dorothy terry | when patsy persons left for hollywood

26 01 2011

PoetryDispatch No. 340 | January 26, 2011

Dorothy Terry:

Cross+Roads Press #34

I began Cross+Roads Press in 1995 with the intention of publishing four chap books a year, mostly new, beginning writers I felt I could help by getting his or her first book in print the way other writer-publishers had extended a hand to me: Rick Meade (Story Press) , Curt Johnson (december press), David Pichaske (Ellis Press). This has been a time-honored calling for as far back as I can remember—“the way” of the small press publisher. May it continue.

I would be hard-pressed to describe the payback for the writer-publisher, given the amount of time and money invested in such an endeavor. But there is a special satisfaction in seeing the whole process come to completion, knowing you’ve done good for another writer, you’ve done the right thing.

Inevitably through the years, things change. Some of your original intentions fall by the wayside for whatever reasons (often the same two factors: time and money) or sometimes, in my case, the health factor enters and you either give up or try to adjust to the reality of “I can only do what I can do.” Which is where I find myself these days. Dorothy Terry’s, WHEN PATSY PERSONS LEFT FOR HOLLYWOOD was a long time (too long) in the making. And the only book I was able to publish last year. But I’m both proud and glad it’s finally out there. And I plan to continue…”doing only what I can do.”

As I tried to explain in the announcement of this book’s publication weeks ago, Dorothy Terry attended several of my advanced writing classes at The Clearing in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. It was evident from the beginning that she was an accomplished poet, and I could do little but encourage her to first publish her poems then gather them into books. Most accomplished poets achieve some success in time. Some do not.

Dorothy, flirting with her 80’th decade, has been writing extraordinary poetry much of her life. Her work exhibits a commanding artistry of thought and language equal to some of our best poets. She remains ‘outside’ most literary journals and small presses. Some writers eventually give up, write solely for themselves. These are some of the writers who speak a particularly soft part of my heart. Especially those ‘of a certain age.’

Part of my mission as a small press publisher has been to rescue talent like hers from obscurity. Given my time and limited financial resources, there’s little I can do but depend on a small band of good readers and writers to see that poets like Dorothy achieve some recognition. A beautiful but limited edition of only 250 copies of this, her first major book, is all I can do. (Less than 75 copies remain at this date.) And what a good book it is. What a time she has captured (1930’s to the present) with such perfect poetic pitch…perceptions and feelings that reverberate long after her words leave the page and harbor within.

Your support of the press and the poetry of Dorothy Terry would be greatly appreciated. She deserves a readership beyond the desk drawer.

I would also add that my multi-talented layout editor Jan Mielke, neighbor (just down the road) and long-time friend, has been with me from the very beginning of Cross+Road Press. Her dedication, pursuit for the perfect (font, paper, arrangement of words upon the page, graphic insights, estimate cost preparations, contacts with our printer in Canada, etc.) helped me enormously, made each book project as close to a work-of-art as possible–as Dorothy Terry’s book, with the beautiful pastel cover painting by Emmett Johns, testifies.

I regret to say Jan retires with this book to pursue her own endeavors. Her loss to me, the press, the readers and writers who came to expect her excellence as a given is impossible to describe. – Norbert Blei


Her kid in the next bed.
His proposal stark
Against the black screen.

He lives in Eagle River, she said
As the Greyhound sped
Due north, past Racine
Port Washington
And Manitowoc
To Green Bay,
I left her to go on alone,
Except for the blond guy
With the scarred face,
Sitting in back,
Who was into guns,
And saving souls.


So what is the use of wondering
What happened to the girl

Who sat next to me in English class and snapped
Her crooked cracked knuckles to an interior tune —

“Claire de Loony”, we called her then,
Made up with Max Factoring mess of rouged splendor

On her sometimes sullen face,
Post post-pubescent breasts jiggled

And twenty-five silver bracelets jangled,
As she practiced cheer-lead squats and splits

Sporting a purple poodle skirt —
Changed her name to Leticia,

Like delicious, she laughed,
Kicking up, showing lacy panties with

Tiny-teeny bows, white as shell wings, yet
Next day her brand new ballet shoes were tied

With ragged bondage cords, her wrists were taped
With dirty, bloody gauze.

“Ohhhhh Easy;’ they said, “she’s so easy”
“Has sly eye for boys in band” they said,

“And anyway she’s getting too fat”.
But when she left us, the only dry eye

Was hers, as she bravely
Strode away in boots not made for stalking

On switched-striped legs,
And that festering, bloody canker sore

She sometimes wore.


Snow falls on frost-seared grass,
Ore boats slice ice; silty water flows downstream.

Belching stacks rob air of air,
And steaming river bears waste to Cincinnati.

Your name limned on a crumbling headstone
Traced lightly on yellowing Kodak film.

You — a gathering of genes,
Their imperfections cleansed by careful selection.

A hundred years of cropping out the extraneous,
Until your image disappears along with all the rest.

Mouth sewn shut; eyes shuttered, sealed with glue,
Veined hands loosely folded on sunken chest.

Tell me, now, you never felt a thing.

[from: WHEN PATSY PERSONS LEFT FOR HOLLYWOOD, $10, plus $2.50 postage. Check to: Cross+Roads Press, P.O. Box 33, Ellison Bay, WI. 54210. ]

P.S. Those of you who ordered this book online, on credit, who have yet to send payment… I would appreciate hearing from you.

Dorothy Terry is a Chicago area poet. She currently lives in Wilmette, Illinois with her cat Hermione.

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

alice d’alessio | questions for henry

22 12 2008


Poetry Dispatch No. 261 | December 19, 2008

Editor’s Note: The real payoff in teaching—and in publishing the work of others, should you be also engaged—is the satisfaction of seeing a student, a friend, (eventually a fellow-writer’s work) come back to you in other publications, literary mags, books…accomplishments, accolades galore. (“I remember her/him when…”), Not that you can in anyway lay claim to another’s success or talent, but only that “you were there” in some way to witness the beginning, the development, and perhaps in some small way gave a little nudge.

Sometimes the attention happens suddenly. More often, years pass. Either way, the journey is a lifetime—which both (I hesitate to use the word ‘teacher’ as well as ‘student’) realize though may not express because anyone seriously treading the writer’s path knows it is filled with potholes, wrong turns, dead ends, economic insecurity, considerable failure. No guarantees.

Real writers know the commitment is to the word alone—for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health… And one (teacher/friend) never forgets the other (student/friend/teacher). The writer/teacher wants to see the friend/former student succeed on his or her own terms. Find her voice. Let it be heard.

blessingAll this by way of mentioning a friend, former ‘student’, a poet whose book, A BLESSING OF TREES, Cross+Roads Press, published in 2004.

All this by way of mentioning my joy in discovering a beautiful new poem of Alice’s in the current issue of the little magazine, FREE LUNCH, edited and published by poet Ron Offen.

FREE LUNCH has published some of the best poets in America and abroad. Editor/publisher, Ron Offen, sets the acceptance bar quite high. I wouldn’t say he’s a strict traditionalist, but he honors form, music, substance. You had better know what the hell you’re doing, and not waste his time just stringing together lines of plain prose and making it ‘look’ like poetry. (Their ain’t no ‘free lunch’ for you, friend, at Ron Offen’s poetry restaurant)

This is a great little mag to support, by the way. Single issues, such as this one that Alice is in (FREE LUNCH #40) cost $5 . Paid subscriptions (three issues) are $12. It’s a good way to stay in touch with some of the best work that’s out there. If money in these poor economic times is a problem–you might suggest your local library subscribe to it—for the sake of writers, all lovers of poetry in the community.

freelunchFREE LUNCH
P.O. Box 717
Glenview, IL 60025-0717


Alice’s new poem—only the first stanza, and the first three lines of the last stanza. I’m holding back on the last 8 lines in the hope you’ll send a small Christmas gift to a good little poetry magazine that remains dedicated to celebrating the human spirit all year long, for many years now. No small thing. $5 will get you this issue, #40. $12, three issues.

Thank you all…Alice especially for “questioning Henry”…for following the true path. —Norbert Blei



My greatest skill has been to want little. –Henry David Thoreau

Alice D’Alessio

How little, Henry?
Didn’t you hanker for a haunch
of venison, and a pint
with the local lads? A fierce game
of bowls on the lawn,
pummeling the backs of the winning team?
A ride on that newfangled train,
racing at 30 miles per hour,
with the wind
licking your cheeks, ruffling your whiskers?

Or, how about
a warm and breathing body
next to yours?

…(continued in FREE LUNCH