karla huston | page 5 | spring 2012 number 14

31 05 2012

POETRY DISPATCH #375 | May 31, 2012

Karla Huston

Editor’s Note: It’s good to see two favorite Wisconsin writers, poet Karla Huston. and poet/writer/publisher, R.Chris Halla, come together in this latest PAGE 5, Spring 2012, Number 14.

Halla has been publishing his unique Page 5 on-and-off / occasionally / whenever-the-spirit-moves, finances allow, for going on twenty years now. I think Gary Busha’s, THE OL’ MAN (another little beauty) was the last in 2009.

Fold a 17×12 inch sheet of quality paper in half, fold it again, and there you have it: 5 pages, front cover, back cover (Halla’s own drawings usually/perfectly gracing the cover and inside), two pages of poems on the first opening, and as many poems as you can get on the full opening.

Karla packs all that space with a sure sense of poetry-self and a command of ordinary/extraordinary language that makes even hurtful love worth living for, knowing as only poets do, what’s good for you.

Did I say two favorite writers? Make that three. One of Wisconsin’s finest poets, Mariann Ritzer, provocatively pens her praise (beyond ‘blurb’) for Karla’s work on the whole back page.

What a joy these poems, what a perfect package everything and everybody coming together in five pages. What a deal: $3.00. –Norbert Blei

R. Chris Halla, E&P
W6175 Aerotech Dr.
Appleton, WI 54914


The first time I drank it,
I thought it was cough syrup,
it was so sticky sweet and biting.
After prom, my boyfriend offered
a sip while we sat in his car,
a ’49 Ford with a huge bench seat
perfect for making out.
He tried to get fresh–me heated
and woozy–but even then
I was not going down
that road, his blackberry tongue
in my mouth, hands slipping
into something lacy.
Later and down from my brandy high
I combed Grecian curls from my hair,
each fat coil unfurled–until it was finished.
Clearly I was finished with my boyfriend
because by then he’d taken off,
and I was there with girlfriends
who were in far worse shape.
I never drank blackberry again,
though, I confess to sloe gin,
the crimson drizzle tasting worse
than brandy going down
and coming up, l learned to like
little shorties at a quarter a pop,
to dance in the flash of blacklights,
There was a war going on
in my head and in a place I’d never been,
but in two years, the boys in my class,
many, would be gone. And my guy—
off serving his stint and that car
with its itchy seats–gone,
and my taste for brandy replaced
by beer and a new boyfriend to please,
a new set of rules to swallow.


He’s got it right, the friend who wrote
about a woman wearing a man’s shirt,
the way she can pull his scent to her
and feel his arms around her again.
I think a man likes to see a woman
dressed in his shirt: the sleeves
dangling and the buttons and holes
that go together backwards, the stupid
grin on his face when she tells him
she’s going to pee, and he asks to watch.
She wraps the shirt more tightly
tries to fit her body into every
stitch and seam. She likes the way
the shirt holds her, so soft and so manlike:
that, and the sigh of his breath
in every thread, Yes, that most of all.

A Note On What To Wish On

by Mariann Ritzer

I want to fail in love with poetry the same way I’ve always fallen in love with men–quickly. Karla Huston’s seven unencumbered poems in this collection let me do just that. And then these poems take me on a journey off the interstate and onto the backroads, the country roads where I can hear the wonderful sounds of assonance and consonance in lines and phrases that take me up and down hills, around curves — quickly, slowly. And, as with falling in love, I want some surprises — the kind that make me go back and realize it was the craft, it was each poem’s attention to detail, each poem’s emotional veracity that sustained me.

It’s important to read these poems in sequence first. You don’t want to miss the narrative these seven gems tell collectively about love and sex (and the abyss between). You don’t want to miss how these things can masquerade for each other when you are in the throes of blackberry brandy or wearing a man’s shirt and nothing else or falling painfully out of love while listening to Rod McKuen’s “divine sorrow of words.”

When you’ve read them all, go back and find the moon’s chalky face, dandelions taking flight, the deep dreams of love. Take the slow country road. You’ll fall in love all over again like I did. You’ll know What To Wish On.


karla huston | 3 poems

4 09 2009

PoetryDispatch No. 292 | September 4, 2009

3 Poems

Karla Huston brings today’s ‘feminine mystique’ front and center/in your face with great style, gusto, talent-galore plus ‘attitude’—the kind that makes men smile, damn near worship, wish the world were filled with more women alive in just this way, words rolling off their tongue…sharp, sassy, sexy…with just enough grace and gravitas to help you make it through another night, romance, rancor, or reflection.. Say it again, please, one more time…it sounds so right. –Norbert Blei



The girl from Ipanema has nothing
on this one walking a suburban street,
short shorts and tan legs which my husband
says go all the way up to her (perfect!) ass.
What catches his eye more than the Y
of cleavage peeking out of her white top?
Is it her hair, long and thick?
It moves like a surge, a breaker picking
up momentum, the curl of it washing
the immaculate shore of her shoulders.
And I know he’s thinking how her hair
would feel, its blonde chill, all silk and sweet
sheets, satiny cool against his thighs until
everything is the only thing,
the deep waves of it rolling in and out,
the dry taste of salt.

Fifties Women at Windows

They wait at windows
in aprons and house dresses,
cross-your-hearts, buckled
and pointed. They wait
at kitchen windows, soapy hands
plunged into Joy, a little
orange grease catching the edges
of their wrists. They wait for husbands
to get home, for children walking
down streets, for the delivery
with its boxes and butcher paper
wrapping what they can’t afford
this week. They wait at picture
windows while plows clear snow
into impossible rows. They wait
for neighbors and coffee,
the Jewel Tea man with his bag
of brushes and cleaners,
for the Avon lady to ding dong,
bring vials of To a Wild Rose,
tiny tubes of pastel pinks. They wait
for the knock of The Millionaire
offering a check to solve
what ails them. For once,
they want to be Queen for a Day—
or at least the idea of it. Not
the pitiful sobbing women
in the small window of the TV.
They wait for the window
of the world they knew to open
and take them back.

Love That Red

The mouths of their tubes open,
luscious tongues reaching.
I’m drawn to them – the thick
color embedded and shaped,
the sheen glistening,
the slanted tips fat with promise.
My mother wore Love That Red
and when she put it on, I knew
she was going further
than the clothesline
or the edge of our corner lot,
knew the way her lips pursed
that love it or not, red was her color,
the way it lit her brown eyes
and she was taking all of it with her.

[from AN INVENTORY OF LOST THINGS, Centennial Press, PO Box 170322, Milwaukee, WI, www.centennialpress.com]

charles p. ries | reviews on michael kriesel, william taylor jr. & karla huston

8 07 2009

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 189 | July 8, 2009

(small press reviews #3)


Michael Kriesel, William Taylor Jr. & Karla Huston

The Light of Fields by: Michael Kriesel, 31 Poems / 68 Pages, Price: $5 (includes shipping), Propaganda Press / “Pocket Protector Series”, P.O. Box 398058, Cambridge, MA 02149. Review by Charles P. Ries

“The Light of Fields” by Michael Kriesel was originally published in 1982 by Jump River Press, Inc. out of Prentice, Wisconsin when Kriesel was just twenty years old. It was one of Kriesel’s first books of poetry and gave me the opportunity to visit this writer early in his career. One can certainly see the same careful, spare, almost Haiku quality to many of Kriesel’s poems, and one also finds his wonderful ability to extract unique and unfolding metaphors from the heart of rural Wisconsin. I don’t think any poet writing today can draw image from the rural farming environment like Kriesel. But what I also found was a young man focused on romance, reflecting on marriage. I often think that first poems are the most personal. They are the fertile ground from which art grows. If one reads Kriesel more recent books of poetry, we see him dancing between forms, extending forms, getting us lost in his numinous meanings, but in “The Light of Fields” we find Kriesel looking around and discovering his world for the first time.

Here is his wonderful title poem, “The Light of Fields”:

“Wholly knowing the grasses sure / growing // the earth holding green breathing / beings toward morning / against the far dark between stars // and supporting each separate stem / bent away from the sun // Knowing these by the earth in you / deep with the nights of our sleep / and the light of these fields in you / easy I rest in your grain //Wholly knowing these grasses grow / over all death // and the delicate skeletons covered by / green raising past them // I love you / and lie down in your fields // unafraid of grass rising to cover me.”

Let me also say this is a tiny book of poetry – just two inches by two and three quarters inches square. Leah Angstman who is the publisher of Propaganda Press calls it her “Pocket Protector Series”. This is the seventh in her Pocket Protector Series. And while this book is tiny, it is packed with poetry. This was a wonderful opportunity to visit a writer as a young man and discover that his early work foretold the bright future Kriesel continues to have.

WORDS FOR SONGS NEVER WRITTEN: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS by: William Taylor Jr., 126 Poems/196 Pages/$13.95, Centennial Press, Charles Nevsimal, Publisher, P.O. Box 170322, Milwaukee, WI 53217-8026. Review by Charles P. Ries

“Words for Songs Never Written” is big, deep, and beautiful. In the small press, where doing everything on no budget is the norm; it is wonderful to see a publication that “looks” as good as this one. It is a perfect melding of content and medium moving a great book of poetry to another level. So who better to publish this full collection than Charles Nevsimal of Centennial Press, who has made a business of migrating anything between two covers into both visual and literary art. In “Words for Songs Never Written”, William Taylor Jr. weeps in the mist of poetic transcendence as he examines the common miracles that live within and near each of us.

I first encountered Taylor’s work eight years ago when I discovered his poem “Being Lonely” in Zen Baby (this poem also appears in this collection). It was such a remarkable poem of searching sadness that I never forgot it. “Words for Songs Never Written” again demonstrates why Taylor has attracted such a devoted following and such high praise from throughout the independent press. In his poem, “Eyes Like Something Lost” he writes,

“I didn’t know her / I had never seen her before // but there was something / in her voice / and in her eyes // there was something / in the clothes she wore / and the way she moved // something in her way of speaking // that instantly told me / she was damaged // I felt a sudden kinship of sorts / for I am the same way / myself // I watched her from across the room / and wondered what the world / had done to her // I imagined the two of us / sitting in some quiet room / smoking and drinking / telling stories / ’til 4 a.m. // she had a frightened smile / she had eyes like something lost // and she was gone before / I could tell her she was / beautiful.”

I asked him how he walks the line between pathos and hope, without falling subject to cliché. He told me, “In much of my work there is a certain mood or feeling I want to convey and I simply try to use the best words possible to do so. I don’t know how else to explain it. I do believe there is sadness in beauty and sometimes beauty in sadness. To quote Thomas Hardy, If a way to the best there be, it exacts a full look at the worst. Meaning, the dark aspects of life must be confronted and accepted before any real peace of mind or happiness can be achieved. A kind of peace must be made with the darkness.”

This collision of darkness and light, sadness and hope is well reflected in his poem, “Early Morning Just Before The Dawn”:

“The bus moves along the freeway / beneath grayblue clouds / fading stars / and wisps of pink // I’m rarely up before noon / so I don’t see this kind of thing / too often // there is something in me that imagines / if everything cold remain / just like this / things would work out / in spite of it all / but the sun crawls red / and slow to the horizon / like a wounded god / and soon, too soon, / all the bloody trouble will begin.”

Taylor stands back from the world, sees its pain, its many blemishes, and yet celebrates the inevitable beauty of it all. When I was reading this collection I was reminded of the great small press poet, Albert Huffstickler, who passed away in 2002 and called poetry the sharing of “holy secrets.” I believe that great poetry and poets convey this almost mystical essence in their work. It is what draws me and keeps me reading writers like Taylor. It is remarkable that Taylor, who just turned 40 years of age, can write with such life weary maturity. I am eager to see how he will continue to elevate and explain his pain, longing, and his unrequited search for perfect redemption. This is a wonderful poet, and great book of poetry.

AN INVENTORY OF LOST THINGS by: Karla Huston, 32 Pages / 23 Poems, Price: $8, Centennial Press, P.O. Box 170322, Milwaukee, WI 53217. Review/Interview by Charles P. Ries

Women have a distinct view of the erotic and love’s secrets. In reading Karla Huston’s new book of poetry, “An Inventory of Lost Things”, I enter into the ebb and flow of feminine romantic imagination. While not all of twenty-three poems of this collection focus on the heart’s yearning, a good number do and comprise the central theme of this eloquently written book of poetry.

Huston approaches her topic from a number of angles. In final stanza of her poem “The One on The Left” she says,

“But you can’t take your mind off the boy, / barely twenty, going on the rest of his life – / going off for an afternoon at the shore. God knows / what they’ll do on the blanket / when it’s floated behind the vine-covered fence.” And again these lines taken from the closing of her poem, “Your Marie”: “You should know her hair was chestnut, / a flag of copper stars glittering / against the curve of her neck / and the strand that kissed her cheek / I knew you’d kissed when she left you / for the last time while her hips rolled / when she walked away / and her breast swayed in dreams / even now the ones you prayed into.”

Her book of poetry would easily fall into the category of great chic lit. Huston poems are thoughtfully narrative and carefully designed. There is no spare air in these poems. Each is complete from beginning to end.

I am reminded, as I read this collection, of the seminal book on women’s sexual fantasies, My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday. Our two genders reflect so differently on the erotic and on romance. Huston is masterful at understanding the sensual wonder world of the woman. As in this section from her poem “Rewind” demonstrates,

“If she could, she’d take the first / bus out of happyland, find her own / little place and read sweaty novels / for the rest of her life. He’s weary / of the honey-I’m-homes / and the honey-dos and the honeyed / hams.” And again from this section of her poem, “The Plastic Surgeon’s Wife”: “When they make love, she fears / how he’d like to improve her – / a little lift there, a little tighter there, / fill her breasts with vanilla, / admire the suction in her soul — / his reservoir, never full.”

This is a wonderful exploration of the feminine mind, by a writer uniquely suited to explore this undulating landscape of passion, yearning, and lost things.

More on Karla Huston can be fond on here web site by clicking here…

Charles P. Ries

lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over two hundred print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory and five books of poetry — the most recent entitled, The Last Time which was released by The Moon Press & Publishing. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot. He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore and a member of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. But most of all he is a founding member of the Lake Shore Surf Club, the oldest fresh water surfing club on the Great Lakes. You may find additional samples of his work by going to: http://www.literati.net/Ries/