“Spell for an Orchard” by John Clegg


John Clegg was born in Chester in 1986 and grew up in Cambridge. He studied for a PhD at Durham University. In 2013, he received an Eric Gregory Award. His first collection, Antler, was published by Salt in 2012, and his second, Holy Toledo!, was recently published recently by Carcanet Press. A pamphlet, Captain Love and the Five Joaquins, is published by Emma Press. He works as a bookseller in London.

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“Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” by Robert Archambeau


Robert Archambeau is a poet and literary critic whose works include the books Citation Suite, Home and Variations, Laureates and Heretics, The Poet Resigns: Poetry in a Difficult World, and The Kafka Sutra. He has also edited a number of works, including Word Play Place: Essays on the Poetry of John Matthias, The &NOW Awards: The Best Innovative Writing, and Letters of Blood: English Writings of Göran Printz-Påhlson. He teaches English as a Professor at Lake Forest College near Chicago.

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“Kite” by Ernest Hilbert Scored for Voice and Cello by Christopher LaRosa

Kite Kite

Follow along with the score as you listen to Chris LaRosa’s setting of my poem “Kite” for voice and cello, featured on ContemporaryCompositionXX’s youtube channel, performed by Rachel Mikol and Will Rowe, commissioned by Sara Wilkins.

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“I, Too, have Been to the Huntington” by J.V. Cunningham


[Cunningham’s poems] “difficult as they are to place in the stream of American and English poetry, are of unusual interest. They are the products of a talent which is emphatically and avowedly not modern, but which, though it operates within quite narrow bounds, and intentionally so, is none the less expert and sensitive.” – Edward Weismiller

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“Independence Day” by John Poch


John Poch has published four collections of poetry. His most recent, Fix Quiet, won the 2014 New Criterion Poetry Prize. He teaches in the creative writing program at Texas Tech University. His work has appeared in Poetry, Yale Review, Agni, American Poetry Review, Paris Review, and many other journals.

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“The Night my Sister Went to Hollywood” by Hilda Sheehan

F & M 3

Hilda Sheehan’s debut collection is The Night my Sister Went to Hollywood (Cultured Llama Press, 2013). She has also published a chapbook of prose poems, Frances and Martine (Dancing Girl, 2014).

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“Summer Scream” by Ernest Hilbert in the New Issue of Per Contra


My light-hearted summer “horror” poem “Summer Scream” appears in the new issue of Per Contra, an international journal of the arts, literature, and ideas.

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Images of The Book Collector, a New Opera by Composer Stella Sung and Librettist Ernest Hilbert

At the climax, the Baron, driven mad with desire for the book, commits murder! His daughter confronts him and is terrified when she realizes he does not understand what he has done and feels no remorse.

Until now, I’ve only been able to share images taken on cell phones and smaller cameras, which you may have seen here. I’ve finally received some of the professional photographs taken of the opera. Enjoy!

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“14-Year-Old with Two Friends on Bikes Outside the Wawa on Germantown Ave” by Mark Danowsky

Mark Danowsky bio

Mark Danowsky’s poetry has appeared in About Place, Beechwood Review, Cordite, Elohi Gadugi, Grey Sparrow, Mobius, Right Hand Pointing, Shot Glass Journal, Third Wednesday and elsewhere. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Mark currently resides in North-Central West Virginia. He works for a private detective agency and is Managing Editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.

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Top Five Anti-Trump Spoofs You’ve Probably Never Heard Of


So: Donald Trump, presidential candidate. It’s here, it’s real. And it’s inspiring a lot of anger toward Trump. Some of you may not be aware of how long this distaste for the man has been around. He’s been inspiring ridicule and criticism almost from the moment he reached the public consciousness. A living, breathing, bloviating embodiment of ’80s greed and excess. Here are a variety of sources that ridicule or expose Trump long before he decided he wanted to be leader of the free world.

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“Evening Landscape” by Leonard Gontarek


Leonard Gontarek is the author of six books of poems, including He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs and Déjà vu Diner. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poet Lore, Verse, Blackbird, The Awl, Spinning Jenny, and The Best American Poetry, among others. He coordinates Peace/Works, Philly Poetry Day, The Philadelphia Poetry Festival, and hosts The Green Line Reading & Interview Series. Gontarek has received Poetry fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Philadelphia Writers Conference Community Service Award, and was a Literary Death Match Champion. His poem, 37 Photos From The Bridge, was a Poetry winner for the Big Bridges MotionPoems project and the basis for the award-winning film by Lori Ersolmaz sponsored by the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.

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“Fathers and Sons” by David Mason


“David Mason’s poems are about moments of realisation. Something is otherwise. Something has been learned with pain and still it won’t settle. There are families moving through houses and institutions, ageing, losing grip, and there are the young and rising and memories of youth. The language is humane, unfussy, firm, moving but not calculated to move. And beyond the personal there is the country as it spreads through its inhabitants and leaves its mark on nature.” – George Szirtes

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Top Trump and Hillary Clinton Google Autocomplete Suggestions

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

Here are some of the top autocomplete results for various Trump and Hillary searches. What do these say about the candidates? For that matter, what does it say about the American electorate?

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“From the Balcony on Heavy Metal Tribute Night at the Trocadero” by Ernest Hilbert


“Per Contra began publication as an online quarterly in the fall of 2005. Our name indicates our intention to offer more than one way of looking at the world. You can find contrast in our range of content: literary fiction, poetry (both free verse and formalist), original and in translation,* interviews with authors and with artists, creative non-fiction, essays, and book reviews. Additionally we include articles about art and literature that one might expect to find only in scholarly journals because we believe that by publishing them in this context they will be available to a wide audience. While we are open to many points of view, we are unwavering in our devotion to individual Liberty, freedom of expression, freedom of independent inquiry, and the preservation of the ideals that found their basis. The editors of Per Contra are grateful to our readers and to the authors who trust us to bring their work to an audience. We hope our journal will continue to delight and inspire.”

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“dirty martini” by Ryan Eckes

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“Ryan Eckes’ VALU-PLUS continues his incisive, wry, sincere, & gorgeous examination of the city- landscape. In Eckes’ work, the city—Philadelphia, specifically—cannot be contained, but is well lived in & observed & explored. There is ‘a box to be gutted / between dollar tree and footlocker’ & ‘a worry of rowhomes the body / aches out of.’ Place in Eckes’ poems can shift its shape between the gutted box & the infinitely expansive—’a box / spraypainted / on the wall / in red / for stickball.’ A box of air—it both is & is not there. & the city is something we are in & we carry with us in these wonderful poems. Their stubborn, brilliant sound will return to you as you walk down the street. VALU-PLUS is an archive, a love-letter, a political sharp edge, a report from the adjunct-field, a wondering over ‘how we / live this country’ & ‘how to live in a fucked / world.’” – Pattie McCarthy

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Top Five Things You May Not Know about Donald Trump that are Absolutely True

who knew

With all the media coverage Trump enjoys in the age of the 24-hour news cycle and personal branding, you probably think you know all you need to know about him. But then again maybe not. Did you know . . .

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“The Lion for Real” by Allen Ginsberg


“Ginsberg is both tragic & dynamic, a lyrical genius, con man extraordinaire and probably the single greatest influence on American poetical voice since Whitman.” – Bob Dylan

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“piano after war” by Gwendolyn Brooks


“She is a very good poet, the only superlative I dare use in our time of misusage: compared to the best of modern poets, she ranks high.” – Harvey Curtis Webster

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“Dummy, 51, to Go to a Museum, Ventriloquist Dead at 75” by May Swenson


“Swenson was a visionary poet, a prodigious observer of the fragile and miraculous natural world.” – Priscilla Long

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Sir Alec Guinness Reads T.S. Eliot’s Poetry


“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” The Waste Land, and Four Quartets were recorded in association with The Arts Council of Great Britain and the British Broadcasting Corporation. “Journey of the Magi” was recorded by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

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“Black Ice and Rain” by Michael Donaghy


“A linguistic musician, a literary musician. Every poem is a marvel.” – Simon Armitage

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“New Order of the Ages” by Rick Mullin

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Rick Mullin’s latest Collection, Stignatz & the User of Vicenza is published by Dos Madres Press, Loveland Ohio. His other books published by Dos Madres are the booklength poem Soutine (2012), the collection Coelacanth (2013), and Sonnets from the Voyage of the Beagle (2014). His long poem, Huncke, was published by Seven Towers, Dublin, Ireland (2010). He has two chapbooks, Aquinas Flinched (Exot Books, New York, 2008), and The Stones Jones Canzones (Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, KY, 2013). His work has appeared in various journals and anthologies including The New Criterion, American Arts Quarterly, and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems.

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Ernest Hilbert and Stella Sung’s New Opera, The Book Collector, to Premiere Friday, May 20th


My second opera with composer Stella Sung, The Book Collector, will be performed by the Dayton Opera on Friday, May 20th, with a matinee on Sunday May 22nd. The opera incorporates physical stage settings with virtual 3D digital backdrops, a ballet sequence, and full orchestra with choir.

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“To My Mother” by George Barker


“His work was passionate, intellectually challenging and highly original, his language incantatory and often hypnotic. There are echoes of Blake, Housman, Verlaine and Barker’s contemporary, Dylan Thomas. ” – Peter Wilby

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“Hit, Run” by Dawn Manning

Dawn Manning headshot web

Dawn Manning is a writer, photographer, and rogue anthropologist living in the Greater Philadelphia area. Her awards include the Beullah Rose Poetry Prize, the Edith Garlow Poetry Prize, and the San Miguel Writer’s Conference Writing Award, among others. Her poems have been published through Crab Orchard Review, Fairy Tale Review, Silk Road Review, Smartish Pace, Unsplendid, and other literary journals. You can find her online at dawnmanning.com. When the stars align, she travels.

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Making a Modern Opera: Behind the Scenes of the Adaptation of The Scarlet Letter by Composer Lori Laitman and Librettist Dave Mason


“Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is America’s first great tragic novel. Published in 1850, the work immediately caught the country’s attention and has never lost its grip. The story could easily be played out today: how individuals react to and survive severely repressive communities saturated with religious dogma. The Scarlet Letter looks at individuals who hold fast to their personal beliefs and secrets, to protect themselves and others; how their mistaken actions result from fears of being judged and disliked; and how people either make peace with their decisions, or live out lives of tortured conflict because of them. We invite you to join us for this world premiere in celebration of new American Opera.” – Opera Colorado

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Top Five New Ben and Jerry’s Flavors Now that They’ve Been Arrested

bernies yearning

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, were arrested on Monday at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., as part of a protest to support voting rights and oppose big money in politics (read more here). Incidentally, they’ve also created a Bernie Sanders-flavored ice cream: Bernie’s Yearning. It’s mint chocolate chip, except that it’s 99% mint, while all of the chocolate chips, instead of being mixed throughout the ice cream, are at the top 1% of the container in a clump. I am not making this up. But now, I bet we’ll get some new ice cream flavors out of this experience. What will they be? Here are my top five suggestions.

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“Blustery” by Neil Shepard

Neil Shepard’s sixth and seventh books of poetry were published in 2015: Hominid Up, by Salmon Poetry (Ireland), and Vermont Exit Ramps II (poems and photos) by Green Writers Press (Vermont). His five previous books include a chapbook, Vermont Exit Ramps (Big Table Publishing, 2012), and four full collections of poetry: (T)ravel/Un(t)ravel (2011), This Far from the Source (2006), I’m Here Because I Lost My Way (1998), and Scavenging the Country for a Heartbeat (First Book Award, 1993), all from Mid-List Press. His poems appear in several hundred literary magazines, among them Antioch Review, Boulevard, Harvard Review, New American Writing, New England Review, North American Review, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, Southern Review, Sewanee Review, and TriQuarterly. His poems have been nominated numerous times for the Pushcart Prize, and they have been featured online at Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Poem-A-Day (from the Academy of American Poets). Shepard has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland, and he has been a visiting writer at the Chautauqua Writers Institute, The Frost Place, and Ossabaw Island Writers Retreat. He founded and directed for eight years the Writing Program at the Vermont […]

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Top Five Recent Movies Featuring Allegories of the Class System

fury road

Hollywood, a world defined by high-finance ventures, vulgarly luxurious lifestyles, ferocious competition, and cynical demographic pandering, is also the source of much fuss about social injustice. Wealthy producers pat themselves on the back for exposing the unfairness of class divisions in outlandishly expensive, highly-stylized movies. Here are a few to get you started.

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“Zeug-o-Matic” by Kate Light


Kate Light, who died unexpectedly in April 2016, was a librettist, lyricist and poet in New York City. She was an alumna of the Eastman School of Music, Hunter College, and the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, and she was also a professional violinist and a member of the orchestra of the New York City Opera. Her works include the libretto of The Life and Love of Joe Coogan, an opera adapted from an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show (composer: Paul Salerni); Once Upon the Wind, a one-act opera based upon the Russian folktale “The Soldier Who Captured Death” (composer: Theo Popov);Metamorphoses, a musical-in-progress based on Ovid’s life and work (composer, Masatora Goya); the texts of Oceanophony and Einstein’s Mozart: Two Geniuses, for narrator and musicians; and four volumes of poetry, Einstein’s Mozart: Two Geniuses, Gravity’s Dream (Donald Justice Award), Open Slowly, and The Laws of Falling Bodies (Nicholas Roerich Prize, Story Line Press). Her lyrics for the song “Here Beside Me” are heard in Disney’s Mulan II.

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