The Press Conference! Part I


microphone at lectern


As we prepare to introduce the four bigs– #1 seeds– to the expectant crowd, we look around for our newly booked commentator, Emily Dickinson (“Emily D”). We notice she’s been cornered by Norm Mailer (our other commentator candidate), who while clenching and unclenching his fists and talking nonstop is explaining to Emily why he should’ve been a commentator, as well as a top seed and up on that stage. We think, Emily! Emily D is very talented and very cute, but she’s not very worldly.

The Four are invited to step to the microphone to make a few remarks.


Hem fishing

Ernest Hemingway: “It was an honor. It was a surprise but it was also an honor. It was not a surprise at all but he said it was because he didn’t want people thinking he wasn’t humble. It was easier to be humble. He didn’t want to think about not being humble.”


Walt Whitman

(Editor’s note: Whitman has quite the contingent of young poetry groupies in the audience.)

Walt Whitman: “You who celebrate bygones! I, habitan of a cemetary in Camden, treating of himself as he is in his cups, Chanter of verse, I project the history of this contest, the great pride of this man in himself, Cheerful– knowing this man Walt Whitman will win.”

(Enthusiastic applause.)


melville profile
Herman Melville: (Melville declines the opportunity to speak, but instead remains in his chair on stage, puffing on a pipe and observing the proceedings like a bemused sea captain surprised to be on land.)


Mark_Twain_young other

Mark Twain: “I had a lurking suspicion that Ernie Hemingway was a myth, that there never was such a fantastic personage. I asked old Wheeler about him, and he said it reminded him of the infamous Jim Hemingway last seen flexing his neck muscles around the barroom stove in Algonac due south and over a bridge from here. Big-bearded big-headed Jim backed Wheeler into a corner then sat him down and reeled off a monotonous narrative about flyfishing in a river not ten miles from this very spot. A fishing story, we used to call it. The one that got away. But no fishing story like the one Herm Melville on this stage has been known to tell.” (Twain takes a puff from his own pipe.) “Fishing stories! You propose to defeat this old riverboat captain with fishing stories. Good luck.”

(Editor’s note.)

In this town’s local barroom afterward, three of the Big Four stand around a stove telling yarns. Across from me, Emily D sips from sherry in a glass, the sherry the color of her eyes. “I taste a liquor never brewed,” she confides.

I’ve known many poets and they’re a strange bunch.

“What do you think of this event so far?” I ask, gesturing toward where Mark Twain holds court, where even Melville joins the group and silently listens, four giant men in the small wood room– Mailer trying to butt into the conversation rises barely to the others’ shoulders. Emily gazes around the little tavern.

“Such a delirious whirl!” she says.


“Part II” will be a quick Press Conference wrap-up. Stay tuned.

The Last Underground Poet


WHEN in Philadelphia recently, we touched base with old friend and colleague Frank D. Walsh. His work is hard to come by online, so when I say he’s the best poet Philly has produced in the last 40 years, you might not believe me. As quick evidence I can give only a link to a few poems at an Irish literary site, including this one:

What makes a master at the poetic art?

It’s the poet with every tool in his poetry toolkit. The person who can throw in offbeat rhymes, multiple allusions in a phrase or word, rhythms of every kind, and give the listener or reader enough wordplay to make the experience fascinating, even wonderful. John Berryman would do this on occasion, as would Ezra Pound. Shakespeare was the master of masters at the art. At his best, Walsh attains that company.

Why Frank Walsh hasn’t received the attention he deserves may have something to do with his integrity. To quote Frank Norris: “I never truckled; I never took off the hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies.” Anyone who’s met Walsh knows his outspokenness– not an advantageous asset in a literary world of cronyism and connections, maintained via backslapping and glad-handing. A poetry world filled with posturing frauds, which Frank Walsh is not.

He’s paid a price for it– lives underground for real– but maintains his optimism. “It’s all material” for his writing, he said about his hardships. A mindset for all writers.

(Photo of Frank Walsh snapped at famed Philadelphia watering hole McGlinchey’s.)

Fun Pop Poetry #26


“Americans” by Ellsworth B. Smith

America in armed camps
We say to that, “No thanks!”
We’ll pitch our tent between them,
Can love ’em or can leave ’em;

We treat each person just the same
Was once the American dream
to be color-blind and free
To fearlessly have your honest say,
open to all you see;

Now hysteria rules the day
Hot-head crowds do stomp and bray
Shutting down displeasing speech
They fill the streets with clamor loud
Good will dismissed;
We’d like to flee to closest cloud!

Call us idealistic
Tell us we’re naive
to think we’re all one nation,
black, white, red or green,
Doesn’t make us racist
(or sexist, phobic
Despite what Khmer boys
trapped in ideology
would try with schooled minds to believe;

America the beautiful,
America the free;
Let’s get beyond our different flaws
Each one of us with unique cause
And say with ONE voice united, strong:
“Can’t we all just get along?”

(Send your rhymin’ or stylin’ poems to

Fun Pop Poetry #25


“Hallelujah Trail” by David Lohrey

People brag about the religious experiences.
They feel something, they tell us,
When they’re taking a crap. But
They won’t go to church.

Baseball, they say, is a kind of religion.
They are believers. Some are truer
Than others; they tell us that, too.
Why can’t they just use the toilet?

Others like to fornicate in the pews.
They’re in search of religion, they
Tell us. They don’t find it when
Praying, but they are true believers.
Call them devout. Their theatre
Is the Broadway musical. The priest:
Al Jolson. Last year: Bette Midler.
Now: Lady Gaga.

They’re gamblers. They don’t like
Religion, they tell us. Spirituality,
Yes, that. They’re very spiritual,
Especially when their stocks
Are rising. They’re very spiritual
But they love money.

They don’t like the institution. They
Like to sleep around, too. They’re
Against marriage, but they’re
Into true love. They prefer it free
Since it’s so valuable. If they
Can’t have it, they’ll take it.
They’ll give it away, often
To the highest bidder.
This generation of malcontents and
Rebels will say anything to feel better.
They’d learn to play the xylophone if they
Could play stoned. They’re stumbling
Through grad school and got low marks
In 3rd grade. They’re catching up
Now but never studied Latin.

They walk around with their
Mouths hanging open.
They complain a lot, especially
When their coffee isn’t hot.
They pride themselves on their
Needs. When they’re passed over
At the audition, they storm out,
Cursing. They’ll never sing again.

They threaten now to take
Their grievances to the street.
It’s high noon. The kids without a future
Hope to be noticed. The entire world
Is like Schwab’s Drug Store.
Maybe they’ll be seen crying at
The counter and be cast as
Zombies in next year’s
Blockbuster. They have lots of
Experience. They can play the part.
All they have to do is look



(Send your provocative and/or fun poetry to

Fun Pop Poetry #24


More Topical Poetry from Bruce Dale Wise

“High-minded Elevants and Asstronuts” by Wilbur Dee Case

“…all true believers break their eggheads at the convenient end.”
—paraphrase of Reldresal, in Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift

For some time, there have been two fighting factions in this land.
They’re called the Elevants and Asstronuts, you understand.
They are distinguished by what they have soaring in their minds;
and both are sure they have the highest thoughts one can opine.
The animosities between these parties run so high;
at times one can discover their ideas in the sky.
They vex each other so, they will not eat, nor drink, nor talk
together, and would rather undergo electroshock.
And in the midst of these superlative, high-flying piques,
they both are threatened by exploding, rocket-riding freaks.


(Send your topical and/or fun poem to

Fun Pop Poetry #23


“An Exploitation of Subtlety” by Dan Nielsen

defined / undefined / redefined
thinking / unthinking / rethinking

defined thinking / defined unthinking / defined rethinking
undefined thinking / undefined unthinking / undefined rethinking
redefined thinking / redefined unthinking / redefined rethinking

defined thinking is logic
defined unthinking is humor
defined rethinking is memory

undefined thinking is dreams
undefined unthinking is meditation
undefined rethinking is perception

redefined thinking is philosophy
redefined unthinking is art
redefined rethinking is bliss


(Send your thought-provoking or provocative poem to

Fun Pop Poetry #22


“Today’s Poetry Scene Part I” by Ellsworth B. Smith

The question’s on my mind
I ponder all the time
Perhaps someone can answer my query
“Does anybody like academic poetry?”

I wouldn’t say it sucks
I wouldn’t claim it blows
It just puts me to sleep
Does anybody like academic poetry?

The back row you’ll see me sleeping
At the latest campus reading
Hear the monotonous drone
while I snore
I only want to go quickly home!

So answer my question please
The value I don’t believe
Reputations I can’t conceive
Does anyone really like academic poetry?

Send your snarky poems to