Interview: Ajit Dutta and the Art of Urdu Love Poetry

by Sara Grimes Ajit Dutta is a poet and graduate of UC Riverside-Palm Desert’s low-residency MFA program. His book, A Lover’s Sigh, is a translation of Urdu love poetry in a form called the “ghazal,” comprised of five-15 thematically autonomous couplets. It is Dutta’s work of the heart, combining classical and modern influences ranging from Indian and Pakistani songwriters to historical political figures. Dutta’s translation approach included listening to a wide range of singers performing ghazals. He fell in love with the form at sixteen, after purchasing a stack of ghazal poetry at a bookstore before a train ride to…

Voice to Books: Sharing Personal Experience Through Poetry

Poetry speaks to our souls. From songs to spoken word, sonnets to free verse, there’s poetry for any mood or moment. Poetry is a form that can take on many shapes, tackle any subject, and help people express themselves. All of the collections in this column revolve around poets sharing deeply personal experiences. The poems found in these collections move within cities and dreams, time and space, language and culture to release a truth, an emotion, a thought in the hope that others will connect with them. Finna by Nate Marshall Reviewed by Pamela Pete Full of ethnic slang slung…

Interview: Bill Ratner’s Evolution into Poetry

Bill Ratner’s successful career as a voiceover artist—as Flint on the cartoon G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, as characters on Robot Chicken and Family Guy, and as the narrator of countless movie trailers and commercials—coexists with his varied existence as a performer, author, and storyteller. A graduate of the UCRPD MFA program in nonfiction and a published poet, essayist, and fiction writer, Ratner is a nine-time winner of The Moth StorySLAM and has performed for National Public Radio (NPR), Comedy Central Stage, and storytelling festivals around the country. Ratner’s first book of poetry, To Decorate a Casket, is out this May from Finishing Line…

Beyond This Courtyard There Be Dragons

by D.S. Grauel Gloves, nitrile with the scent of industry, Mask, moist with fetid breath, the two—a double-edged salvation– are not with me at this tender moment. One in the trash. The other, laundry room sink. My face is nude.   I open the door with Barbaresco Nebbiolo in hand, a cellar selection gifted from a friend in Porta Venezia, Milano. Ex-patriot, locked down in the quartiere. Soldiers outside. I swore to save it for my birthday. But it is debatable if birthdays will come.   I step outside into the courtyard for the elixir of life: air. No cars.…

Book Review: Atomizer

by Sara Grimes Elizabeth A. I. Powell doesn’t pull any punches when satirizing her lovers in Atomizer. The collection is a sassy, whip-smart treatise on the deceitful nature of love, using the extended metaphor of scent as a cover-up. Powell brings each love under the microscope of her fierce poetry to see if it is in fact a gem or a lump of coal. Oftentimes it is the latter. She extends the same analysis to all love relationships—romantic, imagined, or familial. In “The Book of Sires”: “My homage: He was an atelier of garbage. How his microaggressions of Paco Rabanne…

Devourer by Elya Braden 

By Elya Braden  Devourer (2007), Dana Schutz   inspired by Devourer  by Dana Schutz What if people could eat themselves?                                                       – Dana Schutz, 2007   Before satisfaction, the abandonment of restraint. How long have I craved the particular salt of my own skin? My four-year-old thumb in my mouth, nesting in hunger’s soup. For years, tiny pricks and cuts bloomed red on my fingers’ ridges and valleys—clumsiness or a thirst for my own…

Photo Essay: Near & Far

When California locked down last March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the physical world seemed to shrink overnight. To contain the virus, we were instructed not to travel unless we were frontline workers. Many of us were confined to our homes.

Something to Cool You Off

by Dean Smith Saturday afternoon, summer of ’44, heat rising from the Durham tar, Private Booker T. Spicely boarded a bus, cradling a watermelon for a mother and her son, strode proudly in uniform into the second to last row. The driver, Lee Council, watched him from the mirror, never said a word until two white soldiers got on, then pointed to the State Law sign requiring negroes to “sit from the rear,” and told the black soldier to move all the way back. Spicely stood up, smiled, and said, “If I can take a bullet and die for democracy,…

Sweet Nothings

By Cliff Saunders

There is no brotherhood of smiling wizards,
no mantra against the bells of teen spirit.

No mystery here—stones celebrate with song
how they shape the world into mountains

and waterfalls, their voices full of gracefulness
and elegance. We ought to let them dream