Monday, July 10, 2023

Bluepepper Bids Farewell

 After eighteen long and fruitful years it is time to pull down the shutters on Bluepepper. It hasn't been an easy decision to make, but it has been a long time coming and, after a succession of less than savoury exchanges with members of the poetry fraternity, I decided I no longer had the energy or inclination to contine administering the site. 
 As many editors will tell you with a wistful sigh, the tone of much of the discourse on social media is trending downwards at a rapid rate. Which isn't to say I haven't relished the opportunity to make contact with so many wonderful writers and poets from all over the globe. It is just that the cons are starting to nip at the heels of the pros and I want to quit while I'm still ahead.
 There are all sorts of explanations for this erosion of manners, and I won't dwell on the issue as I am no sociologist. In the case of Bluepepper I believe part of the explanation may lie in the fact that we have been around so long and gained such an international following that in certain eyes we have taken on all the trappings of an institution with all the apparent limitless resources of an institution. This perception seems to have triggered the iconoclast in a certain type of poet and I don't see that situation improving any time soon. 
 Were I a part of a loyal and dedicated team things might be different. But since the launch of Bluepepper back in October 2005, Bluepepper has been the solitary enterprise of a rather solitary individual who simply wanted to reach out and provide a safe space where disparate voices could find a home. I believe I have achieved that.
 However, being a lone operator meant that, while I could lap up all the kind words and encouragement like a thirsty kitten, there was also no-one to share the burden when things became increasingly challenging. So, here we find ourselves and I am sad but relieved the right decision has been made.
 There are way too many poets to thank for having helped make Bluepepper what it is. Their kindness and support will live with me always. I hope that people continue to visit the site and discover the wonderful array of talent on show here. The site will remain open in perpetuity, along with the comment section which I will free of my administrative duties, so be careful in choosing your words.
 Please be kind to each other, and most importantly stay safe.

 - Justin Lowe (10/07/2023)

New Poetry by Paul Willis


In my window, Venetian blinds divide 
the trees and tennis courts into slatted ways, 

one lane atop another.  At night the avenues 
wink shut, but in the morning they resume

their daily maze, a labyrinth.  Each parallel
contains its own spiritual center, a lateral 

of understanding.  Or maybe each 
opening is a wet and wandering canal,

one leading on to the next.  After all,
these could be the streets of Venice.

And look!  A bluebottle gondolier is singing
his way from one end of town to the other.

- © Paul Willis 2023

Paul Willis has published seven collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Somewhere to Follow (Slant Books, 2021).  Individual poems have appeared in Poetry, Ascent, Christian Century, and the Best American Poetry series.  He is a former poet laureate of Santa Barbara, California, where he lives with his wife, Sharon, near the old mission.

New Poetry by Doug Holder

The House on Fountain Ave.

​- To Susan, Leon and Bruce Freimour

In our mind
we never renovate
our childhood home.
Our innocence
is preserved
in stone.
All that food
the chickpeas, tuna sandwiches,
the wonder
of Wonder Bread
the peanut butter
that stuck to the
the roofs of our mouths
like a gooey pavement.
The mother crooning 
"Is this a house or hotel, 
yes or no?"

The father barking out
"British Petroleum!"
from his Wall Street Journal,
he always told us the suit
makes the man.

We wondered
about the father's
book " Denial of Death"
which seemed to be a sacred
text to him
and we wondered
whether we could.

In our minds we
still schvitz from the hot summer
without the nefarious smoke
from Canada
no mournful wisps
will ever cloud
our childhood home.

- © Doug Holder 2023

Doug Holder is the co-president of the NewEngland Poetry Club and the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. Holder holds an MLA from Harvard University in American and English Literature. "The Doug Holder Papers Collection" is housed at the University of Buffalo. In 2015 he received a citation from the Massachusetts State Legislature for his work as a poet, professor, editor, publisher and educator. 

Sunday, July 09, 2023

New Poetry by Elizabeth Morse

The Past is a Food You Can No Longer Find in Stores

The past is a living room with comforting chairs.
The past will come back and tap you on the shoulder.
It leaks out of everything: green, yellow and orange.
Faulkner said the past is not even past.

The past is a chunk of life, completed and examined.
The past is an inscrutable block of concrete.
There are some words you’ll never really know,
some chapters you’ll never truly understand.
The past is a riddle you may not be able to solve.

The past is writhing with life, pulsing with energy:
drag it out and watch it kick and scream.

- © Elizabeth Morse 2023

Elizabeth Morse’s poetry has been published in literary magazines such as Ginosko, Kestrel, and Survision. Her poetry chapbook, The Color Between the Hours, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in late 2023. She was a finalist in the Blue Light Press full-length poetry collection contest and has her MFA from Brooklyn College.

New Poetry by Matthew Curlewis

Alter the Frequency

Dawn is still in the distance.
A future event never certain –
always hoped for.

Out here beneath a heaven-sized sky,
far away from city glare,
it’s tempting not to somehow…
let go of everything.
Then I could float upwards
and lose myself between and
around and within and among
those billions of twinkling lights.

If I stand up straight,
weight balanced evenly between
both feet, cast my arms out wide and
raise my face upwards to
gaze at all the stars,
it feels like maybe, just
maybe if I did this under
certain different conditions,
then I would actually vaporize.
Not into darkness and nothingness,
but into light.
Boundlessly bright, infinite light –
neither ending nor beginning,
but much more importantly:

Ideally however, that will all occur at a later moment,
much later. (During a future event always certain –
rarely hoped for.)
So I return my arms to my sides,
and smile in gratitude that this isn’t
my time for any of that;
not yet.
What I need to do right now instead is simply:
be here.
Bear witness to the beauty and the majesty
and this moon and star-lit darkness, and
let it all fill me, without bursting me.

So I watch, and
breathe and wait, and
feel and sense, and then,
there – there it is.
The most subtle of changes in the breeze.
A barely perceptible alteration of frequency because:
the sun has commenced her ascent. 

And the more I tune in, and delight in
the sensations of stars and planets and galaxies,
wheeling and arcing over me, and
through me and around me,
my heart goes out to every being every where
that has never had the time or the luck or the opportunity to
stand here and just feel the energy of everything.

So if that sounds anything like you, then I invite you, come –
come out to what at first might look like a void,
until you stare at it a bit longer and find that you,
you yourself have the power to alter the frequency.
Which is when you’ll also discover there is no void; this space is full –
full not beyond your wildest imagination, but full
because it is the source of ALL imagination.

- © Matthew Curlewis 2023

Since growing up in Australia, Matthew Curlewis has worked as a performer-designer-writer on four continents. At his entity Amsterdam Writers, Matthew runs the workshops Writers’ Stretch & Tone, and Storytelling for Academics. His works can be found in publications including The Guardian, Time Out, Blume Illustrated, and Wordpeace, and his Dutch-British-Polish coproduction short film Brilliance can be viewed via the streaming platform Lesflicks.

Thursday, July 06, 2023

New Poetry by Frank C. Modica

chernobyl-rust and steel

this massive steel radar web
built to detect American missiles
hides secrets in dark recesses
silent spaces for invisible spiders

abandoned     useless metal
like thousands of hair curlers
barbed wire fences gone wild
no havens for people or birds 

this mute patchwork abacus
these cold  metallic interwoven nests
abandoned      strung together
catch strands of wild feathers

dry leaves rattle under rusty pylons 
cracked concrete behind the porous
ephemeral wind break      an absence 
hovers over bombed    farmlands

- © Frank C. Modica 2023

Frank C. Modica is a retired teacher who taught children with special needs for over 34 years. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Dust Poetry, New Square, Sheila-Na-Gig, and Lit Shark. Frank's first chapbook, “What We Harvest,” nominated for an Eric Hoffer book award, was published in the fall of 2021 by Kelsay Books. His second chapbook, “Old Friends,” was published this past December by Cyberwit Press.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

New Poetry by Rob Schackne


Do big clouds stay
and bring their winds
invisible strings
let them go
birds aghast

cats near the heaters
look out the windows
dry sinews
let me be

do bright domestics
(how the colours bleed)
ever sinuous
ever rub off
in the mind

reading weather
lonely on the road
Taneda’s poem
the way ahead
raindrops for company

seen from afar
miss the in-between
walk on cracks
they add up
looking everywhere

- © Rob Schackne 2023

Rob Schackne was born in New York and he lived in lots of countries before settling in Australia in the 1970s. Before retirement he taught in China for a long time. He now lives in central Victoria. His poems have been published in many magazines both printed and electronic. His book “A Chance of Seasons” was published by Flying Island Books in late 2017. When he’s not writing, he likes taking photographs. 

New Poetry by Rumaisa Maryam

Morning Storm

8 a.m., driving past Clifton Beach

In this sickly light, a bear lumbers past-
a man, hair windswept.
The grey sea groans, and the sky is resigned
to a paler hue lit up by streaks,
white antlers that drag forth
a rumbling in the belly of the sky.

- © Rumaisa Maryam 2023

Rumaisa Maryam Samir was born and raised close to the sea in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. She first discovered poems were fun at the age of eight when she wrote one on her mother for a school assignment. Now nineteen, she wishes she had more time to write in between juggling her studies and internships!

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

New Fiction by Bill Tope

 The Fun House

 It was late October, the last weekend for the Fun House, the featured attraction of the regional Eventree Carnival, a fixture in Southern Illinois during the1960s. We made our way past the farmland and the lakes, through the trees with their scarlet and orange and brown leaves, visible by moonlight.  We drove down Interstate 55--which climbed up all the way from St. Louis to Chicago--to an abandoned wheat field, where the Eventree Carnival was held each fall.  En route, Patty goosed me, said, "This was your bright idea, Kev; what if they're closed?" The air became a little hazy as a light rain began to fall, hiding the full moon.
 "They can't be closed," I insisted. "They got two paying customers here." And I goosed her back.   Finally we turned into the fair grounds, parked in the abandoned lot.  Strings of orange lights encircled the field.  At the entrance to the carnival was a large placard, emblazoned with the word, "Freaks," and featuring a picture of the star attraction: the Fat Lady. It was late and so they would be preparing to close, but we thought we had just enough time to have a little fun.  Besides. this was our last chance for the season. I glanced around the grounds, saw not a soul besides Patty and myself; we had the place to ourselves. Cool.  Alighting from Patty's yellow and rust '61 VW Bug, we approached the ticket booth and I leaned through the window, but no one was present.  Even cooler. We embarked across the muddy, straw-strewn field, straight to the Fun House, our favorite. 
 "There's nobody around," I said in my best spooky voice. "Maybe someone escaped from the State Hospital and murdered everyone." Patty punched me.  "Jerk," she said. 
 Inside the Fun House, we walked up precipitous inclines and through low-ceilinged, attenuated corridors, where almost-human hands stretched out to wrap our ankles with supple fingers. Rubber spiders dangled from the ceiling and bedeviled our faces. Everything here was in total darkness, increasing the shivers and the prickly feeling down our spines. Finally we came to a lighted area: the hall of mirrors.  There I pointed to Patty's eggplant-shaped reflection and she to my green bean physique.  We mugged in front of a hundred bizarre, crazy mirrors, just having a ball. Overhead, a multicolored glass globe sprayed dazzling colors everywhere. Calliope music blared out of hidden speakers.
 Then we heard a sizzling and snapping sound, like a short circuit, and suddenly all the lights went out and we were plunged into inky blackness.
 "What happened?" asked Patty, less afraid than annoyed.  She was enjoying her ten foot reflection.
 "Search me,"  I replied.
 "I can't see, Kevin," she said.  "How are we going to get out of here?  It's getting late!" We literally couldn't see our hands n front of our faces.
 "Just lean against a wall and follow it to the door," I suggested.  But the walls were convex and concave and bulging and covered with latex snakes and spiders and jazz, and often led into blind alleys or dead ends.
 "Kevin, help me," cried Patty from a distance and she sounded panicked. Totally, not like her.  I heard a sound like a door slamming, then took off running towards the sound of her voice, only to slam into one of the many full-length mirrors, which shattered spectacularly. A shower of glass rained down upon me. I bounced off and landed on my backside, my mind spinning.  I touched my forehead, felt the bloody abrasion from where I'd smashed into the mirror. 
 "Kev..." Her voice sounded very distant now. Scrambling to my feet, I moved blindly towards the sound, my hands extended before me.  Feeling my way I came at last to a corner, and beyond it a small lighted space. A single dim bulb hung pendulously from the ceiling, casting a weak light over the straw-covered floor; there I found Patty--or what was left of her.  Lying upon one side, her blond hair was drenched in vivid scarlet:  her blood.  And protruding from her chest was a hunting knife of some kind.  I gaped, started to hyperventilate, was dragged back to the present by a scream--Patty's voice!  Checking the victim a second time I discovered it was in fact a mannikin.  The blood looked real, though. It reminded me of a quotation from Shakespeare about there being so much blood. 
 I hastened away. Reaching the back of the vast tent, I charged through, came face to face with the figure on the poster at the entrance to the carnival--The Fat Lady. She was even bigger in real life than in the artist's rendering.  No more than five feet tall, she must have tipped the scales at 600 pounds!  And she had Patty in a death grip, clutching her round her abdomen.  Surely her ribs must fracture into splinters! 
 The Fat Lady kept repeating, over and over, "You'd better pay for them tickets!"  Yikes!  Seeking to loosen the freak's grip, I pulled on her arms and shoulders, but she was terrifically strong.  I couldn't budge her.  She shook off my efforts.
 "I'll get to you next, Cookie,"she snarled. Looking round, I saw nearby a High Striker, one of those gizmos where you slam a sledge hammer to test your own strength.
 Taking up the cudgel, I slammed it as hard as I could into the back of the Fat Lady's skull, which was covered by ringlets of orange hair. There was a sound like breaking concrete. Suddenly the Fat Lady quivered, then went limp, collapsing to the ground. Patty inhaled rapidly, starved for breath.
 "You alright?" I asked stupidly. 
 "Come on," Patty gasped.  "Let's get out of here!"
 "Don't you think we should call the cops?" I asked incredulously. (This was decades before the cell phone and calling would have meant finding the nearest pay phone). Patty shook her head no.
 "Shes not alone, Kev."  I looked frantically around, saw no one. "There are eight or ten midgets who keep her company," Patty explained.  "And they're mean little turds, too!  Quick, to the car." We hightailed it to the parking lot, found the old VW and climbed inside. You might think I'm making this up, for dramatic effect, but the damn car wouldn't start!  No Vroom, no turnover at all, just "click, click, click."  Then I noticed that the engine cover was up. The engine in a Bug was always in the rear, so I hurried to the back of the car and peered inside.  A screw fastening the power cable to the starter was askew.  I quickly righted it.  I climbed back into the car, just in time to watch an army of scurvy-looking midgets descend on our vehicle. We quickly locked the doors and braced for the assault, uncertain how all this would eventually play out. 
 None of those nasty little men, all of whom were clad in lurid carnival garb and seemed to be chewing on big black cigars, appeared to be armed with anything more formidable than a rock. Suddenly one of the little devils climbed atop the shoulders of a second and then a third handed the uppermost midget the enormous sledge from the High Striker.  I must have dropped it after I conked the Fat Lady. Once or twice the elevated midget tumbled from the shoulders of his compatriot, cursing fluently, but finally he gained purchase, drew back and smashed the windshield of the VW into a zillion shards of glass.  He was strong for his size. The midgets next began crawling over the trunk lid, seeking to enter through the hole in the glass.  But the surface of the car was slick from the rain and the assailants tumbled off again and again.
 So fascinated was I at the spectacle generated by the maniacal midgets that I'd completely forgotten about starting the car.  In the next instant, the engine turned over with a loud Vroom!  I threw the VW into gear and we were off. The mob of horrible midgets swarmed after the car, throwing themselves before the vehicle.
 I heard a couple of "thunks," indicating we'd run over several of the treacherous throng, but we'd only passed through several potholes; looking through the rearview mirror I spotted the entire army, chasing after us but growing smaller in the distance. We sped away, not pausing till we reached the Interstate and safety.  On the journey home we were quiet, lost in our own thoughts.
 Recovering from the shock, we moved slowly through town and saw by the clock in the square that it was nearly midnight. We were exhausted. "What should we do now?" I asked Patty.  We both stared at the gaping hole where the rest of the windshield used to be, then at one another.  She felt experimentally her ravaged ribs and gingerly touched the wound upon my forehead.  Her hand felt warm.
 "I think we should just forget all about tonight," she said unexpectedly.
 "But, don't you think we should tell anyone? A cop, maybe?" I asked.  She regarded me with her sky blue eyes. "Look at it this way, Kev:  if you were a cop would you believe us?  Besides," she added, "Let's not ruin it for next year; I can't wait to get back to that fun house!"

- © Bill Tope 2023

Bill Tope lives in Illinois with his mean little cat Baby; he has been published several score times.

Sunday, July 02, 2023

New Poetry by Alexandria Tannenbaum

Putting Up My Daughter’s Hair Before A Bath 

She turns her body away 
curls falling over her shoulder 
like rain on a window.

Her shoulders, 
a comma at the end of a sentence, 
curved and triumphant. 

I take in my hands, 
her curls, which are light–
the weightlessness a wisp 
of all the delicate pieces.

I collect them all:
carefully wrap the rubberband 
bringing it over again and again 
and I lower her into the warm bath water. 

She folds into play with her sister 
droplets of water go unnoticed 
as they lift arms up and out of the water 
birds diving again and again for fish, 
creating colonies of animals, 

and I am rendered useless 
as it gets easier and easier 
to float.

- © Alexandria Tannenbaum 2023

Alexandria Tannenbaum is a poet and twice National Board Certified educator working outside of Chicago, Illinois. She is pursuing a poetry MFA from Lindenwood University. Her poems are published in the journal  Across The Margin, and her poem “The Strip Mall” will be appearing in an upcoming publication of As It Ought To Be Magazine.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

New Poetry by Robert Kinerk

I’ve spoken English my whole life

and now I’m learning Death.
It’s a difficult language
with only one pronoun,
first-person singular.
When you overhear native speakers
they’re muttering, “I never… I didn’t…
I wasn’t… I should have…” and so forth.
Notice it’s all past tense.
No present tense, nor future.
But the language has accomplished poets.
They turn out dirges, laments, elegies…
Plus you hear a lot of keening,
and at annual festivals
thousands get together and regret.

- © Robert Kinerk 2023

Robert Kinerk began writing in the fourth grade. His output includes stories, novels, novellas, poems, and dramatic works including straight plays for adults and musical plays for both adults and children. He most recently published 'Tales from the Territory: Stories of Southeast Alaska.' Check him out at He and his wife Anne live in Cambridge MA.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

New Poetry by Matt Thomas


A break in the traffic pushed me
away from the cigarette butts,
plastic bags, sneakers,
things lost their fight at the bus stop
to fly across the road
winged, nose squashed but
fists balled and grinning split lips
asking for it again,
the insult
“pretty boy,"
spat at me a second time
a confirmation of the first, no accident.

Pinned by the shadow
of his sleeveless, muscled anger
lengthening my own in the cinders, blood,
hot wash of exhaust,
I had the premonition
that it would be worth having dared him
to get off at my stop
just to be able to warble that boast,
long and jumbled
to each day thereafter,
and I have, often, living up
to the standards of that cocky bird.

- © Matt Thomas 2023

Matt Thomas is a smallholder farmer and occasional community college teacher. His work has appeared recently in Cleaver Magazine and Dunes Review. He lives with his partner in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Monday, June 19, 2023

New Poetry by Nina Rubinstein Alonso

Chasing Loki

We just sat down but John jumps up
from the table where salad waits untouched
as he heard the front door
squeak realizes the dog got out
Loki that clever Weimerauner

dashes after him then
Heather runs too telling me
to stay with the baby and with Mika
the mellow Labrador while they
race dark streets calling

woohoo Loki woohoo Loki wohoo
glad baby Sonia wasn’t in her high chair
already asleep in her crib but I recall 
the froth of the chase slow hours waiting
the shock of empty stillness 

sitting numbly at the table gazing at salad
I’m too nervous to eat listening
for the baby who might cry but doesn’t
patting Mika snoozing on the rug
until finally they’re back

looking more frazzled than Loki who’s
had his fun running wild around Cambridge
wonder why this crazy beast is so important
study their passionate eyes
and still don’t know.

- © Nina Rubinstein Alonso 2023

Nina Rubinstein Alonso’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Peacock Review, Ibbetson Street, Nixes Mate, etc. Her poetry collection This Body was published by David Godine Press, her chapbook Riot Wake by Cervena Barva Press, and her story collection Distractions En Route just published by Ibbetson Street, available on and on Amazon.

Friday, June 16, 2023

New Poetry by Gale Acuff

One day when you die you live again is

the story at church and Sunday School so
you never really die though you do but
you live again and forever and it's
real life, the life eternal they tell me
and I'm only ten years old--Hell, I be
-lieve anything, especially if
I don't understand it, ha ha, so what
death means has no meaning because death dies
or all there is is birth and growth and what
seems like death is only life escaping
to the land of the best kind of living,
the Afterlife I guess it is, which lasts
forever and then some and so will I
once I die but don't. I'd pay to see that.

I'll die someday but so will everyone

else, just not at the same time unless we
get wiped out by a comet or atom
bombs all gone off at once and I'm only
ten years old, what should I know about death
but that it's in the future, where it be
-longs? That's what I asked at Sunday School and
my teacher told me that I should be con
-cerned about where my soul will spend Eter
-nity, Heaven or Hell, they're not the same
she says but I said and I still say that
I don't want to die at all and if God
is God then I shouldn't have to but she
just laughed and said Gale, if you don't die then
you'll never have been born. The mouths of babes.
One day I'll be done, dead that is, but at

Sunday School they say me nay--I'll live on
in Hell or Heaven and Heaven's better
but Hell they mention first and raise their eye
-brows, I mean our teacher does and I fear
she means that if I dropped dead right there on
the spot Hell's where I'd land and I agree
but after class I asked her why Jesus
died if there's still a chance that I'll go to
the Bad Place, what's the point of sacrifice
if it doesn't seven save a sinner
and she answered that it's not enough for
Him to die but that I must believe that
He's the Son of God and if I don't then
He died for nothing. That makes me feel good.

- © Gale Acuff 2023

Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in a dozen countries and has authored three books of poetry. He has taught tertiary English courses in the US, PR China, and Palestine.