Books, Music and eZines: My Creative Friends and Family Were Productive in 2022

I’m blessed to be surrounded by a lot of creative people. 2022 was a highly productive year among my circle of acquaintances — so much so that I’m still trying to work my way through everything they produced. It’s a good problem to have. Here’s a sampling:

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Marley’s Ghost by Brian Katcher:

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” That would be Uncle Marley to his teenage nephews Aaron and Kyler — cousins to each other. Marley was the wild one in the family, but always loving to his kin. When the two boys find what appears to be a treasure map in Marley’s fishing cabin, they decide they could both use a little adventure, along with money. Of course, it might be drug money and there might be some bad guys who are also tracking it down, and the boys might accidentally involve two girls they like and they might not actually make it to the church camp which is the cover for their road trip.

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Talk Smack to a Hurricane by Lynne Jensen Lampe

In these poems, Lampe grapples with the life-long effects of growing up with a mother who was mentally ill. There’s compassion and pain and laughter and sparks of joy, with a good dollop of love throughout. Many of the pieces examine not only her relationship with her mom, but her mom’s relationship with a society that didn’t listen to women, but tried to control them.

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Three-Penny Memories: A Poetic Memoir by Barbara Harris Leonhard

The first selections in this memoir are poems reflecting on the author’s childhood experiences with encephalitis, an illness that was debilitating for quite some time, requiring intense care from her mother. As the book progresses, the roles reverse and Leonhard finds herself caring for a mother afflicted by dementia. The complexities of the mother-daughter relationship are explored in-depth.

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Shivah by Lisa Solod

Fiction that’s on my to-read list for January. From the inside cover of the novel: “When Leah’s mother is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it becomes clear that there will be no reconciliation with the woman who has played a big and dangerous role in her life. As Leah chronicles her mother’s descent into nothingness, she both mourns and recreates the life her mother might have led. In the process, she paints the portrait of a wife and mother who struggled to raise a family, who had contentious mother-daughter relationships with her children, and a woman who struggled with mental health and addiction: A complicated human being who was loved.”

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You Don’t Fall Out of the Universe: Surviving the loss of our son by B.J. Jewett

Another memoir with poetry. This is an intimate look at grief, healing, and survival after devastating loss. You can read an excerpt in the “Compassionate Friends” newsletter.

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Glass Awash by Ken Gierke

I confess I haven’t started reading this poetry collection yet. But I have heard Ken Gierke read a number of times and find his poems both insightful and enjoyable.

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“Tiny Frights” a horror ezine published by Carl Bettis.

A new horror zine published by my brother. It features “Horror-themed poetry, fiction, artwork, visual poetry, etc., in small bites. Horror reviews in larger gulps.”

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Mirage by Samantha Fierke (music)

A delightful jazz album from someone with a load of both talent and skill, along with a terrific voice.

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I can’t wait to see what my friends and family accomplish in 2023. Happy New Year to all!

Poem for This Weird Week

Three cartoonish light-up reindeer, standing upright & waving, with people faces visible in cutouts.
Waving goodbye to the old year, or hello to the new year

This week before New Year’s Day is weird, isn’t it? We’ve wrapped up the 2022 things, but somehow it’s not 2023 yet. What is even happening?

I shared this poem here a couple of years back, but I’ve tweaked it a little since then, so I’m sharing it again.

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That Lull Before the Renaissance

That lull between Christmas and New Year’s Day
Pajamas serve as uniform
The chocolates are polished off
The one jigsaw puzzle of the year takes shape
Noble intentions gestate

We sleep in mornings 
Before the date arrives after which 
Every day
We’ll stir ourselves early 
To accomplish worthy deeds

We watch a few mindless movies
Before the date arrives after which
Every day
We’ll spend free time 
Working out and reading classics

We create grocery lists 
Full of carrots and broccoli
While crunching chips

We indulge and relax while we can
Before next week
When the work of the Renaissance begins

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Poem: Theology 101

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Pexels.com

The short days of mid-December get me down. I desperately await the post Solstice days when we get a little more sun each day. This seems like an appropriate time to share a pantoum I wrote many years ago about waiting for the sun, after an ill-advised attempt at winter camping.

Theology 101

After one night under the stars
Starry-eyed ideas were blown away
My communion with nature
Left with the frigid north wind

Starry-eyed ideas were blown away
I spent hours of desperate misery
Left with the frigid north wind
Cramped muscles and aching bones

I spent hours of desperate misery
Waiting out eternity for the sunrise
Cramped muscles and aching bones
Greedy for the blessed new warmth

Waiting out eternity for the sunrise
Ancient religions took on immediate relevance
Greedy for the blessed new warmth
I worshipped the great sun source of life

Ancient religions took on immediate relevance
After one night under the stars
I worshipped the great sun source of life
My communion with nature

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A Little Christmas Cactus Obsession and a Poem

Last spring, a friend who was paring down her possessions for a cross-country move gifted me a Christmas cactus, the first one I’ve ever owned. I keep it on the corner of the desk where I do my writing. Eight days ago, I noticed the first flower buds sprouting — twenty-one of them. Maybe it’s a Thanksgiving cactus after all. I’m a little obsessed with the plant.

Part of a Christmas cactus, with several pink blower buds.

In fact, I wrote a poem for it. It’s still a little rough, but I’m sharing it anyway.


First Flower Buds on My Christmas Cactus

Twenty-one sudden blushing pointed buds
Twenty-one pieces of evidence
That I, erstwhile perpetrator
Of negligent planticide,
Have been successfully reformed
I myself have blossomed into a being
Capable of nurturing
A living thing incapable 
Of speaking its needs
As a toddler or a cat would do
Twenty-one velvet spear tips of validation
Twenty-one prizes to reward
My diligence and faith,
Twenty-one shots of dopamine to my brain
Payoff for my daily ritual of care,
Of arranging the curtains for optimal sun,
Of speaking aloud, Good morning
Christmas Cactus, a greeting unreturned 
Until now


Here are a couple of photos to track its progress, one taken four days after I noticed this first buds and one from this morning. The lighting was a little different.


You go, little desk plant! Live your best life!

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A Little Poem for Spooky Season

Photo by Lukas Hartmann on Pexels.com

Wolf, Running

Full curious, half afraid
I followed the wolf 
in my dream last night.
Where could its journey
be leading on city streets?
I never knew.
It picked up speed and
disappeared from view.
No longer did I run behind it,
but pushed myself top speed
in pursuit of something
I can’t recall.
Something urgent, a primal need.
I remember dead-ends, a full moon,
unexpected stairs, so steep
I ascended, panting, on all fours.
Pebbles embedded in my bare feet.
When did I leave my shoes behind?

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Let us Now Celebrate: a Poem for Labor Day

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

I wrote this poem a while back, and I wasn’t necessarily thinking of Labor Day. But this weekend seems like an appropriate time to share.

Let Us Now Celebrate

Let us now celebrate those missed 
In the recording of history
The nameless and unremembered
The one who walked in the rain
To a factory job that paid for shelter 
From the rain for their family
The one who brought joy to the immediate crowd
With jokes and laughter, but did it while
Shucking corn, and not near a microphone
Those fallen to disease or war before
They were old enough to fight
The songwriter who composed melodies
To sing the children to sleep
The one who could have gone far in life
If not for so much close at hand
To get done first
The washers of dishes and clothes
Cleaners of floors and furniture
Whose work came undone as soon as done
Leaving nothing to sign a name to

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That Lull Before the Renaissance

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

My friend Liza posted on her Patreon page* about what Germans call “between the years,” that weird spell of time after Christmas but before the new year. Go read it. It’s entertaining and she dug up some interesting cultural information. Also, it reminded me that I wrote a poem on the very topic a couple of years back, not knowing there were entire national traditions surrounding this annual week of being at loose ends.


That Lull Before the Renaissance

That lull between Christmas and New Years Day
Is when pajamas serve as uniform
The chocolates are polished off
The one jigsaw puzzle of the year is assembled
Noble intentions gestate

We sleep in mornings 
Before the date arrives after which 
Every day
We’ll stir ourselves early 
To accomplish worthy deeds

We watch a few movies 
Before the date arrives after which
Every day
We’ll spend free time 
Working out and reading classics

We make grocery lists 
Full of carrots and broccoli
While crunching chips

We indulge and relax while we can
Before next week
When the work of the Renaissance begins


*Her Patreon also includes content behind a paywall that is well worth the low subscription price of pay what you can, if you’re looking for an independent author to support.

If We Make It Through December

I don’t listen to a huge amount of country music, but there are a few songs that speak to me. Oh, Merle, December is hard, isn’t it? Current mood.



December is the month of paradoxes for me and many others. I do love all of the holiday celebrations, but I struggle with the lack of light. This year, in particular, we all have an extra share of struggles, and the month is feeling to me like something to be endured while waiting for anything better. I have written a few poems about Seasonal Affective Disorder and I’ll share one here. Maybe I shouldn’t be so bold as to share my own efforts following the inestimable Merle Haggard, but what the hell? As long as I’m embracing the despair anyway?

December Days

Day pulls the covers in December, appeals
to me to join it in hiding.
Like the sun I will not bother
getting up much early. What for?
A few hours working at half power
seems enough; call it a day.

There’s nothing in this month
I want to see clearly. Why point up
the lack
of color, dormant
plants waiting for better times?
Nothing blooms, no birds
sing greetings
to morning.
Smarter than me, they have flown
to lands where December exists
as a quaint custom, where they have December
like Sweden has a king.
A crown there may be
or ornaments displayed to prove
the monarch or the month,
where forgetting is possible.
I need no reminders.

The season proves itself. I will try
ignoring it, hoping
it’s gone next time I look.
I will open my eyes
only half-way. I will pull the dark
covers over me.
Like the sun I will experience
the smallest amount of December 
I can manage.


I know I’ll get through it, and maybe even have a few moments of fun and joy. I always have before. And yes, I’m taking my vitamin D and getting exercise. But sometimes, a big component of getting through a rough time is acknowledging it’s a rough time.

Poetry Reading, Me in Action

I did a thing, as part of the River Front Reading Series in Kansas City. Sorry about the glare on my glasses and the fact that I kept moving my head around trying to minimize it. But if you can overlook that and want to hear me read some poems, here’s a link to the video. I’m the first reader. I recommend sticking around for the second readers as well. I enjoyed her work a lot. Also, check out other River Front videos on YouTube.