Author: North of Oxford

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

The Skin of Meaning by Keith Flynn

By Lynette G. Esposito
The Skin of Meaning by Keith Flynn published by Red Hen Press, Pasadena California is, according to Quincy Troupe, author of Ghost Voices Keith Flynn is a brilliant, bodacious poet at the top of his sonic, linguistic game in his new volume of poetry The Skin of Meaning with poems that dance of the page in arpeggio of light, gripping the reader’s imagination, and taking American poetry in a new exhilarating direction. This is high praise, but this volume of poetry delivers.
In one hundred and eighty-one pages, Flynn covers themes of faith, violence, the justice system and more.  He unafraid to be frank and clear in his images and message. In his poem Climate Change on page fifty-three, he discusses what God sees when she observes what is happening.
                           If you want to know
                          what God thinks about
                          Wealth, then closely
                          observe the people
                          She decides to give to us.
He proceeds in the ten-stanza poem filled with color and image to show how the premise works. In the seventh stanza he speaks of a scorpion necklace and in the final stanza of a polar bear seeking a berm of ice to rest its skinny fur on. The expanse of the poem is broad and inclusive with references to nature in its many states.  His skill with linguistics and suggestion is successful.
On page one hundred and seven, Flynn expores the theme of Stylish Violence.
                         Into this life I am poured
                         a trip wire, and the tears
                         I shed yesterday, whose
                         circumference are everywhere
                         have become rain.
He is speaking of the conflict of the poet to create lasting beauty and what this entails. He uses situation and image to reveal what poet goes through mentioning witches and beach walks, a long arm around how a writer is affected. His final stanza brings closer:
                     No one is immune to the drive=by,
                     the random spree, the knock at the door,
                     and the stranger, straddling the original
                     choice, with a whirl-wind for a voice.
Flynn captures the wide boundaries and internal demands the poet faces when he creates.
Flynn also shows violence in the too common occurrence when a deer is hit on the road in his poem The Long Black Road on page one hundred and thirty. The poem has seventeen stanzas that are all couplets.  He opens the poem with:
                   Having been chased into the roar and clash,
                   trapped on the Pennsylvania Turnpike,
                   even the 10-point buck, agile as he was,
                   could not escape, no way to fudge this.
Flynn has set time and place clearly with a situation that can only end in a negative manner.  It does.  The buck is shot in the head to put it out of its misery, The couplets go through the steps of the buck going down and on-lookers and responders dealing with what has happened.  The final couplets are vivid.
                  One wrong move from death’s certain broom
                  Damn things ought to learn, the trooper said,
                  and turned his back on the night.  All the drivers
steered past, thankfully trapped behind their steel
                  and glass, their futures fixed and their suitcase
                  packed, right foot firmly planted on the gas.
The tragedy of the buck and the lack of emotion by those passing by gives the reader a death chill the image is so poetically cold.
This is a wonderful book of poetry.  It is well worth more than one read.
The Skin of Meaning is available from
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.

Delta Tears by Philip Kolin

By John  Zheng
Since his retirement a few years ago, Philip Kolin has been steadily adding to his prolific canon of 40 books on Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, and African American playwrights as well as his poetry. With his 11th book of poems, Delta Tears, Kolin has once more explored the Mississippi River and its poetic tributaries.

The first poem, titled “The Mississippi River’s Proclamations,” is written in the first-person exclamation: “I am the Father of Rivers…. I am the heart of remembrance…. I am a road with infinite shores…. I sing bottomless blues for porous shadows.” The personified river switches its role in another poem, “The River’s Music,” which “plays in its dark depths… / still and sad, shriveled waves, / a procession of mourners” for the sorrow of the people living in the Mississippi Delta, yet it also “turns into a flowing symphony / dressed for a storied night of revelries.”

In contrast to the proud voice or the sad voice heard from “The Mississippi River’s Proclamations” and “The River’s Music,” the one heard from “You Can Trust a River” carries an ironic tone. The Mississippi no longer utters in a definite voice; instead, it becomes a silent listener. In a sense, it functions like a confessional for humans, good or bad, to reveal their secrets, as the poet narrates,
You can trust the Mississippi
with your secrets.
It speaks the language of silence
to protect voices even when
they are blindfolded.
Sinners have confessed deeply to the river—
betrayals and crimes
never to come to light in this world;
words from shriven mouths
stored in muddy vaults
and weed-anchored banks.


Can sins be washed away by the silent river? Can sinners feel peace from their confessions? The answer can be found in the following stanza:

The Mississippi is a coroner, too,
stacking the secrets of rubbery bodies
on top of each other; unweaned infants;
love-thwarted suicides;
black men lynched at sundown;
drowned fugitives; capsized sailors,
eyes gouged out by garfish and snapping turtles.

Here Kolin imagines the Mississippi as a coroner stacking the bodies from the suffering, the killing, and the missing, suggesting that the river can be “the darkest place on earth” in the sinners’ hearts as well as “the longest tear duct in America / filled with unshared sorrows / and lost dreams…” The concluding one-line stanza emphasizes that the river never asks the reason for these sorrows, but it does associate the river with a killing scene where dark things are done by humans.

Two poems restage the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. After months of heavy rain, the flood-swollen river breached its levee at Mound Landing in the Mississippi Delta. The destructive waters affected especially the life of African Americans. Many of them were drowned when they were ordered to stay on the levee fighting the flood. Kolin describes a vivid scene in the first-person narration in “The Great Flood of 1927.” The narrator tells in a black voice that his father “swilled cotton dust / all his sharecropper life” but

When the flood came he was worse off
than the creosote-hide mule that
got a reserved seat on a rescue barge
when the river evacuated white folks
This stanza sets up a striking contrast between a black man and a mule to sharpen our minds on the sufferings and the meaning of existence in a sorrowful time in history in the Mississippi Delta. The second contrast is set up between the whites and the blacks. While the white folks can escape by a rescue boat, the black people can only be drowned as they try to save the white people’s belongings, as presented in the following two stanzas:
while we black men were ordered to stay
on the levee grabbing sandbags
with our hands, arms, and shoulders
as we tried pushing the Mississippi
back from frowning white fields
and houses all night long—we heaved
the waves back while our mouths
filled with mud and blood.
Isn’t this description of African Americans’ miseries also an elegy of humanities, the river, the Mississippi Delta, or the memory forsaken by time?

In brief, Kolin’s Delta Tears is a place that stores memories, reminding us of the history and life in the Mississippi Delta. Many poems are muddy tears “lengthening the suits of sorrow” with “generations of misery;” they are also pearls coated in silt.” Therefore, reading this book is a process to heighten the perception of history.

You can find the book here:

John (Jianqing) Zheng published A Way of Looking and Conversations with Dana Gioia in 2021. His poetry has appeared in Hanging Loose, Mississippi Review, Poetry South, Tar River among others. He is the editor of Journal of Ethnic American Literature.

A Great Time at Chase’s Hop Shop

Thanks to all the poets and those in attendance for our celebration – North of Oxford Presents – National Poetry Month at Chase’s Hop Shop. Thanks to Frank and the staff for all their assistance. Photos from the event appear below of Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, Charles Rammelkamp, , Ezra Solway, Jane Rebecca Cannarella, Paul Ilechko, Cleveland Wall,  Carl Kaucher, and Michael Griffith.


North of Oxford Presents – National Poetry Month @ Chase’s Hop Shop – 4-30-22


North of Oxford Presents


National Poetry Month @ Chase’s Hop Shop

7235 Rising Sun Ave

Philadelphia, PA 19111

April 30th – 2pm to 5pm

Poets Reading 

diane hsDiane Sahms-Guarnieri, a native Philadelphia poet living in Lawndale since 1986, is author of four full-length poetry collections and most recently a chapbook, COVID-19 2020 A Poetic Journal (Moonstone Press, 2021). Published in North American Review, Sequestrum Journal of Literature & Arts and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal, among others, she is poetry editor at North of Oxford’s online literary journal and teleworks full-time for the government. .


charlesCharles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Sparring Partners from Mooonstone Press, Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.

Sawyer Lovett is a writer, bookseller, and professor. He is a pretty good person, but he is always trying to be better.

ezra Ezra Solway is a jack of some trades. A poet, fiction writer, reporter living in Philadelphia, where he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Temple University. He has  taught English in Akko, Israel; sold electricity door-to-door; and waited tables at a Japanese karaoke lounge, among other eclectic posts. Currently, he is the Assistant Editor of the Jewish Community Voice, a local newspaper covering Southern New Jersey.


janieJane-Rebecca Cannarella (she/her) is a writer and editor living in Philadelphia. She is the editor of HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit, and a former genre editor at Lunch Ticket. She’s the author of Better Bones and Marrow, both published by Thirty West Publishing House, The Guessing Game published by BA Press, and Thirst and Frost forthcoming from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press.


Canal BWPaul Ilechko is the author of three chapbooks, most recently “Pain Sections” (Alien Buddha Press). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Rogue Agent, January Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Book of Matches and Pithead Chapel. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ.


Cl head 1Cleveland Wall is a poet, teaching artist, and maker of things out of other things. She performs with interactive poetry troupe No River Twice and with musical combo The Starry Eyes. Her first full-length poetry collection, Let X=X , was published by Kelsay Books in the fall of 2019. She is also the sole librarian at Books on the Hill, a mighty twig of the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

carlCarl Kaucher is a poet, photographer, and urban explorer who lives in Temple, Pa. He is the author of two chap books, “Sideways Blues ( Irish mountain and beyond )”, “Postpoemed” and most recently “Peripheral Debris.” His work has appeared in numerous publications and on line. The writing explores his experiences wandering urban spaces near his home and throughout Pennsylvania. Using his photography and writing, Carl has been exploring the overlooked places and documenting the chance occurrences that happen to him and by doing so gives us the opportunity to reflect upon those similar events happening in our lives also. More info can be found at  and on instagram @Carlkaucher.

Dave-Worrell-238x300Dave Worrell is the author of  We Who Were Bound and Close to Home featuring paintings by Catherine Kuzma. Dave’s poems have appeared in Slant, Canary, Heroin Chic, Shot Glass Journal, Referential Magazine, Wild River Review, and elsewhere. He has performed his music-backed poems at Chris’ Jazz Café in Philadelphia and The Cornelia Street Café in New York. He began writing poetry toward the end of his 30-plus year law career, has taught writing at area community colleges and business law to undergraduates at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business.

Griffith PhotoMichael Griffith is a story-teller at heart, a teacher, problem-solver, and helper at heart. He has been freelance writing and editing on-and-off on the professional level for over 25 years. Michael has taught courses in communication, public speaking, mass media, film studies, logic, developmental English, and creative writing. He currently teaches for-credit classes at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, NJ and Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, NJ.

    g beer  

Host – g emil reutter 


chase logo

Chase’s Hop Shop



Celebrate National Poetry Month in Sellersville – April 23rd

daddy o's 2

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, g emil reutter, Steven Walker 

Followed by an Open Mic 

April 23rd @ 1pm

Daddy O’s Studio –116 N. Main Street, Sellersville, Pa.

On Facebook:

diane hs

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, a native Philadelphia poet living in Lawndale since 1986, is author of four full-length poetry collections and most recently a chapbook, COVID-19 2020 A Poetic Journal (Moonstone Press, 2021). Published in North American Review, Sequestrum Journal of Literature & Arts and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal, among others, she is poetry editor at North of Oxford’s online literary journal and teleworks full-time for the government. .

g hs

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. Sixteen collections of his poetry and fiction have been published. He can be found at:

steve head

Steven Walker is an award-winning writer, poet, playwright and journalist with approximately 1500 published credits including two horror novels, “Desmodus” and “Hell and Back” and two true crime books, “Blood Trail” and “Predator”.  He helped to establish The Writer’s Room of Bucks County, The Writer’s Web, an internet-based school and marketing tool and was the founding president of the Lehigh Valley Writers Academy.  Walker, a musician and songwriter, currently owns and operates Daddy O’s Studio in Sellersville, PA where he provides guitar lessons and sells musical instruments, books, smoking accessories, tapestries, posters, wiccan items, gemstones and other unique gifts.  Also as a talented artist and photographer, Daddy O’s Studio is a showcase to exhibit and sell his paintings and photos as well as the work of other local artists, photographers and crafters.



Two Poems by Leonard Kress

Orpheus Autopsied
When cops and doctors finally found the crime
scene, and retrieved the soggy, mangled, headless
corpse, they could now officially buttress
what they’d previously only been able to presume
with the singular fact that his heart had a hole.
They could not determine, though, if he was born
with it (which might explain his early turn
to poetry and ascendency) or if it was his role
as lover-losing-beloved that burned through
or whittled out that hole. Or his descent
to the underworld, where some monster meant
to wound him on his way. Or losing her through
foolishness again—that gaze that can pierce
a heart. Or maybe, his final lonely life
hunting down poetry, and the ultimate strife
that life entails. They couldn’t even deduce
how common it was among poets—this affliction.
After all, they’d have to kill them first to find
out, or disinter too many tombs with no funds.
There were limits, of course, to their speculation.


Serial Killer
The most famous serial killer-rapist ever
lived for a while in my old neighborhood
50 years ago, only now public
and those who still live there
and those who ventured far
revel that they almost intersected
with infamy.
He stayed with his grandfather for the year
though no one remembers him
(the boyishly hunkish miscreant)
but grandpa’s
a different story.
Screamed at kids who ventured near
his flower beds
stiffed workers
sold blighted shrubs
at the nursery he owned
and the kid who replaced his pads
at the local Chevron swore
he rode his brakes relentlessly
It was mostly the girls
(girls back then)
recalling two of his early victims
at the Jersey shore
(downa shore, they would have said)
Praise God
it wasn’t one of us
hitch-hiking alone the Black Horse Pike
to weekend in Ocean City
all family and dry
then sneaking cross
the causeway to Somer’s Point
to drink with college guys.
Was it him, one wonders
who picked me up
tossed my backpack in his trunk
complained the whole way
about his broken wrist
his cast decorated with hearts
Thank God
I didn’t accept the pill
he offered after popping
one himself.
Those poor girls
they all chimed
could have been us
under the boardwalk
at dusk, beach patrol busy
with fires and their own pickup lines.
They still haven’t admitted
to boyfriends (some who became husbands)
who they let pick them up
wriggle off the two-piece strap
from peeling sun-burnt freckled shoulders
and the soothing beery lick
impossible to stave off
even if they wanted to—
Crystal Blue Persuasion
on the transistor by now
half-buried in the sand.
Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Missouri Review, Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex and Walk Like Bo Diddley. Living in the Candy Store and Other Poems and his new verse translation of the Polish Romantic epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz. Craniotomy Sestinas appeared in 2021. He teaches philosophy and religion at Owens College in Ohio.

Two Poems by Laura Johanna Braverman

My Husband On A Ladder Picking Olives
                        Late afternoon
and I sit at the marble garden table. The moist heat
of summer dried up, a tarp is piled wide
with olives ripe
                                    for brining.
When we lived seven floors up
            olives were things in glass jars. And what
was brining—
                        or October—?
His head is somewhere among the silver-sided leaves.
Twigs shift
            as his hands rummage and reach.
                                                He drops each stone fruit
into a bag hanging from a branch,
                        handles strain against the weight.
But it’s the light I want to talk about—
                        the way it slants through tree twists and gaps,
lands on coastal soil in amber splatters
            and sets the yellow grocery bag aglow.
How, in a few hours
                        this late-year day will have gone.
            He’ll board a plane.
                                    But for now:
the unburdened tree, the fruit-bearing light—
all between.
Of Weeds and Broken Things
Left undisturbed
the soil nests those seeds abandoned to the wind—
traveling cast-offs come to rest
            between the rows of olive trees.
I wish I knew the name
of every bloom and stem. A patch there
looks like coriander lace.
Another, a clustering of rocket leaves—
            amid the green
are modest flares of white and gold and lilac,
tiny sisters of bud and aster.
But when the ground is cleared—
            red earth turned and tilled, remnants
of a different ordinary
come unburied :
                        a rounded chip of glass, a sliver
                        of painted porcelain.
I bend for a jagged corner
of white ceramic tile, its mortar ridges
caked in coastal soil.
Little artefact
of someone’s kitchen, bath.
            Of a life.
Laura Johanna Braverman is a writer and artist. Salt Water, her first collection of poetry was published in 2019 by Cosmographia Books. Her poems have appeared in Plume, Levure Litteraire, Sky Island Journal, New Plains Review and Pratik, among other journals, and in the anthology Awake in the World, II. She recently earned her MA in poetry and will begin PhD studies this fall, both at Lancaster University. She lives in Lebanon with her family.

Two Poems by Layla Lenhardt

Tomato Flakes
“Oh you’ve got green eyes, oh you’ve got blue eyes, oh you’ve got grey eyes” – New Order
I keep you hidden
in my bedside table,
or buried between my legs.
And at times, we don’t speak.
On the day we saw the moss
covered pond next to the house
that knelt on the hillside, I swore
I could say your name forever.
Your hand was entwined in mine,
like bodies in Pompeii.
You feed me artichoke
hearts from the jar. And loving
you is always eating from the
same bowl, stained bedsheets,
never-have-i-ever in Adirondacks.
It started with your skin, peeling
like a birch tree, the sun spilling
through the door jamb. You
carried with you the salty
air of the Atlantic.
It ended with a hurricane
bridges washed away,
roads buckled, I no longer
lick your wounds, paint
your nails. Send you photos.
And missing you is like
trying to tame a wildfire.
Cece & Silvino
I wish I could take every path. I wish
I could let such carnivorous aliens
bloom between my hip bones. I wish
I could hold little fingers in my hand,
give you your first palm readings, make
dandelion wine to take to Nona’s.
There’s no easy answer. I’d adore you
for a thousand years, and a thousand
years after that. I’d spend an eternity
memorizing your freckles, speaking your
names, but the gold around my
finger is heavy and unnatural, motherhood
is complicated. I’m not cut for this
I’d be a bird, feeding you what I’ve already
digested, straining out the bad parts. I’d
Let you fill the moon. But I’d never be
ready. I can’t re-write my mercurial DNA,
I can’t make my bones need something they don’t.
Each month I will bleed and each month
he’ll travel further and further away. He’ll burry my jewels
in the dirt, throw my heirlooms in the ocean.
The decision is my zeitgeist
so I’ll keep my mirrors sheeted,
and I’ll let him tell them I didn’t
want you. It’s his way of healing.
But know, if I could take every path, that you would be my
Full Moon in Taurus, an earth shaking,
thundering, explosion of love.
Layla Lenhardt is a queer poet who splits her time between Indianapolis and Philadelphia. She is Editor in Chief of 1932 Quarterly. She has been most recently published in Rust + Moth, Sad Girls Club, Poetry Quarterly, and Pennsylvania Literary Journal.

Two Poems by Alan Catlin

The Photographer
Near death
she reclaims
her long
Art: taking
pictures of her
fellow travelers
along the ward;
barely able to
stand herself,
she holds a camera,
focuses a lens,
she sees all
that has been
missing in her
life, all those
years past,
the ones that
will never come.
Death and the Maiden
Listening to Schubert
as the candle
burns out
the bent wick
in a puddle
of drying wax
the junk littered
room, torn curtains,
broken bed frame
we know exactly
how this ends but
not when
Alan Catlin has published dozens of chapbooks and full length books including, most recently, Asylum Garden: after Van Gogh (Dos Madres) Memories Too (Dos Madres), Sunshine Superman (Cyberwit) and a fictional memoir about his bar jobs , Chaos Management (Alien Buddha).