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": 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

In Honor of Those Who Have Survived COVID-19: A Generative Workshop -- 10/29 -- 1 to 2:15 pm


For more information about the survivors:


(Deng Danjing) “Two Women Fell Sick from the Coronavirus.  One Survived.” -- 


“Recovered, Almost: China’s Early Patients Unable to Shed Coronavirus.” --


(Tiffany Pinckney) “Looking for Answers within Coronavirus Survivor’s Blood” --


“Does Blood Plasma from COVID-19 Survivors Help Patients Infected with Novel Coronavirus?’ --


(Alex Tull) “After COVID-19: Anxious, Wary First Responders Back on the Job” --


(Connie Titchen) “Woman, 106, Leaves Hospital After Coronavirus Recovery” --


(David Lat) “I Spent Six Days on a Ventilator with COVID-19.  It Saved Me, But My Life is Not the Same.”  --


(Jessica Bussert) “Former Local Nurse Heads to New York City” --


(Jade Christie) "Living with Long Haul Covid" 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Susan Moorhead's Review of Rocky Landscape with Vagrants by Gary Glauber


From time to time, I post reviews of books by authors whose work has appeared at The Song Is...  Tonight I'd like to post Susan Moorhead's review of Gary Glauber's new book.


Review by Susan Moorhead:  Rocky Landscape with Vagrants


Gary Glauber's latest book of poetry, Rocky Landscape with Vagrants, opens with a surreal poem where a line provides a most accurate description of a poet's work - " own exasperation translates my speech into bird calls."  His book, divided into four individual sections that together provide a cumulative whole, grapples with the theatre of the absurd otherwise known as our current political landscape, "where were you when history came unglued?".  From the point of view as one who has seen earlier times of unrest and conflict, in Back to the Garden fifty years on, we read how protests promised changes that went missing under the crush of violence and loss,  "rendering a rift unlike any before, an ideological shift, a dream shattered into voices that no longer knew harmony." 

Exploring the strange exercise of aging, some poems consider the past with a knowing sadness, remembering when "everything was a contest. It seemed to matter so much." and yet punching back with "It is our purpose to resist the force".  We meet a mentor from an academic past who loved to teach but was ground down and spent over time, discover the moment the poet chose his path:  "a silent self's promise to keep at the simple and complex process of transforming thought and feeling..." and the responsibility of poems to find truth as means of surviving the world. How merely searching out the color blue can "soothe our savagery", or, as he encounters another poet's missteps with dismay, notes how her words were "full of wrong notes that strove for the universal".

Poems here walk the closed streets of night careening into sideshows of memories of lovers, real and imagined, and lean into nostalgia with poems that read like stories or short films.  A boy becoming invisible to his family as they talk in Hungarian in other rooms,  a tapestry of a town where "When she grabs knife to peel supper potatoes, she might well be arming herself against violent world.". The measuring out of life in clock ticks, in the ticking of his father's heart valve, in the beautiful poem, Accessorizing, a moving tribute. A personal favorite, the imagery and wit of Song of the Whale Shark, as an enormous whale shark cruises the scene, misunderstood, "endangered but not necessarily endearing." (kind of like poetry, yes?)

Music, art, pop culture thread the sentences as distractions that both delight and obscure the troubles of the workaday life, an argument that the aging spirit wears a suit of weariness faced with the obvious difficulties of living, but still the poet notes "where beauty hides unrecognized, given no proper framework in which to thrive, no comprehension that a little tenderness might someday save us all." .  Yes, despite acknowledging the teeter totter balancing act of remembrance, both sweet and bitter, and a gruff assessment of present day despairs, the poet "will sing harmony in the kaleidoscopic third", finding that proper framework we need to thrive in the very lines of his poetry.  Bird calls indeed, these necessary songs.

Susan Moorhead is a poet and writer, with a chapbook, The Night Ghost, and a poetry book forthcoming in January. 


To read Gary's poems that have appeared at this blog-zine, please follow the links below: 

Let's listen to some music tonight as well.  Since Sonny Rollins' birthday is tomorrow, I'll post links to a few of his videos, starting with "St. Thomas":

"Blue 7" is also from Saxophone Colossus: 

Here is a live version of "Sonnymoon for Two (Evening)": 

I'll finish with his "Without a Song" from the 9/11 Concert: 



Saturday, August 29, 2020

Sandi Leibowitz Returns


This summer Sandi Leibowitz has joined my poetry group for its workshops even though she lives in NYC.  Isn't Zoom wonderful!  The second poem in this entry is from one of the workshops, by the way.


Memorial Day

May 25, 2020


People throng the beaches,

worse than those islands where walruses

flop to shore to mate and bask,

so many bodies toe to toe

rather than tusk to tusk.

So much bare skin,

all those jeans unzipped,

T-shirts ripped off revealing

sun-starved flesh,

and nakedest of all,

unmasked faces.


It makes me shudder,

the thought of all those bodies,

all those mouths breathing

in and out contagion.

If the beach-goers are exhibitionists

of pinniped dimensions,

I am a tortoise,

sheltering in place

within the shell of my apartment.

Even indoors, my white skin’s

duly layered.


At three p.m., from my window wafts

the sound of someone honoring

other bodies:

a bugler playing Taps.

The Boat

For Bay Thi Huynn, who fled from Vietnam in a boat with her husband Joseph in 1980. They died in Worcester, MA of the coronavirus on the same day.


Sixty years ago, the boat of marriage

carried me to you.

It was not a ship of our own making,

but it was our labor

that kept it from foundering.

It had no engines, no sails.

Always, we rowed together,

sometimes through desperate currents.


I counted on you,

as you did me,

to work the oars

despite the ache of muscles

pushed too far,

exertion almost beyond endurance.

If you pulled too hard,

we went off course.

If I stopped rowing,

the boat went in useless circles.


When our land grew too dangerous,

you built in secret a real boat.

We used one of my old dresses for a sail

and gave ourselves and our children

to the sea,

risking everything.


We were lucky ones;

we survived and built

new lives in a new country.


Now in the same hospital

we lie for the first time

in separate beds,

the rhythm we hear not

the splash of waves

or each others’ heartbeats

but the labored intake

and outtake of our breathing,

the machines’ chirps.


Take my hand, Joseph,

let us pull away


as we did in life,

in sixty years of love,

traversing this new ocean.

What is one more journey?






The Word


There are no nuances

in my students’ vocabularies.

They don’t even know

simple words like “faucet.”

So I assumed they have no belief

in the potency of words.


But from the massive continent

of the school library’s

Unabridged Dictionary

someone has carved out

and set adrift the island

of a single word—



In someone’s pocket, the noun

bulges like purloined diamonds;

it rolls unspoken on someone’s tongue

like ice cream before dinner.


-- A version of the above poem was previously published in Bigger Stones.

After the Dentist, I Long for Sweetness but Can’t Console

Myself with Cake and So Stop at the St. Mark’s Bookshop

Before Going Home in the Stinging Winter Rain


A book of old Chinese poems.

That should do it.

I want to imagine a lake.

It’s summer

and there are cranes.

They cross carefully

like courtesans

lifting silk skirts


the emperor’s






Sandi has just published a new book, Ghost Light, a quarantine journal in verse.  The first two poems are from this book.  I encourage you to purchase it; here is the link:


Let's post some music from Smalls Jazz Club, a venue that has broadcast performances daily despite the quarantine, despite the curfew. 

The first video is of a jam session with Roy Hargrove, Stacy Dillard, Sebastian Rios, and others:


Here the Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet plays "The Song is You": 


The Eric Wyatt Quartet plays "One for Hakim":  


I'll finish with the Ari Hoenig Trio and "Take the Coltrane":