California light
in New England—
Canadian forests burn

©2014 JS Graustein
Meredith, New Hampshire USA

hoping the jet stream shifts soon
hoping the jet stream shifts soon



on Lake Winnepesauke

in Gold Country

local children play

my daughter plays

a band concert

on the MS Mount Washington—

in the high school theatre—

their introductory performance;

her farewell performance;

I am [not] there.

©2014 JS Graustein
Meredith, New Hampshire USA

Recorders, played with gusto.
Recorders, played with gusto.


After Michigan’s miles       marked with graves
and Ohio’s highways       hindered by cones,
I landed some lodging       in a lakeside town.
I planned to unpack       and plop on the bed.
But I went to the window       to watch the traffic
and noticed — through noise       and nuisant wires —
sweet-light from the sun      setting over the lake.
Driven, I dashed       down to the lobby
where a man marked       a map to the beach
on Presque Isle (the piece       of peace where my son
waded and watched       the waves last year).
I revved along roads,     racing the sun.
I lost. But the last       liquid red
shone on the shingle.     The shore glowed.
The wave-rhythm washed       away the roar
of a day spent driving       and dodging pot-holes.
The sand massaged       the soles of my feet.
I paced. I took pictures.       My pulse    slowed.
No matter that I missed       the moment of setting.
The fade was fantastic:       a finish worth
extending my trek.     Two days to go —
impossible made possible       by peaceful Lake Erie.

©2014 JS Graustein
Erie, Pennsylvania USA

an oceanesque sunset on Lake Erie
an oceanesque sunset on Lake Erie

Definite Repeat Read

What Is Reading For?What Is Reading For? by Robert Bringhurst

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My mentor suggested I read this book while on a retreat. He said it would help rejuvenate my creative spirit and help me guide my press into its fifth year printing books and chapbooks. He wasn’t wrong. Bringhurst’s lecture-turned-artifact is a feast for the eyes, hands, and mind. I especially enjoyed his comparison of books to ecosystems and agriculture, having grown up in farming communities and being trained as an ecologist. I read this book quickly. I read it slowly. I read it and took notes. I now plan to read it every New Year between now and the end of my dance with the written word. Because it will take me years to figure out what kinds of words are best to plant, what kinds of words are best to harvest, and how to properly celebrate that harvest by making an object worthy of the name Book.

View all my reviews

What is REAL?

An Amateur MarriageAn Amateur Marriage by Jessie Carty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many of us, myself included, have friends we only know online. Some are merely acquaintances or notches on a networking belt. But other online friendships are more substantial, built on honest communication and/or collaborating on real projects. For me, Jessie is one of these friends. And I have often wondered what life is like for her on the other end of cyberspace, in those moments where the computer is off and the smartphone is put away, in her “real” life.

This chapbook gave me a glimpse into her other world. A world filled with objects and someone to share them with. This world–—her nest, feathered and re-feathered as she moves from what she thinks is expected to what she knows is needed, is made so real on the page that I could feel her couch and taste her casserole. And yet.

And yet I started wondering what “real” life actually is. And whether this poetic construction of Jessie’s life is given to us to satisfy that voyeuristic tendency we all have at some level. That she, in her clever way, might actually be protecting the world she loves by showing him/it to us in a controlled context–—allowing her “Jack” to walk away “nimble and quick to situate himself without any light.”*

I may never know the truth, even if I do meet her in person someday. But in the end it doesn’t matter. The idea of “real” in this chapbook is so enjoyable that I’ll take it, believe it, and wait impatiently for what her next (chap)book will reveal.

*From her poem “What I fear”

View all my reviews

Danish Breakfast

Denmark, Kangaroo, OrangeDenmark, Kangaroo, Orange by Kevin Griffith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had breakfast with Kevin this morning. Sausage and day-old pancakes with jam. And tea. We laughed as we discussed aging, travel, writing, and the odd mythology. When I say “we laughed,” I mean to say that I laughed and sensed that Kevin must have laughed as he wrote these pieces. Though I suspect with some he sighed as he revised. Or pondered. Or stewed. Because these prose poems seem to have the qualities of a mood ring: adapting themselves to the reader’s inner state so that different elements are highlighted accordingly.

I couldn’t put this book down—had to consume it in one sitting. It was every bit as engaging as the collection of his microfiction I had the pleasure of publishing (101 KINDS OF IRONY, Folded Word, 2012). Yet it had more layers, as poetry must. The same wit and wink were there, but also in attendance were beauty and insight. And a line I’ll never forget from “In the Town of the Fallen Angel”: If you are very lucky, you will see the angel himself, asleep in his chair, holding the open wings of a book in his lap.

Thank you, Kevin, for making me lucky today.

View all my reviews

re:lit IDAHO

[water potential]
Item 1 of my Cross-Country Reads project = a photographic response to the following words from Fractals and Haiku by Sue Turner:

she gathers forget
in waters of the pious

Photograph © 2012 J.S. Graustein
re:lit is a series that regards and responds to literature across genres and eras

Burkinabe Lullaby

one peaceful winter twilight in 1989

I remember a night long ago, as the sun set behind the marché and a lone spire peered through the dust laden air, a lone bicyclist made his way down this empty street toward home confident that sagabo would soon warm him. Confident that after this meal, his world would sleep through the winter night wrapped in a cobalt breeze. Confident that he could hope for a profitable morrow tailoring clothes for the schoolmaster’s wife. He slept a good sleep next to his good wife and his good children. But that was long ago. Tonight I pray that peace returns to the sleep of this street, so that hope may return to the people who work and live along it. Bonne nuit, mes amies de Bobo-Dioulasso et dans le Burkina Faso entier.

Update: The day after I posted this, presidential forces arrived to restore order. The long term outcome is still unclear.

More than Words

“It’s just a conversation.” That’s what all the seasoned veterans told me prior to my first radio interview. And it might be true. But after it all played out, it was so much more than that.

reflection of room on window looking at bridge
view of/from our suite

First I had to overcome my anxiety enough to pitch a story to Jeffrey Callison of Insight on Capital Public Radio three weeks ago about the book I published, On a Narrow Windowsill: Fiction and Poetry Folded onto Twitter. Then I had to stay calm and problem solve when one of my co-interviewees had to bow out due to illness. I also had to weather my fears that the other co-interviewee would actually make it after her original flight was canceled in the Southwest maintenance crisis. By dinner time on Monday night, everything was worked out. Poet Ellaraine Lockie and I had checked into the Embassy Suites in Old Sacramento, my co-editor Rose Auslander was standing by to be a phone interviewee, and no one from the studio called to say “just kidding” or “need to reschedule.”

Bonus #1 = fears vanquished

Our hotel was amazing. A two room suite that looked out at Tower Bridge and the Sacramento River with walls so well insulated that we heard nothing–not even the elevators that were right across the hall. We ate at Joe’s Crab Shack, which was a crazy mix of good seafood, a gorgeous view of the river and bridge, dancing servers, and disco lights. Don’t believe me?

Bonus #2 = discovering new sights in Sacramento

Ellaraine and I talked and talked and talked. About poetry, art, travel, and our favorite animals (both plush and live). At one point I started to worry that I would lose my voice prior to the interview! It was so helpful to have an interview veteran with me in the hours leading up to the big event.

Bonus #3 = reconnecting with a fellow poet

plush frog on guest book
Junior signs Insight's guest book

We made it to the studio Tuesday morning, a full 30 minutes before we needed to be. When the assistant remarked on it, I told her we didn’t want to be late. That made her giggle a bit. Ellaraine and I got a little silly in the green room with all that spare time, including having our plush mascots sign the Insight guest book. The green room was actually beige, highly soundproofed, and full of chairs plus one suede couch. I noticed a signed poster of Ira Glass on the wall, but didn’t find any obvious celebrities in the guest book. Eventually we were joined in the green room by Will Travers of Born Free and a PR person from the local IMAX theatre which led to Will and Ellaraine swapping their Kenyan adventures. Fascinating.

Bonus #4 = new photos and more new photos

lighted on-the-air sign as seen from green room
the light's on and so are we

Finally it was our turn. We had exactly one minute to sit down, do a sound check, and be ready to go. Jeffrey is amazing to watch in action. He listened to the crew in the soundbooth giving him instructions, asked us questions, wrote himself notes, and organized his mind for our segment all at the same time. The microphone with its burgandy foam cover was nearly as big as my head. I could barely see Jeffrey over the top of it, even though I was sitting directly across the table from him. We knew that Rose was there on the phone, but we couldn’t hear what she was saying because we didn’t have earpieces. I knew from my stints doing sound at church that broadcasting her into the room would have made an echo on the air, but it was still a bit wild. Especially when she made both the host and the control booth laugh and I didn’t hear the joke. The interview took both an eternity and a split second. But I made it without laughing like a hyena or going blank. Want to hear it? (We’re the last of 4 segments.)

Bonus #5 = learning that I CAN do live interviews

I may have only driven a few miles on this trip, but the distance I traveled was huge in other ways. So I’ve included some quotes of the day below, as if this were a TravelBytes post.

Cheers! ~J

Quotes of the Day

Jeffrey Callison after Rose read her poem on air: That’s a little long for Twitter isn’t it?

Ian after we listened to the interview: I want that on my iPod. My friends will think I’m cool!