jeff winke | frank the zombie

13 09 2012

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND  No. 217 (& Poetry Dispatch) | September 13, 2012

JEFF WINKE: “Frank the Zombie”

Norbert Blei

Haiku and haibun master, Jeff Winke has gone to the dark side a bit and penned his first children’s book: FRANK THE ZOMBIE, A Tale of Woe That End with a Smile (Mirror Publishing-Milwaukee, WI… just in time for the Halloween season, (though zombies are always in season) beautifully illustrated by Carlos Lemos as far as zombies, beautiful in their own way, walk their zombie walk with an insatiable appetite for human nature.

In an uncharacteristically un-haiku-like style, but stylist that he is, Winke has nailed his zombie kid story with a masterful use of single syllable words (but for “zombie”) that tell the tale of Frank’s zombieness and his mission in life beyond the grave:

“I woke one day deep in the ground and dug my way to the top, and woe is me…this is who I am now. Will you be my friend?”

Given the relentless craze these days for the ‘literature’ of vampirism (thanks to the New York book industry that knows just how to manufacture and manipulate what passes for American literary culture)…leave it to our own Wisconsin boy, Jeff Winke, to turn it up a notch, beat them to the punch and introduce zombies for kids–with the sleight of hand, sympathy and a smile.

Not, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, etc. No. This is an updated, user-friendly kid’s tale and picture book version of those challenging classic childhood fears: the bogeyman…a noise in the closet…someone under the bed…alone in the dark…

You’re gonna/they’re gonna love Frank and want him for a friend.

As the back cover states:
Parental Warning: Frank the Zombie is a fictional character. Real zombies are dangerous and should not be approached.

About $9.99 will get you the book. Contact the publisher or Jeff personally: or

jeffrey winke | i’ll tell you so

28 06 2010

Poetry Dispatch No.324 | June 28, 2010


Editor’s Note: As the book review pages of major and minor newspapers and periodicals dwindle in today’s high-tech/non-reading culture, it’s difficult enough to land a review of any significant book, let alone an insightful reviewer who understands the art of the review-essay. With that in mind, it’s damn near impossible to find a small, independent press receive a line of ink anywhere but old fashioned little magazines (the conscience of American literature) and some superb online literary sites such as Jeffery Woodward’s excellent site, devoted to the haibun.

In the early days of Cross+Roads Press (well over ten years ago) I was fortunate to occasionally receive a review of the books I was publishing in the local newspaper, The Door County Advocate. But that was under the independent ownership of the publisher/editor, Chan Harris, who happened to be a literary guy and was very supportive of the arts in this community. That all disappeared once the Gannett Corp. began its take-over of every local newspaper it could gobble up. These days, I’m forever thankful (as many of us small press writers and publishers are) for all the effort and work that Wisconsin writer, Charles Ries, does to distribute his reviews of countless important small press books to many fine print and online publications throughout the country.

I’m thankful as well to Jeffrey Woodward and the reviewer, Tish Davis, for the thoughtful and incisive review of Cross+Roads Press author, Jeff Winke’s new book of haibun that recently appeared in Haibun Today. –Norbert Blei

Review of Jeffrey Winke’s I’ll Tell You So
by Tish Davis
Dublin, Ohio, USA

I’ll Tell You So by Jeffrey Winke. Ellison Bay, WI: Cross+Roads Press, 2010. 5” x 8,” perfect bound, 102 pp. ISBN: 978-1-889460-23-9. $12.00 USD.

The eighty-five works in Jeffrey Winke’s first collection of haibun are fresh and innovative, portraying scenes and characters, whether real or imagined, from middle-class America. Winke capitalizes on the ordinary, offering first and third person narratives—snippets of characters and their conflicts—presented in ways that evoke compassion, a smile and sometimes a full belly laugh.

The haibun in the book are not arranged in thematic sections but, based upon their titles, in alphabetical order. Before reading the book from cover to cover, I found myself making initial selections by skimming through the titles such as “Electric Green Chokers,” “Hunchback With the Toy Poodle,” and “Reflective Tape Stripes Around Each Leg.” I quickly observed that Winke pulls his titles directly from the prose—something typically frowned upon in haibun. However, this did not deter my enjoyment of these works whose characters include a young couple awaiting passage at a security crossing, a group of friends enjoying a Wednesday night dinner, and Ernest, the parking lot attendant.

These selections are typical of a style that allows the reader to enter the piece from whatever vantage point he chooses. Sometimes the reader might recognize a friend or an acquaintance; sometimes the reader might see himself. Often these outcomes reveal weaknesses in the human condition and Winke uses that to make the reader both reflect on the situation and to laugh. Consider “Reflective Tape Stripes Around Each Leg” (70), for example. Even though the description focuses on Ernest, there’s also an implicit connection with the silver-haired executive and his date:

With the 18-inch red glowing parking wand visible, the stout presence of Ernest stands solid in the dark boulevard wearing his fluorescent-yellow breathable safety pants with two horizontal reflective tape stripes around each leg that makes him feel god-like powerful while directing the steady flow of luxury automobiles streaming their headlights into the gated parking lot where he occasionally—just for fun—halts a shiny black Jaguar XK to a full stop to leer at the strapless twenty-something trophy sitting in the passenger seat while growling, “ you gotta slow down, bud-DEE” to the silver-hair captain of industry who glares at Ernest with utmost contempt.

closing time bartender
collects empties
filled with stories

The leap from prose to haiku is very effective. Winke’s intentional ambiguity allows the reader to become both observer and participant. As the light dims, the reader can reflect on what version of the story the characters in the haibun might have told or the setting can revert to a bar perhaps familiar to the reader, and to stories known only to him.

Winke’s haibun average 150 words and all are written as a basic unit of one paragraph followed by one haiku. The settings vary but are typically mundane, ordinary places such as the office, kitchen, or laundry mat. Several haibun take place in bars, diners, night clubs or restaurants. However, this is by no means an indication of cookie-cutter haibun where writers, upon finding a successful formula, merely replicate a previous success. Winke’s variations are proof of a writer who knows what he wants to achieve.

In “Tilted at a Severe Angle” (86), one of my favorites, Winke’s use of tight, but figurative prose places the reader in a jazz club just as a sultry blonde arrives:

She sits at the bar next to Lamont. His black fedora tilted at a severe angle. She isn’t here for Lamont. Her snug blouse is open enough to the neck to show part of a spider web tattoo that flourishes behind soft cotton. She lights up a long-filtered cigarette, draws deeply, and swivels her dark-eye gaze to the sax player. With lips slightly parted, she exhales completely. The saxman nods recognition before bending his alto into one last passion sizzler that eventually melts back into a sweaty finale.

just barely
her breasts
in my space

The shift from the suggestive exchange between the blonde and saxman to the narrator is deftly handled with its implication of pheromonal influence. Although the title again is drawn from the prose (and yes one could argue that it could be deleted without loss), one can also assume that the narrator has readjusted his position on the bar stool in order to get a better view, thus allowing this phrase to serve a dual purpose.

In “I believe I am” (46), Winke again pulls his title from the prose, but here, it did not balance the piece nor did it strengthen a work that I found to be too introspective. The haibun begins:

I figured it out. I think. My life is a mystery novel. There are plots, sub-plots, and intriguing side characters who, at first, appear to be more prominent than they are. Things unfold for little reason at all, so it seems.

As the haibun progresses, the narrator, who doubles as protagonist in the imaginary novel, confesses that when he can no longer control the variables in life, he “holds his breath and waits for the narrator to jump in and add a sense of calm to the situation.”

The most promising part of this composition is the concluding haiku, but it failed to compensate for the deficiencies in the prose:

bigger, stronger–
that’s what the spam says
so it’s true

Winke’s voice is one we’ve come to recognize as light and witty. Even the best stand-up comic falls flat occasionally, so the reader should not be unduly disappointed by the few works in I’ll Tell You So that did not hit their mark.

The strengths in this collection are the third person narratives. “A Jar of Paint,” “Bait Floats to the Bottom,” “Below the Shallow Arc,” “Every Night and First Words,” “In a Slurred-Word State,” and “Slides Into the Keyway” are a few that come to mind. Here, the images linger and, when reread, can be enjoyed again as if one is meeting the characters for the first time.

Winke is at his best when the pathos is subdued and is combined with his lightness and wit. Consider “Thinks While Growing Impatient” (85), a work that on a first read might easily be dismissed as “alien humor.”

The crinkle sound is barely audible, but the dog hears it and perks her ears. The tall alien is preoccupied. With one of several lipless mouths it’s busy chewing on a one-pound bag of Twizzlers® artificially-flavored cherry bites—red licorice. Its content-analyzing mastication glands find little nutritional value. “Another oddity,” it muses . . . when it hears the low rumbling growl of the dog slowly padding down the carpeted hallway under a gallery of family photos—everyone looks happy, even Uncle Gary who had bit the end of a Glock last year. “Any time Anja,” the tall alien thinks while growing impatient at the designated pick-up point on the designated day at the exact designated time.

brisk rain—
she protects a letter
to an old friend

I enjoyed the image of the alien eating candy that’s artificially flavored, perhaps a little envious of the family whose portraits hang in the hallway. Of course, he probably has no way of knowing that their smiles are artificial too. Winke asks the reader, “What is real?” He provides the answer in the haiku that closes this evocative haibun.

I’ll Tell You So is a collection that can be read and reread, enjoyed “as is” or studied for its contemporary techniques. The cover is avant-garde, but the book’s roots are traditional, revealing American characters and themes uniquely presented by a fine writer.

[from: A Quarterly Journal, Jeffrey Woodward, Editor. Volume 4, Number 2, June 2010]

Jeffrey Winke by Jeffrey Winke

jeff winke | in the soup

17 03 2009

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No.174 | March 17, 2009

The Literature of the Ordinary Day

[Lessons from The Writing Life…Continued]

Writers fall into this zone quite easily. Those who have trained themselves with journals, daily diaries, notes (these days, ‘blogs’) know the territory.

For more than twenty-five years I religiously began my writing day, my ‘practice’, with a handwritten, typewritten, or watercolor-inspired/written letter to friends. This often set the mood, set the pace. The only danger, sometimes the feelings rushed forth with such fire (ala’ Henry Miller’s 100 mph epistles) that hours later you came up for air only to discover you lost your most productive time, a whole morning putting down thousands of words to friends and strangers.

E-mail has replaced much of this ritual. Though e-mail seldom calls forth the same fervor—for me. We’ve sacrificed so much with the loss of the hand-written, typewritten, (water-colored inspired) letter…sealed in an envelope, stamped, carried to the local post office, dispatched with love all over the country, the world.

I won’t even go into how the spark, the smoke, the small-fires some of us set off in correspondence grew in heat and light to become something larger, later. That same day, night. Weeks, months, even years later. How a poem a story, a novel, a book, a painting actually took its first breath in something we set down in a letter-like exchange. If only we could call all those words and images back! What a wealth of material we would have on hand. Most of it, no doubt trivial, embarrassing. Yet some of it—gold never mined.

All this came to me when I received a short e-mail from Milwaukee poet and friend, Jeff Winke the other day. I think I was still in the state of savoring the Ray Foreman piece I had posted on Poetry Dispatch (#273, MARCH 11, 2009) just a day before that. All the good mail that was coming in from readers everywhere who fell in love with Foreman and his love of stories, old city diners–especially Chicago ones. Which stirred my own memories as well. The fact I have nothing quite like the life and people and excitement of an old Chicago diner here in the rural, where I have lived in a state of self-exile for more years than even I can imagine.

Then this perfect little email note/story/poem from Jeff, landed on my screen, and set everything in motion again.

I want a cup of soup. I want to meet Jeff in “SOUPS’S ON” in Milwaukee. I want to read the paper, take notes, listen, watch, bullshit the day away, surrounded by kitchen clatter, the aroma of food, the look and jabber of total strangers…

I want to talk to that lady with a parrot on her shoulder. —Norbert Blei


In the Soup

by Jeff Winke

One of the three part-time jobs that Carol, my hard-working wife, has in her effort to patchwork-quilt together some scratch for us is this wonderful place called Soup’s On Located south of the Ale House on Water Street in Milwaukee, they serve great breakfast items and sandwiches too. Mary — the old hippie owner—has figured out how to make incredible soups.

So, anyway… Carol calls me yesterday and says all the soups that Mary made today are incredible, so get over here before they sell out. They apparently see around150 customers over the lunch hour that buy between 1 and 4 bowls of soup each. The 4-bowlers are bringing lunch back to their offices.

So, I hot-foot it over there and sample all the soups and go for Perky Squash, which barely won out over the Mushroom Wild Rice. I grab my bowl, that Mary had added a heap of cilantro, Parmesan and cabbage, and wander over to the table with the window view of the fog-draped, rain dappled, slow-moving Milwaukee River taking its sorry-ass time through the warehouse district on its way to Lake Michigan. Since Mary’s husband is an artist, the walls are filled with consignment art from local artists and photographers – many of them graduates of the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, which is located a few blocks away.

The place attracts a very interesting bunch of customers, which includes the truly eccentric. Last week, Carol had rung up a woman’s order and while handing back the change noticed a colorful small parrot on the woman’s shoulder — so she asked, “where did the bird come from?” She was in my purse, the response came. The week before I was at Soup’s On, and Carol introduced me to a regular — a gnarly, toothless guy that has some exquisite photos displayed of a nude young pregnant woman who is “painted” with patterns of light and shadow.

All I want to do is to hang out there with the parrot woman…the toothless photographer…and the writer from Georgia who selected Milwaukee as the place where he can hide out to finish writing his book. I can wear my black fedora (especially since I christened it with my finger wet with bourbon at smoky Caroline’s Jazz Club last weekend). I’ll never smile and occasionally cackle out loud and say something profound like “Can’t drive a double-wide through an Amish outhouse.” Mary will occasionally slip me a wedge of crusty bread and I’ll have the best view of the islands of ice and random trash floating down the river.


jeffrey winke | the maverick

5 09 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No.148 | September 5, 2008


Hi Norb —

I’ve decided that I want people to refer to me as a maverick. As an opinion leader in the writing / publishing world, I’m hoping that you’ll take a leadership role in my image remake. Despite the fact that I’m living a traditional boring 8-to-5 life, I want to add zest to my reputation. I also like that being called a maverick can explain away any faults, errors in judgment and screw-ups. If there is the opportunity to talk about me to anyone — say for example the clerk where you pick up your dry cleaning, you might say: “Did I ever tell you about this guy I know, Jeff Winke? (soft chuckle) Well, he’s such a maverick!” You have to include the soft chuckle because that really seals the deal. It has to be the right kind of soft chuckle though. It has to be more of a boys-will-be-boys type of chuckle — not a sneering chuckle or a lecherous chuckle or a what-an-idiot chuckle.

Do you think you can do that for me? I appreciate your help.

Jeff “The Maverick” Winke

Following a note from the webmaster:

Winke lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in a downtown industrial loft with his wife, two-thirds of his children and a posse of four cats where he plies his skills as a PR counselor, magazine editor and adjunct university professor at the Milwaukee Center of Upper Iowa University.

Jeffrey Winke co-edited the first small press North American haiku anthology, the Third Coast Haiku Anthology, published in 1977. His most recent book, What’s Not There: Selected Haiku of Jeffrey Winke is a 2002 Merit Book Award winner. His motion graphis haiku collection called Chances can be viewed here…and has been designated a “Cool Website.”

Recent books include PR Idea Book: 50 Proven Tools That Really Work (Denver: Outskirts Press, 2006) and the haiku collection What’s Not There (Chicago: Deep North Press, 2002) and Coquette Sensual haiku (Milwaukee:Distant Thunder Press, 2008) which is available now.

Sensual haiku by Jeffrey Winke

Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Winke. Design by Steve Monsen. Distant Thunder Press, 234 N. Broadway, Unit 513 Milwaukee, WI 53202 USA. Cover photo “passion” by Lev Dolgachov.

attractive woman
her shadow falls
into my arms

5 EURO incl. shipment cost world-wide by clicking here…

That Smirking Face

by Jeffrey Winke

a collection of haiku and haibun by Jeffrey Winke featuring drawings by Matt M. Cipov Distant Thunder Press, 234 N. Broadway, Unit 513 Milwaukee, WI 53202 USA.

A collaborative broadside featuring Jeff’s dark urban haiku and haibun with original art by Matt M. Cipov. “I found his business card on the floor of a coffee shop and was compelled to look up his website,” Winke says. “His direct, edgy style reflects exactly the tone of the haiku and haibun I’m currently writing.”

5 EURO incl. shipment cost world-wide by clicking here…

jeffrey winke | one moment

19 10 2007


Poetry Dispatch No. 67 | May 1, 2006

The Small Poem Revisited – Again | ONE MOMENT, HAIKU | by Jeffrey Winke

Haiku, like anything originally conceived to be some one thing…in time becomes something else. Something more. Something less. Something different. Yet what ‘is’ remains.

Haiku traditionalists insist upon the 17 syllable pattern of 5 (1st line),7 (2nd line), 5 (3rd line). Subject matter: nature, the seasons. Anything other than this, you’re committing haiku hari-kari

R.H. Blyth, one of the first translators to first open the haiku gate to English defined the small art in this manner: “A haiku is the expression of a temporary enlightenment, in which we see into the life of things.”

While Harold G. Henderson, translator and author of one of the finest anthologies ever published on the subject (AN INTRODUCTION TO HAIKU) claims that “In the hands of a master a haiku can be he concentrated essence of pure poetry.”

Gary Snyder will tell you: “The haiku of Basho and his immediate disciples have the quality of the poem pushed as far as one can push it. ‘The words stop but the meaning goes on.’ ”

Kerouac puts the Eastern in a Western perspective (which he was always doing) in this way: “I propose that the Western haiku simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western Language. Above all, a haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture and yet be as airy and graceful as a Vivaldi Pastorella.

When West (the U.S. of A.) met East on the haiku trail, things were bound to head in other directions. Given western industrialism, technology, urbanization, ‘doing it my way’…given the word according to Whitman, the lingo of Sandburg on the streets (verse gone vernacular), all hell was about to (and did) break loose in the structure of line and short breath syllables, what a poem was all about.

Haiku-like poems about nature? How about skyscrapers? Factories? Stores? Taverns? Trains? Shoes? Desire? What have you?

Which brings me to the featured poet for this particular dispatch on the small poem, Jeffrey Winke, who writes some of the best Western/Eastern haiku to be found anywhere on the map. See. Take a short breath. How it lives inside you for a long time. Norbert Blei


One Moment by Jeffrey Winke

slowly undressing
the sound of dry leaves
rustling in the wind

rural tavern
leaning against the juke box
someone’s chain saw

her cherry nails
against the gray print
scanning the obits

my spiral notebook—
the day’s pattern

stripped bare
she closes the blinds
to the leafless tree

biker bar
the toilet tank
bolted to the wall

waking to
the daily sameness—
shoes neatly paired

her bra unhooked
hanging carelessly
on the doorknob

with my father’s voice
I call into the summer
for my own children

from WHAT’S NOT THERE, selected haiku of Jeffrey Winke, Deep North Press, 2001