Regular Features Pages
Free Verse with Vera Ignatowitsch
Poetry for Children with Robert Schechter
Four Featured Poems
The Interview An Imagined Conversation
with William Butler Yeats
by Kevin McLaughlin
William Butler Yeats by Augustus Edwin John
William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) published his first works in the mid-1880s while a student at Dublin’s Metropolitan School of Art. His early accomplishments include The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889) and plays such as The Countess Kathleen (1892) and Deirdre (1907). In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He went on to write more influential works, including The Tower (1928) and Words for Music Perhaps and Other Poems (1932). Yeats is considered one of the leading Western poets of the 20th century.
Editor’s Choice — Formal Poetry
Nothing can save you. The earth will
open, as once
Your mother opened, but no shrill
cry, no expanse
Of time and space will follow. All
will be reversed,
Frozen, as on the frescoed wall
where the accursed
Approach the abyss, and bare trees
catch at the wind.
That which waits on eternity
ushers you in.
Jared Carter’s most recent book is The Land Itself from Monongahela Books in Morgantown, West Virginia. He lives in Indiana.
This was not the first time I had fallen through a wormhole, tumbled backwards in time. In previous time travel experiences I had met with Charles Baudelaire and William Blake. No, not my first time to meet with an Immortal Poet, but it was the first time my appearance had been expected.
When I shook off the vertigo that accompanies traversing the centuries, I discovered myself seated at a wooden table in a stone room with windows looking out over a well-tended park and gardens. I easily recognized my companions, Maud Gonne, Madame Blavatsky, and William Butler Yeats.
The most complex of poets in his inner and outer lives . . . I considered his involvement with spiritualism, his early Romanticism, his role in the Gaelic revival, his sometimes ambivalent relationship with Ireland’s struggle for independence from the British colonizers, and his sad obsession with Maud Gonne. And, yes, the sense of elitism harbored by many Protestant Anglo-Gaelics . . . Yeats among them.
Several great literary critics, Richard Ellmann foremost amongst them, had attempted to decipher Yeats’ psyche. Each had drawn an incomplete, frequently contradictory portrait. Yeats believed all life could be condensed into symbols. He began his writing career as a post-Romantic who eventually came to believe all heroism ended in defeat. I thought of lines from “The Four Ages of Man”:
“He with body waged a fight,
But body won; it walks upright.
Then he struggled with the heart;
Innocence and peace depart.
Then he struggled with the mind;
His proud heart he left behind.
Now his wars on God begin,
At stroke of midnight God shall win.”
How fitting, I thought as I looked at the poet’s face, that this man wrote, “And yet, and yet, / Is this my dream, or the Truth?” in his poem “Men Improve with the Years.”
Publisher’s Choice — Free Verse
Landscape of Remembrance
He paints lace on the sides of ancient buildings—
old rust brick and bright white paint, patterns like
kerchiefs made by ancient women in the old country,
their foreheads furrowed in concentration,
lips moving wordlessly as they count, the odd frown
as a pin drops between swollen ankles or a sound
from outside disturbs thoughts as aged
as the women themselves.
Photographed by many, the tall lean man
on the rickety scaffold speaks to few.
As his arms reach high-up one direction, he tilts
the other way; inhales from watchers below echo against
the ground and the hardblue sky. Occasionally he checks
a crumpled sketch and takes a peek at the yellow dog
sleeping below—next to a water dish, a bucket
for tips, and his number, printed on old cardboard squares.
He paints until the sunglow dims, then lowers himself
like a flag being lowered with respect from the wall.
Cards are gone, and moths have started to flare
and dance against streetlamps just coming on.
An homage to remembered childhoods—
wait-lists for the next one and the next. Always
a vacancy where lace steps in for memories
that words cannot replace, a farewell left unsaid.
Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies was published by Cholla Needles Press. Symmetry: earth and sky is forthcoming from Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).
Editor’s Choice — International Poetry
I used to live in paradise—a long,
low ranch house,
sheltered by the tangle of cottonwood trees
that lined the creek. But as with every Eden
we believed in the magic of that world down in the creek,
where the green brier curled
around trees and scratched
our legs and the water oak tipped lazily
over the stream as if in a constant half-state
between dreaming and awake.
We believed so fervently,
that the trash tossed down
from the nearby overpass
became heavenly gifts—oil cans,
all hidden among the scrubby willow oak.
We collected them like greedy misers,
pieces of glass in a discarded Ziploc bag,
and they shone so brightly
that we believed them
to be tiny pieces of falling star.
And in our desperate belief,
we made our paradise.
Reena Choudhary was born and raised in India. She graduated with honours from Delhi University, obtaining a degree in literature. Her poems have been published in The Pangolin Review, CommuterLit, Cordite Poetry Review, and Monday Night.
Publisher's Choice — African Poetry
Somewhere in the white space . . .
In between feeling and thinking
We are always plunged in every phrase
Sometimes surviving . . .
First published in Nthanda Review.
Gabriel Awuah Mainoo is the author of 60 Aces of Haiku and Chicken Wings at the Altar. He serves as project manager to Ghana Writes Journal and creative editor to WGM Magazine. His work is widely published in journals and magazines.
April 28, 2020. Re: print issues of Better Than Starbucks:
Last week our print publisher, Lulu, began migration to a new system. Since then, our print and electronic copies have not been available for purchase. Our May issue is online, and contributors will still receive their choice of PDF or eBook.
If you’d like to purchase a PDF or eBook of any issue please email us at betterthanstarbucks2@gmail — payment via Paypal or credit card via our 'donate' button — and also ‘pay what you can’ during the lockdown.
May 16, 2020 update. Print issues of May 2020 are now available. Visit our Shop page to order your copy. — Vera Ignatowitsch