words are my escape
in many ways, we are what we read. but there’s more to it than that. we’re also what we write. these are the books that i have recently released and those that are releasing in the next few months. i invite you to browse the sample content and see what you might enjoy reading. they are all available in standard paperback format and as ebooks from either apple or the kindle bookstore. you should be able to find them at your local bookshop or anywhere you buy books online.
i have a very simple definition of poetry worth reading. if the words paint a beautiful picture in a creative way, that is poetry.
my reason for writing is just as plain. i have been told for decades that the only poetry worth reading was written in the past and that traditional language is necessary for poetry. my whole academic career has been a crusade against arcane, traditional language. i believe modern language is well-suited to poetry and my writing is a demonstration of how contemporary writing can be full of imagery and meaning without being drowned in archaic, incomprehensible words, structures and ideas. we live in the modern world. our writing should reflect that.
(spring waters press, 2020)
long ago and not so far away, you imagined the world made sense, that people were inherently good and would help you if you got hurt.
now you know the truth.
we have spent thousands of years learning how to hurt each other more effectively in our minds and hearts and with our hands, swords, guns and bombs.
we are very good at it.
so good we decided not only to hunt those we saw as weaker, animals and other humans, but the whole environment. we attacked the air as if we didn’t breathe it, the water as if it was our worst enemy and the land, that was just dirt beneath our feet.
in school, they taught you humans are animals.
how right they were.
(spring waters press, 2019)
you are darkness. you are light. if you think, these poems are an ode to you, a guiding track for new ideas and to set your dreams on a path to self-discovery.
while prose leads you in search of escape, following a story from beginning to end, poetry is your story told through someone else’s eyes, tasted by another’s tongue, kept awake by a stranger’s half-sleeping nightmares but far more personal for all that.
if you ever wonder if there’s an alternative to living by today’s rules of laziness and inaction, drunken nationalism and hate, you may find your answer in these pages. this book is a contemporary interpretation of traditional japanese poetry, not the haiku you learned in school but a more contemporary way or taking the simple lines, the few syllables of a line and creating contrast, meaning and a single snapshot of a moment before moving on to another.
some poems tell stories, others tell thoughts, still others talk of a future that’s already been decided but can still be changed. perhaps here you will discover yourself in words you never dreamed to us.
generation of unrest
(spring waters press, 2018)
you’re not a kid anymore but all the other adults treat you as if you’re six years old and just ran away from home to join the circus. while you may indeed be joining the circus out there in the real world, the tent is full of craziness and the wilderness of mirrors is collapsing on our heads.
there is no save button, no new lives and reset commands here and we have grown up to live in a world of truth and fiction, logic and consequence. but it’s not there anymore.
from fake news to gaslighting, fluctuating realities are the new normal, society having devolved into a self-indulgent mess stretching from one night out to another by way of side hustles and a gig economy with no gigs and no economy.
welcome to the reflection of the twilight zone, the morning rush suddenly become sluggish and moving in reverse. if you feel like your world has just fallen apart, you’re not alone. you are a member of the generation of unrest, the millennials who aren’t quite snowflakes but whose earth is definitely starting to melt.
can you save yourself? if you can, please take me with you.
(spring waters press, 2018)
you put away childish things and swallowed your creativity when you came of age. you forgot that you were more than just another person. you took a razor to the reality of your difference and decided that to fit in you would become another member of a society that didn’t approve of you. and then, on top of it all, you stopped dreaming and that’s when your life ended.
sure, you still live and breathe and drink and entertain yourself horizontally but your life, it ended when you were a child. do you want to laugh and smile again without the need for social lubricant and self-deprecation?
poetry isn’t an expression of someone else’s truth. it’s an invitation to look in the mirror, not at your lipstick or even at the particular brand of stiletto feminism you’ve imagined will save you from the lust of each male you encounter today. it’s a personally-addressed question to give yourself permission in this moment, this place, this state of self to stop being acceptable and start being happy.
you want to smile, don’t you?
there is much to be said for working within bounds. but very little of that positive has ever come from the traditions native to english poetry. forced repetition and rhyme schemes result in unimaginably terrible writing. restrictions for length, content and feeling, however, can be the source of inspiration. being trapped by these guides as a straightjacket helps nothing but using them as a starting point often leads to beautiful results.
the twentieth century saw many eastern poetic forms interpreted in western languages including english, french and spanish. perhaps the most common of these forms – and the worst executed – is the haiku and its partner renga. the idea of the haiku is a pattern of three short lines, the first and third of equal length, the middle different, demonstrating an idea, a development of the idea and a contrasting idea, in that order. in renga, the final two lines of equal length give a deeper commentary on the first three. this has often been interpreted as a silly exercise in counting syllables and following rules, neither of which produces anything but trite and meaningless results, as does strict adherence to western forms like the villanelle or sonnet. taking this as a starting point, however, for free writing in verse can produce, however, a concise description and a series of snapshot images in words. these collections are poem series in a style inspired by traditional japanese verse, primarily that of the “hundred poets” (百人一首), a collection of those pieces thought to be the best examples of poetry to date during the heian period.
(spring waters press, 2019)
cast your mind back to a time when poetry was in the air and mystical experiences floated through collective consciousness as radio waves and instant messages do today.
the taste of traditional poetry is the spice of flowing waves tickling the tongue of your ears with its delights, just out of reach but arriving with contemplation after you have dreamed the night away.
haiku and tanka poetry has long been practiced in japan but its use in english has been mostly confined to counting syllables and schoolchildren composing simple verses to practice their language skills. with the advent of the twenty-first century, though, this has changed. new poetic traditions are arising from english-language poets drawing on their ancient roots.
the new haiku is more flexible, more fluid, less restricted by cultural norms or set-piece assumptions and bursts onto the stage of images in a way no standard english forms have ever had the potential to do. leaping from the page like free-verse but with the underlying simplicity of a single pair of contrasting images and commentary, this is the embodiment of a new generation of young poets.
mornings of virgin snow
(spring waters press, 2019)
you are not alone. your thoughts speak to you and echo in your ears as if they were another person, holding you tightly and breathing from inside your lungs. they speak your language, the sound of your heart beating as words in your mind.
there is something that free-verse poetry simply can’t do. it can’t speak across the vast ages of ancient time into the minds of today’s generations. that is something only possible with traditional poetic forms — the haiku of japan, the ship of china, the kasa of korea, the chanda of india.
when you submit to the flow of traditional poetry, it washes over your soul as gentle waves and erodes tension with the pressure of myriad touches. its simplicity is overwhelming in the detail the single images create with their contrasts.
with the advent of contemporary haiku and tanka, it is no longer necessary to understand japanese to reach the depths of these ancient forms, until recently only used in english to create basic poetry on the way to free-verse expression. the haiku tradition has been freed from its language barriers and you can now taste its liberty.
walking on the rock
(spring waters press, 2019)
i was once a child of the rock, north america’s eastern-most landmass, newfoundland. it may be an island but it is approximately the size of portugal so it is a vast, sparsely-populated land of wilderness, surrounded by the icy waters of the north atlantic.
inspired to capture some of its rugged cold and the vibrancy of its colors and the people who live on its harsh coastline, i have selected the spare and rigid form of the haiku, a visitor from another island nation not dissimilar in many respects.
while japanese verse may feel a world away from the salt spray and fish-devoted life of traditional newfoundland, these are two cultures of the sea bound inextricably to her waves and currents, her gifts and the sacrifices she demands of her neighbors.
journey with me across the island three lines at a time, from conception bay to the northern peninsula and back down to the west coast’s whale-soaked legacy. you won’t find stories here in the traditional sense but you may just smell the ocean’s spray if you close your eyes and breathe deeply the essence of the atlantic.
as a teacher, contemporary literature in class is a matter of immense importance to me. thinking of using one of my books with your class? talk to me. i can work with your students to improve their connection with modern and experimental writing but, often more importantly, i can dramatically reduce the cost of the books for you and in some cases provide you with them for free
a community of bookstores
i am a strong believer in the power of neighborhood bookstores to promote literary awareness and an understanding of the beauty of language. sadly, many people walk into these shops and leave with awful classic literature, pressured on them by those who believe it’s more important to read what is accepted as the traditional canon than to embrace modern language. if the best the english language can produce was achieved in the sixteenth or eighteenth centuries, either we are all idiots or we are using the wrong measuring stick.
i believe the fight for modern literature is being waged on the battlefields of popular culture in airport bookstores and amazon wishlists and small bookstores are being left behind. there are, however, some that have embraced non-traditional literature without the elite prejudice of classical education. i have spoken at events at quite a few in various cities. of course, my books are available in any store that wishes to sell them but if you are connected to a forward-looking, liberal bookstore and would like to work together on events or sell signed copies of any of my work, please reach out to me. i have even run creative writing workshops and literary education seminar series in local stores so i will be more than happy to hear from you.