Sunday, December 31, 2017

31 December 1985

A New Year reimagined.
Reynolds Price poem recalls a time long gone. For this reviewer, a New Year's Eve in Canada.

Even a sane man staggers to points where
The smallest grain may suddenly blast out
Promise or threat — the wrong birdcall,
The rate of sunlight prowling a face,
The day's first word. Today, butt-end
Of an endless year, you tumble me
From chair to car in chill sunlight
And then yell "Whoa!" I crouch in the plush,
Expecting blood — cut forehead, cut foot
(The practical hemophilia of the numb).

Happy New Year y Gracias to the Writers of Bar None Group for 2017!

art © John Napper 2017
A painting of Piper's Bar by John Napper.

What an incredible year!

The first moments of 2017 were spent watching fireworks explode over the Queen Mary in Long Beach and the last moments of 2017 will be spent doing likewise. Oh but the days in between took us on exciting adventures dicovering poets new and gone. It also brought into this world a granddaughter — Mya Belle. Thank you to all of you who have read, contributed, inspired and shared the words within the pages of the Bar None Group this past year.

Happy New Year to:

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Eight Most Popular Poems and More from 2017

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
What made the Top Eight in 2017? Here's a clue.

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

Friday, December 29, 2017

New York City Subway Poem is Poetry in Motion for MTA

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
Sweet dreams of poetry on the A train in New York City.

Billy Collins Subway was one of three poems added in 2016 by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Poetry in Motion series. The public literary project has "brought more than 200 poems or excerpts before the eyes of millions of subway riders and rail commuters, offering each a moment of timelessness in the busy day" since the program began in 1992.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Blanca Segura y La Profundidad del Mar

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
Puesta del sol en Lima, Perú.

Me dicen que tú eres
quién le pondrá fin a esta era.
bañado en aguas saladas
reluciente ante mi,
empappado de esperanza
con ojos grandes,
inmensos como la cavidad en tu pecho
y la profundidad del mar;

Monday, December 25, 2017

On Christmas You Wrote A Poem for Christmas

photo © Eric Butkus 2017
A Christmas call and response by Teresa Puente and Mark Butkus.

Happy Christmas! Christmas wishes do come true. It's our fervent hope that your Christmas dreams come true today and stay true tomorrow.

And now, a poem, make it two.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Love Came Down at Christmas for Christina Rossetti

photo © Mark Butkus 2016
Love shall be our token.

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
Star and angels gave the sign.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Stealing a Kiss in the Middle of the Night in Barra with Marc Pettigrew

photo © Teresa Puente 2011
An invitation to dance the night away in Barra with Marc Pettigrew.

Stealing a kiss in the moonlight
The music that's playing is just right
And all I wanna do is dance with you
In the middle of the street
In the middle of the night in Barra

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Pawnee Poem: Invoking the Visions

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
Now they cross the threshold, gliding softly.

Holy visions!
Wither come, we pray you, come unto us,
Bringing with you joy;
Come, O come to us, holy visions,
Bringing with you joy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ending Hanukkah with First They Came...

photo © Mark Butkus 2004
For when there is on one left to speak for you.

As Hanukkah concludes at sunset, we take a look at Martin Niemöller's famous poem, First They Came... The poem speaks of political apathy and first saw the light of day in a speech delivered in the early days of 1946. After the dark years of World War II and the rise and fall of Nazi Germany.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

Somewhat of a Christmas Miracle

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
A farm at Christmas.

Uncle Barney had Brillo-y hair he dyed a yellow that isn’t found in nature and a matching handlebar mustache he waxed and curled and kept touching with such fondness that people sometimes looked away. Aunt Myrtle said if he’d spent as much time touching her as he did that damn mustache, maybe they’d have had children. She said this out loud at family gatherings, which made everyone almost as uncomfortable as Uncle Barney’s mustache-fondling.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Library Way: The Proem of John Greenleaf Whittier

John Greenleaf Whittier born December 17, 1807.

Proem was written to introduce the first general collection of poems by John Greenleaf Whittier in 1874. It is the first of seven stanzas that is immortalized on Library Way.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Holidays of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
Of some enchanted land we know not where.

The holiest of all holidays are those
    Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
    The secret anniversaries of the heart,
    When the full river of feeling overflows;—

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Dying Hobo

"I must catch her on the fly."

Beside a Western water tank,
one cold December day,
inside an empty boxcar
a dying hobo lay:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Xmas Poem by Literary Iconoclast William Joyce

Xmas turkey and all the poetic fixings.

The Xmas my father went to New Mexico
To an A.A. home to dry out
Was the same Xmas my brother left
On his honeymoon was the Xmas my rich uncle
Potts on my mother's side came to visit
For the first time in twenty years.

Charles Gardner Overcame Death and Learned to Believe in Miracles

Charles Gardner will speak about his first book, “Always Remember This Moment” on Saturday, December 16, at Easy Does It Bookstore in Long Beach.

In this telling and spiritual memoir, Always Remember This Moment describes Charlie’s near-death experience wherein doctors enforced his do not resuscitate order after six weeks of unresponsive hospitalization. Organs in failure and family close at hand, Charles Gardner left his body and his life as he knew it behind on a true course of miracles.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Marion Hartog's Chanukah poem for Hanukkah

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
Remembering feminist trailblazer Marion Hartog at Hanukkah.

Down-trodden ’neath the Syrian heel
     Did Zion’s sceptre lie;
Her shrine, where once God’s glory flung
Its radiance, now wildly rung
     With pagan revelry.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Library Way: Emily Dickinson and the Living Word

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
Emily Dickinson plaque on Library Way.

Known as poem 1212 from Emily Dickinson's correspondence with Frances and Louise Norcross, 1212 appears in its entirety as immortalized upon Library Way in New York City.

La Navidad de Octavio González Navarro

Feliz Navidad de Barra de Navidad!

Prósperos son los días.
Sueños dorados de niños realizados 
La gente feliz de fiesta.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Color Me Christmas

What Color are you at Christmas?

My favorite color is Tiffany Blue
Followed by the Pink on your cheeks
When you open a box
A Green pine tree
On a White Christmas morning

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Poem to Diego Rivera from Frida Kahlo

Not your typical example of art by Diego Rivera.

Truth is, so great, that I wouldn’t like to speak,
or sleep, or listen, or love.
To feel myself trapped, with no fear of blood,
outside time and magic, within your own fear,
and your great anguish,
and within the very beating of your heart.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Poetic Justice

Navigating the holiday season can be a challenge of will.

Drinking lots of alcohol
By choice and experimentation,
Lead to my future treatment,
To my exasperation.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Mela Gaskins-Butcher's Evening

photo © Mark Butkus 2009
Evening in New York.

Our cities are lit
by our fear of the night
of the dark
with its cauldron
of stars

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Sonnet by Rilke on His Birthday

Rainer Maria Rilke, born this day, December 4 1875.

A tree ascended there. Oh pure transendence!
Oh Orpheus sings! Oh tall tree in the ear!
And all things hushed. Yet even in that silence
a new beginning, beckoning, change appeared.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

High and Dry at Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon

Oh Heinold's is open!

I stood out front the bar
That Jack London drank in,
That Robert Louis Stevenson drank in,
That Joaquin Miller drank in,
And I was thirsting for
A nickel beer or a dime whiskey
That the bar was famous for.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Street Poetry of Chicago: I'm an Ant by Marwan Fateen

photo © Mark Butkus 2011

I'm dist-ant
An inhabit-ant
Of c-ant
I'm an ant
Part of a larger whole
A body
that we all control
Take away the tee
And you'll find me

Friday, December 1, 2017

Back to Square One with Rod McKuen

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
In someone's shadow, in someone's desert?

On a recent roadtrip to the Arizona desert I came across a book of poetry from Rod McKuen. Having devoured McKuen in my early 20s I had stopped reading him because he was deemed unfashionable and not to be taken seriously. Funny thing, 30 years later I see more of McKuen in my poetry than in all the "serious" poets that I tried to emulate.

But this isn't my story. It's not Rod McKuen's story either. This is Wayne's story and the poem he wrote on the inside cover of McKuen's In Someone's Shadow back in 1969 titled, Square One.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Genius of Mark Twain

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
Celebrating Mark Twain's birthday or merely a genius?

Genius, like gold and precious stones,
is chiefly prized because of its rarity.

Geniuses are people who dash of weird, wild,
incomprehensible poems with astonishing facility,
and get booming drunk and sleep in the gutter.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

And So I Waver from the Pen of Tom Kauwling

What is a poet?
my granddaughter asked of me
with the energetic inquisitiveness and expectation
that only a seven-year-old can bring to the table
as she tries to probe the depths of life
from a grampa who should know because
he is eleven times her age.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Many Poems of Nikolai Tjongarero

A portrait of the poet...

see I've scripted many poems for women
that will never know those pieces were meant for them,
for the mere fact that they told me I wasn't meant for them ...
but now they keep asking who I wrote them for and
my heart forces my mind to tell them lies
which cover-up the truths stuck within the grains
floating in and out of the shadows of time.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Quaint Sayings of Uncle Jeff: On Choice of Companions

Water finds its own level.

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.

As we come upon the holiday season we look at what Uncle Jeff had to say about companions...

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Jack London Credo of 1916

The Jack London Credo is inscribed on the the base of the Jack London statue.

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze
than it should be stifled by dry-rot.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Him and Her at City Lights Bookstore

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
Taking a peek inside the world famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.

Where they keep the poets
I’m sitting beside Ferlinghetti
Looking at the alley out the window
The fire escape, the bricks
The tiles

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cheemah, Mother of the Spirit-Fire

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
Cheemah, Mother of the Spirit-Fire at Jack London Square in Oakland, California.

Cheemah is the bright and shining spirit
of our beautiful Mother Planet
and is within each and every human.
Cheemah is the spirit of life
and is all light on our Earth.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Mi barrita querida… de Hugo Becerra

Mi Barrita querida,
Tu que me has visto crecer,
Enfermar, sangrar, llorar y reir.

Que me diste una nueva familia,
Muchos amores, muchos amigos,
Y inspiracion para mis canciones,
Que me abriste las puertas a otros paises a otras culturas.

Friday, November 17, 2017

George Peele's A Farewell to Arms

photo © Mark Butkus 2011

His golden locks Time hath to silver turn'd;
         O Time too swift, O swiftness never ceasing!
His youth 'gainst time and age hath ever spurn'd,
         But spurn'd in vain; youth waneth by increasing:
Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fading seen;
Duty, faith, love, are roots, and ever green.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

In the Woods with Naomi Replansky

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
For Bea and Edith with love, Naomi.

They walked in the world together
And came to the end of play.
Each of them clung to the other
And each pushed the other away.

That forest was not so scary
And two should be warmer than one.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Frank Bidart Wins 2017 National Book Award for Poetry

The cover of Frank Bidart's's winning "Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016."

Frank Bidart has won the 2017 National Book Award for Poetry. In a ceremony tonight in New York City, Bidart beat out a stellar group of finalists to claim the National Book Award for his career encompassing collection volume of poetry — Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan Publishers).

Library Way: Marianne Moore and the Enchanting Mind

There are many stories behind the writers, poets and artists that adorn the plaques on Library Way in New York City. Marianne Moore (1887–1972) has the distinction of having been employed by the New York Public Library, one of the sponsors of Library Way. Her tenure as a part-time librarian at NYPL began in 1921, the same year her first volume of poetry, Poems was published. Without her permission.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

On Finding Van K. Brock and These Words

photoart © Mark Butkus 2011
These words leave a ringing in my ears.

The words I had for you were small
presents saying light things, and I had
filled them with my breath, like a bouquet
of balloons. Then, I thought they might
float off unless I tied them to you
or pressed them firmly into your grasp.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Poet Jean Toomer is 50th Inducted into the American Poets' Corner

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
The Poets' Corner, dedicated to American Literature honors poet Jean Toomer in 2017.

The poet Jean Toomer (1894-1967) was inducted into the American Poets' Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City on Sunday November 12, 2017. The ceremony began with a reading of November Cotton Flower by Poet in Residence Marilyn Nelson.

Toomer's literary output does not compare to past honorees but then again few American writers have been able to capture the essence of a people in a particular moment in time as Toomer did with the publication in 1923 of his incomparable book of poetry, Cane.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

An Evening Song for Jean Toomer

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
"Facing West, a somnolent Moon reflects tranquility from a joyous Sun smiling to the East."

Full moon rising on the waters of my heart,
Lakes and moon and fires,
Cloine tires,
Holding her lips apart.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ghost Dance Song of the Kiowa

The Father will descend,
The earth will tremble.
Everybody will arise,
Stretch out your hands.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Found Poetry: The Campground Edition 15

The poem we call, 15.
From time to time we come across street poetry. Found poetry. We have discovered street poetry in Florence, Italy, on the streets of New York City during Occupy Wall Street and in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago

We have also stumbled upon found poetry by re-reading public service announcements in a different vein, as happened along the "L" in Chicago, an intersection in St. Petersburg, Florida and now in a campground in Arizona.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Bungalow on Mazatlan

photo © Mark Butkus 2016

She knows to steal
A glance as she
Walks by a mirror
She'll cross
Her legs
In polite company
And kiss you
In the morning

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Poet Gone: An Elegy for Gord Downie

Gord Downie 1964-2017

I drown my sorrows
in an empty glass

Wiping up memories
with a spastic cloth

Dancing with the
shadows of ghosts

As 1990 You
bounce off the walls

Monday, September 11, 2017

Remembering 9-11: St. Paul's Chapel Poem by J. Chester Johnson

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
The steeple of St. Paul's Chapel.

It stood. Not a window broken. Not a stone dislodged.
It stood when nothing else did.
It stood when terrorists brought September down.
It stood among myths. It stood among ruins.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

On the Road: Finding the Glory to God Prayer in San Luis Obispo

photo © Mark Butkus 2017
Prayer card at the Mission at San Luis Obispo.

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good.

We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.