Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mermaids and other noir poetry

JAN BROGAN: We feature a lot of different writers here at Jungle Red. Most of them are mystery writers, but not all.  It's August, so why not try something completely different. What haven't we posted much of? 


James Hutchings lives in Melbourne, Australia.  He specializes in short fantasy fiction. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, fiction365 and Enchanted Conversation among other markets.  He blogs regularly at
When James Hutchings contacted me about his new e-book, The New Death and Others, a collection of dark fantasy short stories and poetry, I asked to see the poetry. As far as I'm concerned, there isn't enough accessible poetry in the world, or maybe, I don't make as much effort as I should to find the accessible poetry in the world. In either event,  I loved Jame's work and thought I'd share two of his poems.  The first, is especially, perfect for August.  

 Heard the Mermaids Singing

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
T. S. Eliot.

I heard the mermaids singing
and wished I had not heard.
I heard the mermaids singing
a song that has no words.
I heard the mermaids singing
"Come, walk into the sea,"
and all the waves that break are like
white horses sent for me.

I heard the mermaids singing
and wished I could forget.
I heard the mermaids singing
and walked away, and yet
I heard the mermaids singing
and hear them singing still.
As water to a wall of sand
their singing to my will.


If my life was filmed, it would
go straight to DVD
and someone who was famous once
would have the role of me
and if five stars meant 'excellent'
you'd give it two or three
and most of those who rented it
would watch ironically.

Years later they would track me down
and do an interview.
They'd say "I heard you died," and I'd
say "Yeah, I heard that too."
"Is any of it fictional?"
"Perhaps a scene or two.
There weren't as many ninjas, but

the rest is mostly true."

The book, The New Death and Others, by James Hutchings touches on such topics as:: Death gets a roommate...An electronic Pope faces a difficult theological question...
A wicked vizier makes a terrible bargain...

There are 44 stories, 19 poems and "no sparkly vampires."Amazon:

You can find his poetry at:


Barnes & Noble:


If you have any questions about poetry, or James's apparent prejudice against sparkly vampires (and more importantly are muted vampires, okay?), he'll be checking in!


  1. Nice work, James, and fine picks, Jan.

    If anyone would like to read more crime-themed poetry, I run a weekly website, The 5-2, open to unpublished work year-round.

  2. James - Welcome!!! I enjoyed reading your pieces, very much.

    Jan - I so agree with your statement "As far as I'm concerned, there isn't enough accessible poetry in the world, or maybe, I don't make as much effort as I should to find the accessible poetry in the world."

    I'm a lover of poetry (although not all poetry). Every once in a while I will just somehow happen onto a new-to-me poet or a piece of work I'm not familiar with and it thrills me silly.

    One place I drop into every so often and just browse is

    This past April for National Poetry Month I posted a poem at my blog almost every day so I could share some of my favorites.

  3. Kaye,
    I will have to check out the foundation and I hope you post some of your poetry here.

    I think poetry is perfect for a blog - because I think blogs lend themselves to briefer forms of communication.

    So I am grateful to James to reminding me of this and hope to see some of your poetry soon.

  4. Jan, you're right that inaccessible poetry tends to win the honors in the poetry world right now, which is run by academics.

    There is actually a lot of good accessible poetry out there. I write about a lot of fine poets who want their poetry to be accessible to the (usually ill-educated) families and communities they come from in my blog series, Books of Interest from Writers of Color.

    And my own poetry is accessible for the same reasons--I always wanted the older members of my family who didn't have much education to be able to read and understand it.

  5. In my earlier post I should have said "I posted a poem at my blog almost every day so I could share some of my favorites written by some very talented poets." Sadly, I'm not a poet myself.

  6. Oh Kaye
    Sorry to have misunderstood.

    Linda, I will have to check out your blog spot.

    I bought a friend's academically honored book of poetry and read each poem about three times. Each phrase alone sounded meaningful, but put together, I still couldn't figure out what the hell it meant.

    Another friend's poetry, which was published by a small press but was not so academically honored, I reread all the time just because I get something more out of it each time. Lines from her poems go through my head all the time - that, I think is what poetry should be about.


  7. I should mention that that poet I love so much is Linda Haviland Conte.

    I won't name the poet I can't understand.


  8. I love this, Jan! And thanks, James, for being here.

    I'm absolutely with you on accessible poetry, in both senses of accessible--understandable and available. I started out writing poetry--my first love. Now I find the novels just take up too much mind space to leave room for anything else, but even reading poetry inspires me to write better language.

    Thanks for the reminder...

  9. P.S. Speaking of "inaccessible", I went through a period, long, long ago, where I read all of Ezra Pound. Not sure I've ever recovered:-)

  10. I used to feel so stupid that I didn't "get" poetry! Then I started finding things like this and I was head over heels!

    Variation on a Theme by King David

    Praise to you!
    Praise to you my snappy love!

    Praise you in clean socks on a Queens-bound
    train; praise you
    for your famous avocado
    sandwiches; Praise you from Brooklyn to blasphemy!

    I've called the mayor to praise you; & a third-
    base coach; even
    that no-neck accountant
    who doesn't have the decency to nod hello
    has agreed to praise you!

    Praise you with bongos and fine fancy
    tea; praise you
    with rhumba, tango & marmelade; praise
    you with your knickers at your knees!

    I praise you on Flag Day, & on whichever equinox
    allows for the balancing of eggs;
    I praise you with eggs!
    Brown ones & jumbo & Faberge Tiffany blue!

    On the white of your wrist I praise you;
    on the vaccuumed throw rug; I praise you full-
    page on Sunday! With faxes
    & foxgloves & brushed cotton sheets;
    with sky-write & timbrel &

    wink! Let every soul
    in the Battery Tunnel honk
    her horn to praise you! Praise you
    with ripe limes & wrestling mats;
    praise you tax-free with agates and tin foil
    & all sparkly things!

    Praise you with foggy spectacles and Wisconsin green cheese!
    Praise you to the afternoon of orthopedic sneakers;
    praise you from poinsettia to piccolo!
    Praise you & praise you & praise you!

    My love,
    from Brooklyn to blasphemy I praise you!

    --L. B. Thompson

  11. That is terrific Kaye! And EXACTLY what I mean. A reminder of what language can do.

    Debs, Same here, I used to write poetry, but somehow it got crowded out. But it is such a great inspiration to take another moment with each line we write.


  12. James, you have a wonderful way with words.

    I actually do write poetry, but I've always been shy about showing it to people.

  13. I love the cadence, the symmetry, and the power of poetry . . . . Generally, I think poetry is best left to create its own pictures in the reader’s mind solely with the words the poet uses, but I have a couple of books that are Robert Frost poems ["Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" and "Birches"] with incredible paintings accompanying and interpreting the poet's words, and they are truly magnificent.

  14. Joan,
    My brother did a water color of Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening and it's one of my favorite pieces.

    Darlene, I htink we are all a little shy about our poetry!

  15. Oh, that sounds so lovely, Jan . . . "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening," my all-time favorite poem, has the most incredible imagery . . . .

  16. Jan… accessible poetry… perfect and just what I needed today.

    Linda, I am mesmerized by your poem, "Calaca Comedy Central." Your opening, "In this time of marigolds and mariposas, calacas, calaveras, and candles everywhere..." the joining of that which will not be together... stunning, as your thoughts in this poem leave me straining for air each time I read it. Gripping.

  17. Jan, you are so right. Your friend's poetry that reverberates in your head is what real poetry is and does.

    Garrison Keillor finds lots of these poems and offers them free to subscribers by email as well as by radio on The Writer's Almanac. He's read several of mine. Check it out.

    Here's one of mine that's based on an old Cherokee teaching story.


    How I fear the witch in me,
    the one in touch
    with power, the one who knows
    without knowing
    how, the secret
    priestess, spirit-bearer, the ugly side
    of woman, the crone—
    and I remember the Cherokee
    legend of Stoneskin, superhuman
    cannibal, devouring whole
    villages, how the People
    set up a fortress of women
    menstruating, how the sight
    of each weakened Stoneskin
    until he died and, dying, told them
    all the secrets, ways
    of power, conjure spells, ways
    to do things.

    The Cherokee live
    off the wisdom
    of a dying monster and the power
    of bleeding women, and they remember
    this. There is a witch somewhere
    in every woman.

    Published in Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)

  18. And for those who are looking for excellent poetry that's also accessible, here are a few to start with. All of these folks have books that are easily available. I've put an asterisk by those I think Reds may really go for. Also, note Tony Barnstone. His book, Tongue of War, is based on 15 years of research and oral history interviews with American and Japanese WWII veterans and with civilians from WWII in both America and Japan, trying to make sense of some of the atrocities and heroism that made up the War in the Pacific. It's a poetic tour de force, a powerful statement, and totally accessible.
    Also note Levi Romero, who has written wonderful, fun poetry about lowriders! It doesn't get much more accessible than that.

    *Allison Joseph
    Luci Tapahonso
    *Tony Barnstone
    *Linda Hogan
    *Joy Harjo
    *Levi Romero
    *Mary Oliver
    *Sandra Cisneros
    Marjorie Agosín
    Sherman Alexie
    Margaret Atwood
    Trish Reeves
    Luis J. Rodríguez
    Paul Martinez Pompa
    Diane Glancy
    *Brenda Cárdenas
    John Olivares Espinoza
    Marge Piercy
    Patricia Spears Jones
    Cornelius Eady
    Richard Blanco

  19. Linda,

    I love Sherman Alexie's short stories. I didn't know that he also writes poetry, but I'm not surprised. Thank you for that list.

    Thank you also for sharing your own poetry. I want to read more of it.

  20. Thanks, DebR! Sherman actually started as a poet and has won many awards. Here's one of my favorite of his poems.

    How to Write the Great American Indian Novel
    By Sherman Alexie
    All of the Indians must have tragic features: tragic noses, eyes, and arms.
    Their hands and fingers must be tragic when they reach for tragic food.

    The hero must be a half-breed, half white and half Indian, preferably
    from a horse culture. He should often weep alone. That is mandatory.

    If the hero is an Indian woman, she is beautiful. She must be slender
    and in love with a white man. But if she loves an Indian man

    then he must be a half-breed, preferably from a horse culture.
    If the Indian woman loves a white man, then he has to be so white

    that we can see the blue veins running through his skin like rivers.
    When the Indian woman steps out of her dress, the white man gasps

    at the endless beauty of her brown skin. She should be compared to nature:
    brown hills, mountains, fertile valleys, dewy grass, wind, and clear water.

    If she is compared to murky water, however, then she must have a secret.
    Indians always have secrets, which are carefully and slowly revealed.

    Yet Indian secrets can be disclosed suddenly, like a storm.
    Indian men, of course, are storms. They should destroy the lives

    of any white women who choose to love them. All white women love
    Indian men. That is always the case. White women feign disgust

    at the savage in blue jeans and T-shirt, but secretly lust after him.
    White women dream about half-breed Indian men from horse cultures.

    Indian men are horses, smelling wild and gamey. When the Indian man
    unbuttons his pants, the white woman should think of topsoil.

    There must be one murder, one suicide, one attempted rape.
    Alcohol should be consumed. Cars must be driven at high speeds.

    Indians must see visions. White people can have the same visions
    if they are in love with Indians. If a white person loves an Indian

    then the white person is Indian by proximity. White people must carry
    an Indian deep inside themselves. Those interior Indians are half-breed

    and obviously from horse cultures. If the interior Indian is male
    then he must be a warrior, especially if he is inside a white man.

    If the interior Indian is female, then she must be a healer, especially if she is inside
    a white woman. Sometimes there are complications.

    An Indian man can be hidden inside a white woman. An Indian woman
    can be hidden inside a white man. In these rare instances,

    everybody is a half-breed struggling to learn more about his or her horse culture.
    There must be redemption, of course, and sins must be forgiven.

    For this, we need children. A white child and an Indian child, gender
    not important, should express deep affection in a childlike way.

    In the Great American Indian novel, when it is finally written,
    all of the white people will be Indians and all of the Indians will be ghosts.

  21. Linda, thank you for posting that. I love Sherman Alexie.

  22. Thanks for the compliments everyone.

    In case anyone's interested, I'm currently working on a long poem set in the old West, called Confession of a Bounty Hunter. Hopefully it'll be out later this year.


  23. PS Wisdom Crieth Without has a lot of good poems: both 'classics' and new ones. They're currently my favourite place to submit poems.

  24. James, I love the sound of your Old West bounty hunter and will look for it. This was a gun blog. We don't often talk about poetry here. Thanks for stimulating this. Great idea, Jan!

  25. @Reine:

    I probably won't have any news about it for several months, but when I do I'll put it on my blog.

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