Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Category: Writing (page 1 of 10)

Posts about writing, editing, publishing, and blogging

Here Comes a Twister & Thoughts about Prose Poetry

She grew up in the land of twisters, seeking shelter in middle bathrooms. She baptized herself in the rivers of glass sparkling through the broken house. Wall clouds turned and blackened, the sky decayed, fell down from itself. Monsters ate trees in the night but by morning, birds always returned, the feeders full of color and song, while all around hailstones melted. Only small questions remained, then; the big ones were all torn up with the trees and trails, apologies she used to believe she owed. A familiar man in coveralls claims he can repair the roof faster, cheaper, better than the other guys who don’t understand these things (sign here please). Her fists clench, knuckles ache like love; she relaxes only when he leaves. She whispers secrets to her daughter: about the days of electricity and engines, about the thrill of kneeling wild-eyed before the weather radio’s robot voice, about prayers for thunder and wind, about how she learned to control storms and how everything that happens flashes in a dark and roaring instant.


This an old one, posted here a few years back and later published at CSHS, but it was originally published as a poem—the kind with line breaks—and not as a prose poem or a flash or whatever the heck these rectangular things are. I’ve found the past few years that I want to write more and more prose poetry and then wondering about the distinction between prose poetry and flash fiction.

They (as in the all-knowing They) say flash has narrative and prose poetry relies on imagery and ideas. What then of narrative prose poems, which is how a lot of mine feel to me? Further complicating matters is the fact that many of my poems are drafted in a sort of rambling stream-of-consciousness paragraph form which I then start fiddling with by inserting line breaks. What happens then when I take away those line breaks and go back to prose as in the above poem and in several of the poems in What Stranger Miracles, which was published by White Knuckle Press in 2016 as a free online chap.

I suppose the flow chart would go like this:

stream-of-consciousness draft paragraph without much punctuation – > add punctuation, line breaks, cut stuff -> fiddle w/language, tinker, play -> refine, add and delete lines -> multiple side trips through limbo, some lasting months or even years -> complete poem -> remove line breaks and go back to paragraph form

That all seems very convoluted, but something interesting happens in that step between finished poem-with-line-breaks and prose poem that I don’t think I could have gotten to if I had just kept it in paragraph form from the beginning. I think differently about what I’m writing when those line breaks appear.

Maybe then this is more about a reader’s perception than a writer’s intention. I keep thinking about how musicians remix their own work often releasing it in multiple forms. Any given song might have the studio version, the acoustic version, the club mix, and the live version. Each of these requires changes to the original arrangement while the words (usually) remain the same. The listener is able in many cases to choose and purchase the preferred version.

I realize I’m sneaking back into my thoughts about sanctity-of-text that I was writing about recently, but why not something similar with poetry? Why not release prose versions of our work? Even if in abbreviated format like an EP of a few acoustic tracks from various albums. Prose poetry versions might even go over better in e-book format since they’re easier to code and read on an e-reader.

After reading The Teeth of the Comb & Other Stories by Osama Allomar, a collection described as short stories but often straddling that thin line between flash and prose poetry, I can’t help but wonder if this is this all just marketing stuff. Would prose poetry sell better than poetry if we just called it flash or something more generic like short prose? What about poems remixed into prose form? What are those if they were narrative to begin with? And, back to digital questions, would they sell better as ebooks than poetry seems to?

This comes up because I’ve been going back and prose-ifying some of my old poems. I find some of them work better this way. (I wish there was a WordPress plugin that would do this for me.) As I do this, I’m starting to see the outlines of a manuscript that I hadn’t recognized before. There are a number of these poems-becoming-prose-poems that seem to fit together and for me anyway seem to be more interesting in prose.

I’ll close for now with my author’s statement from the beginning of What Stranger Miracles. Here’s “Adseg”:

Just as they separate ax murderers from regular ones, holding them out for special derision and lengthier sentences, we segregate prose poems from regular poems. They get their own labels and cells, a metal toilet, gang signs, and four hashmarks—one for each consecutive sentence—carved into the crumbling walls on some prison island surrounded by and so far from the sea. The prose poem wakes with the others but hesitates when they roll the doors. It knows it shouldn’t enter the yard with the other poems, those sad misdemeanors that just got busted that one time they tried something big.

Has anyone else tried fiddling with their work like this? Did you like the results? What do you think about releasing multiple versions of your work?

Goddess / Gasolina / For Gasoline


This is the video I made for “Goddess” by Cwtch, which is Marie Craven and Paul Foster. “Goddess” is a remix of my poem “For Gasoline” that appears in my book Highway Sky. Paul and Marie remixed it into a song along with a few others on their EP Chasing Headlights. So it is, as Marie described it, a remix of a remix or also to paraphrase her words, a conversation between artists on three continents. I like that.

It’s an odd thing for a poem to move like that from the screen during the mad rush of a napowrimo to the printed page, then to a song, a pair of videos one Spanish and one English by Eduardo Yagüe and Javi Zurrón that have been screened at venues around the world and now full circle (for now) with this music video offered back to Marie and Paul.



I love this. I love being part of this. I love the idea of the words being set free. We all read and listen to and watch other people’s work and walk away with wildly different ideas. I see this everyday in my classroom. We look at a poem and I am always surprised by what various students take away from it. What if everything were free for us to take that next step and not just think about or talk about what it means to us as individuals but to actually make something new and let it grow?



I am surprised that “For Gasoline” has traveled so far and in such surprising ways. I am so deeply honored and fortunate to have run into so many wonderful artists who have seen something in this little poem worthy of taking it on new trips.



“For Gasoline” (and all the poems in Highway Sky and on this site) is licensed under a creative commons by-nc-sa license and is therefore available for remix and interpretation. Feel free to join the conversation.

Some Recent Publications

For those of you still coming ’round here, I’m excited to share some recent publication news:

“Coyote’s Bone” in Issue 6 of Zoomorphic

“Blown Away” in Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY

“Nicky Rose Driving South” in Crack the Spine Literary Magazine

Thanks to the editors of these fine journals for seeing fit to publish my work, and I hope you’ll check it out. And just because I’m still really proud of this one, if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll click over to White Knuckle Press and read my prose poem chapbook What Stranger Miracles.

What Stranger Miracles


I’m excited to announce the publication of my prose poem chapbook What Stranger Miracles by White Knuckle Press, “publisher of online chapbooks of prose poems.” My sincerest thanks to editors Dale Wisely and Howie Good for agreeing to publish it, and to Dale for his care and attention to the design, which is just wonderful.

You can read What Stranger Miracles free online. I hope you’ll check it out. And be sure to look around at all the other work published by White Knuckle Press.

Highway Sky: Creative Commons, Remix & Resources


That’s the video I made for “God Bless Johnny Cash” which is now part of Highway Sky. It’s the first video poem I ever made, and while it’s a bit rough, I still kind of dig it. Along with “Chasing Westward,” I’ve made two videos for the Highway Sky poems, but what really excites me is the idea of creative remix, which is why the poems in Highway Sky are all licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike-NonCommercial license.

I was inspired by the example of The Poetry Storehouse and its radical sharing/remix culture based on the same Creative Commons license used for Highway Sky. I participated in The Poetry Storehouse as a poet, reader, and remixer and found the whole experience to be so wonderful that I wanted to release Highway Sky under the same terms and see what, if anything might come of it. (Incidentally,  “For Gasoline” and “angels” are available for remix there along with a few of my other poems).

So, for anyone interested in remixing anything in Highway Sky, I offer the following resources:


Free PDF version of Highway Sky (please note, the cover photo is copyrighted by the photographer and the Creative Commons License does not apply to it). Please contact me if you would like a free pdf copy for review or creative remix.

Additionally, early drafts of many of the poems can be found here under the tag highway sky draft poems


These are all of me reading some of the poems:

“For Gasoline” (text available at The Poetry Storehouse)


“Angels” (text available at feathers & The Poetry Storehouse)


“Night at the Interstate Diner” (text available at qarrtsiluni)


U.S. Highways


Chasing Westward



Of course, please abide by the terms of the license, and if you want to make a hit song, broadway musical, or some other commercial product out of any of my poems, you’ll need to get in touch with me. But we’ll be able to work something out.

And, while we’re at it, here’s the video I made for “Chasing Westward” which is also included in my short collection Birds Nobody Loves.

“Chasing Westward”


Highway Sky is Live

highway-skyI’m very happy to announce that my new book Highway Sky is now live.

Highway Sky is a collection of road poems published here on Coyote Mercury and in various fine journals, ‘zines, sites, and anthologies over the past seven years.

As of right now, Highway Sky is available in paperback in the following places: Amazon, my e-storeBarnes & Noble, and probably most anywhere else you can order books. There is also a Kindle edition and a free .pdf edition version is available for review or creative remix. Contact me for more info.

The following poems from the collection were previously published. Where there are working links, they can be read online. My thanks to the editors of the following journals for publishing these…

“Sonnet Found in a Road Atlas” Verbatim Found Poetry (Jun 2015)

“a hundred miles out” tinywords (Apr 2015, Issue 15.1)

“All the Way” Synchronized Chaos (Mar 2015)

“Three Scenes from the Road” The Lake (Mar 2015)

“windshield rain” A Blackbird Sings: A Book of Short Poems (Woodsmoke Press, Sep 2012)

“if there are angels” feathers (Apr 2012)

“North Through Fog.” Houston Literary Review (Feb 2011)

“Night at the Interstate Diner.” qarrtsiluni (Dec 2010 – The Crowd issue)

“Highway 73 to Port Arthur.” a handful of stones (Jul 2010)

“Deeper into Texas.” America Remembered (Virgogray* Press Chapbook Anthology Jul 2010)

“Miles (Never Once Imagined).” Carcinogenic Poetry (May 2010)

“I-10 Eastbound.” Carcinogenic Poetry (May 2010)

“We Talk of Trains.” ouroboros review (Jul 2009 – No. 3)

“A Texas Highway in Springtime.” Bolts of Silk (May 2009)

And, thanks to The Poetry Storehouse for making “For Gasoline” and “angels” available for creative remix. (Incidentally, all of the individual poems in Highway Sky are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike-NonCommercial license so if you want to envideo/remix… have at it.)

Many of the poems first appeared here in draft form. You can read those early drafts here. Some are draftier than others, but I offer my sincerest thanks to the many people who commented, critiqued and left feedback on these drafts over the past seven years. It has meant a lot to me.

I hope you’ll check it out and help spread the word. Thank you.

Some Recent Publications

Six October Stones CoverI’m very happy to announce that my micro-chapbook Six October Stones is published by Origami Poems Project.

Like all of Origami Poems Project’s micro-chapbooks, this collection of six short poems woven into a longer poem is a free PDF download that can be folded into a very small chapbook using the instructions found on the site. Check it out!



Next up, I’m thrilled to share that the Take2 Guide to LOST is now available for download. This is a massive compendium of online writing about the ABC TV Series LOST, and it includes all of my LOST book club blog posts (explained and indexed here) as well as my reflections on “The End.” Yes, I really did read and blog about all the books that appeared on the show, and it’s nice to see all that collected with so much other fine LOST writing. More info here.


Finally, I’m proud to have had a poem featured at Autumn Sky Poetry Daily: “Made or Just Happened.” Do check it out if you haven’t already.

And, yes, I’m still putting finishing touches on Highway Sky and The Corner of Ghost & Hope. Things move slow.

Writing Process Questions

I’m stealing a meme from Carolee.

What are you working on?

I’m close to publishing two short books: Highway Sky, a collection of road poems; and The Corner of Ghost & Hope, a collection of five short stories. Both have been ongoing and then back-burner projects for several years (I first put Highway Sky together in 2009) but this year I decided to commit to finishing both of them. I’m alternating between them, and they are currently in the proof stage. Once published, I plan to start working on another poetry project, not sure what, but I have some ideas I’m kicking around.

How does your work differ from others in the same genre?

This is a really interesting question that I don’t know how to answer without sounding like I’m full of it. I think it’s the type of question writers and other artists probably struggle with answering about their own work. Probably why author bios are written in 3rd person. Having said that, I write about things that interest me. One of the most compelling things to me is the way we interact, live with, and understand our place in nature. I try to let my sense of awe and wonder at the mysteries of the universe come through in my writing. I don’t think any of that necessarily makes my work differ from anyone else’s; plenty do those things and do them better than me. So I have my take on things, my way of seeing the world. As does everyone else. Naturally, I’m forever grateful to those who are interested in and take time to read what I have to write.

Why do you write what you do?

It depends on what I’m writing, whether it be fiction or memoir and what form I’m working in: prose, poetry, small stones… I write to explore, entertain, meditate, pray, discover, remember, understand, honor, educate. As mentioned above, I try to write from a place of curiosity, gratitude, and wonder. I’m reminded of the Grateful Dead song “Lady with a Fan” from Terrapin Station:

The storyteller makes no choice
soon you will not hear his voice
his job is to shed light
and not to master

I’ve always liked those lines, the idea of shedding light and not trying to have all the answers. I try to keep that in mind when I’m writing, that urge to discover and ask rather than answer. I guess I write more what I want to understand than what I already know.

How does your writing process work?

Too many days, I’d say it doesn’t. Sometimes I start with a prompt or an image. I freewrite and then cut away from what I’ve written. Sometimes, a phrase or an idea just comes along and hits me. I wrote this in the comments on Carolee’s blog:

I don’t always know where it comes from, at least not at first. My students ask me these kinds of things all the time when they want to learn more about writing poetry, and I always feel kind of lame when the best I have to offer are answers like “I don’t know” and “It just kind of happens.” I think the best poetry or any writing comes when we’re not setting out to say something but rather to discover something.

Truth is, I really don’t know how I do it. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m the one who wrote something. Which isn’t to say it’s not a lot of work, because it is, especially at the revision stage, but those ideas, that initial surge, just happens. But it only happens when I’m open to it. I have to show up and be there ready to respond. The real work of course, comes later when I have to sit down and turn ideas, scribbles, and drafts into something worth reading.

I’ve recently written two process posts, one about reading and recording other people’s poetry and one about videomaking. So I’ll just end with a quote from the video post that also applies to writing:

[…] maybe this is the main thing I have to say about my creative process: I don’t always intend to write a poem or make a video, but then one thing leads to another: experience, image, something I read, something someone says and then the next thing I know there’s a poem or a video or something waiting to be written or made. I guess it all comes down to being open and willing. And then, as Stephen King says, showing up at the keyboard.

Kind Words

It’s nice to know that Michele Cornelius, whose awesome stock photo graces the new cover of A Place Without a Postcard liked the book. Enough to write about it even. Take a few minutes to visit her site and check out her awesome work.

Thanks, Michele!

Postcard Cover Art

postcard2013_cover-kindle-lo-resWhen I made the decision to Kindle-ize and relaunch A Place Without a Postcard, I decided to redo the cover. While looking around Shutterstock, I came across the photo that you see on the book. A UFO flying over the desert is exactly the kind of cover image I was seeking for a book about a photographer who makes fake UFO photos and gets lost in the desert.

This photo led me to try to learn more about the photographer, Michele Cornelius. She lives and works in Alaska, and her photos eloquently capture the beauty of that remote place and her deep concern for its wild spaces.

In addition to selling stock photos, Michele also has a great many of her prints available for purchase, and she has a beautiful photo e-book called A Back Road Traveler’s Alaska. Visit her site, Observations of a Backroad Traveler, and check out her work. It will be time well spent.

Also, if you’re looking for good stock photos, she has a lot more than UFO pictures available on Shutterstock.

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