Poetry Drawer: Love in the Time of Cold by Laura Potts

Before the dawn that walks the northern morning from the moors;
before the swans sing winter on and cough the fog upon the ponds,
we ask that through the Christmas mist and bells that bring December in
you pause and long-remember this: ever through the blizzard lives

the hospice on the hill, sleeping in the heart of dark beneath the stars
and still. How that leaping garden laughs; how that wind will never gasp away
the ashes of our past that live until the last; how those staff with candle-eyes
will guard our sleepers through the night. And as the nurses lull the light

the sentry sets above and bright-as-life upon the skies: ever does that crust
of moon push a light into those rooms, and pull away the dusk and gloom.
Oh how soon the seasons turn, and how the folk will come and go and once
will leave to not return, and how that tree will never know defeat against

the snow. Know only that the flowers grow and show their Sunday best,
and bow towards that sleeping house, and death is that much less

This poem was first published on The Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network and was commended in the Wish List challenge in 2018.

Poetry Drawer: Flight by Laura Minning

Dreams
are meant to be fulfilled,
and dreams
are meant to be shared.

That’s what he thought.
That’s what he
always wanted.

He was so full of life.
His soul was free,
but his body
was weighted
with illness.

His heart grew heavy
with each passing day,
but he never gave up,
and he never lost sight
of his dreams.

I respected him for that.
I respected him
for who he was,
and I was grateful for
for the time
that we did have.

And every time
I think of him,
I will smile
because I know
that he
would have
wanted it that way.

Inky Interview: Author and Visual Artist Laura Minning

Books From The Pantry: Isn’t Forever by Amy Key: Reviewed by Claire Faulkner

Amy Key’s new collection, Isn’t Forever, published by Bloodaxe Books, is hypnotic and addictive. I became intoxicated by the verse. It’s full of poems that have a beautiful, almost dream like quality to them. They’re unique, strong and inspiring at the same time.

I particularly enjoyed the use of language in this collection. Sometimes harsh, sometimes with humour, but always with remarkable depth and insight.

Baby, wait a lifetime before you love somebody’ took my breath away. It has the lines:

Today I woke wishing for a baby.
I woke thinking – next year I will be married.
Strange since I’m not a mascot for such things.

It finishes with:

Starlight tastes less like snow than you might think
and I woke with a temporary sense of what love is,
like getting away with a good lie.
I am watching my breath mist up the windows
thinking – I made this.

The poem, ‘She lacks confidence, she craves admiration insatiably. She lives on the reflections of herself in the eyes of others. She does not dare to be herself’ is collaged from self help and agony aunt websites, and I adore the lines which give the reader advice:

Take a self-appreciation holiday.
Build a fortress
around your best self.
When you hear your worst
selves yelling from the ornamental moat of your
self-esteem. Ghost them.

Beauty, love and the female body are recurring themes throughout the collection. ‘No one should be scared of pleats’ is an amazing cento based on the words of Coco Chanel. It has the wonderful lines:

I don’t have to explain my creations; they have explained themselves

and

If I built aeroplanes, I would begin by making one that was too beautiful.

In ‘Two cats’, one of my favourites in the collection, Key demonstrates an elegant nature of vulnerability with the lines:

I whispered love to both cats
and tried to pay them equal attention. The vet prescribed
a hormone diffuser to take the edge off their fretfulness
and I worried about its effect on me. I had trouble both
sleeping and waking and was often in tears.

Hauntingly beautiful are the lines from ‘The Garden’:

I encountered a surface that was not safe to stand on
it was between me and the garden.
The garden said take as much time as you need.
It said you don’t even have to tell me.

I find myself intrigued by Amy Key’s style and words. The poems felt real to me, and one more than one occasion they made me pause for breath. I was delighted and surprised by them. It’s a stunning collection.

Photography by Jamie Drew

Get your copy of Isn’t Forever by Amy Key

Inkphrastica: Song of Freedom Oasis by Rus Khomutoff (Words) & Now That’s What I Call Blue by Mark Sheeky (Oil Painting)

Usurp of the jonquil intervoid
happenstance arrival pending
a severing of the apparent encore
distant cries and
blossom bones enduring eternity
a face of genius in
full measure of the spectacular now
the explicit nevermind
of bulletproog passingness
always unfinished
song of freedom oasis
buying exits

Artwork: Now That’s What I Call Blue by Mark Sheeky

Rus Khomutoff’s Poetry

Inky Interview Special: Author Joseph S. Pete

Your literary or photographic work has appeared in over 100 journals. Can you tell us about your journey towards being a writer? What subjects do you photograph? Do you combine words and pictures?

As a bookish person, I’ve aspired to be a writer since childhood. I read constantly. I keep paperbacks in my jacket pockets and my pants pockets so I can read at any time I am not otherwise occupied. I even pocketed paperbacks at my wedding, just in case. Understanding at an early age that few are fortunate enough to write literary fiction full-time, I sought out a career in the media so I could write for my day job, to develop the muscle memory. I first started photographing as a necessity for publications with limited resources, where I needed to both photograph and write up assignments. I’ve since evolved into a prolific shutterbug, and am most interested in architecture, urban landscapes, urban decay, graffiti, and natural landscapes. My iPhone photo albums are largely devoid of people–for whatever reason, I’m more drawn to art, architecture and the like. I seldom combine words and pictures, but my writing and photography sometimes draw inspiration from the same subjects.

You are an Iraq War veteran. How much has this experience fed into your work?

Iraq was rough. I often strive to tell war stories, and experiment by trying to tell them through different forms. It’s something I feel I have to do justice to as a storyteller.

You are also an award winning journalist. How did you get into journalism? Have you advice for any of our followers who want to enter this field?

In high school, I wrote an earth-shattering investigative exposé on how high school athletes used the dietary supplement creatine and how it was potentially harmful. Earlier in May, I received a prestigious Peter Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club at the ritzy Union League Club in the Loop after watching a video presentation about the acclaimed Chicago Tribune journalist Anne Keegan, whose first high school story had been about birds nesting at the school, which somehow stirred up controversy with notoriously open-minded administrators. Anyone interested in entering the field should just amass clips, and use them to persuade editors of their writing chops. It’s largely all about what you can do. That being said, the transition from dead trees to online has taken more than a pound of flesh, and the carnage continues until they settle on a new, more viable business model. I’ve been sickened to see so many of my talented colleagues laid off, or just given up on a career that seems to be circling the drain and certainly has endured a great deal of political scorn over the last few years.

You were named poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest. Interesting! Can you tell us about this? What is the literary scene like where you live?

I get nervous reading my work at half-empty coffeeshops but somehow wasn’t daunted to read a dumb joke poem in front of thousands of people at the UIC Pavilion, including comedian Hannibal Buress and Chicago Bears players. I was also a runner-up in the PBR Art Contest for poetry, earning me a three-month supply of that hipster swill. For some reason I imagined a worker would dolly a few cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon to my door; instead, they sent a paltry check.

Northwest Indiana is the New Jersey of Chicago–it has a surprisingly vibrant literary scene that includes afew journals, the Zine and Small Press Festival in Michigan City, many lovingly crafted zines at cafes and boutiques, writers groups, the Indiana Writers Consortium Steel Pen Conference, open mics and more. Neighboring Chicago definitely has one of the best literary scenes in the country, with at least a few live lit events every week. Plenty of big-name authors pass through. I’m going to see National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward at the Chicago Humanities Fest in Hyde Park.

What is it you love about the short story form? What about poetry? Any preference?

Short stories are one of the most digestible and accessible forms of literature, a narrative contained in a convenient package. I love the soaring heights of language poetry can ascend to. No preference. They’re both great expressions of creativity.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

I write a lot about industrial decline, abandonment, alienation, war, despondency, injustice and other themes. While my work may be thematically dark, it’s typically leavened by a lot of humour.

Describe a typical day in your life.

It’s a grind. I write, write, write for my newspaper…at a bar, a fellow reporter recently introduced me as the “journalist who wrote the entire Times of Northwest Indiana and produced 12 stories a day.” That’s a comedic exaggeration, but not by much. I write journalism by day and write literature by later at night, often working on short stories or poems into the wee hours of the morning. I read as much as possible, try to walk as much as possible, and frequent plays, museums and other cultural events on the weekends.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

There’s so much that’s so profoundly wrong with the world, from poverty to inequality to sexism to racism, to senseless gun violence. If you put a gun to my head, I would probably call for more appreciation for media, literature and the arts. I say that partly out of self-interest but truly believe, however Pollyannaish it may sound, that most of the world’s problems could be solved if people read a book a week, kept up with the news, developed empathy for other people, and maybe spent a few hours volunteering. So many intractable issues seem to be at least partly the result of ignorance.

Who inspires you and why?

This is perhaps the toughest question. Any author I’m reading, any painter whose work I’m looking at. It takes bravery to create art in a cruel, indifferent world.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I was miserable for most of my youth but haven’t since attained any wisdom of note. Mostly, I would encourage my younger self to not be such a perfectionist with literature and just write. My biggest regrets are failing to submit to literary journals like Canvas at Indiana University because I held them in such high esteem and held myself in such low esteem that I didn’t think I was worthy. Now they’re gone and I missed the chance to develop as a literary writer, whether they accepted my work or passed on it with stale, dashed-off form letters that are almost always more error-ridden than the cast-aside submissions.

Tell us a story in five words.

Fiction: Baby shoes, never worn

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

I’ve frequently sought out literary sites, such as the Thurber House in Columbus, the James Whitcomb Riley mansion in Indianapolis and Jean Shepherd’s childhood home in Hammond, Indiana. I’ve frequented places like the American Writers Museum in Chicago and The Things They Carried exhibit at the National Veterans Art Museum. The closest I probably ever came to a pilgrimage proper was my cross-country road trip to Fort Lewis by Seattle, which I fancied was a modern-day version of On The Road even though it was far less exciting.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

As someone who suffers from Imposter Syndrome, no matter how widely I’ve been published, I probably shouldn’t be proffering advise on this subject. But read, write and read a lot. That’s the ticket. Read widely, and keep trying to incrementally improve. Reading’s the key thing.

What are you reading at the moment?

Katey Schultz’s Flashes of War, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lost short story collection I’d Die for You, Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse, Michael DeForge’s Very Casual, Sam Graham-Felsen’s Green, Nathaniel Rich’s King Zeno, Tatjana Soli’s The Lotus Eaters, Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. I’m also a professional book reviewer for a national magazine and read tons of books for work.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

Novels, plays, maybe even screenplays. I’m been slowly but surely working my way up to longer works, and we’ll see how it goes. I’m trying. Everybody’s trying.

Pantry Prose: The Young Man and the Sand (a contemporary homage to Ernest Hemingway) by Joseph S. Pete

Inky Interview Special: John Grey, Australian Poet, USA resident

Tell us about your journey towards becoming a poet.

Sometimes in my early teens, I had made up my mind that I was going to be a writer. I tried just about every variation on the written word over the ensuing years from short stories to plays and (especially) songs but finally poetry emerged as the one genre that fitted what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

What is it you love about poetry?

The immediacy. The compactness. How so much can be said with so few apt and original words.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

I write so much poetry that it’s impossible for me to get stuck on one particular theme. But, I expect, if I did a census, relationships would come out on top.

Describe a typical day in your life.

During the week, I typically work from 7 until 7. That includes writing and all the secretarial work that goes along with it. That includes coffee, lunch and exercise breaks. On weekends, I’m more flexible as I have to work around family requirements etc.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

Am I allowed to say the current president?

Who inspires you and why?

Reading originally inspired me to write. These days, I can’t think of any particular author who stands out above the others.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t take rejection hard. Just let it make you more determined. And perhaps take up a more lucrative branch of the arts.

Tell us a story in five words.

The phone rings. Telemarketers. Slam!

Have you been on a literary pilgrimage?

Not really. though I have visited various writer tourist spots such as Poe’s grave and Mark Twain’s house in Hartford.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Find your voice. Have faith in yourself. Keep at it.

What are you reading at the moment?

I always find myself reading something that probably nobody else in a radius of 5,000 miles is reading at this very moment. Right now it’s The Education Of Uncle Paul by Algernon Blackwood.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

My next is usually a vacation I’m looking forward to. My plans are to keep on writing.

Poetry Drawer: An Awkward Meeting in a Coffee House by John Grey

Poetry Drawer: Who She is Not by Karen Wolf

Like drool down a teething
baby’s chin, pleasantries roll
off her tongue. Her flattery soothes
the broken-hearted, encourages
the frustrated, comforts
the lonely—
part of who she is or who
she’s taught herself to be, not always
truthful, but expected.

She longs to strip
away her façade, level
the playing field with cruelties,
lies, baiting comments
drenched in satisfaction. Her
rebirth—
only moments away.

Poetry Drawer: Lowering The Lights by Stephen Mead

Grey eyes, wolf’s, cold steel
in the glint with fire behind, steel
of a new street grid, a warmth
in that whiteness
glowing gold through the black
of its own holocaust….

Tender yet, it is animal fragrant,
mortal through the mist where
in absence, presence, absence,
we, hunted, touch through
tenements, the graffiti of city woods.

I draw close my curtains
as though inside the vestments
of your flesh robes, the fur & grey
gazes you pierce the lowered lamp
lights with,

& also my beating heart.

Check out Stephen Mead’s Inky Interview

Flash In The Pantry: Serotonin Reuptake by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

1.

In my memoir, I discuss sea lions. Sea lions lack subtlety. They never suffer from depression. Even when they’re thrown off an ice flow by a killer whale and their offspring are eaten, they never get blue, never suffer hate or thirst for vengeance—that’s not the way they’re made.

2.

On the glass table near my cruise ship cabin’s window, I lay out my thirteen pills on top of a brochure for shore excursions. Thirteen pills—the number seems lucky. There’s my anti-depressant, the pill to lower my blood uric acid so I won’t suffer from gout (the rich man’s malady), my baby aspirin, my boner pill.

3.

We pulled up to Yawzi Point, where the victims of Yaws had been quarantined by their ungrateful masters. The fat girl told us that the sign at the head of the point read Go No Further.

4.

My memoir is full of emotion. It has depth. I sometimes suffer depression and have many notes about how depression gets one in touch with one’s soul. However, if I had my choice, I would forego depression entirely.

5.

That sign now hangs on the wall of a Copenhagen museum. The souls of those dead slaves reside there, disfigured by the sun and hunger, toil and illness. Scandinavia is no longer a utopia, as the past merges with the present and the future. The fat girl shoves pastries into her pie hole.

6.

A theological mystery: does serotonin act in God’s mind the way it acts in ours? Was He the first to understand the concept of the inhibition of serotonin reuptake?