Thursday, April 17, 2014

NEW! Two poems by Bob Brooks

Bob Brooks

Two poems


—What did you do with that turkey bone? We don’t want the dog to get it. 

—I threw it into the buddleia.

—You threw it where?

—You know, behind the vibernum.

—Behind what?

—Over there by the cotoneaster. 


—Don’t worry! He’ll never find it. 


Across the road in front of my car 
the chipmunk charges

tail borne high 
like a banner. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

NEW! Four poems by Lillian Nickerson

Lillian Nickerson

Four poems


During your lion year goodwill will once again scream from the other side of Cheyenne Mountain. It is your duty to report your physical growth to the Den Chief without a stammer and to sleep through the church bell’s eleven sounds. It is your duty to not eat your young. It is your goodwill that’s calling—a shallow whisper, a plea—to keep your temporary claws retracted in this year of prideful service.


Your fire maker’s rank requires that you return all beauty to its rightful inhabitant. A thorough hand examination will be conducted to certify that all fingernails have been sufficiently bitten and that all fire makers are adept at cooking a three-­‐course meal without the use of knives or spoons. Teeth will be filed in anticipation of the Face Wars and irises will be dyed to match the nearest pond. She with the prettiest voice will be silenced. She with the roundest breasts will require a horsehair coat.


At times it may be easy to forget that you are both Wolf and Not Wolf. Both Lion and Not Lion. At times you will exist only in name. At times you will exist only in the scruff of your patchy beard. One day you will be all teeth. One day, all stomach. One day you will be a sash of badges, and then an expert X on the den chief’s roster.


When you are Chief going directly into anything will mean never going alone. Bears and wolves will stretch paper-­doll style from each elbow. When you howl, they howl. When you hate, they hate. Your knees will learn to bend backwards, but still you will remain a man. Better than a man, you will harvest lightning. You will set your own broken bones in splints made of squirrel. You will be bored and you will be enough, which is enough. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

NEW! Short story by Cathy Herbert

Cathy Herbert


I wait, hopefully, for the zombie apocalypse. When I’m packed sardine-close on the commuter bus, I wonder if it has already consumed me. Sitting with mom in the living room that smells of old age and stale cigarettes, I catch a whiff of zombie in the air. She can’t hold a thought in her head. The image on the TV freezes into a patch of pastel squares.

“Picture’s gone,” she states once again, as if it has never happened before. 

“The zombies did it.”

“The neighbors?”

“Yes. They’re not very nice.”

I guess I shouldn’t have invited them for tea.

I feel the signs of the apocalypse in my cold bones, in the cicada-like hum of the fluorescents in my cubicle at the end of the factory floor. I imagine the papers on my desk have scattered on the wind, relics of a time before the zombies.

They say dogs can smell cancer. Perhaps that’s why Clancy no longer wants to lick mom’s face. She coos to him and offers him treats. He takes them, warily, his spindly old-dog tail tucked. When she tries to pick him up, he twists away. She forgets all of this in a heartbeat and believes that she has spent the last hour cradling him, still a puppy, his wiry fur pressed against her multiple chins.

I hear the tea kettle whine, happy that she’s remembered to heat the water. She used to tell me stories, now forgotten, about biscuits called scones, served with a paste made of real fruit and a heavy sweet cream that tastes like heaven. I sense the muted, shuffling footsteps in the kitchen. I know that the zombies are packed tightly against one another. Finally, I will join them. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

NEW! Poem by Virginia Konchan

Virginia Konchan


X is for Xanax, xenophobes, 
and x-rays that purport
to shine a cathode light
on the pathologies
of your spine. X:
positus, topoi, key— 
secret location of the eye- 
witness to the century’s 
most gruesome crime. 
Let those for whom 
gender and speech
are propositional acts 
sing of the headless, 
stateless, nameless, 
exiled in St. Tropez
until discovered by 
satellite topography: 
eyeball of fame,
tungsten blue on
the screen of our
illicit, private-cum- 
public desires. 

Friday, April 04, 2014

NEW! Poem by David Koehn

David Koehn


I am escargot. Grilled sloth. A 1000 year old egg.
My skin nests psoriatic rice hulls; my aura, ash. The taste
Of my tongue, salt; the feel of my love, warm wet clay.
The burn of my kiss after I leave you, quicklime.
My homemade noodles taste better than others,
Not only longer but I take longer to make them.
There is a reason every lover I’ve left opens
When I return. I do not understand why lips
Purse or legs part. But a cough thumps
The critical word in a phrase. The scratch in the vinyl.
The difference between assumption and being understood.
When they lift the bed sheet, no matter who is there, I am too.
They frost seminal vowels with soundtracks from black and whites. 

I squinch sepia into the dough. Tack bruise onto the ink. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

NEW! Poem by John Bonanni

John Bonanni

The rain gutter deserves a better cleaning

At night my corduroy shorts
take the window frame with them,

a sweep of gray across one leg.

To sit & smoke on roof slats, 
to watch the tea billow

from the curve of the tin can.

Here, the bird
had a way
of whistling less invasively.

It's time for dinner.

A friend taught me this.
You can use almost anything—

a cigarette, a Pepsi, an apple.

Down the aluminum stairs
to hear magnified a rattle of glass like plates

beneath a lawnmower.

Whose turn is it to say grace?

I never did learn the twist
of spaghetti in the cup of a spoon.

To shovel was so much easier. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

NEW! Poem by Emari DiGiorgio

Emari DiGiorgio


Your daughter is out in the world. Not quite lost,
though the stretch of cerebral highway she’s been driving along 

has been washed out in a storm. Sudden rain, flash blood 
pressure. You’re on your knees now. Every surface is a map: 
the Berber carpet, your husband’s face. If you could find
the trail of crumbs, a strand of hair. But the brain is forest, 

desert, glacier, gorge. You stumble in the new moon dark. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

NEW! Poem by Eric Komosa

Eric Komosa

It doesn’t mean I don’t still and won’t always

Goodbye Mom. I’ll paint that room yellow rose 
when the Maple tree you will not cut down
has let down its branches even further.

Erin will be fine when she stops having 
ideas of what life is supposed to be like 
or when she joins a cult.
Either way,

Friday, March 14, 2014

NEW! Review of Minae Mizumura

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura. Translated by Juliet Winters. Other Press, $29.95.

Reviewed by Tina Liu

Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel is like a Matryoshka doll: each skillfully crafted and gorgeously painted doll represents a different narrator from the novel. This reminds the reader that there is no doubt that the story each narrator tells could be a stunning piece of craftsmanship on its own; but the reader must keep in mind that a doll separate from the set is hollow, filled with nothing.

A True Novel is set in postwar Japan as a remake of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. The novel focuses on three main narrators: the author, Yusuke Kato, and Fumiko Tsuchiya. All three have relationships with the protagonist Taro Azuma but do not know one another directly. Yusuke has the least intimate relationship with Taro but serves as a crucial link to Taro’s story. Taro was raised by his uncle’s family and often abused by his uncle's wife and two sons. Yoko's grandmother, the widow Mrs. Utagawa, could not stand to see this treatment so she took Taro under her wing. After she passed away, Tara moved to the U.S. in his late teens. The author presents the story of Taro’s time in the U.S. while Fumiko presents the story of when he was in Japan. Yusuke only met Taro twice, but is the one who listened to Fumiko’s narration and later seeks out the author and shares it with her. The reader soon learns that Taro grew up with Yoko from the Saegusa family, a family whose women are known for their Hirano faces (breathtaking looks). The Saegusa family is also the employer of Taro’s grandfather, a rickshaw driver and handyman. The gap in social status does not stop Yoko and Taro from becoming inseparable playmates and falling in love, but this gap foreshadows their devastating fate.

The novel begins with a first-person prologue written from the perspective of the author. She talks about her family’s move from Japan to Long Island and how the culture shock she experiences makes her more appreciative of Japanese traditions such as calligraphy. After her move she meets the protagonist, Taro, a Japanese immigrant trying to make his fortune in New York. Because the author felt lonely and friendless, she naturally found Taro intriguing because he was the only one from Japan close to her age. Taro is only a chauffeur when Mizumura first meets him, but he quickly moves up in society and eventually makes his fortune as an entrepreneur in the field of medical equipment.

Mizumura’s presence lasts for nearly a fifth of the 850-page novel. Mizumura takes such a large proportion of the novel for two reasons: to introduce the protagonist and to explain a form of Japanese literature, the I-novel:

In an “I-novel,” readers expect the writer to figure in the work in one way or another. Whether the work is in fact based on the writer’s life or is a contrivance is ultimately irrelevant. The author-protagonist of an “I-novel” is perceived as an actual, specific individual … The work is necessarily assumed to be truthful about that individual’s life. Moreover, readers tend to favor works that have no beginning or ending, and are fragmentary, finding them true to life, as life also has no opening or closure as such and is nothing but an accumulation of fragmentary experiences.

This also explains Mizumura’s presence in the novel.

Juliet Winters’ skilled translation enables the language to flow naturally, presenting no barriers to this exciting journey into the heart of the Japanese culture, which is important because the novel is not only a devastating love story, but also a reflection of history and society through the lives of each narrator. There is the westernization of Japan, culture shock, class and race prejudice, etc. Although the narrations are fragmented, Mizumura is able to present a dimensional version of a story that endures through time because of how she chooses to present the obvious differences in western culture and eastern culture. Mizumura does not imply that these two cultures clash and fight. Nor does she claim that it is merely a case of choosing one or the other. The interaction of citizens from different cultures affects their cultures as well.

Near the end of the novel, Yusuke learns that Fumiko’s relationship with Taro was more intimate than she suggested in her narration, so he wonders: “Was he too naïve a listener or was Fumiko too discreet a narrator? He couldn’t be sure.” At this point, the reader has already completed the task of taking apart doll after doll, or narration after narration. Everything is neatly lined up when the reader suddenly feels no joy or closure. Mizumura creates a story that feels effortlessly real through different layers of narration that offer specific details on the cultural and historical background as well. But then she forces the reader to realize that the story, though finished, will never be complete. All the characters offer narratives in an emotional tone, but no matter how specifically they approach the story, they still present a version that is biased, fragmented, and distant. But because of this, the novel offers truth in the sense that in reality stories are passed on by spectators or close relations of the protagonist(s).

A True Novel is filled with characters connected through a series of events that stretch across time and space. Representatives from multiple generations and social classes come together to act out a behind-the-scenes love story between two cultures: when the cultures enter into relationships, they no longer remain independent identities. Mizumura’s novel shows these lines and borders being redefined through this interaction between cultures, but never to the point that they disappear completely. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NEW! Poem by Kelly Fordon

Kelly Fordon


I couldn’t stand my ground. My foot snagged, landed in the mud. The river took me on a wild ride. No branches to save me. I’m sprawled half off the plinth, as if I just fell moments ago.

The truth is this has been coming for years.   

I won’t lie. There were moments when I liked the pedestal. But I’d had premonitions: half off, head angled, breasts defying gravity. In puris naturalibus.

I am a rock.  

Just a minute ago, I was checking my hair in the mirror, just a minute ago I was gaping at the scale, just a minute ago I was planning to move on, move forward, change track, make something of myself. It was the time right before the flood, the intruder, the runaway car, the diagnosis, the lightning strike. 

When I heard the river rushing I didn’t run. What does that say about the pedestal? What does that say about its tenuous allure? 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

NEW! Poem by Kelly Fordon

Kelly Fordon


Well, you are a very small monster. I have to give you that. It’s a big 
world and I wish I had a little rhinestone suitcase. Then I could carry 
you around like a miniature poodle. Of course, you are much smaller 
than that. You could hide behind two books on my shelf, you could 
fox trot with the dust bunny under the couch, quiver in anticipation 
of the broom. There! Over there! You could dart underneath the tea 
set. You could nestle into that score in the wood. Once, long ago, 
when you lived in the crib, I believe I remember you larger. I saw you 
shaking the slats. Escaping must have been scary! That may be when 
you shrank a la Alice, crawled underneath the wall-to-wall carpet. Set 
up camp there. Later, in the hospital, your size saved you, scurrying 
as you did up the IV pole and into your own vein. You made sure the 
infusion took. I will put you in an eggshell, in a locket, in a coin purse, 
under my tongue. Never mind what they say about you. You are not 
alone. Look in the woodpile, on the evergreen leaf, in the finch feeder, 
there are hundreds riding in the paramecium parade. Stick to the glue 
on the envelope and I will lick you. Someone will post you. 

You can pretend that wherever you are, there you aren’t. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

NEW! Review of Joanna Howard

Foreign Correspondent by Joanna Howard. Counterpath Press, $16.

Reviewed by Rebecca Quillen

Joanna Howard’s Foreign Correspondent is a brief testament to the world of high culture and the journalists who endeavor to report it, blending the tangible and the fantastical as it proceeds in episodic bursts of prose unified by a whimsical reverence for the allure of the past. The novel delineates the struggles of free-wheeling heroine Johnnie James as she strives to extricate herself from the feminine drudge work of the “domestic correspondent” and launch her debut into the glitzy, highbrow realm of the serious reporter. Along the way, platforms such as the study of jiu-jitsu, sports journalism, and extensive insect collections provide unexpected moments for reflection on the complexities of societal convention and human communication. 

Johnnie’s story unfolds in a series of charmingly told vignettes that take the form of various types of correspondence, from heart-wrenching, soul-baring love letters to casual missives hastily tapped out on the screen of a “magical touch device which was recently outfitted to exact specifications at a retail outlet by a male youth in a midriff sweater wearing a tag that said ‘genius’.” However varied the mediums of Johnnie’s communiqués may be, the narrative arc is pleasantly energized, rather than disrupted, by this multifariousness of form. Two running undercurrents connect Johnnie’s numerous dispatches and form the backbone of the girl reporter’s tale: her efforts to win the respect of the philosophical man of the world Alphonso, and her continued ineffectual attempts to form a lasting correspondence with Scooter Mackintosh, a reticent boxer who hails from her hometown.

Johnnie’s narrative is very much an exploration of dichotomies: the foreign is pitted against the domestic, professional against personal, and the highbrow against the philistine. Johnnie plunges headfirst into the mystical world of yakuza mobsters, Dominican monks, and exotic birds, hoping to discover that certain intangible quality that will enable her to ascend to stardom while Scooter, the local “Bricktown Butcher” and the embodiment of everything with which Johnnie is familiar, remains strangely elusive to her, displaying a perpetual and unexplained reluctance to answer Johnnie’s plea for a continued correspondence. Scooter’s mysterious distance serves as a poignant reminder that the “foreign” may be closer to home than we think.

Also at the heart of the narrative is a deep appreciation for--and allusions to--the world of vintage mystery and intrigue. Though concrete details ground the story clearly in our own time, nostalgic Hitchcockian tropes dance from page to page, paying a whimsical homage to the 1940 film from which the novel takes its name. Despite being thoroughly steeped in the trappings of the twenty-first century, Johnnie seems to express an impractical longing for the covert thrills of World War II-era espionage and intrigue, articulated in indulgent flights of fancy when the circumstances her own life fais to slake her thirst for adventure. She even resorts to the careful construction of a fantastical alter ego that evokes the glitz of wartime reportage. “Next I’ll take up my pen name Ute Brynstock,” Johnnie rhapsodizes as a sort of apology for the mundanity of her career thus far. “Ute Brynstock, reporting from the aftermath. Ute Brynstock, on the trail of the assassin.”

Beneath the surface of this admiration for the glamor of the past, however, is a compelling and, at times, troubling tension between Johnnie’s fanciful visions of a bygone era and the realities of her own contemporary existence. In no instance is this tension between archaic and modern clearer than when the girl reporter negotiates the perpetually shifting of her own femininity. Johnnie struggles to escape from the outmoded stigmas that plague her journalistic work (“This is Johnnie James from the intimacy of your kitchen!”),  yet the pursuit of her sometime correspondent Scooter sends her into a spiral of desperation as she contemplates the unabashed deployment of every possible weapon in her female arsenal, ranging from the melodramatic (“Passionate declarations followed by suggestions of how many men are vying for my attentions”) to the comical (“Would a photo of me sitting on the back of a Harley Davidson holding two chainsaws seem like I was trying to hard?”), and when these methods, too, prove fruitless she begins to wonder at her own readiness to abandon the liberation won through the efforts of her forbearers. “Am I sending my sex back to the dark ages?” Johnnie guiltily muses, “Am I at the mercy of my womb? Seriously, in the twenty-first century?” It is a question raised and left unanswered and it hangs over the novel’s uncertain conclusion. In one of the novel’s more pensive moments,  Johnnie laments the ghostly loneliness that marks her existence as a liberated female. “Females who haunt often haunt from sorrow, or from love,” she reflects, “We must make the most of our feminine wiles because we can now pass through materials unscathed.”

Howard’s novelistic creation is as much a reflection on the complexities of modern existence as it is a paean to the embellished and even unabashedly fictionalized past. Though clearly indebted to a series of stylized tropes and images for inspiration, Howard’s prose deftly resists the pitfall of merely falling into weepy nostalgia for the clarity of ages past. Instead, it is a testament to the way our personal and national histories weave into the fabric of human existence, as Johnnie’s fanciful journey urges the reader to reflect on attitudes both past and present, and the ways we attempt, and often fail, to communicate those attitudes to each other. 

Johnnie James is a heroine who inspires chuckles, frustration, and ultimately a deep sense of resonance as she struggles to find her place in a world that is half-real and half the construct of her own wishful imagination. Though the veneer of whimsy and imagination occasionally clouds the underlying bitterness of Johnnie’s reality, Foreign Correspondent is really a testament to the complex and ever-changing nature of popular and highbrow culture, as well as the often tenuous line that divides the real from the imaginary, the foreign from the domestic, and the distant from the accessible.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

NEW! Two poems by George Elklund

George Elklund

Two poems


To endure the severe currents 
Trapped in the brain
One needs a strange bird call 

That comes only in sleep.
The mind wants to begin again in dark berries 
But finds it difficult to un-know itself.
It takes a large poisonous bug
To keep my creature in its cage.

How far from your mind is the sea?
My mother cannot find rest anywhere.
I begin to collect parables of sand
And coins that once were Spanish.
The mind makes its phone calls to no one; 

The orbit of the gray matter
Is difficult to escape.
My daughter made a dinosaur
Out of paper and tape.
The crows in their long history
Know the echo of an opera not yet written 

And the bleeding mechanism
On the new Pope’s head. 


If the hands dehydrate
Something must have happened 

In the dream of the mind.
O sacred head surrounded
By the crowns of rivers
And the loam of the dead
The silt of time
The ecclesiastical flow
Of the eddy pools
Where my brother liked to fish. 

Tom, I like to imagine
You will come for me
And we might find ourselves
On a sunny incline
Overlooking the bay of stars 

Crashed upon the waters.
What is the history of a nerve 

What is the future of a nerve
We are given such sacred material 

In these vaporized remains 
Perhaps you could remember
A tree or a breast
And begin again. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Call for reviewers

Verse recently assigned a bunch of books for review for the site, but there are still some new/recent books that we'd like to have reviewed for the Verse site. Reviews are generally 1000-1500 words long. Contributors receive a 2-year subscription to Verse.

Update: 30 books were assigned for review within three hours of this post. Thanks, everyone, for your interest in reviewing for the Verse site.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

NEW! 2 poems by Naomi Tarle

Naomi Tarle

Two poems


I am pig-hipped and knee-rich.
When I come up from the sea my ears crackle like snapdragons.


song—this is earth

acquaintance me
with your wine mouth

grape seeds your grassy lips

jab your name between tooth and gum

move across your shoulder blade
          slime ice and wax cap

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Submission deadline: 2014

Verse is reading for both the print edition (portfolios in any genre, 20-40 pages) and the site (3-5 poems, mini-essays, or micro fictions) until 3/31/14. To submit, follow the link on the right. Contributors to the print edition receive $10/page, $250 minimum.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 submission deadline

Verse's submission deadline for 2013 is December 15. To submit a portfolio (in any genre) to Verse, follow the link on the right. Verse pays $10/page, $250 minimum.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Recent & Recommended

14 books by recent Verse contributors / published in 2013 / recommended by the editors:

Robin Clarke, Lines the Quarry (Omnidawn)
Joshua Edwards, Imperial Nostalgias (Ugly Duckling)
Robert Fernandez, Pink Reef (Canarium)
Noah Eli Gordon, The Year of the Rooster (Ahsahta)
Joanna Howard, Foreign Correspondent (Counterpath)
Alissa Nutting, Tampa (Ecco)
Ethan Paquin, Cloud vs Cloud (Ahsahta)
Elizabeth Robinson, Blue Heron (Center for Literary Publishing)
Peter Jay Shippy, A Spell of Songs (Saturnalia)
Brian Teare, Companion Grasses (Omnidawn)
Shannon Tharp, Vertigo in Spring (The Cultural Society)
Daniel Tiffany, Neptune Park (Omnidawn)
Jasmine Dreame Wagner, Rewilding (Ahsahta)
Nicole Walker, Quench Your Thirst With Salt (Zone 3)

Monday, November 25, 2013

NEW! Three poems by Naomi Tarle

Naomi Tarle


not light of foot 
or of tongue 


when you visit the river— 
treadle up the stitch 


mr. fly, you are all push    

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

2013 submissions deadline

Verse's 2013 submission deadline is December 15, 2013. We currently are accepting portfolio manuscripts (20-40 pages in any genre). Although we are not reading submissions for the Verse site at this time, all portfolio submissions will be considered first for the print magazine, then for the site.

To submit, go to:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NEW! Poem by Travis Cebula

Travis Cebula


no thank
you you're
to your