John Kay’s new collection of poetry The Heidelberg Poems is published by Rumba Train Press

For the past three years I’ve been working with poet John Kay on a huge collection of his poems to be published by the small press that I have operated on and off over the years, Rumba Train Press. Here’s the official description of the book:

Rumba Train Press is proud to announce the publication of a new collection of poems by John Kay, The Heidelberg Poems. As editor, illustrator, and publisher I’ve had the pleasure of working with John on this book since 2017. This is a major collection consisting of 167 of John’s masterful six-couplet poems, gathering together two previously published collections and adding a third, previously unpublished group of poems, all dealing with his years in Heidelberg. The Heidelberg Poems were written while John and his wife Susan lived in Heidelberg over a ten year period. In his introduction, John Kay writes “The poems are dark, often surreal, sometimes absurd, downright painful, and frequently humorous. The voice and imaginative vision in these poems are distinctly European, where we were outsiders, strangers and often invisible — but always being watched. When that changed and we were ‘home,’ the voices that fed me the poems disappeared. For me, after writing poetry for 60 years and teaching writing classes for 20 years, this book is the capstone, the best I can do.” Ralph Dutli, Germany’s preeminent translator of Russian poetry, translated a selection of the poems and arranged for their publication in the weekly arts section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), which is Germany’s equivalent to the New York Times.

The book contains three sections of poems in English. The first section, “This Particular Kiss,” won the Pearl Poetry Prize and was published as a book by Pearl Press in 2016. The second section, “Phantom of the Apple,” was first published in book form by Beginners Mind Press in 2010. “Saltines,” the third section, has not previously been published in book form. The fourth section is comprised of 10 poems that were translated into German by Ralph Dutli. The book is illustrated with 36 black and white line drawings by David Barker.

The Heidelberg Poems is available as a trade paperback from Amazon Books.

 

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Lovecraftian author Wilum Pugmire (W. H. Pugmire) at the 2015 CthulhuCon

After a long delay, I’m back at my project of posting all the photos I ever took of my friend and collaborator, the late Wilum Pugmire. I’ve been doing these in chronological order, and am now up to 2015. Wilum didn’t attend Portland Oregon’s 2015 H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, but he was at the CthulhuCon that took place at the Portland Crown Plaza Hotel in May of that year. I’m still too busy to add captions to the photos, so that will have to wait. Meanwhile, here are the pictures. Photos of Wilum and I together were taken by other people using my cellphone, and at the moment I don’t have their names handy, but I’ll try to add credit for those later.  Wilum died almost a year ago, and I still think of him every day.

 

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R. I. P. Small Press Poet Lyn Lifshin

Yesterday I read on Facebook the sad news that legendary small press poet Lyn Lifshin had died at age 77. Like Kate Braverman who passed away in October of this year, Lyn was one of the writers who defined an era for me. I remember in the 1960s and ’70s how you couldn’t pick up a small press poetry magazine without finding at least one poem by Lifshin in it, and they were always good. She was everywhere in the small press, which was how she gained the unofficial title of “Queen of the Small Press” or “Queen of the Lit Mags.” In those pre-Internet day, it wasn’t a simple task to locate and submit to little magazines. They were difficult to find out about. There was no Google search. You might see an ad or listing for a new magazine (or one you didn’t know about) in another small press publication, or you might find it in Len Fulton’s annual International Directory of Little Magazines & Small Presses. Failing those options, maybe a fellow poet would tell you about a new magazine they’d discovered. Then you would make copies of your poems, write a cover letter to the editor, send off your poems including a Self Addressed Stamped Envelop for the editor’s reply and/or return of the poems, and wait months or years for an acceptance or rejection. I can’t imagine how much Lyn must have spent on postage stamps, Xerox copies, and envelops submitting her work all over the place. She was dedicated to writing good poems and getting them published.

I Googled her name and the word “dead” (which always brings up obituaries) and found no stories in major newspapers announcing her death — just a few short notices on blogs. I guess the world doesn’t care much about small press poets, but to me, she was a major icon. I only have a couple of her books: Upstate Madonna: Poems 1970-1974 (The Crossing Press, 1975) and Madonna Who Shifts for Herself (Applezaba Press, 1983), both of which are pictured below. The name “Applezaba” brings back an odd memory for me: they had accepted a book of my poems, we had signed a contract, but for a reason I never knew or have since forgotten, the book never happened. This was in the 1970s, I think. That’s common in the small press, planned books don’t get published, and I didn’t worry about it.

Now that she’s passed into history, I would like to locate a few more of Lyn Lifshin’s chapbooks, and reread the two that I do have. She was a class act. I didn’t know her personally, and never corresponded with her, but I did see her read twice at the college I attended. This would have been in the late 1960s or early 1970s. I may have news clippings about those events, and if I find them, I’ll add a note to this blog with the details. Meanwhile, I hope at least one major news source announces her death. She deserves to be remembered. In a blurb on the back cover of Upstate Madonna, Bill Knott wrote “Lyn Lifshin is one of the best young poets in the U.S.A.” I agreed then, and I agree now.

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L.A. Author Kate Braverman has died

I was saddened yesterday to read on Facebook that Los Angeles author Kate Braverman has died. She occupies a special place in my mind, and now that she is gone, I feel I’ve lost an important if small piece of my life. It’s been that kind of year: too many deaths. People you know, friends, even strangers you respect, pass away, and with them you lose something that is irreplaceable. Not memories; you keep those until the mind starts to go. What you lose is a contemporary, someone who roamed the same territory that you did, who breathed in the same air. You are suddenly more alone in the world.

I was a 30-ish poet in Long Beach, California, when I first heard of Kate Braverman in the late 1970s. She seemed to arrive on the poetry scene fully formed – a rising star from the more prestigious Los Angeles literary scene. Along with several dozen other local poets, I did lots of poetry readings in Long Beach. They were held weekly, and I participated in something like one or two hundred of them during the 1970s and early 80s, before I left California for good and moved up north. I no longer recall the dates, venues, or very much else about most of these events (I have a list of them somewhere which I haven’t seen in decades), but I do know that Kate Braverman came to Long Beach at least twice to read at events where I was also one of the performing poets. She was the headliner at these readings, the big name on the flyer, while I was just another nobody, one more obscure small press poet. That was okay with me. I immediately liked her work and her bigger than life persona. I’m certain I was envious of her burgeoning fame, the coverage she garnered in the L.A. newspapers, not to mention her highly acclaimed, New York City published first novel, Lithium for Medea (1979). But mine was a generous envy, not a mean-spirited one. I wanted to see her further succeed, and I always wished her well. Every time she was mentioned in the newspapers, I clipped out the article and saved it. I still have those clippings. As for her writing, I immediately recognized it as genuinely exceptional, even the work of a genius. To my mind, she was the best writer of her generation in Los Angeles. Not that I read them all – I didn’t — but I read a lot of what was published in L.A. in those days, and her work was always way above everyone else’s in terms of quality and cultural importance.

When I left L.A. in 1983, I stopped following Braverman’s career along with those of most other Los Angeles writers, and so I didn’t know until after her death that she had left Los Angeles for New York in 1995, feeling completely ignored by L.A.’s literary establishment, and about 2002 started fresh in San Francisco, where she felt there was a more open literary community that accepted her “Outlaw poet” stance on her own terms, not theirs. About 10 years ago she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she passed away on October 12, 2019.

What do I recall about the times I saw her read? Not much. I do remember a back room full of people in a small bookstore, possibly Chelsea Books, where she read from her book of poems, Milk Run (1977). The year may have been 1978. I bought a copy of Milk Run, but I don’t think I held onto it, although it could be somewhere in my house. I may have said “hi” to her once or twice, but I doubt we ever spoke of anything significant. I may also have read alongside her in Los Angeles somewhere, as I did several readings up there in those days, and it would not be surprising if she had been on the program at those events.

The only books of hers that I know I currently have are Lithium for Medea and Squandering the Blue (1990). Both are paperback reprints. I think I had the first edition hardcover of Lithium for Medea when it came out, but that was sold for grocery money long ago. Now that she’s gone, I want to reread these two books and hopefully pick up some of her other titles that I haven’t yet read. I also want to find out why she didn’t stay in San Francisco and what brought her to Santa Fe. I hope it worked out well for her, and that she was happy in Santa Fe. She was too young to leave us, damn it. Rest in Peace, Kate.

 

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Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire at the 2014 World Horror Convention

I spent time with Lovecraftian author Wilum Pugmire (W. H. Pugmire) at two cons in 2014: the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival (HPLFF) and the World Horror Convention (WHC), both held in Portland, Oregon. Our first book collaboration, The Revenant of Rebecca Pascal, debuted at this convention. We did two signings: one in the vendors’ room at the Book Bin table, and one at the mass signing event. Here are my photos from the 2014 World Horror Convention. I’ll add captions later.

 

 

 

 

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Close Ups of 3 Photos of Wilum Pugmire at the 2014 HPLFF

Here are close ups (cropped versions) of the first three photos from my last post. You can see him a little better in these. He’s seated on his favorite bench in front of the Hollywood Theater. In the bottom photo, Jason V Brock (pointing) and William F Nolan (with cane) are to his left. The man talking to Wilum is unidentified

 

 

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Photos of Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire at the 2014 HPLFF

A little over two weeks ago, on Saturday, May 4, 2019, my wife and I drove up to Seattle and attended the memorial event for my late friend and literary collaborator, Lovecraftian horror author, W. H. Pugmire (also known as Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire). I made private notes on the trip in my journal, but haven’t decided if I will write about it other than that. Meanwhile, I’m continuing with the much more modest project of posting all of my photos of Wilum taken at the various conventions where we met and talked during the years 2012 through 2018. I hung out with Wilum at two different cons in 2014: the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival (HPLFF) and the World Horror Convention. Both of these were held in Portland, Oregon. Can’t recall if I’ve already mentioned this, but after each of the cons where I saw Wilum I made notes about it in my journal, and some day I may write about those events, but not now. I’m too busy with other writing projects, so I’ll just keep posting the photos without commentary. Here are the photos from the 2014 HPLFF. The photos of me (gray haired guy in brown corduroy jacket) and Wilum together on a bench in front of the Hollywood Theater were taken by my daughter, Molly. I’ll add captions identifying other people I recognize later. Right now I need to walk the dog and mow the lawn.

 

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Photos of Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire at the 2013 HPLFF

These are all the photos I took of Lovecraftian author Wilum Pugmire at the 2013 H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival. I had a crappy digital camera in those days and the focus is bad on some of these. I made notes about each of the cons I’ve attended, and may write about what it was like to hang out with him, but for now, I just want to post the photos. Today is Wilum’s birthday. He passed away a little over a month ago. Rest in Peace, sweet Wilum.

Left to Right: Wilum, Unidentifed, Jason V Brock.

L to R: Unidentified, Unidentified, Wilum. L to R: Unidentified, Niels Hobbs, Wilum. L to R: Wilum, Unidentified.

 

 

 

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Photos of Wilum Pugmire at the 2012 H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival

It’s been almost three weeks since horror writer W. H. Pugmire died. He was both a good friend and a collaborator, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the times I spent in his presence, what a special person he was, and his lasting importance as the greatest modern Lovecraftian author. As part of that mental assessing of his life, I’ve been pulling together all of the photos I took of him at various horror conventions, some of which have been  hard to find, scattered as they are on my current computer as well as on old CD discs and thumb drives. I’ve decided to post all of the photos I took of him, even those where the focus is not perfect or the composition isn’t the best, because now that he’s gone, there will be no new photos of Wilum, and all existing photos are worth preserving and sharing, I feel, as are all of his writings, whether fiction, blog posts, posts on social media, letters, emails, or private messages on Facebook. Going through my notebooks, I found that I hung out with Wilum at six different cons during from 2012 through 2018. I’ll post my photos of Wilum from each of these six cons in separate blog posts, with this first one being three shots of Pugmire that I took at 2012 Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. I may have more photos from this day, but haven’t yet found them.

WIlum Pugmire on his bench outside the Hollywood Theater.

Wilum Pugmire in the theater lobby

Pugmire with Maryann K. Snyder, Greg Lowney, and Molly Tanzer, from left to right.  

 

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Creepy Easter Horror eBook is Free for Five Day

My Easter horror ebook, Don’t Go Down the Bunny Trail, is free on Amazon from Wednesday, April 17, 2019, through Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, on Amazon. Below is an excerpt. Here’s a link to the ebook: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Go-Down-Bunny-Trail-ebook/dp/B007I6FBLW/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

*****

Little Emily has been waiting patiently for weeks for Easter to arrive. Now there’s just a few hours left, it’s the afternoon before Easter, and she’s really excited, but her daddy’s late coming home from the mill, the sun is setting, and she’s afraid of being home alone when the woods get dark. A scary short story about something strange that’s coming down the bunny trail towards Emily’s house, and she’s not sure if it’s really the Easter Bunny, or if it’s that creepy rabbit from her dad’s horror DVD, or something else the townsfolk whisper about that came to Earth when a fireball fell from the sky one night and landed in the lake at the end of the Bunny Trail.

*****

Some photos I shot for possible use as cover art:

 

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