Bright Soil, Dark Sun / Samuel Franklin

Bright Soil, Dark Sun : Finishing Line Press, 2019


Front_Cover_2How does before become after? What happens to our dreams? Our disappointments? These stunning poems in Bright Soil, Dark Sun interrogate time and present moments of excavation, of tracing—and sometimes slipping into—the echoes and scars into which we wake each day, “the world and what haunts / beneath it blending in / bitter harmony.” How much of the past—our own or that of others—can we truly understand? And what is the cost of that understanding? Samuel Franklin explores these corporeal labyrinths and lets each poem reveal its own distinct thread. To quote one of his speakers, I am glad “I was there to see its glint.” Matthew Woodman, editor of Rabid Oak

Franklin writes with the delicate grace of a contemporary Orpheus. In a world not so much post-modern but post-mythology, staring down the failure of Gods, this collection follows those ordinary people caught halfway between cynicism and hope wondering what happens now. Dexterous and touching, every moment of these poems is a delight or a heartbreak or both. Amy Kinsman, author of & and editor of Riggwelter

SFranklinSamuel Franklin  is the author of two books of poetry: Bright Soil, Dark Sun (2019) and The God of Happiness (2016). He resides in Bloomington, Indiana, where he enjoys making useful things out of wood scraps and losing staring contests to his cats. He can be found at

Bright Soil, Dark Sun can be purchased through most booksellers, including the following:
Finishing Line Press
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Includes three poems first published in Third Wednesday, Vol. X, No. 1 (Winter 2017): Driving on an August Evening, On a Ferry for Beaver Island, MI, and As Things Are.


Driving on an August Evening

Hacksaw jabber of cicadas
like trees singing on Highway 46,
hurtling through Brown County,
our faces full of wind, eyes reflecting
clouds like mists of fire
or smoking barges steaming westward,
twilight pines melting against a Rothko sky—
blood-gold, bonfires, red mouth around ripened corn.

The Bold News of Bird Calls / Edward Morin

Headshot.cropped_by_Toddmorin_frontThe meadowlark, belting his song from a post on this book’s cover, is recognized across the country as a harbinger of spring. Enlivening the ambiance of this poetry collection, familiar birds represent the character and mood of its four sections: noisy jays, melodious wrens, steadfast robins, tranquil swans. While birds populate many of the poems, hardly more than a handful have birds as their subjects. The poems’ subjects derive from wide ranging personal experiences often narrated as dramatic situations, usually with something emotionally important at stake. Settings are urban and rural, delineated in finely tuned sensuous detail. Some poems are sonorously lyrical, others ironic or assertive.

Publication of Edward Morin’s The Bold News of Birdcalls is good news not just for birders and other celebrants of the natural world, but for all poetry lovers. I love Ed Morin’s sense of place; he is a real Michigan bard, and his evocation of many familiar Michigan places amounts to a North American version of what the Irish call Dinnṡeanċas, “place lore,” the recitation of which is one of poetry’s most ancient and revered obligations. All this is accomplished with human warmth and a rare sense of empathy.”
Richard Tillinghast, author of twelve books of poetry and five of creative nonfiction, most recently Journeys into the Mind of the World: A Book of Places.

Birds flutter, feed, and swoop through these poems: motifs that knit together subjects as closely-observed as a decaying Hallowe’en pumpkin, armed robbery at a paint store where the speaker holds short-lived employment—a narrative that had my heart in my throat!—and elegies for early-passing friends, colleagues and poet-pals from the speaker’s younger years as a university instructor. Academic politics of the corporate university also grip our attention, as does some professorial ogling! The unforgiving contrasts of northern Midwest weather serve both to warm and cool the tonalities of poems filled with self-questioning, forgiveness of others, and compelling human stories.”
Carolyne Wright, author of This Dream the World: New & Selected Poems, and lead editor of Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace

Paperback: 102 pages
Price: $18.50
Publisher: Kelsay Books (January 7, 2021)
ISBN: 978-1-952326-70-7

Available from Kelsay Books and at

I Was in the Vicinity / Guinotte Wise

“I Was In The Vicinity”

617AjJbtYTL._AC_UY436_QL65_Guinotte Wise returns with choppers and barns and the archaeology of the American experience, covid-19 edition. The chaff blowing over from the pyramids of silage must lend Wise some of its dry magic, as each of these poems shimmers with grace and prickly humor and life.”

GWBARN35-time Pushcart nominee and author of seven books, Guinotte Wise’s fiction collection Night Train Cold Beer won the H. Palmer Hall Award and his poetry and fiction have appeared in numerous journals including Rattle, Atticus, The MacGuffin and Southern Humanities Review. Some work is at

Publisher: Pski’s Porch

Buy it Here.

Protective Coloration / David Jibson

ProtectiveColorationCoverIn this splendid collection of engaging and unmistakably American poems, David Jibson manages to find beauty in utterly unexpected places: piled up on a back shelf at the Salvation Army Store, for example, or strung along the bedraggled length of the Ohio Turnpike—or perhaps in the lovely, tentative dance of a blind woman learning to walk with a white cane. Along with a faint echo of Ted Kooser or Billy Collins at their conversational best, you’ll be captivated by Jibson’s own irresistible voice: that of a witty, insightful observer of the astonishments that surround us.

Marilyn L. Taylor / Wisconsin Poet Laureate, Emerita

To read David Jibson’s poems is like leafing through a pile of photos of your life and suddenly rediscovering feelings and events you had forgotten or never knew. Each snapshot is replete with carefully selected images organized to create unity and fulfillment. His poems range from trivia to exotic, from people we recognize to those we would like to meet. Topics include science, religion, philosophy, history, music, art, and (the requisite for all good poetry) basic old-fashioned entertainment.

Lawrence W. Thomas / Founding Editor of Third Wednesday Magazine,
Honorary Chancellor, Poetry Society of Michigan

Protective Coloration

The Walking Stick is indistinguishable from his habitat,
as is the Dead Leaf Butterfly, the Pygmy Seahorse,
the Tawny Frog-mouth of Tasmania and the Giant Kelp-fish.

So it is with the poet of a certain age hidden in a corner booth
at the back of the cafe as quiet as any snowshoe hare,
as still as a heron among the reeds.

To Have and Have Not

In the balcony rows where the lovers sit
it’s not so far from heaven
where the beam from a projector
slices the darkness and we,
playing at Bogie and Bacall,
splash ourselves up on the screen,
an etching of a former world,
where we wish we could
live out our lives in two dimensions
in the deep shadows of a darkened theater,
the objects of every envy.

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You’re in the Wrong Place / Joseph Harris

(Wayne State University Press, September 15, 2020)

YoureInWrongPlaceCoverIn a thrilling interconnected narrative, You’re in the Wrong Place presents characters reaching for transcendence from a place they cannot escape. Charles Baxter stated that “Joseph Harris has a particular feeling for the Detroit suburbs and the slightly stunted lives of the young people there…You’re in the Wrong Place isn’t uniformly downbeat-there are all sorts of rays of hope that gleam toward the end.”

The book, composed of twelve stories, begins in the fall of 2008 with the shuttering of Dynamic Fabricating-a fictional industrial shop located in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale. Over the next seven years, the shop’s former employees-as well as their friends and families-struggle to find money, purpose, and levity in a landscape suddenly devoid of work, faith, and love.

Vivid, gritty, and original; You’re in the Wrong Place is a love letter to the city of Detroit. A terrific book. (Julie Schumacher Thurber Prize–winning author of Dear Committee Members)

These stories come to us from the front lines of urban decay and renewal, telling us news that stays news. The book is compassionate in its understanding of an entire population group that is proud even in defeat, and the writing often rises to wonderful eloquence. This is a very powerful book. (Charles Baxter author of There’s Something I Want You to Do)

Like the city they struggle to live in, the Detroiters in Joseph Harris’s short stories lead lives ravaged by loss-lost jobs, lost homes, lost loves, lost lives, lost dignity, and lost worlds. And yet even among ruins, with the help of Harris’s artful prose and redemptive imagination, his characters salvage fleeting moments of makeshift grace. Here is a new voice worth listening to. (Donovan Hohn author of The Inner Coast)

Author Bio: Joseph Harris is the author of the story collection You’re in the Wrong Place (Wayne State University Press, 2020). His stories have appeared in Clackamas Literary Review, Midwest Review, Moon City Review, Great Lakes Review, Third Wednesday, Storm Cellar, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He lives in Oak Park, MI.

Story that first appeared in Third Wednesday: “Easter Sunday.” Third Wednesday Vol. X, No. 1. Winter 2017.

Purchase At:  Wayne State University PressBookshop, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, & Amazon.

Random Saints / Joe Cottonwood

Random_Saints_72Random Saints by Joe Cottonwood
Publisher: Kelsay Books, May 2020

available at Kelsay Books and from  

In “Officially Licensed Poet,” the speaker says to the poet ‘I don’t really like poetry but I like your stuff.’ I really do like poetry and I like Joe Cottonwood’s stuff too. If I were asked to choose a book to encapsulate late twentieth century early twenty-first century life as told by a humane and gifted observer, Random Saints would be my pick. Cottonwood is a master story-teller. Put a log on the fire, pull up a comfy chair, open the book. Prepare to laugh, prepare to cry, prepare to feel better about the human race.
Donna Hilbert, author of Gravity: New & Selected Poems

I have to say HOLY WOW. This whole thing knocked me over. Joe Cottonwood is a poet of uncommon perception. His work is direct, embodied, and authentic. Each poem is packed with the real wealth that comes of close observation and hard-won wisdom, carved down to the essence. Let Random Saints show you how the “grinding of the earth creates a diamond.” Then grab a few extra copies. You’re going to want to share this book. 
— Laura Grace Weldon, Ohio Poet of the Year 2019, author of Blackbird

Joe Cottonwood’s humanity illuminates his beautiful poetry, unfailingly drawing us into kinship with our fellow beings—two-legged and otherwise—in ways that surprise and delight. His writing proves the power of simple words and everyday experiences. I was honored to publish so many of these pieces in The MOON magazine.
— Leslee Goodman, publisher of The MOON magazine

JoeJoe Cottonwood is a carpenter by day, poet by night. He lives under redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.

We Bury the Landscape / Kristine Ong Muslim

KMuslimWe Bury the LandscapeWeBurytheLandscape
ISBN 978971542929-0
120 pages
Cover by Nadya Melina Nievera
Release date: October 25, 2020
Publisher: University of the Philippines Press

Click cover for link

It isn’t everyday a book offers two very different ways of reading. The first: intensely personal, sometimes bewildering and yet rigorously demanding in terms of creative participation, and the second: intellectual, research-based and analytical, but also a call to a communal multi-genre artistic experience. These two different methods are on offer in Kristine Ong Muslim’s collection of micro fictions We Bury the Landscape, an assemblage of very short ekphrastic pieces.”
Michelle Bailat-Jones in Necessary Fiction

Although the relationship between painting and prose is certainly essential to fully experiencing this collection, the collection is more than an exhibition or exercise in ekphrasis … Muslim’s collection-exhibition chronicles the process in which the things we drown, discard, and bury are exhumed and continue to haunt us even after we have buried them again.”
Hayes Moore in A cappella Zoo

Conceptually, this is one of the most unusual books I have ever read. We Bury the Landscape, by Kristine Ong Muslim, is a collection of 100 mini-stories based on works of visual art—paintings for the most part, but also drawings, and one photograph …. The pieces themselves reflect the surrealism of the selection. They are flights of the imagination, untrammelled by pedantic considerations of plausibility. In effect, they are more in the nature of prose poems, where the language is every bit as important as the content.”
Colman O Criodain in Gloom Cupboard

It’s not the talking that is significant but the stories themselves that are important. We must accept the things we most want to query. All of which suggests that one strand of the weird invites us to reconsider entirely how we tell stories and how we understand them. I’ve been thinking about this every time I come back to Kristine Ong Muslim’s We Bury the Landscape.”
Maureen Kincaid Speller in Weird Fiction Review

[We Bury the Landscape is] filled with an uncanny wisdom about what terrifies us most in life and death—a knowledge so nonchalant and startling each poem proves only to reveal truths about each of us, about our humanity.”
Susan Yount in Rebellious Magazine


Landscape with Grenade
      after Cliff McReynolds’s Landscape with Hand Grenade / oil on panel, 1972

GrenadeWhen the little people discovered the grenade on their valley, they did not know what it was so they prayed to it, tilled the land, and planted their tiny sacred crops around it as if it were some sort of shrine. Something so big and black with a curious contraption on one end had to beget miracles. So for months and months, they sang to it, asking for whatever it was little people desired in their little hearts. When nothing happened and because they were cowardly, they slit the throats of innocent animals in sacrifice. And when nothing happened still, they pelted the grenade with small stones. The grenadegod, of course, would not budge.


The Spider
           after Odilon Redon’s The Crying Spider / charcoal, 1881

CryingSpiderYour own family betrayed you the day they mistook you for a spider. Your mother caught you balancing a coffee mug on your fourth leg while sewing a button onto your coat with your two inborn hands. She told the family doctor you were “not quite right.” Another day, spying through the half-opened door, your kid brother watched you spin a web on the bedroom ceiling. Turning around, you lock eyes with him. He screamed. You didn’t get a chance to lick your achy joints and explain to him that it is normal to spin a web, to trap insects. Afterwards, your brother had to be sedated. For two years, he had the same bad dream. Your father, saddled since birth with pretending to be human, blamed you. When at last you had the sense to run away from home, nobody reported you missing. Your family must have assumed that anyone with eight legs must travel farther, go places no one else can. Most days, you wish that were the case.

Revenge of the Goldfish 
     after Sandy Skoglund’s Revenge of the GoldfishGoldfish / art installation photograph, 1981

It started when my sister and I painted the bedroom walls an incestuous blue. At first, only two appeared, seeped through the walls. Goldfish. All fat lips and yellow-orange ugliness, squiggling as if they had the right to materialize. One landed near my sock drawer. The bigger of the two settled on top of the blue lamp. The fish wheezed as they died, waiting for water. It got worse each day. In a week, goldfish poured from the ceiling, the unadorned walls, the dresser mirror, under the blue bed. Hundreds. Their husks dropped on the floor. Even in our sleep, we could hear their gasps. We trod on their bodies as we dressed for work, back to the world that did not know what we had to endure inside this little room. We only collected them when we could no longer stand the smell, that pungent, moldy odor of decay. We talked of moving out, although by the time there was gurgling in the bathroom pipes, we knew it was too late.

Some Electric Hum / Janice Northerns

(Lamar University Literary Press, 2020) Release date: Aug. 1, 2020. $15, paperback

CoverThe poems in Some Electric Hum are set in Kansas and Texas and interrogate gender and social norms against the backdrop of a stark rural landscape. These brave and carefully crafted poems explore topics of coming of age, womanhood, immigration and human rights. With beautiful imagery and a clear voice, Some Electric Hum will appeal not only to lovers of poetry, but to all lovers of the written word.

Available from all major online book sellers

Janice Northerns’ debut collection, Some Electric Hum, disentangles the gnarled branches of a family tree into poems of complicated love and endurance. Deeply engaged with place, these poems range across Texas to Kansas to hold up the objects and people that created a personal history and “grapple with words just west of the tongue.” Intimate and invested in the lives of others, Northerns crafts narratives of tenderness and survival, reminding us all it’s always possible to move forward and carry our stories with us.” Traci Brimhall, author of Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod

It’s not often you see a whole life that’s gone into a book, but here we have just that. Janice Northerns lives this life intensely, and lives intensely in language. At the core of this book are the raw elements of birth, love, and death; while surrounding them are sophisticated yet impassioned readings of the violence of history, class, and social codes.  These are poems to be read both largely and closely, for the stories they tell, and for their turns of poetic craft.”  William Wenthe, author of Words Before Dawn

“Poetry is the thinking mind bodied forth, and in Janice Northerns’ poems here that comprise a kind of extended meditation on the strange and difficult country of her youth, West Texas, the bodying forth–the impossibly precise, sharply honed imagery; flawless narrative flow; and dramatic landscape description–is breathtaking, a sure sign of poetic talent on a very deep level.” B. H. Fairchild, author of Usher: Poems

northernsheadshotA native Texan now living in Kansas, Janice Northerns holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Tech University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals, including Ploughshares, Third Wednesday, and Southwestern American Literature. Awards include a Brush Creek Foundation residency and a Sewanee Writers’ Conference scholarship.

Stage to Page / James B. Nicola

All the world’s a page, and originates on the stage? That is the provacative question posed by James B. Nicola’s Stage to Page.

s2pCOVERimageBravo! The marvel of James B. Nicola’s substantial collection is how his superb craftsmanship never once muffles the voice of his exuberant stage-struck heart. A warm-hearted, cold-eyed ode to the business known as show. —John Guare

Stage to Page is an exhilarating tour of show business, informed with the poet’s deep and lively involvement in theater. A master of meter and rhyme, James B. Nicola has the power boldly to experiment besides. All of us who care for staged comedy and drama, movies, music, and dance (and who doesn’t?) will cherish this unique and fascinating collection. —X. J. Kennedy

James Nicola’s Stage to Page…is a book for anyone who has waited in the dark, either backstage or out in the house, for the magic to begin, and Nicola’s spells, like Prospero’s, are powerfully transporting. This book is a delight! —David Yezzi

This collection is, like its author, a Shakespearean clown.Thanks for allowing me the pleasure. The book is great. —Rob Corddry

Sprightly, graceful, often wise, these poems both study and inform. James B. Nicola is a light-spirited teacher with much to impart about the stage that is the world. —Rachel Hadas

James Nicola reminds us over and over that live theater is ephemeral… and I think all stage actors live with a quiet terror that, after we strut and fret our hour upon the stage…no one will remember. I think it’s something all human beings wonder. Stage to Page sure made me wonder. —John Cariani

James B. Nicola…entices the goddess of our subconscious lives to “emerge from the sea foam” and holds us spellbound about what goes on behind the scenes and in front of the curtain as he teaches us what it means to be both an actor and an audience. —Christina Zawadiwsky

Stage to Page is the kind of book you will want to relish a few pages at a time. —Philip Fisher

An incredibly insightful, truthful and entertaining series of poems that feels new and familiar at the same time. —Larry Pine

Stage to Page…is irreplaceable. There isn’t anything remotely like it. It’s beautiful. —Austin Pendleton

JBNicola_photo_w_cherrybloomsJames B. Nicola’s full-length collections include Manhattan Plaza (2014), Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016), Wind in the Cave (2017), Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists (2018), and Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond (2019). His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award./ 

Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater
published: Word Poetry/WordTech Communications, 2016 (Cincinnati)

Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond / James B. Nicloa

fdce27aa-e208-46e5-8787-d491176a8568Over the course of the 20th Century, T. S. Eliot’s “Hollow Man” finally learned to Howl with Ginsberg, but has since evolved into the 21st Century’s Empty Man—and Woman. Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond is about a certain hope to answer the existential quagmire of daily life we find ourselves surrounded by: a poetic reminder that the same miracle that made Something to begin with, recurs every moment of our lives. These poems attempt to illuminate, investigate, and celebrate the mysterious place-that-is-no-place where the Center does hold: the moment that brings us from Chaos to Cosmos, from Void to Creation, from Nothing to Everything. . . . Hence the subtitle, for Quickening is a collection of Poems from Before and Beyond –plus what lies between.

James B. Nicola’s full-length cJBNicola_photo_w_cherrybloomsollections include Manhattan Plaza (2014), Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016), Wind in the Cave (2017), Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists (2018), and Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond (2019). His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award.

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