ed markowski | winter sunset

31 01 2008
Poetry Dispatch No. 209 | January 31, 2008

Writing Small

I began Poetry Dispatch over two years ago with many missions in mind. Among them, spreading the beauty, delicacy, impact, truth of the small, ‘haiku-like’ poem. Sift through the archives (above) for any number of stunning poems about the length of a deep breath.

Occasionally I lose track of what I set out to do, wander down too many different paths…then read something as right as the small poem below and say to myself: Oh, yes. Never forget this.

I remind readers again of the ‘tiny’ website where this poem first appeared, where a small poem fills a page in a big way: http://tinywords.com/haiku/2008/01/29

Visit if often. Better yet, ‘subscribe’ to it (no cost). It’s a wonderful thing to open your e-mail and find a few short lines like this to greet you. Norbert Blei


winter sunset...       this sudden craving   for a hand-picked peach  by Ed Markowski

winter sunset…

this sudden craving
for a hand-picked peach

Ed Markowski


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ron offen | winternacht

30 01 2008
Poetry Dispatch No. 209 | January 28, 2008

Winternacht by Ron Offen

Busy all day like children at play,
the snow grew tired, then suddenly
stopped and came to rest,
stretching out upon the fields
up to the pillow of a hill.

In sleep, a swirl of white enfolded me,
a bosomy Tante from an ancient time,
who cradled me as if I were a child
and sang a lullaby that said
I’d go where she would carry me
and dream and dream my life away.


The beautiful poem above, “Winternacht” by Ron Offen, appears in the recent Happy New Year flyer from Offen’s little but long-standing, extraordinary literary mag, FREE LUNCH (Arts Alliance), one of the best little mags around for any poet to land his or her poem. The mag has a long history of publishing poetry of substance and art.

Check www.poetrydispatch.wordpress.com for more of Ron Offen’s own work and more information on Free Lunch.

No, there ain’t no “free lunch” but then again there is or was…or might be. (At one time, in the early days, if I rightly recall, Offen indeed tried his best to nurture everyone with a free copy—a free literary lunch.)

The recent flyer addresses THE FREE LUNCH ANNUAL FUND DRIVE. So, that’s part of the answer and one of the reasons I am featuring both this poem and the literal message that goes with it:


issue38.jpgDear Poet or Subscriber:

Thank you for donating what you can afford to support Free Lunch. Even a dollar will help. If you can’t donate at this time or have donated recently, please excuse this request. Due to increased printing and mailing costs. and dwindling funding resources, we must ask for your support to maintain our schedule of publication. Not that all donations are tax deductible, since we are a non-profit organization. –Ron Offen

Amount of donation (Checks payable to Free Lunch)________

(Please cut on the dotted line and send to Free Lunch, Box 7l7, Glenview, IL 60025)


It’s a good cause, a good publication, and he’s a good man and a fine poet. He’s not asking for much…but he is asking for something to keep the stove going, the pots boiling.

I was going to take a friend to lunch today, probably spend around $20 bucks. Instead, in the spirit of what’s free and what’s not…I’m sending Ron the cost of a lunch I never ate—yet feel nourished just the same, knowing in due course (with a little help from a friend), more Free Lunch will be served for the literary needy.

Norbert Blei

alice d’alessio | three poems

28 01 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 208 | January 28, 2008


Three Poems by Alice D’Alessio

norb3neu.jpg When people question why I devote so much personal time and energy to projects such as Poetry Dispatch, the answer seems very clear to me: because too many fine writers never receive the attention they deserve. Alice D’Alessio, another case in point. She’s as good the best poets on the American scene today, yet she’s barely known in her own state of Wisconsin, where she can write circles around many of the highly touted poets-in-universities who know how the game is played, appear regularly in all the ‘important’ literary journals, receive all the grants, get paid to read their work at other universities, and inevitably find their way to major presses, small and large. Why Alice’s work has not appeared in the hallowed POETRY magazine after all these years…well, go ask the literary entrepreneurs who run that enterprise.

blessing.gifShe has published only two beautiful books to date (and I do mean beautiful in design and content)…both books limited editions, and both books out of print. The first, SOMEBODY LIVED HERE ONCE is long gone. The second, A BLESSING OF TREES, which my press published (500 copies) four years ago is also long gone, but occasionally a copy surfaces, one way or another I get my hands on it, and when I do, I ‘offer’ it (at a collector’s/negotiable price) to a list I keep of people looking for specific back copies of CR+Press works. I’ll be happy to add your name to the list, if you are interested.

Alice’s poems are highly crafted works of art shaped by a deep love for language, ‘the’ exact word to capture precisely the moment she wants us to share. If you have ever held the tiniest bird in your hand, felt…well, that’s what many of Alice’s poems are like. Norbert Blei



Somebody Lived Here Once and woke to bird songs by Alice D’Alessio

The first chirp comes at 4 a.m. in May
after a night of barred owl
coyote howl, and yes,
the whippoorwill.

We don’t know who he was
or what he did—his tiny cabin
just big enough for
rusty wood stove and a bed.

Outside, the pump and somewhere,
no doubt, tho’ long gone now
an outhouse, weathered—its rank fragrance
mellowing into earth.

Once in the woods
I stumbled on foundations
of long-gone buildings, up the hill,
under the gloom of oak
and basswood trees,
buried in honeysuckle, blackberry
wild geranium. Close by
the barn—gray, hand-hewn timbers
rough notched at ends, to fit
and stand for decades—now tumbled in
on bales of wire. old tires
and rusted wash tubs. It’s 30 years
that we have owned this place
and yes it keeps its secrets.
Who planted the apple trees?
Who plowed the field, where
corrugations underfoot, hidden
beneath the goldenrod,
attest his dreams?

And did he count the fireflies on a summer night?

from SOMEBODY LIVED HERE ONCE, The Valley Poems; privately printed, 20 copies, Madison WI, 1997



Saving the Forest by Alice D’Alessio

On my desk, a hawk’s skull
thin as parchment
rests in its pottery cradle beside
the ivory clenched talons;
acorns and fluted walnuts
sleep in an oak-leaf nest
their tasks undone.

Gleanings from the forest,
they whisper of soft rain, wild wind,
their fiber woven from millennia of adaptations-
spring’s wanton surge and autumn ripening.
I keep them close at hand.

If I store them
in stoppered urns
hand-painted with Druid symbols

If I take them out when the moon
silvers the birch,
rub my fingers on their sacred skin,
turn slowly around three times
chanting the dove’s slow plaint,

will the stealthy ones cease their invasion?
Will the earth cool, the rains come?

Will this be enough?

blessing.giffrom A BLESSING OF TREES, Cross+Roads Press, 2004



Something for the Journey by Alice D’Alessio

Suppose, for instance,
this is the last morning. You never know.
You wake to find a wet snow
has sneaked in after midnight
wrapping the branches
with an airy gauze, spangled with diamonds
so that every snarly twig and tendril
is an epiphany of white
etched against the purplish-blue
of an undecided sky.

And you want to be sure to seize it,
store it in scented linens,
in carved and gilded coffers
along with last May’s poppies,
August sunlight spilling its motes and spores
among the pines and sandstone cliffs,
and a copy of your only perfect poem.

Because we must take something with us,
like the pharaohs.

blessing.giffrom A BLESSING OF TREES, Cross+Roads Press, 2004


Editor’s Note: Check www.poetrydispatch.wordpress.com for an archived edition of this dispatch in the next few days. Please send others there as well to experience some of the best writing to be found anywhere on the net.

norbert blei | used books / old friends

25 01 2008


NOTES from the UNDERGROUND… No.130 | January 24, 2008

Used Books/Old Friends by Norbert Blei

As much as I love the sight, smell, feel, surprise, seduction of new books; as much as I welcome a brand new hot-off-the-press-book from a publisher with my own name on it; as much as I enjoy publishing new chapbooks for others…the anticipation of tearing open the first box, How will it look? grabbing the first copy, Is it what I envisioned? checking the cover, sifting through the pages, there’s something about old, used books that call you home. Remember me? Have you ever read me? Heard of me? Been meaning to read me for the past twenty years?

Once upon a time many of us, readers for sure, writers in particular, thrived on used bookstores, old books, because that was all we could afford. Used books were treasure hunts–more so than today where everything appears easier, affordable, more accessible. If you were reading seriously, if you were on that path, some books you searched for, yearned for, were hard to come by. Certain titles almost sacred–books we absolutely had to own or our lives as ‘writers-in-progress’ would be sorely diminished. We really couldn’t survive without owning a copy of…Kenneth Patchen’s, JOURNAL OF ALBION MOONLIGHT, whatever shape it was in.

Battered, beaten, torn covers and pages, pages yellowed with age, missing, coffee-stained, under-lined, marginal notes in pen or pencil, rejected/stamped by libraries from god knows where…50¢, 75¢, $1.00. Diagonally creased/turned corner-tops of a page to mark one’s place in a story that had become ours. And those of us (who were extremely lucky) had favorite used bookstores not because of the pricing or quality of stock, but because the place felt good, smelled good, welcomed us into the silence for minutes or hours, and possessed just the atmosphere we craved—to be alone with books. And, if one were really lucky, had a bookman who was always there, sort of recognized you, and who, if he was as good as the ones I was fortunate to know, (one bookman in particular that I have written about before, “Paul Romaine” in CHI TOWN), could introduce you to authors, literary movements, languages, places in the world a writer needed to know, art and artists, rare books, first editions, political philosophies, small presses, music…a man who so loved books, that when he slowly took one off the shelf, held it in his hands, carefully opened it to something he wanted to show you, you felt he was handling something ancient, rare, holy…a sacred text that held the answer to everything you needed to know.

Occasionally someone will tell me he was in a city, or another part of the country entirely, walked into a bookstore, found an old book of mine marked down to $5. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what the message was, but in time I came to love the fact a book of mine had attained the status of ‘used’ or ‘old’—or even ‘bargain.’ And had traveled to those places! I am more than pleased to know that a used copy of one of my short story collections in on the shelf in Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books in San Francisco. Not to mention other works in well known New York bookstores. I almost hope no one ever buys them, I’m so pleased to find a home, be marked down (sometimes ‘up’), denoted used in those locations.


Lawrence Ferlinghetti | Photo: Mark Weber

That’s a whole other life and time-frame for something you spent a good part of your own life trying to put down in words…the best words possible. The best story or poem or essay you could write to communicate what you thought was important then—and hopefully will continue to register in the minds and hearts of others, years down the road, regardless of the price of admission. You want and need your words to live. If not on the shelves, in the private libraries of families and friends and people you never met—then that vagabond book life…torn dust jackets, marked pages, books feeling and showing time… books on the road–left on planes, buses, trains, cars and trucks, the waiting rooms of dentists and doctors, books in restaurants and coffeehouses, books in bars. Books For Sale in libraries, and garage sales…just as long as the words are still there, and the meaning waiting to be delivered.

Some of you may have received a used book from me at various times in the past…some of you may still be waiting. No promises. It’s always a spur of the moment thing. I look at a book and something clicks. Yeah, this is for…so-and-so. I often buy used books at library and garage sales. Sometimes the book is one I love and in such perfect condition that I know, just know, somebody out there should have this book. Sometimes I spot a copy and immediately associate something about that book with—a writing student who once took a workshop with me; somebody in my immediate family; an established writer-friend that THIS book would be perfect for (and I know or suspect he or she has not read); a friend who loves the work of a particular author as much as I and to my knowledge has never seen this hard-to-find book; a beginning writer who needs to know this book; a woman I once shared time with and shared a writer’s work with; someone I just met who expressed an interest in the material, ideas found in the book I am presently holding in my hand—yes, this is the right book for him/her.

Books never die. They are always out there, waiting to be rediscovered.


Sometimes I just add another copy of a book (let’s say Camus’, THE STRANGER) to the two or three other copies on my shelf. I stockpile the great ones. Sooner or later THE STRANGER will find its way from my shelf to someone who will take him in. Make him a friend. Give him warmth, care, the loving attention he deserves. Make a home for him, for keeps.

norbert blei | seifert and others

24 01 2008
Poetry Dispatch No. 207 | January 23, 2008

SEIFERT & Others (Sue Peterson, Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, Ruth Wallis/Risque’ Songs…) REVISITED


While we are still in the first month of the New Year, I thought I would call your attention to the Czech poet, Jaroslav Seifert again (Poetry Dispatch #206, the first dispatch of 2008) via Klaus (Monsieur K’s) insights and excellent work at www.poetrydispatch.wordpress.com .

The archived (and greatly enhanced) version of this dispatch includes important biographical info about the Seifert, as well as photographs and a reader’s contact/commentary from Prague.

The first photograph that accompanies the Seifert dispatch more than caught my breath. (Monsieur K, way over there in France, seems to be reading my mind — or senses the conditions I work in.) It is a photo of a ‘busy’ desk by the brilliant old Czech photographer, Josef Sudek, (1896-1976). His photographs of Prague were often compared to Atget’s photographs of Paris.

I have treasured Sudek’s desk photo since the first time I saw it in the 1970’s. Since then, my desk (my condition here in the coop…a long way from Prague) has slowly taken on the depth and character of Sudek’s famous photograph—called “The Labyrinth“. Perhaps that old photo was an artistic piece of foreshadowing. Lost. Out of control. I wish it were otherwise, but there seems to be nothing I can do. I’m destined to live and write in the labyrinth.

More on Seifert and his work in a future dispatch. (More on Sudek too…but probably for print, not the net.)

It took a fair number of months, but Monsieur Klaus and I are now caught up. All the Poetry Dispatches (going back to 2005) have now been archived. What a treasure. Please consult the archives on a regular basis. Pass the site on to friends. By Monsieur K’s count, it is a very active sites, thousands of hits — from all over the world. There is so much good work there. And much more to come. Stay with it…me…us.

I would also like to call your attention to please take a second look at the following recent (greatly enhanced) Poetry Dispatches in particular: Susan Peterson (A Quiet Poet in the Village), Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel (A Belated Obit) and Ruth Wallis (Risque’ Songs). In each instance, you will be both informed and delighted by the added material.

So take a few minutes. Go to http://www.poetrydispatch.wordpress.com Look up Jaroslav Seifert first. Read/enjoy. Move on to Susan Peterson, Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel (some great photos of her) and Ruth Wallis — both photos and old album covers of all.

Thank you all.

And thank you Klaus — for making this happen, a bigger, better, wider and wider concept on the world wide web!

Norbert Blei


ruth wallis | 87 singer-writer of risqué songs

14 01 2008
NOTES from the UNDERGROUND… No. 129 | January 14, 2008

OBITS | Ruth Wallis, 87 Singer-Writer Of Risqué Songs by MARGALIT FOX

Ruth Wallis, a cabaret singer of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s who was known as the Queen of the Party Song for the genteelly risqué numbers she performed for happy, and very occasionally horrified, listeners worldwide, died on Dec. 22 at her home in South Killingly, Conn. She was 87.

The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, her son, Alan Pastman, said.

Ms. Wallis, who began her career performing jazz and cabaret standards, soon became known for the novelty songs — more than 150 of them — she wrote herself, all positively dripping with double entendre. Even today, only a fraction of her titles can be rendered in a family newspaper, among them “The Hawaiian Lei Song,” “Hopalong Chastity,” “Your Daddy Was a Soldier” and “A Man, a Mink, and a Million Pink and Purple Pills.” Her signature number, “The Dinghy Song,” is an ode to Davy, who had “the cutest little dinghy in the Navy.

In 2003, Ms. Wallis’s work was the basis of an off-Broadway re¬vue, “Boobs! The Musical: The World According to Ruth Wallis.” ‘ West 54th Street.
Though Ms. Wallis performed in some of the most glittering nightclubs in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and elsewhere, her career was largely overlooked at the time. Few mainstream newspapers, after all, dared print even faintly suggestive titles like “Johnny Has a Yo-Yo,” “De Gay Young Lad,” “Stay Out of My Pantry” and “Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew.” Nor could they reproduce Ms. Wallis’s lyrics, in which body parts, real or merely implied, tended to loom large.

In Boston, Ms. Wallis’s songs were banned from the radio. In Australia, her records were seized by customs agents when she arrived there for a tour. Both incidents only made her more popular, according to later news accounts.

Ruth Shirley Wohl was born in New York City on Jan. 5, 1920. She chose her stage-name in honor of Wallis Warfield Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, her son said. Ms. Wallis’s marriage to her manager, Hy Pastman, ended in divorce, though they were later reconciled, her son said; the elder Mr. Pastman died in 1987. Besides her son, of South Killingly, she is survived by a daughter, Ronnie Ramistella of Monterey, Calif.; and one grandchild.

SOURCE: The New York Times, 1.3.08