Sunday, November 19, 2017

New Poetry by Christine Brandel

The Blood Stones

Some green stones had been left by the daffodils
at your grave. Little green stones, not black, not hearts.
I fingered everything there, the flowers, the mirror,
your name and his. The stones were green and I wanted one,
but didn’t think that right. I am not like the others,
believe me (I think you would). I stopped at a nearby shop
and bought two blood stones. Their green was darker.
I left one on your headstone (for the Jewish blood in us both)
and kept one in my pocket. It’s there now. Like you are.

- Christine Brandel 2017

Christine Brandel is a writer and photographer. Her book A Wife is a Hope Chest was released on Halloween 2017 as the first full-length collection in the Mineral Point Poetry Series from Brain Mill Press. She also writes a column on comedy for PopMatters and rights the world's wrongs via her character Agatha Whitt-Wellington (Miss) at Everyone Needs An Algonquin. More of her work can be found at

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Poetry by John Grey

Holy Week

A giant papier-mâché Diablo
totters down the street,
arms thrashing,
head spitting out fireworks -

the children are afraid -
their parent's laugh

except for the deeply religious -
with them it's the other way around

the saints
are less gaudy,
quieter -
piety doesn't do
sparks and flames -

then comes the skeleton,
black and white -
he was human -
he can go either way.

- John Grey 2017

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Tau, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Examined Life Journal and Midwest Quarterly.  

Thursday, November 09, 2017

New Poetry by Mark O'Flynn

Quiet Decibels

Next door’s radio mumbles to itself.
A sudden bird flees another across the roof,
a donkey on tip-toes brays in the evening distance.
Not everyone can say as much
of the afternoon’s quiet wealth,
how its serenade knits the various
ages of the day together,
the gleam of spider web clinging to the air
like a floating fibre of lung, a tightrope
of light between two porch posts, the dew
settling for the night on tomorrow’s raw dawn.
These esoteric signs are everywhere
if signs they are, the future tropes
unguaranteed. Things might
contradict themselves, I hope.
Such simplicity is finite – the natural
bedfellows of harmony and discord.          
That pebble in my shoe
will make itself eventually known.
Not everyone can say as much.

- Mark O'Flynn 2017

Mark O'Flynn's most recent novel The Last Days of Ava Langdon was a finalist in the 2017 Miles Franklin Award. His latest collection of poems is Shared Breath published by Hope Street Press.

Monday, November 06, 2017

This Oval of Light

I am taking this rare opportunity to editorialise for the sake of Bluepepper's readers north of the line who may be wondering whatever became of "the wonder downunder".

One of the few advanced economies to have survived the GFC relatively intact, through a combination of sheer luck and some wise and timely policy initiatives. A nation prepared to say sorry to its original inhabitants for the many injustices inflicted on them, to walk across a bridge, and then for some reason stop and turn around. A nation that was once one of the great immigration success stories of the post-war era, but that now appears to have become the unwitting prototype for heartless, short-sighted immigration policy the world over. A nation that provided more than its fair share of overseas aid, a nation that reached out rather than folded its arms at the spectacle of a world in crisis. A nation that once stood at the vanguard of innovation but that now languishes way way back of the pack. The same for its stance on climate change, an area of public policy that seems to have become a graveyard for any kind of political visionary in this country. 

While the rest of the world foundered after the crash of 2007/2008, the "wonder down under" racked up ridiculous amounts of household debt, turning wall-eyed and solipsistic in the process. While many (mostly older) Australians made obscene amounts of money in the real estate boom, just as many (mostly younger) Australians were lumped with stagnant wages and a steeply rising cost of living, student debts that their parents never had to worry about, a collective shrug at their understandable reservations about the direction the country was taking, particularly in regards to climate change, rising inequality, and the issue of marriage equality.

The latter has been the subject of a recent plebiscite, and now that the votes are in and only waiting to be counted, I feel free to express my disgust at the tactics employed by those on the right, their heartless scaremongering, the bald-faced lies and naked hypocrisy. It is too early to tell how much damage this clumsy and completely unnecessary process has caused. Sadly only time will tell, and perhaps by then it will be too late, even if, as predicted, the plebiscite returns a resounding YES to the proposition that all citizens of this country should be equal before the law. This matter should not even be up for debate in a modern liberal pluralistic democracy, but it is and those who assume to be society's moral guardians have exploited the fact to their undying shame. The wreckers in our federal parliament will have to answer to their consciences, if they can find them amongst the rubble of their many discarded promises.

 In short, this wonderful country is broken. Each day the disparity grows between the haves and the have-nots. A nation blessed with abundant resources is witnessing families unable to heat their homes or cook their children dinner because they simply cannot afford the exorbitant and steadily rising costs of gas and electricity. The fault for this is not theirs but of politicians at both the state and federal level who have lacked both the imagination and courage to face the challenges of climate change and the epochal shift in international attitudes to power generation. Now, while the Japanese government rakes in significant import revenue on OUR gas, our children shiver and go hungry to school.

And as though this were not enough, we witness the tragic farce of the citizenship fiasco that has already cut a swathe through the federal parliament and threatens to bring any semblance of governance in this country to a grinding halt. We can expect a raft of legal challenges by vested interests to bills passed by politicians who, by the fact of their undisclosed dual citizenship, were not entitled to be sitting in the parliament in the first place, let alone as part of the executive. And now they are busily denying the obvious need for a "citizenship audit" to ensure no further nasty surprises, while badgering the most vulnerable in our community to pay back welfare debts they simply do not owe. When, if ever, will we see an apology from those responsible for the so-called "robo-debt" fiasco for the many lives ruined and lost to despair? I suspect the answer is never.

This is what has become of "the wonder downunder" my northern friends, and it is a cautionary tale. When we turn our backs on the system, when we opt out, refuse to vote, shut our eyes and ears to what is happening around us, then we leave the running of affairs to vested interests who will plunder what they can, turn a tidy profit, and then move on. In this bright new shiny neo-liberal, post 9-11 world of ours, capital moves freely while the individual's freedom of movement grows ever more impeded. Public assets are sold off to often rather nefarious private interests with no visible gain to the public weal. Quite the opposite. Roads, rail, port facilities, utilities, in fact infrastructure of every kind now sits in private, largely unaccountable hands. My generation has not only let this happen, many of us have been willing participants. And for that I apologise wholeheartedly to those coming after me.

I will end this bleak scree with some words from an Australian poet from the generation immediately before mine, the infamous "Boomer" generation with which we X-ers have carried on a love-hate relationship for many years:

I believe this wick and this open book
in the light's oval, and I disbelieve

everything this generation has told me.

- Robert Harris "Isaiah by Kerosene Lantern Light" (1986)

I thank you for your time. And remember to always keep poetry in your lives.

New Poetry by John Bartlett


Night falls too early now
Birds fold themselves up
Like faded Christmas cards

Clocks speed up their complaining
Cars creep towards home
Fog like a smokers’ cough

Friends leave through the open door
Coats and scarves are left behind
The beach washed clear of footprints

We wait in darkened rooms
Voices calling in the distance
A choir of galloping angels

- John Bartlett 2017

John Bartlett‘s non-fiction and essays have been widely published and will be collated into an e-book entitled A Tiny and Brilliant Light to be released in November 2017. He is the author of two novels, Towards a Distant Sea and Estuary and a collection of short stories, All Mortal Flesh.He blogs regularly at:

Thursday, November 02, 2017

New Poetry by Holly Day

In the Waiting Room
He comes into the lobby holding the little plastic bag
knuckles white and tight
as though he doesn't ever want to let it go. 
He drops it on the receptionist's desk

like a lion dropping the broken body of its cub
after some horrible accident, some catastrophic mauling
face contorted in resolution and anger
dismay and confusion. From where I'm sitting
in the back of the room with the other happily fat, pregnant women
reading magazines about breastfeeding and diaper technology
I can see just enough of the tiny gray body inside the bag
the parts not wrapped in white tissue paper

one thin arm, impossibly small and delicate
a perfect little foot
no blood.

"The doctor asked me to bring this in, " he says loudly
challenging the look of dismay on the receptionist's face. 
"She didn't pass it until this morning." The receptionist takes the bag 
with one quick, practiced sweep, hiding it between her body and the wall
as she takes it in the back room for the doctor. 
As she leaves, the man stares us all down,
daring us to acknowledge his presence, his anguish, 
daring us to recognize 

the painful events that brought him here. 

- Holly Day 2017

Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Tampa Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, and Ugly Girl. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

New Poetry by Dane Karnick

Full Moon

After the sculpture by Louise Nevelson, 1980

The side we never see
With its rugged terrain
Shown in the telescope

Of dreams resolving
Lunar highlands into
Rocky slabs that stack

Against the wakeful state
Struggling to apprehend
Celestial sight

Over cataleptic dirt
From the opposite end
We have learned to ignore

Forming that restless sense
Between hemispheres like
A spell that can’t be broken

Through phases of light as
We wait to catch a glimmer
On the cusp of malice

- Dane Karnick 2017

Dane Karnick grew up by the Colorado “Rockies” and lives near Seattle.  His poetry recently appeared in Poppy Road Review, Treehouse Arts, Scarlet Leaf, riverrun and Vacpoetry.  Visit him at

Sunday, October 29, 2017

New Poetry by Abigail George

Stranger made of flesh and Nineveh

(for Ambronese)

    Burn bright tonight tigers inside
    this room. Bring me courage so
    delicate. The sensation of falling. Jerusalem. Moses. Desert country.
The ancient knowledge of the importance of
    family. Scarlet thread to patchwork
    the burning tapestry of my soul.
I’ve been wounded before all of this.

I’m crying and I don’t know why I’m crying.

    Living with illness has done this
    to me. Coming home from the sea
    we have a shared interest for the
rural. Obituary. Sympathy for grassroots and
    community. Proof that singing in
the rain could not dampen our spirits. Our prayer
    for the eternity of the grace of the
    tomorrow-land of mountain-roots.
The blue light persists. Exists only to promise
    moral scorching. A wasteland of
    gathering stages of spring decay and
    pollen falling like dandelion clocks
all around. Such is the strange nature of illness
    and the authentic mud season in the
    garden. Leaves lyrical. We’re the
    hope. The soul on fire almost spiritual.
    All I see is a field that burns me up.
    Flowers survive in the moonlight.

Anointed with perfume and music schools.
After dreamy-loneliness and death comes a

    world of concern. Grief brings with it
    silence. Love that can move planets.
    All writers are poets in their own way.
    The rain saved me. It always saved
    me. Breathed life back into me. I’m
    only in need of a survival-kit. Little-fed
    waves of afternoon sunlight. Believe
    in me is all that I ask of the men and

    women in my life. Fish swim towards
the nature of life. The psychological compass of its
    wet valleys and runaway plankton.
    Picturesque sea don’t forget about me.
    My strong limbs swimming against
the current. It is wild out there. A church.

Woman with the graceful neck you must love me.

- Abigail George 2017

Pushcart Prize nominee for her fiction "Wash Away My Sins", Abigail George is a South African blogger, essayist, poet, short story writer and aspirant novelist. She is the recipient of writing grants from the National Arts Council in Johannesburg, the Centre for the Book in Cape Town and ECPACC in East London. She briefly studied film and television production at the Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg. Her literary work has been published in various anthologies, numerous times in print in South Africa and in e-zines based in Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Finland, the UK, the United States, and across African in Nigeria and Istanbul, Turkey.

This year her work has appeared and is forthcoming from Dying Dahlia Review, Fourth and Sycamore, Gnarled Oak, Hamilton Stone Review Spontaneity, Off the Coast, Prong and Posy, Spontaneity, and Snow Jewel.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Poetry by Peter Venable

Back On The Grid

Even off the grid, during coffee,
bishops’ diagonal, knights’ jackleg and ripple
the black surface. The king bubbles on the bottom.

Not yet—later. Right. The queen,
graven on the cup, taunts, bares an ankle until

I robot to the screen, key “Expert.” 8x8 grid opens.
16 pawns genuflect; backrow regalia armed to pounce.
Black and white as there ever was. 

The first pawn spawn’s today’s metastasis,
square to square, row to row, one by one they fall.

Beaten. Again. By Deep Blue’s kindergartener. 
Damnit! Never      ever      resign—
X it off the grid. Start again. 

- Peter Venable 2017

Peter Venable has written both free and metric verse for over fifty years and been published in such witty poetry journals as Bluepepper, Parody, Word Riot, Laughing Dog, Lighten Up Online, Hobo Pancakes and The Asses of Parnassus.  He is an amateur writer and published poet, @

Sunday, October 22, 2017

New Poetry by Linda Stevenson

Going Bush

Oh that’s surfeit. That’s one too many
over the odds. I want to move on now,
hurry up and head for the bush,
my loaded self propped clumsily
in a back seat, on torn upholstery.
Drive off, driver, if not into the sunset,
then down a road of unlikely return.
See, wattle wraiths the verge;
I like that, haloes of pinprick otherness,
rash bloom defying straight, light
messing about with space, dawn.
Let me breathe. It’s enough, enough
to be gone from fretful ignorance,
the gormless floundering of small egotism
scrabbling for a place in chaos.
See, the cool bright slivers
of reasonable morning
find their centre
in a generous scheme,
discover the precise way
to shine on down, learn there’s no worth
in a sole dominance,
mixing it up instead like instruments
playing immersion jazz.
This turn here, fording,
and we’re secluded, can pause here,
escapees, rescued by being,
breathing, breathing easily.

- Linda Stevenson 2017

A founding member of Melbourne Poets Union, facilitator of poetry groups in gaols and community centres, contributor to anthologies. Chapbook “The Tipping Point” published in 2015, feature guest poet on Radio 3CR “Spoken Word”. Active as a poet within the online poetry sector, hosts regular Salons at her home in Frankston, Victoria.

Monday, October 16, 2017


Bluepepper is taking a much-needed and long-overdue sabbatical. We will return on 23/10/17 laden with snaps and a lungful of sea air. Until then, keep your writing breeches on.