Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary



Guest Reviewer Sarah Lilius Reviews “The Burn Poems” by Lynn Strongin

MadHat Drive-by Book Reviews is pleased to welcome Guest Reviewer Sarah Lilius who offers us her review of Lynn Strongin’s latest collection: “The Burn Poems,” published by Headmistress Press.

The Burn Poems front

Review of This Wasted Land by Marc Vincenz on Heavy Feather Review

My review of This Wasted Land by Marc Vincenz annotated by Tom Bradley is published on Heavy Feather Review. 

Thanks to Jason Teale for publishing my review.


Exquisite Duet: Matthew Nadelson and Michael Gillan Maxwell

Thanks to Meg Tuite and Jen Michalski for publishing my poem “Along Your Golden Coast” in JMWW’S “Exquisite Duets”. I am also honored to be on the same bill as Matthew Nadelson. Thank you, thank you!


the-duetExquisite Duet (formerly Exquisite Quartet) is not so much a composition between two writers, but rather something created within the murky midlands of each author’s mind, yet set off by the same first sentence. Meg Tuite chooses two writers each month and gives them a first sentence to start with and a 250-word limit to finish an exquisitely mesmerizing story or poem. These duet-dueling writers will craft two completely different cosmos that have rotated, pitched, and blasted from the depths of their cerebral cortex to the twitching nerve endings of their digits onto dueling keyboards and separate screens until their sublime duet is prepared to see the light of an audience.

Enfermera Dolorosa

by Matthew Nadelson

You drag your fingers through my life

the way that needle of a nurse pinned me down,

and grinning, asked a 19 year old me,

“How does that feel?” as she, allegedly

in order…

View original post 636 more words





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:












“Long Gone And Never Coming Back” is published in Literary Orphans


Long Gone And Never Coming Back is published in the current issue of Literary Orphans.

I am thrilled to have my piece “Long Gone And Never Coming Back” published in the current issue of Literary Orphans. Thank you Editor Mike Joyce and everyone else who works so diligently behind the scenes to make this happen. I’m especially knocked out by the brilliant pairing of visual art with writing. The brilliant photography of Charles Simms turned my piece into a movie! This issue is full of fascinating interviews, book reviews, essays and compelling fiction, poetry and art!


Back Roads and Far Away Places Volume III

Back Roads and Far Away Places Volume III.

Tagged: “My Writing Process”

Lunch Laddy at the Dirt Track Races
Writing at the Dirt Track Races

Tagged: “My Writing Process”

“My Writing Process” is an ongoing series in which authors “tag” each other to answer some questions about their work. Robert Vaughan invited me to participate. Initially I declined, but reading Robert Vaughan’s and Bud Smith’s responses to these questions kind of got the wheels turning. I have always been fascinated by the creative process and it seems to be different for each individual.

Robert Vaughan’s most recent book is Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms) Bud Smith ( is the author of Tollbooth and Or Something Like That. He just released full length poetry collection, Everything Neon by Marginalia Books. He also is the host of The Unknown Show.

Authors Mia Avramut and Gary Powell have accepted my invitation to participate. Gary Powell is the author of Speedos, Tattoos, and Felons: A Novella in Stories

Here are links to some of Mia’s work:

Here are my responses to the questions.

1) What am I working on?

I have two chapbooks looking for a home. Although, it seems the longer they are homeless, the more they keep changing. “Long Gone and Never Coming Back” is a poetry chapbook and the other is a flash fiction chapbook called “Between Dusk and Dawn.” If they go much longer before finding a publisher, they will be full length collections and may not contain any of the work that currently comprises them.

I’m also working on a portfolio of altered photographs called “In The Studio” which documents my friend Daniel Hoffman’s work as a luthier making cellos. I’ll be posting that on my website. To view Hoffman’s exquisite work go to

I have an ongoing series on my website called The Lunch Lady Cookbook where I post recipes and photographs, music and beverage pairings all carried along by tongue-in-cheek goofy narrative. I also write essays when the spirit moves me and irate letters to my legislators when I’m hot and bothered by environmental issues, which seems to happen more and more frequently.

Oh yeah. Almost forgot to mention. I write songs too. Singer/songwriter/Americana story stuff, blues, ballads and rock and roll. Guitar, harmonica, vocals ~simple chords and simple structures.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think, like everybody else, I try to be authentically “myself” and put my “personal stamp” on it without getting so esoteric that I lose the reader. My best work conveys irony, humor and redemption, no matter how far it may veer into the dark side. From time to time, I’m lucky enough to write a piece that only I could write. However, that’s a slippery and intangible bit of magic that I am at a loss to explain, because I don’t even understand it myself.

3) Why do I write what I do?

It usually comes from a deep emotional response or a reaction to a situation, social condition, event, or nature. Sometimes it’s triggered by a song or a visual image. I also seem to write a lot of stuff that comes from driving my car. I have a lot of fun writing parody and satirical pieces laced with ironic, often self deprecating humor. This shows up a lot in my series The Lunch Lady Cookbook and in my serial detective noir send-up “The Last of the Hard Boiled Dicks.”

4) How does my writing process work?

I compose most every thing on my computer or iPad. I think all my years of academic writing rewired my brain. Or maybe “short-circuited” would be a better description! Songwriting is done differently. I usually write songs in long hand and use a guitar or mandolin to play the chords. Although, some of my best songs came to me, unbidden, while doing things like mowing the lawn or walking my dogs. In a couple of cases they came like a “download” ~ fully formed with lyrics, melody, chords all intact ~ and I had to rush into the house to write it all down before it vanished back into the ethers. It was like I “channeled” them. A lot of my poetry starts with a line that has come to me in a near dream state, either just before falling asleep or as I’m awakening. Most of the heavy lifting in my writing is done with a burst of energy using blunt instruments and big, broad strokes. After that, it seems like an endless process of revising, cutting, and rearranging words and phrases. It’s like feng shui. I’m also a recovering adverb and cliche abuser, so ferreting out those buggers is an important part of the process. Quite often, I’ll get ideas for poems while driving my car and I start scribbling madly in a notebook on the passenger seat. Of course, this is even more dangerous than texting, so I’ll pull over if at all possible. I also beg, borrow and steal ideas shamelessly, then hammer it into something that is my own. Don’t we all? Perhaps the secret to transmuting it into something new and original lies in responding in a truly honest, personal and authentic manner. That’s all easier said then done, but it’s worthy of striving toward.

2013 In Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,100 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Lost in the Matrix Again:A Journey Through the Shopping Mall and the Heart of Darkness

Lost in the Matrix Again:

A Journey Through the Shopping Mall and the Heart of Darkness

Lunch Laddy at the Dirt Track Races
I’m just a guy, tryin’ ta get along……

I know this is out of character for me, but for once I’m not trying to be a smarty pants, take a sardonic tone or criticize anything or anyone. I’m simply making observations based on my experience, trying to make some sense of it and and perhaps express an obnoxious opinion or two. This is about American culture, of which I am very much a part. It’s also about shopping malls and the culture of consumer madness. I am one of America’s great consumers and I’m just reflecting upon my observations. I worked in a shopping mall and so did my son. That almost makes it a family tradition. Please bear in mind that I’m not a trained journalist or sociologist. I’m just offering my “boots on the ground” opinions and observations, for whatever that’s worth. However, when I spot a boat foundering in the surf that appears to be sinking, or a house engulfed in flames, I can’t restrain myself from reacting in some way. Or at least make an observation for posterity’s sake. If this is offensive or demeaning to anybody in any way, it is unintended. I’m just trying to get a grip on what’s going down.

The other day I needed to go to a big box store at the regional shopping mall. I try to avoid going there because it’s an enervating environment and it seems to suck the life right out of me. I find it sad and depressing. It’s not all that far from becoming a humongous ghost town. This is a shopping mall that has fallen upon hard times in recent years as a number of competing strip malls were built in the near vicinity. There was a steady diaspora from the established mall as consumers did more and more of their shopping in the surrounding strip malls and left brick and mortar stores behind altogether to find what they are looking for online. Now the oldest of the competing strip malls are already on the decline as stores have folded or moved down the road to newer strip malls, leaving cavernous retail spaces that will stay unoccupied for years before they are finally repurposed or torn down. One of them has a whopping 146,522 square feet of retail space available and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Who’s going to be able to fill that kind of retail space as it is? The state of the mall and the surrounding strip malls says a lot about the changing landscape of retail stores and consumerism in America.

I never go to the regional mall anymore because there is almost nothing there that I can find to buy. However, on this particular day I did have some business to transact at the mall so I decided to walk around to get a feel for the current lay of the land. It was eye opening. There are still at least six major big box stores that anchor the mall and these retailers compete with each other, carrying many of the exact same lines while trying and be all things to all people. The result is a watered down “sameness” and lack of any truly unique “brand” or personality. Outside of these stores, few of the other old stalwarts remain and there are major swaths of unoccupied spaces, shuttered, dark and desolate. Conspicuous in its absence is one of the old stores with unique personality that was a news stand and tobacco store where you could buy newspapers and magazines, pipes and cigars and get a good cup of coffee. Changes in newspaper and magazine publishing and American smoking habits may have sounded the death knell for little shops of this kind. Add to that, the near extinction of book stores and what used to be known as record stores. One thing that really stands out is how many of the stores that were there for years have been replaced by something totally different or have been repurposed altogether and are occupied by ventures other than traditional retail stores. It seems there are a growing number of places that offer some kind of community based service as opposed to pure retail.

As I strolled through, I was surprised to see that one of the long time clothing stores is a mixed martial arts school and another is a cheerleading academy. You can buy a grand piano in what used to be a purveyor of leather goods and across from that you can buy a granite tombstone and have it custom engraved. The optometry store where I once bought glasses is now a full service body modification studio offering tattoos and body piercing. The calendar store that occupied a corner of the mall is now a pastoral counseling center and church that offers Sunday morning services in the movie theater complex. There are a number of other “community centers” of one kind or another, all with limited hours of operation. I don’t know if this is a nationwide trend or if this is a unique situation. It certainly does reflect a genuine effort to adapt and evolve. In any case, it’s one way to fill these spaces and offer something that people might actually want or need. I think the sheer monstrous size of the one-stop-shopping-big-box-stores is actually its own undoing. In this case, bigger is not better.

Pop up seasonal stores come and go and there are at least two Halloween stores for the time being. Needless to say, even though it’s late October, all the spaces I visited or peeked into were already headed full-on into the Christmas season complete with lights, decorations. and music. Christmas is nice during a couple of weeks in December. More than that and I start to get more nauseous and jaded than usual. I really started to get an overwhelming case of the heebie jeebies and quickened my pace toward the parking lot before I collapsed from sheer ennui and existential exhaustion.

Is this the death of the American shopping mall as we once knew it? I really have no idea. Maybe malls like this are going strong all over the country? Admittedly this is all based on my own limited observation. But generally speaking, what if malls offered goods and services that are more naturally integrated with the needs of daily life, in addition to retail stores that sell clothes,shoes, jewelry, electronics and hair&nail care? What would these places look like with grocery stores, medical arts services, auto repair, health clubs, veterinary services, small cafes, restaurants and a whole bunch of quirky, one of a kind places in subdivided cavernous retail spaces that feel more like warehouses than any kind of intimate space. There are many issues to contend with here, not the least of which is that malls may be located far and away from the day to day lives of the consumers they hope to attract.

I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe it’s symptomatic of a need for a cultural paradigm shift. I don’t know. I’m just sayin’……

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