New Poetry Featured in Free Lit Magazine

My poem "September in the Attic" now appears (on page 31) in the new issue of Free Lit Magazine, which has a unique "Magic" theme, and climbing into one's attic in early fall can certainly become a magical adventure full of nostalgia and daydreaming, something I explore in this poem. You can read the issue online or download a PDF, and I hope you'll consider sending them your own work. My thanks to the editors for including me, and my thanks to you for reading. 

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New Poem Featured in Picaroon Poetry #11

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My poem "The Mice Have Abandoned The Woodpile" is now featured in the new issue of Picaroon Poetry (it's on page 7), edited by the talented poet-pirate and sea-witch extraordinaire Kate Garrett. The collection features a slew of excellent poets, including Jessica Mehta, Ali Jones, Emma Lee, Spangle McQueen, Russell Jones, and many others. The poem is perfect for this early winter season, as it was written in November one year ago and speaks to themes of oncoming winter, loneliness, and what happens as you attempt to move on from a failed relationship. You can read the issue online, so I hope you take a look, enjoy, and send Picaroon your own bounty of poetry. Thanks! 

Tom Petty Poetry Tribute at Hobo Camp Review

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Our upcoming winter issue of Hobo Camp Review is open to submissions that span all topics and themes, but we also plan on having a tribute section to the late Tom Petty, one of our favorites here at the Camp, and we'd like to include poetry, flash fiction, art, and other artistic offerings that are inspired by Petty and his lyrics, song titles, albums, etc. To be clear, we are NOT looking for work specifically *about* Tom Petty, his passing, or what Tom meant to you. Instead, we want to see his influence in your own work, either as subtle references, riffs off his lyrics, poetry exploring themes and characters in his work, stuff like that. Keep his artistic vision alive in your own work! We have a tentative deadline of 12/15/2017, but we may keep it open longer if great work keeps rolling in. Please take a look at the Hobo Camp guidelines and consider sending something our way! Thanks, and I'll see you down the road... 

My Top 5 H.P. Lovecraft Stories

If one were to build a Mount Rushmore of Horror Writers, you could easily suggest the faces of Poe, Shelley, and Stoker as starters, and some may propose Matheson, Blackwood, Jackson, and of course King, among many others, but for me, one name is a must—H.P. Lovecraft. Like Poe, Lovecraft’s work stands out from his contemporaries as so uniquely strange with such a singular aura that there hasn’t really been anyone like him before or since. Many were inspired by him, but few were as wholly odd in aesthetic, style, and life. 

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"The Green Carpet" Now Appears at Words Dance Publishing

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My poem "The Green Carpet," which also appears in my new book from Unknown Press, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, is now featured over at Words Dance Publishing, a fantastic site that posts all kinds of great literary content. The poem looks back on my fond childhood memories of my elementary school library and how formative that place became, and all the feelings that can overcome you later in life when you realize those warm, wonderful places feel so far behind you that you'll never be able to reach them again. It's a good example of the kind of work you'll find in my book, which is available at Amazon or by contacting me at jhdwriting@hotmail.com. My deepest thanks to Amanda Oaks for accepting the piece over at Words Dance. Definitely check out their site! And thank you for reading.   

Three New Poems In Three Of My Favorite Lit Magazines

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Things have been rolling this week. On top of my new book dropping Halloween night, I have three new poems appearing in three different magazines around the net. 

My poem "Hunger" joins a slew of others in a special edition of Drunk Monkeys: The Year of Trump, a collection of poems, prose, interviews, and art about life in this "new normal" that shouldn't be normal at all. The writers here are no fan of 45, and my pieces laments over how to deal with loved ones who have gone lockstep in a strange and frightening direction. The issue is full of wonderful writers, like Rachel Nix (Hobo Camp Review's new associate editor!), Ally Malinenko, John Grochalski, Cat Conway, and others.  

Another "Trump" poem of mine, "Last Cigarette," appears over at Winedrunk Sidewalk. This site publishes a new poem every day about life under 45. Keep checking in for all kinds of voices speaking up and out.    

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Finally, Lonesome October Lit (one of my favorite new online journals) has included my poem "The Incident at Choke Cherry Farm" in their big Halloween extravaganza yesterday, and I'm so happy to be part of it. Anyone who knows me knows I adore Halloween, so this is super cool. My deepest thanks goes to poet and editor Kate Garrett, who also selected my poem "Prayers from Dunwich" earlier this October.

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you all down the road...  

NOW AVAILABLE: We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine

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My new collection of poetry, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, is now available from Unknown Press! This has been a long process (over two years!) to get this from the page to the reader, but it's finally ready to share with you all. This collection explores the childhood memories and nostalgic daydreams of a grade-school bookworm now grown up to face cancer, chemo, debt, solitude, and the fear that all the joys and hopes of a bygone youth are slipping out of reach. I couldn't be happier to have worked with writer/publisher Bud Smith on this project, and I included a poem below as a sample of what you'll find inside.

The book is available at Amazon, by special order through your local bookstore, and by writing me at jhdwriting@hotmail.com for signed paperbacks. (Yes, yes, good old ancient Hotmail.) Blurbs and recommendations are available at the book's page on my website. Free PDF copies are available for reviewers, and I'll have free physical copies for reviewers soon too. If you'd like one, please contact me. Thank you all!!

 THE GREEN CARPET

It is a waiting room of chipped plastic tables full of
wrinkled copies of Highlights magazine and cardboard
flip-books about bears flying in hot air balloons, the
scent of rubbing alcohol and Lysol. These children here
are bald or soon will be and I run my hand through my
own hair, find bloody fingertips, red robins in flight
through my very flesh, flying away and away and away.
Opening my eyes and counting my inhale/exhale, I see
that the carpet here is lime green, shag, just like the
green carpet where the small children of Green Meadow
Elementary sat in the library, 1985, ‘86, ‘87…we read
books about dinosaurs and planets and gigantic men who
chopped trees in days gone by alongside blue oxen. There
were books of women who flew planes and disappeared,
and of ghosts who haunted castles, books of egghead
professors with childish brain games, and books of
children who had troubles just like the troubles we had
at home or in our classrooms, on the bus, with bullies,
siblings, nightmares, parents who disappeared, feelings of
isolation, feelings. None of them had the troubles we had
when we grew up though, or the troubles the bald
children here have discovered. Publishers and sales reps
probably don’t like tallying such figures. Back then,
Letter People lined the walls and a TV with Ramona
played on rainy days. There were book club sales, book
reports, and wooden chairs lined up along the wall,
straight and small. All of us sitting on the green carpet. I
believe the rain still falls on the windows there, while
kids here grow old, fall down, their eyes drifting against
the wash of a television glow in hospital rooms and daybeds,
their blood and marrow melting, betraying,
hounding them, the pages of their stories thinning out
and fading blank. And then someone calls my name so I
rise and walk across that green carpet to see how many
pages my own story has left.

Young James and The Spooky Old Tree

As a very young child, one of my favorite things to do was to curl up with a picture book and lose myself in the immersive illustrations. Even when I graduated into chapter books, something about really well-done picture books captivated the imagination. The one that dominated my youngest years was The Berenstain Bears and The Spooky Old Tree. This tale of three little bears adventuring into the night to explore not just a tree but underground tunnels and alligator infested waters and haunted old halls full of watchful paintings and suits of armor, and a whole lot more. It was indeed spooky, but also thrilling and comforting at the same time. It became a bit like my security blanket.

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My "Talk With Me" Interview with Marcia Epstein

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Today I had an incredibly fun interview with Marcia Epstein on her hour-long "Talk With Me" podcast, where she speaks with poets, writers, and artists about their work, their lives, and how the two intertwine in happy, frightful, productive, and connective ways. We spoke about Hobo Camp Review and how it all began, my upcoming collection of poetry We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine (which will be ready to release VERY soon!), and about my experiences going through cancer and trying to maintain some sort of "normalcy" in both writing and social aspects of my life, and also about trying to decide when, why, and how I wanted to share these experiences with those around me. It's the first time I spoke about all this in such a public way, and many of the poems I read on the show are about this time in my life as well. I hope you enjoy listening. You can also download the show at iTunes, I believe. A big thank you goes to Wolfgang Carstens for connecting me with Marcia. Wolfgang is a kickass poet, the editor of Epic Rites Press, and a Hobo Camp alum, so please look for his work! As far as my book, Bud Smith and I are in the final proof stages and it's almost ready to launch. I'll be giving away free extras with the first wave of books going out the door - more details about that soon. Thanks very much!        

If You Like Lore, These Will Give You Chills Too...

At least once a year there's a podcast that strikes a chord and seems to take pop culture by storm. In 2014 it was Serial, and there have been others since, but the current podcast I hear everyone talking about is Lore, which is also now a "TV" show on Amazon Prime. As many of you already know, Lore explores different frightening myths and legends throughout history...except each one is based on true stories, real places, and horrifying moments in our past that still affect us today in ways both subtle and supreme.

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Can you Hear Those "Prayers from Dunwich"?

I'm a big fan of anything Lovecraftian -- all those tales of ghoulish, cosmic creatures and devilish cultists who aid them in their dark New England dens and subterranean hideouts, with stories full of grimoires and ghosts and slimy undead things that crawl through the night. I also love anything related to October or Halloween, so being able to combine all this has been a fantastic bit of fun. A great new webzine called Lonesome October Lit publishes eerie, macabre poetry and short fiction and they just released my new piece called "Prayers from Dunwich," and any fan of Lovecraft might understand the spirit of the piece. I hope you enjoy this creepy poem, and please consider ending Lonesome October Lit some of your own work!   

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On the Air with 105.3 FM & The Sanctuary for Independent Media

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I hit the airwaves last week at WOOC 105.3 FM alongside my Troy Poetry Mission co-host R.M. Engelhardt to talk to Meghan Marohn and Bryce Miller about our monthly reading series in Troy, NY, the recent StoryHarvest event at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, and how poetry and readings can help build community bonds. We even read some poems on the air. You can find our segment at the station's SoundCloud archives, along with a bunch of other insightful, informative interviews. I was caught a little off guard as I forgot to bring some poems with me (what's a poet without a poem!?!?) but I ended up finding and reading my new piece "Last Appointment of the Day," which will appear in my upcoming book, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine (Unknown Press, 2017). As I mention in the interview, the book will be out around Halloween. More details on that soon. Until then, listen in to 105.3 FM whenever you can! Thanks for listening, and thanks to Bryce Miller, Meghan Marohn, Steve Pierce and everyone at the Sanctuary for having us on the radio!      

"The Reservoir" Nominated for the Best of the Net 2017

The editors over at Vox Poetica just sent news that my poem "The Reservoir" is one of their six nominees for the 2017 edition of The Best of the Net. I'm happy to share this honor with Moriah LaChapell, Nancy Scott McBride, John J. McKenna, Mel Paisley, and Simon Perchik. Good luck to all, and thank you again to the editorial team at Vox Poetica! 

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There Are Some Highways We'll Always Drive

I have this strange, displaced memory of driving up from the Texas coastline to San Antonio with my father in his old white Mercury Cougar in the mid-1990s. It’s typically a three hour drive across long stretches of remote and desolate flatlands, crossed by dried-up creek beds and small ranching towns, with occasional gas stations flung far and few apart. Closer to Corpus Christi there are cotton fields and twisted mazes of refineries, the flaming spires of which would light up the night if we left the coastal city after sundown.

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But this time, in this ethereal memory, it’s a stormy-looking afternoon turning to dusk, and the storms might explain our early departure from the beach. The air conditioning feels cool and makes the salty sea air feel like a sticky paste clinging to my flesh as the AC dries it away. But what stands out most in this memory—aside from the fact that my father and I are alone; my sister is usually with us—is that we’re listening to a live broadcast of a Van Halen concert from some outlying Texas city, Houston or Dallas or somewhere.

I never really got into Van Halen. They felt kind of uncool by the time I got into music in the early 90s (I was too busy with REM, Nirvana, Beck, Weezer, etc.). My father was a casual fan and my aunt was a huge Sammy Hagar fan, but for some reason on this darkening trek north to escape incoming storm clouds, we’re excited to make this musical discovery and my father turns it up. I recognize most songs, to my surprise, and I recall thinking even then that it was weird how much I enjoyed the experience, sipping on my soda leftover from a Whataburger dinner.

I recall specifically looking at him as he drove, how I could see the setting sun fighting through layers of purple-black clouds blanketing the prairie treeline beyond his profile, the music playing, the miles ticking by. And then, just like that, it was night, and stray lights from small towns and lonely ranches dotted the horizon as Van Halen kept going, and going. I can't remember the year or anything else about that trip, but I remember feeling like my father and I would make that trip a million more times in my lifetime, but knowing even then that it would never feel quite the same as that one trip. 

And while we've been there since, a number of times, each time we go I worry it might be the last. We're both getting older, dodging medical mishaps and maladies as best we can. When the day comes though (and I hope it doesn't for a long long time) I truly fear the prospect of ever having to drive to Corpus Christi and the beach without my father behind the wheel. It wouldn't feel right stepping onto the sandy beach without him, eating at Snoopy's Pier without him, filling up the gas tank and heading north as night falls over the refinery lights without him. That random Van Halen concert stamped something permanent in my mind, the feeling that this has to go with that, that one thing can't exist without the other. Sometimes I dream of my father and I on that road at night, happy and tired and listening to music, and I want it to go on forever. It won't, but it will, at least until neither of us is here to remember that one drive home beneath the stormy night skies of Texas.   

Autumn Heals: Reflections on Moving Home, 2 Years Later

Driving through Rensselaer County, autumn 2015

Driving through Rensselaer County, autumn 2015

Two years ago I moved back to the Albany area after spending years in NYC and beyond. I moved back for health, financial, and personal reasons, and I didn’t know what I’d expect of the area after being merely an occasional visitor for so long. In truth, the move left me feeling very lonely. I spent most of my time either with the dog, resting up in bed trying to get back on my feet, or driving through the countryside alone. It was autumn and I’d drive to orchards, buy apples and cider and donuts, and find remote cornfields or cemeteries or roadside creeks and sit and eat and contemplate. Most of my friends lived far away and I don’t always do a good job of reaching out to new people, so it was a quiet autumn, a beautiful one, with gorgeous foliage and all the time in the world to explore and re-discover the area. I look back on that time with a lot of fondness despite the powerful feelings of depression and uncertainty I felt at the time. I was not well, in a lot of ways, and I struggled, but something about having that season to myself embedded that period deep into my psyche. I feel it so much, every single autumn. It’s home, and this area really is perfect for experiencing the season between September through December, an eventful time of transition, but also one rich with solitude and reflection. A time of looking back mixed with preparations for what will come. It was also during this time I wrote some of the poems that make up my newest book, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine. The book references a lot of solitary exploration, autumn adventures, and wistful reflections, among deeper darker topics, and to have that book come out from Unknown Press in October, my favorite month, well…it just feels right. For all the sadness I’ve felt in this season, there’s goodness and peace as well. I hope this book shows that, and I hope you are able to get out and experience a little of the autumn season in the ways I’ve been able to over the years. It’s a magical healing thing, and we all deserve to be in a place like that from time to time.    

Coming Soon: We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine

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My new book of poetry, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, is almost here! Bud Smith and Devin Kelly at Unknown Press have been putting in a lot of work to help shape these poems into what I feel is my best collection ever, and I’m excited that the book will likely hit sometime close to Halloween, if all goes well. Considering the poems we assembled, it’s perfect timing.

Autumn and October in particular loom large in the nostalgic landscape of my childhood, which is explored in these poems. There are some fun and happy Halloween poems in there, and some darker memories brought to light as well. Half the poems are about growing up in a rural trailer park as a bookworm struggling to find my way, wondering about the expectations and promises of adulthood. The other poems are about going through cancer treatments and unemployment as an adult and looking back on all those old expectations and feeling disillusionment and fear, but also feeling comfort whenever I reminisce about those memories as a kid. At the time they felt like some pretty tough struggles, but things look different when you’re hooked up to an IV in a ward full of bald children or fainting on subways on the way home from hospitals. Those childhood memories become enlightening little episodes and start to feel like the exits you take from highway's life in order to get home again. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about them.           

This collection has been in the works for a few years, going through a couple presses, but I’m incredibly happy that Unknown Press took up the torch and helped bring this thing to life. In the coming weeks I’ll reveal the cover, a more specific release date, and I’m going to try to line up some readings and release parties. If you know if anyplace I can reach out to for a reading, whether it’s a feature, joining a bill of other writers, or just hitting an open mic, please let me know! And free review copies will be available, of course.

Thanks very much for all the support. This book means the world to me and I can’t wait to share it with you.   

There Are No Rules: My Time Writing for Writer's Digest

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A few years back I worked for Writer's Digest, serving as an editor in both their book and magazine divisions, and one thing I loved to do was write for their advice blog, “There Are No Rules.” Not that I’m some bestseller rife with literary wisdom, but I always felt we each have our own writing insights, tricks, and habits that are helpful to us and might be helpful to others. Besides, what writer doesn’t like writing about writing from time to time? A lot of my old blog posts are about breaking out of writing slumps, self-editing and revision, how watching Star Wars or Hitchcock’s Rear Window can help your writing, the best books to read during Halloween, advice on self publishing (a bit dated but still useful), and there’s interviews with writers, editors, and much more. Enjoy!

Piece By Piece: My New Column in The Blue Mountain Review

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Every writer has been there. Whether it's burnout or writer's block, we all hit that wall where nothing seems to work, we can't finish anything, and great ideas die on the vine before they're ripe. I hit this wall a few times each year, but I've found little ways to work around (or through) that usually do the trick and get me back on track. I shared a few of these tips in my latest column, titled "Piece By Piece," for The Blue Mountain Review, Issue 8. Check out page 50 for my quarterly column. The issue is full of excellent poetry, prose, art, interviews, and a lot more, so it's definitely worth your time. My deepest thanks to Clifford Brooks and the staff at The Blue Mountain Review for including me yet again.  

Open Calls for Poetry, Fiction, and More!

I'm editing for two publications this autumn and both are still looking for work! Check out these calls and please feel free to spread the word!

Solitude's Spectrum

Cahoodaloodaling is publishing an issue on solitude, all the good and bad about it, all the pain and joy that comes with being alone, the complexities, the simplicities, the self-imposed retreats, and the harrowing exiles. Tell us what solitude means to you in a poem, short story, essay, photo, artwork, song, or anything else you can create! The full call and guidelines are available at the website. Deadline is 9/9/17.

Ghost Stories 'Round the Campfire

Hobo Camp Review is looking for work that uses ghostly imagery, metaphors, characters, or references spirits and hauntings in any which way. Your work might be a true story, or a frightening piece of fiction, or a poem with only a wisp of a reference to ghosts. We're open for essays, artwork, photos, and more. Check out the full call and guidelines at the HCR site! Deadline is 9/24/17.