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?