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Gloria Mindock, Editor   Issue No. 102   October, 2020




Welcome to the October Newsletter, 2020. Our last newsletter was in July.

Thank you to everyone for reading in the 15 year anniversary celebration in July and August. We had 57 readings with 131 writers be a part of it. Thank you to all those who did a video and posted it on our Cervena Barva Press Reading Series page on FB. Everyone for both these events did an amazing job. Wow! Thank you so much for making it all so special for the press and me!!! It was the best! Thank you to my co-hosts Renuka Raghavan, Karen Friedland, and R. J. Jeffreys.

Also, I want to thank everyone who donated money and books to the press these past months. That has helped tremendously. I am so very grateful.

From August until now, we released 6 books. I was so happy to be able to publish them and get them out into the world! They are:

Escape from Crimea
A Collection of Short Stories

by Svet DiNahum

The Adventures of Camel Jeremy Eros
by Corey Mesler

Tales from the Teacup Palace
by Karen Friedland
(Poetry Chapbook)

A Name for Everything
by Mark Fleckenstein

by Charles Cantrell

The Bitter Kind A Flash Novelette
by Tara Lynn Masih & James Claffey
(Flash Fiction)

Click on the images or titles to order!

Interview with Ellen Devlin by Joanne Leu

How did you get started as a poet?

I began in the third grade. The first poem I remember reading was read Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat."

The Owl and The Pussy-cat went to sea
         In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey and plenty of money,
         Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

I was astounded by the sounds and the cadence. I never heard anything like it before. What was this? My mother took my sisters and me to the public library every Saturday, so I was already in love with story. Now I knew poetry was my great love.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Research is one of my favorite steps in writing poetry. Sometimes I begin with an idea for a poem and don't know much about; for example, I wanted to write a poem about the Hebrides. I start with research, its history, typography, the kind of fish that are in the waters. Then as I write, I might want to know what kind of wildflowers grow there. If I need a blue flower to meet the needs of the meter or sounds, I research a blue flower. I especially like to be correct about the information in the poem.

Can you give any advice to someone wanting to write and publish poetry?

Read a great deal of poetry, especially contemporary poetry. Be patient with your poems. I never like my first draft. Sometimes, I write the first draft and think, wow, that's just fabulous, and when I read it a day later, I wonder where the fabulous poem went. Study with the best poets available to you. Build a community of poets from people you meet in classes or you hear at readings. They are generous supporters, and some will become your best editors. Sean Singer said the best part about being a poet is meeting poets Write about what you care about. Don't worry that you are not writing what other poets are writing. Publishing is wonderful. Your work is out in the world and being read. I was so happy when Cervena Barva published Rita. Acknowledgment feels good. But I am not sure getting published is best as a primary goal. It's a wonderful outcome, but I think the poem itself comes first. Make it as good as you can, give to other readers for feedback, and create the possibility of being published.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I do read my reviews, good and bad. It is all help with the work.

Do you believe in writer's block? & How many hours a day do you write?

In 12 years because I was discouraged about my journal rejections. There were a lot of them. Both times the block lasted a couple of months. After that, I decided that my job was to write, and I began writing on a schedule since then. I write, Monday to Friday, like a job. There are exceptions but few.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

The most difficult part about writing for me is facing the blank page and writing the first line. It never got easy, and most writers agree it never does get easy. But I think we grow in confidence from the experience of facing it many times and eventually coming up with a poem.

What was the highlight of writing your book Rita?

There have been many happy moments in writing Rita, but what I liked best was burnishing the poems. I am a slow writer, and I revised the poems in Rita many times, sometimes ultimately choosing an earlier draft. The highlight of writing Rita was when I knew it was the best, I could make it.

Interview with Jerusha Kananu Marete by Brittany Shipman

Our African exchange interview series continues, thanks to Mbizo Chirasha.

Jerusha Kananu Marete, a Kenyan writer is the author of power-parked-package anthology of poems titled Echoes Of Military Souls that promise to keep you at the edge of your seat. She has her heart in narrative poems. Her touch on the military theme in her anthology is splendid. She graduate from University Of Nairobi (English & Literature) and currently a MA student at Kenyatta University (Literature/Theatre departments). Jerusha is a teacher, a performing artist & a film and theatre enthusiast. She is also a loving mother to Emmanuel. Her poem THE WARM IN OUR WOMB has been published in Best New African Poets 2019 anthology. Her work was also featured in the annual military magazine Reconnoitre.

Are there any specific artists or modes of art that inspire you and your writing?

My writing is inspired by many poets, but the main one is Maya Angelou. Her writings spoke to my heart when I was very young, and from then I knew I would write. I am currently working on oral literature anthology, and I have been inspired by an oral poetry anthology Song of Lawino and Ocol written by Ugandan poet Okot P'Bitek. First published in 1966.

When did you first realize that you had a passion for art and literature?

Back in primary school I used to write and recite short poems, and when I got to secondary, I was so much in love with poetry, and from there I started writing.

In your recently published collection of poems, Echoes of Military Souls, were there any personal influences such as family members, friends, and/ or experiences that inspired these poems?

I lost a close friend at the front. Islamist militant group al-Shabab attacked their base. I also have friends and family in military.

How did you come up with the concept of Echoes of Military Souls? What aided you in this process?

I have always felt as if my friend never left, it is as if I hear his echoes and I have talked to many people who have lost a loved one at the front and most of the same feel the same. Talking to families that had lost a soldier at war aided me in coming up with that title.

In what ways has film and theatre influenced your poetry?

Theatre and film have influenced my poetry a lot. Most of my poems are narrative poems that tell a story and they are very dramatic.

How long have you been in the industry?

I have been in industry for a long time, but as unpublished author, I used to publish on social media. I was also performing poetry at the then Kenya National Theatre programme dubbed Kipawa Sato that was aired live by citizen Tv in 2007. The same year I won modelling competition at UON Kikuyu Campus. Last year was a year of good tidings when the first version of my book Echoes of Military Souls was published. Amazon through Kindle self-publishing. This year at the wake of Corona Mystery publishers midwifed the birth of Echoes of Military Souls poems of my heart an anthology of poems which has opened great vistas for me home and abroad.

Are you into writing full time?

I am not a full-time writer, but I write most of my time. I am a teacher and a business lady as well. Currently I am writing another anthology of Oral Poetry titled Marry Me a Co-Wife and other poems. I can guarantee you will love the poems. You can call it contemporary song of Lawino and Ocol. For the first time I am trying my hand on prose. I am writing a Young Adult literature book. A story of a girl who procured an abortion and later realizes that her uterus was removed without her knowledge. It touches on issues affecting our teenagers. A sad story that ends with a glimmer of hope.

How many books have you written?

I have written a power packaged anthology of poems that will keep you to the edge of your seat Echoes of Military Souls. I have been published in different anthologies Kenya, Africa and America. My poems have also been featured in Reconnoitre: Official Magazine of the Kenya Military Academy 2019.

  • Libero America Journal
  • Best "NEW "African Poets 2019 Anthology
  • African Writers Caravan Journal
  • Millennial Voices; East African Poetry
  • Reconnoitre: Official Magazine of the Kenya Military Academy 2019

Currently I am working on oral poetry anthology and Young Adult novella.

How would you describe your market reach over the years?

Challenging, as I have stated my book was published at the wake of Corona and that has been a serious setback. However, all is not lost, my family and friends have really supported me. I have been advertising on social media as well, but I haven't had a breakthrough. I had targeted military (the people I celebrate in the text) as a big audience for the text, but I have not been able to penetrate their market. I am hopeful that a Good Samaritan there will help me market my book there. Someone has to help me tell their story to the world and to the families that have lost a loved one at the front. We have to air their sacrifice and pain.

Have you won any awards?

Not yet, but there have been prophesies from my mentors that I will win soon. God is working overtime for me on the award and in His time the award will be forthcoming.

What have been your challenges in the industry?

The biggest challenge is market. Many people do not go gaga for poetry, but that does not stop us from writing. Most bookstores will only stock known authors and that makes it hard for budding authors to get to the market. To survive in the industry, one has to be versatile and aggressive. Publishing is equally an uphill task especially with mainstream publishers, and the cost of self-publishing is high. When it comes to awards and recognition, self-published authors are disadvantaged.

Are you mentoring anyone with such like interest?

Yes, I have mentored a young poet whose work will be out soon. I also have a club in the school where I teach and we do artwork, drawing, acting, singing and poetry. With support from the school we did a documentary titled Unbowed on Use of Forum Theatre as a Medium of Social Intervention Against Drug Abuse and Prostitution in Mlolongo.

Who would you love to work with locally or internationally?

I would love to work with international journals and magazines and locally I wish to work with mainstream publishers.

A copy of my book retails at Ksh 1000. Email me at for deliveries.
You can also order your copy on Amazon. Check the review on The Star Newspaper and Goodreads too.

Summary of Echoes of Military Souls

The book collects 11 narrative verses arranged in beautiful stanzas around eschatological questions that arise in theatres of war and the humans affected by it all. The 60-page book, which features terse words and a black soldier statue leitmotif, communicates central concerns of the young poet candidly.

With military precision, we are taken to the nexus between war and women's experiences. Trauma of broken families as a result of a lost army soul, violence of the mind couched as nostalgia, and the twin roles of memory/testimony are foregrounded thematic schemas in the eleven poignant poems by Marete. The book opens with a poem called "The Promise" (p1-3). The persona and her son take time to visit the grave of their man who perished in war. This moment of respect and regret provides an ambience for her to dramatically address the dead.

Echoes are what the address is ultimately. Her echo of promises to keep alive in the absence of the breadwinner is moving, to say the least. Behold her new normal as she recounts the rigour of raising a fatherless son, minding a sonless grandmother and fortifying a spouseless self as she exhorts a silent grave.

"Painful Passion" (p7-8) is a throbbing exhortation to duty and sacrifice as the touchstones of the military career. Here, Marete launches an array of parallelisms to bring home the severity of the situation in military lives and duty. "I am talking of you, dear soldiers / Who slept in the bush last night, dug in / Protecting us. I am talking of you, brave soldiers / you put your lives on the line / Sacrifice your all / For the love of your country." Philosophically, the reader stumbles on the obvious yet startling truth.

Echoes of Military Souls' was published in April 2020 by Mystery Publishers Limited.


RESOLUTIONS a family in stories by Jen Knox
Reviewed by Susan Tepper

This book, which could also be called a linked novel, is by and far one of the most compelling and honest fictions I've read about the people who make up the past forty to fifty years in America. Some brief backstory, which crops up here and there, is significant to this plot, mainly to Jasmine, the mother, during her childhood (which accounts for the time frame I mention here).

Essentially the book is divided into segments, most of which take place in Ohio between the years 2014 and 2030. The narrator of the Ohio segments is Molly May, the younger female of four siblings (2 girls, 2 boys). The additional segments are told in the voice of the mother, Jasmine, and span a period from 2016 to 2030 in book real time.

All these characters are written so alive they're jumping off the page. Knox spares none of them, you won't find clap-trap sentimentality in this book. Emotional passages have been hard-earned by the characters because this author understands that flaws are a deep part of the human condition.

I became very involved in the book; in each individual character. The older sister, Allie, and Jasmine, the very quirky mother of this lively brood, are the driving forces (despite that Allie never narrates any of the passages, her voice comes across without restraint). She is a strong, valiant, and determined young woman. The two younger boys, Joey and Myron, are equally powerful characters in their differences, foibles, strengths and weaknesses. Molly May, in my opinion, is the sounding board off which all the mayhem and music of the book reverberates.

Brilliantly written, this is a journey across time in America. Its focus primarily on the heartland; though this story could be anywhere America. People suffer all kinds of injustices, large and small, be it in cities and towns, on farms, in the mountains, near beaches and lakes and rivers. America is a big country. Though the details written for each scene in the book are just enough to show the reader a vivid picture, without smothering the drama, which surges, ebbs, then surges again. This is truly a book of now. As if Knox has an indelible reel in her mind, calling up history, while re-focusing on future possibilities for these characters. This author espouses nothing, but presents us with a great and timely read.



article by Michael Todd Steffen

ISBN 978-1-945917-62-2
is available for $15
from Big Table Publishing
Boston, San Francisco

Howard Nemerov in his resplendent ode "The Blue Swallows" eloquently states,

         O swallows, swallows, poems are not
         The point. Finding again the world,
         That is the point...

The quote illuminates the poetry of Doug Holder, in his love of depicting reversals, the unexpected, how our vanities are overturned, as in "The Wind Down Boylston Street": "cool silk shirts/ballooned/like bombastic clowns/distorting the hard-earned symmetry/of their polished bodies./The wind pushed...their elegant gaits/to halting shuffles./Now.../they stood braced/for another bout/but.../it would not give them the satisfaction. [THE ESSENTIAL DOUG HOLDER: New & Selected Poems [ISBN 978-1-945917-62-2], Big Table Publishing, 2020, page 28].

Holder often expresses his own being taken by surprise in poetic utterance by beginning his poems with the conjunctive "And," as though catching the moment of the poem just as it was taking place, trying to catch up with it, in the middle of its conversation, drawing the reader's attention to the moment.

         And I knew better.../to flirt,/to watch/the trail/of seductive/smoke/coil/around me...
         ["The Last Cigarette," p. 39]

         And yes/it has come the time/when I see my father's face/in the mirror... ["A Thought
         on Father's Day," p. 58]

         And she ran./Legs-/almost lifting her/into flight... ["For Sarah," p. 74]

         And when he riffed/his girth/was no obstacle... ["Guitar Man," p. 155]

It is the unlikeliness of appearances that Holder's poetry consistently brings to us. Just as a sudden wind down Boylston Street can make the people of bodily symmetry appear ridiculous, the awkwardly corpulent guitarist draws the poet's attention to the beauty of the intensity of his skill: "face twitching/as if it/was synchronized./His eyes tightly/locked/on the singers./And/all I could see/were his/agile, manic/fingers." [page 155].

Though by and large Holder's verse is "free," he does use rhyme effectively, if sparingly. He is keenly aware of the possible nuance of words and just what inspires them. The titles of his books subtly impart to us this sense.

POEMS OF BOSTON AND JUST BEYOND, the title of the first collection, is a good example. For not everybody lives in the Boston area, the name of a place known for much intellect, imagination, history and beauty, though almost everybody somehow dwells with that realm "JUST BEYOND," in that lapse of time which makes Holder's subjects, if apparently absurd, equally wonderful and faithful to what's going on in their minds, like the aged boxer in the early poem "The Welterweight": "On the locked ward/in his corner/...springs into action with the ring of the fire alarm bell/sparring with us/ducking and weaving/around our dead-end grabs..." [p. 32].

Similarly the English sense of "pain" resonates paradoxically with the French sense of "bread" in one of Holder's favorite haunts, the Au Bon Pain-which now has disappeared from the area, the locus in Davis Square that once gathered the Bagels & Bards, a group of poets, artists and writers galvanized largely by Holder. The cafe gives rise to the title of his second collection, DREAMS AT THE AU BON PAIN. This selection ranges from the theme of individual psychological and physical "pain"-"You know the skids/when the Spare Change hawker/won't call you "young man".../when the glance of a beatific/Harvard girl/escapes you/with a bothered flick of her head/... your knees ache clandestinely/under the table...[p. 38]

-to the relief of anonymity in fellowship with other artists:

         And that's when
         you felt most at peace-
         lost in the cornucopia.
         like the multi-eyed
         fly on the wall
         away from the claustrophobic intimacy.
         not observed
         owner of your own dialogue...[p. 37].

THE ESSENTIAL DOUG HOLDER has been brought out at just the right time, as we all are suffering from the quarantine and "the claustrophobic intimacy" expressed in the poem. Another point I think the poem brings out is the essential modesty-"a fly on the wall"-of this poet so treasured in our community. His tireless accessibility and generosity with poets, writers and artists have been deeply felt and dearly appreciated. The book holds this essence of Holder.

Added thanks should go out to Robin Stratton of Big Table Publishing for assembling the poems, and to retired Brandeis Professor Karen Klein for her insightful and generous Introduction to the book.


Reviewed by Susan Tepper

Every so often a hybrid book of interest and substance, with actual understandable prose/poetry, appears on the Indie scene. "If Walls Could Speak Mine Would Blush" by Frank Murphy is one such example. There is no holding back here. The characters speak and react like real people. The settings are easily viewed by the reader. Soppy images don't interest Murphy. He views life with a fair hand and even eye, and manages his characters deftly. There is also a great deal of heart to this book, though there's no skimping on the grit and reality of today's world. Murphy uses himself as the central character and jumping off point. Whether this is fiction or memoir, or some combination, doesn't really matter, as the writer pulls the reader in by the neck. I wanted to see what else was on Murphy's mind. His range of feelings is strongly diverse. In the story-poem titled Straight Truth With No Chaser he begins: "There is no glory in dying drunk and alone. / Bukowski didn't die alone or broke. / But I surely will. / ..." As I stated above, all the pieces play out differently. A Solid Truth begins: "I am never angry that you must go, I am upset that I cannot / follow. / As blood is our bond and time is everyone's enemy. / The pages are full but I will never be able to view the / chapters close. / ..." As this piece continues, it is apparent that it's a letter of love to a close relative who is dying, though the writer leaves us to figure out an ending. This is a tender counterpoint (and there are others) to the more gritty realism carrying the book. In the piece Too Late Too Bad he begins: "I had run off the rails, lived a life most would only dream / of and now it was time to pay for the joyride. / My liver was gone and I was living on borrowed time. / No longer did the bullshit of others seem so important. / ..." I decided to end the review with this particular line by the author, because in the midst of our great pandemic, as Murphy tells us: 'No longer did the bullshit of others seem so important.' There are many truths in this book, though this struck me as paramount. The reader will also find humor, some cautionary tales, and some that will make you think twice and again. A most highly recommended read.

See you next month with more exciting news.

In the meantime, as we work on getting new and used books on our website, I will be posting books everyday on FB on our Lost Bookshelf Bookstore page. All books are limited in the amount of copies.

If you are interested in any of them, you can contact us at:

Since the bookstore is closed yet and it will take so long to get all those books online, I thought I would post them on our store page on FB. Be sure to browse the page everyday for bargains. It will be on a first come basis.

Thanks again to everyone and our wonderful community for keeping us going during Covid-19.
Be safe!

Cervena Barva Press Staff

Gloria Mindock, Editor & Publisher
Flavia Cosma, International Editor
Helene Cardona, Contributing Editor
Andrey Gritsman, Contributing Editor
Juri Talvet, Contributing Editor
William J. Kelle, Webmaster
Renuka Raghavan, Fiction Reviewer, Publicity
Karen Friedland, Interviewer
Gene Barry, Poetry Reviewer
Miriam O' Neal, Poetry Reviewer
Annie Pluto, Poetry Reviewer
Christopher Reilley, Poetry Reviewer
R. J. Jeffreys, New staff


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