“Politics of Desperation” … published in MiPOesias, 2006

•February 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

A poem – timely perhaps – published in MiPOesias a decade ago:

“Politics of Desperation”

What we cannot do now is imagine
any other way.


Soft gurgles of three cowbirds
over the fence line.
Shadows in elm & spruce & oak.
Mist along the river stones.
Salt-spill on the table
and windows mapped with prints.2013-09-29 13.08.02
The tiniest thread of winter,
a gift, in mid-summer sky.


Thanks to Didi Menendez for believing in the poem.

Radio On: the Show Yourself recording sessions…

•February 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment


Latest recording project from Radio On:

“Ryan and I are beginning the final part of the Show Yourself sessions (2014-2016) – all original material. The sessions have been engineered, recorded, and mixed by Stephen Schoenecker at Heritage Music, Bristol, TN. The plan is to finish the principal recordings and have the project fully mixed, ready for mastering, by late Spring, 2016. CD to follow. The cover art will be by Cheryl Dodds. The music will be available in CD and digital format.” – Sam Rasnake

Radio On:

Ryan Rasnake:
     6/7/8-string electric guitars, acoustic guitars, drums, percussion,
           and vocals
Sam Rasnake:
     4/5-string and fretless basses, 6/7-string electric guitars, acoustic
           guitars, keyboards, and vocals

John, the Revelator – recorded April/May 2014 [traditional blues; the first track recorded during the Show Yourself sessions, but not included on the album]

The Green Song – recorded April/May 2014 [music by Ryan Rasnake, lyrics by Sam Rasnake; music, originally written for the Crystal Garden recording project]

Translation as Tone Poem – recorded July/August 2014 [instrumental by Sam Rasnake; the song surfaced after nonstop listening to Richard Wright’s “The Great Gig in the Sky”; guest musician: Seth Jones, fretless Bass]

Sinister – recorded September/October 2014 [instrumental by Ryan Rasnake; recording includes a tribute to Peter Cushing in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed]

Motel Chronicles – recorded October/November 2014 [song by Sam Rasnake, adapted from “Lines Written under the Influence,” a poem included in Cinéma Vérité (published by A-Minor Press)]

This Motion – recorded November/December 2014 [song by Ryan Rasnake; a composition bent on finding the perfect crossing of rhythm and melody]

Something for the Writing – recorded June 2015 [song by Sam Rasnake, adapted from “Be Here to Love Me,” a poem focused on the life of Townes Van Zandt, published as a Broadside by MiPOesias]

Moon and Water – recorded June and August 2015 [instrumental by Sam Rasnake; guest narration: Nic Sebastian, reading the poem “Variations on a Theme by Pina Bausch”; the composition was inspired by the film Pina by Wim Wenders and the song “Lilies of the Valley” by Jun Miyake, used in Vollmond (Full Moon), a dance by Pina Bausch]

Aftermath – recorded July-October 2015 [instrumental by Ryan Rasnake, best described as epic-eclectic; soundscape collage introduction recorded and sequenced by Stephen Schoenecker; guest vocals: Doug Fletcher & Leona Drake of the band Downbleed, and Lindsey Rasnake]

Shadows – recorded August and November 2015 [song by Sam Rasnake, adapted from the poem “Masterplot,” included in Inside a Broken Clock (published by Finishing Line Press)]

Stay – recorded February 2016 [song written by Ryan Rasnake; best description I can give is Howlin’ Wolf meets Brain Setzer meets Dex Romweber Duo ]


Musical influences/inspiration for these recordings: Son House, Pink Floyd, Hammer Horror films, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, John McLaughlin, Townes Van Zandt, Wes Montgomery, Pina Bausch, Jun Miyake, Wim Wenders, Ry Cooder, Sam Shepard, Animals as Leaders, Steve Vai, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Alice in Chains, Howlin’ Wolf, Dex Romweber Duo


 Stephen Schoenecker
  at Heritage Music


To be recorded:

Exit 18 [an experimental instrumental by Ryan Rasnake, with Jazz and Indian influences; guest musician: Alanah Peters]

Black Moon Country [song written by Ryan Rasnake & Sam Rasnake]


[This Motion, written by Ryan Rasnake; performed by Radio On; engineered, recorded, and mixed by Stephen Schoenecker at Heritage Music]

“Dark Fountain” – a poem … Jacques Rivette – in memoriam

•January 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Jacques Rivette – in memoriam, 29 January 2016

Rivette’s moving, powerful inward-journey of a film, La Belle Noiseuse
, altered my own views on art, on the creative process. Strong performances throughout. My poem “Dark Fountain,” originally published in a special film issue of Big Muddy, and later included in Cinéma Vérité, poetry collection from A-Minor Press, finds its own connection with Rivette’s film.

“Dark Fountain”

            – after Jacques Rivette’s La Belle Noiseuse

He’d let go ten years before.
Now, his charcoal stick scrapes
canvas – a line, a curve, soft

hollows of back and hip and
thigh. She stands, center room,
in the perfect moment inside

his head that will never find
its finished form, never give
itself away as though starved

or mad. His hand will ache
with its hours, his eye will
search for what it cannot see.

David Ignatow, “Three in Transition” … the hum of spiders…

•January 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment

David Ignatow

“Three in Transition”

     (for WCW)

I wish I understood the beauty
in leaves falling. To whom
are we beautiful
as we go?

I lie in the field
still, absorbing the stars
and silently throwing off
their presence. Silently
I breathe and die
by turns.

He was ripe
and fell to the ground
from a bough
out where the wind
is free
of the branches


David Ignatow’s “Three in Transition” is a sharp focus on mortality – mortality of the body, of presence, of ideas, of the grit of living. All things do come to an end. But, the poet says, we find a place where “the wind / is free / of the branches”. The closing image is ripe with inevitability.

David-IgnatowMaybe the focus of life should be more than transient accomplishment or the gathering things – and here I’m reminded of Shelley’s “long and levels sands,” moving away from us. Instead, we need to be part of the process – Mary Oliver’s notion of doing more than “simply having visited this world”. To understand, to lie in a field, to absorb the stars – their heat and light and silent motion. We breathe and die “by turns,” Ignatow writes. Things continue; leaves appear, leaves fall. What’s the beauty? Who will remember this moment of us in it? Who will read our words, listen to our voices, watch us walk the edge of the hill? Ignatow gives no answer. The question is what’s important.

In the end there is a freedom. We do fall, like the leaf, into an immeasurable unknown. I know we all have ideas, beliefs, fears, hopes… some unlimited, some oblivious, stone, murky, unbelievable, but in the end, truth is discovery. The poem’s closing shows us that when we fall, as we must, we become part of “the wind” – without boundaries. Ignatow is careful not to diminish the universality. The tree cannot hold us; the branches cannot limit us. Note that he uses no closing punctuation. We move, and move, and

“All Fires Are Not Equal” – a poem

•January 26, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Mother 2010
The first of a trilogy of poems written with a focus on my Mother. Though we have many fears, one of the most terrible – for a child, at any rate – found its way into the poem’s ending.

An inevitable loss that dangles its web in front of us all. Whether we see it or not – feel it or not – it’s there. It’s been there all our lives.

“All Fires Are not Equal”

Some glow for days with their red throbs
like the one inside my skull, or measured
in smells of burnt timber, of struck match,
acrid, then sulfur – barrels under the overpass,
late at night, dead of winter, hands stiff and
wishing for anything but what is, or the slick
blaze of oil & smoke choking the bay – still
others with their smokeless loss like my Mother’s
eyes – a flower of clot near her iris is almost gone
now – when she looks into mine, knowing that
months or years or weeks from now she’ll leave
the day to myth its empty sky, and I’ll begin
that slow, numbed forgetting of her face,
the softest dimple of an almost laugh.

      – originally published in Olentangy Review


“Trauma 2” – a poem

•January 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Mother Outer Banks
The draft for this poem found me during a dark moment at the ER of Bristol Regional Medical Center, winter 2015. Thanks to Michelle Elvy’s close reading of the piece’s early versions.

“Trauma 2”

I’m a book with no pages for telling,
no threads of plot for acting, no
stanzas for music or form – There
are no characters searching the stage
for the way out, no lines, no voices.
I’m a book with no pages for reading.

A sea with no boat for sailing,
no wind for speaking, no kelp
for hiding – There are no more
unfolded maps to follow, no birds
for waves to ride, no coral for treasure.
I’m a sea with no island for living.

A forest with no path for walking,
no way of finding, no empty branch
for resting – There are no more
dreams for holding, no leaves for
falling to the cold ground, no roots.
I’m a forest with no sky for reaching.

I’m a monster with no cave for sleeping,
no village for plundering, no dim-lit
windows for watching – There are
no more nightmares, no wood floors
for creaking, no stoves for winter.
A monster with no mirrors for seeing.

    – published in MockingHeart Review, the inaugural issue

Lew Welch, [I saw myself] … the hum of spiders…

•January 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Lew Welch

[I saw myself]

I saw myself
a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it

and vowed
always to be open to it
that all of it
might flow through

and then heard
“ring of bone” where
ring is what a

bell does


Circle imagery figures in a vital way in many of Lew Welch’s works. Here, the reader is presented with the circle’s almost timeless quality – the ring within the stream. The clarity of the water is both primal and perfect. Bone, as lew welch a8013deanimal structure, is not the image that Welch wants to engender; instead, he considers bone as human essence, as truth. The it of the poem is never disclosed, allowing for a multitude of possibilities. Adding to this notion, Welch writes of the need for this flowing to continue. The poet’s sad biography, both mysterious and apocalyptic, must certainly connect with this poem, but that’s not the writing’s purpose.

A shift then takes place in the two closing stanzas. Ring, in zen-like fashion, changes context and form – from circle to sound. Temple bells are an integral part of zen communities – and the sound of the bell should not be separated from the human experience or, in this case, the poetic experience. Sounds from the bell are the external and internal voices of the poem. Ultimately, the ringing becomes the poem – not this poem, but poem as universal … the voice of the poet. Enlightenment pulls the rope. Maybe, as Billy Collins has written in “Japan,” the bell is the world. Or, the bell could be the form, the page, or simply – and beautifully – the day.

“Does” is a powerful choice of end word for this piece. An action, both promising and continual, moving in front of the speaker. The reader. The writer.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,285 other followers