Thursday, August 29, 2019

THE WONDER CUPBOARD by Kathleen S. Burgess

NightBallet Press is delighted to announce the publication of the first title in our ninth year of publishing...The Wonder Cupboard by Kathleen S. Burgess!


In The Wonder Cupboard, Kathleen S. Burgess has written poems both filled, and filling, with wonder..."Why We Went to See Madame Luminitsa," "Marilyn's Lips," "I'm a pilgrim light needles into space," "Unearthing Earth Day." Using skillful language to draw crisp, colorful sketches of time and place, Burgess addresses a child's thrilled reaction to a father's wild driving, an F2 twister, Singer sewing machines, bird-watching, going braless, pregnancy, sunflowers, a Chinese lantern festival, missing women, mass shootings, and quiet hikes through Southern Ohio beauty.

The Wonder Cupboard contains thirty-four poems on forty-four pages. The cover is a pale ivory textured card stock, with a warm wren-brown textured card stock insert. The poems are printed on pale ivory paper. Once again, we are ecstatic to have Bree's art grace the front cover of a NightBallet Press book. Many thanks to her for giving us permission to use "White Tailed Fawn 4.13.19" for The Wonder Cupboard.


Kathleen S. Burgess is senior editor at Pudding Magazine: The Journal of Applied Poetry, and has been published in dozens of journals and anthologies. Collections include Reeds and Rushes: Pitch, Buzz, and Hum (Pudding House Publications, 2010, as editor), What Burdens Do Those Trains Bear Away (Bottom Dog Press, 2018), Gardening With Wallace Stevens (Locofo Chaps, 2017), and Shaping What Was Left (Pudding House Publications, 2006). Retired public school music teacher and union officer, she has worked pink-white-and-blue collar jobs, and served as president of Datagang Corporation, a 501(c)(3) video production company commissioned by The Ohio State Libraries, the Ohio Endowment of the Arts, et al. She and husband Jack Burgess enjoy trails, earthworks, the arts, and four adult children.

You may buy a signed copy of The Wonder Cupboard from Kathleen herself, should you be local to Chillicothe/Columbus/Southern Ohio. Beginning 8/30/19, you may purchase copies directly from NightBallet Press for only $15, which includes shipping/handling. Use the PayPal button below; you don't have to have an account to pay. Treat yourself to some wonder...order The Wonder Cupboard today!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

We Celebrate Eight-Going-on-Nine-Years of NightBallet Press!

Well, we've had an exciting year here at NightBallet Press, to say the least! Our year, or Season as we call it, runs from September to September. We've just completed Season Eight, and we couldn't be more proud of the poets whose books we've produced over the past twelve months:

Waiting for the Wind to Rise by M. J. Arcangelini

Fragile Capacities by Sandra Feen

As Falls Trees by Mark Danowsky

Throwback Thursdays by Margie Shaheed

The Curve of Her Arm by Robin Mullet and Holli Rainwater

Dear Youngstown by Karen Schubert

The Answer Is Not Here by Lisa and Sean Dougherty

Sunshine State by Gregg Shapiro

Although beset by a couple of months' delays early this year -- the publisher was in an accident in February that totaled her car, gave her a concussion and seat-belt injury, and shook her to the core -- we've still managed to publish eight excellent titles for poets across the United States!

AND, we've already accepted seven exciting manuscripts for Season Nine, September 2019 to September 2020.

The Wonder Cupboard by Kathleen S. Burgess

Those Who Pray to Rice by Julio Montalvo Valentin

Semidomesticated (working title) by Jonie McIntire

Pawning My Sins by M. J. Arcangelini

Holding Your Breath by Jennifer Hambrick

Leaning Toward Greenland by Andy Roberts

Miracle Days by Paula Lambert

We expect to accept several more over the coming year!

The printer, ink, paper, cardstock, postage, business cards, envelopes, packing tape, staples, and pens are only a part of what makes NightBallet Press run smoothly. We have our covers professionally printed by a local family-owned print shop. We make regular runs out to Brunswick (about a forty minute drive) to obtain our paper and cardstock from another family-owned business. Wherever possible, we support other small presses and family-owned small businesses, and we travel to literary festivals to publicize and promote our poets and their books.

We have produced over one hundred titles for poets across the United States and Canada. We have used the art of over a dozen artists and photographers for our covers, and we actively seek out exciting new art for future covers.

To any-and-everyone who has ever bought a NightBallet Press book, promoted the press, given us a table at an indie/literary festival, invited us to participate in workshops, ordered additional copies, subscribed, or donated money, THANK YOU. You make it possible for NBP to give voice to some of the best contemporary poets alive today. I appreciate you, from the bottom of my heart.

This summer, NBP offers you an opportunity to participate in this grand endeavor and to be directly responsible for the next season's publications, by joining the Wingman Club. What is the Wingman Club? It's a one-year subscription to the press, which will start September, 2019 and go through to September, 2020. For $50, you receive every book that we publish during Season Nine, including the ones listed above! We guarantee you'll get your money's worth!

Season Seven's books, 2017-2018, totaled $126.00, before shipping. Season Eight, even with the accident's setback, totaled $80. Plus, the subscription offers an additional bonus: no charge for postage! That's a huge savings, in addition to the incredibly low cost of a subscription.

A wingman is someone who supports a friend or associate. Feel the wind beneath your wings and take advantage of this offer while you can!  (Due to the high cost of postage, this offer is only for residents inside the United States, but we are more than happy to make alternate arrangements for anyone outside the U.S. who wishes to subscribe! Just contact us and we'll discuss it.)

Support this small press and you'll know that your subscription donation is going directly into books we publish. We do not receive grants or funding from any outside source but YOU. As a bonus, subscribe now and we'll include a copy of Throwback Thursdays, Margie Shaheed's final book, along with your first copy in the new subscription.

Join NightBallet Press' Wingman Club and begin your one year subscription today!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

SUNSHINE STATE by Gregg Shapiro

NightBallet Press is incredibly pleased to announce the publication
of a new collection of poems
  by Florida resident Gregg Shapiro:
Sunshine State!

Gregg Shapiro observes and writes about his adopted state with wisdom, passion, a quiet humor, and a sharp eye for detail.  

"When you live/in a state shaped like a gun, everything/is a bullet, a target."

"Hurricanes want grave/and dodgy names that inspire terror, words that cause the speaker and/the listener to wince, struggle for breath. Hurricane Motherfucker./ Hurricane Bloodbath. Hurricane Apocalypse. Hurricane Armageddon."

His poems also sing about Florida's beauty. In his poem "Wynwood Walls," he writes

"Maureen told me about them first, in a poem/she read at Los Manos Gallery in Andersonville./Her detailed and vivid description made my eyes/and mouth water simultaneously."

In "Making Light," he observes

"The days are long and/filled with more daylight than anyone could possibly use./It's a losing battle to keep your face from turning towards/the glow..."

Shapiro reveals having "Peas for Breakfast" and bemoans "Because of Facebook." And he celebrates beloved dogs.

"Adopting a dog was not in the plans, a little/more than a week after k.d. died, but Sharon said/it was bashert, a mitzvah, to provide her with a new/home when Willie grew too ill to care for her."

Sunshine State contains 28 pages of 17 poems. The poems are printed on a richly textured ivory paper. The cover card stock is a creamy matching ivory; the inside card stock is a warm textured pumpkin color. The gorgeous cover art, "Electric Entrance, 2014," by Cleveland artist Timothy Gaewsky, explodes with life and light.

Gregg Shapiro is the author of Fifty Degrees (Seven Kitchens, 2016), selected by Ching-In Chen as co-winner of the Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. Other books by Shapiro include the short story collections How to Whistle (Lethe Press, 2016) and Lincoln Avenue: Chicago Stories (Squares and Rebels Press, 2014), the chapbooks GREGG SHAPIRO: 77 (Souvenir Spoon Press, 2012),  and More Poems About Buildings and Food (Souvenir Spoon Press, 2019), and the poetry collection Protection (Gival Press, 2008). His poetry was recently featured in South Florida Poetry Review, Gay and Lesbian Review, Chelsea Station Magazine, the 2018 anhinga press anthology Reading Queer, and the anthology Lovejets: Queer Male Poets on 200 Years of Walt Whitman (Handtype Press, 2018). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.

Shapiro will begin a book tour in August, and will make a Cleveland appearance on his tour. He will read and have copies of his book...and NightBallet Press will be there!

The 2019 Summer Tour itinerary is as follows:

Aug 3    OutWrite 2019 - Washington D.C.

Aug 4    Outlandish - Cleveland, OH

                                Outlandish Imprint Zine Fair
                                9740 Madison Ave.
                                Lakewood, OH

Aug 7    Women & Children First Books - Chicago, IL
Aug 8    Outwords Books - Milwaukee, WI
Aug 14  Southland Books (w/musical guest Jeff Heiskell) - Maryville, TN
Aug 15  Charis Books and More (w/Collin Kelley) - Decatur, GA

Shapiro's poems will warm your heart and singe your senses, in the best of ways! Published today, here in the dog days of summer, Sunshine State is a seasonal reading list must-have!

Bask in the light of the Sunshine today for only $10 plus $4 s/h!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

THE ANSWER IS NOT HERE by Lisa M. & Sean Thomas Dougherty

NightBallet Press is delighted to announce the release of a new collection of poetry by
Lisa M. Dougherty and Sean Thomas Dougherty, The Answer Is Not Here!

The Answer Is Not Here reads as a type of call-and-response, with poignant and passionate poems by Lisa and Sean Thomas Dougherty. The poems include "Tell Me the Alphabet of Us Is Nothing New" and "The Wind Has a Name It Tells No One" by Lisa, and "Ask the Breath of this Blue Hour" and "Ask the Evening Light Its Shape" by Sean Thomas. The poems alternate in the narrative, with Sean's poems being italicized. These poems whisper, rather than shout, begging you to lean in and listen more closely to sweet words sharing secret truths. Each poem is like a little prayer of the soul.

The Answer Is Not Here contains 17 poems on 32 pages. The cover is a pale green card stock, with a thick, textured and patterned card stock insert. The cover art is a lovely collage by Bree, "Rockin Robin 12.26.18." The collage was made from this single photograph of a guitar in Lewis Mathis Studio in Shelbyville, Kentucky. It was made with Paint, enhanced by Polarr. You can find more of Bree's work here.

Lisa is the author of Small As Hope In the Helicopter Rain (Cervena Barva, 2018), and Sean Thomas' most recent book is The Second O of Sorrow (BOA Editions, 2018). Recently married, they live in Erie, Pennsylvania, where they are raising their two tumultuous daughters, Andaluzja Akhmatova and Amara Rumi.

Find Sean Thomas Dougherty here and on Facebook.
Find Lisa M. Dougherty on Facebook.

The Answer Is Not Here was released this weekend on Saturday, May 18, 2019, at the Borderlands: Poetry on the Edge event at Main Street Books in Mansfield, Ohio. It is available for mailing tomorrow.

Pick up your own copy of this collaboration! The book is a bargain at only $5.

You can obtain a copy of The Answer Is Not Here directly from the poets, or you may order from NightBallet Press for only $5 plus $3 shipping/handling! Order now, and NBP will pop it in the envelope today!

(This price is for United States of America customers only. Out-of-country customers, please contact NightBallet Press for information on shipping charges. Thank you.)

Thursday, February 28, 2019

DEAR YOUNGSTOWN by Karen Schubert!

NightBallet Press is enormously pleased to announce
the publication of
Dear Youngstown by Karen Schubert!


In Dear Youngstown, poet Karen Schubert delves into stories meant to convey emotional truths about living in Youngstown, Ohio. From the opening poem, "Reading at the Old Ward Bakery" to the ending poem "After the New Yorker Festival," Schubert gently leads you through reminiscence and recall, offers observation, appreciation, and tribute to a city she clearly loves. In her poem "Letter to Youngstown, " she celebrates its diversity (an excerpt):

Dear kids of Italians, Slovaks, Lebanese,
Greeks, Puerto Ricans, Russians,
Southern Blacks, Connecticut Yankees,
Appalachians, Hungarians, Irish, Indians,
eat your corned beef, pierogis,
latkes, meatballs, baklava, gyros,
falafel, greens, fish fry, tamales,
eat your wings, your ribs, your foot
long, pickled knuckles, blood
sausage, pasties, poppadoms, gelato.

Dear Youngstown boasts bold and exciting cover art by Cleveland-area artist Timothy Gaewsky. It contains forty-eight pages of poems, including "Ella Fitzgerald Marries Ray Brown Dec. 10, 1947," "Sculpture Near Bliss Hall," "I Miss You, Chicken in Every Pot," and "Autumn with Parker." In "Autumn with Parker" are the delightful lines:

Lasterday my grandson told me I like it when you're here


Now I'll be the vampire he says. Strike three. You're out.

Karen Schubert is the author of five poetry chapbooks, including I Left My Wings on a Chair (Kent State University Press, 2014), selected by Kathleen Flenniken for a Wick Poetry Center Chapbook Prize, and Black Sand Beach (Kattywompus Press, 2015). Her poems, creative nonfiction, and interviews have appeared in Artful Dodge, Water~Stone Review, Versal, diode poetry journal, Aeolian Harp, The American Literary Review, and many others. Her awards include the William Dickey Memorial Broadside prize, an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Headlands Center for the Arts. She has an MFA from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts, and is Director of Lit Youngstown in Youngstown, Ohio.


Dear Youngstown will be released TODAY, February 28, 2019, at A&C Studios (above A&C Beverage), 45 South Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio, 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. Please join us for an evening filled with art, music, dance, and the poetry of the incomparable Karen Schubert!

If you are unable to catch Karen Schubert in person tonight, you can still obtain Dear Youngstown by ordering it right here through PayPal! It's only $15 plus s/h. Order your copy today!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

THE CURVE OF HER ARM by Mullet & Rainwater!

Happy New Year from NightBallet Press!
We are beginning the year right by announcing the imminent publication of
The Curve of Her Arm by Robin Mullet and Holli Rainwater!

The Curve of Her Arm is a collaborative book of free verse and haiku from two remarkable poets.


Robin Mullet is an avid practitioner of qigong/tai chi, which she feels centers her and expands her creativity. Each one of her poems takes you through the art and practice, movements and moments, of qigong. As Robin wrote to me in her original proposal, "The poetry goes beyond the movements ekphrastically to the emotions and memories brought to the forefront by the ancient form."


Holli Rainwater's award-winning haiku have appeared in numerous publications, including the OPA Press anthologies Everything Stops and Listens, and A Rustling and Waking Within. Two of her haiku were chosen for the Seasons of Haiku walking path at the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio. She works at the Coshocton Public Library and teaches Chi classes
her own fusion of qigong, tai chi, and poetry.

Holli Rainwater has written "Each of these poems was inspired by the art and practice of qigong, an ancient Chinese health care system that combines gentle body movement, breath practice, and mindfulness. Qi (pronounced "chee") refers to the life force or vital energy that flows through all things in the universe. To practice qigong is to cultivate and balance this energy as it flows through our bodies."

The stunning cover photo is a watercolor painting by Becky Hernadez, commissioned specially by NBP for The Curve of Her Arm. Of the cover art, Rainwater wrote: "I love mandalas and this one is so interesting. She has all the colors that represent each season and each element in the qigong system. The whole world is represented, sort of a bursting forth of creativity and stillness. A representation of the human body and soul moving toward wholeness. And of course, the round feminine inclusive shapes." Mullet wrote: "Love the hands and the background seems like the endless universe." Hernandez also contributed two more watercolors for the inside of the book; one can be found on the introductory haiku's page, and one on the acknowledgments page. Both of the smaller pieces are delicate and lovely. Hernandez responded: "I am really honored to have had my work paired with the stunning and beautiful writing of two such talented and healing artists. I found the style of the book innovative and calming,(and) at the same time, truly heartfelt and human, blending two very different writers beautifully." You can find more of Hernandez's work here.

The Curve of Her Arm is a forty-page book containing thirty-three haiku and poems, Rainwater's haiku appearing first, with Mullet's parallel poems on the opposite pages. Each form is introduced within the poem that explores it. Reading The Curve of Her Arm is a refreshing, rewarding experience that leaves one with a sense of calm, wonder, and appreciation. This book will be released at a very special performance/reading on January 31st, 2019, at 6:30 pm at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum, 300 N. Whitewoman St., Coshocton, Ohio.

The Curve of Her Arm will be published within two weeks, in time for Mullet and Rainwater's debut reading of it on January 31st. Pre-orders are being taken now for this lovely book of heartwarming poetry. Order now, and NBP will include a copy of Margie Shaheed's last book, Throwback Thursdays, with your order, for free.


Thursday, November 22, 2018


I am thankful
for all the wonderful people who touch my life during the year, and for the honor and privilege of making books for poets who trust me with their manuscripts.

Each year, Pushcart Press permits little magazine and small book press editors to nominate up to six works by writers they've published during the calendar year. The deadline is December 1st. Acceptances for the annual Pushcart Prize Best of the Presses anthology usually begin arriving in April.

These are the NightBallet Press Pushcart Prize nominees from 2018:

Pat & Bill Hurley
from the NightBallet Press book Hard to Swallow, February 2018

Alex Gildzen
"Our Lady of the Dark"
from the NIghtBallet Press book Son of Hollywood, March 2018

John Burroughs
from the NightBallet Press book Loss and Foundering, April 2018

Jeanette Powers
"How We Got to Cedar Creek"
from the NightBallet Press book Gasconade, April 2018

M. J. Arcangelini
"Marcus Has Sold His Pick-Up Truck"
from the NightBallet Press book Waiting for the Wind to Rise, August 2018

Sandra Feen
"Palms Monday"
from the book Fragile Capacities, October 2018

Congratulations to the nominees! We will keep the fingers on both hands crossed as the envelope carrying your works wings its way to New York.

If you wonder how I've arrived at the choices above, it's entirely subjective. These are poems that caught my attention, made me laugh, made me cry, made me want more.

If your work wasn't chosen, please don't think your words touched me any less. I can only choose six poems from all the ones I've published over the last eleven months. Your poetry is just as special to me, and I assure you I'll continue to seek showcases for you and your books.

Thank you, all of you, the poets, the readers, the supporters, for another spectacular year here at NightBallet Press.
I love you.

Sunday, November 18, 2018




Today's NightBallet Press publication of
Throwback Thursdays by Margie Shaheed
is a bittersweet and heartbreaking joy.

The cover photo, a work by the artist Bree, is titled "Longevity 8.7.18" and shows a vibrant sunflower facing both forward and backward. I felt this to be an apt representation of the poetry in Throwback Thursdays.

Before she became ill, Margie and I had talked about the new manuscript she was working on. She was excited about the prospect of having a new book in the new year. When she phoned me in September to tell me she had cancer, she again mentioned her new manuscript. After she died earlier this month, her daughter Aqueelah and I discussed NBP publishing Throwback Thursdays as a posthumous and loving tribute.

photo by the Shaheed family

Today would have been Margie's 60th birthday. Today, this book is published to celebrate and honor her.

Of the fifteen poems in Throwback Thursdays, my personal favorite, and one I think is pure Margie, is "Life Lesson":

Life Lesson

poetry ran through mama's veins like blood
runs out of a slaughtered pigfast and hot
she said life was nothing without the poem
to clarify its existence. i believed her

photo by John Burroughs

Margie Shaheed was a treasured community poet, writer, and performance artist. She was an enthusiastic and dedicated supporter of NightBallet Press. But more than that, she was my friend. I am privileged to have known her, to have heard her read, and to have produced four books for her, including her three previous NBP books of poetry,
Mosaic, Onomatopoeia, and Dream Catcher. I will miss talking with her on the phone. I will miss making books for her.

photo by Chad Parmenteau

NightBallet Press wishes to extend our deepest sympathy to the Shaheed family, and to thank them for allowing us to send Margie Shaheed's poetry, once more, out into the world. NightBallet Press will continue to represent Margie Shaheed, and will continue to make sure her Voice is heard.

Throwback Thursdays is our memorial tribute to this remarkable poet. It is a testimony of Margie's work...her honest, poignant portrayal of an African-American woman's life experiences, memories, and hopes for the future. You may obtain a copy of Margie's final book of poetry by clicking on the PayPal link below.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


born November 18, 1958
died November 3, 2018

Mosaic (NightBallet Press, 2013)
Onomatopoeia (NightBallet Press, 2015)
Dream Catcher (NightBallet Press, 2017)
Tongue Shakers: Interviews and Narratives on Speaking Mother Tongue in a Multicultural Society (Hamilton Books, 2016)
Playground (Hidden Charm Press, 2015)
Throwback Thursdays (NightBallet Press, 2018)

I first met Margie Shaheed when she read for Poetry in the Woods at the Shaker Heights Public Library. Here are several photos from that night. The reading changed both our lives forever. 

(photo by John Burroughs)

(photo by John Burroughs)

(photo by John Burroughs)

On February 14, 2013, at 10:14 pm, I wrote to Margie on FB Messenger:

"Hi, Margie, here I am: Dianne Borsenik, NightBallet Press. LOOOOOOVED your reading tonight! You RAWK, gf! Can't wait to hear more. Let me know when you're reading in the Cleveland area...will try to be there!"

Margie immediately responded:

"Ok. So nice to meet you. I hope we can do a chapbook together. You have a nice looking product. I'll check out your website and we'll talk. Glad u enjoyed the reading. I had fun too."

By March 14, 2013, she had sent me her manuscript of poems, which became Mosaic, the first book NightBallet Press published for her.

(Mac's Backs, Cleveland Heights, OH, 2018,
photo by Chandra Alderman)

                                                                         (Ohioana, Columbus, OH, 2014
                                                                               photo by Julie L. Moore)

(Shoreway Poets, Cleveland, 2014,
photo by Dianne Borsenik)
She sent me two more manuscripts, which became Onomatopoeia and Dream Catcher.

Margie Shaheed was a remarkable force of nature. At the time Margie died,

Dream Catcher was in its 9th printing, in August, 2018.
Onomatopoeia was in its 29th print run.
Mosaic was in its 44th print run.

To the best of my reckoning, with the three titles combined, Margie sold at least 1,800 copies of her NBP books.

A friendship was born that first day we met. She was intelligent, proud, and funny. Although we saw each other only occasionallyshe lived/worked between Cleveland Heights, OH and Memphis, TNwe were in frequent contact. I last saw Margie and heard her read when she visited Cleveland for Kleft/Crisis in April, 2018.

We worked together very well. She trusted my design skills and editing implicitly. I loved her unique Voice and the way she wrote about the African-American experience so clearly, honestly, and poignantly. Her poems were true gems, and I am honored and privileged to have been given the opportunity to publish them.


(Appletree Books, Cleveland Heights, OH,
photo by Dianne Borsenik)

(Guide to Kulchur, Cleveland, OH,
photo by John Burroughs)

From Mosaic:

Nostalgic Hair Affair
for Eula and Alicia

Your life, a shrine I've erected in my mind...
where today I see you sitting on the porch of our Hough
Avenue apartment in a ragged turquoise dining room chair.
Cotton sticks to the back of your housedress whenever you rise.
Barefoot, your toes wiggle against the warm concrete floor in cool
satisfaction of a large jelly jar filled with ice cubes and Pepsi-Cola.
The heat of summer and cornbread and pinto beans cooking
have long pushed you out of the kitchen.

Your life, a shrine I've erected in my mind...
where I hear you call me in from the dirt yard.
Poised for my next shot, I look up at my friend
because now we must abruptly end our game of marbles.
Armed with a brutish Afro comb and hairbrush,
you sit me down between your legs;
your familiar scent settles me.
As you grease my scalp with Dixie Peach
I can't help but remember the first time I met my friend Silk
       "Do you know why dey call me Silk? Cuz, Ah'm sooo Black.
       If you was to rub some Vaseline on mah skin right now,
       I'd look jus' like a pair of black silk stockin's."
I recoil from the pain of teeth
dragging through my resistant napps.
You hit my hand
with the back of the comb
and tell me to be still.

Your life, a shrine I've erected in my mind...
where I feel you momentarily break away from your task
to sing along with a stactic-version of the Temptations
song blaring from our hi-fi.
Although I dare not turn around to look at you
I know your head is bobbing up and down
like an apple in water to the beat.
When the last lyric fades into radio announcements,
your knees tighten against my shoulders.
I wipe the beads of water from my neck,
the sweat that has dripped from the jelly jar,
and I fearfully brace myself for round two.

Your life, a shrine I've erected in my mind...
where my hair eventually loses the fight
                to six plaits intersected by crooked parts.

From Onomatopoeia:

Rhyme and Rituals (Part 1)

We are poem with story to tell 'bout how in Newark Brick City
we hit rhythms hard-pounding beginning from the nature of
rhyme we maintain essential breath dead center of mama's
heartbeat we are rhythm background melody humanity's
collective memory swingin' in the womb rockin' us time-
thrusting forward we are life's ritual voices unleashing
saxophones of pure language yeah soul-stirring music telling
the world what must be told we paste paper to the wall
penning poems and stories in single breaths we are books
breathing pages of tongues loosened & sharpened Piscean
visions blowing we become mouths of air awakened
renewed a-pant of hopes and fulfilled roundness & when
despair and pain come a-creepin' we invoke our warrior
selves to redirect the beat cuz we are notes bent on writing
rhymes rhymes that reaffirm the ritual of telling it exactly like
it is so read our words as we unroll oil dust & silver beats
from underneath fingernails of blue matter contained in
native selfwe seek to understand the compositionblood
is thicker than water & knowing a belly full of gritty hot fish &
buttery grits, a philosopher's stone & a city's bricks it is the
passion from where we live holding it all down keeping it real
like mama's heartbeat background memory humanity's
melody the only rhyme we know we are poem with story to
tell the ritual swingin' in the womb readying to be born

From Dream Catcher:

Age Has Found Me

Age has found me with a tube of red lipstick
a missing front tooth and a partial I had to put
in the layaway cuz it cost too much to buy outright
Got pesky moles removed from my face an early
Christmas present from my friend who told me my skin
would look like the excitement I felt the first time
I went roller skating

Age has found me with a pair of red stilettos
an unused membership to the Y and the good sense
not to have my grandchildren sewn into the hem of my skirt
I've seen this in women I've known beforevoluntarily raising
another set of kidsmakes you forgo the fruit
that makes this old woman shake

Age has found me with a bottle of red nail polish

five bottles of pills a handful of supplements
and doctors' appointments disguised as social events
Mama's wisdom once elusive as an eclipse
canvas stretched over my chest
soft flames fly from my mouth
cuz now I turn my face to hers
as I repeat what she always called truth

Age has found me with a red laced mini-dress
books of blank pages a calligrapher's pen
and a palm full of brown sugar
thrown into a pot of boiling corn
My back is sore my right knee aches
but my strokes are bold and long
penning scripts exploring landscapes
walking the terrain anticipating what's next

No one could deny that Margie Shaheed read her poems slowly, sweetly, truly, from the heart. Her poems were a part of her very being, and everyone who heard her read knew it.

(Mac's Backs, Cleveland Heights, OH,
photo by John Burroughs)

(Appletree Books, Cleveland Heights, OH,
photo by Dianne Borsenik)

Margie phoned me on Friday, September 7, 2018 to say good-bye. I can't believe she's gone. Her daughter Aqueelah has give me permission to publish one last book of poems for Margie. The forthcoming Throwback Thursday will be my tribute to this dear, wonderful, passionate friend.

(Nancy Gerber of Mom Egg Review has also written a tribute piece to Margie Shaheed; you can follow the link to it here.)

 Peace & Blessings to you, Margie. Rest in Peace. I love you. I will never forget you.
                                                          (photo property of Aqueelah Shaheed, 2018)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


NightBallet Press is greatly pleased to announce the publication of
Fragile Capacities
by Sandra Feen!


Fragile Capacities, subtitled School Poems, is the result of a career spent in the classroom. In her 32-year career, Sandra Feen taught high school English, Creative Writing, QUEST, and Humanities, and twice won Teacher-of-the-Year at her school. Feen also taught adult evening high school for several years, along with writing workshops at Ohio State University, Clark State Community College, and Wright State University.

Fragile Capacities contains 40 pages of 21 poems. At times showing frustration, at other times, keen observation and an uncanny ear for dialogue, the poems range from poignant to tragic to triumphant, and Feen's Voice is strong and clear throughout the book.

Before the Tardy Bell

I'm supposed to give you a copy of my anxiety plan
so I don't do this no more
. Stacy holds up arms
sleeved in razor cuts; it says she's to smell lavender candles
next time she's upset. Another girl places
in my other hand her new schedule, just out of juvie.
Others eye an ankle bracelet as she ushers herself, wordless,
to the only seat left, the one in the back with swastikas
carved on its desktop. And the boy next to her
continues to throw spit wads, staples, spiral paper fringe
all over the 40-year-old carpet.
He thinks he can read my mind: Don't think
I'm gonna pick up that piece of trash 'cause that ain't
one I threw!
 A stink bug drops from the ceiling onto
a girl's syllabus. She screams, while another focuses
all her attention on my response to her question pronounced
as a statement: Let me go to the bathroom before the tardy bell.
I miscarried last night and need to go whenever I need to go.

Of Fragile Capacities, Terry Hermsen writes:

"The title of long-time teacher and ever-persistent poet Sandy Feen's new book of poems about her thirty years in the trenches of our schools says it all: we are--and have always been--creatures riding on our "fragile capacities" to foster genuine life, deep connection, and living communities. These poems are a testament to the difficulties our educators now face, when schools are expected to solve all our problems while the support for genuinely innovative instruction remains so weak. These poems let us as readers live that dilemma, and should be a required text for anyone trying to imagine a new world where schools are valued as places of transformation, where we spend more on shoring up our cities, supporting struggling families, and counseling our troubled youth, than on the next round of military deployment and fossil fuel subsidies. These poems show us where the real wars to be won are being fought in our inner city classrooms, by front-line-soldiers-of-the-heart known as our nation's teachers. I come away from this book realizing once again how essential it is that we give teachers credit for what they do--and the resources to truly make change."

Sandra Feen is a former associate editor of Pudding Magazine, and currently works as an independent poetry and urban fiction editor. A member of the poetry troupe Concrete Wink, she has also been a featured reader in and out of Ohio. She has a BFA in Creative Writing and a BS in English Education from Bowling Green State University, and an MA in Literature from Wright State University. She was one of twelve teachers selected for the National Endowment of the Arts' first "Change Course" program, through W.S.U.'s Institute on Writing and Its Teaching. Publications include Poetry Motel, Elastic Ekphrastic, and The Pudding House Gang. Her work has been commissioned as part of Thin Places: Poetry and Art Exhibits and Installations at Columbus, Ohio's Jung Haus, and for the Cap City Poets: Columbus and Central Ohio's Best Known, Read, and Requested Poets anthology. She lives in Grove City, Ohio.

Fragile Capacities will be officially released on Saturday, October 20, at Borderlands: Poetry on the Edge, held at Main Street Books in Mansfield, Ohio, from 2 pm to 4 pm, where Concrete Wink (Sandra Feen, Chuck Salmons, and Rikki Santer...NightBallet poets, all!) will be performing. (Rikki will have copies of her new Crisis Chronicles Book, as well.)
BUT! You can preorder Sandy's book right now, here through PayPal, and I'll put them in the envelope, ready to mail on Friday. Fragile Capacities is only $12 plus $3 shipping/handling. You know you want one! Don't be tardy...order now!  ;)

Pre-Order FRAGILE CAPACITIES by Sandra Feen