November 2000Café Society's Poetry News Update
We're into November and it's already feeling cooler with an interview with Ralph Alfonso... Do you have any poetry news or comments? If so, mail me on the email link at the bottom of this page. Competitions and calls for submissions can be announced here free.

RALPH ALFONSO - Poet, cartoonist, musician - The Story:
60s Garage Rock meets 50s Cool Jazz in a Latin cocktail bar. That's the easiest way to describe RALPH - the man, the band, the CD, and the fanzine. Ralph Alfonso is a unique character on the Canadian scene; familiar to those in the industry for his work as a graphic designer & years promoting Canadian music at WEA Canada, Attic, and Capitol-EMI. Tom Cochrane, The Nylons, Glass Tiger...they've all yelled at him.

"I started at ATTIC RECORDS (altho, in the VERY beginning, I managed The Diodes, a Toronto punk band) writing newsletters and press releases for weird groups (including Jan Lindblad, the Swedish bird-whistler). From there I went from being a big shot at the big labels & quitting all that to moving to Vancouver where I work in the Nettwerk art dept and do freelance CD designs/photography for Bif Naked, Dexter, Kinnie Starr, D-CRU, Huevos Rancheros, Zulu Records, etc etc (yawn) etc. Did I mention that I sometimes sing? (Bring earplugs)."

Ralph's genuine love for music carries through everything he does and the everyman nature of his writing and performing has won him friends all across Canada, the USA, and the UK (Sussed mag says "the coolest man on the planet." Geez!).

In 1992, Ralph begins publishing a monthly beat pop & poetry fanzine called RALPH (Coffee, Jazz and Poetry) which has a circulation of 6000, is sometimes printed on a 1950s Gestetner mimeograph machine and distributed FREE all over Canada, the USA, England, France, and more. "None of the poems have anything to do with death or intellectual stuff," says Ralph. "It's all about kissing and hugging kind of like old 50s and 60s pop songs."

In 1993, Ralph guests on his friend Tom Harrison's radio show to talk about his days in the record industry (like winning the Canadian Promotion Director Of The Year award from The Record, 1985) and his zine. On the show, Ralph & Tom (who is the rock critic at The Vancouver Province & thus should have known better) improvise on a spoken word piece. Little did they know what would happen next.

In 1994, Peter Gzowski's people approach Ralph to appear on Morningside. Ralph sends them a copy of the Tom show. They flip on the improv bit and demand Ralph & Tom do the same for them. Joined by guitarist Michael Rummen, they're on Morningside for 30 mins! Next day, Ralph gets the first of 300 letters wanting more!

Based on this response (d-uh!), the boys perform live and record a CD shortly thereafter - Coffee, Jazz and Poetry, is recorded completely live in front of a drunken studio audience ("We wanted that 60s Ramsey Lewis Trio live club sound."). A Vancouver to Winnipeg tour is met with fantastic write ups and enthusiastic response.

In 1996, Ralph releases his second CD, Olympia 66 (see discography for details, below). That summer, RALPH tours from Toronto to Halifax in a co-bill with New York's Agnelli/Rave as THE BEATNIK FOLK POP EXPLOSION (including a cool gig at CBGB'S Gallery, New York). Agnelli/Rave are Lauren Agnelli (Washington Squares) and Dave Rave (Teenage Head). Dave and Ralph are old friends from the 1977 Toronto punk scene (Ralph also managed the legendary Crash'n'Burn punk club). " We took a lot of the beat energy that we grew up with and made it come alive on stage every night. Sometimes you need some old-time showmanship to get the party going." In 1997, they repeat this experience by touring all across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax. Highlights include a studio session in Winnipeg for CBC AFTER HOURS (all the material recorded is not on any RALPH cd and airs exclusively on the CBC...until the next lp, of course!!). It's this 1997 tour that also brings Ralph's crazed bongo playing to the fore! (One word - duck!)

"A RALPH show is a fun evening of spoken word, Beat sensibility, cool jazz, and my belief that poetry can be presented as part of a popular culture mix that is positive and universal. The original notion of what Kerouac called "Beatitude" was a celebration of life, discovery, experience and goodness in your heart. It's a very key ingredient that's been overlooked by popular stereotyping. Poetry is not negative and if my kind of Beatnik Liteª can make people give it another chance, then that's great!"

RALPH is: Ralph Alfonso (vocals, goatee), Tom Harrison (bongos, vocals), Michael Rummen (guitar, hair), Tracy Marks (piano, beret), Graham Howell (sax), and Ron Stelting (percussion, good looks).

"Ralph...takes his inspiration from 50s jazz and beat poetry, 60s garage bands, 70s punk energy and do-it- yourself ethos, 80s dysfunctional relationships and 90s stand-up comedy." Stu Cousins, Soundscape Other projects include a DIODES re-issue CD for SONY Canada, and a RALPH book, Coffee, Jazz and Poetry (published by US beat specialists Water Row Press and distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books). Ralph has also collaborated on a a jazz noir movie directed by Chris Hooper (ex-Grapes Of Wrath). The RALPH combo performs the soundtrack music live as the movie plays and Ralph provides the spoken narration. The film, Vie De Nuit, premiered Nov 22, 1998 at the Vancouver Underground Film Festival.

Coming in 2000 - a new tour, a new book, and new cd, This Is For The Night People. For more information see Ralph's website:

TV Appearances:

KNOWLEDGE NETWORK (house band on the hi-brow "Inform" program)
Vancouver Television BREAKFAST TV
BRAVO! etc.

Poetry L & T:When did you first start writing your Jazz-style poetry, Ralph?

Ralph Alfonso:Possibly in 1992, coinciding with the first issue of my RALPH poetry zine. By the third issue, I had "Chet Baker's Cigarette" which set the tone for more to follow. I thought it would be fun (and a good exercise) to try and write poetry in tone and style to some of the great old jazz standards by Cole Porter and friends, or at least evocative of a light jazz swing.

Poetry L & T:When did the Jazz/monologue poetry first start to turn into songs?

Ralph Alfonso:That came in late October, 1995, when I was invited on as a guest to the "Morningside" show on CBC Radio (the Canadian equivalent to the BBC). This show is heard by millions of Canadians and is very influential. Of course, at the time, I was blissfully unaware of all of that. One of the story producers had found a RALPH zine and they thought it would make an interesting feature- a beatnik guy printing a mimeograph poetry zine every month. I thought just going on and reading would be boring and surely, working at a record company, I could find some musicians.

They also asked for a tape of any other radio appearance I'd made and all I had was a show hosted by my friend Tom Harrison where I'd gone on mostly to talk about the music industry aspect of my career, and at the end of the show, Tom had asked me to read a poem and he then, spontaneously, started doing some scat vocals in the background! The CBC producer, Mary Lynk, LOVED it and asked me to bring Tom along. I said I would check since Tom is the rock critic at the Vancouver Province newspaper here!! My boss (John Rummen) at Nettwerk, meanwhile, suggested I call his brother Michael, who was a guitarist and wasn't doing anything.

Mary Lynk went through all my material with me over the phone. It was quite odd - I was at my desk at work & having to read poetry out loud on the phone to her. She'd just broken up with someone and so that sort of clouded :) some of the final selections. I had a quick rehearsal with Michael the night before, just finding rhythms that fit each poem. We showed up at the studio next morning and were on national radio for over 30 minutes. Everyone liked it and I was inundated with about 300 letters immediately after (I'd given out my address on the air).

The funny part of the story, which I didn't find out till that morning, was that Michael was also the guitarist in Tom's band, Little Games!!! Over the next while, we would also lure over Tom's drummer, Ron Stelting, into the RALPH fold.

Anyway, it worked so well, we did a Nettwerk BBQ (our set was basically 15 minutes) and that led to a TV appearance and then an invitation to play a club. I had to have another meeting with Mike and over the course of one evening, we created two 45 minutes sets of material from the poetry I had thus far.

It was quite unusual when we debuted live in a club setting; a fully formed look and sound and 90 minutes of all-original material (the basis of which became the first RALPH CD).

Poetry L & T:I very much enjoyed listening to your CDs, "Coffee, Jazz and Poetry", "Olympia 66" and "Sophisticated Boom-Boom". Which of those three are you most satisfied with, or have the best associated memories?

Ralph Alfonso: "Sophisticated Boom Boom" of those three.

The new one, "This Is For The Night People," of course, is leaps and bounds beyond "Boom Boom".

What I enjoyed with "Sophisticated Boom Boom" was the incredibly vast musical terrain we covered (from ska to jazz to 60s rock) and realizing the potential of the recording studio. A lot of that material was created spontaneously in the studio. I think the CD surprised a lot of people because you can't really pigeonhole it into anything (altho I did do just that with the song sequencing, for the very reason that people nowadays seem to want that). The multi-media portion of the CD was also fun to assemble - I mean there is almost 2 hours of material on that cd when you combine the audio, 3 videos, and etc....

Poetry L & T:I hear that you got married on April the 8th of this year. How are you enjoying married life?

Ralph Alfonso:So far, so good.... hahahahaaaa!!! We had, I must say, a magical wonderful wedding. Wonderful minister, great friends, beautiful weather, family and the usual reception where everyone has too much fun. We have many plans, hopefully, we can make some of them come true!! We are a very compatible couple, I think. I'm lucky we found each other, that's for sure :)

Poetry L & T:Do you and Alison go out to Jazz clubs and does she tour with you sometimes?

Ralph Alfonso:Our jobs preclude too much night time activity but we try to hit the interesting shows when we can. There is only one real jazz club in Vancouver. Yes, she does come out on tour. I think the first time she thought it would be a bit of a holiday, but quickly realized there was a fair bit of work to do!!! It makes the whole thing a bit more family cozy. We're all very laid back anyways.

Poetry L & T:Is How are your two cats, Iver the Coniver and Jack Keroucat, adjusting to the new arrangements? Do they enjoy poetry and Jazz?

Ralph Alfonso:Hahahahaaaaa..... they love Grant Green (his Blue Note "Standards" cd) and I notice they chill out to trance remixes. We leave the CBC on when we're at work so they can listen to hi-brow programming. They are both very friendly and LOVE visitors. You know Jack likes you when he literally LEAPS up and lands on your shoulder!!!! One is a tabby (Iver) and the other is a Persian type (Jack). They BOTH like to lick my goatee when I get into bed!!! The first time it happened, I was asleep and thought Alison was being playful until I open my eyes and there's good old Jack giving me the grooming!!! Hahahahaaaa.... Obviously they think I'm a big cat or something....

Poetry L & T:What are the main inspirations for your poems and songs?

Ralph Alfonso:Ordinary things. Life and love. Things of the heart. Faith. Hope for something greater.

Poetry L & T:Is "Bongo Beat Records" your own company? How did it first come into existence?

Ralph Alfonso:Mostly to release my cds. We have thought about putting out other people's cds, but I'd like to be a bit more financially secure before we get into that aspect of it. Sign up the wrong person and things can go awfully wrong!!!

Poetry L & T:As a cartoonist myself, as well as a poet, I enjoyed reading your book of collected editions of your fanzine, "Coffee, Jazz and Poetry". Several artists contribute work for the covers. Can anyone submit artwork for the cover, as long as it is well-drawn in a strong, jazzy style?

Ralph Alfonso:Yes. Exactly. It is very casual and I don't want to deal with people who have odd restrictions or want lots of money, etc. I basically publish the illustration, pay with as many copies the artist wants and also print a promotional blurb with as much information the artist wants (contact numbers, etc). A few artists have gotten freelance work as a result!!!

Poetry L & T:Do you think that poetry is easier - or harder to publish, than fiction?

Ralph Alfonso:In terms of approaching a publisher - harder. If you're publishing it yourself - it can be much cheaper (less pages, etc). Of course if you're Jewel - everything is easy... hahaahaaa....

Poetry L & T:Is there anything you particularly hate to hear in poems or song lyrics?

Ralph Alfonso:Death. Drugs. You know, all this stuff's been done very well by others. I guess, it depends, but by and large, it's pretty depressing to slog through.

Poetry L & T:Who is your favourite poet and/or jazz songwriter of all time?

Ralph Alfonso:

I like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Emile Cioran (he's depressing, yeah, but...), Cole Porter...

Poetry L & T:How would you describe Jazz poetry to a visitor from another planet?

Ralph Alfonso:

A positive melodic language....a story with no ending but many beginnings...

Poetry L & T:What is your favourite CD to listen to while working on your graphic design projects?

Ralph Alfonso:

I like instrumental music because words are distracting when you're trying to work... I guess that's why Muzak was invented.... hahahaaaa.... lots and lots of jazz by all sorts of people.... mostly 50s-60s Blue Note, Pacific Jazz, Riverside stuff....I like compilations a lot.... acid jazz things... remix compilations.... if I'm working on a specific CD cover then I'll play the music to that CD if it's available to me. I find it very helpful.

Poetry L & T:Finally, Ralph, what advice would you give for any young poet with musical ability, who would like to have a similar career to yours but wouldn't know where to start?

Ralph Alfonso:

Find musicians who are compatible with your vision and share your outlook. My pianist is more into beat culture than I am, for example. Try to stay honest to your work & not try to pander to anything. Be yourself first and foremost. Be critical of your work. Make sure the music and words are the best they can be.

Poetry L & T:Thank you for the interview, Ralph.

Ralph Alfonso's Poetry
(From the book of his collected fanzine issues, Coffee, Jazz and Poetry)

Ralph at his printing press

© Ralph Alfonso

whispers in the dark
eyes open wide
but we can't see

just hold out your hand
guide my fingers
to your mouth
so that my lips can follow

© Ralph Alfonso

Drunk up on the hill in St. John's
Newfoundland, watching the waves hit
the rocks below, stopping on the highway
because there's a giant moose in the
road, crawling in and out of every bar on
that street, you know the one I mean,
baby, this proud dominion, on the boat to
Charlottetown, that Sunday flea market,
you knew I wasn't from there, was I, and
all these Nova Scotia backroads, quiet
hamlets God has blessed with Celtic
fervour, these cobblestone streets of
Amherst, falling asleep on this ferry from
St. John, New Brunswick, to God knows
where, Quebec City, we kissed in the
middle of snow and fortresses, and
fireworks in Montreal, Sunday dinners in
Elora, Fergus flea market, looking for old
records in Hamilton, and Toronto...
I miss you baby, but you broke my heart.
And so Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Kenora
(nice fish), Winnipeg, we walked along
the sand no one knows about, I'm sorry
you tried to show me your world when I
was still trying to figure out mine. But, we
all have a place in this great dominion, to
live and let its beauty heal all wounds.

© Ralph Alfonso
pour Johnny Halliday, happy 51st!

ci ça fait mal
il faut laisser
les choses que j'aime
c'est a tout casser

and if it hurts
it's best to just let go
the things I love
I've had to throw away

© Ralph Alfonso
*for Steve Marriot; (yeah I know he played a Gretsch)

Baby, you know it can't get any louder
When I'm on stage with my Rickenbacker
And baby, you know it can't get any better
When I see you dancing in my baggy sweater

© Ralph Alfonso

It would be great to
wake up in a place
where we didn't know where
we were
or how we got there
and I wouldn't really care
I see your wonderful face
and I want to hold
and kiss you for a long time
Our room would be white
the bed full of exotic pillows
A warm morning sun
making the sky blue
and large windows open
to the view
of a pretty city
where no one seemed to live
except us
Maybe we'd laugh a little bit
and wonder
what was going on,
but maybe just for a second.
It's not that important
And I'm sure there would be music
Some quiet violins
and a gentle baroque piano
coming from a little garden
we can see
of red and orange
yellow and blue
white and green flowers
Did I say our room had
beautiful bouquets in white wicker baskets
it does.
I have no idea who made this world
But I'm grateful
they made you.

Ralph Alfonso's Discography
The debut RALPH CD, Coffee, Jazz and Poetry, surprised a lot of people (most of all, Ralph himself!). TOP 10 at many college stations (TOP 50 on the CHART Canadian college chart); #1 at CKUL Lethbridge for approximately 10 weeks in a row. RALPH's sweet take on lounge, jazz, spoken word and garage rock has made him one of Canada's most endearing eccentrics (see ex-girlfriend quote).
OLYMPIA 66 is RALPH's second CD; released in 1996. It's a special EP exploring the line from 50s Beat culture to the 60s UK Beat music explosion... primarily the Mod lifestyle, and even French Yéyé (the title track is a tribute to Johnny Hallyday) and U.S. garage rock....recorded live in a Vancouver club with just vocals and a very loud guitar.
The third RALPH cd, Sophisticated Boom Boom includes a radical re-working of "Tired Of Waking Up Tired", plus cool cover tunes like "Private Detective" (Gene Vincent), originals like "If I Could Forget You (You Know I'd Be Glad To"), and "Venus In Violets", a song heard on CBC After Hours and the Air Canada jazz channel (the video, a cute beatnik animated piece is currently on Muchmusica and Bravo!). Special guests include Tom Harrison, Dave Rave (Teenage Head) and Lauren Agnelli (Washington Squares).
Editor's note: It's worth mentioning - this is an enhanced CD with 3 cool videos.
The brand new CD, This Is For The Night People, will be released on November 7th, 2000. Here is a sneak preview of the cover artwork.

To contact Ralph Alfonso, email: [email protected]
Or visit his website:

EXCLUSIVE WAV download of "Parlez Vous Jazz" available for a few months only -
CLICK HERE. 3MB zipped, 8 unzipped. This file is zipped with Winzip.

NOTICE To Back Issues readers, 20th July 2001: This WAV is unavailable until Yahoo/Geocities provide more free webspace. If you wish to receive a CD of all Poetry Life & Times WAV recitals, including those by Lyn Lifshin and Barbara Crooker, please send an International Money Order for £3 to cover postage and price of a CD - postal details available if you email me at [email protected]. I will also throw in a recital of my own and one or two by Jan Sand, on request.


Dear Poets,

This issue features an interview with the jazz poet and musician Ralph Alfonso. Many thanks to Ralph not only for the interview, but for the very enjoyable CDs and book he sent, to help me research my questions. I have found his work to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. The jazz-accompanied recitals on his CDs have a relaxed, sophisticated mood, often with a touch of humour here and there. You can also download a sample of one of his recitals, just under his poems.

Featured poets this month include Fred Wolven, Chris English, Michael Levy, Bob Childs, Harding Stedler and Jan Sand.

Any comments on this issue or back issues can be emailed to me on the link at the bottom of the page. Please indicate whether you would like such comments to be included in the Letters section. Announcements are always welcome, you can also promote poetry books here.

Any poetry submissions should be in plain text in the body of an email, with a small jpeg picture attached, also a bio, preferably with the URLs of any ezines mentioned, so that they can be shown as links. This will increase chances of inclusion, especially if a submission is sent late in the month, as it saves me time to get a picture and bio at the same time. Pictures are best at a maximum of 520 pixels across, otherwise they take ages to arrive by email, especially if they are in bitmap or TIFF format. Further submission guidelines are available on request.

If anyone would like to send their Chinese, Japanese, Urdu or Hebrew poetry in its original script, please send the English version in plain text with a jpeg or gif showing how it looks in the original language script, no larger than 500 pixels in width so that the English version can appear in a column beside it.

Best Regards,


Featured poets this month include Fred Wolven, Chris English, Michael Levy, Bob Childs, Harding Stedler and Jan Sand.

Many thanks to all contributors.

Fred Wolven, a teaching poet, published in varied print periodicals, now seeks a new, expanded audience in ezines. He believes, "All writing is a form of mediation in motion, a relaxed, interactive mind and body activity. Further, creating poems is rather like candlelight perception, as poems are more than art, mediation, music, or myth. This process enables me to dance both inward and out, and in so doing gain and share some kind of understanding."

© Fred Wolven

We walk to the island's end near
the bay cut and in turning touch white
sand beaches, making our way along
the water's edge. Ahead sandpipers
and adult size relatives alternately
dart seaward probing wet sands
after retreating Gulf waters and then
move back landward scampering in
front of incoming shore breaking waves.
Moving across beds and mounds of tiny
shell piles, washed and left by morning
tides, we work our way southward
in earnest direction of our primitive site.

The morning breezes, gentle on the leaves,
cool us as we walk, then jog, then walk
again. Later we follow the sandbar splitting
an inlet and the Gulf going out further into
waters than ever before. After cavorting in
crystal clear warm waters we amble back
and trek around the southernmost point
checking sand dollars and sea urchins as
we go. Eventually, I find the sun-bleached
and salt-water washed white shell promised
in that poem. Now, you really have two
of those three gifts. Finally, the friendly
dolphin, offshore in Gulf waters earlier,
joins us in the shallow warm inlet nursing
an injured, shark-battered fin. Cutting
catty-corner across one finger of the

Dolphin's sanctuary we follow schools
of assorted fish, wonder if the cochleae
we crunch underfoot on this crossing
are appetizing, come upon a seagull
dining on a red snapper, and slowly
startle an Ibis and a Louisiana Heron
from the deserted shoreline to some
place across the inlet and bay waters.
In the afternoon, resting in a hammock
and sprawled on a blanket covering
needles under Austrian pines, we read,
dream and, in letting go, release pressures,
opening pores to inundate ourselves with
the fresh joys in nature's offerings. In this
reconnecting we draw closer together.

© Fred Wolven
From a work in progress

Sometimes objects become real in the third dimension, sometimes people use their third eye to select images in their imagination. Sometimes I find myself standing on the corner waiting for a bus when there isn't even a bus stop anywhere on the street. Sometimes John Wayne did say something besides, "Now, listen here Pilgrim!," but exactly what no one seems to really know; sometimes the brown diving pelican misses its intended victim, yet the seagull-like bird settles on the pelican's head for a few seconds anyway. Sometimes the cooling bayside breeze lowers the temperature 20 degrees, sometimes not; sometimes we deliver our lines, each in turn, first she, then me, without a hitch, mimicking the mocking bird circling its territory and pausing at each corner to let all creatures know its boundaries. Sometimes the water is warm, sometimes chilly; sometimes these lines have concrete meanings, other times only tenuous feelings; sometimes Salvador knew exactly what he was fashioning, sometimes he had no way of knowing what exactly he was about. Sometimes the light must be turned out before I find the door handle; now is one of these times.

© Fred Wolven
From a work in progress

It feels like everything to me: the pebbly underside of an oak leaf,
the jagged edge of a just-opened can of applesauce,
the crumbled up piece of composition paper,
the furry touch of a caterpillar,
or the fragrance of jasmine strong in early morning air.

Then, too, she drew my attention away from the water,
and, turning on her heels, caused me to puzzle long after she
walked off shouting, "Maybe, but Freud was never right!"
Yes, I too do notice that the more I mull over an abstract idea,
the more difficult it becomes just to formulate the core of it
when asked. And often I'm not even asked.

Of course, I know it just isn't everything, even to me.
So, I think of objects casting two-dimensional shadows
into the third dimension which in turn provides us with
the beginning of a connection with the fourth dimension.
And, again, I think of you as everything to me...

the juice flowing unfiltered through open veins up
from the loam nurtured roots into limbs branching out
in a multitude of albeit confusing directions and into
the greenleaf fingertips and flowering buds-their
energy pulsating throughout and pushing open out
into wind and sky mixing quickly into the air.

Isn't there a connection between the third eye
and the third dimension? Or can't we learn how
to blend the smoke of Dickens' and Eliot's London
with the happy interruptions of Irish drinking songs?

© Fred Wolven

No, try as I might be inclined to ease the memories of you,
I will not, nor the smell or touch of you,
nor even the feel and beauty of you.
Much as I would like to live in the moment,
the long drives I sometimes make hold too much time for reflection,
so I try not to pass by too near where you live,
nor be there should you call, and
I am learning not to pick up the phone and
how to let tears fall when alone.
But I cannot erase the memory of you;
I may never learn how to do that.

Nearly from the moment we met,
I felt you were my true love, and
I sought to become your dancing bear,
though I only knew one such creature, Theodore Roethke, and
he I met in his city, in the forests and fields and finally in a cemetery.
You were my Cinderella without slippers for you never needed them,
and I would have become your hump-backed Kokopelli Man
without flute for I only have my words, my voice and
my arms and hands extended to fashion songs for you,
but these were not enough as too many chords were off-key,
and whole notes were missing, and now only a hole remains.

I have tripped over a root, and this ledge I am on is very narrow.
I would have settled for being your Coyote,
but now I must learn to live without your breath,
and the sound of silence is louder still than the quiet
I hear in your words, louder than the space in your silence.

[email protected]

Christopher English
with his cat

In 1970 Chris went to work for a Harrogate company of chemical combustion engineers in the drawing office. He started writing poems and painting in oil colours in his spare time. To follow his interest in painting he went to art school in the evenings. Chris had a lot of encouragement from various poetry events, workshops, friends etc.

He was made redundant from work in 1985 and decided that there was no future for him in drawing office work. He wanted to get a degree in fine art. So he did a foundation course in art and design at Harrogate Art College. He went on to do a Fine Art Painting BA degree at the School of Art and Design at Loughborough University, where he graduated in 1994. He continues to produce poetry and paintings in Loughborough. He has produced his own book publication of his paintings, poems, prints and drawings. Details are on his website.

At present Chris is a member of Loughborough ARTSPACE collective group of artists that exhibit as a group locally each year.

See: An artist's Book Web Site by Christopher English, C. English's Symbolist Paintings and Poetry Page.

Click here to view one of Chris's paintings

Introduction to poem 'Fire on Beacon Hill'.
Loughborough is in the Borough of Charnwood, which includes Beacon Hill. All of which is within the Charnwood forest district of Leicestershire. England. In the 1970s and 80s I made frequent train journeys, to and from, Harrogate and Loughborough. This poem is about my thoughts and memories during those train rides.

© Christopher English

Leaving Loughborough,
Watching from a window of a speeding train
I saw the familiar streets and country lanes,
Backyard slums over zigzagging fences,
Telegraph poles that strung loops of wire behind them,
Their flickering shadows left to loom,
Characters soon forgotten in the sunlight.
Hunch-back mounds mantled in embroidery colours
Covered the downs of the countryside,
Dressed in changing shades of under blade grass,
Folded in the winds flow
Across blankets of green and flowers.
The waves of wind raked fields and twining rivers
Strode past my light-soaked eyes.
The sun glimmering through a cloudy sky,
Casting mottled hues upon
The far off hills of Charnwood.

The strange, quiet distance viewed from the window.
Scenery somehow unreal
In the comfortable rocking motion of the train
With only the sound of the wheels,
Jig, jogging drums along the railway.

Reminding me of very different times, so vivid in my mind.
The familiar view of Beacon Hill upon the horizon.
Every day we had seen the view from my window
In our Loughborough house at Charnwood Road.
For in recent weeks the knowledge of the inevitable
Was forever coming closer,
The time to leave Loughborough and lose each other forever.

In the days before, we made many visits to the forest
To walk among the ground ivy and heather.
Walking up high slopes, passing aged oak trees,
Along varicose paths of twisted roots,
Over rugged jags of flint jutting from the rocky ground.
This was Beacon Hill
In evenings of mellow Autumn skies.
To touch and hold each other,
To at least make this place known to us before parting.
The shouts of children, sound of roaming dogs,
Dog shit,mud and soggy moss,
Smell of damp rotting wood and scent.
Soaking our senses in the presence
Where russet ochre's of fallen leaves
Blended so well with the coats of animals,
Swift flocks of birds flew overhead on their way away .
A quivering breeze against our rugged clothes,
Giving our bodily curves away, whispering to our ears
As our hair was blown into knots.
Nothing could really be said
Other than what was seen and felt,
Just to remember those last days together.

© Christopher English

You arrived holding flowers,
Wearing a green scarf upon your head.
We had not seen each other for weeks.
I saw you smile as you saw me
And I loved you,
I wanted to rush over
And touch you;
But I didn't.

© Christopher English

Looking back on what was correct,
And most probably right,
Although who can be certain for sure ?
The hold before the fall was all so important.
Holding on to the precious support at all costs.
The loss of what one stood for,
Turning for the worst,
Seems so little now,
Compared to what was eventually found in its place.

© Christopher English

Once, there was a duel.
Men with pistols met at sunset.
The sun and the moon
Faced each other
Above a field of long shadows.
Beneath the masks
Of the drunken faces
Each was afraid,
Which one would sink
Into the darkness.

[email protected]

Michael Levy

Michael Levy is the author of WHAT IS THE POINT ($9.95, Paperback - 110 pages, October 9, 1998, ISBN: 0966806905) Minds of Blue Souls of Gold ($9.95, Paperback - 127 pages, January 20, 1999) Point Of Life Inc.; ISBN: 0966806913) Enjoy Yourself It's Later Than You Think ($9.95, Paperback - 128 pages, June 10, 1999, Point Of Life Inc.; ISBN: 0966806921).

Michael's website is at His Articles and Poems are now on over 1000 web sites and growing daily.

© Michael Levy, Feb 2000

Music drifts through a thousand minds,
Through doors, windows, walls,
Serenades sail tranquil waters,
Ebb in one ear, flow out the next,
Ever onward into infinity

Lovers touch, sending electric messages beyond space and time,

Turquoise crystal thoughts blow freely,
across oceans, mountains, plains.
Visions of extreme delights,
fly faster than light,
Beaming sensitivity beyond the eye.
Taste buds explode into magical dimensions.

Perfumed orchid neurons bring forth aroma's magical sensation,
Aware joy of life entwines the wise one's Globe,
Travel along with thought to infinite places.

© Michael Levy

Until time set the scene
Souls were seen
And never heard
Now we are in the heard
Or so it seems.

But the seams fray
And fade away
Night spins To-day
Roles to play.

Come what may
And May will come
As long as humans will last
The last free soul
Will switch off time.

The scene is now set again
Pendulums will swing.

Sway to new masters
In a different guise
But still the same.

Time to set new scenes,
Lights, camera, action, roll em.

© Michael Levy, Sept 2000

Chat room clatter,
Nonsense on parade,
Guess it's no fun
Being an old maid.

Beyond the pale
Heartbeats sail
Magic words fail
Until You've Got Mail.

Plug in the drum,
The blind mice run,
To see such fun,
The porno has come

© Michael Levy, August 2000

Once he was chairman of the board,

One of the largest Corporations in America,

He would fly in a luxurious Private Jet,

The best Hotel suites, flunkies at his beck and call,

A leader of many thousands of 'yes sirs,'

Now his wife sends him to the supermarket,

His Task, Don't by the potatoes with eyes.

[email protected]

Bob Childs

As a writer of song and poetry in his youth, Bob kept a low profile regarding his work until 1994 when a cycling accident resulting in head injury drastically altered his life and opened a floodgate of creativity that would later help steer him to a course of recovery.

Much of Bob's work deals with the madness of head trauma and mood disorder while always keeping a watchful eye for emotional fulfillment.

Bob hopes to use his writing to communicate a message of support to others dealing with this disorder. Bob (also known as Doomwheels in the kite sailing world) maintains a website that features excerpts from 3 books of his poetry (was totally rebuilt this summer). Once an extreme sportsman and a business owner, Bob has recently given up house and home to travel to foreign lands on a journey of self renewal. Along the way he has chronicled his experiences in a travel journal that he hopes to edit into book form and share with friends.

© Bob Childs 15/10/99

Not of my bone
Not born of my blood
You were never sewn to my side

A heartbeat over my own
A lamb asleep on my rib
Growing up and growing apart as
I kept a patient eye
The one I knew as a child
The one I loved as a daughter.
The one I lost to the winds

© Bob Childs 16/3/99

"Tilt your head back,
Arms straight out at your sides please"
He cooperates but already shows signs of imbalance

"Bring the tips of your fingers to your nose
One at a time..."
The passing cars stir a
Breeze blowing his tie up over his face as if
He didn't look ridiculous enough already
There's no doubt that this guy just
Bought himself a night at the "county hotel"

The whip of wind from my car causes him to
Step back against his fender as I
Speed past thinking... "Better him than me!"
I fire another mint into my mouth and
Focus on the fuzzy links that guide me home
Night after night.

© Bob Childs 23/12/98

His face froze
Wide eyed like a
Thief caught in a spotlight

Her scream took hold of her hands and
Locked them to the wheel
Welded her feet to the brake as
She laid rubber over him

"Knocked him clear into next week!"
The old men will say
Chatting on a bench outside the Texaco

Twenty degrees that night but
He lay in a hot bath
His breath escaping into clouds
He slips into a dream

She never took her hands off of the wheel
She never closed her eyes
Not even as red light cut the sky
Not even as zipper crossed his face
Not even now as she lay in her bed
Remembering that night
Nearly twenty years ago.

© Bob Childs 6/8/96

I speak of journey, speak of quest
But what's it really mean?
Seems I've stood with eyes closed all this time
Yet all this time I've seen
How the world moves all around me
And love just passes through
Like water through a colander
Like every word I spoke to you rings out
Through my mind unanswered
Seems the echo never ends
As if years of pain unmended
Sing along the mountain wind

And all this time I listen
And all this time I pay
For mistakes that I have levied
As I hastened 'long my way to find out
Where this journey's end lies
And when this quest is through
Will I close my eyes and realize
That my love was there with you?

...Question asked, question answered.

[email protected]

Harding Stedler

Retired from teaching, after 34 years in the classroom, Harding now works at a local publishing house, designing Language Arts materials for elementary-school youngsters. Also, this is his third and final term as secretary of the Poets' Roundtable of Arkansas.

He has small grandchildren - Lauren (age 3) and Matthew (age 1). Both love critters, so they go on treasure hunts in the woods frequently.

© Harding Stedler

Earth, now farmer-groomed,
bedecked in satin frock,
invites the seed.
She hungers for roots and rain
and shade of green umbrellas
to shield her from beastly heat.
Open acres of tilled brown
lie soft as cornmeal
in planting time, waiting
for beans and cotton.
Tractors will soon make rows
against the moon,
and sprouts will burst lengthwise
as far as eye can see.

Earth will endure
the ravages of heat
among grown reaches of the vines
as summer eats its way to ripeness
in long days of light.

© Harding Stedler

You wrapped my heart
around the flagpole
with that homer in the tenth.
The season was ours to lose
until you were summoned
to pinch-hit for the shortstop.
You took two strikes,
then fouled off several pitches
as I squirmed there in my seat.
We needed a run to tie.
Two on base;
two were out;
and two strikes was the count.
The championship was at stake.
For forty years, we wallowed
in or near the cellar
and desperately wanted to win.
Finally, you got your pitch
and, with one mighty swing,
you drove the ball to center,
a high drive riding on the wind.
It hit the pole
that held the stars and stripes
Amid the uproar in the stands,
we could barely hear
the ringing of the steel.
You were my hero,
and today
the flag belongs to you.

© Harding Stedler

I park among debris
left behind by last night's crowd --
beer cans and candy wraps
strewn across the dew-painted quiet.
No one but me here this morning
to savor the start of day.
I sift through shadows of words
and piece together some
that make music.
My song is silent
until I read aloud
the sounds of summer.
Some day, I will take the magic
that I found here
and share it with old ladies
at the nursing home,
anything to bring some sunshine
to their days.
I may even take the litter
and let them recycle aluminum
for spending money,
to buy cheap wine
they can sip on the back veranda.

© Harding Stedler

Today, the airport brims
with big muscles
among frail, old blue-haired ladies.
Standing Room Only at Gate 6.
Flight is overbooked
and who will sit on whose lap?
A long ride to Cincinnati
when there are not seats enough.
The gate-wait is spent
between sips of bottled water
and/or steaming coffee.
Old women jiggle
between their words
fresh steam for athletes
whose flight has been delayed.
Restless chatter
helps to pass the time
in space where there are
no windows to shop
or goalposts to run between.

[email protected]

Self-portrait by Jan Sand

JAN SAND, poet and illustrator from New York, is a regular contributor to Poetry Life & Times. and the newsgroup alt.arts.poetry.comments. A great deal of his work is about animals, or science fiction.

Recently Jan was published by Kedco Studios Artist Profile Press, on their latest CD ROM e-book, "A Way With Words (Poetry Real and Surreal), which also includes complete books by Dale Houstman, Sara L. Russell and Keith Gabriel Hendricks. Jan's illustrated book on the CD is called "Wild Figments And Odd Conjectures", which is also sold separately, in a limited-edition "single" CD.

To see an illustrated article about Jan's poems, visit the November '98 issue of Poetry Life & Times, and scroll down past the Editor's Letter. He also has his own poetry pages on Charlotte's Web at Artvilla.

© Jan Sand

These streets are now well walked.
I know their spotted concrete patches,
Lightning cracks, tufts of wayward sprouting weeds,
Broken trees with jagged boughs, blackboned fingers
Shielding curtained windowed walls,
Corridors of cheesebox houses neatly laid
On squares of grass deployed like plastic rug.
Nets of sparrows fling across the open spaces.
A mower chews and spits a useless crop.
Preferable to inner city honeycomb,
But eaten by the same tessellation.
How does one escape this labyrinth?
The string is broken, the crumbs are all consumed.
I spiral inwards to the beast.

© Jan Sand

This straight street
Called Kingston Avenue,
Black asphalt at the center,
Curbed, where people strew
The wreckage of technology,
Meals half consumed, in foil,
Cardboard boxes, black bagged mysteries,
Fruit and crusts left to spoil,
Old furniture, a broken toy or two,
Is where I walk from work
Back to my subway stop.
Here, where strange odors lurk,
Smells of pizza, acrid smoke and shit
Mingle with concussions out of stylish noise
Shamming music, fashioned to split
Sense from sensibility,
I met the large black dog,
Seemingly unowned and free.
A retriever. I smiled and said hello.
Seated, mouth agape, he smiled back at me.
I stopped and stroked his head.
He responded with civility
And took halting steps to follow.
I have no space in my life
For a dog. He detected my friendliness
Was well intentioned but hollow.
A large sore, unattended, festered in his side.
He stopped, sat, watched me go.
I felt guilty, frustrated,
Helpless as God at Sarajevo.

© Jan Sand

The sea in its seasons
Need not supply reasons
For flipping and slopping,
For wetness and swish,
For frothing and chopping,
And swirling its fish,
For rising and falling
And endlessly calling
In tones most appealing
Or groans quite appalling
Which scatter its gulls
And shatter ship hulls
Dispensing despair
Through wild windy air.
For, whatever might be,
The sea is the sea
Which gives not a damn
About beauty or fear,
About life, about death,
About wonder or fizz.
The sea merely is.

© Jan Sand

Cows of stainless steel
Munch their laundry cuds,
Masticating underwear,
Blue jeans and sheets,
Salivating suds.
Dozing patient husbands
Nod their heads in time
To the spinning duds
While tiny children
Chatter in the clutter,
Delighting in the spatter
From the pools of water,
Sprawling with minuscule thuds
While their mothers hold and fold
Their linen, towels, crisp hot
From the rolling dryers,
Lost in gossip tangles
And felicities,
Which no local chaos jangles,
Of domesticities.

[email protected]


We've worked hard to make it the best one yet. Stop on by and check out the all-new Friction Magazine fall edition.

As always, we'll be adding little tidbits as we go along to keep you coming back. Photos and recordings from the October slam are also featured.

Sincerely yours
(from under the floor),

William Peck, Publisher/Webmaster

Comrades Ezine Issue 3 ReleasedNovember 2000

Comrades Ezine proudly announces its largest artistic turnout yet. Comrades Issue 3 is packed with some luscious goodies to nuture your creative soul.

Poetry: David Sutherland, Averil Bones, Suzanne Frischkorn, Tameka Jarvis, Kevin Allen, and more.

Fiction: Miriam M. Wynne, Lad Moore and others.

Non-fiction: Richard Denner and Fiona Leaf among others.

Art: Silkie DeWinter, Robert Williams, and Merlin Emrys.

Review of Julian Copes The Modern Antiquarium

Essay by Denise Noe

Comrades is revving up for distributing an electronic Newsletter that will be compiled by RhondaK, editor of Sign up details at the website.
A World Wide Creative Concoction


Charlotte Mair from Artvilla is the lucky winner of the October "Spot Reginald" contest, getting in first with the correct answer. She wins Reginald himself, pictured right - one of only two that will ever be made (the other's mine!). He is modelling this season's Poetry Life & Times T shirt, featuring a frame from the November episode of The Perils of Norris (below). Well done Charlotte!
For anyone wishing to try out this contest next month, all you have to do is study the cartoon to see where Reginald shows his face, then get in first with an email to me to say where he is. There are prizes to be won, such as pens, Poetry Life & Times stationery and T shirts.

Reginald The Rat will be back next month for another "Spot Reginald" competition.

The Perils of Norris was started in August 2000. To catch up on events leading up to this episode, see the links for back issues, bottom of page. If an editor from another poetry ezine would like to run this cartoon on a regular basis, email me first to ask - it can be used in exchange for a link to Poetry Life & Times.

September 1998

October 1998

November 1998

December 1998

January 1999

February 1999

March 1999

April 1999

May 1999

June 1999

July 1999

August 1999

September 1999

October 1999

November 1999

December 1999

January 2000

February 2000

March 2000

April 2000

May 2000

June 2000

July 2000

August 2000

September 2000

October 2000

Mail me on: [email protected] with any poems, comments for the letters page, news about your poetry site, or forthcoming poetry events. Please get Featured Poets submissions in early for December if possible, because, with Christmas arrangements to be made, the December issue needs to be finished by mid-November.

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