of Echoes From the Bell Jar (certain to stir the heart).

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Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Literary News


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To Waters Creek Cemetery: Jenny’s Nightmare by Jack Sorenson

Sorenson-Waters-Creek-CoverWith imagination, a wealth of witty dialogue, and an otherworldly cast of characters, multi-award-winning author Jack Sorenson presents To Waters Creek Cemetery. Jenny’s nightmare continues in book two of three among Sorenson’s Jenny series. She finds herself in an ongoing struggle against her father – the evil wizard Cafzf – but this time in a cemetery. Always with various helpers on her side (her trusted Eyeball Ring, the spirit of her mother and others), she manages to rekindle her strength when she needs it during this epic battle of good versus evil.

To Waters Creek Cemetery (ISBN 978-1-4951-0351-3, edited by Gloria J. Wimberley) is available alongside its companion volumes via Middle Island Press and

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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Literary News


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The Rock of Spells by Jack Sorenson

Sorenson - Rock of Spells Cover JPEGWe at Middle Island Press are proud to have completed author Jack Sorenson’s third prose title in a series of three (The Rock of Spells, ISBN 978-1-4951-0353-7, printing TODAY!). Much credit goes to editor Gloria J. Wimberley and all who have supported this prolific author.

From the back cover:

“In humans’ hearts hide forbidden arts, more treasures in cages locked away.”

So it is with our Jenny, the beautiful protagonist of author Jack Sorenson’s Jenny Series, a fantastic three-part tale of a teen witch in a battle against her father, the most powerful evil wizard who loathes the goodness inherent in Jenny through her mother.

The Rock of Spells concludes the series with more adventure, a twist of humor, and a surprise ending only to be revealed by reading the pages within this book…

Sorenson’s Jenny Series is available at the Middle Island Press website as well as through

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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Literary News


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