Wednesday, April 30, 2014

For National Poetry Month: A poem from Tess Baker

On Being a Poet
by Tess Baker 

She lies to me, the muse does—
On days like this, she sings
But like an old lady, too
Jealous to give up a recipe
She leaves out
Essential ingredients
And I am left on my own
With a flat verse
Not tasty
To anyone.
Bio: Tess Baker has written five unpublished books of poems. She started writing in her late teens. She writes prose occasionally for local Southside Indianapolis newspapers when the muses call to her. Tess is currently enjoying retirement.

Friday, April 25, 2014

For National Poetry Month: A poem from Anne Haines

Save As
by Anne Haines

Small transformation demands
a whole new name: to document
this new omission, pristine
identity. Select
location, puzzle out the path.
The old one’s shadowed.
How we can begin
again without destroying,
certain of reversion. How
we are so in love
with every draft that ruffles
through the pages.
How we save the changes.

Bio: Anne Haines’ chapbook, Breach, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2008. Individual poems have appeared in Diode, Field, New Madrid, Rattle, Tipton Poetry Journal, the anthology And Know This Place: Poetry of Indiana, and elsewhere. She lives in Bloomington, where she works as the Web Content Specialist for the Indiana University Libraries. She can be found online at and on Twitter at @annehaines.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

For National Poetry Month: A poem from Thomas Alan Orr

Indiana Badlands
by Thomas Alan Orr

He wears a hat made of sky
and walks his cougar through the corn.
A buzzard circles overhead.
Now is not the time to ask his name.

A woman watches from the doorway.
She clutches a tiny cameo
and her Bible hides a derringer.
Love will test her vigilance.

It could be midnight. It might be noon.
Time plays every trick it knows
out here. Light moves, they say,
like a ghost across level ground.

The harrowing is hard,
the furrows slaked with tears.
Beware the walking man.
Give solace to the one who waits.

Bio: Thomas Alan Orr's poems have appeared in Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor, and other anthologies and journals. His poetry has also been read into the record of the Maine State Legislature. His first book of poems was Hammers in the Fog. He is finishing a second book under the working title, Tongue to the Anvil.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

For National Poetry Month: A poem from Jo Barbara Taylor

Heathcliff and Catherine and All the Others
By Jo Barbara Taylor

I found an old letter in a library book,
the stamp Brazilian, the missive
in English, a feminine hand
on monogrammed linen stationery,
now yellowed.

August 31, 1922

Dear Carlos—

            I sit on the terrace—you can picture the emerald Atlantic
and hear it slapping rocks below—my handkerchief close,
for I will use it, I am sure, before I sign my name below.
On the table, your favorite breakfast item—a chocolat éclair
and your favorite relic, the rusty lock without its key. 
            The air is fever. My tears fall already like tropic rain.
I say adieu. Please do not come again. I know you ask why.
No answer I have is pleasing. I hold your heavy lock in my hand,
consign it to my heart. I taste you in the delicate éclair,
find you delicious. I glance through our time and smile.
You must know I have loved.

You, ever in my thoughts—

I folded the letter into its envelope,
returned it to Wuthering Heights,
thought of all the abandoned lovers,
me included.

Bio: Jo Barbara Taylor lives outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, grew up in Indiana, and remains an Indiana farm girl at heart. She taught English in public school for 21 years. Her poems and academic writing have appeared in journals, Including Tipton Poetry Journal and Inwood Indiana, magazines and anthologies. She leads poetry workshops for the North Carolina Poetry Society and OLLI through Duke Continuing Education. She has published four chapbooks, the most recent, High Ground by Main Street Rag, 2013.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Seasons: February

It was far colder than I expected it to be. I walked quickly, into the breeze that carried the whooshing of the water from the nearby creek. I pulled my cocoon of sweatshirts closer and wondered which was more chilling, the late-winter breeze or the sound of the winter water. As I followed the creek, its gurgling sotto voce  mimicked my rapid pace.

I had walked there many times, listening intently to the creek’s susurrant mystical language, unintelligible to me yet tantalizingly wordlike. It was always trying to tell me something that I couldn’t understand.

The trees along the banks were brown and bare, crowded as though seeking warmth from each other, lifting as one supplicant bony fingers to the featureless white sky. Except for one, which mutely called to me. I stopped, puzzling. Then slowly, over spongy early-spring ground, with a mysterious sense of presence, I approached it. The creek ran smooth there, silky and subdued.

That tree was darker than the others, and it wasn’t just beseeching; it was screaming. Long thorns burst from its branches and a spiral of thorns entwined it. How had I not seen its pain before, and why did it seem familiar to me? It was at once new and known. Why? What was it? The winter-bound trees stretching their scraggly fingers to the pallid sky, the black tree with its girdle of thorns – they settled in me and unsettled me. What was it?

I continued on my walk, chilled in a different way, slowed, turning again and again to look back at that tree as it gradually receded into the wooded tangle, assuming its previous anonymity. What was it?

Days later it came: Dachau. The memorial sculpture. The same frozen reaching, the same silent screams, the same motionless writhing. In the background the ovens I would not walk through. I had had no thought of encountering such a thing on my walk. I wasn’t looking for it. But there it was and will be, every leafless February.

How is it that some things in our daily landscapes are suddenly seen with a new eye? How is it that something so obvious – like pain – can be hidden? Were these the mysteries carried in the current of the creek?

The Dachau agonies and the cold trees grasped at the same indifferent sky. By accident or design that I saw the one in the other? No matter. Enough that I did.

- Maureen O’Hern

Maureen O’Hern is a former English teacher, a botanical artist, a graduate of Purdue University and a member of the Indiana Writers Center.

Monday, April 7, 2014

For National Poetry Month: A poem from Norbert Krapf

Queen Anne Reflections
by Norbert Krapf

We were gathered in a Queen Anne house
moved along roads that wound through woods
to a site on an open hill surrounded by trees.

No walls on the main floor. Just exposed
two-by-fours with art hanging from studs
Tables with covers and fresh flowers set up

in café style. Pitch-in food in the basement.
Beer and wine brought along to share.
A pianist and I brought jazz and poetry

with a southern Indiana accent.
We all floated together free of gravity.
As I half sang, half-chanted, and recited

my poems, a young woman with long
curly hair seated almost within reach
looked and listened with the quiet

intensity of a plant sending out tendrils.
A white light radiated from within her.
She looked familiar and of the place,

but shone like a local mystery.
You could tell by the look in her eye
that she had something to give,

but not a gift that calls attention to itself.
She knew how to look and listen,
to absorb what she saw and heard.

It was clear that she was coming
into whatever powers would be hers.
Her vision and voice were growing.

Bio: Indiana Poet Laureate 2008-10, Norbert Krapf is the author of ten full-length poetry collections, the latest being American Dreams: Reveries and Reflections (2013) and Songs in Sepia and Black and White (2012). In April 2014 his Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet's Journal of Healing appeared. He has collaborated with jazz pianist Monika Herzig, with whom he released a CD, Imagine, and with bluesman Gordon Bonham. He has also collaborated with photographers Daryl Jones, David Pierini, and Richard Fields in books published by Indiana University Press.

Friday, April 4, 2014

American Grace, a Hoosier homecoming of springs and circuses from James Figy

By James Figy

The people of Kemp, Indiana, had all assembled with their improvised torches—but no pitchforks. Instead they carried bats and unused rackets from cheap badminton sets, along with crow bars and oversized monkey-wrenches from the Kemp Spring Factory.

The crowd chanted, "Ho hum, humdrum; Billy Guy has come."

They packed the crumbling concrete bridge—the only way out of the north-central Indiana town—suicidally tight. A reporter from The Kempee Tribune took photos of the whole thing.

It would have been tough for Billy Guy to drive through the crowd if he'd had a bulldozer. So the chances of his blue ’62 Volkswagen Beetle making it probably did not exist.

He stopped the car on top of a huge metal plate, the kind the Kemp Dept. of Minimal Public Works workers used after they cut into the road. He pushed in the clutch and pulled the shifter to neutral, then stepped out of the Volkswagen. His stocky frame towered above the vehicle, begging the question how he fit in the first place.

“Did the entire town show up to block me in?”

Billy scratched his short goatee while scanning the crowd. He saw Mrs. Brumer, his ex-girlfriend’s mom. She was the reason for all of this, he thought. He would have stayed in Kemp forever, so long as he didn’t have to move out of her house.

In her last ultimatum, she had opined that it was awkward for him to live there, as her daughter was getting married in the living room in less than a week. She said she didn’t want him running in theatrically from the bathroom to object or following them on their honeymoon to Peru.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

For National Poetry Month: A poem from Richard Pflum

A Little Self-Indulgence
by Richard Pflum

Everybody writes, but nobody wants to write it. “Too much work,”
they say. Everybody’d rather just speak it out now. Get it out of their
system. Because everything depends on how one feels now, not to-
morrow or yesterday but inside this very exact microsecond. And besides,
to write, one might really have to read their own text silently when what
one really wants is to hear his own voice—whatever sound that makes,

wants to flap his arms, look everyone straight in the eye so all might
accept his music, this huge bone of abandon—brutally inserted.
One doesn’t really care how anyone feels about it. After all, he is the
Artist. The audience is unimportant, has only its own sense of hierarchy
so he must meld his dependence into their esteem or any fanaticism
he can provoke to add to his own sense of importance to their universe.

For as with any Artist all he wants from an audience anyway, is that
they hear his howls of ecstasy imbedded in these screams of pain.

Bio: Richard Pflum is a native of and now lives in Indianapolis. He is the author of three full-length books of poetry, A Dream of Salt (The Fredrick Brewer Press, now The Raintree Press, Bloomington, Ind., 1980), A Strange Juxtaposition of Parts (The Writers’ Center Press, Indianapolis, 1995), and Some Poems to Be Read Out Loud (Chatter House Press, Indianapolis, 2013). He has appeared in Tears in the Fence (U.K.), The Flying Island, The Reaper, Exquisite Corpse, PlopLop, Hopewell Review, and Kayak. He also has a poems in the anthologies The Indiana Experience (Indiana University Press, 1977) and A New Geography of Poets (University of Arkansas Press, 1992), and two poems in The New Laurel Review (1999), and a poem in Glass Works (Pudding House, 2002). On the Internet, he can be found on the archive of PoetryNet, Poet of the Month, October 2003. He is the host of Evening With the Muse, a monthly reading and open mic of the Indiana Writers Center.

Editor’s note: Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamars interviews Richard Pflum