Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bill Cushing's Review of Linda Imbler's Lost and Found

From time to time, I publish book reviews.  Tonight I would like to share with you the celebrated Bill Cushing's review of Linda Imbler's new book.  As you may remember, I posted Linda's poems in the 1940s contest just last month.

REVIEW: LOST AND FOUND by Linda Imbler (2018: Emerald Bull Publishing)

Linda Imbler’s second collection of writings, Lost and Found, consists of 17 pieces of writing, most accompanied by her own illustrations that correlate with the general theme of the writings themselves. The line drawings associated with the book are frequently “titled” with a quote from the connected composition.
The book itself is divided into segmented sections that begin with “Lost and Found” and “Paradise Lost” and conclude with “Paradise Found.” Each intervening segment is a reflection of corresponding theme and contains work focused on the thematic elements presented.
For example, check the “sense of humor” that is “found” in her poem “Fly Me to the Moon,” wherein a hip (dare I say “fly?”) fly lives its life to the fullest before too quickly learning how short that life span actually is. Other elements, both “lost” and “found,” include Courage, Family, and Reputation.
Imbler’s musical background is also displayed in the poems, which range from free form improv to highly structured formats. As she advises in “Blood,” her readers should “see me as you will.”
These pages also include some poetic-prose pieces, each displaying Imbler’s deft descriptive skills. This is especially evident in her melancholy recollections when meeting an elderly widower in “The Visitation,” which the narrator bases on the fact that, like the couple in the writing, elephants also “mate for life.” And apparently beyond.  
Although spare in length at 31 pages, Lost and Found is—as stated in its notes, a ”poet’s guided tour through the peaks and valleys of the human heart”—making it a volume worth repeated visits. 

If you would like to purchase Linda's book, please see this link:  https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Found-Linda-Imbler/dp/1981854177

Linda's poems recently appeared at The Song Is...  http://thesongis.blogspot.com/2018/06/welcome-to-linda-imbler.html

Let's turn on some music as well, starting with "Fly Me to the Moon":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U5VdSQwkl4

"Little Girl Blue" fits into the theme of lost:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnir-mPERbY

I'll finish up with Charlie Christian's version of "I've Found a Brand New Baby": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StIk6pjRt78&list=PLN_4spwUMszw0eXF51YBDkBE6_1j7aRY3

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Welcome to Nsah Mala!

Photograph by Freedom House

Tonight I would like to post some poems by Nsah Mala, a poet and teacher from Cameroon.  Recently he published Constimocrazy: Malafricanising Democracy with Pski's Porch.  The poems below are from this book, his fourth book of poems. 

The Refugees

Wealthy at first were all refugees.
Ancestral blessings have been on all refugees.
Out of their abodes, something pulled them: 
natural – earthquake, flood, eruption, tsunami... 
man-made – strike, coup, war, terrorism...
War and terror are the worst of them all.
When on the way out, no eye looks back again: 
only mouths may mutter, O God! O God! O God! 
Muddy and dusty feet, little and ageless infants, 
hearts panicking, watery eyes, dry lips...
Here they are, in a new and foreign land. 
Though received with warmth, and resentment at times, 
they are shy and their hearts are filled with shame
 for it isn’t their land, anyway...
Bath, walk, speak, eat...they do without choice. 
Bodies and persons worldwide come to their aid, 
taking them for babies, but they are world-less there 
since choice is no longer theirs.
One day if their problem is solved,
they’ll hope to see darling ones who remained afield 
and to meet their abodes or rubbles thereof.
In joy and fear, they all dare homeward. 
Undigested troubles will deliver unfortunate ones 
whose aid can only be SORRY, even from above. 
They’ll march ahead either to the world of phantoms 
or to their nouveau village natal.

(Njinagwa, 21 February 2007)


Who Hates Mankind?

Ask me who hates mankind?
I will point to those who
take glory in inventing weapons
and measure progress in missiles. 
Ask me who hates mankind?
I will point to those who
brag about military prowess
and measure might in warfare.
Ask me who hates mankind?
I will point to those who
do business in ammunition
and brighten up as war darkens. 
Ask me who hates mankind?
I will point to those who
preach terror and violence
and forget to spread love & peace. 
Ask me who hates mankind?
I will point to those who
pull triggers and launch grenades
& decrease mankind to increase grades. 
Ask me who hates mankind?
I will point to those who
prey on humans and other animals 
and suck the earth pale for gains. 
Ask me who hates mankind?
I will point to those who 
enmesh the weak with economic strings 
& suck lipids below their ancestral soils.

(Perpignan, 29 December 2016)

Man, Follow Me to Class!

Man, follow me to class
and let us learn from
the speaking silence of Nature,
and be wise. No grass ever
harms another, not even parasites, never.
But we humans strive to ruin ourselves:
we start guns that finish us;
we make bombs that mar us;
we assemble philosophies that divide us;
we resurrect sins that bury us;
we destroy nature that protects us!
Man, get your books and pens,
let’s go into eco-school,
observe other beings and repent
before our world gives way. No animal ever
preys on its kind; no other animal pollutes, never.
We humans invite chaos on ourselves:
we manufacture arms that fracture us;
we adopt laws that dehumanise us;
we overstretch technology that maims us;
we ignite wars that quench us;
we evolve quickly to dissolve Nature and us!

(Perpignan, 18 September 2016)

If Nsah Mala's poems have piqued your interest, you may buy Constimocracy: Malafricanising Democracy on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/CONSTIMOCRAZY-Malafricanising-Democracy-Nsah-Mala/dp/0998847666

Sample some jazz from Cameroon here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIzrwsGo2V8

This recording by Freddy Ngana Bidzongo and Vedette Jazz is from the 1970s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ahKuN8hles

I'll finish with "Lonely Fish," a collaboration between jazz musicians from Cameroon and Germany: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13QSFhKQHQg


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Sunil Sharma Returns

Tonight I'd like to return to poetry with Dr. Sunil Sharma's contemplative poem about human experience.

Sublime changes and a sick bed
---Sunil Sharma


The dew drops
Sliding off the blades of grass.

Morning, early Delhi sun
Hiding behind a mass 
Of grey clouds


The baby beams
Light up a December sky
In vertical streaks of 

The windows, shut, not 
draped. The glass catches the
bright colours on 
The misted surfaces.

The catheter-attached body
Opens up

Instantly to the new sensation
Of light and scents wafting in.

Red eyes blink and slowly 
Focus on the splendour 

The sun is out there to meet and kiss
The frigid earth and take her in a warm hug.

The cyclical routine goes on:


Never seen earlier, now understood so well.

Dew drops, crystalline. Vapors stick to 
Grass that bends in the breeze,
Now rough, now playful.

Dew drops melt under the 
Soft light. Sun destroys the overnight gloom.

The claustrophobia of the cold night...over.
The terminally-ill patient feels
For the pain
Tests, visits
The battles of mind-body ahead
Amid rising hopes and despair
And daily prayers.



Sunil Sharma is a Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award---2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:

For more details, please visit the blog:

Let's start with the Woody Shaw Quintet's "It All Comes Back to You":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDauSY77NB4

I'll also play his "Love Dance": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtzNEN0CFU8

I'll finish with the Paul Motian Trio's version of "Misterioso":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaY1GVeHqKw


Sunday, July 22, 2018

A Review of Dr. Mary Stone Hanley's Book of Poetry

Road Trip by Mary Stone Hanley.  Anaphora Literary Press, 2017.  66pp.  ISBN 978-1-68114-394-1 $15.

Just before her untimely death in 2017, Dr. Mary Stone Hanley, a key figure in the DC poetry circles I wade in, published her long-awaited first book of poems, Road Trip.  It’s true that poetry was not Dr. Stone Hanley’s only vocation—or avocation. A quick Google search reveals her work in academia on race and education.  My husband remembers her as “the woman who wrote that excellent play we saw at Howard” in 2013.  Furthermore, her workshop at the late, lamented DC Poetry Project encouraged us to view poetry as theatrical, as she directed us in a series of acting exercises and we wrote poems based on the experience.  

Road Trip begins with a series of strong poems about family and history.  The poet introduces herself, her childhood milieu, and her resilience in “Homage.” Reflecting her book’s title, the next few poems are prose poems that depict moments in her family’s summer vacations in the South.  In “Alabama Heat” and “Safari,” she reveals how she learned to recognize the way that Southern whites dehumanized African-Americans.  Even she, a friendly little girl smiling at a convict who has winked at her, becomes “dust” in this regime (14).  However, these trips also brought joy, whether from a “scrappy radio [that] cackles rhythms no one can sit still to” in “Cousins” (15) or the sight of a rainbow over an Appalachian highway in “Mountain Mystery.”   Her family, though, is more than these journeys to and from the South.  This first section includes a dialogue with her mother, “Good-bye,” in the older woman’s voice, as well as a tribute to her late brother, a jazz poet who lived with mental illness and was later murdered. “Mama Annie” concludes this section, presenting the fraught relationship between the dying grandmother and her flighty caregiver, the poet as a teen-age girl daydreaming about a real or imagined boyfriend. 

The next section honors the jazz legend John Coltrane.  I immersed myself in the variety of this section as Dr. Stone Hanley reveals the complexity of Coltrane that not every jazz poet comprehends. “Acknowledgement,” a four-page poem, lures the reader by not only invoking a performance of the classic “A Love Supreme” but also linking it to the Civil Rights movement and the context it provides.  However, there is more to Dr. Stone Hanley’s tribute to Coltrane.  “Resolution,” based on the Coltrane classic, blends poetic form, music, and vernacular to show the impact that Coltrane’s work had on its African-American listeners, including one young woman whose older brother introduced her to the music.  “Habits (1948-1957)” accepts the musical giant’s struggles with addiction even as its footnote discloses how he emerged after “[making] a pledge to God to thereafter ‘do good’” and make people happy with his music” (31).  “Let God” and “String Theory of Coltrane’s Horn” evoke Coltrane’s blend of spirituality and musicality that resonated with so many and even produced the Church of St. John Coltrane in California.  This section wraps up with “Me, My Brother, and Trane,” the poem that establishes the life-long duration of her, and her family’s, relationship with Coltrane’s music as well as its evolution.  

The book’s other two sections move further, juxtaposing poems that build upon the earlier sections’ themes, in a kind of call-and-response, with others that break new ground.  The poems that breach new subject matter are often more explicitly political while building on Dr. Stone Hanley’s concern with craft and form.  “Black Matters,” for example, uses couplets and the ghazal’s repetition to draw readers’ attention to the incessant police brutality and racial violence repeated in the deaths of Amadou Diallo, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Sandra Blaine.  The prose poem “Cuban Cane Fields” relies on repetition and variation to convey labor in pitiless conditions.  It would have been fascinating to see Dr. Stone Hanley further pursue this direction had she been granted more time.  As I recall, when she was pursuing her MFA at American University, she delved into poetry and poetics, even starting a study group aligned with the DC Poetry Project, which I temporarily joined.  Indeed, a poem like “The Old Tree in Charleston” might have become a one-woman show or perhaps even a play with several actors, given its historical sweep.  “The Conservative” or “Crossroads” might have become another such play, benefiting from its playwright’s knowledge of human complexity as well as, with “Crossroads” in particular, the poet’s craft.

Certainly, Road Trip is a fine tribute to Dr. Stone Hanley for those who knew her through her activism, her academic work, her poetry, and her plays.  However, those who never did meet her and her work can also enjoy this book and benefit from the poet’s sense of history and attention to craft.  This book stands on its own.

 To purchase Road Trip, please see this link: https://www.amazon.com/Road-Trip-Mary-Stone-Hanley/dp/1681143941

I'll start the music off with "Acknowledgement":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qagOblqhBhk

"Pursuance" follows with Elvin Jones on the drums: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRm6xG0agtE

I'll finish with his "Spiritual": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkY_zTKzPCY

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Winners of the Last Contests

All good things come to an end.  This summer my run of contests is through.  I will continue to offer themes, but I will no longer award prizes.  It was amazing and humbling to see how many poems I received for what turned out to be the 2017/8 contests.  Thank you to Catfish McDaris, Will Mayo, and Ethan Goffman who helped me judge the overwhelming number of entries, many of which were excellent.

Tonight we have the winners and honorable mentions.

I'll start with the first batch of poems for Thelma's Prize, which Ethan and I judged.  Claudine Nash won for "A Beautiful Rain."  If you would like to read more of her poetry, you will enjoy these from 2016:  http://thesongis.blogspot.com/2016/10/claudine-nashs-that-true-voice-and-talk.html. We awarded honorable mentions to “Last Show” by Carol Alexander“Conor Clapton” by H. Holt“Children in the Sky” by Michael Lee Johnson, and “Steps in the Night” by S. Liam Spradlin.

Catfish McDaris judged the next set of poems.  Here Alan Britt won for "Straying the Course."   Alan's "As April Yawns, I Enter" also won an honorable mention.  "Max" by wayne f. burke earned one as well as did Leslie McKay's "Louis Armstrong's Wink."  You probably also know Leslie for the rengay that she and her fellow poets contribute.  

Will Mayo and I scrutinized the final set of poems.  Ultimately, we awarded the prize to Bill Cushing's "Listening to Bird."  This is not his first Thelma's Prize as his  “Music isn’t about standing still and being safe" won in 2016.  The following poems received honorable mentions:  "The strangest lullaby" by Kamiliah Carlisle"With Charcoal Black" by Ken Allan Dronsfield"Haibun" and haiku #1 by Daniel Snethen, and "Anticipation" & "And the Rains Came" by Ann Christine Tabaka.

We divided the 1940s contest into two: poems and prose inspired by musicians born in the 1940s and poems and prose inspired by musicians active in that decade.  Ethan judged the first, and I judged the second.  Poet and artist Kerfe Roig's "Blue (All I want)" won the former prize, and Bill Cushing's "Listening to Bird" won the latter.  Among the poems and prose inspired by musicians born in the 1940s, the following pieces received honorable mentions:  "USING THE BLUES AS A MEAT TENDERIZER" by Alan Britt, 
"Conor Clapton" by H. Holt,  and "Walnut Street Bridge" by S. Liam Sprandlin.  In the other contest, “The Depth of Tenderness” by Nbada Sibanda,  “Louis Armstrong’s Wink” by Leslie McKay, and “Three Tracks for a Funeral” by Bryn Fortey earned honorable mentions.

I also held a contest for poems and prose inspired by water or drought, which I judged.  Claudine Nash won the prize for "A Beautiful Rain" and "Sometimes Before It Storms."   Honorable mentions were earned by “Anticipation” by Ann Christine Tabaka,
“Sailing/for Joseph Conrad” by Bill Cushing, and “Devolution” by Carol Alexander.

Last but not least are the local poets.  This time we had quite a few new entries, in part because I published some writers from my poetry group in DC.  The winning poem in this category was Suriya's "A Yes Poem."  Receiving honorable mentions were “Leaves” by Alan Britt“Progress” by Steve K.“This Moment” by Stacie Marinelli, and “The sun illuminates the brush…” by Miss Kiane.

Congratulations to everyone, and thank you for participating and supporting The Song Is...

At last I am going to post some music.  

I'll start with something by Bird.  This version of "Cherokee" is from 1942: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3vACbUETa0

Now I'll mix in a live version of Joni Mitchell's "Blue":  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5mlE9Pezes. Here she does sound a bit like Laura Nyro.

Let's switch gears and listen to Louis Armstrong's "A Kiss to Build a Dream on": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSe1Takt5FU

Next is Eric Clapton and BB King's version of "Riding with the King": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJK78Y3zoQk

Enjoy!  I hope that you'll consider sending in some poems to the Song is..


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Debasish Parashar in the Summer of 2018

Tonight I'd like to post some poems by Debasish Parashar, a professor of literature and the founder and editor-in-chief of Advaitam Speaks Literary Journal.  These poems have been published elsewhere, but a good poem is always worth reposting.

Roots Are Sticky

I come from a place where flowering of bamboos and
unnatural deaths are supposed to be bad
a migrating place whose time coordinates are trapped inside
a trapezium stuffed with bamboo shoot pickles and slices of Domino’s Pizza
reconciliation. Is it?
doped into a dialect of disassociation
the small place of my birth feels ticklish and sneezes
even its sneezes come in packages these days
I come from a place that has no brothels no night life
its days are hungry beasts caressing nights
in cars, multiplexes and parks.  Mood is on but shy
from honor to gossips
inter-caste marriages have covered a tedious journey
in my small town for heterosexuals
confession is a form of protest
and my people have started talking, sharing, confessing
on TV, Facebook, Insta, Twitter ,blogs, etc. etc.
a migrating place
migration is a form of liberty a protest in itself
and my place is migrating with sticky roots.

(Originally appeared in Scarlet Leaf Review, Canada)

The photograph below is of French Polynesia, but I thought that it was attractive and that it complemented Debasish's poem.

A Bunch of Chaos

Chaos 1:

when the gloomy sunlight

falls upon the broken shadows

my heart unleashes its madness

and I become a prayer

lying flat like an open highway…

Chaos 2:

I’ve known what this huge outcry means to the crowd

‘coz it rapes a thousand miles of silence

‘coz it plagiarizes a rendezvous of doubts

‘coz it merges with U and it merges with me

in this virtual world of broken agony

U become a link yourself

to link with a thousand links…

Chaos 3:

the smoke rings that smell like sounds

the quantums of my thoughts that break like thunderstorms

with dewdrops of silence that unbreak U of my heart

memory becomes a revealing with mighty shrieks

Chaos 4:

laughter that cries out pain

let’s speak words that unspeak them not

these wasted hours

drop down through my fingers like sandstone

that drop and gather and mock me like an affidavit

quite like the varnished wood of my sofa

I look new

yet I sob aloud and I sob aloud…


endless hopes of sordid rain

infinite lines of resurrection

why should you think o wild heart

mixture of dry water in spices is a gamble??

(Originally appeared in Visual Verse)


Love in Less

I had never believed
could be expressed
in a haiku
or a short poem

like a wink

like senses

like a word

Then I loved
thank god
I realized
no need
for love
to be a gaze
if profound
like a glimpse.

(Originally appeared in Enclave/Entropy magazine, USA)

Debasish Parashar : Bio
Debasish Parashar is a Creative Entrepreneur, Singer/Musician, Lyricist and Multilingual Poet based in New Delhi, India. He is an Assistant Professor of English literature at the University of Delhi. Parashar is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Advaitam Speaks Literary journal. His debut song ‘Pamaru Mana’ from his debut EP ‘Project Advaitam’ under his Band name DEV.advaitamhas hit the internet in January, 2018. His write-up on Majuli has been listed amongst top 100 online #worldheritagesites stories globally in May 2016 by Agilience Authority Index. His literary works have appeared in Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Enclave/Entropy, Praxis magazine, Expound, Indiana Voice Journal, Asian Signature, Five2One, Mused, Gazeta National (Albanian translations), Muse India, The Australia Times and elsewhere. Parashar has been (or will be) translated into Albanian, Persian, Assamese, Serbian, Afrikaans, Indonesian and many other languages. Debasish's works are featured in international anthologies such as 'Where Are You From ?' (English/Persian) (New York), 'Apple Fruits of an Old Oak' (U.S.A) and 'Dandelion in a Vase of Roses' (U.S.A).

To know more about him :

For Advaitam Speaks Literary Journal :

For his recent release and upcoming songs SUBSCRIBE to:

 I will include some of Debasish's songs, starting with "Pamaru Mana," a borgeet or devotional song,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnPnV9-pkFM

Here he sings with Anindita Paul:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhUcHYt7Tbw

I'll finish with a song in memory of a poet:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUYg_b3Rl-k

These videos really are quite beautiful!