Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary


Guest Posts

A category for guests to post art and writing

Guest Book Review: Carol Reid Reviews Audrey by Beate Sigriddaughter

I am very honored to feature Carol Reid’s incisive review of Audrey by Beate Sigriddaughter. Welcome to Your Own Backyard!

Audrey by Beate Sigriddaughter

ELJ Publications 2015

Fiction: 316 pages


Reviewed by Carol Reid

 Audrey is the work of a kaleidoscopic mind; every emotion and interaction is broken down, assembled and reassembled as its narrator chronicles four seasons of an almost unendurable love.

Set in 1980 amid a loosely knit community of writers and artists, the narrative relates in minute detail the all-consuming relationship between the young poet Andrea and Audrey, a painter and self-professed healer more than twenty years her senior.

To Andrea, nothing is trivial. Her fervent wish is to live an exalted life in which she is part goddess and part angel, with time and opportunity to produce poetry and magic. Employment and men encroach regularly on her precious time. She attracts and enchants many male lovers, and loves them because, “if there is sex, there must be love”.

Enter Audrey,

She came with a painted dragon and cinnamon hearts for Valentine’s. Her name was Audrey and I am hard pressed to remember what anyone else brought to the party.

Dragons are diverse in mythology. In this novel they are presented as a sort of spirit animal connected with Audrey, but which variety– malevolent or wise, fire-breathing or powerfully protective?

Their first important conversation is generated by the painting of “Serena”, described by Andrea as having “a timid fawn-like nose and forceful amber eyes”.

“I’m so glad you like Serena,” [Audrey] said, “some people are afraid of her.”

Before Andrea can devote herself fully to Audrey, she needs to close the door on her relationship with Joel, whose gentleness, wisdom and acceptance of Andrea linger at a distance throughout the story.

This scene takes place during a rafting trip after which Andrea intends to end the affair-

The raft hurled headlong into waves, stood almost upright, despite our forward weight. Then we were flat on the water again, rocking through turbulence. We were drenched with ice-cold water. But the sun was warm and there was hardly any wind to chill us.

I leaned back and shook water from my hair, my poncho. I watched Joel. He was still concentrating. His arms pressed into the oars. His eyes were filled with love and reverence for the water, full of attention….if it were possible for me to love a man, I would have loved him. But I no longer believed I could.

Audrey is in some ways a gender-free novel. Traditionally masculine and feminine traits are exhibited by both male and female characters. Andrea’s gender struck me as not yet fully formed. She is at her core a sort of pre-adolescent, or as a psychic says of her, late in the novel, “an innocent”. This innocence allows her to believe in the possibility of pure, perfect love but of course makes her prey to being manipulated up, down and sideways by the more experienced and perhaps more irrevocably damaged Audrey. Occasional glimpses into each woman’s real, painful history are just enough to reveal how and why they came to be the way they are, separately and together.

Andrea articulates every feeling involved in an ultimately poisoned and poisonous love- torment, elation, enthrallment, hopelessness, selfishness and self-abnegation. Luminous moments are eclipsed by moments of despair. Any reader with a similar episode at the back of her emotional closet will recognize both Andrea’s and Audrey’s experience very well. This passionate love between two women, although it exists as an ideal in Andrea’s heart and mind, is not idealized nor exempt from betrayal, possessiveness and violence.

No one can spend a year in the mouth of a dragon and emerge unchanged.

About the author:


Beate Sigriddaughter grew up in Nürnberg, Germany, not far from the castle where she sometimes sat in a corner to write poems or rewrite fairy tales. She now lives and writes in Silver City, NM, Land of Enchantment. The background to all this enchantment, though, is living as a witness and participant in a world that is steeped in misogyny, ranging from subtle avuncular belittlement to legal or vigilante execution for infractions of male entitlement. The background is a world where people are addicted to conflict and competition and where peace and partnership are simply not (yet) sexy enough. In all of this, she still hopes to one day fulfill her lifelong dream of creating a language of joy that will triumph over a language heavy with addiction to conflict and sorrow, no doubt created and sustained in an effort to gain love and attention that way.

Beate has a B.A. in English and Philosophy from Georgetown University. Her published works include two novels, a novella, and many stories and poems. Three of her stories received Pushcart Prize nominations. She has also created the Glass Woman Prize to honor other women’s stories.

Carol Reid is a writer and editor in British Columbia, Canada.Guest 

Bud Smith reviews Kevin Ridgeway’s “Riding Off Into That Strange Technicolor Sunset” for MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews


I am very pleased to welcome Bud Smith on board as a guest reviewer for MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews with his insightful review of Kevin Ridgeway’s “Riding Off Into That Strange Technicolor Sunset.”


Conversation Between Two Old Friends on Facebook

Monday was “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”

and I missed it!

What the Faaargh? (MS)



‘Tis enough to make me sign on

as a cabin boy all over again.

If I wasn’t so fleeberjigged,

I’d make the lot ‘o them

walk the plank and hold their own hornswaggles

whilst bein’ keelhauled…

Garrrrr!  (MM)


It just hit me like a kick in the balls from a peg leg!

You are looking for a job

when all the while, it was right in front of you

like a drunken parrot

swinging from a yard arm.




It has it all!

Plunder, pillage, bounty …  and the rum,

oh matey, the rum!

If this works out I’ll meet you in the future,

in the Caribbean,

on the shuffle board deck

aboard a pirated cruise ship!

Aaargh! (MS)


Shiver me tiverin’ timbers ye lubber!

Here’s to all o’ that and more,

or at the very least, a most glorious share

in the treasure trove afforded by slinging fish sticks

in an Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips franchise

on the near northside of Milwaukee!



prepare to be boarded…. (MM)


Michael Morgan Stone and Michael Gillan Maxwell

Guest Post: Mikey & Me

This is a Guest Post from D.S. Hoffman. Daniel Hoffman studied with Charles Simic at the University of New Hampshire. He was co-founder and co-editor of the literary journal Durak. Daniel also wrote several chap books of poetry, including the classic Whisker Kisses. Daniel has been a luthier for the past 25 years. He currently resides and practices his craft near Santander, Spain, where he makes cellos. You can find him on the web at:



Mikey & Me



You think this is the first go-round

we’ve been tag-team mates on?????????



Gonzo the Great,

who chews his beer glass

after drafting it whole …


and Me

the phased out Whacky little Pud

who bump jumps from the ropes

just in the nick of time


to Back-Hand Swat

the opposition

with a folding chair


Been There …

Done It, Seen It, Played It …


Together …


D.S. Hoffman   2011

Spiritual Direction

This Guest Post  is from Lawrence Kessenich. Lawrence’s most recent Chapbook is titled “Strange News” by Puddinghouse Publications

Spiritual Direction
No one gets lost anymore. If they don’t
have GPS, they have a MapQuest printout,
thick blue line indelibly marking the way.
Lacking those, there is the inevitable
cell phone link to someone with a better

sense of direction. No one gets lost anymore.
They may not know who they are, but,
by God, they know where they are. Even if
it’s nowhere in particular, they can
tell you exactly how far it is from here.

Even if they’ve no idea what they’ll do there,
they can tell you—to the minute—how long
it will take to arrive. No one gets lost
anymore. Travel is predictable as
California weather, and as unrelated

to life’s vicissitudes. We all get lost,
lose our way in love, career or spiritual
seeking. There is no GPS to calmly
guide us down the side roads of the
human heart, no MapQuest for career paths,

no guru on speed dial to direct us through
the dark night of the soul. We need to
practice getting lost again, learn to meander
and cope with uncertainty, to trust

dead reckoning to get us from here to there,

from where we are to where we want to be.

Lawrence Kessenich 2011

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