Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Dirty Martini

The making of a dirty martini is truly an art,
Vodka and vermouth are merely a start,
But follow my advice and you can depend,
On achieving perfection in the end.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year y Gracias to the Writers of Bar None Group for 2013!

photo © Mark Butkus 2013
We will always have a chair for you, Chuck (1947-2013). 2014 is going to be a ride, hold on tight!

What an incredible year!

The first moments of 2013 were spent on a cross country trek across Mexico and the early hours of Christmas saw a return to Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico to ring out the year with the Dharma Bums of Barra de Navidad. Along the way we lost the original Dharma Bum of Barra de Navidad, our co-founder, Charles Longstreet. As the last days of the last week draw to a close the Bar None Group extends our deepest gratitude to all of you who have read, contributed, inspired and shared your words, your poetry, within our pages.

Happy New Year to:

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Eight Most Popular Poems and More from 2013

photo © Mark Butkus
Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.

These are the poems, essays and more that resonated the most with you our readers in the past year.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I Pretend You're Watching Me

I pretend you're watching me,
While I clean the store at night,
While I sweep the floor.
I sway my hips for your delight
Pretend you beg for more.
I pretend you're watching me,
Watching every move.
I pretend you long for me
The way I long for you.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Outrageous Belief in Angels

A Poem for Christmas.

It seems no one has seen one
For a very long time.
It may seem unlikely
That an old reprobate, like me,
Would believe in them at all,
But I do.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Introduction to Canto Sixth. To Richard Heber, Esq. Mertoun-House, Christmas.

Heap on more wood! – the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deem’d the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'Twas the Noche before Christmas

'Twas the noche before Christmas and all through the casa,
Not a creature was stirring — ¡Caramba! ¿Que pasa?
Los niños were tucked away in their camas,
Some in long underwear, some in pijamas,

Monday, December 16, 2013

First Lines Second Thoughts — Pride and Prejudice

First Lines Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works.
On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? As we remember Jane Austen's birthday today — December 16, 1775 — we look at the opening lines of her most famous novel. Pride and Prejudice. Published in 1813.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Library Walk: Muriel Rukeyser

It is fitting that New York City's Library Walk has a plaque honoring Muriel Rukeyser. New York City was home to her birth and it is where she breathed her last in 1980. In between, Muriel Rukeyser raised cane poetically against the injustices of war, racism and inequalities affecting humankind.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Muriel Rukeyser's birth — December 15, 1913 — we visit Library Walk and the poem — The Speed of Darkness — that is quoted upon her plaque.

Friday, December 13, 2013


No siento del amor la honda tortura
cuando contemplo con tenaz fijeza
la rara perfección de su cabeza
y su cuerpo de helénica escultura.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Brief Touching With Angels

A flutter of egrets,
With the white wings of angels,
Fills the arms of a palm,
Waiting without intent
For the moment of their arrival.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

King of Serpents

I am the scorned native son:
my manhood lies crushed
beneath your heel.
His pallor fades
before my goldenness.

You have transformed me
into the king of serpents:
with one glance I shatter stones
that once beheld the Medusa.
They return to their human state.

Monday, December 9, 2013


The best known poem of the English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903), Invictus is remembered today as the poem that Nelson Mandela took strength from during his incarceration on Robben Island.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Walk with Nelson Mandela

Remembering Nelson Mandela 1918-2013.

I walked through your life
one day a few years back
Rows of pictures in a gallery
Hours spent in quiet contemplation
in a dark and lonely room

You, Nelson Mandela,
Deprived of decades of your life
Carried the weight of a people
upon your incarcerated shoulders

Friday, December 6, 2013

Street Poetry of Chicago: listen

From time to time we come across street poetry. Found poetry. We have found it in Florence, Italy, on the streets of New York City during Occupy Wall Street and, now, in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Unseen Flower

A flower floats, unseen,
In the mists of time,
An unformed image,
Drifting, rootless,
An unborn, nameless, child,
It's petals waiting to unfold,
The answer to a question,
Yet to be asked.

Friday, November 29, 2013

When Black Friday Calls

The Ballad of Dave and Tina

Tina wakes him up before the dawn
Though he can't see her face
Dave feels her clutching at his shoulder
Shaking him to his senses

Thursday, November 28, 2013

In Her Footsteps: A Native Prayer of Thanks

Kateri Tekakwitha — Noble Turtle, Mother Earth gathers her people.

Mohawk Algonquin Lily
filled with love
grateful woman
we honor you

Sister Turtle Clan
strong, kind and true
faithful woman
we honor you

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport

Happy Hanukkah! Tonight the first candle is lit on the menorah.

Here, where the noises of the busy town,
   The ocean's plunge and roar can enter not,
We stand and gaze around with tearful awe,
   And muse upon the consecrated spot.

The Road Home

It's 5 a.m. and today is a John Philip Sousa song of a sunrise.
I am driving 17 hours home from Louisiana.
As I leave New Orleans, Promised Land, by Chuck Berry,
As made famous by Elvis Presley, plays on oldies radio.

Nowhere Fast — A Thanksgiving Lament

It is nine in the evening
The day before Thanksgiving
The busiest travel day of the year
There is a fresh pack of smokes on the dash
A six-pack is nestled between the front bucket seats
Road maps of the Northeast are placed in order,
Geographically, from nearest state to furthest on the passenger seat
A man sits behind the wheel of his car and quietly closes the door
He can be at the ocean —
His hometown of York, Maine — by dawn tomorrow

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Song of Mexico

Children busking in Patzcuaro.

It was yesterday
that someone asked me
if I thought that there was
something different about Mexico.

Friday, November 22, 2013

W.H. Auden's Elegy for J.F.K.

President John F. Kennedy gives speech in Fort Worth, Texas November 22, 1963.

A nation mourned on November 22, 1963.

It's been said that out of great mourning comes great art. W.H Auden's Elegy for J.F.K. is a testament to that. Comprised of four haiku stanzas the elegy was written at the request of the composer Igor Stravinsky in 1964 for his score of the same name.

While Auden's verse is only four stanzas in length, Stravinsky repeated the first stanza at the score's conclusion.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mary Szybist Wins National Book Award for Poetry

Szybist's winning "Incardine" depicts the Annunciation in many forms.

Mary Szybist has won the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry. In a ceremony last night in New York City, Szybist beat out a stellar group of finalists to claim the National Book Award for her brilliantly inventive volume of poetry — Incardine. Nikky Finney who won in 2011, led a panel of five judges and presented Szybist with her award.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Revolver

A newly discovered poem by Carl Sandburg on the power of a gun.

Here is a revolver.
It has an amazing language all its own.
It delivers unmistakable ultimatums.
It is the last word.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg National Cemetery

Four score and seven years ago
our fathers brought forth on this continent,
a new nation,
conceived in Liberty,
and dedicated to the proposition
that all men are created equal.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bouteille à la mer

Mogador is the Portuguese name for the Moroccan town of Essaouira.

Le temps a mal tourné pour toi
a dit un de tes illustres enfants
c'est vrai
de la petite ville élégante
au charme discret
où il faisant bon vivre
ne restent plus
que les souvenirs nostaliques

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Barra Songbook: The Second Wind of Marc Pettigrew

For Marc Pettigrew life is good. The best is yet to come.

Marc Pettigrew has a new album out and no it's not his second album. The album is called Second Wind and could just as easily be called Second Chance.

Last year, Marc underwent a double lung transplant after being hooked up to bottles of oxygen since the late 1990s. The ever present bottle earned him the nickname 'Oxygen Marc' from his friends in Mexico.

When we communicated with Marc for this interview he was putting the finishing touches on the Second Wind disc.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Quaint Sayings of Uncle Jeff: On Sorrow

Have you ever had your head bowed
Underneath some crushin' blow?
With the road ahead a twistin'
That you scarce knew how to go;

Monday, November 11, 2013


The water sings along our keel,  
   The wind falls to a whispering breath;
I look into your eyes and feel
   No fear of life or death;  
So near is love, so far away  
The losing strife of yesterday.

Two Years Ago Today

As the day began over Harlem, November 11, 2011.

Two years ago today
You took my hand on Writers' Walk
In New York's Central Park

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Story Poem for Chuck on his Birthday

photo © Mark Butkus 2008

The train pulled in and out,
In and out, of the station,
But it never seemed to go anywhere.

I sat in the old station for years,
In the middle row of empty seats,
Wondering what would happen
If it ever left.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Word Up! The Pilsen Poetry Slam

Pilsen gets Slammed by Poetry.

Chicago has a long history of promoting poetry. The Poetry magazine has provided poets from Kilmer to Trethewey with vital exposure for more than a century. The first poetry slams were created at Chicago's Green Mill by the legendary Marc Smith and still thrive there today. Saturday November 9 the tradition continues as the Nitecap Coffee Bar in Pilsen gets slammed with the latest round of the Word Up! poetry slam.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Library Walk: Albert Camus

Albert Camus: Born 100 years ago today.

Awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times" the Bar None Group recognizes Albert Camus on the centennial of his birth.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Worst Poem Ever?

Did this picture just give away the worst poem ever?

A lot like differentiating art from pornography you can tell good poetry from bad poetry when you see it. But more akin to music, the worst song, like the worst poem has to have been very popular at one point in time. And that brings us to Joyce Kilmer.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Oraciones dela Santa Muerte — Domingo

Gracias Santísima Muerte
por estar cerca de mi
los siete días de esta semana.
Gracias por darme salud y prosperidad
y alejar de mi
y de mi hogar,
cualquier mal
que nos rondara.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Oraciones dela Santa Muerte — Sábado

Gracias Santísima mia,
por permitirme ver
la luz de un nuevo día,
como agradecimiento
te prometo pensar en ti.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lou Reed's Halloween Parade

The Halloween Parade that Lou Reed sings about on his 1989 New York disc had been left for dead. Neither 9/11 nor Hurricane Irene in 2011 could stop the parade. Huricane Sandy in 2012 did bring about its death...or do we speak of the parade's death prematurely? Now risen from the dead through a crowd funding effort, the Greenwich Village mainstay has come back to life. But is it the same Halloween Parade that Lou Reed sang about?

Oraciones dela Santa Muerte — Jueves

Hoy, antes de salir,
te pido me abras
todos los caminos
que me han de llevar
a vivir tranquilamente,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Night Before Halloween

The roses were droopin´ after too much rain.
The nectar of specter was drippin´ from their black leaves
In the deathly moonlight
Fillin´ the hot, sticky night.

Oraciones dela Santa Muerte — Miércoles

Mi Niño,
este día que hoy inicia,
no te pediré nada.
Pero si te agradezco
la protección que me brindas tanto a mi
como a mis seres queridos.
bajo tu manto.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Oraciones dela Santa Muerte — Martes

Niña Blanca,
a tus pies me postro
y te pido encarecidamente
me des salud.
Aleja cualquier enfermedad
para que yo pueda seguir adelante.
Te lo pido
con todo mi corazón.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oraciones dela Santa Muerte — Lunes

Santa Muerte
te pido
que al iniciar esta semana
llenes de bendiciones a mi familia,
mi hogar y mi trabajo.
Protégeme de todo mal.
Así sea.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Library Walk: Dylan Thomas

Born on this day in 1914, Dylan Thomas (1914–1953) is perhaps more famous in death than he was in life. In life the Welsh poet is best remembered for his A Child's Christmas in Wales. In death he is the "roistering, drunken and doomed poet" who famously drank himself to death in New York City.

As memorialized in his adopted New York, it is the second verse of In My Craft or Sullen Art that is enshrined on Library Walk. The poem first appeared in Deaths and Entrances published in 1946. In My Craft or Sullen Art expertly captures the process and motivation of the poet — or of any creative mind who creates not for material gain but for something more substantial — something from within.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Shakespeare's Song of the Witches

A witch in Central Park.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ghost Light

Artificial white aurora
where shadows play tag against time,
stir when proscenium is dark.

Spirits creep, seeping up energy
after the show.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


(Falling in Love with a Beautiful Description)

Love is an imperfect tense
   As her words
   rose above the bed,
        a sense of muscular light.

I felt your dreams were still here
  in the room,
  hovering tight, like sentences or wings,
           as if they were veiled, or bruised by
            a faint spasm of sky.

Monday, October 21, 2013


A poem inspired by Jack Kerouac's titular Tristessa.

I drink bourbon out of a bag
Tristessa sticks a needle in her arm
After saying her prayers
I'm drinking in the Mexico of my dreams
Tristessa dreams on morphine

Friday, October 18, 2013


In wonderland of scratch card
and tenement block
deserted bunker of dirty needles,
where headless statues are painted
in rotten fish-heads and discarded butter.