Tag Archives: New Orleans

Love Song from New Orleans to you…

A documentary of sorts. Poetry, music, video, images married together. I had the opportunity to work with the amazing and talented director, Esther Plumb Malo, to complete my desire to put my poems to film and then some. She went above and beyond. I am truly happy with how this video turned out. Please take a moment to see for yourself. Enjoy.

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Madeline Levy and Todd Cirillo radio interview 9/28 at 5pm

Poets Madeline Levy and Todd Cirillo will be interviewed tomorrow at 5pm (Central Time) on the radio (www.whivfm.org) to promote Madeline’s new book of poems Perfume & Cigarettes from Six Ft. Swells Press.  Click the link below to listen (hit ON AIR to listen live):


Also, you can order Madeline’s book below:




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New Poems and Pics from NOLA on Medusa’s Kitchen

Thursday, July 03, 2014

High Heels & Short Dresses

—Poems and Photos by Todd Cirillo, New Orleans

She owns a .357 Magnum,
tells me—
that she is a very good shot.

I have yet
to forget
a birthday
or special occasion.


Our first meeting
was like that moment
when someone feels something
and wonders
“was that a raindrop?”
with no idea
of the storm
that’s about to hit.


She is stunning
with a disheveled style,
wears purple glasses,
no ring,
flashes a great smile,
bounces through the crowd
with an athletic way
handing out flyers
for a free concert
this weekend.
I promise myself
that if she comes my way
I will tell her
these little words
that can change everything.

I watch her
move through the people
and don’t care what they are thinking,
then she is in front of me,
small hand with flyer outstretched.
I take it and ask her name,
introduce myself
and fulfill my promise
by saying all of those little words
to her.
She keeps smiling.

At the end I ask,
“Do you have a significant other?”
she touches my shoulder,
leans in close
and whispers
those little words
that change everything,

“Of course I do.”


for Bill Gainer

Sitting at the bar
I think of you
while listening
to Bob Dylan,
not the, Like a Rolling Stone
or Tangled Up in Blue Dylan
but later, current Dylan–
voice like three packs of cigarettes,
sandpaper and rotten whiskey.
The Dylan that is hard to understand
but can still write lines
like a motherfucker
when you listen closely.

I ordered three fingers
of Bourbon
even though
I don’t drink Bourbon,
but I know you did
on those dark and tense neon nights
of years ago
when you too spoke loud
and clear.

I drank the Bourbon slowly,
looked around at the girls,
paying particular attention
to their shoes
which you like so well.
Dylan sang,
the whiskey burned hard and fast,
the heels were high,
the dresses short
and I thought this might be a long way
of saying
that even though
the times went a-changing,
I think of you
and your voice,
loud and clear.

and that  you too,
still write lines
like a motherfucker.
 Bill Gainer and Todd Cirillo
Our thanks to ex-Grass Valley poet Todd Cirillo for today’s delectable delights. Todd is co-editor and publisher of Six Ft. Swells Press. He continues to run up bar tabs under the neons while flirting with dangerous words like love, lust and longing. Look him up at afterhourspoetry.com or youtube.com. Todd can be found dancing in the second-lines which pass by his home in New Orleans.


Today’s LittleNip:

There are bigger cities than New Orleans, more beautiful cities than New Orleans, and more important cities than New Orleans but there is no city more interesting than New Orleans.

—James Carville


Todd Cirillo



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Six Ft. Swells crashes the Fringe Festival

Our own Todd Cirillo is featured in this year’s Fringe Festival in New Orleans.  Branching out into a play which features his poem “Love Crazy”.  Todd does a bit of acting as a poet with ex girlfriends who were a bit on the exquisitely crazy side, this was of course a stretch for him.  If you are in New Orleans, come on out and support him (dates and times below) and the amazing cast of this project….”it’s kind of a big deal”.  The play is described as:

What do you get when you mix the Vagina Monologues with the Howard Stern show?  A provocative comedy about men, sex, and the hottest things on the tip of your tongue.  Open wide for a serving of “D*ck in Ya Mouth” the show with no filter!  By the Standard of New Orleans.


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Todd Interviews poet Neeli Cherkovski in New Orleans

Hello from the Crescent City.  In expanding my creative avenues, or just plain getting kicked out of some, I have been invited to write for an incredible magazine in New Orleans called the NOLA Defender, http://www.noladefender.com and this is the first of my efforts.  A big thank you and tip of the glass to Neeli Cherkovski for his generosity in playing along and being a top notch poet, interview and pal.  Please feel free to comment on the article, and check out nola defender, here is the link:  Good times, Todd



Poet Neeli Cherkovski Talks Bukowski, LouJon and the Classics

by Todd Cirillo

Cherkovski reads

Bukowski & Cherkovski, 1989 (Chris Felver)

Poet Neeli Cherkovski has spent time with Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Charles Bukowski. Recently, he spent some time with local writer Todd Cirillo, while visiting New Orleans.

The poet Neeli Cherkovski was in New Orleans from his home in San Francisco, for a reading at the 17 Poets series at the Gold Mine Saloon, as well as a lecture at the Historic New Orleans Collection’s new exhibit. HNOC’s installation at the Williams Research Center celebrates New Orleans’ own LouJon Press.

For the uninitiated, LouJon Press was a famous small press by Jon and Gypsy Lou Webb that operated out of their home on Rue Royal in the French Quarter in the early 1960‘s. The pair published four issues of literary history with The Outsider magazine including; Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs and Charles Bukowski, among others.  The quality of the work that the Webb’s produced separated them from other mimeographed magazines of the day.

Eventually publishing Bukowski’s first two books It Catches My Heart in Its Hands and Crucifix in a Death-Hand, which Cherkovski says “are awesome productions, fine paper, beautiful print and their magazine, “The Outsider,” was exciting, filled with the “new.”  Their “Bukowski Outsider of the Year issue” of 1962 was particularly great. John and Gypsy Lou Webb of the Loujon Press were among the best of the small publishers or “little magazine” editors.  Their pioneering work on letterpress magazines and books is so inspiring, especially from this digital age.”

Throughout the weekend we discussed Cherkovski’s feelings on poetic inspiration, his friendship with Bukowski and hope for the medium.

Charles Bukowski first came to New Orleans in 1942 and then again in 1965 to write poems for “Crucifix in A Deathhand” and meet with the Webbs.  Bukowski went on to write poems, such as “Young In New Orleans”, short stories and his novel Factotum about his time in the Crescent City.

“I remembered my New Orleans days, living on two five-cent candy bars a day for weeks at a time in order to have leisure to write,” Bukowski said of his time in New Orleans. “But starvation, unfortunately, didn’t improve art. It only hindered it. A man’s soul was rooted in his stomach. A man could write much better after eating a porterhouse steak and drinking a pint of whiskey than he could ever write after eating a nickel candy bar. The myth of the starving artist was a hoax.”

Cherkovski said Bukowski, “loved New Orleans and loved the Webbs, but was uncomfortable out of Los Angeles and its familiar ground.”  Cherkovski took home the “kindness of many folks” in New Orleans with him, even if the humidity was a bit much.

Another poet introduced Cherkovski to Charles Bukowski as a poet in Los Angeles, whose chapbook, FLOWER, FIST, AND BESTIAL WAIL was out, worked at the post office and spent his free-time at the typewriter or the race track.

“When I met Neeli he was 16 and I was Bukowski,” Bukowski said.

I asked why he connected with Bukowski.

“Ah, Bukowski. He was there. He was available. And he was willing to give the time to a younger, unpublished poet. It’s that simple. We had so many wild escapades in the “grave” basin of Southern California,” including co-editing the Los Angeles zine Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns.

“I think he saw my potential, felt it, recognized it and we shared a sardonic view of our fellow man,” he continued. “We were both humorous and loved to gossip.”  There was an element of “You know, showmanship, trading barbs, putting down almost everyone we knew. . . it was fun.”

Cherkovski went further, saying, “In reality he was a very refined man, a middle class demon sat in his skull and he saw the world through the lens of mid-American values.  You work hard to do what you do, you make your own way.”

Though they remained close for the remainder of Bukowski’s life, Cherkovski said the friendship was strained after he wrote Bukowski’s biography.

“Well, it ruined things,” Cherkovski said. “He was always a difficult friend, and I suppose he just found it easier to push me away once the book came out.  Later, after his death, Linda Bukowski (his wife) told me, ‘You were closest to him after me.’”

Over the course of the visit we go from bars to breakfast to fast goodbyes, talking about Bonnie and Clyde, the humidity, gossip, as Cherkovski accents his talk with “oh that’s great!”, “right man” and many “wow”’s.  He is a man at once wholly engaged in the conversation and one who can detach instantly to write a poem into his notebook with an old fashioned ink pen.  As he did while we were getting a drink at Cafe Beignet.  I wonder where he goes when inspiration is not with him.

“I go to the poets, reading their work, delving into their images, swimming in the sea and ink of their words.  When I write I’m aware of being part of a vast chorus stretching back in time.”

Cherkovski is becoming one of the old masters in status and appearance. With twelve books of poetry, including: From the Canyon Outward, Elegy for Bob Kaufman and Animal; two acclaimed biographies, Bukowski: A Life and Ferlinghetti: A Biography; Whitman’s Wild Children (a collection of critical memoirs), and a PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award for his book Leaning Against Time. He has been publishing since the 1970‘s and his works are translated into many languages. He is asked to read throughout the world, and in fact he is preparing to return to Italy for a reading tour in two weeks, and his beard grown long, turned grey and unruly.  He would not be out of place wearing a toga in ancient Athens, with those he draws inspiration from. Poetry first came to him through the classics: Homer, Virgil, Dante, Poe, Rimbaud and now he gets a kick out of having “the poems of Walt (Whitman) and Emily (Dickinson) on my I-Phone; wonder of wonders”.

These days, people post anything they write online and call it poetry, I say, can anyone be a poet and if so does the poet have any responsibility to say, an audience, the world, the poem?

“Everyone has a touch of the poet, a bit of poetic blood running through their veins,” he said. “The poet has only the responsibility to be true to his or her own words, own voice but must treat their own creation kindly, a lesson I am still learning.”

I ask him, if everyone is just being true to his/her words, then what is the purpose of the poem.

“Poetry, the art and craft, is one of the ways to express oneself and is a root to some truths, or what look like truths, for those who write it.  In poetry I see all the deities, good and evil, dancing, singing, brooding, loving, hating, boasting, living in humility, all of that.”

Regarding his own poetry, Cherkovski says, “I write out of a field that Dante and Blake laid before me, a literary field that some might say is a bit highbrow.  Also, I’m a lyrical poet, so folks say, and can be obscure at times, even when I don’t want to be, I just follow the muse and am driven to archaic words and big ones, as well.”

Cherkovksi does a magnificent job at the lecture reading poems of his own and his friend Bukowski, who he imitates expertly, especially when retelling the way Bukowski would explain that his first short story was about the World War I flying ace Baron von Richthofen, which Bukowski would say in a slow Humphrey Bogart-cool drawl, the entire room laughs out loud.

Cherkovski appears genuinely grateful to everyone who speaks with him and appreciates the audience and their interest. He networks and introduces people he thinks should know each other. He will laugh when telling stories of the literary giants he has known and grow sad when telling of their passing.  They are emotions of an artist who was invited to drink in the late nights with those most of us just read about and now is assuming his rightful place at the table of American literature.  He calls poetry “a lucky charm which I have held onto for more than fifty five years, making me an old-timer.”

My last question is about the future of poetry. He says, “Of course, one hopes that an “ordinary savage” like Rimbaud will appear on the scene. That’d be nice.”

We say goodbye on Chartres Street in the late golden afternoon; he to a dinner and I to a bar with outdoor seating thinking, yes indeed, some savagery would be nice again.


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Living With My Inner Pirate (While Being a Soccer Mom)

AdventureTimeSchool is in session. So I’ve been adjusting to getting up at the crack of dawn, or 7:00 a.m., to get my first-grader ready for school. I turn on Adventure Time for her, proceed to ready a frozen waffle for her breakfast, and make her measly lunch, since she eats like a bird. This is my routine. Throw in driving her 6 minutes to her school, and walking to her classroom in my pajamas (nobody notices…they just look like exercise clothes, sans upper support), and my morning is done.

And she still holds my hand, which makes the mom part of me glow like a jack-o-lantern.

She does other things, too, fulfilling things, things that give me a feeling very much like that of being in love: I’m just in awe and overwhelmed with love at every little thing she does. Like when she hears my favorite 80’s song and asks if I can put it on her iPod. Or how she skips/runs down the soccer field to dribble the ball toward the goal. Or when she makes up an imaginary world around her swingset called “Ninokooni.”

But this isn’t a blog about how awesome my daughter is, even though she is a large percentage of my daily structure. She’s my dirt and cement, my husband is the water that binds it, and my days are a bunch of unwieldy beams that I’m constantly trying to assemble into a fulfilling every day life. It’s a balancing act: the domestic me and the pirate me, and goddamn if the domestic me tends to win out, as it should, the majority of the time. (Yes, I’m still exploring the same subject of balance as found in my 2011 book of poems, The Distance Between. It’s a lifelong subject.)

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000034_00025]

I was driving around the other day, listening to Fugazi, and I thought of how obvious it was that my pirate pal–my best one–Todd Cirillo, is no longer in my same zip code, or state for that matter. He’s my one true pirate connection in this life. That’s why I ditched it all this summer—briefly, for 5 days—to hop on a plane and land on his Cajun soil to have adventures with him in New Orleans. It sure did wonders for this poet pirate’s soul. How could it not? ALL my favorite things were present: happy people, fantastic music, to-die-for food, beautiful, artful streets—all to be enjoyed with a beer in hand. All for my indulgence. And damn if I didn’t indulge.

And there were surprises, too. Todd is always full of surprises. He took me on an airboat where I screamed my head off, both of us laughing with our big headphones on, and I fell in love with a beautiful gator with long eyelashes, who I henceforth call my spirit animal. (I better not hear one more turkey vulture wisecrack, mom!)

My, those headphones are as big as our smiles!

My, those headphones are as big as our smiles!

Todd took me to the best bar ever on his birthday, a piano bar called Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, with the only light being that of candles. It was like it was MY birthday, I loved it so much. And I can’t even explain the magic of Mike, the piano guy, playing the very song Todd and I planned on requesting, “Wagon Wheel”, right as we bellied up to the piano.


And drunk on everything, endless Coronas and music and laughter, I took off alone from the nameless bar where we ended up at end of the night, and found my way back to my room through the Maps app on my iPhone, and landed in my bed at 4:10 a.m. without a blink.

Or how at 9:30 at night, Todd and stood in a line down the sidewalk to get into Felix’s Oyster Bar–a total dive of a restaurant, until we sat down and the plates of chargrilled oysters and crawfish etouffee were handed to us. Until we took a bite, and just laughed because it was the best both of us have ever tasted.

Or how we walked around on a Sunday afternoon exploring and finding treasures on the street in the Marigny. And how we walked by a small bar and decided to go in for a Bloody Mary because there was a guy inside singing the best Neil Young in a gravelly voice. And how the group of teens stood on the street corner at dusk, blowing their trumpets and trombones while people danced in the street, and the one happy drunk guy, who kept losing his shoe as he danced and had a hell of a time trying to put it back on, got arrested right then and there. For what? Dancing happily? Losing a goddamn shoe? We danced on.

We danced on into the endless magic-filled night that is New Orleans. Of course there was a full moon over the Mississippi on my last night, just as the one and only true steamboat came passing through, all lit up like a constellation.

Magic spontaneity. Unforgettable moments. Those days in New Orleans, the pirate me was a star that the whole word revolved around. Even the farther and farther I get from it, it may even shrink down into a fiery dot, but it’s still a star that won’t stop shining.

That’s what I realized driving around the other day. Todd might not be nearby anymore to encourage the pirate me to come out and play, but the pirate is there inside me, ready at the quick to partake in any indulgent adventure. It is obvious that this is why a wife and mom like me, and a free-spirited explorer like Todd, have come together as BFFs. We at once recognized that star that blazes each of our souls.

In Todd’s honor, or just because my inner pirate can’t be suppressed for long, I snuck into my favorite college musician’s show last week after a poetry reading. It did take spurring, though, from strangers, despite my excuse of it being a “school night” (the mom in me). But I didn’t have anything to lose—except who I am now, and only for 45 minutes. Once I was in, it was only me in the moment; I didn’t know a single soul around me. It made the pirate in me hold up my beer a little higher as I sang out and jumped around to the music. I hardly recognized myself, until later, in my soft bed, the whole house quiet with sleep. I came together then, all in one content person, the balance perfect on the scales. I slept like a baby under the blanket of stars.


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BUK rhymes with PUKE

Don't Try

“A poem is often something that is only necessary toward one man–the writer.  It’s often a perfect form of selfishness.  Let’s not credit ourselves too much.  Garage mechanics are more human than we are.”  –Bukowski

Happy Birthday Bukowski!  You old fuck.  It is no secret that us here at Six Ft. Swells Press wave the Bukowski flag proudly.  What can we say?  We love the old, ugly bastard, he was a good duker, as he’d say.  Those of us here, had connected with Buk separately at different times and very different places in life but when we finally found one another under the neons, we were already halfway there in friendship as soon as the first of us threw out a quote from Love is a Dog from Hell or Women.  It was immediate recognition that we were in the presence of someone true, someone who understood.   The booze has flowed freely ever since and we are all the better for it.

There have been years of laughter and lewdness, years of blood, stitches in the morning, broken parts at midnight and car titles lost at bars.  We have had marriages (one that lasted), love affairs, lost loves; loves we thought were lost but found again in the strangest places, childbirths (hell even the mighty Bukowski had a daughter), tremendous arguments and even better make ups, travels across the country and quiet evenings at home just sitting on the couch with a bottle between us.  But always a Bukowski book never far out of reach.  We always return to you Buk for good or ill.  All of your pain, wickedness, clarity, grossness, self-confidence, honesty, bravado and lust.  And why?  The Pabst Blue Ribbon tells me because you make us believe we can do it, or you cut the shit and tell us to hang it up.  Either way, we listen.  and perhaps that’s the beauty in it all.  A voice that makes us listen.  Perhaps that’s what an artist should strive for.

So, in honor of your birthday Charles, the three masted ship that is Six Ft. Swells raise a glass to you from New Orleans, Louisiana, Nevada City, California and Portland, Oregon.  Who knows, one of us may get in a fight or get laid tonight….now that’s a tribute.

Don’t Try,

Six Ft. Swells Press, memorial department


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All Writers are Equal, But Some Writers are More Equal than Others

Two greats duking it out above the bar.

Two greats duking it out above the bar.

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods. And the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”  –Bukowski

Yes indeed, the true sign of a great bar.  Nailed up for your poetic inspiration.  Sit underneath these champions for about 3 hours swigging happy hour swill and tell me you don’t feel like writing a few lines on the old cocktail napkin and then rack up a couple mighty sins to end the evening.  Few people recognize the signs but luckily I am not one of them.  I see them shining neon loud and clear.  Many poets and writers have various ways and rituals to get in the mood, some more fun than others.  Personally, I believe the poetic punch is the finest way.  That haymaker which comes out of nowhere and knocks your dick in the dirt and from the floor you look up at the beautiful stars spinning around and around and the only necessary next movements are to order another round, get out your notebook and pen and put the words down that have been handed to you.

Under greatness,

Todd, Erin Rose bar, New Orleans, LA

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