north of oxford interview

An Interview with John Macker

macker profileJohn Macker lives in Santa Fe, NM. His latest books are Atlas of Wolves, (Stubborn Mule Press 2019), The Blues Drink Your Dreams Away Selected Poems 1983-2018 (Stubborn Mule Press), Gorge Songs (DCArt Press, 2017) with Denver woodblock artist Leon Loughridge and Blood in the Mix, (with El Paso poet Lawrence Welsh), Lummox Press, 2015. Other books include Disassembled Badlands, Woman of the Disturbed Earth, Underground Sky, Adventures in the Gun Trade among others. In 2006 he edited the Desert Shovel Review.

By g emil reutter

GER: What are your roots in poetry and how were you able to evolve to your own unique voice?

JM: I started writing poetry seriously and consistently after college in Denver. Dylan Thomas was a huge early influence and then, later on, Kerouac and the Beats and their vital connection to Denver. Fresh out of the Univ. of Missouri, in 1978, I took Gregory Corso’s “Socratic: Poetry Rap” at Naropa Institute in Boulder that summer. I was influenced by the Donald Allen-edited anthology, The New American Poetry, 1945-1960, as seminal a representation of contemporary poetry as there was at the time. I began to scour bookstores for Diane DiPrima, Corso, David Meltzer, Ed Dorn, Lew Welch, Stuart Z. Perkoff, Ginsberg and the rest. In Denver, I was introduced to poet/artist Tony Scibella who owned Black Ace Books on East Colfax. He had been influenced by his friendship with Perkoff, who died in 1973. (An early, enthusiastic supporter of Perkoff’s was Charles Olson.) Our friendship lasted until Tony’s death in L.A. in 2003. My first publication, a broadside, was published by Larry Lake’s Bowery Press in 1983.

So, my roots involved that generation of artists and wordslingers who came of age in the 1950’s and 1960’s, who wrote with a radical new spontaneity and vision that was based in large part, on the way people talked to each other on the streets, responses to cultural suffocation, the atom bomb, drugs, Vietnam and sex. Also, the little small press literary mags and their attendant scenes that began springing up all over America, edited by Judson Crews, Diane DiPrima, Amiri Baraka, William Margolis, Wallace Berman, and many others, had their origin stories in that generation. 

My own voice found its origins in the texts of these poets but also through a carefree diet of indiscriminate and voracious reading throughout the years. Prose writers such as Kerouac, Roberto Bolańo, Charles Bowden and Cormac McCarthy come to mind. My true voice came, with the most potency, from the landscapes and natural beauty I found in New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. I grew up in the west, my grandfather was a cowboy and a rancher, so I absorbed the landforms early on. I’ve always been intrigued by the relationship of humans to their environments. It sounds like a well-worn theme but it also involves ritual, magic, Native American history, the desert and the Blues. The works of Gary Snyder, Ed Dorn, John Knoll, Linda Hogan, N. Scott Momaday, Amiri Baraka, the transcendent essays of John Nizalowski and many others.

macker desert

GER: How did your move from Colorado to New Mexico enhance or affect your art?

JM: It was significant, life changing. The visual stimulation and history came at me full throttle. The Apaches, Billy the Kid, the canyons, mesas and pueblos. The graves, the hidden underneath. It was mind-altering. A drug with wings. It allowed me to build my writing with new focus, energy and subject matter. They came in through the window. I guess you could say I reached a level of maturity and discipline that was needed to get the work done.

GER: Share with us how your collaborative work with Paris Butler, Leon Loughridge and Lawrence Welsh came about and how was the experience?

JM: Parris and I collaborated on the one broadside back in Denver in ’86, I think. Again, the writers of that generation were keen on collaboration because it not only enhanced the words but visual art, on many levels, was integral to their lives. They were all friends! The influence was always mutual and contagious. Leon and I met through the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe where I was working and he was represented. He is a superb wood block artist in the light and tradition of Gustave Baumann. We’re working on our 4th limited edition book together. Sometimes I would work off of his images and sometimes we would just meet having done the work separately but guided by a central image or theme. Sometimes he’s worked off of my words. It’s a mutual inspiration society. Mostly geographical and historically themed.  He’s also an amazing book maker. His technique is flawless. I’ve also collaborated with my wife Annie, Tony Scibella, Denver artist Steve Wilson, Santa Fe artist Carol Anthony, and artist John Felsing.  

I’d been an admirer of El Paso poet Lawrence Welsh’s work for years. He approached me in 2015 about doing a book together and I had some new work so we made it happen. It was published by Lummox Press. Blood in the Mix was Larry’s title. I’m a bit more long-winded than he is so the contrast, I think, was illuminating. Some of his potent shorter poems work like Southwestern charms or spells. He’s also a firm believer in collaboration. His latest book is Cutting the Wire, with photographer Bruce Berman and poet Ray Gonzalez.

GER: In 1988 you opened a used and rare book store in Glenwood Springs. How did that experience add to your poetry as well as the constant interaction with poets?

JM: Denver was only three hours away from Glenwood Springs, a mountain community, so the connection with writing and old friends was always there. A bookstore should always be a community conduit. That’s why so many small independent booksellers have survived things like economic downturns and pandemics. Yeah, a lot of different folks dropped by throughout the years. Influenced by the small press publishers, I published the Harp Arts Journal, which had feelers up and down the valley. Hunter Thompson was a fan. I dug the action, I didn’t have a boss and I didn’t make a dime. But for seven years, I was in book heaven. Got to know Colorado poets like the late, great Mike Adams, Art Goodtimes, and Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer.

GER: For two decades you have been bookstore director at Gerald Peters Gallery. Even though you continue to promote the arts how does this gig differ from Glenwood Springs?

JM: Due to covid, I’ve been furloughed for the last 12 months so I’m not real sure about the future. But, I had a hands-off boss! I had a paycheck! I didn’t have to worry about keeping the lights on. I met some of the most interesting people in the world there and Gerald Peters, as one of the perks for working there, let me use the gallery space off-hours for poetry readings, publication parties and so forth. Great fun. And the art on the walls was always an inspiration. I was able to attract some local (& national) writers of supreme talent for my one and only edition of the Desert Shovel Review. I also had free reign to stock the shelves with some of the greatest art and photography titles (new and out-of-print) ever published.

GER: You have been involved in a number of publications over the years. Describe the interaction with other writers and what do you consider to be your best publication?

JM: My first editing/publishing shot was the lit mag Moravagine, in 1983, in Denver. Very raw and by today’s standards, primitive. I still wince when I look at it. I did 3 issues. My third issue featured an interview with Venice West/Denver poet Tony Scibella which was later used by John Arthur Maynard in his book on the SoCal Beat era, Venice West: The Beat Generation in Southern California. But it was a learning experience. And that’s what you did, you got to practice your craft while assembling what you believe to be the finest art and writing that you can scrounge up, to surround you on the page. It was influenced by Larry Lake’s Mano/Mano 2 (with Kenneth Patchen, Neal Cassady letters, Ken Kesey, Russell Edson, Stuart Perkoff, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac etc. ) and Ed Ward’s Passion Press, both in Denver. Ed Ward’s interview in one of his issues with underground filmmaker Stan Brakhage, who was a Colorado resident, was essential reading. Brakhage extolled the virtues of the small press and was close to poetry. I had him show a couple of his films at this Denver Art Museum gig I did in the 80’s.

     Later, in Glenwood, I edited a few years’ worth of monthly Harp Arts Journals (in tabloid form) before ending up with a couple of magazine format issues. There, I was fortunate enough to have access to material by Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg, Diane DiPrima, John Hiatt interview, Ben Talbert etc).

     I edited the Desert Shovel Review in New Mexico, in 2006. I was able to connect with some fine American writers including Jack Hirschman, S.A. Griffin, Mike Adams, Donald Levering, David Meltzer, John Knoll, Janet Glovinsky, Philomene Long, John Thomas, Todd Moore, Tony Moffeit, collage by Steve Wilson. It was, for lack of a better word, a kind of outlaw presentation: perfect bound, jaw dropping collage by my wife, published out of our roadhouse. It was during the second Bush administration and I quoted Hans Arp: “While the thunder of the batteries rumbled/In the distance, we pasted, we recited, we/Versified, we sang with all our soul.”  I still feel that way.  I was in all 9 issues of RD Armstrong’s Lummox journals with either poems or essays.

     One of the best I was involved in, no doubt, was Gary Brower’s Malpais Review that appeared between 2010-2016. He published my poetry but mostly essays on poets, like Ed Dorn and his Recollections of Gran Apacheria and Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. I ended up there as contributing editor. It was published out of Placitas, New Mexico. A poetry anthology for the ages.

     Padma Thornlyre, publisher of Turkey Buzzard Press, published three of my poetry titles. He’s a good editor and friend. I’ve also established a good working relationship with Jason Ryberg of Spartan/Stubborn Mule Press, who published my last two titles. I’ve worked closely with both of them on the look and scope of the books.

     Another type of collaboration between consenting adults.


GER: How did you become involved with “The Outlaw Poet’s Summit Reading” and how did that go?

JM: RD Armstrong asked us to meet him in Boulder so we did. It was great to see old friends, Art Goodtimes and Mike Adams, who was ailing but in fine form and voice.

macker moore

GER: Can you share with us your memoires of Todd Moore?

JM: Todd was a gentle man with a huge spirit and generosity. His kind of scholarly appearance and soft voice belied the ferocity of his language. He was a school teacher but also the quintessential outlaw poet, along with Pueblo, Colorado’s Tony Moffeit. One night, a whole group of folks came out to the roadhouse for the Desert Shovel publication party. Todd and Tony were huddled in the corner & I overheard Todd tell him that he was “in the process of destroying the American line.” I believed him. Some of his lines were one word in length. He probably knew more about John Dillinger than Melvin Purvis did. He was an early supporter of my manuscript for Adventures in the Gun Trade. He had a collection of historic knives that was scary and they had a privileged spot in his study close to his wall of books. He was extremely well read. On his 70th birthday he dropped into the gallery. He still had a twinkle in his eye. I think he enjoyed busting the chops of the “literary establishment” as much as anyone. He reiterated his love for gangsters and old Westerns. I could go on. Todd shouldn’t be forgotten.

macker cutting

GER: Your 1984 chapbook, the cutting distance, was released by Long Road Press.  Can you tell us about the chapbook?

JM: It was my first. And I think a kind of green, careless work. I needed an editor like a drought needs water. I needed more seasoning, for sure. My mother had just passed away suddenly so I was riding on those emotions & it was dedicated to her. Tony Scibella illustrated it and Frank Rios wrote a foreword. We assembled it in Tony’s bookstore. But Larry Lake, who published my first broadside believed in it so we went ahead. The poems were like early auditions for the Muse. Some poems still stand. One in particular: in the park/my dog/like a silly yellow snowcloud/lopes across the grass/in the dark/with the crooked smile/of dead things in his mouth.

GER: Tell us about Border Wall Blues from Atlas of Wolves and its continued relevance to events of the day?

JM: I’m glad you asked. That poem is an exclamation of terror and urgency. It sprung out of previous administrations’ obsession over walls. It’s also satirical. The previous administration turned the border into a hellscape, a boneyard, a place where families were separated and decayed. It’s about our “rapacious crumbling beauty”, our obsession with tired, racist monuments and statuary. It destroys the migratory paths of wildlife. It’s a billion dollar disgrace and illustrates what happens when a government lacks all imagination and empathy. Recited aloud, the poem is a chant and ends up singing us the blues.

j macker 1

GER: You have been performing readings for a few decades. What do you get from readings and how important are they to your continuing development as a poet?

JM: Two things: They are key to listening to the poem aloud in your own voice and gauging the reaction of an audience. If the poem is not finished (& I’m not sure any of mine really are) readings help to edit the poem. Secondly, I’ve spent years trying to become a better reader or performer of my work and I think I’ve managed to communicate my words with much more clarity, enthusiasm and professionalism than I did, say, 20 years ago. My first major public reading was at the Slightly Off-Center Theatre in Denver in the early 80’s. I read with Ed Dorn and Linda Hogan. It was the first time I really listened to poetry spoken to me.  

I’ve done some Zoom readings and those have been useful but it’s nothing like live talking flesh.

GER: Has Covid had an effect on you and your family and where do you see us in another year?

JM: My wife’s art business (she sells at an artist’s market at the railyard in Santa Fe) has come to a halt. I haven’t worked at the gallery in a year. We are unable to see our grandchildren, one who has special needs. Like everyone else, we’ve mostly adjusted. I sit under a tree in the backyard (weather permitting) and compose, if the gods are paying attention. We walk the dogs 2 miles every morning. Trying to reach some semblance of order and common purpose with the rest of humanity going through what we are. But, yeah, the isolation gets to us. Phone calls and emails just don’t cut it. With the vaccines moving down the line and if everyone masks up and social distances for a while longer, I think we can be in a good place for 2022, but we can’t take our eyes off of the task at hand. There’s been a fanatic belligerence towards public policy of late and everything got politicized, so that set us back in real time. The game is simple: we need to keep ourselves and others safe.

GER: What projects are you working on?

JM: In 2020 DCArt Press put out a short prose memoir of mine, “El Rialto”, with serigraphs by Leon Loughridge. I also put out a book of short fiction, essays and a one-act play, Desert Threnody, published by auxarczen press in Missouri. It was helpful to stay busy. Am working on a couple of manuscripts, one (surprise!) having to do with the pandemic, Oblivion Decorum. I’m collaborating with Leon on a series of 4 short fiction pieces, Chaco Sojourn, with his woodblock prints for the coming year. Thanks for asking.

Macker on Youtube:


Atlas of Wolves:

g emil reutter can be found at:




An Interview with Poet John D. Robinson

john 5John D Robinson is renowned UK poet: with hundreds of poems published in small press zines and online literary journals including : The Raw Art Review, Rusty Truck: Outlaw Poetry: North Of Oxford: Tuck Magazine: Misfits Magazine: The Sunflower Collective: Winamop: Bear Creek Haiku: Chicago Record: The Legendary: Paper and Ink Zine: Algebra Of Owls: Full Of Crow: The Beatnik Cowboy: The Clockwise Cat:  The Scum Gentry: Message In A Bottle: Horror Sleaze ,Trash: Your One Phone Call: In Between Hangovers:  Rasputin: Revolution John: Vox Poetica: Hand Job Zine:  48th Street Press: Poems-For-All: Philosophical Idiot:  The Peeking Cat: Midnight Lane Boutique: Underground Books: Dead Snakes: Yellow Mama: Bareback Lit: Eunoia Review: Hobo Camp Review.
Interview by g emil reutter

GER: You have said that two of your major influences were the poet Josephine Austin and Jack Kerouac. How so?

john 2

JDR: I had began to write poetry from about aged 16 or so: I told no one, I didn’t know of any other poets: talk of poetry was not done: it was soccer: music: movies: girls and alcohol; Josephine Austin: 1934-2014: had been published by the big publishing houses in London: she was friend’s with Robert Graves and would visit him at his Mallorca home, Josephine was also friend’s with poet Brian Patten: Josephine would organize poetry readings throughout the local area and established an annual  ‘International Poetry Festival’: she also produced a poetry magazine : First Time’ which gave showcase to many poets over the years: I attended one of the Festivals: I was shy and awkward but Josephine approached me during the intermission and asked if I wrote poetry: I showed her some of my poems: She asked if she could read a couple during the next session: and that was the beginning of our friendship that lasted over 3 decades: Josephine and her husband Brian were always very encouraging and I think their influence gave me the courage to become a publisher: about the same time I met Josephine, it was suggested by a female codeine swallowing charlatan that I should read ‘On The Road’: this book and what subsequently followed changed me: it opened up horizons for me: I read just about everything I could get my hands on that was beat connected which has lasted to this day: It was Kerouac’s self-drive and commitment and belief of himself as a writer that swept me up, the sense of spiritual exploration and riding the railways and roads seemed romantic: I wanted to taste it somehow.

GER: How important was it to you to engage the local poetry scene and workshops in your development as a poet?


JDR: Thinking back I feel that it was very educating to participate in local poetry readings: mostly they were riotous drinking sessions: but the opportunity to hear the work of other poets and how they delivered /vocalised their work was valuable: it wasn’t always enjoyable: At that time I enjoyed reading, these days I rarely read in public: these days I am something of a recluse: I held/taught and introduced  poetry workshops in the local college and this was something that I truly enjoyed: I spent a great deal of time working on a programme that would be fun and easy to take part, remembering that poetry isn’t a part of many lives, it was important to present something that was accessible.

john 4

GER: As a young man you engaged in the study of poets and poetry. How did this study influence your development as a poet?


JDR: Pre-internet days I would spend hours in the public library reading through endless poetry collections and anthologies, taking notes of the poets that interested me and then I would read biographies of the poets: With few exceptions, I have very rarely read established UK poets and have always been very much more comfortable reading American poets: I have read at various times different schools/disciplines of poetry: surrealist: concrete: classical:  meat/beat and have been to some degree, influenced by them all.

john 1

GER: You have published several chapbooks in addition to several more as a cooperative effort. Tell us about the process as a poet in addition to what led you to engage in cooperative publication?


JDR: I try and write every day, sometimes I don’t manage it: sometimes it is not worthy work and I will discard: I may revise a poem several times, sometimes the poems do not need any editing: I hand write my poems: pen and notebook: I do not compose poetry on an electronic keyboard: I relish the opportunity to work with other poets: The Holy&intoxicated Publications Poetry Card Series provides me with the opportunity to reach out to selected poets for a contribution: a friendship develops and the chance to produce a split chapbook of poetry sometimes surfaces: creating and publishing books is something that I love doing. The chance to share the pages with another poet is always an exciting journey including reaching out to an artist for the cover art and collaborating the material and editing it into book form.


GER: The poet John Dorsey said in a recent interview concerning Outlaw Poetry, “…I guess I don’t really like the term, it was made up by some marketing executive, really, there’s academia and then everyone else, and I guess that means me. These days an outlaw is anyone who loves with their whole heart.” What say you?


JDR: I’d go along with John Dorsey on this one: Outlaw can be interpreted variedly and widely, as most things can: Robert Graves replied to the question: ‘what is the secret of writing poetry?’ ‘It must be written with Love-Magic’: so this fits with Dorsey’s statement: there will always be ‘labels’ ‘schools’ ‘fashions’ but if it is good, quality poetry it doesn’t matter what the label is.

john 3

GER: Publisher Bill Henderson of the Pushcart Anthology stated in 2012, “I have long railed against the e-book and instant Internet publication as damaging to writers. Instant anything is dangerous—great writing takes time. You should long to be as good as John Milton and Reynolds Price, not just barf into the electronic void.” I took this to be elitist and condescending to poets who do work their poetry and believe the internet has opened up opportunities for those voices that would be ignored by folks like Henderson. What say you?


JDR: I think the opportunity to have your work published online is not damaging in any way; this is the time we are in: the internet has given rise to a large number of ‘poetry journals and literary and artistic publications’ and the number of ‘paper zines’ is I think in a healthy state also: there is something special about ‘holding/handling’ a printed zine/book publication: so I am happy with both options of publishing: either way, I am always very thankful and grateful for any of my work to appear in either presentation.

john 7

GER: How important is it to get your poetry published and do you receive any response upon publication?


JDR: ‘Publish or perish’ said Bukowski: and there is a lot of truth in this: small press poets and presses come and go with some frequency: I will write for 2 or 3 months and then focus on selecting and sending out the work to various and numerous online/paper publications: I often receive emails commenting on my work, generally they are positive comments for which I am thankful for of course: about 3 years ago I decided that I’d like to get a poem, at least, published somewhere every month and I have been fortunate enough to have achieved this so far.


GER: What poets do you currently read and why?


JDR: I always have books by Doug Draime: Steve Richmond: d a levy, William Wantling: close by:  I read a great deal of small press poets: publications by Holy&intoxicated Publications are by invitation only and I spend a lot of time reading for future poets and potential Holy&intoxicated Publications: something I never tire of.


GER: How would you describe the poetry of John D. Robinson?


JDR: Honest: no bullshit.


GER: What projects are you currently working on?

hang in there

JDR: I am working on a chapbook by Doug Draime: some of the poems have not appeared in print form before and I am very excited about this publication: also a chapbook by the UK poet Adrian Manning: and chapbooks by Tohm Bakelas and David Boski: and George Anderson:  and Martin Appleby: all fine poets: I also have the Holy&intoxicated Publications Poetry Cards series to concentrate on as well as Broadsides:

 ‘Uncollected Press’ USA  will shortly be publishing my first full collection: ‘Hang In There’:

Chapbooks by John D. Robinson

Cowboy Hats & Railways (Scars Press 2016)

When You Hear The Bell, There’s Nowhere To Hide (Holy&intoxicated Publications 2016)

An Outlaw In The Making (Scars Publications 2017)

These Poems Stole Your Lunch Money with Bradley Mason Hamlin  (Holy&intoxicated Publications 2017)

Looking Down Both Barrels with Adrian Manning  (Holy&intoxicated Publications 2017)

Hitting Home (Iron Lung Press 2018)

In Pursuit Of  Shadows (Analog Submission Press 2018)

In Between The Curves  with Charles Joseph  (Holy&intoxicated Publications 2018)

Echoes Of Diablo  (Concrete Meat Press 2018)

Too Many Drinks Ago  (Paper & Ink Zine Publication 2018)

Romance, Renegades & Riots  with James Gwill Thomas  (Analog Submission Press 2018)


g emil reutter is a writer of stories and poems and can be found at:


An Interview with Bradley D. Snow – Living With Lead- An Environmental History of Idaho’s Coeur D’Alenes, 1885-2011


Living with Lead


  •  g emil reutter


Living with Lead by Bradley D. Snow is a compelling, fact filled book concerning the environmental history of the Coeur d’Alenes Valley in the state of Idaho. Bradley brings us to the initial finding of precious metals, quite by accident by a wayward donkey to corporate America’s mining of lead and silver, production of zinc and of construction of smelters and blast furnaces that dominated and destroyed the landscape of the Couer d’Alenes, to the rebirth of the environment when the famous Bunker Hill facility was finally torn down. The release of Living With Lead is timely as present day demands of deregulation of EPA rules and regulations are in open debate. The question of relaxed rules bringing back blue collar jobs is also in question as corporations only have allegiance to themselves. Living With Lead is a necessary read for those who value the environment and for those who desire to relax regulations for it is good to know why these regulations came into place and what their impact on the lives of people have been.  You can find the book here: BookDetails


Bradley D. Snow

The Interview

GER: How long did it take from the accidental discovery of lead and silver in the Couer d’Alenes to the decline of the environment?

BDS: The galena (lead-silver) deposits were discovered in September of 1885 and area residents were reporting significant damage to their crops and livestock from mine tailings that washed down the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River and the main stem of the Coeur d’Alene River by the late 1890s. Downstream farmers also reported that by 1898 the South Fork, which formerly had supported healthy stocks of trout, had seen its fish populations “destroyed.”

Bunker Hill blast furnace and refining buildings

GER: In its prime how many people were employed at Bunker Hill and the mines located in the Couer d’Alenes?

BDS: At its peak Bunker Hill employed 3,151 people. I’m not sure how exactly how many were employed in Shoshone County’s many other mines, but in 1981, just before the closure of Bunker Hill, 4,200 people were employed by the mining industry in the county. As 1981 was far from the industry’s zenith in Shoshone County, my guess is that at its peak (ca. 1957) close to 5,000 people were employed by the mining industry in the Coeur d’Alenes

GER: What was the output of the Bunker Hill facility?

BDS: Not sure I quite understand the question. Do you mean output over its history, peak annual output, or something else? In 1981, Bunker Hill’s production represented twenty percent of the national total for silver and seventeen percent for lead. Bunker’s lead mine and its zinc mine were the largest in the Coeur d’Alenes, an area that between 1885 and 1997 yielded eighteen percent of the nation’s silver, seventeen percent of its zinc and six percent of its lead. For that period, the Coeur d’Alene Mining District ranked first in the nation in silver production, third in lead and third in zinc.

Bunker Hill Smelter

Bunker Hill

GER: Could you describe the Bunker Hill facility and the land mass it occupied?

BDS: Bunker Hill owned and operated much of the land in and around the towns of Kellogg and Smelterville, Idaho, where the bulk of its plant and equipment were housed. This included the Bunker Hill Mine, a major producer of lead and silver, a large lead smelter and a large zinc refinery (each with a ‘tall stack’ after 1977), tailings ponds, and a corporate office in Kellogg. As aspects of its effort to purchase pollution easements or simply the right to pollute lands it owned, Bunker Hill also owned (or leased) tens of thousands of acres of former farmland adjacent to the South Fork and the Coeur d’Alene River. It also purchased “smoke easements” for thousands of acres of Shoshone County land likely to be damaged by its lead and zinc plants’ effluent. In addition, at various times in its history the company owned or leased thousands of acres of area forest lands for its logging operations. The Star Mine, which Bunker co-owned with the Hecla Mining Company, lay within the District but several miles from Kellogg and Smelterville.

GER: Briefly describe the damage inflicted on the waterways and landscapes of Couer d’Alenes by the Bunker Hill facility?

BDS: By the early 1930s, if not earlier, the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River had become essentially a “lifeless river,” devoid of organic life. Below it, the Coeur d’Alene River was not in much better shape. Significant fish populations could not be found in the stream until it had emptied into a large body of water, Lake Coeur d’Alene, and mine tailings were diluted by a large quantity of water. Lead sulphate (dissolved lead) appears to have been a principal culprit in the diminution of the streams’ capacities to support life. Since the installation of modern tailings impoundment facilities by Bunker Hill and the other major mining companies in the late 1960s and early 1970s in response to federal clean water mandates, water quality in the watershed has seen marked improvement. Healthy fish populations now can be found on the Coeur d’Alene River and on parts of the South Fork. Heavy metals in and around the lateral lakes along the lower Coeur d’Alene River also have been significantly cleaned up by the EPA and no longer kill as many geese and ducks as they formerly did. The Bunker Hill smelter and zinc plant rained down many, many tons of lead, sulphur dioxide and other toxins on the landscape of the Coeur d’Alenes over the decades. In August of 1974, following Bunker’s decision to run its smelter at full bore for months without a working pollution control system, the children of Kellogg and Smelterville registered some of the highest blood lead levels ever recorded. After the shutdown of both plants in early 1982, the declaration of the area as a federal Superfund site, and years of household yard cleanups (in which yard dirt down to four feet in depth was removed by the EPA), children’s blood lead levels in the area dropped to below the national average by the early 2000s.


Bunker Hill Lead Blast-Furnace

GER: Could you describe Ulrich Beck’s theorization of two discrete stages of modernity and how it related to Bunker Hill and the Couer d’Alenes?

BDS: Beck holds that under the stage he calls ‘classical industrial society,’ the risks produced by industry (to health, quality of life, etc.), are essentially discounted by people as ‘the price of progress.’ In a later stage, which he dubs ‘advanced modernity,’ people begin to reject the risks as too great to be discounted and to demand that industry do a better job of minimizing them, for example by demanding safer workplaces, less industrial pollution, etc. In the Coeur d’Alenes, the watershed decade when both the larger society (i.e., the U.S., as represented by new federal environmental laws and agencies such as the EPA) and some locals began to push the area’s industrial chieftains into ‘advanced modernity.’

GER: How did the production of lead and zinc effect the workers at Bunker Hill and the residents of Kellogg?

BDS: Workers at the zinc, and to an even greater extent the lead, plant, suffered from a variety of maladies, primarily due to excessive amounts of airborne lead in the workplace. NIOSH studies have shown that Bunker Hill’s lead smelter workers have suffered from heightened death rates from chronic renal disease and renal cancer, both of which are associated with lead exposure, and stroke. A large cohort of children who were exposed to the area’s stratospheric rates of lead in 1973-’74, studied twenty years later as adults, were found to be significantly more likely than the median U.S.  population to suffer from a variety of health problem. These included high blood pressure, infertility, sleep disorders, memory loss, trouble concentrating, learning disabilities, anemia, and depression.

Bunker Hill Stacks Demolished

Demolition of Bunker Hill – Courtesy of Newsweek

GER: What was the environmental/economic impact of the destruction of Bunker Hill on the town of Kellogg and related communities?

BDS: Economically it was devastating. The town suffered the loss of its economic base and consequently lost a major portion of its population and tax base. Kellogg really has never recovered, although it has tried to reinvent itself as a ‘Bavarian Ski Village.’ Environmentally, the area has improved significantly since 1982, and, thanks to the EPA’s cleanup efforts, is probably the cleanest and most healthful it’s been since the early part of the 20th Century.  

GER: Do you believe the current political environment calling for reductions in EPA rules and regulations will bring back smelters, blast furnaces and steel mills to the United States or will they remain in poorer countries without regulation?

BDS: The latter. It’s still a lot more expensive to do that kind of industry in the U.S. than it is in less-developed countries, and even if current efforts to repeal federal environmental regulations are successful, there still will be far more such regulation here than in, let’s say, China.

GER: Has the United States reached the point that residents will put a higher value on their living environment as opposed to sacrificing it for good paying blue collar jobs?

BDS:  I think there are places where folks might be willing to sacrifice the environment to ‘bring back good paying jobs,’ or to retain them – a good number of people in West Virginia appear to support mountaintop-removal coal mining for example – but I think it’s extremely difficult to bring those jobs back once they’ve been lost to other countries. In addition, there are some things U.S. communities just don’t seem to be willing to put up with anymore, for example the level of pollution associated with lead smelting.

GER: Do you believe corporations place a higher value on profits rather than allegiance to communities and nations they once operated in?

BDS:  As a rule, yes. For-profit corporations generally operate in an environment of global competition and are legally bound to maximize profits for their shareholders. Loyalty to community, while perhaps a value to corporate executives, cannot compete with the mandate to maintain competitiveness and maximize profits.

GER: Many residents born in the United States after 1995 have no idea of the high rate of pollution that plants such as Bunker Hill inflicted on the living and working environment of the areas they  once operated in. Living With Lead is a timely release with the calls for deregulation. What impact do you hope for with this book?

BDS: I hope it will encourage readers to think about the level of worker health and environmental tradeoffs that not so long ago were commonplace in the U.S., how and why that has changed, and what kind of world we want to live in going forward.

You can find the book here: BookDetails


Bradley D. Snow is assistant teaching professor of history at Montana State University.

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter


An Interview with Lyn Lifshin

Lynn Lifshin 2

Lyn Lifshin has published  over 130 books and chapbooks including 3 from Black Sparrow Press: Cold Comfort, Before It’s Light and Another Woman Who Looks Like Me. Before Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle, Lifshin published her prize winning book about the short lived beautiful race horse Ruffian, The Licorice Daughter: My Year With Ruffian and  Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness.  Recent books include Ballroom, All the Poets Who Have Touched Me, Living and Dead. All True, Especially The Lies, Light At the End: The Jesus Poems, Katrina, Mirrors, Persphone, Lost In The Fog,  Knife Edge & Absinthe: The Tango Poems .  NYQ books published A Girl Goes into The Woods. Also  just out: For the Roses poems after Joni Mitchell and Hitchcock Hotel from Danse Macabre. Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle.  And Tangled as the Alphabet,– The Istanbul Poems from NightBallet Press Just released as well  Malala,   the dvd of Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass. The Marilyn Poems was just released from Rubber Boots Press. An update to her Gale Research Autobiography is out: Lips, Blues, Blue Lace: On The Outside. Also just out is a dvd of the documentary film about her: Lyn Lifshin: Not Made Of Glass. Just out: Femme Eterna  and Moving Through Stained Glass: the Maple Poems. Forthcoming: Degas Little Dancer and Winter Poems from Kind of a Hurricane Press, Paintings and Poems, from Tangerine press (just out)  and The Silk Road from Night Ballet, alivelikealoadedgun from Transcendent Zero Press Just Out and forthcoming Refugees


  • g emil reutter


The Interview

Lynn Lifshin

GER: What brought you to poetry and who were your inspirations?

LL: As a child I was read to a lot and I remember one of my favorite books was the collection of poetry, NOW WE ARE SIX, with its poetry of Tattoo the Cat, Alexander the beetle his grandmother let out, and Anne, Anne playing in the willows. I still have that book. When I was about 3, driving from Barre, VT to Middlebury, VT I am told I said “it looks like the trees are dancing.”  My mother, who named me Rosalyn Diane, a name she thought would be appropriate for an actress, something I think she always wanted to be herself, sighed, “well then maybe she will be a poet.”

 In elementary school, because I read and wrote well, I skipped from first to third grade. There, I had an amazing teacher, Mrs. Flag. Each morning she brought in something—a branch of apple blossoms, colored stones, prints of famous paintings and asked us to write about them. I still have those blue books with hand written poems about apple blossoms, water fowl, snow in April. One day I copied a poem of Blake’s and told my mother I had written it. Since Middlebury was a small town it wasn’t unusual that my mother ran into my teacher and told her what an inspiration she’d been—how I had written a poem with words in it she didn’t even know I knew. By Monday I had to write my  poem with those particular words in them: rill, descending, nigh.

In college I never felt I could write enough so didn’t take any writing courses. But I did write a few poems over summer. Robert Frost, who spent the summer in Ripton, VT, often wandered around Middlebury in baggy green pants carrying a bag of strawberries. Like my father, he was a taciturn, quiet man and would only let my father, who worked in my uncle’s department store, wait on him. My father one time showed him one of my poems and Frost wrote on it. “wonderful images—bring me some more poems.” By the time I had any more poems, Frost was dead. In my first year of college I fell in love with Federico Garcia Lorca and in graduate school, Dylan Thomas. And later Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin.

GER: You never attended a workshop yet you have taught numerous workshops. What value do you place in workshops?

 LL: For so many writers who start writing on their own, maybe a workshop is a great place to try out poems and stories, meet other writers, start a magazine. At times I think these workshops become so insulated they only publish their own poems but I suppose there are good things coming out of them. When I started writing, I wouldn’t have any idea of where to even look for a writing workshop.

Lyn Lifshin Reading

GER:  Do you use a particular formula in creating your poems?

LL: Not really. I did an article for Writers Digest about the many way I’ve started poems and there are so many. I like assignments: people looking for poems on a certain subject. That often triggers a who series of poems on that subject. A forthcoming book, THE SILK ROAD came  from a request for poems about silk and spices. Requests for poems on certain subjects often turn into whole books: poems about Jesus, (JESUS ALIVE AND IN THE FLESH)  (poems about dick for a day, mother and daughter poems, (TANGLED VINES) and (THE DAUGHTER I DON’T HAVE.) Marilyn Monroe (MARILYN MONROE) political poems (BLUE TATTOO), Barbie  poems (BARBIE), Malala (MALALA). So often when I am asked for a poem on a subject it seems I couldn’t stop and wrote not one or two poems but a series. FOR THE ROSES came from a request for poems about Joni Mitchell. Sadly the week the book was  released, the editor-publisher became sick and died –I had received only about ten copies of the book and no one could find the others or discover the key to printing more copies—so the few that are out are truly collectors’ copies. ) I paid to have a group reprinted but sadly the book didn’t get the attention it should had though I think it is still on Amazon and I have a few copies;  an Obama file came from two requests for two books on Obama that came out just around his election. I never submitted that file anywhere else.


GER: Tell us about your latest release, Little Dancer–The Degas Poems.

 LL:  I’d always loved ballet- in Middlebury there was not much of a chance to take classes. For a year or two a lovely, exotic dancer from Paris, Mrs. Berge—later we learned she was Mrs. Berger who had come to escape the Holocaust. I was a chubby 8 year old but I loved the classes and she gave me a tiara and costume she wore in the Metropolitan Opera that I still have and cherish. Though I still take ballet barre, now my passion is ballroom and Argentine tango. The original statue of the little dance is in the National Gallery in Washington DC and I wrote the  poems after seeing a  play based on Degas and the little dancer.


GER: In 2014 Femme Eterna was released followed by #AliveLikeALoadedGun  in 2016. Could you share with us your thoughts on these books?

LL: Classical images and themes haven’t been a mainstay of my work. But an artist wanted to collaborate on a project for THE WOMEN’S MUSEUM. She had an idea of showing women thru the ages and how they each had some area of power. We planned to begin with the earliest well known women and work up to the present.  We each picked out a number of women in myth and history and she began working on paintings and I worked on poems. I started with Enheduanna because I knew nothing about her. It was fun. I loved the fact that she was not only the first woman who signed her name to what she had written but she was also a poet. I loved reading about the Euphrates, imagining her shiny dark lips as she wrote on her lapis lazuli tablet. I was impressed, imagining the patience and time it must have taken to write with a stylus and in cuneiform. When I was in Turkey, I saw a stylus of similar cuneiforms and was even more amazed at Enheduanna’s accomplishments.   It was easy to identify with Scheherazade, another story teller, who imagination kept her alive. I learned so much about Nefertiti’s life, her power, her heart breaks. It was very different for me to focus on the myths and history of these special women. The project my artist friend and I were working on never happened. More recently we talked about resurrecting a project that would combine our poetic and artistic works.     

ALIVELIKEALOADEDGUN came together in a rather traditional way. The editor-producer wrote me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a book. I sent him several, (many—I probably drowned him in files) of new poems and he made the selection.       

GER: Over 135 of your books have been published and after decades of writing you remain prolific. To what do you attribute the continued flow of creativity?

LL: I’m really not sure. In the cabinet over my desk are about 59 hand written notebooks—spiral notebooks with about 70 pages each of poems so if I never write another poem, I will have more than enough to type up for years!. I am still writing. Two of my poems that I felt were strong were just accepted by a magazine that felt they were some of the strongest I’ve written.

 For a while I was fascinated with horse racing and three of my strongest books came from that subject: THE LICORICE DAUGHTER: A YEAR WITH RUFFIAN; BARBARO: UNBROKEN; SECRETARIAT:THE RED FREAK, THE MIRACLE. Before that, many of the poems were family poems, poems about people. My three Black sparrow books have many poems about family: COLD COMFORT, BEFORE IT’S LIGHT and ANOTHER WOMAN WHO LOOKS LIKE ME. And I did a series of books about places: AUDDLEY END, THE OLD HOUSE ON THE CROTON, SHAKER HOUSE POEMS, PLYMOUTH WOMEN, THE OLD HOUSES, PLYMOUTH. I’ve also done many nature themed books NUTLEY POND and MOVING THRU STAINED GLASS—THE MAPLE POEMS.

lifshin hat

 GER: How has the poetry scene changed since you first came on the scene?

 LL: In so many way. The many advanced degrees in poetry at many schools has created little enclaves or cliques of poets.  Submission has changed with Submittable being the main way of sending poems. In early anthologies RISING TIDES and PSYCHE:THE POETRIC FEMININE  –anthologies that go from Emily Dickinson to the present include my work while there are only about 5  other contemporary poets. But I’ve never won a Push Cart. Or had a poem on Garrison Keillor’s daily poem program.

GER: So I hear you like to tango. Do you find any similarities between the art of the dance and the art of words?

LL: I suppose there are—tango never came as easily as poetry but I’ve loved it as much. On my web site there is a tango dance I’ve done after only half a year of classes. But I wish I did more. I do have a book of tango poems; (all written before I did any tango dancing) KNIFE EDGE & ABSINTH:THE TANGO POEMS. And BALLROOM, another of my favorites, is also from the press where the editor died—I do have some copies and I hope Amazon does too. It all is rather ephemeral isn’t it? I do have a movie LYN LIFSHIN: NOT MADE OF GLASS and I used to tape all my poems only to realize my tape recorder wasn’t very good. But there are some readings of poems on my web site and a reading and interview at the Library of Congress and is on my web site.

Watch Lyn Lifshin doing the Argentine Tango!

2  Poems
since I’ve dreamed
anything that was
not nightmare
This spring
with goslings in
the roses, tulips
and crocuses pushing
color thru crystal
ice, I hardly
notice the wood
ducks. I don’t hear
geese in flight.
I used to dream
goose music, scan
black ripples
walking back
from the pond.
Before I photographed
the last light
glowing in dark
the sun gulped.
Just one tree
on fire as
if glowing
from within
a word she used in a freshman
comp class and was told it
didn’t exist. She wants that
moon, exotic as the long gone
sailor’s eyes, the ripples at
Lake Dunmore glowed in more
years ago than she can believe.
She doesn’t want just any
moon but a moon the color
of her cries, garnet and tangerine,
a Harvest Moon that will turn
her bare arms and thighs
rouge as he did. Later, she opens
the blinds. She’d almost
forgotten about the moon but
suddenly something pulls her from
the quilts to the window and
it was there, as if waiting for her
in her dream, a moon
as in love with secrets as she is,
letting mysteries bleed into
the shadows of her bedroom,
into the round blond
vanity and hassock she once
watched her mother stand behind
her braiding her hair, Otter
Falls crashing in the distance into
the whirlpool she isn’t sure
came from other worlds
or from her own imagination

To learn more about Lynn Lifshin please visit her at: 

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter