Vol V No V
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Published quarterly beginning February 2021
Formal & Rhyming Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch
Stops Me Dead
My year of being sixty-six is past,
or under my belt, my father used to say,
and days are long but years fly by so fast,
and while we’re busy living, life slips away.
He died too young. By now, though, he’d be gone
to settle up the score — as gone, that is,
as anyone can be whose words go on
surprising me, and in a voice like his.
At times it stops me dead to hear his tone,
inflections, pauses, natural as can be,
as if they’re mine, as if they’re bred in the bone.
I breathed them in, and now they’re part of me.
These days I wonder who he got them from,
and who will echo them in years to come.
Richard Wakefield’s first poetry collection, East of Early Winters (University of Evansville Press), won the Richard Wilbur Award. His second collection, A Vertical Mile (Able Muse Press), was short-listed for the Poets’ Prize. His new collection, Terminal Park, will be published in late 2020 by Able Muse Press.
Of all earth’s sounds the loveliest
when far away —
That distant murmuring a test
for you to say
Are wind and leaves contending now,
or have the bees
Found refuge on some hidden bough?
And what cold breeze
Conveys those voices from within
the darkening vale?
Come, don the ancient masks again,
and wield the flail.
Jared Carter’s most recent book is The Land Itself, from Monongahela Books in Morgantown, West Virginia. He lives in Indiana.
The devil doesn’t need to use the door.
The devil doesn’t need to have a key.
He’s inside, and you’re lying on the floor.
“The devil? He’s a kind of dinosaur—
extinct; a quaint, outdated enemy.
The devil doesn’t need to use the door—
the devil isn’t coming anymore.”
That’s easy to repeat until you see
he’s inside, and you’re lying on the floor.
No horns, no tail, he doesn’t look how you’re
expecting, doesn’t spout hyperbole—
the devil doesn’t need to. Use the door,
don’t use the door, it’s really you—you swore
you’d shut him out and make him let you be.
He’s inside. You’re lying. On the floor,
inside your brain, impossible to ignore,
one worn-out thought keeps circling endlessly.
The devil doesn’t need to use the door.
He’s inside, and you’re lying on the floor.
Midge Goldberg has been writing poetry ever since she stumbled on a poem by Rhina Espaillat and fell in love with formal verse. She is the author of two collections, Snowman’s Code, recipient of the Richard Wilbur Poetry Award, and Flume Ride.
Among the risks of later July days
and languid strokes among the ocean swells
or loud whoops while body-surfing waves
are toxins from not-quite-amorphous bells.
Sea nettles and boys, of water mostly made,
are nets of nerves that trigger strands of pain.
See boys’ surprise at being so betrayed,
wrapped in medusa’s clinging, silent reins.
We soothe with vinegar, the local balm,
to treat the stings that now emerge as welts
on trembling boys who try hard not to cry,
that ring their arms and pearl around their palms.
They need us still is what this moment sighs,
those sting marks fading right before our eyes.
First published in Mezzo Cammin.
Elinor Ann Walker holds a Ph.D. in English from UNC-Chapel Hill and teaches online for University of Maryland Global Campus. She’s a recovering academic who’s published under more than one name, lives in Tennessee, and writes on her screened porch, weather permitting.
I’m losing short-term memory (by short-term
I mean 5 minutes, as in “Where’s that book
I just laid down?” “Behind you.” “So it is!”
“Where are my glasses?” “On your head” and so on . . .)
Memory like a witch, mounting the air,
taking the last five minutes up the chimney.
Not like my father yet, who at the end
forgot his wife of 60 years, my mother
who predeceased him, although we could still
show him old photographs of their courting days
and he would say reflexively “There’s Jeannie.”
Now I should consciously begin to save
the memories I want. The brain, of course
selects the most humiliating ones
to garner in an Easy Access File,
especially the ones from middle school.
I’d like to forget everything before
about age 30: start with my first trip
abroad, first look at Belgium, England, France.
The time that we sang “Dixie” in Red Square
just days before the Soviet Union fell.
The peacock that jumped down and spread its tail
in a rajah’s garden. But if I could choose
a memory for my deathbed, I believe
I’d choose the day we drove the Natchez Trace
and three wild turkeys walked across the road.
“What’s THAT?” we said — because wild turkeys don’t
look anything the way you think they’d look —
and then we laughed, and ever afterward
Wild Turkey was our drink. I half believe
that if I keep that memory intact,
when I raise up for my last look at things,
I’ll see wild turkeys spread their silly wings.
First published in Alabama Literary Review.
Gail White is a Formalist poet whose work appears regularly in such journals as Measure, Raintown Review, and Rotary Dial. She is a contributing editor of Light Poetry Magazine. Her most recent collections are Asperity Street and Catechism.
Hunching, a crooked hook upon a bench,
head between his knees, he gurgles phlegm
and spits his night a hunk of brown, ungums
his tongue and glares into the train line trench.
Morning commuters freshly washed branch
in perfumed limbs across the bitumen
when a flower blooms into his frame.
He holds her there and feels his centre clench
as he recalls with wrinkled heart and whiskied
eyes the love that thirty years before he’d shared:
hair, like hers, a willow’s rope hung wispy
across soft, milky shoulders, pearl and bare . . .
The flower cringed and left the platform briskly.
He hunched with shame, he hadn’t meant to stare.
Mathew Wenham is currently the Head of Senior English and Literature at a high school in Melbourne, Australia. He has worked in multiple Australian universities as a writer, researcher, and teacher of philosophy and psychology.
We are the bees of the invisible.—Rilke
You understand the bees as someone can
who always has a purpose and a plan,
you who were doubtless destined to become
a brother to that underlying hum
of giving life. Within the teeming hive,
the pure mind of creation seems to thrive
in harmony, with order in the comb
and sweet abundance in a perfect home.
You witness life in stages, each one brief,
driven by instinct, with the sting of grief.
You study the arcane and gentle ways
to please the queen in her productive days.
Drawn to the bees as I am drawn to you,
partner in building up and making new,
you are the keeper of deep mysteries,
invisible as love among the bees.
Barbara Loots, a recent winner in the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest, happily announces the publication of her third collection, The Beekeeper and other love poems, from Kelsay Books.
He spoke to everyone he couldn’t see,
Including one who never will reply.
The thing that was his breath was chiseled next
Into what could become a needled text
The cone brings back to life—a puff of air
That faithful Nipper, sitting silently,
Might one day hear as human sound—a word
Or brief command. His master can’t be seen,
You see, and so the icon wonders why
The voice that lacks a body can be heard.
Until he knows, he means to sit right there,
A good boy, cocking ear to tinny waves.
And you who read this on some page or screen:
Does silence speak through what the image saves?
Forever-loyal Nipper’s standing fast.
He ordered them to tie him to the mast,
As siren song went sailing by in waves.
The deaf crew rowed, the sea the thing they lavished
Their attention on. The words that ravished
Him were sounds Odysseus longed to hear—
The thrilling air that would have meant his death
Had he not bound himself to helplessness.
And so he suffered beauty free of fear—
Beauty that ran him through with every breath.
What could he say to what they sang, but yes?
Len Krisak’s latest book is a translation of the Aeneid from Hackett published in September, 2020. A Robert Frost and Richard Wilbur Prize winner, he is also a four-time champion on Jeopardy!
Church of St. Michael’s
Hummingbird at St. Michael’s where they bury the dead,
worn, of poor upkeep and cannot be read
names overrun with blotches of white
bell sound of eve in first July light.
Neatly, contrarily lives grass spooked by cuts
the groundskeeper made time long before dusk.
Hirsute green base with palm brushed through
crisp and flexible sounds ensue
flowers of a white alive like snow
watch the dwellers on young death row.
Joel Schueler’s poems appear in ten countries in over thirty publications. He has a BA(Hons) in English Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. His website is https://www.joelschueler.com.
In the Late Formative
Sierra Madre foothills ringed the site
we excavated on semester break:
an ancient city, Kaminaljuyú,
basaltic stelae with their history
of dynasties, of warriors, of blood.
No word—or more precisely, not a glyph—
of Mayan peasants doing mundane work.
On Saturday, a respite for the crew,
we climbed a mountain (surely first to dare),
adventurers in heat, humidity,
and thirst-for-stimulus. Perspiring
heavily, we attained our crest to see
this wiry old woman seated there.
She’d spied us from below and scurried up
the far slope, tumpline to her cooler—Cokes,
fifteen quetzales each, a bargain price.
Mark Blaeuer’s poems have appeared in The Orchards Poetry Journal, The Raintown Review, The Road Not Taken, and many other venues. Kelsay Books published his collection, Fragments of a Nocturne.
Which thought incites more trepidation:
That death will permanently sever
This living tissue from sensation?
Or consciousness might last forever?
Peter Vertacnik’s poems and translations have appeared previously (or are forthcoming) in Alabama Literary Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Green Briar Review, Hopkins Review, Literary Matters, Poet Lore, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Water~Stone Review, among others.
The Last Cicada
The last cicada keens the end of summer—
Which we do not—it cannot come too soon.
The sky’s a skinned-knee-sunset in September
Whose clotted blood can tinge a harvest moon.
Already now their numbers have diminished
In gutters like spent casings on the ground.
As one more season ends their days are finished
The trees no longer fill up with their sound.
But one last holdout rasps a final call
A last-ditch summoning to mate and breed
A sound as primal, lonely as the fall—
A summoning far deeper than a need.
The end’s in sight. It’s more a when than how.
If you must know the answer’s always Now.
Donald Carlson lives in Texas. His poems have appeared in Better Than Starbucks, Blue Unicorn, The Road Not Taken, and more. His collaborative volume of poetry, with Timothy Donohue and Dennis Patrick Slattery, is Road Frame Window, published by Mandorla Press.
On this page we publish selections of metrical and formal poetry from our contributors. Submit your blank verse, metrical rhyming poems, villanelles, sonnets, and other formal poetry to betterthanstarbucks2@gmail. We love both traditional and experimental forms and subjects, and please do submit limericks and lighthearted verse as well! Vera Ignatowitsch
H Marks the Spot
The Controversial Consonant
Though not when you name the eighth letter,
Do take care about ‘dropping your aitches’,
But, conversely, a stickler-upsetter
Is pronouncing the darn things as ‘haitches’.
“We henna hair here”
—Sign in Torquay
Here they henna your hair
And disguise all the grey!
If from France, though, take care.
Read and mark, but don’t say.
Aspiration Is All
‘ . . . Per Ardua (RAF) Beagles . . .’
Some wished to follow eagles
And joined the Royal Air Force
And then, to follow beagles,
The Royal Air Force Hare Force.
Jerome Betts edits Lighten Up Online in Devon, England. His verse appears in Amsterdam Quarterly, Light, The Asses of Parnassus, The New Verse News, The Hypertexts, Snakeskin, and various anthologies.
Archive of Formal & Rhyming Poetry pages by issue:
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June 2017 May 2017 April 2017 March 2017 February 2017 January 2017