Thursday, December 31, 2015

Elegy for an Almost Friend

Just because I don't have a _____ story
doesn't mean they didn't live a life.

Yeah, I knew them to see them,
And remember that big old ____ _____.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year y Gracias to the Writers of Bar None Group for 2015!

Celebrating the launch of "Last Call: Poems, Stories and Art from the Costalegre."

What an incredible year!

The first moments of 2015 were spent on the shores of Lake Ontario in Toronto contemplating a route back to Chicago — the end of a Christmas roadtrip. The last moments of 2015 were spent in Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico to launch the third volume of the Bar None Group anthologies — Last Call: Poems, Stories and Art from the Costalegre.

We have been fortunate to share the voices of 47 poets, writers and artists who have been touched and inspired by the Costalegre. But my debt of gratitude is not limited to the voices in Last Call, it extends to the other 20 writers we featured online. To all of you who have read and shared the words within the pages of the Bar None Group we are grateful.

Happy New Year to:

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Eight Most Popular Poems and More from 2015

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
Literary pursuits abroad.

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

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve with Christina Rossetti

photo © Mark Butkus 2003
A bridal robe of spotless snow...

Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

First Lines Second Thoughts — Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

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? Today, in keeping with the spirit of the season we look at the opening lines of Charles Dickens' timeless A Christmas Carol.

Rather than write pamphlets and essays to address the issues of poverty and social injustice in Victorian England, Dickens conveyed his thoughts into A Christmas Carol. A book so cherished that it has never gone out of print since being published this day — December 19 — in 1843.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Jesse Harding Pomeroy's A Boston Brew of Tea Sir!

Of ’seventy-three the tale we sing,
That famous brew whose taste did sting:
The deed on winter’s night was done, Sir.
A noble pot to make our brew
From Boston port the waves to strew.
And Johnny Bull
Did drink his full,
For relish to his taste, Sir!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Jeff Parker Scores with Book of Found Poetry from the World of Sports

Every once in a while the Bar None Group takes a look at poetry in sports. Whether its a beatnik hockey commercial from a Bruin, a prognostication from The Greatest, a retirement notice from the Black Mamba or the wisdom of Metta World Peace. And with the latter we featured the former Ron Artest's own words poetically assembled by Jeff Parker.

Parker's found poetry poem — Erratic Fire, Erratic Passion also serves as the title of his latest book. Erratic Fire, Erratic Passion is a collection of found poems composed of the words of professional athletes.

Iconoclastic author Chuck Klosterman says, "There are many who refer to sports as poetry in motion, and there are some who argue that all conversation is a living form of poetry. These are both imperfect metaphors. But here is a book that takes the literal language of sports and converts it into the actual structure of poetry, and — sometimes, almost by accident — the result is actual perfection."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Remembering Hannah Szenes at Hanukkah

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
No, we didn't forget Hanukkah!

On the last day of Hanukkah we remember the poetry of Hannah Szenes. In particular, we recall her famous poem for Hanukkah; Blessed is the Match or as it is known in Hebrew, Ashrei Ha-Gafrur. The poem was the last she wrote before her execution.

Quaint Sayings of Uncle Jeff: On Happiness

photo © Mark Butkus 2014

Uncle Jeff ruminated on thoughts and themes from sorrow to happiness at the turn of the last century. His niece, Iva, noted nine such sayings. As a young woman of 26 in 1929, Iva was determined to collect and write down the quaint sayings of her Uncle Jeff for posterity's sake. She wrote down his homespun adages within the pages of her second-hand copy of Three Centuries of American Poetry and Prose.

Uncle Jeff had this to say about happiness...

Friday, December 11, 2015

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — I Must Write

photo © Mark Butkus 2009

I must write to you;
no, that is not right.
I must take you to myself,
a child who speaks of pleasures
you have never known:
looking through a sextant and
seeing at my feet a length of rope,
coiling like the sun.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Beyond John

Remembering John Lennon on a hot day in Mexico, 2015.

In that difficult weighted heat
of placid summer afternoons
in a tropical country
when the air is so thick that nothing can shift,
and not even a gnat or a mosquito is
buzzing the voice of God
into the sleeping ear
of “Beyond John”
who replaced Jesus
in the second half
of the twentieth century
in a smoky cannabis haze.
I remember, but not that well.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Rain in December

Rain in December
Is an event to remember
Grey clouds begin to gather up high
In an otherwise empty blue sky
Piper had nailed it, he called for showers
To Jill, his girlfriend, he bought her some flowers
This all took place on Saturday night
A party for Bonnie another birthday delight

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Kobe Bryant Announces Retirement via Poetry

photo © Mark Butkus 2011

Two months into the worst season of his 20 year basketball career, L.A. Laker legend Kobe Bryant announced his retirement at the end of the season on Derek Jeter's The Player Tribune website. The announcement itself was not unexpected, nor was the forum. But the form of the announcement shook not just the sports world but the literary world as well because Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in the form of a poem. Dear Basketball.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Is It Too Soon?

photo © Mark Butkus 2010

Is it too soon
on the first of December
to light the house in red and green
with Thanksgiving turkey
still filling the fridge?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Library Walk: Quoting Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee

Happy Birthday Mark Twain! Born November 30, 1835.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is arguably Mark Twain's most famous work after those two boys named Tom and Huck. First conceived within a dream in 1884 and published in 1889, Twain's novel is a time travel romp from 19th century New England to the 5th century court of King Arthur.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

Greetings to the Natural World

The People
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have
been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living
things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and
thanks to each other as people.

Now our minds are one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — Untitled #2

A cloth of rain
hangs before a
single, yellow lamp
and seated in a
cafe I stare into
your eyes that
search in sleep
for me.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Last Call gets Mexican Book Launch

The third volume of the Bar None Group anthologies — Last Call — will be unveiled at a book launch at Chynna's Backstage Bar in Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico on December 18, 2015.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Street Poetry of Chicago: The Void by Marwan Fateen

photo © Mark Butkus 2014

Trying to find what we once had
it's lost
felt good but it didn't last
it's gone
but you don't give up

It hurts
it's long gone
she moved on
she has a new man now
so carry on

Monday, November 16, 2015

La Marseillaise

The Wall for Peace on the Champs de Mars in Paris.

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'etendard sanglant est levé, (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes!

Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons! Marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Marianne Moore and her Poetry Fixation

Rana © Russell Rosander 2012

One of Marianne Moore's most famous poems is appropriately titled, Poetry. It is also the poem that has vexed scholars and readers alike as she repeatedly edited the piece throughout her life. Her definitive version of Poetry — as she saw it — was reduced to three lines in the 1981 re-issue of The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. It reads as follows:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

David Williams War Sonnet 1914-1918

luminescent eyes stared back and revived
secrets held deep in a mind that’s askew
he whispered the names of those that survived
a smile that belied the things he went through

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Library Walk: Nature, Art and Pablo Picasso

Born this day in 1881, Pablo Picasso was a 20th century Renaissance man. A cofounder of cubism, a poet and a playwright, Picasso was not afraid to share his thoughts on any topic.

The quote that appears on Library Walk is from a collection of thoughts, Picasso on Art: A Selection of Views. It was published in 1972, the year before his death.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Once Upon A Time

How I wish
That I was with you tonight
Heading into tomorrow

But today...
There are more than miles
That keep us far apart

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pequot Song of an Initiate

photo © Mark Butkus 2009
A blue sky silence.

Climbed the blue staircase up to the sky
Climbed to where the roses were blossoming
    Where the roses were talking

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Poem for Esmé

Turn the page to September
A new month, a new chapter
For some a new year

Tell me dear Esmé
What plans do you have
For the day of your birth?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Take Two: A Poem by Denise Chatelain

this loneliness
this lack of trust
belief in separation
has created this
allowance of abuse

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Hobo Poet — Is He? or Isn't He?

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa.

Sometimes a hobo writes a verse
oft' times he makes it rhyme,
In boxcar jargon poetry
He spends his precious time.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

In My Skin

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
How many masks do we wear on stage? How many in life?

It began with a pair of ice skates
Then a stroll outdoors
Before looking on in horror
Whilst holding a cup of joe

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jeff Seymour's Lessons for "The Real Life Actor"

If you've ever been on a film set one of the first pieces of advice that you are given is, "bring a book." There's alot of down time and reading a book helps while away the hours. Especially if you are background.

Background is just an industry term for being an extra...all those people in the background of a scene that you shouldn't be noticing. This background player has been seen on screen at a bar with a copy of Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano, riding the subway with a copy of Lao Tse and this past week walking a downtown street carrying Jeff Seymour's The Real Life Actor.

If you've acted before, Seymour's book will make you rethink your craft. If you are just starting out, The Real Life Actor will open your eyes.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

To Theater or not to Theater...

photo © Mark Butkus 2010
Red, red rows...

It's not a question of
Whether I go to the theater or not.
It's a matter of access.

I don't know what I will want to see
Or when I will want to see it
As I can't anticipate
My moods. My desires.
Or even my whims.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Shakespeare's All The World's A Stage

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — Homeless Vet on Congress Avenue

I can see that when traffic
at your corner’s stopped,
and flashing lights in blue and red
signal the arrival of our escort,
you will be disconcerted;
soon, an altar boy will be beside you
and staring down at his calm face,
you will calm in turn.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

On the Road in Texas: The Mariachi of Cibolo

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
Por Ruben Vazquez...

The Mariachi of Cibolo
tells me his history
and the history of mariachi
over shots of tequila
poured in his garage.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I Am Canadian

Happy Canada Day from Canadian, Texas.

"I'm not a lumberjack or a fur trader.
I don't live in an igloo
or eat blubber
or own a dog sled.

And I don't know Jimmy, Sally or
Suzy from Canada,
although I'm certain they're really, really nice.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Lost Pencil

I see the path I have traveled
A wheel turning
On the curvature of days
Seeking happiness here
Some love, some peace there

Monday, June 29, 2015

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's A Child’s Grave at Florence

A. A. E. C.
Born, July 1848; died, November 1849.

 Of English blood, of Tuscan birth   
  What country should we give her?   
Instead of any on the earth,   
  The civic Heavens receive her.   

And here among the English tombs           
  In Tuscan ground we lay her,   
While the blue Tuscan sky endomes   
  Our English words of prayer.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

En el mar de mis sueños

Soñé que estaba en el mar de nuevo,
flotaba ligera y sin rumbo,
flotaba como un cuerpo inerte
o como alguien que espera pacientemente
que la vida llegue como las olas
o la muerte como la brisa;

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Juan Felipe Herrara Named First Latino Poet Laureate of United States

The Library of Congress announced today that Mexican American poet Juan Felipe Herrara will succeed Charles Wright as the 21st Poet Laureate of the United States.

Herrara is currently the Poet Laureate of his home state California and will officially become U.S. Poet Laureate  with a reading at the commencement of Hispanic Heritage Month on September 15.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Library Walk: Alfred Kazin and Room 315 of the NYPL

photo © Mark Butkus 2011

The plaques on Library Way across from the main branch of the New York Public Library grab quotes from history, famous literary works and from the lion of literature — the authors. Alfred Kazin's quote is different.

Kazin's quote is of the library itself. Room 315 in particular — the Main Reading Room.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Charles Bane Jr.'s The Chapbook — Blackfoot Camp

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
Two Medicine Territory, 1870

You must go from here.
This is not good.
There was a raid today.
Many times I counted coup.

But where I should have seen an enemy,
I saw you and my face was soft.
You must go away.
But then I would follow I think
to fold grasses for your sleep.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Night and Day with Allen Ginsberg and Guerrilla Poetics

"This poem may be the last best hope for real literary art. It is the cave wall where we record our passing."

So begins the bookmark placed inside my recently purchased copy of Allen Ginsberg's The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice. It was "smuggled into this book by one of our Special Operatives" at the Guerilla [sic] Poetics Project.

The Guerilla Poetics Project was a marketing strategy to bring underground poetry to the mainstream by placing broadsides in selected books. From 2006-2008 selected poems of more than 50 poets reached new, unsuspecting audiences in this manner. How the Bar None Group came to stumble upon a broadside at a bookstore in University Village in Chicago in 2015 is somewhat surprising.

Curiously — and probably by happenstance — the broadside which spoke of morning was placed next to a Ginsberg poem which spoke of the evening. Reading the two pieces of poetry together seemed like the proper thing to watching The Wizard of Oz while listening to Pink Floyd. You end up with an inter-generational poetic mash up. One that I am sure Ginsberg would be keen to explore himself.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Teacher Fired over Allen Ginsberg poem Please Master

photo © Mark Butkus 2011

A Connecticut teacher was forced to resign for reciting the Allen Ginsberg poem Please Master to his class of high school seniors.

One of his students asked to share the poem with the class and after some trepidation, David Olio — a former teacher of the year — recited the poem. Some students were left feeling uncomfortable which in turn lead to parents becoming infuriated that their children were subjected to the poem.

We present Please Master in it's unadulterated entirety for you for the sake of discussion. If you are offended by poetry, art, rights and freedoms then stop reading now because you will no doubt be offended.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Separation: Spirit, Heart, Love

In the spirit
things heaped
upon fantasy of being.

No separation in heart and love,
in touch — love binds.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tomatoes and Doves

photo © Mark Butkus 2009

There is a tomato plant on the table
emerging from the shadows
and sunlight is catching
the yellowing leaves

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Death is Nothing at All

All is Well.

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Alice Notley Awarded 2015 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

Award recognizes lifetime accomplishment with $100,000 prize.

CHICAGO – The Poetry Foundation is honored to announce that Alice Notley has been awarded the 2015 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which recognizes the outstanding lifetime achievement of a living U.S. poet.

Presented annually to a living U.S. poet whose lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Bendición del hogar

photo © Mark Butkus 2012

Dios mío bendice mi casa,
para que sea el hogar del amor
y de la paz.

Bendice la puerta abierta
como dos brazos extendidos
que dan la bienvenida.

Monday, May 4, 2015

First Lines Second Thoughts — Finnegan's Wake

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
A river runs through it...

First Lines Second Thoughts is an occcasional look at the first lines of well known literary works. On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? Today, we look at the opening lines of James Joyce's classic Finnegan's Wake. Published this day in 1939 after 17 years of writing and rewriting.

The first words are a sentence fragment which continues from the book's unfinished last line. This has the effect of making Finnegan's Wake a never-ending cycle.