Friday, 16 August 2013

Jnana Hodson

Into Certain Sentences

 that old unadulterated formula plus inserts
just checking on this year’s dates 

remarking I hadn’t heard from you
was told you and Jack had just spoken that morning  

and were off to Florida again
What are we going to do with that wayward brother? 

a pithy note in the margin of the minutes
kick exactly where needed 

down on those knees, back into Scripture
this matter of discipline rules the house 

meaning they’ve disowned him, while Grant has surgery
in the afternoon though his wife’s pregnant 

this time with complications
am I reading too much into certain sentences 

or too little, such joys to embrace
pulleys in the wind


TSTmpj:  Where are the best places to overhear snatches of conversation?

Jnana Hodson:  Where not? Restaurants, before and after meeting for worship or a poetry reading, at contradances, in art galleries. I "overhear" a lot visually, too, at the corners of my eyes.


TSTmpj:  Who are some of your favourite poets, and why?

Jnana Hodson:  The touchstones I keep returning to over the decades are Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Roger Pfingston, Robert Bly, and Richard Brautigan.

They're all from my lifetime, for starters. Snyder's poetry is lean with an exceptionally sharp diction while his life experiences have also served as an elder for the pathways I've wound up following. Whalen's mind roams much as mine does. Pfingston's work is a model of bejeweled understatement that focuses on the most central experiences of humanity set in the Midwest we've shared. Bly, well, he always upsets my apple cart. And Brautigan's innocent surrealism is downright fun and energizing.

And then there are the hundreds of others I also cherish.


TSTmpj:  Do you "find" poems often?  Or are they diligent labours with much time and redrafting?

Jnana Hodson:  Most of my work originates in bits that float up to my awareness during meditation, while walking or driving, or even while journaling or corresponding, as well as the snatches of conversation already noted. Even so, I distill and hone and revise extensively to discover where the work wants to go. 

Bio Note

Jnana Hodson’s novel Hippie Drum (Smashwords) is just out.  His micro-chapbook Waves Rolling Too appeared in April 2013.


Monday, 12 August 2013

Mark Nenadov

5 A.M.

Beautiful butterfly's dirty diaper overflowed
and the fire truck came and cleaned it up
I could get another hour or two of sleep
if my evening emu eyes would shut
but an early bird on the wire twitters
an obnoxious worm-getting song
blasted bird isn't beautiful to me
my mind does its revolutions
are there any freelance cats
available for a hasty hire?


TSTmpj:  It's a knockout first line -- do you wish to share how it came to you?

Mark Nenadov:  For a loving parent, diaper changes exhibit a mysterious antithesis. Deep love of the child meets deep dislike of the task at hand, which of course crops up at the most inconvenient of times. Only love in its deepest, truest sense carries a parent along in those moments. Fleeting emotions won't. From that starting point I came up with "Beautiful baby's dirty diaper". I read that once and immediately saw that it fell flat, perhaps even hallow, cold, and distant.  I needed something warmer and affectionate. At some point, I was looking at some wildlife photography I've done and found a butterfly picture. "Butterfly" suddenly struck me as being a perfect replacement for "baby". Almost anyone, let alone a wildlife enthusiast like me, loves a butterfly. And so, with that simple change the antithesis of the poem was enhanced, the alliteration was preserved, and the rhythm was improved via the harmony of "beautiful butterfly". Now, when I say that "butterfly" made the beginning more affectionate, you must also understand that when I say "Beautiful butterfly", I say it as one who will run around in mosquito ridden forests with a field guide trying to identify a new species playing hard-to-get. That's the sort of affection I'm conveying on the baby which is contrasted with the frustration which, later in the poem, carries this bird lover to call a bird "blasted". And, of course, there is the irony that I deal with the two interruptions to sleep so differently--I quickly forget the child's interruption and dismiss it quickly but I am bitter and scathing about the bird's interruption.  This all came together in my mind to produce that line, which ties it all together right off the bat. 


TSTmpj:  Give us a Canadian inside lowdown on Leonard Cohen?

Mark Nenadov:  There's two answers that jump into my mind for questions like this. First, I'm tempted to say: "Who's Leonard Cohen?" Given the context, that response would be an evasive answer akin to the time Al Capone was asked about a prominent Canadian gangster. He responded: "I don't even know what street Canada is on".  The other answer I'm tempted to give might sound a bit like it came from a Wodehouse novel. "Oh, yes. He's a mighty fine chappy and quite the riot. My Aunt Agatha and him are like this".  But neither of those answers would be really honest. I think Cohen is a mighty fine artist, a genius really--but I know precious little about him and probably have only listened to a small portion of his discography. There are a handful of his songs that I could just sit and listen over and over and over, but that's about where it ends. Sadly, I've never had the opportunity to jam with Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, or Garth Hudson either.


TSTmpj:  What time of the day -- or night -- is your most creative time, and why do you think that is? 

Mark Nenadov:  It's the early morning for me. Contrary to what one might expect based on my poem, I'm generally a morning person. (If I wake naturally and I make it to 6 or 7 that is!)  I tend to fade away a bit in the evening. Even on a slow day, the day is so full of sensory experiences, that by evening I am often overstimulated and not well positioned to sit back and write. There are a few random highly creative evenings here and there, but that's rare--and most of my writing from evenings ends up getting thrown away. While it is a highly individual choice and there is no "right time" to do things, there is undoubtedly something about the morning.  I personally think that if you looked down the corridors of time and in one comprehensive survey reviewed history, you'd find a large portion of significant works of creativity, spirituality, contemplation, and intellectual exploration produced in the morning.

Bio Note

Mark Nenadov is a poet living in Essex, Ontario, Canada. See for more info.



Friday, 9 August 2013

Donal Mahoney

Take Me to the Taxidermist

I told my wife the other night
when she came back to bed
my feet were cold so now's
the time for me to tell her
not to bury me or burn me
or give my body to science.

Take me to the taxidermist
and have him dress me in
Cary Grant's tuxedo, a pair
of paten leather shoes
from Fred Astaire and a
straw hat from Chevalier.
Once I'm a Hollywood star,
stand me in the garden with
that chorus line of blondes,
brunettes and redheads
I stationed there the day she
flew home to Mother in a snit. 

Years later now, my dancers still 
kick high enough to lance the sun. 
I plan to hold a last rehearsal 
once my wife motors into town 
and finds a priest who'll say 
a thousand Masses for my soul.


TSTmpj:  What's your favourite old movie, and has it influenced your poetry?

Donal Mahoney:  This is a tough question to answer since I have only recently begun to watch old movies on a cable channel here in the States called TCM or Turner Classic Movies. Perhaps it's available internationally but I'm not certain about that. Rather than select a specific movie I'd pick the genre called "film noir," but also adding pretty much any movie that Fred Astaire dances in. As a competitive Irish step-dancer in my teens and early adulthood, I have an appreciation for Astaire that grows every time I watch him dance. There are other fine dancers, Gene Kelly among them, but for me no one tops Astaire. From the top of his head to the soles of his feet, everything moves as one, the way one hopes a poem will move but seldom does unless maybe T.S. Eliot wrote a few. Odd that I would say that inasmuch as I admire Seamus Heaney so much. But my memory of reading Eliot as a youth when I was just starting out in poetry is that often an Eliot poem left me with the feeling that each word was a brick perfectly aligned with the other bricks caulked perfectly by the spaces in between the words and between the lines. Not an easy achievement whether Eliot accomplished it or not.


TSTmpj:  When was the last time you had the stuffing taken out of you as a poet?

Donal Mahoney:  I'm not certain I understand the question precisely, Michael, perhaps because there may be an Aussie idiom involved here that a Yank would not understand. But I will take it to mean that when is the last time an editor got my "Irish up" through some faux pas that I perceived, rightly or wrongly. And that took place perhaps two years ago when an editor took it upon herself to rewrite a few words in a poem she had accepted and posted it online over my name. She thought perhaps I wouldn't notice. Prior to the moment of reading the edited poem, it had been quite some time since I had been angry the way I used to get angry as a young man back in Chicago where fights were numerous but always fair fights with fists only. No knives or guns back then. In any event the editor has a name that I and others perceived to be a masculine name so I took out after her (or him as I thought at the time). I told her what would have happened to her if she did that to a poem of any writer back in Chicago in the Fifties and if she were in town at the same time. Basically, she would have been lucky to live once the writer found her. Prose an editor might make changes to with the author's permission but literary etiquette involving a poem required acceptance or rejection as is. That was a time before workshops. Writers, to my knowledge, didn't gather around a table and critique words and lines in one another's poems. Perhaps they did and I never knew about it. But it's not something I had ever encountered prior to this instance. And I still get angry when I think about it. I can't recall if I thought her changes improved the poem or not. But I probably should have sent her a poem I once wrote about a similar situation, copy below:

A Little Like Rape

This sylph came forward
from the second row
the second day of class
and asked if
I would edit her poem
so it would read
the way it should.

I told her straightaway
that even though
this was writing class
and I was the instructor,
I couldn’t edit her poem
and still have the poem be hers.

Editing her poem, I said,
would be a little like rape,
just painful in a different way
whether she understood that
yet or not. 

Donal Mahoney


TSTmpj:  Have you thought of getting a Chicago bluesman to put music to this, and thereby make a million dollars?

Donal Mahoney:  Never once have I thought of having a poem put to music, never mind this poem, perhaps because I was raised without the benefit of music in the house other than Irish reels, jigs and hornpipes played on old phonograph records. I never came to love classical music the way I often now wished I had. It's true that over time I acquired a neophyte's love of jazz but didn't know why I liked it. In the process I came to admire a jazz/blues singer by the name of Dakota Staton, whose album The Late, Late Show was a big hit in the Sixties. She may still be alive today but bad times interrupted her career. Nevertheless, I enjoyed her voice more than Ella Fitzgerald's or Billie Holiday's. I think Ms Staton was very good but maybe not as good as I thought she was. The only other singer who left a permanent mark on me the way Astaire did as a dancer was Frank Sinatra. I thought that he, too, had no competition. Similarly, I thought Muhammad Ali had no peer as a heavyweight champion, much to the distress of my Irish immigrant father who thought Jack Dempsey or Gene Tunney would have cleaned Ali's clock. Not a chance, I thought, but I kept that too myself since my father was a man of strong opinions.

Here's a link to Dakota Staton's The Late, Late Show. Maybe the acoustics are off or maybe my taste wasn't so good as a young man-- 

Thanks for taking this poem and for asking these very thoughtful questions. 

Bio Note

Donal Mahoney, in St. Louis, Missouri, left his heart in Chicago, Illinois. Other poems can be found at:

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Michael Laubscher

At sea am I out
Some days -
I drift out across the sea
weightless and wonderless
boundless, horizonless.
Just to be
that which no one has to think about
or even talk.
TSTmpj:  What is your first memory "as a poet" of the sea?
Michael Laubscher:  Somewhere as a teen watching the sea and beginning to realize some of its enormity and boundlessness.
TSTmpj:  Can you describe what the sea means to you?
Michael Laubscher:  It offers much- reflection, enjoyment, uncertainty, anonymity, among others.
TSTmpj:  What does anonymity mean to you?
Michael Laubscher:  Anonymity is not something anyone wants forever, but there are times when it is a welcome luxury, and times when it is a necessity. A fine line indeed, but occasionally it offers us the opportunity of just being.
Bio Note
Michael Laubscher is a lecturer at North-West University in South Africa, who writes poetry and wonders about life.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Art Heifetz

The Huipil

I don’t hold with those who think
that we’re the Chosen People
but the joy of waking by your side
has almost made me a believer.
Small miracles are woven
from quiet moments such as this,
each colored strand  locked in place
as the loom moves on.
When you lay me in my plain pine box,
don’t dress me in my Sabbath best,
but in the huipil hanging on the wall
like Joseph’s coat of many colors.


TSTmpj:  What do you consider to be the best “small miracle” that’s helped you in your poetry writing and publishing career?

Art Heifetz:  Meeting my present wife after the loss of my son and my first wife. After a long hiatus I began to write again. Old friends at the university urged me to seek publication.


TSTmpj:  What was the inspiration for “The Huipil?”

Art Heifetz:  My belief that the spiritual part of life resides in small moments rather than in more structured religious belief.


TSTmpj:  What is your take on the status of religious poetry in 2013?

Art Heifetz:  There is a market for saccharine verse in religious journals but in most poetry journals, poems with allusions to the Bible or the Divine are anathema to the editors. Ditto to Jewish content except in Israel.

Bio Note

Art Heifetz teaches English to refugees in Richmond, Virginia. Has published 85 poems in 8 countries. See