Posts Tagged 'John Lehman'

Clark Street Rag

Sketch of poet John Lehman by artist Spencer Walts, from the back cover of Shrine of the Tooth Fairy.

We’re celebrating the release of the ebook edition of John Lehman’s poetry collection, Shrine of the Tooth Fairy, first published by Cambridge Book Review Press in 1998 with illustrations and cover art by Spencer Walts. John stopped by for coffee this morning and we recorded him reading from the collection. Here’s “Clark Street Rag”:

Clark Street Rag / John Lehman

On a night that shadows make tents
of backrooms a streetcar strums
past the cemetery
on the corner of Clark and Wilson
as Harold the Upholsterer
eyes a 1911 D penny,
the air in his shop suffocating
as a worn cushion—
dusty, warm, smelling of mold.

“I lost this,” he says and points
to a left ear chewed past the lobe,
“in a fight to a guy
who vomited so hard he died …
with the help of a pen knife.”

Floorboards creak in the vacant
apartment above.
Harold runs his thumb along the
counter’s glass edge.
He is a Pharaoh with a jeweler’s lamp
and the moon’s rays trapped
in his tomb.

“Four dollars.”
It twists from his mouth, a sound
like dry leather,
to the boy with an envelope
clutched in his hand.

And my heart plays banjo
to a city of small deals!

Del’s Supper Club

Spencer Walts illustration from Shrine of the Tooth Fairy.

John Lehman stopped by this morning for coffee and audio. We’re celebrating the release of the Kindle ebook edition of John’s poetry collection, Shrine of the Tooth Fairy, first published by Cambridge Book Review Press in 1998. The ebook includes Spencer Walts’s wonderful illustrations. Here’s John earlier today reading “Del’s Supper Club”:

Del’s Supper Club / John Lehman

They used to sit on car hoods
along the beach
or turn radio knobs and cigarettes
and watch the coil
of sun go out
and wait
for distant rumblings,
for the smell of lightning
from across the lake.

Now they applaud
of liar’s dice
in a leather cup—
white shirt, short sleeved men,
who might sell appliances or tires
their wrist hairs coil
so smoothly
over chainlinked bands.
Laughter barks
from gesturing hands.
They caress a party glass
with a pin-up in a dress
that disappears
behind ice and gin
as the incandescent sign
through an open window’s screen
into a lipstick blot,
red taffeta,
eye glass frames of plastic bone.
They drift to midnights long ago
when bodies slid from clothes
and in the river glided over rocks,

their fingers slipping into moss,
while pines reeked, overripe
as rotting cantaloupe.

They hesitate,
at urinals,
with feet raised on rails at bars,
and in parking lots
at the door handles of their cars,
to a green strand of neon

Santa discounts Tooth Fairy

Spencer Walts illustration from Shrine of the Tooth Fairy.

Happy Holidays from Cambridge Book Review Press. We’ve dropped the price on Shrine of the Tooth Fairy, John Lehman’s wide-ranging collection of poetry, first published in 1998 with illustrations by Spencer Walts. For a limited time, the $8.00 paperback will be available for $2.99. John’s stopping by the CBR studio this week to record some Tooth Fairy audio that we’ll be posting soon. Plus, a Kindle edition is on the way!


Survey of Teachers’ Sexual Fantasies / John Lehman

Phys Ed
When we moved away
from our old house
I left a magazine
of naked women
with pillowy breasts
hidden in the attic.
We stopped at a motel
with an indoor pool
that smelled like warm semen.
My parents stayed
in their room,
drank bourbon.
I dove again and again
through clouds.

Home Ec
Once she had a boy
in her classroom.
He sat slouched in the corner.
“His eyes glowed,” she said,
“like that back left burner
I just turned off.”
She thought his bare arm
looked like baking sponge-cake.
She touched it.
It was greased metal.

Assistant Principal
It tastes so good
don’t ever try it
even once.

The fish’s belly—
slippery smooth,
whiter than the neck
under a girl’s long hair—
is kissed
purple, red, yellow,
and blue
by the lamprey’s bite.

Metal Shop
I love a good truck.

I was married to a man
who once was my student.
He, not I, could have been
another Auguste Rodin.
I loved the way he listened
to my words when I talked,
and when he did
I listened to them too.

I’m going to drive
to Ann Arbor for a convention.
I like to go kind of slow
in my ranchwagon,
watch those women go by
alone in their cars.
I like the ones
with short black hair,
eyes bulging behind wire glasses.
Not cool blondes,
but new housewives
with buckteeth
who won’t look back.
Sometimes I’m late.
I forget, go too slow.

My young man died in Vietnam
pouring the foundation for
a village school by himself.
Shot. From bushes. His rifle
wrapped in plastic to keep it
clean, against a tree.
At nights—his lieutenant
was kind enough to write—
he had been digging a well
by hand with a shovel.
The officer wondered if
it weren’t a sort of grave.
But I know. Stripped, sweating,
breathing hard in the dark,
he is burrowing home to me.

Lock your doors and windows.
We don’t want trouble here,
if you know what I mean.

Rosebud 51

Rosebud 51 is smokin’ hot off the press and ready for readers and coffee tables. Order the issue direct from the Rosebud website. Worth owning alone for the cover art and inside illustrations by Wisconsin watercolorist Geri Schrab. But there’s so much more: 144 pages of fiction, poetry, and art. “Go Figure” drollery from New Yorker cartoonist and Rosebud regular P. S. Mueller (“The town’s electricity is distributed from a large ceramic-looking wire thrusting out of what everyone calls ‘the Founder’s Rock’ in the basement of the old City Hall”). “Afterwords” comic strip from another Rosebud regular and former National Lampoon cartoonist Rick Geary. Editor Rod Clark’s “Voice Over” column with a grassroots homage to mowing the lawn (“Now and then I glance up to see a turkey vulture circling high above me. Does he imagine me to be a wounded animal nearing my final gasp?”). Fiction from Rosebud founder and editor-at-large John Lehman, and from Hugo Award-winning writer Kristine Rusch. And let’s just say: tons more stuff. Including, dear family and friends, my short story “Summer of the Cinetherapist.”

Rosebud readers of issue 51 can also look forward to excerpts from Rod Clark’s scarily prophetic sci-fi micro-novel Redshift: Greenstreem, first published in 2000 by Cambridge Book Review Press and now available in a 2011 second printing and as a Kindle ebook. And here’s a deal that no one should pass up: Anyone subscribing or re-subscribing to Rosebud can get a copy of Redshift: Greenstreem by putting “I WANT MY RG” on the note with your Paypal order at or in a letter with your check to: Rosebud, P.O. Box 459, Cambridge, Wisconsin, 53523.

Lights! Camera! Augie! Lucas!

The Cambridge News
July 24, 2011

Local Launchpad competitors write song for book on autism
By Elizabeth Ann Hulick

Lucas Bielejewski and August McGinnity-Wake, two Cambridge high school musicians, recently contributed a song for a book by Kate McGinnity (also of Cambridge), Sharon Hammer, and Lisa Ladson.

August McGinnity-Wake & Lucas Bielejewski

Based on their strong musicianship, writing and producing skills, Bielejewski and McGinnity-Wake were selected to contribute a song to accompany the book entitled Lights! Camera! Autism!: Using video technology to enhance lives. They wrote and recorded “(A) Wish For You,” which is included on the DVD, and can be downloaded on McGinnity-Wake’s band page on Facebook.

Lights! Camera! Autism! is published by Cambridge Book Review Press, a locally operated publishing house run by Bob Wake.

John Lehman, of wrote of the book, “This is an outstanding book for everyone who knows someone on the spectrum. It explores how people with autism learn and how we can adapt to help.”

Bielejewski and McGinnity-Wake’s talents were also put on display last April in Sun Prairie for Launchpad, an annual competition sponsored by the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music. Only 15 bands were selected to participate in Launchpad for the three top prizes. Bands from throughout the region are represented.

As Launchpad’s Web site explained, “Launchpad is a statewide, alternative music competition for Wisconsin high school students who are in bands formed outside of the traditional music classroom ensembles. Launchpad and other Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA) programs help young people discover and expand their full music potential.”

Launchpad is produced by Dennis Graham Associates. Graham is also a Cambridge resident.

Lights! Camera! Autism!: Using video technology to enhance lives includes a DVD supplement and can be ordered from and

cbr 18 / summer 2011


cbr 18 / summer 2011 


Eleven Poems: An Audio Chapbook
Elli Hazit

J.D. Salinger: A Life
Kenneth Slawenski
Reviewed by Norma Gay Prewett

Birds of Wisconsin
B.J. Best
Reviewed by Amy Lou Jenkins

Lord of Misrule
Jaimy Gordon
Reviewed by Bob Wake

The Masturbator
A short story by John Lehman

A short story by Ruben Varda

From the Archives
Origins of FIS (Factory in a Suitcase)
An excerpt from Redshift: Greenstreem
Rod Clark

Happy 50th Rosebud!

Rod Clark stopped by this morning with the much anticipated fiftieth issue of Rosebud magazine. Congratulations are in order. Certainly to Mr. Clark and his tireless editorial helmsmanship. To graphic designer Parnell Nelson. To associate publisher John Smelcer. To founder and editor emeritus John Lehman. And to the general excellence—past and present—of the magazine’s contributors and its masthead personalities who have kept Rosebud running and the quality unwavering since the inaugural winter 1993/94 issue. The 50th brings back the artist showcased in the first issue: the wildly original and often disturbing Wisconsin illustrator Dierdre Luzwick. There’s a wealth of new fiction, essays, and poetry. Known names like Ray Bradbury, Elie Wiesel, and Ursula Le Guin combine with new voices. Wonderful, too, to see contemporary Wisconsin poetry represented by work from Sarah Busse, Michael Kriesel, and Wendy Vardaman.


Wisconsin poet John Lehman recast my overtaxed vacationeer’s Facebook post as a Lehman “justified poem.” I’m deeply honored. (With apologies to the Steve Miller Band.)

(Photo: Coffee Spew)

Wisconsin’s Walden—Adding Shadows to Paths of Light


The current issue of Wisconsin People & Ideas (Winter 2011) includes my essay on August Derleth’s 1961 Walden West. The book is a portrait of the people and landscape of Sac Prairie, a lightly fictionalized composite of Derleth’s Sauk City hometown and the adjacent village of Prairie du Sac. It’s an evocative literary work that’s never really gotten its due. Here’s a brief passage from my piece:

In Walden West Derleth captures a small-town populace increasingly alienated from a natural world to which their rhythms are still connected. It is a book written by a stubborn, unapologetic regionalist, who, in 1961, seemed out of step with the forward-looking optimism and youthful vigor of John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier. While not outright ignored, Walden West was critically panned upon publication. “These sketches have little distinction, no particular chronology or unifying drama,” sniffed a critic for Kirkus Reviews.

My thanks to the magazine’s editor, Jason Smith, and literary editor, John Lehman. An earlier version of this essay won the Council for Wisconsin Writers Rediscovering Wisconsin Writers Award in 2004.

Dead on arrival

Today’s mail brought copies of the Elkhorn, Wisconsin Popcorn Press anthology, The Hungry Dead, edited by Popcorn’s founder, Lester Smith. The delightfully disgusting cover was designed by Smith’s daughter, Katheryn. The collection is cool from several perspectives (aside from the fact that my poem “The Last Supper” is included). First, Lester solicited submissions during October via social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook, as well as a sharp website, and then announced the chosen selections on Halloween with a mockup of the book ready for printing. Planning, executing, and printing a book this quickly is a crazy challenge, but the proof is in the blood pudding, as they say. The Hungry Dead is a classy production: sixty-five works of poetry and fiction from eighteen authors, including several well-versed Wisconsinites familiar to us such as John Lehman, Sarah Busse, Michael Kriesel, and Dead editor Lester Smith. The Hungry Dead is available from Popcorn Press and Amazon (you can peek at the contents with Amazon’s Look Inside the Book feature).


Recall: A Short Story

Walden West and the Twilight of Transcendentalism

eBook Single .99

Caffeine & Other Stories by Bob Wake

Order Caffeine to Go ($2.99 on Kindle)

Cloud Spew

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