Saturday, March 6, 2021

Review of David Churchill's Latest Book -- Poetry and the Concept of Maya: Poems of Alan Britt



ISBN-13: 978-0-9753095-8-2 ($19.95)

Pony One Dog Press

Poetry and the Concept of Maya:

Text and Commentary David Churchill

on the poetry of Alan Britt


Review by Patty Dickson Pieczka


The Concept of Maya is a push-and-pull tango between two interesting mindsets—fanciful and analytical. When Alan Britt writes about plants in his yard, vines grow along his arm and wind down his finger, curving around his pen until they sprout on the page. David Churchill helps us dissect these leaves until every vein bleeds, using the prism of Maya, which reflects the light of poetry with three rays: one to obscure truth, another to project a world of broken forms, and a third that reveals the radiance of full consciousness and shows us the various levels of reality within the poem.


The poems in Chapter One are chilling in their simplicity and double meanings. On the surface, they appear to depict a suburban backyard, but set during the time of the tower bombings, a rough edge is scorched onto them, as in the poem, “September, 2001”


. . . a distant white dog

gnawing the first hour of late afternoon….


September leans on a split-rail fence

and watches yellow leaves

sail by in a swirling gust of ashes.


In Chapter Two, Churchill reminds us to search out the face of the speaker by finding consistencies from one poem to the next. Nature is a nearly constant theme, but here, Britt branches into poems about love, poetry, music, and delivers more beautiful and thought-provoking imagery as in, “Marrying Myths.”


            I married a myth.

She drifted away.


I awoke

in the throat of a gold mine….


….But, tonight, I feel like dreaming

a new myth,

one with hips

of black wine,

one whose kisses resemble rainbirds

in shiny long black coats


strolling like stately gods of pepper

over St. Croix’s windy white sand

strewn with bruised yellow

and green palm fronds….


Churchill encourages us, in Chapter Three, to experience poetry as a child, seeing everything for the first time. This is never difficult with Britt’s poetry with its imagistic and unique perspectives. Consider his poem, “The Stars.”


            “The Stars”


The stars are shamans.

They paint arroyos

the color

of Gilas:          






flows through

the universe’s thin waist,




three hips






Chapter Four takes a philosophical turn:


“Thoreau Says We Must Live Within Two Miles of Our Primary Childhood”


I sleep.


Alarm clock’s

green antlers

tear holes

in my significant dream

as solid as a wild mustang

of dry Arizona wind.


Raindrops splatter

like hollow, red,

shotgun cartridges.


Sleet hisses.


The Context of Maya is the kind of book that alters the mind. David Churchill studies the aerodynamics of Alan Britt as he drifts on his helium flight of unexplored concepts of poetry, swooping close to the ground only long enough to pick a flower that is likely to turn into a swarm of blue butterflies forming words in the clouds. 


 You may purchase this illuminating textbook at Amazon or Pony One Dog Press.  

Lately I've been listening to a lot of the Facebook videos from Smalls Jazz Club in New York.  I like that they feature many young musicians or at least some who are new to me.   Here are a few:

This video with the alto saxophonist Plume and drummer Kush Abadey is from before the pandemic:

Vincent Herring and Eric Alexander's video is not from Smalls, but I thought I'd include it: 

I'll finish with one more....The Nir Felder 4 play "Memorial":

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Welcome to Sharon Waller Knutson!


Recently, through the poetry community Verse-Virtual, I met the Arizona poet Sharon Waller Knutson. We have been corresponding about poetry and a few other things.  Tonight I'd like to post a few of her poems for you to enjoy. 


Stormy Sunday

Cow crooner he calls me 

as I warble Willie and Waylon

from my lightning lit living room

to carousing caroling cows

scrambling for shelter

as thunder trumpets and throbs

cumulus clouds circle

wind whistles and wails

dandelions droop and drowse

in a rambling rustlers’ rain


Originally published in Your Daily Poem.



Photograph by Sharon Waller Knutson



Music Man

 for Bobby


 At the café, the gray hair musician

 in the bushy beard and mustache,

 plays the guitar with his fingers

 and the drums with his feet.


 After five decades of performing

 in bars, cafes and trailer parks,

 he still knows how to draw a crowd.

 He belts out Elvis, Johnny Cash


 and Tennessee Ford classics

 in a deep growly voice. As his fingers

 pick the strings, a fox tail, hanging

 from the guitar, swings to the beat.


 He jokes that he only knows three songs

 and he sings them frontwards

 and backwards and he just bought

 his guitar at the pawn shop.


 The crowd dances, claps and laughs

 although they’ve heard them all before

 as they drink their beer and wine

 and eat their steaks and fish and chips.


Originally published in Sharon's chapbook Desert Directions.




Photograph by Sharon Waller Knutson




Country Royalty


 In memory of Wanda and Gene


 In his white goatee and suspenders,

 his Dobro guitar electrifies

 the room and sets it afire.



 She looks tiny and quiet

 next to the loud giant bass

 until her big voice fills the room.



 Tired of traveling the country

 playing blue grass festivals, they

 settle in a double wide at the foot



 of the Superstitions, where valley

 musicians gather to jam

 and down Jell-O shooters.


 Even after the move to assisted living

 they perform with friends

 in the rec hall and at a local bar


 When she loses her breath

 and he his memory,

 they hang up their instruments,


 spending his last days listening

 to music they made together.

 After he is gone, she sips a martini


 at the local café, taps her feet

 to the rhythm as she listens

 to her favorite country band.



Originally published in Sharon's chapbook Desert Directions.



Photograph by Sharon Waller Knutson




Photograph by Sharon Waller Knutson

Best Audience Ever

 Silver haired musicians

 crank up amps and hearing aids,

 strum stiff fingers on strings

 of guitars and keyboards,


 voices aged like fine wine

 yodel and twang

 like Hank and Patsy

 to a packed crowd.


 But no one complains

 about the loud music,

 sour notes, sad songs

 or lousy tips.


Clapping to the beat,

old bodies in wheel chairs

and walkers and curved

spines sway and sing along


 as aching bones and hearts,

 loneliness, sadness and regret

 melt away like snow flakes,

 for this hour, they are all


 sealed in a time capsule

 and transported to another

 life where they were young,

 happy and healthy.

The last two poems are about the gigs Sharon's husband would play with his band.




Sunday Morning at the Laundromat


 You can hear the country music

 when you step out of the Village Inn

 and the Ace Hardware across the parking lot.


 But you can’t tell where it is coming from

 until you follow the sound to the back

 of the Laundromat where my husband’s band


 is playing guitars and singing country songs

 to the steady rhythm of washing machines banging

 like drums as they swish blankets in soapy water.


 A young mother taps her foot

 and sings the chorus as she loads

 her towels into the washer


 as her preschool daughter whirls around

 like the clothes in the dryers behind her,

 her blonde braids and hands flying in the air.


 A white haired couple stop folding clothes

 long enough to do the jitterbug

 while other customers listen, watch and clap


 as they wait for their clothes to wash and dry.




Originally published in Your Daily Poem and Sharon's chapbook Desert Directions.



Yogurt Gig


 My husband gets

 to be a child again

 playing guitar and singing

 in the yogurt shop.


 Mesmerized by the sound,

 children of all ages dance

 and clap as they lick

 their swirling cones


 In-between songs,

 preschoolers gather

 to touch the strings

 of the electric guitar,


 then jump back and giggle

 as sound reverberates,

 surprised to find out

 where all the noise came from.


 When it is time to leave,

 children waving dollar bills

 flit like fireflies to the tip jar

 and then disappear into the night.




Originally published in Sharon's chapbook Desert Directions



Sharon Waller Knutson lives in a house her husband, Al built out of clay from the land on a dirt road in the middle of a wildlife habitat and open range of the Arizona desert. A retired journalist, she writes narrative poems for readers who don’t normally read poetry. In 2014, Sharon sold her chapbook, My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields, to winter visitors from all over the world in a café where her husband played guitar and sang country music. Her customers told her they expected her to publish a new poetry book when they returned each year so, in 2015, she published Desert Directions, about her life in the desert. In 2016, she published They Affectionately Call Her a Dinosaur, poems about her customers and other seniors in her life who started new careers, businesses, and relationships after they retired. In 2017, she published I Did it Anyway, poems about how she broke the glass ceiling in the newspaper business in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when women were typically relegated to the society pages. Al retired from his music gig in 2019, so now he and Sharon stay busy watering assorted critters and enjoying their 11 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.



Now let's listen to a little country music!


Here is Elvis' version of "Snowbird": 


Patsy Cline sings "Sweet Dreams" here: 


I'll finish with some Hank Williams, first "Jambalaya": 


then "Honky Tonkin'":


and then his "Lost Highway":