Author: North of Oxford

A journal of book reviews, commentary, essays and poetry.

Two Poems by Guinotte Wise

Poet Lariat
I’m not a Poet Laureate
of even a one-horse Kansas town
But. I’m a Poet Lariat
which is a poet with some dusty duct-taped boots
who drew some bulls at the here and there
jackpot rodeos in towns you never drove through.
I was committed to my horses, you can say that
about me if nothing else.
They lived their lives at Wise Acres,
good lives, too. They liked me fine,
and I was so fond of them. Good feed,
pasture, shots and care and ten thousand
mile checkups, no harsh words.
They came to me and dipped their heads
into their halters, stood for the farrier,
stood while I put my foot in the stirrup,
and I cried when they died. And I was
there. They knew that, cold and rain and
storms. I owed them that and more. They
talked to me, and I, to them, if you know
what I mean. A poet lariat would know.
The Spoon Lady
Time honored spoon play is what she
orchestrates with washboard, tin cups,
a bell or two sometimes, but her spoons
are magic and her hands dip and fly as
her instruments of choice create a cadence
I wish I could make my words snap and
clack and emulate, the click, the tang, the
perfect flow and flourish, but also the
birdlike hands that follow through and dive
along the jingle and the arabesque of ring
and ping and flick of metal bowls caressing
her sleeve, the back of her balletic hand and
chattering clattering with decisive pops on
the backbeat continuous flashing magick of
an Appalachian family playing to survive
another winter another coal mine cave-in
head of household rises flatfoots slowly
at first, his arms seem to float for balance
and his heel and toe match the spoons as
he gains speed no expression on his face
he is propelled by spoons and centuries
and the eerie harmony of an entire family
escaping through Wildwood Flower and
a boy on banjo as big as himself. The
spoons sound like lovely skeletons.
Guinotte Wise writes and welds steel sculpture on a farm in Resume Speed, Kansas. His short story collection (Night Train, Cold Beer) won publication by a university press and enough money to fix the soffits. Five more books since. His fiction, essays and poetry have been published in numerous literary journals including Atticus, The MacGuffin, Southern Humanities Review,  Rattle and The American Journal of Poetry. His wife has an honest job in the city and drives 100 miles a day to keep it. (Until shelter in place order) Some work is at


& Peacocks in Trees by Susana H. Case

& Peacocks in Trees
& fog at night lingering
& a black bear with rope
strung through his snout
& a boy pulling it
who offers to pose for photos
& what first seems
to be furniture in a chai shop
but is a man
in rags asleep upright
& a radio that plays only static
& everyone coughing coughing
& a tourist who brags in broken
English of the fifty grams
of dope he smokes each day
& a night watchman
who takes a bribe to unlock
a tower with a marble casket
& the Taj Mahal in moonlight
before the workers shout
to open the massive doors
& the ghosts of suicides
who jumped from the stairs
near the gateway
& the beggar who offers
to leap into a well for rupees
who when I say no looks down
in disappointment
photo--Susana H Case
SUSANA H. CASE is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Dead Shark on the N Train in 2020 from Broadstone Books. Drugstore Blue (Five Oaks Press) won an IPPY Award in 2019. She is also the author of five chapbooks, two of which won poetry prizes. Her first collection, The Scottish Café, from Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press. Poems by Case have appeared in Calyx, Catamaran, The Cortland Review, Portland Review, Potomac Review, Rattle, RHINO and many other journals. Case is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology in New York City.

Two Poems by Don Riggs

Yesterday when I was walking home
from making those essential purchases
that justify my walking out in the world,
and was listening to the trees seethe
with breath anticipating rain, I passed
a blossoming tree–after all, it’s spring–
suddenly caught up in a whirling wind
and I found myself surrounded by pink
petals in a sudden dense flurry,
an unaccustomed sweet delicacy,
a fragrance meant ordinarily
for bees, to attract them to the nectar
that is the refined drink of the Greek gods
but the Greek gods are extinct now, so I
may as well get drunk on archaic fragrance.
Last Wishes
Back when he was my father-in-law, he
told my then-wife that if he ever lost
the use of his legs, he wanted to die.
Fortunately, or un-, he lost his mind
and saw strange spirits walking through the house
before that part of the brain that controls
the motor functions disintegrated.
When I last talked to Marta over the phone,
she and her mother were both exhausted
from packing all the furniture, dishes,
books, the machinery in Papa’s shop,
to be moved to the nursing home or sold.
That, and from caring for a sentient
metabolism without self control.
  Don Riggs has been writing verses, if not poetry, since 1964, when he published some in The Pine Cone, newspaper of Pinecrest Elementary School. He has gone through periods of influence from Edward Lear to Longfellow to Dylan Thomas to James Wright to Emily Dickinson till now he writes ten syllables per line for fourteen lines. Count them! He writes each morning in the bath.

Two Poems by William Taylor


MEGHNA Meghna Art

Blinking Beneath the Sun
A little while back when they opened me up
to replace my faulty heart valve
and something went a little wrong, I don’t know.
They installed the valve okay, but the two
chambers of my heart stopped talking
to each other and they had to give me
a temporary, and then a permanent pacemaker.
I was semi-conscious when they installed the thing
and it was like listening to two guys at a discount
garage putting in a car battery:
“Why you doing it that way? That’s not the way
I was taught to do it.”
“That’s not how those wires go.”
“O, fuck.”
Anyway, I survived and I stand in front of the mirror
studying my scars. I don’t mind them as much
as I imagined I might.
There’s, of course, the vertical one
from where they split apart my sternum,
there’s a diagonal one on my upper chest
just below my left shoulder
where they put in the pacemaker
and there are three little horizontal slits
where tubes protruded from my stomach.
Most of the time I don’t think about it
but sometimes I remember that I am being kept alive
by some thing in my chest the size of an iPhone
that runs on batteries and wires
and I freak out a bit.
I feel like a Frankenstein
or a cyborg,
I feel like I’m already dead.
I get nervous the same way
I get nervous when I fly
because I think of how my life depends
upon some damnable contraption
invented and slapped together by some random assholes.
Who’s to say they weren’t drunk or vengeful
or hungover when they tightened those screws?
But then I get over it mostly because while I don’t
trust humans I trust god even less, so I figure
I’m as good as the next guy blinking beneath the sun
waiting for his wires to snap or his
doohickey to sputter out for good
with all the warranties expired.
We wait in the dark outside
the glow of trainwrecks
and the burning cities
we always knew
these things would find us
it’s just the broken sky
it’s just the fire singing
the only songs it knows
its just dust and bone
and the ghosts of the lonely
and forgotten swimming
through our blood
trying to make their way
back home
there’s nothing needs saving
that will be saved
it’s nothing worth mentioning
it’s just the way it was written
in sand and stone
and the last look on her face
things will be quiet again
like before we were born
that beautiful silence
darling you can cry
for as long as you wish
the weeping is just a moment
a moment is just forever
cling to me in the pretty rain
until the ancient sorrow
of everything finally
finds and reclaims us
as its own.
newest bill2.5
William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.  He is the author of numerous books of poetry, and a volume of fiction. His work has been published widely in journals across the globe, including Rattle, The New York Quarterly, and The American Journal of Poetry. He is a five time Pushcart Prize nominee and was a recipient of the 2013 Kathy Acker Award. Pretty Words to Say, (Six Ft. Swells Press, 2020) is his latest collection of poetry.

Three Poems by Mary Shanley

IMG_5017 (2)
Blown Away
Little leaf
you were blown away
so easily.
In the end, you were so beaten down,
there wasn’t much of the earth element
remaining in you; glistening, you were
mostly spirit.
With your last breath,
you exhaled and arose
into the arms of the golden
beings of light, who awaited
your arrival and greeted you
with songs of celebration and joy.
I can no longer hug you
or hear your voice
but, believe you are safely
in the company of loved ones
who have already floated
out of their bodies, into pure
You no longer need to bear
the loneliness of the nursing home.
No longer captured by schizophrenia
and a wheelchair.
Now, you fly free, with the Blakean
angels and guardian spirits who
accompany you through the spheres
to your
place on the bardo thodol,
to your place in heaven,
to your place next to Mom.
She travels beyond the narrows
of time and destination.
Bravely invoking the uncalculated
journey, she watches it unroll before her,
like a Turkish rug.
She is wearing a Dada t-shirt,
as she revolves around the earth.
She doesn’t stop to consider the content
of her days. In the moment, boundless
form the trail she follows, unaided by compass
or companion.
Watch, as her amazed eyes peer into
her deepest place.
She calls each day forever.
Her hands worship the immensity
of the deepest blue sky, a portal
into eternity.
She counts blessings and adjusts
to reverses, allowing for support,
when needed.
Along her enchanted road, when organic
connections are made, the presence of these
kindred spirits send a quiver of shimmering
energy down her spine.
Posture of Defeat
She was hunched over
like a woman with advanced
osteo of the spine – but that’s
not it. Her posture indicated
her psychological state. After
forty years of battling schizophrenia,
institutionalizations, shock treatments
and toxic medication, her delusions
finally won out; exercising
an erratic control over her personality
and her body..
She has been entirely captured
by this vicious disease, allowed few
decisions. Her dyed black hair hangs lifeless,
her tongue droops over her lower lip, drooling;
her fingernails overgrown.
It is a deep jungle; she is in there.
Mary Shanley is a poet/storyteller, living in New York City with her wife.
She began publishing poetry at the behest of Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr
in 1984. She first published in Long Shot Magazine, co-founded by Allen
Ginsberg and Danny Shot. Since that time, she had had three books of poetry
published and one book of short stories.

Farmers, Queens, Trains and Clowns by g emil reutter


Please share with others who may have an interest 

Alien Buddha Press has just released g emil reutter’s poetry collection, Farmers, Queens, Trains and Clowns.

The collection is available on Amazon at this link: 

What Others Say about Farmers, Queens, Trains and Clowns by g emil reutter

In g emil reutter’s Farmers, Queens, Trains, and Clowns we are treated to a panorama of a fractured Americana. The singer/seer/poet weaves the celebratory and the lament in his masterful “Philadelphia.” The ghost of a railway station is conjured along with the past majesty of derelict neighborhoods. Gut-wrenching abandonment abounds—turkey buzzards on rooftops, icy furnaces,  vacant-eyed buildings, carp that float sideways next to legless frogs. Laced through the graffiti-scarred souls who wander these poems, the moon’s splendor shines as does the richness of family and the poet’s compassion. reutter blesses us with a raw poetry of savage beauty like his bees encased in a silken coffin. His acute powers of observation witness the spider’s captive brown butterfly as well as what is ensnared in the vibrating strands of a divided America.  We are left with the haunting image of Orion frozen with his back to the earth as if an entire civilization has been discarded.

            —-Stephanie Dickinson, author of The Emily Fables and Big-Headed Anna Imagines Herself

Red, white, and blue-collar—g emil reutter champions the past glory of America, finding triumph in his avid, dead-on descriptions. Suicide, cancer, abandoned tracks, those down-at-the-heels and down on their luck—these are the subjects this poet describes with boundless compassion, flawless cadence, and drum-tight metaphors. Here is a distinctive, authentic, and powerful voice. And beautiful. He makes rust sing.

            -– Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, author of Party Everywhere 

You can get the book here:

A reading from 2018

What Are the Chances? By Robert Scotellaro

By Charles Rammelkamp

In the story “Plink!” in Robert Scotellaro’s new collection a man stands at a window, mesmerized, watching diamond-like hailstones falling out of the sky, pelting the asphalt, the sidewalks, the sides of cars. “Then it stops. The way magic often does.” That’s an apt description of the sixty-eight marvelous little stories, ranging from a couple of paragraphs to no more than three pages, that make up What Are the Chances? First of all, they do feel magical, with so many strange characters, often costumed, popping off the page, snaring your attention – like hailstones – and then the payoff, the flash that makes “flash fiction” flash fiction, the sudden illumination of character or scene. And then the story stops.

Stories like “Mr. Nasty,” “The Cleaning” Girl,” “Bad-Boy Wannabe and the Cephalopod Empire,” and the single-paragraph, “Death’s Late-Night Walks,” among others, feature characters in dress-up; the German word maskenfreiheit – signaling the freedom conferred by masks – come to life. In “Mr. Nasty” a man flirts with a hired birthday party performer, who is dressing up as Snow White, the entertainment at a party for his daughter, while aware of the watchful eyes of his mother-in-law and wife. Nothing comes of it, of course, but the tension is like lightning. Similarly, the Bad-Boy Wannabe watches his devil’s mask blow away from his head in a breeze, exposing him, while he tries to impress a girl in a squid mask, the two sharing a joint. But, unmasked now as he is, she is out of his league. The cleaning girl dresses up in her employer’s jewels and furs while the homeowners are away, fantasizing the luxury, only to get a bad scare when the doorbell rings, sure she’s busted.  However briefly, we feel all of these characters’ illicit feelings, the lust, the covetousness, the fear.

Although some of the stories are truly grim, ominous, like the title story in which the protagonists come home to find their home robbed and a lethal butcher knife displayed on the bed, or “The Pencil,” in which a schoolkid hides in a bathroom stall while a shooter guns down his classmates, most are funny. They feature likable schmoes to whom we can all relate, walk in their shoes – in their masks – indeed. In “Those Eyes in the Rearview,” a man gets into the Uber he’s just called. “I saw his eyes in the rearview. They were red and crazed.” The driver tells his passenger that he’s just killed a man he caught sleeping with his wife, and the passenger is his hostage. Like the passenger, we feel our blood pressure rise, our pulses race; only, two-thirds of the way through the story, the driver “pulls off his mask,” reveals he is an aspiring actor and was just having the passenger on. “That was some top-notch acting, right?” he boasts. “Come on, give me that.”

In the story, “Flatware,” we encounter a similarly bizarre situation in which a man is sure his home is being broken into and stabs a fork into the neck of the “intruder,” only to learn that the intruder is the brother of his neighbor, come to retrieve a ball his nephew has knocked over the fence into the protagonist’s yard. A comic rush to the emergency room follows, the protagonist taking full responsibility. When they return, the protagonist apologizes again (and again), shakes the man’s hand, returns to the kitchen where he’d been eating his Chinese takeout (hence, the fork conveniently in his hand when the “burglar” came in), “wondering if I should call Tina at her sister’s, where she always went after one of our big blow-outs.” In a flash, then, we see the backstory, why this guy was on edge in the first place.

In the story, “Wise Sunglasses,” the lonely unnamed female protagonist collects sunglasses – her mask. In an aside, Scotellaro writes, “The heart-shaped pair were Pete’s favorites. ‘My Lolita,’ he’d say, though she was far from it, and he’d find the real thing soon enough.” That’s about all we hear about “Pete,” but in a flash we intuit the protagonist’s loneliness, the betrayal at its base. She’s wearing her owl sunglasses when the story concludes, “not feeling the least bit wise.”

In “A Disadvantage of Momentum” we encounter Phil and Nan, post-surgery in a hospital room where Phil lies, recuperating. At their weekly session with a couples counselor, Heidi, they’d been told to “spice it up” after they’d become empty-nesters, the last kid off to college. Nan goes along with one of Phil’s adolescent fantasies, while they are driving home from dinner, her face in his lap, but a sudden fender bender at a stoplight results in a bite too deep. Nan asks Phil, “Anything left?” “Enough,” he replies. The story ends:

They heard some laughter and watched as shadows gathered behind the curtain, grew. Then a hand reached in and swung it open.    

Of course, some stories are better than others. I’m not going to rank all sixty-eight, but every one of them does pack that flash punch. Robert Scotellaro is a master of this form. It’s magic!

You can find the book here:

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.

I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood By Tiana Clark

i cant
By Lynette Esposito
I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark published by Pittsburgh University Press in the Pitt Poetry Series is an amazing collection of verse.
The ninety-nine pages of poems vary in style, length and subject but are connected by a raw honesty that reveals stark truths. For example, on page three in her poem, Cross/Bite, Clark describes a difficult birth.
          I was born into the world sideways.
    Doctor said.
            surgery to break my face
set it right again
              as f breaking were simple.
 This poem represents a harsh beginning that makes the narrator’s jaw click like typewriter keys, yet she remains unbroken and thankful.  The form supports the images and revelations in this poem by having ragged lines on the right.  It suggests, among other things, like white sand in the mouth, an uneven life from the very onset and the uneasy decisions that are made from the beginning of existence.
In the poem, In the Middle Things on page eighty-eight, the narrator is grown but acknowledges the desire for information on an unknown absent father.
       My daddy   is what    is always   at stake   in all   my work
       I want to know if he is still                                alive—
       If he thinks of me as often I think of him.
       I am still that baby, alone
       In the incubator, yelping    for more and more breath
       with moist, moth-like wings for lungs.
       Only my mother’s name is on my birth certificate
The poem skillfully uses spacing, and word groupings as techniques to emphasize the desire to understand where one comes from, who one’s fathers are and what that does to one’s lives.  Her images reek of longing and wondering.  It is a strong poem that is worthy of being read and read again.
The book is divided into four sections, I Can’t Talk, About the Trees, Without the Blood and an Epilogue that has quotes from Muriel Rukeyser and Gwendolyn Brooks. This is a poet who is not afraid to quote other poets throughout the book as well.
The book is the winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize.  Justly so.  The poems are consistently strong and complex.  The images are fresh and interesting.  This is a good read for lovers of poetry.
Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.
The book is available from

Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed The World by Jonathan Bates


By Byron Beynon

Jonathan Bate’s new biography of William Wordsworth, published to mark the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the poet’s birth, guides us through the life and makes a strong case of why we should care about the poet’s work today.
Bate focuses and notes a climate of ideas, that Wordsworth ‘wrote with unprecedented sympathy for the poor, the excluded and the broken’. He ‘changed the way we perceive, inhabit and preserve the wilder places of the natural world’. He also ‘foresaw that among the consequences of modernity would be not only the alienation of human beings from each other, but also potentially irretrievable damage to the delicate balance between our species and our environment’.
Wordsworth in ‘Tintern Abbey’ wrote that for him the importance was that ‘We see into the life of things’ and as Bate points out in the wonderful skating sequence from ‘The Prelude’,
‘He felt this spirited ‘transport’ again when skating on the lake at twilight in the frosty season. The village clock tolls six as ‘All shod with steel /We hissed along the polished ice in games/…..The sibilanceof ‘shod’, ‘steel’, ‘hissed’, ‘polished’ and ‘ice’ brings the very sound of the skates to life’. However the experience of skating is not just a physical action but also an interaction, an experience with the image of a star reflected in the ice ‘To cut across the reflex of a star;/ Image that, flying before me, gleamed/ Upon the glassy plain’. 
Wordsworth was born on the 7th of April 1770, at Cockermouth, a little Cumbrian market town on the edge of the Lake District. Educated at Hawkshead school and later St John’s College, Cambridge he became disillusioned by university life. He was to develop a keen love and empathy for nature as well as the lives of real people, he also realised his vocation as a poet. In his poetry he saw nature as a kind of spiritual healer, with a personality of its own. His deep poetic appreciation of the natural world was not an incidental and decorative part of his verse, it was its chief impulse and theme.
Bate charts his way through Wordsworth’s childhood in the Lake District, his time at Cambridge, and his walking tours in France and Switzerland with his Welsh friend Robert Jones. He was also to visit the home of Robert Jones in North Wales, their famous night-time ascent of Snowdon left a profound impression on him, as they climbed to find the surrounding peaks illuminated as ‘the Moon looked down upon this shew/ In single glory, and we stood, the mist/ Touching our very feet; ……The universal spectacle throughout/ Was shaped for admiration and delight…’
In 1791 he visited revolutionary France, alone this time, and met Annette Vallon by whom he had a child. He moves back to England to seek a livelihood and to be with his gifted and observant sister Dorothy.  In 1795 he meets Coleridge. He settles, after a cold and severe winter in Germany with Dorothy and Coleridge, back in the Lake District, at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, and marries Mary Hutchinson. Bate focuses largely on this first half of Wordsworth’s life, through childhood, youth and the years between 1798 and 1808 when he completes ‘The Ruined Cottage’, the bulk of the poems published anonymously as ‘Lyrical Ballads’, plans ‘The Recluse’ and when ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’ and ‘The Prelude’ are also completed during this groundbreaking period.
In his preface Bate fairly states that Wordsworth ‘always lacked the glamour of Coleridge, De Quincey and Byron: he was neither opium addict nor ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’. He lacked too, the pathos of Keats, Shelley and John Clare: he failed to make the romantic career move of dying young or going mad’.
However what Bate argues towards is ‘ a selective account of the journey from the visions and experiences that made him a poet to the rays of influence that made him a force in cultural history……why his words are still worth reading two and a half centuries after his birth’.
In 1807 he published the following sonnet which still resonates across the years:
‘The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The Winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. – Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wrèathed horn.’
Bate succeeds in persuading the reader of the continuing importance of Wordsworth’s poetry, how he created a revolutionary style to express the experience of people previously ignored by literature, along with the importance of human emotions throughout childhood and into adulthood, producing a biography which is both fascinating and relevant to the challenges we face in our own time.
Bate succeeds in persuading the reader of the continuing importance of Wordsworth’s poetry, how he created a revolutionary style to express the experience of people previously ignored by literature, along with the importance of human emotions throughout childhood and into adulthood, producing a biography which is both fascinating and relevant to the challenges we face in our own time.
You can find the book here:
Byron Beynon lives in Swansea, Wales.  His work has appeared in several publications including North of Oxford, The London Magazine, Agenda, Poetry Ireland Review, Grey Sparrow, The Worcester Review, Poetry Wales and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets).  Collections include Cuffs (Rack Press) and The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions).  A selection of his work is forthcoming from Moonstone Press (Philadelphia) entitled A View from the Other Side.