A Thankful World Poetry Day

GRPG Meetup - London

A very happy World Poetry Day to all my versifying friends–those I’ve met and those I wish I could–around the globe.

Without poetry, I don’t believe I’d be so open to what this world has to offer.

And without you, I’d never believe I was a poet. I’m pretty sure I’d still be writing things in that odd way I do that some folks regard as “poems,” but I’d never believe I was one of those P-people.

Sometimes, I still don’t, which is probably why I so often refer to myself as a “poet guy.” It’s like I’m still occasionally holding onto the rail like a skater afraid of the open ice.

Happy Our Day to you all who have pulled me out to center ice, where the sunrises and salkows roam.

Remembering Dave Carter, who saved me…again

Dave Carter

Dave Carter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before I became what some call a poet, I couldn’t tell a Sara Teasdale from a Saran tea cozy, a Billy from a Tom Collins. But I recognized what I considered mastery of words and how some men and women gave them a heartbeat that mine would echo, a vision that I could see.

Besides Dylan, (Bob, not Thomas) Paul Simon (to whom I give thanks for that last bit), Leonard Cohen, Nanci Griffith and their rarefied ilk, there came late to grace my mind’s ear a songwriter most of you probably never heard of named Dave Carter.

And seemingly as soon as I “discovered” him, Dave was taken away, at age 49, by a heart attack just a few counties east of here in Hadley, Mass., on the morning of July 19, 2002.

This passing hit me in a way I did not expect…harder than I would imagine during this time of my depression and illness. And, in retrospect, I think the poet (for he was a poet of brilliant gifts) Dave Carter’s death may in some way have been a spark toward my becoming a writer again after I came through my little heart and head issues a few years ago. You never know when that tap on your shoulder will come again, so I decided to become the me you’ve come to read.

I was feeling a little blue today and wasn’t sure exactly why, I’m sure it’s a compost heap of things, from which I hope someday something fine will grow. But, once I remembered the date and listened to a bunch of Dave’s songs with his partner in music and life Tracy Grammer, I remembered how lucky I am to still be here and able to express myself as I now do. Certainly not so well as that poet of the plains, Dave Carter did. More like a poet of the plain, and that’ll have to do.

I may never be published, may never submit again, but I can’t deny what I’ve been given.

Do yourself a favor and check out some of Dave’s lyrics someday, particularly The Mountain and Tanglewood Tree.  Until then, here’s a glimpse of Dave and Tracy doing his song that I want played on my way outta this somewhat brightening world. Maybe I’ll meet Dave then in Happytown. It’s called When I Go.

Interview ~ Joe Hesch: The Reluctant Poet

Hi, all! I had the honor recently to speak with Boston-based writer and editor Lynette Benton for an interview on her Website, Polish and Publish~Tools and Tactics for Creative Writers.

Maybe you’d like to take a moment to stop by and learn a little bit more (or even too much) about your reluctant poet guy. You can read the interview here.

I want to thank Lynette, my family and friends, those of you who just like reading my poetry, and those in-between for encouraging me to keep exploring this silly world and heart of mine.

My initial reluctance has waned considerably and I’m proud to own the title of poet now.

Shadow of ‘The Next Big Thing’

Luna y Penumbra

Luna y Penumbra (Photo credit: meab21)

Last week, my friend, the very cool poet Joanna Lee from Richmond, Virginia, tagged me on her blog, The Tenth Muse, as her choice for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. No, Dr. Lee does not have access to my scale readings over the past year. 

The Next Big Thing is a world-wide campaign that that began in Australia, where authors answer several questions from a fellow-writer friend or colleague that introduce their next project. Then the interviewee tags another author to do the same, a type of web chain mail.

I am most grateful to Joanna for considering me for this honor. Here’s our digital conversation.

What is the working title of your book?

My first collection has carried the title Penumbra since the beginning. Since then, I’ve added the subtitle The Space Between. They also are the titles of two of the poems in the collection.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I began writing poetry only a few years ago, when both my feet crossed the line into middle-age.  I write what I know, what I see, and what I feel…all observed through the cracked prism of past and present me. When I scanned my poems, I noticed many dealt with light and dark and the space between, the penumbra. Folks seem to like that voice and vision.

What genre does the book fall under?

Poetry, but many of them have the feel of stories, too. I have only recently copped to being a poet. I’ve always thought of myself as a story teller. I still am, but now I just crack the sentences into bite-sized pieces and stack them haphazardly like Red Robin onion rings on the page.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Middle-aged guy, gray hair, capable of portraying the light and dark of life…hmmm, is Clooney busy?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Penumbra explores the observations and feelings, the radiance and darkness, of a man in his life’s penumbra, the space of partial illumination between perfect shadow and full light, no longer young but not yet old.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think they might be surprised at the amount of gentle and universal emotion. Maybe even a bit of the romantic. When I was beginning to write poetry, I shared my pieces with but a few friends. One of them, who is involved in the arts and poetry, remarked she thought there weren’t many women whose hearts wouldn’t melt when reading some of those poems. (Thanks, H. The check’s in the mail.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Oh, gosh, I don’t know. Poetry doesn’t exactly get placed in the front of Barnes & Noble, does it? That kind of limits a hope-to-be-published poet’s options. However, if there are any poetry agents or publishers out there looking for a uniquely American voice, my email is on the About page. Obviously, self-pub is a viable option, too. I just write the pieces. I’ll defer to my published colleagues for the packaging and distribution knowledge.

Now, my first novel, a HistFic work-in-progress with the working title: Stillwater, is a different ballgame. It’s the intertwined stories of two women from the same county in England who meet on different sides at The Battles of Saratoga during the American Revolution. For that I would need to find representation.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Oh, no more than two years. I’ve been writing poetry for a very short time.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My heart and soul languished in the dark for a very long time. I was able to unlock the doors and allow the light back in only a short time ago. It’s exciting to express myself as I couldn’t or wouldn’t allow myself before. People seem to like what I see and how I depict it. Maybe they’d like to keep some these pieces of my light, dark and in-between near at hand. I certainly hope they do.

For the next link in the Next Big Thing blog hop chain I have tagged my dear friend, the poet-blogger-musician-photographer-‘film’ maker from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK, John Anstie. 



FLUTTERING HEART. (Photo credit: Neal.)

It hangs behind that space between the breasts
where a woman might place her fingers and inhale,
maybe even close her eyes, when she feels
strong emotion. A touchstone of flesh, perhaps.
I touch that spot from time to time, when I feel
it flutter behind its shield of bone or when
it awakens me to the mortality-reminding sensation.

The medics pulled from their Latinate lists
the term ideopathic chest pain, even if it doesn’t hurt,
just like once they called it ideopathic pericarditis.
A hardening of the heart.
Unknown cause.
Outside and in.

You laid your hand on me there once, with emotion,
and I felt a different flutter, inside and out.
Now I realize why you might touch yourself that way.
I understand that contact with life while it lasts—
crazy, loving, strange, and yeah ideopathic life—
is mostly worth the pain and even not understanding
its why. This hard heart softened at that touch.

Big News, Big Thanks

This has been quite a couple of weeks or so for the poet/writer/photographer/dog-walker of A Thing for Words.

I’ve been encouraged to post the news of my spectacularly lucky time over that period and those of you who really know me understand that such things make me squirmily uncomfortable. But I owe it to the good folks who made all this possible to spread the word.

On January 18, 2013, the journal The Cossack Review came out in its beautiful new first printed iteration. This issue included my poems Nightfall, Another November and Backstage at the Firmament. A couple of faves of mine.

This week, I got hold of this photo of the leaf-festooned publication sitting among a rather high-class bunch of peers on a bookshop shelf in Santa Cruz, California.

Cossack in Santa Cruz

Even I thought that was cool!

If you would like to purchase a copy, you may do so at the Cossack Review website.

On January 30, 2013, the folks at WordPress.com, upon whose magic aether-traversing machinery you view this blog, selected my poem Infernal Affairs to showcase on the Freshly Pressed feature of the WordPress.com home page.

In notifying me of this honor, Fresh Pressed story wrangler Michelle Weber said of my twisty reminiscence of newspaper days, “We really enjoyed it, and we know the rest of the WordPress.com community will too – we always enjoy featuring poetry, and this piece struck us as particularly unique and evocative.” Oooba dooba, eh?

Michelle also told me to expect new readers. I should say so! So many great new folks stopped by to read, like, and comment on Infernal Affairs and others of my versish burbles! And a massive pile of them have since subscribed to the blog. (I don’t suppose one of you is an agent or publisher who might be interested in a collection of poems—entitled Penumbra—portraying the mid-shadow life of a middle-aged, mid-shadowed poet, are you?)

This week, I learned that the poetry anthology Signal from Static, in which a fistful of my poems appear, has hit the digital and analog bookshelves. Signal is published by my dVerse colleague Anna Montgomery’s imprint, Chromatopias, and includes examples of work by many of my poet friends and colleagues.


You can purchase a copy of Signal from Static in paperback from Creatspace.com or the Kindle version from Amazon.com.

I’d like extend my deepest gratitude to all of the wonderful folks who have supported and encouraged me and my work over the past couple of years. As some of you know, I never set out to be a poet, but son of a gun, that’s what ya’ll have helped me become. And I thank you for that and so much more.

An Honor

Most of you who know “real” Joe and not only the Poet Guy Joe, understand that I am a bit strange when it comes to dealing with praise or honors. I’m like one of those Roman generals driving his chariot into Rome after a victory. In my case, there is always a voice something like my own yelling into my ear, not whispering, that I’m still the dirt-dull and too-fallible doofus I’ve always been. Just occasionally luckier.

So it is with my usual confused awkwardness that I announce the international poetry journal Aquillrelle Magazine has honored me with selection as its “Poet of the Month.”

I’d like to express my most sincere gratitude to the editors of Aquilrelle for this honor their kind attention to my poetry.