Los Angeles Independent Publishing

Lesbian Books

Red Hen Press, a Los Angeles independent publisher founded by Kate Gale, offers poetry readings, poetry contests, book awards, and more.

Los Angeles Independent Publishing

Lesbian Books

Red Hen Press, a Los Angeles independent publisher founded by Kate Gale, offers poetry readings, poetry contests, book awards, and more.

Los Angeles Independent Publishing

Lesbian Books

Red Hen Press, a Los Angeles independent publisher founded by Kate Gale, offers poetry readings, poetry contests, book awards, and more.

Latest News...

Date: Apr 18th, 2014

David Mason's verse novel Ludlow is featured in the Washington Post to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of a massacre that led to the murder of two dozen striking coal miners. "On April 20, 1914, thugs working for Colorado Fuel & Iron and the Colorado National Guard attacked striking coal miners at Ludlow," and Mason's verse novel brings this history to light.

According to Mason, his verse novel is not intended to be a "propaganda for unions or a diatribe against corporations. It’s a book about storytelling, the union of memory and imagination, the manufacture of meaning.”

To read the full blog, click here!

Latest Blog Post...

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Red Hen Authors


This April marks the 19th year that the US has celebrated National Poetry Month! Isn’t that wonderful? In honor of National Poetry Month, Red Hen Press would like to present to you some of our Spring 2014 authors and how poetry has affected their lives.

We asked each of our Spring authors ”What poem has changed your life and why?” Below are their responses, both touching and inspiring.

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Gary Geddes

Gary Geddes author of What Does A House Want? 

As an author and editor of 45 books, my life has been changed incrementally by everything I’ve read and anthologized. However, one of my favourite poems of recent years is Robert Hass’s short narrative poem called “My Mother’s Nipples.” In seven pages, Hass sounds many emotional chords as he performs a skillful dance on the subject of displacement, comparing a child’s removal from the mother’s breast to our gradual and brutal displacement from the natural world. Technically, he foregrounds the competing impulses of story and song, or lyric and narrative, and with considerable irony privileges the prose passages with the most moving and unforgettable images and scenes, in one of which the speaker as a young boy, on finding his mother drunk and passed out in a park, sits down, leans back against a tree, and places her head in his lap so it looks as if they’re having a picnic and she’s only sleeping.

Lisa KruegerLisa C. Krueger  author of Talisman

Since I was young I have loved Lucille Clifton’s poem “Miss Rosie.” The poem is a call to action framed in a powerful lyrical declaration. Clifton’s condensation of language is masterful and conveys the essence of women’s fortitude. “I stand up/ through your destruction/ I stand up”.



David Mason in Delphi c. Chrissy MasonDavid Mason author of Sea Salt

Poems can and do change lives, like omens or revelations. I could go back to Lewis Carroll—read aloud to me by my father—and my delight in the line “Be off, or I’ll kick you downstairs!” But I think I’ll regress only as far as my serious teenage years and T. S. Eliot’s “Preludes,” one of the first poems I ever memorized for oral interpretation events.

Growing up in Bellingham, Washington, the only cities I had seen were Seattle and Vancouver, B. C., so these gritty images of Boston, where Eliot wrote the poem, only confirmed my sense of urban grayness and human isolation. I didn’t understand the philosophical subtext of knowledge and experience—Eliot was studying philosophy at Harvard, which to me might as well have been Mandarin on the moon.

What I got was a sound, the “burnt-out ends of smoky days” and “grimy scraps of withered leaves” and “newspapers from vacant lots.” Vacancy was cool to a teenaged pessimist, but the boy I was could also be “moved by fancies that are curled / About these images and cling: / The notion of some infinitely gentle, / Infinitely suffering thing.” Somewhere deep inside me lived such a creature, held at bay by the fledgling cynic: “Wipe your hand across your mouth and laugh; / The worlds revolve like ancient women / Gathering fuel in vacant lots.”

Bitter vacancy and bad weather—that was the stuff for a sixteen-year-old boy in the Viet Nam era. But there was a sound in the poem that won me from the start, a music I have always thought must be the stuff of poetry.

sj mishler author photo lg52b333a15047aSusanna Mishler author of Termination Dust

I discovered Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” in high school and was changed by its ferocity. It spoke to something that resided just under my skin – an unarticulated question and desire – it answered “YES”.




Dennis Must colorDennis Must author of The World’s Smallest Bible

In response to the question “What poem has changed your life and why?” I prefer to respond to it another way.

Being that we experience dissimilar seasons in life as we age, at this my 80th year I’ve chosen Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Lament.” I believe my explanation may be self evident. The poem embraces the innocence of a childhood parable and the wisdom of simple metaphors to illuminate the ineffable.


LISTEN, children,
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I’ll make you little jackets;
I’ll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There’ll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there:
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco.
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on
Though good men die.
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine.
Life must go on;
I forget just why.
Edna St. Vincent Millay

AndreaHeadshot6Andrea Scarpino author of Once, Then

Carolyn Forché’s “The Colonel” dramatically altered my understanding of what can be said in poetry the first time I read it, and continues to inspire me to write the world fearlessly and beautifully. Because one of the wonderful things about “The Colonel” is how it mixes absolute horror—the human ears the Colonel carries in a sack, glass embedded in the wall—with an unparalleled loveliness of language—the green mangoes, the moon that “swung bare on its black cord over the house.” Forché teaches us that poetry can say very hard truths with lyricism and beauty. That one does not preclude the other.

And she teaches the importance of writing with fierce complexity. No matter the number of times I have read “The Colonel,” each new reading yields something new: the wife’s traditionally gendered behavior, the Colonel’s wealth (his maid, his extravagant dinner), the two outsiders invited into a terribly dangerous political situation, the friend’s complicity in silence (“say nothing”) at least long enough to get them out of the Colonel’s house alive, the Colonel’s famous threat and challenge (“Something for your poetry, no?”), Forché’s use of reportage, how the poem builds tension, hinting throughout the opening lines of the horror to come (“a pistol on the cushion beside him”)—every sentence in “The Colonel” bears weight. Every word is put to good use.

And even in the ending’s horror, we have beauty mixed with political content: “Some of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.” I guess what I’m trying to say is that when I read “The Colonel” for the first time, my previous thinking about what and how poetry can speak cracked wide open. And with every subsequent reading, I learn something new. And that is what makes it a life-changing poem—I return to it again and again and always find a new lesson, a new way of thinking about poetry, a new way of seeing the world.

AmySchutzerAmy Schutzer author of Spheres of Disturbance

Of course, there’s no one poem that changed my life, but a cascade of them over the years. Like a song captures the underlying music of a particular time, so, for me, does poetry. As a writer, poetry instructs through its content, its rhythm and structure. I have found that to be invaluable as a poet and a prose writer. Here then is one poem with the whys of its magic:


Again and Again and Again
By Anne Sexton

You said the anger would come back
just as the love did.

I have a black look I do not
like. It is a mask I try on.
I migrate toward it and its frog
sits on my lips and defecates.
It is old. It is also a pauper.
I have tried to keep it on a diet.
I give it no unction.

There is a good look that I wear
like a blood clot.  I have
Sewn it over my left breast.
I have made a vocation of it.
Lust has taken plant in it
and I have placed you and your
child at its milk tip.

Oh the blackness is murderous
and the milk tip is brimming
and each machine is working
and I will kiss you when
I cut up one dozen new men
and you will die somewhat,
again and again.

She doesn’t hold back, does she? The poem is in service to the poet’s incredible duplicity of feeling and what is put forth to the world. When I got into Anne Sexton’s poetry I was dropped into the calliope of wildness, obsession, unloosening of manners, emotions, and poetic structures. She was writing her way into a world, that at that time, didn’t have much room for her. There is a good look that I wear . . . I have made a vocation of it. This poem, then was a rallying cry, don’t pretend, find your own voice and use it.

Jim TilleyJim Tilley author of  Cruising at Sixty to Seventy

Of course, the full answer is that so many poems have moved me, made me think about life in some non-obvious way, that it’s almost impossible to choose but one.  But if I’m asked, as you have, to single out a poem, I would have to march all the way back to high school when my love of poetry took root and say it is Shelley’s sonnet, “Ozymandias.”  From its technical construction, showing that one can break rules, adopt unconventional rhyme schemes, to its content, I found it a marvel.  The sculpture in the poem speaks to a poem as sculpture.  A perfect sonnet with 140 syllables, same as the maximum number of characters in the original Twitter tweets.  Imagine that!

William TrowbridgeWilliam Trowbridge
author of Put This On, Please

I’d have to say the poem that changed my life is Howard Nemerov’s “Mousemeal,” which I came across  while studying for my P.hD. comps. Till then, I was planning to be a scholar, not a poet. My dissertation was on the novels of William Faulkner. But after reading and reading Nemerov’s poem, with its stunning combination of humor and darkness, I decided to try my hand at writing a poem. Then I wrote another and another. It didn’t take long for me to revise my life plan.  


Melina DraperMelina Draper author of Later the House Stood Empty

Take Care of the Little Box

by Melina Draper

 A poem by the Yugoslav poet Vasko Popa, “The Little Box” from a cycle of poems by the same name, changed my life back in 1999 when I aspired to write but didn’t know quite where to begin. I’d tried my hand at a few short stories, and I yearned for something more. I was 25, struggling in the messy chaos of a relationship with a brilliant and ineffectual alcoholic lobsterman. I was looking at graduate school as an exit ticket out of the life I’d made for myself, which had become a puzzle box of unfortunate and painful constraints.

Then I bought The Horse Has Six Legs, an anthology of Serbian poetry translated by Charles Simic, on sale at Gulf of Maine Books, from the friendly bearded storeowner who vaguely encouraged me to write, and I read the little box poems. The little box does unimaginable things, things that are unimaginable for a little box to do. She grows bigger, so big that the cupboard she was within is now inside her, and then everything is inside her, the whole world. And then, “The little box remembers her childhood/ And by a great longing/ She becomes the little box again.” What magical, expansive, delightful thing was this? She becomes the little box again, only this time, she carries the whole world in miniature within her. The last line reads, “Take care of the little box.” Was I the little box? Should I take care? Was this poem written for me?

How can a poem change your life? It seems too much to ask of a poem, any poem, especially one about nothing more and nothing less than a little box. Popa’s little box poems showed me play, light, gave me something to aspire to, an idea to write poems, to write funny and silly poems, to make a little box, a sweet lovable little box, into a powerful and dangerous thing. The poem for some reason provided a way to make sense of what was happening to me. The flavor of these Serbian poems was very different from the American poems I’d been reading. They didn’t seem to be personal snippets of someone’s life who I couldn’t relate to, so different was my point of departure and my daily agony and delight—and what a relief! The little box poems became snippets of my life in a more real, more fully imagined and imaginary way.

If the little box could do all these things, so could I. She was terrifying, mysterious, expansive, yet humble. All sorts of bizarre things go on to happen to the little box, and likewise went on to happen to me. I made my way to the University of New Hampshire, and studied with Charles Simic, who also happens to have the kind of odd sense of humor and eye for the bizarre that I so fell in love with on that day back in 1999 in Popa’s poems. I disentangled myself from the arms of the compelling lobsterman who loved to read.

The little box was a certain unexpected, expansive, and odd doppelgänger. I am so grateful to the little box! I would kiss the little box if I could. If you happen to see her, please convey my gratitude and devotion. But be careful, she can be dangerous and may be full of stars.

Frannie LindsayFrannie Lindsay author of Our Vanishing

The Poem that Changed my Life

Brother, by William Stafford

When I was an MFA student at Iowa, I brought with me, along with way too much luggage, a lust for words—as many as I could cram into a single poem. A fair number of us came to the Workshop with such extravagant poems. More was more. The three or four students astute enough to trim them back didn’t care much about popularity. They possessed, instead, a surgical clarity that the rest of us experienced as a lack of mercy.

Donald Justice was one of my teachers at Iowa, and I don’t think I knew how privileged I was.  The simplicity of his poems was fearsome; I thought it unnecessarily austere. So I hung onto my voluptuous over-writing for dear life. It was Don who urged me to read William Stafford, and so, grudgingly, I did. In comparison to what Don called my “pretty writing”, Stafford’s was plain whole wheat. I saw the discipline but none of the beauty. It was all so masculine.

Years later, wanting to re-examine that simplicity, I bought Stafford’s little book Smoke’s Way. It is not a well-known collection, but I gravitated toward books that most people had not heard of. This one is a compilation from previous limited-edition and out-of-print volumes. The poems are nearly monastic.

The poem in which I took up immediate residence is very short. It is called “Brother.” I still live in it. It reads, in its entirety:


It’s cold where Bob is:
I’m glad the rich have cozy
homes, and anyone can huddle.

Out there, it’s cold
and Bob has gone so far
no one in the world can touch his hand.

Such broken years as
he had, now belong
to others. I turn to them, to live.

But Bob was.
He lived.
I had a brother.

Stafford has stripped the language of all but the slightest imagistic gestures. I wanted to write like that. These were quickly-told secrets, and I wanted to tell my own.

It took me eleven years of not writing a thing—nothing—to come back to poetry. I stopped in 1990, having simply run out of words, and came back in 2001 with a much leaner, but not-very-good, poem in response to 9/11. I came back via Stafford—that book, that poem. I read it over and over, many times a day; and I read it before bed. It kept showing me new things. It kept showing the subtle power of meter, and the eloquence of white space.

Such broken years as/he had, now belong/to others. It is a sentence devoid of pity, either for the speaker himself or for the deceased sibling. It conveys sorrow through its halting linebreaks alone.

And so, in my newer work, I held every word that wasn’t a noun or verb as suspect. I started learning which ones were there on official business, and which ones were nothing but flirty little swoops. I was done writing “hippie poems”.

My paring-down of voice may not have changed me very much–I still wear long skirts and shawls and live much too subjectively. I may still be known for my eccentricity, but my work is leaner. A single word has a lot of work to do, and I like to think that I have chosen the few that are sufficiently muscular to do it.

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Poetry is life-changing, gorgeous, and thought-provoking. Treat yourself to an experience in poetry and celebrate National Poetry Month with Red Hen and our authors. You might even find your life-changing poem.

Los Angeles Independent Publishing

Lesbian Books

Red Hen Press, a Los Angeles independent publisher founded by Kate Gale, offers poetry readings, poetry contests, book awards, and more.