Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary


Arts and Culture

Reviews of concerts, film, writing and art

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream


(attribution ~

My physician recently recommended that I undergo a sleep study. This took place in a sleep lab where my private room was like a high end hotel room without windows, a mini bar or private kidney shaped hot tub. And, by the way, I was hooked up to 30 electrodes, and a device pinching my right index finger while under the scrutiny of an infrared video camera. The electrodes were hooked up to various parts of my body, although the majority of them were attached to my head with some kind of waxy gel that made me look like a character in Clive barker’s cult classic horror film “Hell Raiser.”


Nighty night, sleep tight. I’ve never been one to count sheep anyway and it certainly didn’t work for me under those circumstances. Honestly, it felt like I didn’t sleep a wink. Although apparently I dozed off long enough to record enough data to analyze my sleep patterns, which revealed that I have severe sleep apnea.

Simply put, sleep apnea is a condition where your airway relaxes and constricts to the point where you actually stop breathing. This happens with enough frequency to actually prevent falling into a deep, restorative asleep. I had multiple such events recorded within a one hour period where I was not breathing for as long as 58 seconds. That’s almost a minute! I can’t hold my breath for a minute when I’m conscious. At that rate, I should be training for competitive free diving or spearfishing.


After learning some of the possible outcomes of untreated sleep apnea include obesity, heart attack, stroke, dementia and sudden death, I didn’t need too much convincing to begin using a CPAP machine. CPAP is an acronym for “Continued Positive Airway Pressure” which is delivered from a machine through a mask or nosepiece. The pumped air keeps my airway from constricting or closing altogether, thus ensuring that I continue to breathe while actually falling into restorative sleep. I figured I may as well go all in and opted for the complete Darth Vader CPAP Starter kit. This includes a Darth Vader mask, helmet, cape, storm trooper boots and a continuous recording of James Earl Jones saying: “Luke, I am your Father!”

Grumpy cat

So, now I now need a machine to sleep. It’s just comforting to know that along with all of my e mail, phone calls, credit card purchases and social networking activity being monitored by the NSA, all of my sleep data is now uploaded to a satellite in space. It’s nice to know somebody cares!

Although, as one of my friends pointed out: “They’re certainly watching but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they care.”


Exhibition Of New Work by Ileen Kaplan

Exhibition Of New Work by Ileen Kaplan

An exhibition of 24 brilliant new paintings by artist Ileen Kaplan at State of the Art Gallery in Ithaca, NY from February 4- March 1, 2015. A reception for the artist is scheduled Friday February 6 from 5-8. Ileen Kaplan will also be in the gallery on Saturday February 7 from 12-3. 

Painting Light at SOAG

Ileen with work I

Ileen With work II

Ileen With Work III

Painting Light Postcard

Gallery hours: 

Wednesday – Friday, 12-6pm

Saturday & Sunday, 12-5pm

State of the Art Gallery is located at

120 West State Street

Ithaca, NY, 14850

607- 277-1626

Artist’s Website: 

MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews: Three Works by Robert Vaughan


My review of Robert Vaughan’s books: “Microtones,” “Diptychs+Triptychs+Lipsticks+Dipshits” and “Addicts & Basements” is live on MadHat’s Drive-By Book Reviews at:

Book Review ~ Beautiful Rush by Marc Vincenz

Beautiful Rush by Marc Vincenz

Unlikely Books ~ 2014 ~ 88 pages ~ Poetry

Marc Vincenz brings us his sixth collection of poems with Beautiful Rush, an elegiac, poignant and sparkling collection of twenty seven lyrical poems that seduces, tantalizes, mystifies, testifies, and transmogrifies. Symmetrically balanced and impeccably arranged, this subtly complex book is organized into three nearly equal sections: A Bitter Taste Of Midnight, Voices Breaking, and How To Die Of Beauty; with two of my favorite poems, Not the Last Word and Cassandra’s Smoke serving as a prelude to the first section. Kimberly L. Becker provides the Foreword and j/j hastain, the Afterword. Exquisitely restrained cover and interior art (Moth) is rendered by Inga Maria Brynjarsdottir.

The sections are linked by a titular series of six poems, Beautiful Rush (I-VI) that appear in each section. The mysterious muse, Cassandra, also unifies the collection with appearances at the beginning, the end and at various places throughout the book. Repeated references to a lost daughter leave me wondering and aching with a vaguely definable and tender sadness.

Marc Vincenz invokes the spirits of other poets, philosophers and places through various poems in the collection; August Kleinzahler and William Burroughs in Small Change, Emily Dickinson in Cassandra Knows How To Die Of Beauty, Joseph Campbell in A Bitter Taste Of Midnight; and dedications to Katia Kapovich and the city of Zug, Switzerland in Rembrandt’s Last Fruit and Almost Tax Free, respectively.

The poems in Beautiful Rush are part celebration, part excavation; ode to beauty and contemplation of the temporal through the inexorable passage of time. They are spiritual litanies and totems of rag and bone, evocative of the shaman’s rattle and drum. “Ancient bone music/ skin songs/ and marrowed incantations.”

The poems in Beautiful Rush are sometimes not of this world and at others very much of the earth; with sensory language that sets the imagination soaring ~

(from) A Bitter Taste Of Midnight

The resonance of reality.

                        The rapture of being alive.

                                    The meaning of a flea.

                                                A moth without a light bulb.

                                                            An aphid without a rose.

                                    What can’t be known.

 (from) To Watch A Flower Bloom

To watch a flower bloom

or a cloud fatten may nearly impossible

but how do you distinguish movement away

from or toward the growth of billowing form

and, at other times, leaves your toes rooted firmly in the ground.

(from) Cassandra’s Smoke

            in a park,

                        where old fools battle

                                    crickets and compare,

                                    bird feathers

where dogs shit and rut,

            where artists seek the ears

of trees and pansies

            and crumbling brick –

(from) An Abundance Of Islands

–a language called stillness, a child

called language. Grandfather’s war scars.

Mother’s tuberculosis—coughing at the edge


of the bed, a jackknife, stray sock, a cup

of ice cold tea. Lemon rind. And she, paper,

the ancient carbon backbone crumpled.

This may sound naïve, but, until recently, I never truly appreciated, or really tried that hard to understand the various ways poets experiment with formatting their poems as they appear on the page. I thought it didn’t matter that much. If the poems were meant to be read aloud anyway, then the visual effect of the formatting seemed to be a moot point. However, lately, my thinking has really changed. I think my attitude toward this has changed perhaps most significantly while reading Beautiful Rush.

Beautiful Rush is a beautiful book to read. The poems in Beautiful Rush are meticulously and deliberately formatted and arranged. Words, phrases, idioms and lines all dance around on the white space of the page. The intentional formatting affects how the poem reads off the page, enhances its timbre and rhythm and brings it closer to the way it might sound when recited aloud by the poet. Enjambments and line breaks play a critical role in both the visual and aural effect, like sight reading musical notation.

Beautiful Rush is not a “one and done” read. It actually has kind of an operatic quality. It reminds me of listening to an album (we used to call them that back in the day) over and over. It takes a few times through for the music, lyrics and meaning to really start to sink in. The poems do not reveal their meanings on the surface. They are multi-layered, multi-textured and subtly nuanced. An invitation to a personal scavenger hunt for classical and linguistic references that challenge and stretch the imagination.

Poetry is a multi-faceted thing. It’s about language and meaning, song and music, image and interpretation. Poetry offers the reader a glimpse inside the head and heart of the poet, but also an invitation to look inside one’s own head and heart. A good poem leaves room for interpretation and the opportunity to make that poem one’s own. And, like climbing to the top of a hill, the more you see, you realize the more there is to see. The poems in Beautiful Rush deliver on all counts.

“you hear voices

in hard labor,

and behind closed rooms,

you hear something like knowledge,

clearing its throat.”

 Marc Vincenz ~ Biographical Information

Marc Vincenz, born in Hong Kong, is Swiss-British. In addition to Beautiful Rush, his recent collections include: The Propaganda Factory, or Speaking of Trees (Spuyten Duyvil, 2011); Gods of a Ransacked Century (Unlikely Books, 2013); Mao’s Mole (Neopoiesis Press, 2013), and a meta-novel, Behind the Wall at the Sugar Works (Spuyten Duyvil, 2013). A new English-German bi-lingual collection, Additional Breathing Exercises was released by Wolfbach Verlag, Zurich (2014); a book-length poem, This Wasted Land and its Chymical Illuminations, annotated by Tom Bradley is forthcoming in April 2105 Lavender Ink; and a new collection, Becoming the Sound of Bees (Ampersand Books, 2015). He is the author of several chapbooks, has been published in dozens of anthologies and journals and is also the translator of numerous German-language poets. Marc Vincenz is Executive Editor of MadHat Annual (formerly Mad Hatters’ Review) and MadHat Press, Contributing Editor for Open Letters Monthly and Coeditor-in-Chief at Fulcrum: an anthology of poetry and aesthetics. In addition, he is Director of Evolution Arts, Inc. a non-profit organization that promotes independent presses and journals.

As always, I encourage you to go directly through the publisher.

Available from Unlikely Books at

Cover of Beautiful Rush

Review of Cinéma Vérité: poems/sketches/parables by Sam Rasnake


My review of Cinéma Vérité: poems/sketches/parables by Sam Rasnake (A-Minor Press 2013) is up on MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews.


New Reviews On MadHat Drive-By Reviews





Reviews of “Don’t Tease The Elephants” by Jen Knox and “Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku” are up on MadHat Drive-By Reviews.

New Review on MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews


My review of “If I Had Wings These Windmills Would Be Dead” is now live and in person on MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews

Wings Cover





Chauncy In Formal wear


Ollie in Formal Wear












Hello and welcome to our first edition of: DogTalk on DogTalk Radio! The internet radio show by dogs, for dogs. (BDFD.)

So pull up your dog beds and get ready for a fun filled hour of howlin’, yowlin’ , scratchin’ & lickin’ and just a whole lot of fun spewing plain old fashioned doggerel.

DogTalk on DogTalk Radio has been transcribed and translated into human English by Michael Gillan Maxwell.

So, without further adieu, let us introduce the hosts of DOGTALK, Chauncy and Ollie!

Chauncy: “Hello everyone and welcome to our inaugural broadcast of DogTalk!”

Ollie: “Yeah, what he said. Wait! I heard a noise! What the fuck IS that in our yard? I think it’s Sasquatch! It MUST be Sasquatch! We’re ALL gonna die! Hoooowl! Yoooooowl!”

Chauncy: “As you can see, my sidekick is a bit of an “excitable boy”! It’s just a case of the jitters because this is our first broadcast. He’ll settle down. But I just wanna say, you’ll never find a better wingman, er, I mean “wingdog” than this little feller!”

Chauncy: “ So, Ollie, now that you’ve caught your breath, the switchboard is lighting up, would you like to take the first call?”

Ollie: “Don’t mind if I do! Hello Caller. This is Ollie on DogTalk. Go ahead. I’m listening.”

Caller: “Yeah, Ollie. Thanks fer takin’ my call. This is Bert. I’m a mutt and an outside dog. I think I’m in love with a Cocker Spaniel, but she’s too rich for my blood. Whaddya think I can do?”

Ollie: “ Sorry Bert, but we’re Cocker Spaniels too. Forgive my impertinence, but this is just friggin’ “Lady and the Tramp” all over again. Sorry dude, but life ain’t no Disney fantasyland. Everybody loves us, but, let’s face it, half the time we’re just mean sons of bitches, or in some cases, just plain mean bitches. The best advice I can give is to go after another dog in the same social stratosphere as you. Is that even a thing? I don’t know, but I think you know what I mean. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but believe me, you’ll be happier in the long run. Thanks for calling DogTalk Bert! Keep on yowlin’!”

Chauncy: “Well can you believe it? We’ve already run out of time! But ~ really~ what is “time” to a dog? This show may have lasted minutes, or it may have lasted hours, even days. Who knows, when you’re dealing with “Dog Time”!

Until we sniff again,

This is Chauncy, signing off

Ollie, running over the hills and far away!

(Theme music and barking dogs)

Outro: “You have been listening to DogTalk on DogTalk Radio with Chauncy and Ollie. To get notifications of all upcoming broadcasts, send pee mail to the nearest tree or fire hydrant c/o Dogtalk Radio.” We welcome all your queries, questions and issues. You can contact us via this website or send us a tweet or a text or a pee mail to:












New Column ~ “Two For Tuesday: books” on Robert Vaughan’s Literary Website.

Author Robert Vaughan invited Bud Smith and me to share what we’ve been reading for his new column “Two For Tuesday: books” Thank you Robert Vaughan for inviting us over to play at your house!

Check it out!

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