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Middle Island Press Release: Time Tacit by Rodney Nelson

It’s been a pleasure to work with one of North Dakota’s finest poets over the years, Rodney Nelson. He has many books of poetry in print (eight of which have been published through Middle Island Press) and Time Tacit will be his second book release in the year 2017.

Rodney Nelson’s unanticipated “late flowering” of poetry continues with Time Tacit. The components of his range remain unchanged in their changing: prairie, grove, woods, river, desert, canyon, mountain. But now there is a deeper sense of how they will be once people are gone and a more felt honoring of the moment the poet has been granted among them. Nelson thinks that Man arose to stem the overluxuriating of the planet. “You the Burner” is meant for whoever “know the geese/ are not other/ who have a gander/ within you and even so are meant/ and here to put all this to fire.” Yet despair does not come up.

Copies are available for purchase at Amazon.

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Posted by on October 20, 2017 in News & Reviews

 

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Coffee with Gene McCormick

Gene McCormick’s writing can be seen regularly in small press journals. He has published more than twenty books of non-fiction, fiction and poetry. He lives in the small village of Wayne, Illinois, forty miles west of Chicago. Middle Island Press has published his two most recent titles, Big City Nighttime Stories and Obsessions.

After you read his narrative poems, you might be looking over your shoulder when out in public, wondering who might be watching and taking notes (ha!) but I’ve gotten to know Gene and he has a heart of gold, is very thoughtful and not without a sense of humor; and as he says in this interview, he is a doer, and to that I add the old proverb: “A man is known by his deeds.”

I asked Gene how he takes his coffee. His response: “I take my coffee in other people’s cups, as I don’t enjoy the flavor of coffee. I much prefer a Diet Pepsi, or, if feeling carefree, a Diet Coke.” Alrighty then! That’ll work.




(“Coffee with the Poets” interviews are conducted by Christina Anne Taylor.)




Glad to have you, Gene. You are prolific, with more than twenty books published and a regular presence in small press publications. Do you have a writing schedule that you adhere to?

No, absolutely not. Unlike almost every other writer quoted on the subject, to me writing is not 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. To me, it is the opposite and that is what makes it fun, challenging and especially fulfilling. My first book was non-fiction, done for McFarland & Company in North Carolina—a fine publishing house—but that was back in 1980 and I used a typewriter, which was a nightmare. While it was a huge thrill to hold my first book in my hands I don’t think I could now work on any project of length without a word processor. Nowadays, if something is not enjoyable I’m not going to do it.

Understood! Those early typewriters were something…

Also, being non-fiction, that first book had some shackles that no longer apply to what I write: poetry and short, short stories.

That’s good. Are you currently working on any projects?

As long as I can think and reason I should be able to have something happening because writing, the arts, are a compulsion for me. I have to write, or paint, and hopefully that will not change. Specifically, I have a small illustrated book on Hollywood laying around and another book-length narrative poetry/novel soon to be published that will be a companion to my current Obsessions, which was artfully published by Middle Island Press. I have a handful of poems that will be appearing in several literary publications this winter.

Thank you, and that’s wonderful news!

In addition to writing, I paint and have two to four one-person exhibits a year and also illustrate for Misfitmagazine.net. Painting projects are ongoing and fill a gap when inspiration doesn’t feed my writing compulsion adequately.

You’re blessed to have different creative outlets through which to channel your energy. I love the character of your paintings on your book covers and elsewhere. If you wouldn’t mind expounding, I notice your reference to “compulsions” and consider your narrative Obsessions, and many creative people can relate to these tendencies. What tends to jumpstart your creative compulsions?

Beauty. I should also add observation. Sometimes I can sit alone in a parking lot, with a receptive mind, and see something that registers on a level that needs to be pursued. I’m currently writing a piece that originated by the sight of a trench coat in the rain, and a freight elevator at a nearby warehouse. The piece began life as a typical twenty-line narrative poem but keeps morphing into something broader, longer…and maybe not as good as the short version. I live in a small village of several thousand and rarely get involved in group activities so a highly developed sense of observation, by necessity, can make a Walmart parking lot as literarily bountiful as the Pentagon at war time.

Yes! What is beauty, what is beautiful to you?

Anything can be beautiful, but of course isn’t. Beauty is to a small degree a personal choice although there are material selections that transcend, such as a white with red leather 1951 Jaguar convertible with a youthful Angelina Jolie (or 1950s version Gina Lollabrigida) on the passenger seat. A flair for style and panache helps. There is not enough coffee in the pot to discuss inner versus outer beauty.

Is there a general theme to the bulk of your observations that inspire you to write?

If there is, it is coincidental to my writing what is laying in front of me, a vista of everyday people and actions, a—to quote from my most recent book jacket—walk in the park through the feral landscapes of daily life. We all take the trip, walk the walk. I put it to paper and call it literature.

We’re grateful for that! Have you been influenced by other writers?

I am very careful what I read as I don’t want my chameleon-like tendencies to be overtly influenced by the writing of another, just by things: happenings, sites, words, emotions. Having said that, I do have some favorite contemporary writers: Patrick Modiano, Patti Smith, Spencer Reece, the late Thomas Bernhard, Roger Lewinter, Hernan Ronsino, Valeria Luiselli. These are writers whose work I enjoy reading but I can’t say they have influenced me. For sheer influence, to be technical at the risk of sounding snarky, the two major influences for me have been Charles Bukowski and Amy Hempel. After reading their body of work I figured if they can be successful with that sort of stuff, well, then, maybe I can too, although my writing can in no way be stylistically compared with Bukowski’s or Ms. Hempel’s.

I understand the importance of maintaining your own unique signature. Describe for me, if you would, how your signature has been shaped by who you are as a person.

I have been active, a doer. Long before Nike registered its “Just do it” line, I was living life that way although never to the extent of being irresponsible to obligations incurred.

So everywhere you go, if there is any “dead space,” you take notes and fill it with the life of narrative poems. I love it! Do you have a favorite poem of yours? Would you mind sharing it and telling us a little something about it?

My personal favorite poem is “Obsessions,” which happens to be a book-length piece that you published. I have not committed the 107 pages to memory so will decline to read it, and I doubt your local supermarket has enough coffee for me to struggle through. The poem/book started out as a thought process intended to be a routine length narrative poem and just spread like spilled water (or coffee) on a Formica table top. It is a hundred percent reality based, happenings of which I was a witness or conspiring fabricator.

That it’s reality-based is certainly part of what makes it so amusing (the rest being your delivery). I’ll share a snippet from the section called “The Parking Lot”:

A Ford Explorer parks twenty feet away
directly facing the man’s economy car.
It looms ominously.
The driver, a woman, turns off the ignition
and prepares to eat her lunch out of a
red and white striped carry-out bag from a
nearby fast food chain, but not McDonald’s.
She eats one item at a time, rapidly;
finishing the French fries she wipes
her fingers with a paper napkin
then pulls a burger from the bag.
Light from the sunroof highlights
the burger as she peels back waxy wrapper.

Her hair is in a ponytail so as not to fall
on her food, her head tilting toward the
steering wheel as though reading.
She begins to eat furtively as she notices the man,
coleslaw or potato salad with a plastic fork.
She is not drinking coffee.
She is drinking from a plastic cup with a straw.
The man cannot stop watching her eat.

Haha! This is why we try not to watch others eat, lest they watch us eat.

The problem with watching many people eat is that they chew with their mouths open, and try to talk as well.

I recall an area artist/poet posing the question: “Can a writer have friends when every observation becomes inspiration and every soul risks being stripped naked by the pen?” Just for fun, how would you answer this?

As far as stripping naked with the pen, too bad I didn’t have a pen when Angelina Jolie or Gina Lollabrigida were in the Jaguar. As to making friends with my writing, I recommend Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People as opposed to reading Obsessions.

I’m certain that Obsessions is a much more interesting read, just as Big City Nighttime Stories and your numerous other titles (I’ll provide information below). You said to me recently, “I have always said that I never worked a day in my life—it was always an enjoyment. Still is.” On that note, I’ve enjoyed this time we’ve spent chatting.

I’d like to conclude with a contemplative slice of your life selected from Big City Nighttime Stories, and if you have any concluding words, feel free at this time.

Can’t really think of anything to say, so thanks for a job well done.

One Just Knows A Gift Pen
Should Be In Sterling

Shafting through Venetian blinds, mid-day sun
lays alternate dark and light stripes
across the desktop, unveiling corner dust,
shadowing a shiny fountain pen at work.
Sterling silver, a gift, its nib long since molded
to the slanting handwriting of its possessor,
it has recorded reams of letters and stories,
validated stacks of documents and checks,
but never something as this.

Three rooms away the faint sound of a CD,
flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal interpreting Mozart,
entertains the Siamese curled in a sun spot.

Pausing absently to consider the pen…
years ago when such things had consequence
the giver’s choice would have been 14k,
but sterling’s chic elegance had been requested
and, like all else, granted.

Task at hand complete, the note is signed
and folded just as the music ends,
the cat exits, blinds shut.
The postman will be by in an hour or so.



***************
“Self-Portrait,” “Big City Nighttime Stories,” and “Obsessions” art by Gene McCormick.
His titles can be purchased through Amazon, and signed copies are available directly from the author. He donates all money from sales of his books and art to area no-kill animal shelters.
Email: genebiz@att.net
Website: www.donbob.com/GeneBooks/Books.htm
Postal address: Gene McCormick, PO Box 51, Wayne, IL 60184

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2017 in News & Reviews

 

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Middle Island Press: Coffee in My Cup

Something happened within the industry of publishing services that left many people in a slump throughout much of this year. At the beginning of 2017, more than ever, my mailbox began getting flooded with designers, editors, illustrators, marketing agents and ebook converters looking for work. They had none, I had none. Then came September, and suddenly I received three consecutive manuscripts and am, once again, working several hours each day. I’m not sure what happened but am glad that it was only temporary. The “down time” was rejuvenating. I bounced back with fire — designed two books, cover to cover, totaling 350 pages in approximately twenty-five hours — and I filled with deep gratitude, not only for the poets who put coffee in my cup in exchange for my visual creative talents, but also for the fact that my work, my “job” is essentially sitting at this computer, designing and proofing books, and listening to my favorite music. That thought fills me with joy! We have what we need to survive in this chaotic world, and I’m most grateful for the poets, new and repeat clients, who keep me busy doing what I enjoy doing.

“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, therein lies your vocation.” –Aristotle


(Middle Island Press: we publish poetry and short stories.)

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2017 in News & Reviews

 

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SPOTTING A “HIGH TRAIL ON THE POINT”

By Rodney Nelson

(This contribution was originally featured in Wolftree Magazine.)

to be read before the poem or during it

A poem does not come. It flies by, leaving not much residue but enough to work with when you sit down and write. You happened to be “on location” when you saw this one. The few sense data you got had to do with the trail you were on. At writing time (two days later in Fargo, North Dakota) it did not occur to you to use proper nouns. More about this below. Generic details would establish the kind of setting: “wooded ridge,” “midlake,” “trail,” and three trees of the north. The “white” you applied to each of the latter was accurate and also hinted of light and lack of undergrowth—a wooded ridge that let you see out. The time of year and the point in that time showed in the third stanza; and the next got to the pith of all backcountry walking, viz., that you don’t need to know where the trail will go or to pin a tag on it (because it may have a name that you have not yet heard). Your syntax became tricky in stanza five, which could be read in either of two ways: “to live on the rock/ of the windy point/ and be there—be here!”; or be here be there, whichever, it’s all one. It seems you already had been to the point and left the point, which you had, in that “here” and “there,” all one or not, were distinct. At the end you might have been watching the new moon—from camp?—and were glad to have avoided any manic human reactions to the full one.

the poem

HIGH TRAIL ON THE POINT

a one-mile narrow
and wooded ridge to
the point in midlake

but an open trail
in white cedar and
white pine and white spruce

summer coming down
to end among them
and at the water

this walk to open
another without
any name or with

to live on the rock
of the windy point
and be there be here

new moon tonight of
no glorying no
overdefining

to be read later

Robert Bly liked to make use of proper nouns, e.g., “in a wheat field outside of Madison, Minnesota”; and that is just what you do not want to do. It would ruin your tone and evoke a clutter of wrong associations. But now that the poem has been read, you can show all: Chase Point Trail between lakes Coon and Sandvik; Scenic State Park; Bigfork, Itasca County, Minnesota. Poetry is a life, a way you chose or were chosen to be. You do not need to adhere to a writing schedule, but you have to be ready when a poem flies through to write as much of it as you can. So you don’t write at the prompt of anything adventitious—not on assignment, not to theme (although you may look back and see a hitherto unnoticed thematic connection between or among certain poems)—and in fact you never plan ahead. When asked about something you have written, you are pleased to reread and remember. That’s all the compensation you want. You are unworried about the unreliability of what they used to call inspiration. Just go trekking around the woods and the prairies and the buttes as usual, and a poem will find you.

***************

(Rodney Nelson has a book forthcoming through Middle Island Press: Time Tacit. He also has many other books available online.)

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2017 in News & Reviews

 

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2017-18 Middle Island Press Poetry Chapbook Contest

Middle Island Press is now accepting submissions for our first poetry contest beginning September 22, 2017 and ending September 21, 2018. All content for a general audience is acceptable; we seek skill and palpability, the formal or the free.

The winner, to be announced in October 2018, will receive:

Cash prize, $100 minimum, up to $500 (to increase according to the number of entries)
Publication through Middle Island Press with Amazon listing and 100% royalties paid annually
Twenty-five copies with a press release
A “Coffee with the Poets” interview

Guidelines:

Mail the following in a large envelope:

A title page with the title only, a contents page, and your paginated manuscript of 16-48 pages with no identifying information. (Front and back matter will be requested of the winner when the contest closes.)
Include within a separate sealed envelope: a sheet of paper that contains your pen name, your email address, and the title of your work as it is on your title page.
A $20 reader’s fee (check or money order payable to Robert Taylor)

Middle Island Press
PO Box 354
West Union, WV 26456

* Simultaneous and multiple submissions are acceptable. Previously published poems are acceptable, but your title as a previously published collection is not eligible. We will not return manuscripts and expect that each poet will retain a file of his/her work. We look forward to reading manuscripts through the coming seasons!

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2017 in News & Reviews

 

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Plato Poetica by Daniel Klawitter

(A Poetica Place book review by Christina Anne Taylor)

I can see Plato himself raising his cloud white eyebrows over my latest acquisition for our Red Salon: Plato Poetica by Daniel Klawitter. Within the elegant cover are four parts consisting of thirty poems (one in four parts) and a prose piece, and though the book developed from a concise concept, the themes of the poems vary considerably with the binding substance being epigraphs from Plato. The reader must begin with the preface to put everything into context; the reader must understand that the poet knows full well what he’s doing as he juxtaposes his modern-day voice against the timeless philosopher. That in itself is amusing.

The poems themselves vary in style but maintain a consistent signature that rings true to the poet. My personal favorite might actually be the perceptive prose piece titled “Esmeralda and the Hellhounds of Anubis.” As a woman, I relate to the theme of cats and enjoy such thoughts as “…cats have one paw in this world and the other three paws in the realm of spirits.” Esmeralda raises a paw and breaks the prose with an incantation:

Dogs are prose and prone to please.
Mice are good for eating.
When moonlight splinters through the trees
We watch humans while they’re sleeping.

Disobedience is heroic.
It’s wrong to persecute witches.
Hell is a world with no poets
And Heaven a charm of finches.

“Barnyard of the Gods” was enjoyable with lines such as:

…Hades is in the cellar
canning the souls of the dead….

Clever wit is a perennial recurrence throughout Plato Poetica, but Klawitter does have a serious side, and when he’s in serious mode he waxes most poetic, as in “The Most Shameful Thing”:

My sackcloth soul
is a waste of windswept ashes—
a hermitage of pollution.

So the poet admits openly in his preface that these seventy-four pages are an experiment of a sort with each poem being inspired by an epigraph, and I think it was worthwhile–worth his time and worth readers’ time. Copies are available at Amazon.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2017 in News & Reviews

 

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The Road We’ve Traveled by Seth Nation

I found out that one of my clients, Seth Nation, author of The Road We’ve Traveled: Poems of Love and Remembrance, passed away recently. I published his saddle-stitched chapbook five years ago and we just converted it to paperback.

If any patrons of poetry enjoy performing random acts of kindness, I recommend that you consider helping to support the family of this good-hearted young man.

It was ironic to read The Road We’ve Traveled again and to see that he had time to prepare himself and his family, and it was heartening to know that he triumphed in his own way by pressing his love onto the pages of this priceless keepsake.

“The Song of My Spirit”

The song of my spirit
Charges on, despite death
Whispered upon your breath.
Listen softly, I beg, can you hear it?
Please, my dear love, please, by no means should you fear it.
It plays deep in your mind.
I’m eternally at your side,
Strong as the tide,
Hoping you to find.
Always to be,
Even though I have died
Playing my song, timeless, for you and me.

When all alone, in need,
Never forget I’m here,
Holding you oh so dear.
Praying that your heart be forever freed
From the endless pain and anguish I see you bleed.
I endure the cries, screams
That dutifully you can hide,
Buried inside.
We visit in dreams,
Always to be,
Even though I have died
Playing my song, timeless, for you and me.

Browse the interior at Amazon and consider picking up a copy or two of this heart-rending record of a young couple’s love for each other.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2017 in News & Reviews

 

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