This is one of those small press books

probably desktop-published, with two staples holding about 47 pages together, cover/cover art incredibly simple yet effective, the pages sticking out, poorly cut…something you might pass up in a bookstore where a handful of copies were probably left by the author on consignment.

If you look inside, you’ll find an impressive list of acknowledgements in literary journals and online publications. Always a good sign: serious writer-at-work here. Especially the asterisk noting: “nominated for a Pushcart Prize.” (I’m still old-fashioned enough in the literary game to know that this stuff matters—or should, in a day, a time of ‘anybodycanwriteanythingandpublish it (print-by-demand) andbeawriter. Maybe.

I don’t think so. But, I’m a minority of one.

The table of contents is long (many of the pieces short) and the stories are printed (very readable) on a yellowish parchment-kind of paper. There’s nothing subtle going on here. We’re talking rock-bottom basic small press publishing. The kind many of us grew up on. And still practice. (I happen to love this kind of stuff—when there’s a real, practicing writer to be found on the pages.) Though this column/blog/essay/online missive of mine is called POETRY DISPATCH, occasionally I take exception to the exclusiveness, especially in regard to short stories like these by Francine Witte—who knows very well that a good story is poetry.

When I’m reading a book I might write about (be it a book of poems, stories, essays…chapters of a novel…) I usually mark/make note of as many as six or more pieces that I particularly like…that I feel capture the essence of the book I wish to share with readers. When I finished reading Francine’s book, I was surprised to discover that I had marked all thirty-eight stories in her collection. I don’t know this woman. But I delight in her talent. She makes me laugh, she makes me think and feel what she knows to be important in life.

Her short bio at the end of the books states that she writes poetry, fiction, and plays and has previously published a chapbook of poems: “The Magic in the Streets.” She lives in New York, teaches high school English, and you can find her at her website:

Final note: this book is only $5. I’d buy $25 worth of Francine Witte’s stories at least–to give as gifts, pass on to friends, hold on to for safe-keeping. What better investment in a writer, a small press?

You never now when you need stories like these. —Norbert Blei Poetry Dispatch No. 291 | August 17, 2009