All along, I’ve felt a ping of guilt when taking time to write poetry or fiction. As if I’ve been stealing from others, even when I was living alone. Rubato, in Italian, means theft, although in music it’s applied as a way of making a phrase more flexible and ultimately sensual. And here it enters, as a dimension of my life journey.

What, then, is honest and what comes across as fake in a deep desire for love and affirmation?

I’ll let these poems sing and shout and lament on their own. I’ve somehow survived their transitions.


For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.



As I’ve plunged into my biggest novel (on top of my earlier theological investigations recently published as Religion Turned Upside Down), I’ve become acutely aware of how much the eastern and western halves of the Mediterranean world differed in the days of the Roman Empire. For one thing, the division of Christianity into Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy was in process from the earliest days, rather than in the formal schism of 1054, and much of the subtlety of Greek thought never translated into Latin.

Mediterraneo, my newest collection of poems, moves through these waters.

This has me recalling the fact that the great Italian art form of opera was invented as an attempt to recreate the sung qualities of ancient Greek drama.

Let’s see what else we dig up.


For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.


The exercise of writing about what I’d like to know, rather than following the dictum of writing about what you know, mapped my mind into the sands of northern Africa. The region was little known, even before the social uprisings that captured headlines after I’d finished my first draft of the collection.

The Mediterranean Sea, after all, runs along Morocco, Libya, and Tunisia as well as Spain, the French Riviera, Italy, and Greece, even before Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt.

It’s a widely varied geography encompassing greatly different cultures, even before the ancient histories are added.

The poems of Mediterraneo are unlike any I’ve done before. See why.


Mediterraneo 1

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.


I’ve never been to the Mediterranean, much less Greece or Egypt or the Holy Land. Never out of the country, for that matter, excepting pockets of Canada. All the same, I’ve flown places in my imagining, and some convey some underlying kinship.

Barcelona is one of those. Seemingly far out of my northern nature, this Latin complex of sensuality, color, and Roman Catholic devotion also harbors a stubborn independence, under its ostensible domination by others. Spanish, but not Spanish. Catholic, and yet harboring a historic realm of heretical lay movements. Add to that a passion for the musical dramas of Wagner, accompanied by industry.

Perhaps my genetic line does run, as a marker suggests, from northern England to the border of Spain, albeit to the west of Barcelona. Uncork a red wine, then, and sit in my Smoking Garden on a summer late afternoon. Muse on a line from one friend in her year abroad, or another, or a daughter while listening to an opera broadcast.

See how they shape the collection Mediterraneo.


Mediterraneo 1

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.


Composing my Braided Double-Cross collection marked a turning point, one that came as I was getting my feet back on the ground as a poet after getting sidetracked into the demands at a shirt-sleeves management level and later focusing on novel-length fiction. Up to this point, my poems and, for that matter, much of my fiction focused on place – the outdoors, especially.

Personally, recovering from the collapse of a marriage and what I thought was better tomorrow on the horizon, I hunkered down back in the ranks of my career rather than trying to climb the proverbial ladder. I needed to catch my breath and nurse my wounds. This included a deep review of my life, the nature of relationships, the meanings of being male, connecting in contemporary society – and somehow, that all came into play when I came across an announcement for a book-length poetry competition by a university press. In some flash of intuition, I decided to do a 60-page collection based on notes I’d been gathering. Two weeks later, I was exhausted – but the draft was done.

It wasn’t the first time I’d done a poetry manuscript based on a focused theme. My American Olympus, conceived as a longpoem, had earlier tackled the Olympic Peninsula. But this was the first time I chose to work with individual poems of a general length and style, and it was a leap into love, not in the traditional vein but of a more brutal, realistic take on today’s interactions.

While I had already drafted a novel that would break out into Promise, Peel (as in apple), St. Helens in the Mix, and Kokopelli’s Hornpipe, its focus was more on marriage and trying to work as a couple or with other couples.

Now I was venturing into fresh territory. With Braided Double-Cross – and the subsequent Blue Rock and Long Stemmed Roses in a Shattered Mirror, each of which tackles the same subject in its own unique structure – you could say I was taking the “inner child” concept a step further. These look at love and loving from the perspective of an “inner teen” – one full of adolescent passion, defiance, anger, hunger, raging hormones, overwhelming loneliness. I wanted to record it in its fullness.

At the time, readers and editors under the age of 45 seemed to rave about the work. Those older were largely appalled. Somehow, I still find that telling.

Over the years, the material has also worked itself into many of my other poems; I do have a fondness for Baroque and a respect for the way Bach and Handel recycled so much of their composition. I think, too, that much of the graffiti mosaic or jazz infused energy found in my poetry takes off from this point.

Well, about three decades have transpired since all that. I’m glad I wrote the poems when I did, the way I did. Today would be a different story.


For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.