Posts Tagged ‘Steve Isaak’

“Devil’s Revenge”, a novel…Chapter One.

February 5, 2016



WARNING: Sexual content, scenes.  If you are offended by this, don’t read.  Frankly, I understand.  I am offended by misogyny and Pentecostals. 

I started this erotic novel almost ten years ago.  It was only my second novel.  I left off writing it when I started other works.  Recently I came back and reread what I had written so long ago.  It was fresh and funny, and some of the original characters came from the first novel (Heart of the Maze).  That novel was boring and too long, meandering around.  I had fallen in love with some of the characters and didn’t want to kill them off, as the novel demanded.  (Novel writers will recognize this easily enough.)  So I made some of them Devils and just let the characters write this one.  The narrator is not a devil nor demon.  Just a writer who wakes up one morning in an alternative universe.  Happens

Trusting in your characters  makes it easier for an author:  They  tend to do the heavy lifting.  They circle your computer and whisper their lines.  You just type.

I have previously posted random chapters but was encouraged by other writers to begin from the beginning.  We will see.  The people I respect the most and wouldn’t want to offend are now all dead, so the rest of you will just have to take your chances.  Tastes vary, but that is the way of the world.

However, I want to express my sincere gratitude to a couple of writers who stuck with me for many years and encouraged me to trust my own imagination and give it voice.

Bill Penrose, Nick Nicholson, Steve Isaak, and Liras.  These excellent and generous writers, now dear friends, have made learning my craft a lot easier.

Lady Nyo





I am about to tell a strange tale. Not really a tale, because a tale smacks of fiction. This in any case was not fiction. I felt the full effects of its turnings. And it’s not over. I just have to tread water because each time I open my eyes, after a fitful night’s sleep, I am again locked in a world not of my making.

Well, part of my making, but even my lurid imagination pales with what I have experienced.

Sixteen years ago I wrote a too-long novel, set in the 1820’s. The characters had names from the Dutch families I knew while growing up. Everything was fiction, except the landscape, the characters long dead, figments of my imagination, creation of a writer. Never did I expect some of them to leap out of the pages of that unfinished book and change the course of my life.

I feel I have dropped down a rabbit hole, or flown to some strange alien universe. Perhaps I am mad. In any case, events are spiraling out of control, beyond my control, and now?

I have none. I have given up my will to fate, destiny and I don’t even know what that means anymore.

Bear with me, reader. Understand what I write, what you read– exists.

Bess McShane



Chapter One


One morning I sat upright in bed, gasping in terror. The light was dim, hard to see. There was a fireplace with a low burning fire. An ember must have exploded. There could be no other answer for the sudden noise. Asleep, it sounded like gunshot.

My eyes adjusted and I looked around. An ember exploded? Where the hell was I? My heart pounded and a sickness rose to my throat. Suddenly I knew where I was. Many years ago I had written a novel, still unfinished, and now I was in the bedroom carefully constructed in the novel. But perhaps I was just dreaming?

I felt a sharp constriction around my ribcage and tried to take a deep breath. I was wearing some kind of corset, laced tightly over a slip. No wonder I couldn’t breathe. At least this made some physical sense.

I tried to take deep breaths to get my bearings but no amount of air would calm me.

What had happened from the time I went to sleep in my own bed next to my snoring husband? How did I make it to this bed?

The constriction around my chest did not dull me to the sudden pressure of my bladder. There was a closet in the corner and I knew inside that closet was a chamber pot encased in a stool. I had written that detail into the book and now very glad of it.

Slipping out of the high bed, I padded across the wood floor. It was a strange thing to pee in a chamber pot. Everything was so quiet, even the birds outside still asleep, but the noise of water hitting china was too loud for the morning. It made me self-conscious, even though I thought I was still dreaming. I had to be.

I came from the closet and sat down before the fireplace. The fire suddenly flared and I jumped in surprise. It was almost as if an invisible hand fed the fire. At least it would warm up this cold room. A cup of tea sat on the table, still hot. It was dark outside the window but steam from the tea rose in the air. I was almost afraid to touch it, my mouth dry from fear. There, a sip, and it was just tea.

A dresser stood across the room from the bed, with a small mirror on the wall above. The image appeared to be me, my hair the usual color, my skin the same shade. Yes, me, but I pinched myself, just to see if I was still dreaming. If pain were any indication of my present state, I was awake.   There was a yellow wool dress, thrown carelessly over the back of a chair. A pair of bloomers on the seat. Crotch less, they opened from the front to back. I giggled, a bit hysterically. Like Alice, I had dropped down a rabbit hole.

Nothing now seemed real

Even with the flare up of the fire, the room was not warm. I needed to get dressed. I needed to get my bearings. Stepping into the gown I pulled it up to my shoulders. It hooked in the front of the bodice. I pulled on stockings and garters. They were a lovely silk, soft and delicate, and came to the tops of my thighs. The garters could be tied anywhere, so I tied them above the knees, rolling down the tops of the stockings, hoping they would stay. I held up the split bloomers and tried to determine the front from the back. They could be useful when you wanted to pee. The shoes were another surprise. Made neither a left nor a right, with a thin leather sole and low wooden heel, they tied across my ankles with ribbons. There was a blue shawl, of fine wool, at the bottom of the pile.

Now at least dressed and warmer, I could explore my surroundings. The room was not large, but had a dark beamed ceiling above. There were no paintings or prints on the walls, but above the fireplace, was a shotgun. I recognized it as an old breech loader.

Two long windows looked out upon a dull morning. The wind blew a little sleet against the windows and I shivered. The glazing had fallen away and cold air seeped in. It was still rather dark outside, and except for the blurred outline of trees, I couldn’t see much of the landscape.

Pulling the shawl tighter around my shoulders, I was still cold, or perhaps it was shock. I was not used to awakening in a strange bed, even one born of my own imagination

I still doubted I was lucid, and thought this some weird dream-state. Given a bit more time, I would awaken. But if this were a dream, it was a strange one. I was not given easily to hysterics, but short of hurling myself through the window, there was little I could to do. I would just have to be patient with this ‘dream’ until I  woke.

Trying a door in the middle of a wall, it opened into another bedroom, and inside was a large poster bed, a wardrobe, and another shotgun in the corner by the bed. This must be a man’s room. I had no clue why, accept for that evil-looking shotgun. There was nothing feminine in the room at all, though. I turned back to my bedroom and tried the other door. Outside was a wide hall, leading to the top of a staircase.

I stood at the top of the steps, listening for voices or some sound. The house seemed deserted. I could hear nothing of a normal household. Carefully, trying not to slip in these strange shoes I descended the staircase and walked through a wide first floor hall. There were a couple of rooms but there were no people and no lit fireplaces. The whole house was bitterly cold. It seems this house held no life at all.

My footsteps sounded loud on the wooden floors of the hall, though I tried not to make a clatter. There was a closed door to the left and when I opened it,  a man  was sitting behind a desk.

Something about him seemed familiar. Then I knew who he was. It was a shock to realize I was looking at a character I had created for the novel sixteen years ago. I had named him Garrett Cortelyou.   He looked up, sat back and stared at me, quite rudely. Christ! This looked like trouble.

“Come in,” he said. “It is trouble.”

How did he seem to appear in the flesh? He was just paper and ink the last I thought of him. Can this creature read my thoughts?

“Of course I can. I can do more than that,” he said, scowling.

I fashioned Garrett Cortelyou from a number of sources, and, seeing him before me, I couldn’t help but be pleased. It is one thing to imagine, it is another to see the results. He was a tall man, broad of shoulder, with dark hair, rather long for the 1820’s, actually, now gathered into a ponytail, but I created him to be his own man. He proved to be a stubborn character, and not an easy birth. Clean shaven, he had dark eyes and regular features except for his nose. It had been broken and not set correctly.   He looked pissed off.

“Why are you so angry with me?”

“A year ago you closed your book and abandoned all of us. You told me to ‘cool my heels’. Am I not allowed my anger?”

“It was a metaphor, ‘cool your heels’.”

“I know what it was.”

I was surprised. I had enough of writing and needed time off. This actually happened sixteen years ago, but who was I to correct him? Why argue with something unreal? I put his intended, the character Jennie, in the library. I gave her a cup of tea and a good fire, and she had all the books in the world or at least in this library to read.

“You abandoned us all.

“Life got in the way, Garrett, I needed time to work things out.”

What am I saying? Why am I explaining my life to this creature? Am I insane?

“Come closer. Let me see you better.”

I entered the room and stood across the desk. He looked me over, his eyes running the length of me.   “You look unimpressive. I thought you would be older.”

“Why, did you expect me to be covered with wrinkles?”

One glance at his face and I should have held my tongue.

“You are quick with the words, madam. Let’s see how quick on your feet.”

Like a cat he came around the desk and grabbed me. He was strong enough to lift me like a stick of wood and throw me into another chair. I was shocked at the suddenness of his movement, but amazed he was real.

“You should be. You play with people too much.”

I looked at him standing before me, his hands on his hips, and fear crept up my spine

“You forget I created you.” My voice squeaked.

“And you forget, madam, anything is possible. I can command you as easily as you have me. You now are my puppet. Quite a turn around, don’t you think?”

“You wouldn’t have seen the light of day had I not thought of you!” What am I saying? I am talking to a ghost!

“Ah, you were bored and this scribbling occupied your time. Your night dreams went into all of us. Your poor husband should not have given you a pen.”

“I wrote on a computer, something you would not know.”

“I don’t care how you wrote. Right now, and until I release you, you’re under my thumb.”

“What do you want with me?” Suddenly, I was scared. My spit would not wet my mouth.

Garrett smiled, but it didn’t mount to his eyes. They remained cold. “I can smell your fear, little lady. Come give me a kiss.”

“You are a jackass. You act like an animal. Leave me alone.”

I tried to rise from my chair, but the anger on his face stopped me.

“Will you stop playing the virgin? It doesn’t fit you at all.”

I was beginning to panic. I had created this character, this man before me, and I knew something of his sexual appetites from the novel. I had created those sexual appetites but didn’t expect them to become an issue before me.

He laughed, apparently reading my thoughts. He must be a demon come to life, or I must be still asleep.

You created me? I’m from the slime. I’m a mixture of souls throughout time, with all the cocksure ways of manhood. You created something you can’t control, and now you’re afraid? You should have thought down the road, madam. You should be afraid. You think you know my appetites? You don’t know much, because you don’t know me. Not that way.   You haven’t the imagination to know what I can do. You are too ignorant of life. Here.”

He pulled me up to him, and grabbed one of my hands and placed it on the front of his breeches. He was hard enough.

“There. Is your curiosity satisfied? You knew some of me, but never enough. You have a poor imagination for a writer. We circled each other like cats all those years, but I played the gentleman. A boring and unnecessary role.”

My face was red. There was no denying I was curious. I wondered a bit what he would be like in the sack. Just daydreams, sitting at my desk. Faced with reality, fear was now trumping that consideration.

He pinned my arms behind my back with one hand. With the other he traced my cheek and neck with a finger, his eyes narrowed into slits.   He brought my face to his mouth and kissed me, at first softly – oh the deceiver!- then roughly, forcing my lips with his tongue. He cupped my breast and squeezed my nipple, rolling it between two fingers.   He kissed me hard, bending my head back, crushing me to him.

“There. How do you like being kissed by something you think you have made? Have I met your expectations?”

I caught my breath. “I gave you Jennie, you monster!

This was a rather stupid, but I didn’t have much of my wits after that kiss.

“And I thank you for her. She is a sweet little pastry, but I’m hungry. You look like you could feed me for a week.”

“Oh, let me go, you’re not real!”

He pushed me away and rubbed the front of his breeches. “Is this not real enough for you? Then we’ll go where I’ll show you what’s real.”

Grabbing my wrist, he pulled me out the room and up the staircase. I tripped on my shoes as he roughly jerked me up upwards. I was frightened, knowing that this couldn’t be a dream. It was more of a nightmare. The physicality of his behavior belied any dream.

He strode down the hall, pulling me behind him like a ragdoll and opened a door, He flung me into the room where I had awakened probably only an hour before.   With his back to the door, he locked it, pocketing the key. I ran to the other bedroom, intending to lock myself in, but he was quick. He threw me on the bed. Now, I was frightened. I was panting.

“’I was panting.’” See, I can read you like a book.” Throwing back his head, he laughed, howling like an animal, like a demon. My stomach flipped, and I cringed back on the pillows. He was more an animal and less a human.

He dragged a chair from a wall and sat facing me, one long leg propped up on the mattress.   If I tried to leap from the bed, I would jump right into his arms. He looked at me with half closed eyes, his head cocked to one side.

“Don’t you find it confusing to read Richardson’s “Pamela”, in the middle of writing seduction scenes? Rather you should read Fielding’s “Shamela”….better story, or rather, same story, not so tedious.”

What? How did he know this? How did he know what I read?  

What was I dealing with? Was this a ghost or a demon? The icy sweat I felt down my back wasn’t something I was imagining. I had to get control of this nightmare.

“I can snap my fingers and you will be gone,” I said desperately. I closed my eyes and snapped them.

He remained before me grinning, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, looking like a lunatic. “Try again.”

I snapped my fingers. Nothing.   The demon lover was still there.

“Ah…you called me ‘lover.’ Perhaps you won’t resist me so hard now.”

“I called you ‘demon lover’. You’re not hearing that first word.”

“You created me. It’s all in your calling.” He sat back and crossed his arms. He looked  relaxed and in control of the scene.

“That’s right…and I can uncreate you.”

“You already tried. This conversation is going nowhere. I need a drink. Seduction is hard work.”

He snapped his fingers, and a tankard appeared on the table behind him. “Oh, my apologies. One for you?”

“A small one, please.” I shivered. What had I just done?

“A small one it is.” A snap.   Another tankard appeared.

He got up and retrieved the two tankards and reached across the bed, and handed me my drink. I thought of throwing it in his face, and running from the room.

“How far do you think you would get?” I had forgotten his mind reading trick.

“Not far- just testing.

He laughed and drank deeply. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“We’ve been circling each other for years. Don’t you think it’s time we put an end to this charade? A little carnal knowledge would not be amiss. Besides, I already know you want me, have known it for years.” He picked up his tankard, his eyes glittering across the rim.

“You are a cocksure devil!” I would laugh at his presumption, but he was correct. I had created him from my own secret lust, and spared nothing in the doing.

Perhaps a different approach would give me answers and a hand over him.

“Explain to me, Demon, how you have access to me? You are nothing but some scribbles on paper, yet you appear flesh and blood enough now.”

I was more than curious, I was tumbling with fear and trying to regain my feet. I needed something to wake me up. I needed some logic here, some answers. I still believed I was mired in a nightmare.

He put down his tankard and grimaced. “Sometimes there’s a rip in the fabric of time and all hell breaks loose.   Dimensions warp and ley lines bulge. The usual workings of a universe gone mad.”

“So I’m here in another dimension?” From the 21st century to the 19th, quite a rip in the fabric, I think.

He grinned into his ale. “For as long as it suits me, and as long as you please me.

“What is it you want?” I looked at him, fearing the answer.

“First, I want to know what’s under those petticoats. That will be good for starters. We can work outward from there.”

He had an interesting concept of seduction. Rather direct, not subtle at all, but intriguing.

By the looks of him, he would be worth the effort. I thought of his kiss, and I grew uncomfortable. My face grew flushed, and his grin told me he knew what was happening between my legs. I wanted him, my sex knew before my head, but I wouldn’t give him the words he wanted to hear. Perhaps I was playing with fire, but a ‘tumble’ would be sort of welcome. Sex hadn’t been on the agenda for a long time. He was too much temptation in the flesh to deny.

Besides, it all was a dream and a wet one at that. I held to that hope as my only window of sanity.

He stood up, stretched, and sat upon the bed. He drew off his waistcoat, one I had embroidered in planning the book, a pretty cream satin with figures. “Flowering” as it said in Pamela. It was just a piece of embroidery I attempted as I thought through the chapters. Here it was a finished piece, and I had never finished any piece of sewing in my life. What part of magic was this? Was this a particular hand of fate?

“You know, you were quite witty in making the links between ‘orchard’ and ‘sex’ in that last chapter. You are my orchard, at least for now. I’ll pick myself an apple.”

Like a tiger he was over me, pinning me down with his weight.   The smell of ale was strong.   I was backed up on the pillows when he began to unhook the front of my dress. I slapped at his hands, and he laughed. He ripped the front of the dress from my breasts

A literal bodice ripper…..

“There. Now, will you lay still and quit resisting? You know what you want from me. Why play the coy virgin now?”

“Go back to your hell, Demon”.   I spat at him, my eyes flashing. He wiped spittle off his face with his sleeve. His eyes shot out a warning I couldn’t miss if I were blind.

“I will go back to my hell, the one you so easily wrote for me. First Lucile cuckolds me then Obadiah sticks in a knife. Did you ever think how painful that was? Finish me off with that dolt Jennie.   Ah, God…give me a dish of woman I don’t have to fight or teach.”

He pulled up the skirt of my dress, and spread my legs with his.   I had forgotten about those crotchless bloomers. He touched my sex with a finger, watching my response. I jerked at his touch, and he dug deeper into me. I bit my tongue to keep from groaning.

“A neat invention, don’t you think? Easy to get to the pearl in the oyster.

He was a vigorous looking man, with well-muscled arms, and a broad chest. He looked formidable.

“Wait until you see John down there, now he’s formidable. Oh, I forgot, you have seen him, or me, or you think you have seen us. But you only saw my cock in shadows. I always thought you could write that scene better.

How? It was only my first novel and writing sex scenes was hard work. And harder work staying detached.

“Here, place your hand on this cock and tell me if you have ever felt a finer one.”

I pinched the head of it hard and he yelled.

“You witch. You should be glad I’m not Obadiah. Perhaps you would like his kind of lovemaking better, though it usually leads to death. But you know that.”

“I wrote that.”

“Yes, and it was kind of sick.”

“You should talk. Obadiah is a pivotal character. He needs to be the negative, the bad guy, but right now, you serve that purpose just as well.”

“That’s scrambled English. Something you’re good at.   Now, lie still and at least enjoy my efforts.”

“Do you like your women like logs? I can be a pillar of salt if you want.”

“Can’t you try to be original? I have a blazing hard-on and I intend to use it.”

I smiled and closed my eyes.   I would submit to his pathetic efforts because I was aroused in spite of this scene of insanity, but I would not let him hear any moan of pleasure. He rose between my legs and pulled me to him, and began to enter me. I grunted with his movements.   He was bigger than I had imagined (“You got that right” I heard him whisper,”) and he took his time. Would he ever finish?

“No…not until I hear you coo like a turtledove.”

I groaned in spite of myself. My mouth opened and he stuck his finger in. I bit down hard and he laughed. He tried to seek my mouth with his but I would not let him. He laughed and squeezed my ass, lifting me easily. I could not take this much longer and I screamed an unearthly sound from my throat. He reached his shortly after, panting loudly, pinning me under him. He wasn’t a bad lover.

“Ah, again, you called me ‘lover’. I like that. You are growing tender.”

“What would you have me do, Garrett? You have what you want. What more can you do?”

I didn’t have the energy to argue. Besides, that orgasm seeped the fight out of me. I knew I had to be awake. This wasn’t a dream. No dream could sustain this. No dream could create that reality.

All of a sudden I thought about Jennie, his intended in the novel. What had he done with her? If he was capable of materializing before me, of transporting me in some unknown fashion, he was capable of other acts.

“She’s nowhere to be seen. Don’t worry.

“I worry. What have you done with her?”

“Do you mistrust me so much, your own creation? Snap my fingers and erase her?”

“Garrett, you have way too much power. I believe you capable of anything.”

“Well, I am capable of another round of lovemaking, my sweet woman, if you would give me a moment. I need to empty this ale.”

“Don’t you dare use the fireplace, Garrett! I’m wise to your ways from the book.”

“I’ll open a window this time.”


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

Steve Isaak’s review of “Pitcher of Moon”

April 18, 2015

Steve Isaak is a poet and writer, a friend of almost 10 years.  He is prolific, and has been a poet many years ahead of me. Every so often, he publishes a poetry book and sends it to me to review.  I do the same.  Steve’s ability to wrestle with my poems and to create something new in my eyes about these works always amazes me.  And making that connection with other readers, but especially with other poets….always astounds me.

I am not sure why we write poetry, since it is a very marginalized medium today, but perhaps we write because we find souls in common and we don’t have to explain ourselves.  Steve has been a great encourager of my verse for the past 8 years and with supporters like him, well….they keep you going.

Steve has just published and sent me two more of his books.  They are heavy with what a real poet does and they take me a while to read and now…review.  Friend Steve, I’ll get to them, and a review, I promise….soon.

His website for reviews and literature is :

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pitcher of Moon by Jane Kohut-Bartels

(pb; 2014: poetry anthology)

From the back cover: “If there is a singular theme that informs and underlies the diverse poems in this book, it is compassion. An expansive emotive range is traversed here, from heart-rending tragedy and despair to the sunny light of humour and optimism, and through it all flows a deep river of compassion for humanity, the world, nature and its wondrous creatures”….. .

.” Overall review:

Pitcher is an excellent and mood-effective collection of theme-tight and -mingled verseworks. These themes, recurrent in Kohut-Bartel’s evolving, increasingly masterful collections, include: relationships — with family, spouses and Nature; the moment-to-moment vagaries of life and change, with their infinite permutatons and surprises.

This is a great anthology from a great poet (and all-around writer). It can be purchased here.

Standout Poems:

1.) “O Absalom!“: Desire and nature are one in this proclamatory, healing versework. (A different, less streamlined version of this appeared in Kohut-Bartels’ first poetry anthology A Seasoning of Lust.)

2.) “High Road“: A traveler makes a choice between divergent paths, with the help of an old man. This, with its poetry-familiar echoes of Robert Frost, breathes new life into a known metaphor.

3.) “A Dish of Skylarks“: Excellent poem with especially sharp writing and a laugh-out-loud finish. This is one of my favorite entries in this collection. Here’s a taste of it:

A dish of skylarks fell into my lap,

and I, ravenous with a multitude of hungers, ate them.

 Between burps one did escape,

shook himself, bowed, and offered a feather. . .

4.) “Imaginary Friends“: Straightforward and effective poem about a boy’s inner life and his physical reality.

5.) “Night Fire Road“: Stanza’d, vivid musing about a mysterious backroad.

6.) “Night Poem“: Excellent, aurally-rich versework. One of my favorites in this collection.

7.) “Poem For My Husband“: Tender, disturbing (for its veracities) work about the underlying nature and fragility of intimacy. This is an exemplary, nailed-it piece. One of my favorites in this anthology.

8.) “The Apple Tree“: Sad, warm and strangely hopeful poem about its titular object and the memory of illness. (This is an alternate version of a same-titled piece in Kohut-Bartels’ first anthology A Seasoning of Lust.)

9.) “Nippon Tsuki“: Beautiful, three-part Japanese-themed poem.

10.) “Autumn Coming“: This one is about a seasonal, possibly cosmic shift, as experienced in a moonlit pond.

11.) “Rude Spring“: Stark, excellent and effective take on the transition between winter and spring.

12.) “Turkey Vultures“: Interesting take on the titular bird.

13.) “The Thaw“: A woman’s new openness to love is equated with the warming of a creek. Excellent metaphorical work.

14.) “Autumn Poem of Mid-November“: Beautiful, superb poem.

15.) “Dusk“: Soothing, beautiful versepiece. One of my favorites in this collection.

16.) “Original Blessing“: The true nature of birth and divinity is poetically, effectively illustrated.

17.) “Snakes in the ‘Hood“: Gentle, loving stanza-work about the wrongly maligned snake (in the present) and its celebration in the distant past. One of my favorites in this anthology.

18.) “Attending to the Spirit in Spring“: Beautiful poem about its titular season.

19.) “Viva Negativa“: Stark-toned, excellent piece about the cyclic and inherent nature of winter.

20.) and 21.) “I Remember” and “I Wonder“: This companion-themed poems are two separate, progressive parts of a verse-story. The first poem, “I Remember,” shows a woman recalling her father’s death and how it affected her. The second, “I Wonder,” once again delves into the themes of darkness and parent-child relationships, this time in a different way.

22.) “Coppermine Road“: Vivid tale-verse about a Jersey copper mine and strange nature. One of my favorites in this collection

23.) “The Homecoming“: American history, memory and ambivalence shape the tone of this one. Especially good work.

Labels: favorite reads 2015, Jane Kohut-Bartels, poetry anthology

Random Haiku…..

March 25, 2015

Marsh Grass 3

A reader just raised the issue of why these haiku below seemed to be rather bitten with surrealism.  That was a great question!  There is a commonality between surrealists and haiku in many ways:  both (or should or do) delve beneath the surface of a thought, sentiment, etc…trying to get to a deeper level of explanation or reveal.  I believe it’s this concept of ‘yugen’ so prevalent in Japanese literature, especially poetry:  of course it depends upon context, but yugen means to me a distance, a deeper concept, something not proclaimed but hidden.  So many ways to go about this.  Pulling out something different and new and startling perhaps in your haiku.  I also think it is an ‘off-handed’ way of expression, and that can become difficult, but I believe it makes for better haiku.

But I think it also depends upon the measure and duration of study of Japanese culture and literature.  I’ve only done some serious study of this for the past 8 years, and this doesn’t do much more than scratch the surface.  I believe to really get comfortable with these forms, you have to study and immerse yourself for a lifetime.  And that is a great pleasure! 

But anyone who reads Basho/Issa/Buson will immediately see each poet’s ‘place’ in their work.  And the Buddhist influence is strong in their writings:  Nature is transitory, contingent and of course, suffers.  (we are part of that nature).The pure mysteriousness of Life!

I have (as of a week ago) finished “Song of the Nightingale” and Nick Nicholson will be formatting this book in late June for publication.  This question of surrealism comes up again and again in this new book in the form of ‘moon babies’, Tengus, etc.  There is much of surrealism  and magic in this book.  Sometimes we forget the deep influences in what we write and it takes a good question like this reader (in the comments of these poems) to draw you back to where you have been.

Lady Nyo….and thank you, Staviolatte!

One of my favorite poems of Issa  that seems to  be a bit surreal:

“The snow is melting

and the village is flooded

with children.”


I’ve written very few haiku.  I find the form harder than tanka, though shorter. Of course there are ‘rules’ concerning haiku, as there are with tanka, but modern poets tend to ignore or dismiss these rules.  They are not short free verse, but I think in the beginning without study, most of us fall to this. 

There are haiku writers who have set standards centuries ago:  Basho, Issa, Bucan, to note some masters of the form.  My dear friend, Steve Isaak in California, does a good job on this form.

This spring I intend to do some study of these masters, and hopefully get my head around this poetry form correctly.

Lady Nyo

Sultry air disturbs

The sleep of husband and wife.

They pant without lust.

Dogwoods are blooming
The crucifixion appears
White moths in the night.

(Dogwoods are a Southern tree here in the South.  White blooms
having the form of the Christian Cross, with nail heads.  They bloom in the spring  right before Easter. They are a symbol of Christianity in Nature.)

Under the dark moon

I awaited your return

Only shadows came.

The moon, a ghostly

Sliver, sails on a jet sea

Wild dogs howl beneath.

A pale half moon drifts

Across a wintry sky.

Trees become monsters.

Fall’s crispness compels

Apples to tumble from trees.

Worms make the journey.

Ice blocks the rivers.

Look! A duck is frozen there.

Nature, no mercy.

Skeleton-trees wave

While the wind whips dead leaves

Wood smoke scents the air.

The moon, a ghostly

Sliver, sails on a jet sea

While dogs howl beneath.

A swirl of blossoms

Caught in the water’s current

Begins the season.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

“BlackBerry Winter”, a poem for Steve Isaak.

March 11, 2015
Blackberry Winter

Blackberry Winter

It’s almost Spring, and the weather this week seems complacent, giving in to our hopes for gentler weather. Though it’s dicey to plant anything down here in the South before Easter, I have put in a long row of onions and hope for the best. Never had any luck with onions, because you have to ‘hill’ them, plant them shallow, and push the soil from their growing bulbs. I’ve done the hills and we expect rain this whole week, but as I sit here writing, the sun is coming out and rain seems will be spotty. I have trays of tomato seeds germinating on my painting table in front of a large window and tender sprouts are raising their leaves above the plastic.

I love Winter, but this one gave us nothing but cold weather, no snow and that was a major disappointment for me. The new woodstove has finally been learned by us, and now it’s not called “the worse stove ever”. There’s intelligence in these things and ours was wanting.

Steve Isaak is a poet friend from California of many years standing.  It is good to have poets as friends.  They nudge you in the direction of what you are not writing lately by their friendship, and they a generally, when their hearts are forgiving, loyal.

Lady Nyo



It is Blackberry Winter

One last shot across

The bow of an emerging Spring.


Winter does not play fair,

It will not give up the ghost

Exit with a dignified bow

Preferring to show its rotting last tooth.


The blackberries are blooming

Kernels of lusty fruit,

Black as midnight

Sweet as a baby’s kiss,

Unavoidable staining of hands and mouths

To be shared with a snake or two down below.


The Easter planting is done

The earth knows your game

And blankets seeds

With dark, moist soil

Cozy enough to shelter tender life.


We will make blackberry wine

From Blackberry Winter.

The present chill will

Sweeten the fruit.

And will toast this short

Spell of Winter’s fading glory.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

“O Absalom”

September 28, 2010

Steve Isaak (link on blog roll to the right on this blog) invited me to check out a new poetry site:  One Shot Wednesdays….for poetry lovers.  It’s a linking exchange of poetry and something new.  I’m all for something new in poetry, even if the poetry is something old.


Lady Nyo


O Absalom,

Ensnared by long hair in the

Boughs of an oak,

Pierced through the heart three times–

Yet your nature was only to please.


Pulled into mysteries

So abandoned by love

Now given over to lust

Charged with stolen rapture

Dizzy as a drunken dervish-

One hand upward to Heaven

One hand spilling to Earth

Skirts stiffened with sins hard as stone

Corrupted over a life time and now–

Flayed on an unending mandala.

Mystery of Life,

Unstoppable desire,

O beautiful Absalom,

We float upon a divine river

Entangled in the reeds of human wanting.

This is our nature,

This our calling while

Flesh answers flesh.

What quarter be given when the heart is

Overwhelmed by passions excess?

Lie still–

Let the waters cleanse our loins,

Mud of the banks soothe our wounds,

Our blood mingle with the floating grasses,

Our hearts sink beneath the surface.

Let the rivers of Babylon

Carry us away.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

‘Mystic Marriage’, from “A Seasoning of Lust”

August 27, 2010

from: thoughtsthattoddhasn't

We have been kicking around this issue of why we write and why we would bother to keep a blog.  I would suppose there are many reasons to do so, but for hopefully serious writers it’s really a different issue.  We write because ultimately  we can’t not write:  it’s like a river running deep and there  may be issues of blockage or other things that frustrate our attempts …but all that said, we plow on.

I think the point of all of our attempts is to improve.

It’s a craft after all, this cobbling together of words.  It takes some  vision and a lot of work.  We need to read  broadly for that vision to develop and those who don’t are condemned to mediocrity.   There are a lot of blogs out there that don’t attempt to do much except think they interest the public with their agony in life.  They use it as a tool of self-therapy.  This is unavoidable for all of us, because we think our personal problems are issues of great interest…to others besides ourselves.  I’ve done this many times on this blog, but hopefully I have come to understand some things.

People come here to read not because I have answers or because I have their common agony in life.  Sometimes  we do, but  it’s not a common bitching site.

They come here to read my writing.  I owe these readers the very best I can squeak out.  That is a process:  it takes time and a concerted effort on my part to do so.   I don’t write here for affirmation or attention, though in some cases, I get that. (And attention can be good and bad.)  I write here because I try to entertain with my writing and that is reason enough.  Probably what most of us aim for:  we are storytellers,   after all.

I have a great group of fellow writers around me.  Bill Penrose, Nick Nicholson, Dan Holloway, Steve Isaak, and a few others.  Most of these excellent writers can be found on the blog roll to the right of this text.  All of them have worked hard to push their writing upward: they are no slight writers, either, and they always stand to support and help me work out issues.  But the lion’s share of that comes from my own efforts.

If we don’t make those efforts, we can’t call ourselves writers.  At least not in the category I want to belong.

Lady Nyo

“Mystic Marriage

Mino begs a gift of Poseidon and

from the sea comes a white bull.

Glorious Bull! With hooves of gold,

eyes of fire and sweet of breath.

Pasiphae, Mino’s wife

besotted with the sight of him

begs Mino to spare his sword

and offers her handmaidens

for the sacrifice.

Tender-hearted Mino allows his wife

to rule his judgment

all sense is pushed aside,

havoc soon overturns the throne.

Pasiphae builds a wooden cow

and besotted with lust

climbs into the decoy

Seduces the golden hoofed Bull.

The Minotaur is born, suckled from

Pasiphae’s paps,

grew wild –the labyrinth

built to imprison him.

Unnatural love- making produces

unnatural monster Minotaur

half man and half bull,

given freedom only in a maze,

fed on virgins of both sexes.

But Poseidon has the last laugh.

He was the gift, the snow white bull

and cuckolds Mino

for his greed.

Mystic marriage overturns a throne and kingdom,

reveals the deception of woman,

produces monster offspring.

In his maze all paths lead to the grave.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009, 2010

More Spring in Bloom, and Steve Isaak.

May 8, 2010

I bought Steve Isaak’s new book:  “Can’t Sleep”, poems, 1987-2007 and this is such a dense collection of poetry, I am having to go through it very, very  slowly.

Steve must have made movies before…in a past life, behind some huge camera.  His poetry is like snippets of some dream-movie, but I won’t blow this review right now.  It’s just an issue of so much imagery to plumb and to pack in.  Review to follow next week when I can get a better perspective on this marvelous and first book by a truly original poet.

The pictures are of my back garden….over a fence and archway.  I believe this rose bush…actually two rose bushes, are “Bonicas”…Nope…they are NEW DAWN) .but they might be something else, because they certainly are climbers.  I love pale, pink roses, and these 5 year old plants certainly are giving their all.  They are ‘constant’ bloomers and you only get that by heavy feeding…which I don’t.  I will have to remember to feed them and all the others, because they are such spectacular plants they deserve the effort.

Lady Nyo

Bonica Rose Bush...we think

more of the same bush

more roses


She stood quietly in the garden, dappled sunlight falling like a tattered golden veil, crushing a Graham Thomas in her hand.  The silky texture slipped through long, bony fingers. A seductive perfume carried upwards, the feel of the petals reminiscent of something she vaguely remembered in the past.

Yes, she remembered now.  It was her sex, soft and puffy, with powdered lips awaiting the frisson of arousal. The man who once kissed those lips was long dead, a pale ghost to her memory.

A tower of rose heads nodded their encouragement.  They watched her season after season, the cycle of bush-life matching her own. Grown thin during the years, all gnarled canes beneath and gall, too. Within years both had become feeble. Soon the bush would cover her grave, dropping its petals in remembrance until it, too, faded from earth.

Now Graham Thomas was pleading to cover her mound with his perfumed beauty. He would nestle within the deserted folds of her abandoned sex. He would make her juicy again.

He promised to leave the thorns on the bush.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008

Steve Isaak reviews “The Zar Tales”

April 24, 2010
Steve Isaak has reviewed “The Zar Tales” on his website: .
Steve is a writer in San Francisco who has just published his first book:  “Can’t Sleep”: Poems from 1987-2007, by As soon as I receive his ordered book, I will read and review. But knowing Steve’s writing… least the last 3 years of it….it’s going to be quite an adventure.  I  don’t always understand his poetry, but he certainly takes me places I would have never gone.  Someone asked me to describe him once….as a writer:  I saw a Hindu-God with machine guns/Temple bells/fireballs and other goodies.  And the musical stream of anything Joan Osbourne.
Reading Steve is like jumping feet first into an active volcano.  Intense.  Cleansing or die.—2007/

Lady Nyo

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Zar Tales, by Jane Kohut- Bartels

(pb; 2010: poem/story/novella anthology)

Overall review:

This anthology focuses on the concepts/forms of the Zar.

In her introduction to one of the stories, “A Turkish Tale,” the author writes:

“The Zar is a number of things in Middle Eastern and North African societies. It’s a ritual of extracting a Demon (a Zar) from the possessed, placating and then restoring them to the host body. A Sheikha gives it new marching orders. . . Hence, a Zar is also a Demon or Djinn. The Zar is a bonding or ritual dance among women, The Zar dance is also a form of Hyperarousal Trance, distinct from meditative trances.”

Kohut-Bartels has matured as a writer.

Her first anthology, A Seasoning Of Lust, is as masterful as a multi-cultural anthology can be. By telescoping her creative visions onto a specific culture/theme (in this case, the Zar), she’s taken her writing to a new level. (We, as artists and writers, can always get better, with time, work, the right subjects, and patience.)

Expect more great things from this author. Own this anthology.

Review, piece by piece:

1.) “Wrestling With The Zar” (poem): A woman, set to be possessed by a Zar, sends a message to her lover.

2.) “The Troupe” (poem): The power-dynamic between a restless Sea and its followers is addressed in (mock?)-sacrificial dance.

3.) “Goddess Nut” (poem): Sensual poem about the all-encompassing deity.

All of these poems written in a ritualistic-symbolic-formal tone; they, like the rest of the pieces in this anthology, are tightly-written, concept-centric, effective, wise, intriguing and educational. They transported this reader, in dusty whirlwind fashion, to alien locations and pasts, and their relatable characters.

4.) “Ali Baba And The Four Thieves” (story): A woman revels in her ancient, yet socially progressive role, amongst her desert brothers.

This story was originally published in A Seasoning Of Lust. Given its subject matter it’s a logical addition to this anthology.

5.) “Ahmed Is Dying Of Love” (story): A kind-hearted American belly dancer in Turkey gains a “much-younger” male admirer, a flute player (Ahmed). Sweet-natured, smile-inducing piece.

6.) “A Turkish Tale” (story): Ali, a Demon, sows seeds of unrest between a recent young bride (Aya) and her husband (Ahmed, presumably from “Ahmed Is Dying Of Love“).

A Sheikha (Wise Woman) named Shakira confronts the source of Aya and Ahmed’s discord, so that Ahmed and Aya may be rid of it.

Practical, tastefully erotic, excellent.

7.) “The Desert Zar” (story): Cinematic swoop-shot of a Zar possession ritual. This sensory-rich piece made this reader feel like he’d been immersed in this intense tableaux.

8.) “The Zar Tale” (novella): Southeastern Turkey, the 1980s. An Islamic mayor (Mazud Nageesh), threatened by the Zar possession rituals enacted by Shakira Arsan (from “A Turkish Tale“) and other village women, sends for three Mullahs (Islamic priest-judges), so that the Mullahs may end the outlaw/pagan meetings.

Shakira hears about Nageesh’s actions. She implores her lover-Zar (Ali, also from “A Turkish Tale“), a former “Berber chieftan of the Turaregs,” to head off this life- and sanity-threatening danger to her and the women.

Suspenseful, plot- and character-wending work that ends on a cliff-hanger-ish note. Can’t wait to see how it ends.

9.) “Explanation of Hyperarousal Experience” (essay): Subtitled “Hyperarousal Trance, Belly Dance, And General Creativity,” this brief essay is exactly what its title says — an explanation of hyperarousal experience, from various points of view (drum beat patterns, scientific, et cetera). Solid, fascinating stuff.

The Zar Tales can be purchased from

Posted by Steve at 12:57 AM

Steve Isaak reviews a review of “The Kite Runner”.

December 9, 2009

Steve Isaak is one of my favorite writers.  I met him on ERWA a while ago, and though I can’t claim I understand all he writes, he’s a powerful and visionary writer.
And he makes science fiction  accessible and magical for one who has fear of that genre.  And he is damn funny.

I am also beholden for his review of my first book, “A Seasoning of Lust”.  I saw my own writing through new eyes and some how it changed my perspective about that book.  The main complaint from a number of readers was there were too many themes, but that didn’t detour Steve at all.  In fact, he gloried in  it.

Lady Nyo

Steve writes:

This book review transcends the usual book review in that it’s more philosophical in its view than the book reviews that focus on the nuts n’ bolts of the writing: characterization, structure, theme, taking it into a more PERSONAL realm for you, and us, the readers.

I tend to be less philosophical in my book reviews — I’m a nuts n’ bolts guy, because, at the end of the day, writing is not a mystical experience, it’s everyday grunt-through-it, deal-with-the-writing-elements work. There’s delicious inspiration, and moments of glee (especially during the plotting/characterization phase), but you’re more spiritual about it.

I sometimes wish I could be that way, but we’re built the way we’re built, right? Might as well celebrate our strengths in a world that would tear us, as individuals and groups, down. :)

That’s why I enjoy your writing, and why I could appreciate why you appreciated “The Kite Runner,” a novel I couldn’t get into.

Hosseini has plenty o’ mood, and he’s done everything right (in terms of building characters, structuring the story), but it felt too technical for me — like he was trying to build up to some momentous event that would be less-than-momentous for me, the reader.

Bear in mind, I’m mostly a crime and horror-fiction reader, with occasional reader-forays into non-fiction books.

Your take on it has me admiring the novel a bit more than I did, but I think my cultural differences with the author were too much to surmount. Other readers, thankfully, felt differently. :)

Thanks for the recommend, Jane. Any experience that prompts us to think and appreciate beauty (that is, become better people) is a worthwhile one, and you’ve certainly added one of those to my daily life.


Hey Steve!  I don’t know about ‘becoming better people’ while reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, the second book by Hosseini.  He detailed the humdrum daily violence and fear these two women, both married to the same man, so well and horrifically,   I felt a killer instinct rising from my gut as I read.  Now, to me, when an author can involve you in such anger, pathos, injustice, …well, that is a mark of a good writer.  Involvement and connection is what we strive for, and if we have a story that has all those human elements of breaking out for some sort of freedom, ….it gets to the gut of readers.

You may be a ‘nuts and bolts’ kind of writer, but you engage readers on a wicked level. And your stories flow effortlessly and into the mind of this reader.  And many of them haunt.

Steve Isaak is working on his own book and hopefully it will be published in a while.  He’s a careful writer and  is NEVER boring, and with Steve, it’s grab your hat and hold on tight.  I can’t wait to review HIS book!

His website is well worth visiting:

And Steve?  I find your writing to have passion and spirituality.

Firing on all cylindars!

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