Thursday, September 30, 2010


How can I not love something with so many exclamation points?
G  O      H  E  R  E 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Strange Young Things Fall Tour

Check out this awesome band on their fall tour:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vato Maldito: My Life of Crime, new book by John "Bubbles" Gallegos, released from Enlightened Pyramid

VATO MALDITO: My Life of Crime by John "Bubbles" Gallegos. Now Available from Enlightened Pyramid.

A notorious Denver professional criminal tells his story in his own words. Armed robbery, addiction, and hard time are just the tip of the iceberg in this career thief's autobio.

WARNING: This website has an auto music player that will come on when you visit the site. Very loud if you are in a quiet or working environment.

Outbound, a new sci-fi comics anthology

BOSTON, MA (November 4, 2009) – The Boston Comics Roundtable, in partnership with River Bird Studios, is pleased to announce the release of the premiere issue of Outbound, a Science Fiction comics anthology.

Outbound is a spin-off of sister publication Inbound, the anthology of comics from Boston. Outbound contains comics and short stories from a mix of Boston-based creators and artists all over the world, from Australia to South America, including a cover from talented Uruguayan artist Marcelo Buchelli.

Outbound #1 retails for US$ 6.99 and is available in every comic book retail location in the greater Boston area and online H E R E. Outbound is also distributed nationally by Direct Comic Book Service and Heavy Ink.

The Boston Comics Roundtable was created in 2006, and has produced three issues of the Inbound comics anthology. Outbound is the Roundtable’s second ongoing series and its first foray into science fiction territory. The release of Outbound marks an exciting new chapter for the Boston Comics Roundtable and for the science fiction genre. Fans can expect new issues of Outbound every six months.

Outbound is the brainchild of Roundtable member and Inbound contributor, Roho, the principal of River Bird Studios.

Each of the comic stories in Outbound #1 will be serialized, with new ongoing stories premiering in each subsequent issue. Issue #1 contents include:
  • “The Caerulean Dream” by Roho and Brett Barkley.
  • “Space and Time” by Josh Mills, Michael Paoloni, and Alexandra Mills, with chapter cover by David Newbold.
  • “The Null Device” by David Marshall.
  • “Flek” by Erik Heumiller.
  • “Scientists Gone Wild” by Eric Boeker.
  • “Mark and the Aliens” by Aya Rothwell.
  • “Black Fuska” by Roho, with chapter cover by Richard Jenkins.
  • Special sneak preview of “The New Kid” by Dan Mazur (to premiere in Outbound #2).

Outbound #1 also includes two tales of short fiction:
  • “Breezes of Heaven” by Joe Cannon, with art by Paul Marquis.
  • “How I Learned to Tolerate Vegemite” by Aya Rothwell, with art by the author.

And rounding up the issue as extra bonus features:
  • Marsnik 6 Paper Model by Marcel Sirer, with design by Roho.
  • An interview with Sandy Collora, director of the independent science fiction movie Hunter/Prey.
  • Endcap essay by Hugo-nominated author Michael A. Burstein.

The Boston Comics Roundtable is an independent organization of comics creators in the Greater Boston area. The group meets weekly to workshop, educate, and network. Meetings are open to the public. Information regarding publications, artist galleries, and meetings can be found at their website.

Handlebar Fundraiser: November 15, 2009

A friend of the co-op, filmmaker Michael McCallum, is hosting a fundraiser for his latest film project, Handlebar. Please attend the event, or help out if you can!

Sunday, November 15, 2009
7:00 p.m.
Stober's Bar
812 E Michigan Ave, Lansing MI
(517) 487-4464
Donations, please

The movie is all cut together, sound work 90% completed; they just need a little help to get the rest of it finished, to get DVDs made, and to rent the theater for a January premiere at Celebration Cinema in Lansing-area, Michigan.

Just coming off the success of his first feature film, Fairview St. (11 film festivals, 5 awards so far), they're hoping to entertain you with a comedy that enlists the talents of much of the same folks from Fairview St.

Handlebar will be Michael's second feature film that he's directed. He co-wrote the movie with Shane Hagedorn, and it stars the two of them, alongside Grace Anne Rowan, Wallace Bridges, and Michael's Father, William C. McCallum. It's full of colorful characters from the Lansing area and shot completely in Lansing, as well.

A.E. Griffin was the Director of Photography for Handlebar, and Jon Worful's editing talents were used to help cut the film together. A small section of the film will be shown at the fundraiser, with the trailer and a sneak preview of a scene that Stober's own John Orta is in!

Food will be available.

Please come out and support local film and local art! Every little bit helps.

If you can't make it, please send a donation:
Michael McCallum
PO BOX 80582
Lansing, MI 48908

Poster artwork done by Lansing's own Dennis Preston!

The Big Book of Revolutionary Poetry is seeking submissions

Calling all feminists, wizards, queer theorists, ex-Black Panthers, Christians, green activists, avant-gardists, Kabbalists, vegans, Hawaiian nationalists, kickboxers, punks, hip hop evangelists, New New Leftists, pink-haired emo warriors, organic gardeners -- submit your work for The Big Book of Revolutionary Poetry, edited by Sparrow and Mickey Z.

Send up to 3 poems to: Sparrow or Mickey Z.

Also, please forward this announcement far and wide, post it on your website or blog or Facebook page, and tweet it if you must. Thanks...

P.S. Please don't reply to find out what we mean by "revolutionary." As they say, if you have to ask...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


A friend of the co-op, Marc Beaudin, is now the poetry editor over at CounterPunch, and they are looking for some new poetry blood. Check out the link, submit your good material, and pass the word along to your poet friends.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dreaming in Black and White: Wisconsin Noir and the Justified Poem by Michael Kriesel

Wisconsin’s First Form:
Dreaming in Black and White:
Wisconsin Noir and the Justified Poem
By Michael Kriesel

Crossover poems are increasingly popular in Wisconsin’s thriving poetry community: a member of my online writing group is churning out a series of great science fiction poems, pithy vehicles for social comment; my own manuscript of occult-themed verse is making the rounds of the book contests; and at a recent writing conference a Milwaukee poet handed me his latest chapbook, Misadventures of the Paisley Cowboy.

Then there’s the hard-boiled crime genre being worked by Madison area poet John Lehman, who recently published a book of verse noir—Acting Lessons, Parallel Press, 2008. Filled with murky mazes and existential ambushes, the work is in a short form devised by Lehman a few years ago, called the Wisconsin justified poem.

Looking like cubes of newspaper column, the poems are defined not just by their form, but also by a noir-ish feel and tone. They usually explore Wisconsin topics, are often rural, and at heart “inspired” by Wisconsin winters.

Here’s a taste, from Closed Until Spring:

This is the season of Ed Gein
and Jeffrey Dahmer. Sleep days,
fish through ice, pry firewood
from frozen mounds of snow.
Buy wine at the gas station. Court
darkness. Speak to no one. This
is winter in Wisconsin. Write
horror stories. Embrace the cold.
(John Lehman, Acting Lessons)

“They give the impression of a rigid form,” Lehman explains, “so that the language within the poem can be casual and conversational…more Midwest, and yes, more Wisconsin. They resemble their larger cousin, the prose poem.”

Magic Lunch Box

If you’re unfamiliar with prose poems, here’s a quote by Louis Jenkins, an acknowledged master of the form:

“Think of the prose poem as a box, perhaps the lunch box dad brought home from work at night. What’s inside? Some waxed paper, a banana peel, and half a peanut butter-jelly sandwich. Not so much, a hint of how the day has gone perhaps, but magic for having made a mysterious journey and returned…the prose poem is a formal poem because of its limits. The box is made for travel, quick and light. Think of the prose rectangle as a small suitcase. One must pack carefully, only the essentials, too much and the reader won’t get off the ground. Too much and the poem becomes a story, a novel, an essay or worse…the trick in writing a prose poem is discovering how much is enough and how much is too much.”
(Nice Fish: New & Selected Prose Poems, Holy Cow! Press 1995)

The prose poem has a dual nature, as its name implies. “On the one hand, there’s the lyric’s wish to make the time stop around an image, and on the other hand, one wants to tell a little story,” comments Charles Simic, a former U.S. Poet Laureate. “It must dazzle, and it must also have a lightness of touch. I regard the comic spirit as its true Muse.”
(The Poetry of Village Idiots, Verse 13, no. 1, 1996)

The God Of Flow

All of the above holds true for the Wisconsin justified poem. But John Lehman cites an additional element—flow. It’s what gives poetry its real dynamic, claimed Robert Frost.

“Most poets break lines by phrases or concepts,” says Lehman, “but Frost carries us with his flow from one line to the next, then stops us in our tracks.

His head carved out of granite O,
His hair a wayward drift of snow,
He worshiped the great God of Flow
By holding on and letting go."
(These are lines about Frost by Robert Francis)

“Frost believed we further enhance the dynamics of the poem’s flow by stretching the spoken sentence over the line of poetry,” Lehman explains. “Frost’s famous narrative poem The Death Of The Hired Man is a classic example.”

Pulled Around The Corner

The Wisconsin justified poem, unlike the standard prose poem, pays attention to line breaks and their relationship to sentences. It pulls the reader around the corner and only stops movement when the end of a line corresponds with the end of a sentence. In addition, the lines seldom end with prepositions or articles, but with nouns, adverbs, and verbs.

As forms go, it’s a soft one. The rules are few and fluid: conversational style, noir tone, and Wisconsin topic. Keep it short and justify the text.

“I think its informality seems particularly suited to the voice of a Wisconsin narrator who might romanticize a little more if the winters weren’t so long and so dark,” muses Lehman. “The mutterings of someone in a farmhouse kitchen alone, late at night listening to the wind.”

Film Noir’s Influence

Film noir’s a big influence on the poems. “In a way the noir films were not realistic,” observes Lehman, “but a kind of theatrical romanticizing of the forties. People enjoyed them partially because they were escapist.”

That escapism sometimes bleeds into a comic surrealism, as in The Nut Bread Murders:

A friend sends a loaf of nut bread that’s dense
as a kiln-dried brick. I tell my wife it reminds me
of something my first wife would bake. Is this
a mistake? No, because upon hearing it she
makes me a fluffy coffee cake with a brown-sugar
and chocolate-chip topping, and I deduce there
may be a lesson about women here (how one
can be played against another). So I call my
first wife who asks what the hell I want. Hmmm.
Later, I decide to put her in a novel I’m plotting
as a character out to poison everyone with her
goddamn nut bread while I, the hero, am saved by
a stripper named Brown Sugah. Writing comes fast.
It’s February in Wisconsin and I am going nuts.
(John Lehman, Acting Lessons)

Giving It A Try

As a poet who’s muttered his way through his share of Wisconsin winters, the first time I saw the form it intrigued me enough to try it. Eventually I had a short manuscript that won a nationwide book contest, demonstrating the form’s appeal even to non-cheese heads (though the judges were fellow Midwesterners, over in Indiana).

Here’s the title poem from that collection:

Soul Noir

I just walk out of the Neon Toad
when this big guy grabs my shirt,
spins me around like a carnival
ride and slams me up against the
bricks. All I see is cartoon stars
but his voice cuts right through.
“Lie to yourself on your own time,
punk.” Then I’m on the sidewalk
sitting up and no one’s there. It
was my conscience. Bastard finds
me anywhere.
(Michael Kriesel, Soul Noir)

Soon after I started writing in this form/genre, I came to understand that noir’s romanticism also can be viewed as starkly stripped-down realism. Its flavor is similar to the oddball existentialism running through Wisconsin’s landscape like a vein of smoky quartz. Maybe that’s why the two combine so well. I offer another of my own examples:

Wisconsin Noir

Waiting for the sheriff, Ed Gein forks
apple pie in Plainfield’s only diner.
Barns slump like slaughterhouse cows.
At the crystalline heart of the state, Rib
Mountain oscillates: quartz monadnock
tinting our dreams through winter nights.
In the end, spring arrives, green and gold.
The Packers win the Super Bowl.
(Michael Kriesel, Soul Noir)

Transcending Landscape

The Wisconsin justified poem transcends regionalism by combining a specific form with a specific tone. The form’s uniquely suited to the tone of the material expressed. But it’s the tone most of all that gives the poems their distinct character—not unlike the dialogue in noir films.

These poems work the way haiku and watercolor do to capture the mood of a place, expressing the way our lives resonate with our state and sometimes finding In the Middle of Nothing, Greatness:

I pass a sign on Highway 26 that states
Juneau is 5 miles away, Oshkosh 53.
I saw the same sign just ten minutes ago,
but listen, when I check my gas gauge
(then, it had been a little below a quarter)
now, I swear, it shows half full. And there,
around a curve, against the steel November
sky, in a field of cornstalks far as a crow can
see—are you ready—rises an assemblage
of grain elevators more magnificent than
the Cathedral at Reims.
(John Lehman, Acting Lessons)

In Sprecher’s Tavern, Lehman observes: “Living in Wisconsin is a lot like the tavern that sells rifles and beer. It doesn’t make much sense, but it feels right when you’re there.”

That’s how these poems work. But how well do they work? Does it feel right? That’s the final test…and something only poets and readers and time can decide. The best test of any form is whether the force it contains could manifest as well in any other shape.

Here’s hoping more Wisconsin poets add to this new genre—a form and tone unique to where we live.


Acting Lessons By John Lehman
ISBN 978-1-934795-04-0 HERE

Shorts: 101 Brief Poems of Wonder and Surprise By John Lehman
ISBN 978-0-9741728-2-8 HERE

Soul Noir By Michael Kriesel
Platonic 3Way Press, PO Box 844, Warsaw, IN 46581. $5.

I’d like to thank Carroll University Poetry Professor B.J. Best for his help in preparing this article. The article has appeared in the print publications: Small Press Review, Free Verse, Rosebud, Wisconsin People & Ideas, and Chiron Review.