Better Than Starbucks
Poetry and Fiction Journal
. . . if you love diversity and creative writing in any and every form, then you’re in the right place . . .
Vol VII No IV
February, May, August,
Regular Feature Pages
Haiku with Kevin McLaughlin
Formal Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch
Poetry Translations with Susan McLean
Poetry for Children with Robert Schechter
Experimental, Form, & Prose Poetry
Better Than Fiction (creative nonfiction)
From The Mind of Alfred Corn
The Story of an Apple Tree by Theodore J. Kooser
189 by A.M. Juster translating Petrarch
Padua by Dennis Andrew S. Aguinaldo
A Country Drowsy by Oladosu Michael Emerald
haiku by Corine Timmer
Precious Life by Ann Anderson Evans
Our Pyrrhic Victory by Alex Gladstone
Five Featured Poems
The Open Road
Cast your fate to the wind in my hair
and Vince Guaraldi’s piano on station
WONE that drowns out the mighty roar
of glass packs on this royal blue
My best friend’s new Thunderbird
convertible zooms to eighty miles per
along an empty country road,
our shared past as narrow as the
we tear across, burning rubber,
our future as infinite as the asphalt
ribbon of unknown we crave,
wheels hardly grazing
because we’re eighteen and we think
we could be brilliant, we could be tall,
we could be strong, we could be brave,
we could be beautiful, we could be
Terri Paul is an award-winning novelist (Glass Hearts, Academy Chicago, 1999, 2012) and poet. Her poems have appeared in numerous literary magazines. Visit https://www.terri-paul.com for a complete list of her work.
after a performance of Edward Elgar’s op. 36 by the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra, Plymouth, Massachusetts
for Drew and Joel
Enigmas everywhere beguile the ear,
the mind, the heart, inviting us to plumb
unfathomable depths and overhear
inscrutable secrets. We three succumb
to modest melody: dark sighs that bear
untraceable allusions. Then we wonder
at its transfiguration: near-despair
translated into comfort, then a thunder
of turbulence too fierce for explication.
Each variation’s title drops a hint,
but we read gliding bows, brass agitation,
the insides of our eyelids. And by dint
of sharing all this, we’re beguiled as well
by friendship’s rich and enigmatic spell.
Jean L. Kreiling is the prize-winning author of three poetry collections, Shared History (2022), Arts & Letters & Love (2018), and The Truth in Dissonance (2014); she is an Associate Poetry Editor for Able Muse: A Review of Poetry, Prose & Art.
He signs his name with a clean, white skull
or a sun-bleached rib cage lying empty
in an arid landscape; as if it’s office work
he does, not butchery, and there’s never
any flesh to rot, just gem-hard bone
to set against the darkness.
He signed for her that day
when a billion blood-eyed black cicadas
filled every open space
with a single voice
that grew muffled, then fell silent
when they found her.
Blurring the lines between what’s living,
dead, and dying, they were gone
as suddenly as she was.
He signed for them too
in a florid script of chitin
and red rubies scattered everywhere,
but I know they will be back again
one warm spring day.
Theirs is the only resurrection I believe in.
Donald Sellitti retired after a thirty-eight-year career in research and teaching at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. Published extensively in medical journals, he has recently had poems published in Lighten-Up, Autumn Sky, and Snakeskin.
The Interview — Matvei Yankelevich
by Anthony Watkins
Matvei Yankelevich is an émigré poet, translator, and editor. His books include the poetry collections Some Worlds for Dr. Vogt (Black Square) and Dead Winter (Fonograf), as well as the translations Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms (Overlook) and Alexander Vvedensky's An Invitation for Me to Think (NYRB Poets; with Eugene Ostashevsky), winner of the 2014 National Translation Award. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities, among others. In the 1990s, he co-founded Ugly Duckling Presse where he edited and designed books, periodicals, and ephemera for more than twenty years. As of 2022, he is editor of World Poetry Books, a nonprofit publisher of poetry in translation. He teaches translation and book arts at Columbia University's School of the Arts.
AW: I read a bio of yours stating you are a professor of translations and book arts at Columbia. First, that seems pretty impressive, but I have a question, and yes, I googled to see if I could figure it out, but what are “book arts”?
MY: “Book arts” is my shorthand for the prismatic field between “artists books” and “book works” by artists (terms coined in the 1970s), the longer history of avant-garde books (from Cendrars & Delauney’s Prose of the Trans-Siberian to Russian Futurism to Fluxus), poet-printers from William Blake to Johanna Drucker, and various other peripheral publishing, outside of the commercial book trade, like small press chapbooks and zines. It’s not a great shorthand, but I haven’t figured out a better one. In the course I created for the Columbia Writing MFA more than ten years ago, I try to give writers some tools for thinking about the book (as a structure, as a social instrument), to show them a variety of nontraditional approaches to making books. We get our hands on paper, experiment with folding and sequence, and DIY forms of editioning (photocopiers, printers, sometimes a little letterpress) and also dig in the archives and rare books collections at a number of institutions, to hold these things and turn their pages — whatever they’re made of. I have had a number of book artists and artists book publishers visit the class to do some show and tell, as well. And there’s a wealth of literature for them to read on the subject, from Drucker’s text-book-style survey (A Century of Artists Books), to interviews with small press publishers like Lyn Hejinian, to manifestos like Ulises Carrion’s “The New Art of Making Books” — which I’ve borrowed for the name of the course in recent years.
Naming of Souls
“Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,”
Henry Reed, Lessons of the War, I. The Naming of Parts
Today we exploded the turret of a tank. Yesterday,
we did the same, and two days before that
in locations north of here we exploded personnel
carriers. Reporting the emergence of jonquils in sunny
patches is discouraged. Personnel destroyed
may be estimated by failure to emerge.
The enemy shot men in Bucha, apparently
an error in procedure for they were not in uniform.
Some shot men are knocked back, others
collapse and tremble while dying. The greening of trees
there is barely recognizable on stark branches
overhanging the dead.
Locations of family members are difficult to trace,
and inquiries displace unit communications.
Particularly difficult are questions about the son
you used to take hunting and the grandchildren
you would sing to. The shelling of a train station
during evacuation has been protested.
Concern for the counting of souls shattered, or,
in accordance with certain beliefs, released,
is unofficially permitted except during firing.
Predictions of when the dogwoods will blossom in white
with blood are nonessential, and the naming of souls
must await the advent of peace.
Jim Jordan’s poems have appeared in Birdsong, Moving Images: Poetry Inspired by Film, and Le Mot Juste, the annual anthology of Just Poets in Rochester, New York He has served as associate editor and editor of Le Mot Juste.
My father didn’t know a day of rest.
Even Sundays, he would get up early,
dress in shorts and sandals to head out
to the grocery store before the morning rush.
He’d drive into the shimmering dawn, return
home with heavy sacks of milk and honey —
I never thought to praise him. But I’d wake
to the lawn mower’s hymn and curse the noise
that roused me out of bed, and in my slippers,
I would stumble to the kitchen, always find
an apple fritter waiting just for me.
This was our Sunday ritual of sweets
and sacrifice. Outside, he tended to
an Eden that I couldn’t wait to leave.
Katherine Hoerth is the author of five poetry collections, including the forthcoming Flare Stacks in Full Bloom (Texas Review Press, 2022). She is an assistant professor at Lamar University and editor of Lamar University Literary Press.
Yair Mejía on Unsplash.