“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence? ”

— Gabrielle Roth
So… after a brief period of Western Mass, snow-induced hibernation, BC is searching for new stories for Issue 2. If you haven’t submitted yet, dust off your poem, your story, your song, your picture and SEND it to us! We’re making it super simple by providing you this here link.
The snow is melting. AWP is over. Time to write like crazy and brainstorm like barnacles (sorry… just visited the New England Aquarium. Jellyfish are amazing by the way). We’re here. We can’t wait to see what you’ve got!
And here’s a jellyfish picture because birds in Spring are slightly overdone, right? Seriously. Coolest things ever!

Thanks so much for keeping up with BC here on our blog. We’ve just launched a new main page and will be posting regular updates there, so most of our bloggerly activity will be available through the new belletristcoterie.com. Click through, and come on over. We’ll see you there!

We were at the Library of Congress last week and had the pleasure of standing just inches away from the first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855) in their “Books that Changed America” exhibit. It was actually breathtaking. The seminal Whitman classic was alongside some other absolutely amazing first editions, like Atlas Shrugged, Huckleberry Finn, Catch-22, The Catcher in the Rye, The Legend of Sleep Hollow, Moby Dick, Howl, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin (complete with a handwritten dedication by the first edition’s owner, Susan B. Anthony). The full list is here, and it’s totally awesome.
We were dismayed, however, that certain authors/works weren’t included, namely Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and Emerson’s Nature. Perhaps most conspicuously absent were any of Edgar Allen Poe’s masterpieces. What else should have made the list?

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Photography credits go to BC friends Michael and Kathleen Bursztyn

We’re serving up fresh poems from talented American poet Michael Lee Johnson. Straight out of the village of Itasca, Illinois, Michael’s lines bob and weave with a youthful energy that belies the weathered wisdom they contain. He asks big questions and sets the answers on small, humble stages. In Michael’s hauntingly relatable world, Jesus lives in a tent, philosophers waste away in front of a television set, and memories of bygone glory are upstaged by the realities of lonely late-night snacks of pickles and mayonnaise. His poems seem to warn against the perils of romanticism while simultaneously lamenting the wonder-less world that results from such cautious circumspection. In either case, these poems boil our experience down to beautifully simple, rhythmic terms:

“Life is a simple picture.
Life is a simple picture.”

Enjoy, and get more from the poet himself at the links provided:

Picture, Cap and Gown

Cap and gown

history major,

minor in math-

graduation under

the maple tree,

bright red leaves,

but the times don’t show it;

a full face grins.

There’s a shadow

below your nose

above your lips,

it settles into

a gray mixed day.

You stand on farm land

with no plow in hand

or in the distance bare-

no damn cows to be seen

no red barn or damn homestead

just open acres of space-

and downed fences-

and some idle brush

blending with quill feathers

flushed within a background

of branches.

Life is a simple picture.

Life is a simple picture,

repeating with tree shadows

hovering around leaves.

Dirt in the background

dances freely-

it’s here their memories are folded,

into prairie winds.

You are still framed

in solid black and white-

you can’t leave this space on your own,

from now to your own eternity,

to your salvation or your grave.

Your whole life now has spots

and spaces behind it.

Did you grow older and have children?

Did you marry a man of the plow

or that chemist you had the brief

affair with in agricultural school?

Did the graduation certificate

rolled up in your hand

like a squashed turnip,

donut, or dead sea scroll

fade by moisture and sun

or wind up cursed with sand?

I pull down your life

and frame it here

like a stage curtain

handful of future,

present, passed, and pasted

in a space dimension of

3” x 5” tucked beneath

a simple footnote in time.

Deep Gray, Old Dreams

Deep into the couch

of magnetic dust

rewinding old dreams

and philosophies

of biology, orgies

long gone;

old man, gray

bearded, in his late eighties-

Charles pulls out, masturbates.

Sleepy eyed, he cleans up,

goes to the refrigerator

pulls out mayo, sweet pickles,

a few slices of onion,

a plum tomato-

back to the silent bedroom,

he hears sounds, that ticking clock.

Michael Lee Johnson is a poet, freelance writer and small business owner of custom imprinted promotional products and apparel: www.promoman.us, from Itasca, Illinois.  He is heavily influenced by:  Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, Charles Bukowski, and Allen Ginsberg.  His new poetry chapbook with pictures, titled From Which Place the Morning Rises, and his new photo version of The Lost American: from Exile to Freedom are available at:  http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/promomanusa.  The original version of The Lost American: from Exile to Freedom, can be found at: http://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/book_detail.asp?isbn=0-595-46091-7.  New Chapbook:  Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems, by Michael Lee Johnson:  http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/challenge-of-night-and-day-and-chicago-poems-%28night%29/12443733?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/2.  Michael has been published in over 25 countries. He is also editor/publisher of five poetry sites, all open for submission, which can be found at his Web site:http://poetryman.mysite.com.  All of his books are now available on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=michael+lee+johnson.  Borders:  http://www.borders.com.au/book/lost-american-from-exile-to-freedom/1566571/.  Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s?store=ALLPRODUCTS&keyword=Michael+Lee+Johnson

Now on You-Tube:  





E-mail: promomanusa@gmail.com.   Audio Mp3 poems available; open to interviews.

Follow Michael Lee Johnson On:

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/poetrymanusa

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/poetrymanusa

MySpace.com:  http://www.myspace.com/469391029