Tag Archives: Light Magazine

Melissa Balmain, ‘Fallen’

As a kid growing up in New York,
I considered our fall second rate:
how I longed for the grand, mythological land
we exotically labeled Upstate.

In that Eden, I’d heard, leaves turned bright,
endless acres of yellows and reds,
while my single tree browned, dropping one tiny mound
that I kicked to the curb with my Keds.

Now I live several hours to the north,
and the maples and oaks truly blaze—
hues so loud they look fake—till the time comes to rake
without stopping, for numberless days.

And I daydream of trips farther south,
of the places I’ll shop, stroll and dine
in that part of the map where the leaves may be crap
but you don’t need a rod in your spine.

*****

Melissa Balmain writes: “Like so many poems I write, this is a case of making lemonade out of lemons—or, more accurately, salad out of way too many leaves. My husband would like it known that in our family, he does most of the raking. But I do most of the talking about raking.”

‘Fallen’ was first published in Lighten Up Online.

Melissa Balmain edits Light, America’s longest-running journal of light verse. Her poems and prose have appeared widely in the US and UK. She’s the author of the full-length poetry collection Walking in on People (Able Muse Press), chosen by X.J. Kennedy for the Able Muse Book Award, and the shorter, illustrated The Witch Demands a Retraction: Fairy-Tale Reboots for Adults (Humorist Books). Her next full-length collection, Satan Talks to His Therapist, is due out in fall 2023.

Photo: “A walk in the woods” by Let Ideas Compete is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Jerome Betts, ‘Grim Harvester’

Two walkers once, who left the path
With fleeting union in mind,
Were reaped – oh, tragic aftermath! –
And permanently here combined.

*****

Jerome Betts is the Featured Poet in the current issue of Light. I was glad to provide an introduction to the man and his poetry in that magazine’s Spotlight – the short poem I’ve quoted above is a personal favourite: it is a tight, well-structured play on the ‘grim reaper’ and the ‘combine harvester’.

He lives in Devon, England, where he edits the quarterly Lighten Up Online. Pushcart-nominated twice, his verse has appeared in a wide variety of UK publications and in anthologies such as Love Affairs At The Villa NelleLimerick Nation, The Potcake Chapbooks 1, 2 and 12, and Beth Houston’s three Extreme collections. British, European, and North American web venues include Amsterdam QuarterlyBetter Than StarbucksLightThe Asses of ParnassusThe HypertextsThe New Verse News, and  Snakeskin.

Photo: “Combine Harvester (Deutz-Faher TopLiner 4090 HTS) – at work at Moyvalley, Co. Kildare, Ireland. September 1st 2011” by Peter Mooney is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Short poem: ‘Thoughts Pop’

Thoughts pop in your head…
should you say them or not?
There’s a lot to be said
for not saying a lot.

*****

This little poem goes very nicely with another short one, ‘Rainbow‘. They were published together in Light this month.

thought” by freshphoto is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Short poem: ‘Rainbow’

God made the rainbow as a sign
for post-Flood men to see.
The sign says, “I am Merciful–
and you better fucking agree.”

*****

According to the Book of Genesis, after God flooded the entire world He told the one surviving family: “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.”

There are so many things to love in all this: the Noah’s Ark story, and the toys of it that delight children; the beauty of rainbows themselves; the alternative explanation that Irish leprechauns make rainbows to mark where they bury their gold; the Biblical suggestion that water droplets didn’t cause refraction of light before the Flood; the calculation that rain, to have flooded Mount Everest in 40 days, must have fallen at 29 feet per hour for that entire time… and above all the idea that God needed the rainbow to remind Him not to kill everyone whenever He gets angry.

But hey – rainbows are beautiful, at least we can all agree on that.

This poem was published in the most recent issue of Light.

Noah’s Ark” by Svadilfari is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Julia Griffin: ‘Arachne’s Double’

We had a lot in common:
Grey eyes to stop and summon;
A taste for shifts and shuttles,
For instigating battles;
An aptitude for order,
A talent to embroider.
We kept ourselves in stitches;
We were each other’s matches.

As deity and woman,
We shared a kind of famine;
Vicarious in action,
Our work confined to fiction,
To woven elegiacs,
We craved our own heroics:
To beat our favourite heroes;
To share their blazing sorrows.

What have we now in common,
Besides not being human?
Only the understanding
Of what is past amending:
That all this endless weaving
Is just suspended living.
That loving is devouring.
That starving is enduring.

*****

Julia Griffin writes: “That appeared in Mezzo Cammin 14.2 (Winter, 2019). I’m pleased with it because I feel the form works with the subject-matter. It was inspired by a dear friend of mine, Candy Schille, who died tragically in November 2017: she was so quick and charismatic, and we had a sort of sparring relationship before we became friends.”

Julia Griffin lives in south-east Georgia/ south-east England. She has published in Light, LUPO, Mezzo Cammin, and some other places, though Poetry and The New Yorker indicate that they would rather publish Marcus Bales than her. Her poem ‘Wasp Waste’ was reprinted in the Potcake Chapbook ‘Robots and Rockets‘, and much more of her poetry can be found in Light, at https://lightpoetrymagazine.com/?s=julia+g&submit=Search

Photo: “Arachne” by J. Star is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Resources: Light poetry magazine

Light‘ has just published its winter/spring 2022 issue… perhaps a little late, but it still has snow on the cover. Originally founded in 1992 by John Mella as the print magazine Light Quarterly with the mission to “restore humor, clarity, and pleasure to the reading of poems”, it is now biannual. It moved online in 2013, and all issues since then can be read for free on its website, along with excerpts from print issues dating back to 1999. Under current editor Melissa Balmain and her staff of fellow volunteers, it remains the oldest and best-known journal of light verse in the U.S.

I used to think of magazines as purely ephemeral, things to be skimmed and discarded unless a page or photo was worth retaining by tearing out physically or saving online. Light, however, has made me pay attention to how many resources are made available through a well-managed publication. In this case you get the following:
1. The magazine – some 50 poets with one or several pieces each – a great way to be exposed to, and kept up to date on, the range of light formal verse being produced in the English-speaking world today;
2. and more extensive work by, and coverage of, a featured poet – someone with a strong track record, worth learning about their work and career;
3. and (sometimes) an additional light-verse-related feature or essay;
4. and (always) reviews of light-verse books, and/or books that at least have a large helping of comic poetry – and I’m happy to say that the Potcake Chapbooks are again mentioned this issue!
5. and general news: the News page carries info on: 1- events of interest to Light poets (i.e., readings, workshops, and so forth involving light verse and/or Light poets); 2- contests and submission calls friendly to comic poets; 3- awards and honors received by Light contributors and volunteers; 4- books and, occasionally, music by Light poets. **NOTE: Poets and editors are encouraged to email editor Melissa Balmain with info appropriate for the News page: lightpoetrymagazine@gmail.com
6. and the magazine even runs light-verse events! Recordings of its “Light Verse in Dark Times” Zoom series are on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-tR4v4H23BUg5ZDUJlU7fA. In pre-Covid days, Light hosted live readings in Washington, DC, and at the AWP conference in San Antonio, TX. Its first live event in two years will be a reading in honor of Light’s 30th anniversary, May 26 (next week!) at the Poetry by the Sea conference in Madison, CT;
7. and the current-events Poems of the Week (POTW), a mailing list you can join (or find on the Light website’s Home Page) for a weekly blast of 10-12 snappy, snippy comments on the absurdities and iniquities of the world.

So, more than just being a skimmable and disposable magazine, Light provides a doorway to an extensive community, with each issue providing the work of dozens of current poets, and opportunities to go deeper into the world of formal light verse either online or in person, and to be engaged with it actively or passively, weekly, twice-yearly, or as you feel like.

Of course Light also provides an opportunity for a poet to submit their own work: just read an issue or two, and go to https://lightpoetrymagazine.submittable.com/submit to get the details on how (and what) to submit to either the magazine or the POTW.

And for those who think this is the most worthy (free) enterprise they have run across in a long while, their donation page is here: https://lightpoetrymagazine.com/donate/)

R.I.P. Susan de Sola

Wonderfully warm and witty poet Susan de Sola passed away last week after a short battle with cancer–she was only 59, very active, and had recently published ‘Frozen Charlotte‘ with Able Muse Press. Tributes in Snakeskin’s blog and Light Poetry Magazine have shown some of her charming, amusing work.

Her work appeared in a couple of the Potcake Chapbooks–‘Family and Other Fiascoes’ and ‘Strip Down’–but I think the most fitting poem for showing her spirit is the last poem in ‘Frozen Charlotte’. She likens the lives of humans to the brief lives of fruit flies and ends, acceptingly, with
“The fruit is fine, the day is long.
Let us feed, buzz, rejoice
.”

Indeed. But many of us miss you, all the same.

Potcake Poet’s Choice: Julia Griffin, ‘The Buck Stops’

A buck stopped here last Saturday early,
Just as the streets were turning blue.
A fine six-pointer, bronzed and burly:
What had it come for? Nobody knew.

It took its stand at the central bus stop,
Silent, proud-footed, thorny-topped.
There perhaps it had once seen us stop;
All that morning, nobody stopped.

It hardly seemed the thing to confront it.
We’ve little practice with bucks or deer;
Anyway, nobody tried to hunt it;
Anyway, nobody asked it here,

Maimed it, lamed it, blamed or shamed it!
This, in fact, is the most one can say:
A buck stopped here and nobody claimed it.
It waited a while, then it wandered away.

Julia Griffin writes: “I like the central image of a buck stopping. And it seems so widely applicable… I turn everything into an animal poem if I can.”

Julia Griffin lives in south-east Georgia/ south-east England. She has published in Light, LUPO, Mezzo Cammin, and some other places, though Poetry and The New Yorker indicate that they would rather publish Marcus Bales than her.

More of her poetry can be found in Light, at https://lightpoetrymagazine.com/?s=julia+g&submit=Search

Review: Max Gutmann, ‘Light and Comic Verse’

Quirkily-workily
Jorge Bergolio,
On a career path with
Quite a steep slope,

Unostentatiously
Worked as a janitor,
Then as a bouncer, and
Then as the Pope.

This elegant double dactyl on the life of Pope Francis is representative of ‘The Hearthside Treasury of Light and Comic Verse’: interesting, witty, technically perfect. The poems include limericks, clerihews, varieties of ballades, and are purported to be written by a variety of poets, several of whom are claimed to be the first-ever winner of the prestigious Blackfrier Prize for Poetry. The book’s veneer of being ‘edited by Max Gutmann’ is worn even thinner with the bio of his least likely poet, Ed Winters… “A devotee of Hemingway, Hart Crane and Sylvia Plath, Winters shot himself in the mouth while diving from a ship with his head in an oven.”

The book includes two pages of riddles in rhyme, of enjoyable difficulty: half were guessable for me, half not. There is also a full-length Poe parody (‘Quoth the Parrot: “Cracker. Now!”); scenes from The Merchant of Venice, King Lear and Titus Andronicus rewritten by W.S. Gilbert; outrage at the Trump presidency, the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and the US Supreme Court’s appalling excuse for subverting the 2000 Presidential election; a poem appropriately written in the form of a dozen eggs; and various puns, off-colour jokes and random surprises. Many of the poems have previously appeared in Light poetry magazine, many others in a range from Asses of Parnassus to the Washington Post.

As for “The Hearthside Treasury” part of the book’s title… though there was (or is) a Hearthside Press, active from the mid-1950s to mid-70s; and an unrelated Hearthside Books, active from the mid-70s to the present, sort of; this “Hearthside Treasury” appears unconnected to anything. Indeed, it’s not even available on Amazon. It doesn’t have an ISBN. All this is a pity, as it is as enjoyable a book of light and comic verse as you can find anywhere. If you want a copy – and if you enjoy comic verse you really ought to have one – you’re going to have to contact the author directly through his website (which mostly focuses on his plays) at maxgutmann.com

Potcake Poet’s Choice: Melissa Balmain, ‘Fluffy Weighs in on the Baby’

It’s hairless as an egg—
why bother petting that?
It doesn’t purr or groom your leg,
and yet you feed the brat.

Instead of catching mice,
it grapples with its socks.
It’s never taken my advice
to use the litter box.

It can’t climb up a tree,
it can’t chase balls of string,
it leaves you zero time for me—
just eat the wretched thing.

‘Fluffy Weighs in on the Baby’ is reprinted from Walking in on People (Able Muse Press)

Melissa Balmain writes: “The great light poet Bob McKenty calls himself ‘an editorial cartoonist who can’t draw.’ Given my fondness for writing persona poems, I think I qualify as a method actor who can’t act. As you might guess, adopting a persona lets me try on fresh points of view and say things I might not think to say (or dare to say) as myself. Plus, it can be a fun vehicle for mockery—as in ‘Fluffy,’ which aims its claws at new parents who ignore their pets. (Yes, I was one of those new parents…) Over the years I’ve attempted to channel not just animals and fellow humans in my poems, but also cartoon characters, plants, water, Satan, a dictionary, and, in my latest book, fairy tale characters. It’s the closest I’ll get to a SAG card.”

Melissa Balmain edits Light, America’s longest-running journal of light verse. Her poems and prose have appeared widely in the US and UK. She’s the author of the full-length verse collection Walking in on People (Able Muse Press), chosen by X.J. Kennedy for the Able Muse Book Award; and the shorter collection The Witch Demands a Retraction: Fairy-Tale Reboots for Adults, new from Humorist Books. She is a recovering mime.