Monday, December 28, 2009


Travels with Charley:
as well as Jack, Allen, Edwin, Charles, Peter, and nearly everyone else.

America is a nation of ramblers. From the literary approach of Travels with Charley, (John Steinbeck) to the scientific exactitude of Autumn Across America, (Edwin Way Teale) to the endless meanderings and parties of On the Road and Dharma Bums (Jack Kerouac), the people of our nation love to travel.
Our wander lust has spawned a market for popular magazines such as Endless Vacation, at least one television journalism series, On the Road with Charles Kuralt, and the pop film Easy Rider, known as the story of a search for an America that was never found. Travel Writing is an important category of journalism, but I believe it is also a largely unrecognized and unexplored aspect of literary writing.
Early in the book, Travels with Charley: in search of America, Steinbeck whimsically names his camper truck after the sturdy mount of Don Quixote, Rocinante. The truck is the star of the earliest part of the narrative, with several admirers indicating that they would love to go. In some cases, they don’t even know where Steinbeck is going, and have no idea where they want to go. A visit to his son at Deerfield Academy results in several teen aged boys attempting to stow away in the camper. The going seems to be the point, not the destination.
By contrast, Edwin Way Teale set out with very specific objectives when he embarked on the travels that resulted in the four book series, The American Seasons, and a Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. He began with a quick trip south and then drove North, observing the seasonal changes, the migrations of wildlife and the work of naturalists and environmental scientists he met along the way. He then traveled widely and recorded his further observations in Journey into Summer, Autumn Across America, and Wandering Through Winter. The series is an introduction to the natural marvels of our great nation.
This approach is less exactly followed by Peter Matthiessen in his conservation epic, The Snow Leopard. Matthiessen traveled with the taciturn George Shaller, referred to as G.S. in the book, in search of the blue Dahl Sheep and the Snow Leopard of the Tibetan plain. As a Zen Buddhist, Matthiessen was much more interested in the Buddhist shrines, the Lamas, and the porters. He left the science to G.S., appropriately known as an iron man of field biology.
Matthiessen and Shaller completed their journey with substantial observations of the Dahl Sheep but no sighting of the Snow Leopard. Matthiessen gave an appropriately Zen conclusion to his narrative. He celebrated the journey.
The Zen influence also appeared in Dharma Bums, in the enigmatic Jaffy Rider, an avatar of the prize winning poet Gary Snyder. Although the beat generation is primarily identified with the book’s author, Jack Kerouac and with Allen Ginsberg, the model for its other main character, Snyder also performed in the famous reading at Gallery Six that brought them to the world’s attention. He became a translator of oriental languages, traveled to Japan to study Zen, and is still actively writing, publishing and giving public readings today. While Kerouac’s works celebrated travels here in America, Snyder’s destination was in Asia.
Some authorities consider Ken Kesey and the “Merry Pranksters” of the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test the descendents of the beat generation. This is amplified by the presence of Kerouac’s friend and fellow traveler from On the Road, Neal Cassidy as driver of the bus that took the Merry Pranksters across the country. Their travels included a psychedelic dimension.
As the beat generation waned, traveling did not. Peter Jenkins took his own approach in A Walk Across America and its sequel. He walked from Connecticut to New Orleans stayed a while, got married, and continued the walk to the west coast. His new wife accompanied him on the second half of the journey and several friends traveled out to walk the last mile with them.
As Jenkins walked, William Least Heat-Moon drove the back roads in Blue Highways and later crossed the nation by boat in The River Horse. Much like Steinbeck, he sought to discover the land and the people.
Steinbeck certainly did not originate the narrative of restlessness recorded in these books. That honor might possibly be given to Henry David Thoreau for the records of his own travels in Cape Cod and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and even older records of exploration and discovery that are part of our nation’s early history. Perhaps these narratives grew out of our own history of westward movement and settling.
Whatever source we attribute for this genre of writing it exemplifies our history as a nation of ramblers. We want to go somewhere, out there, and discover the land and the people.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Great Blue Heron

Aggressive Sentries

I often see the herons along the shore of the Tennessee River, near Chickamauga Dam. They stand in ranks, sentry like, along the shoreline. When a hapless fish or frog passes nearby, they unleash their long beak, sharp as a javelin and fast as a striking snake. They cross the land or water with slow deliberate strokes of their powerful wings.
One year in February I witnessed aggressive competition among the herons. One flew with powerful strokes from under the railroad bridge near the dam. Another was close behind in hot pursuit, but broke off the chase as the lead heron flew past me. From the lead Heron's beak dangled the object of their dispute, a young striped bass.
I had heard of Bald Eagles pursuing Osprey until they dropped a fish. I had not thought it a common method of hunting among other predatory birds.
When the Heron landed high on the rocky shore, preparing to eat its dinner, another lifted off from sentry duty along the river and gave chase. The heron with the fish flew off toward the small marsh nearby, and dropped its fish just before it crossed above the access road. The pursuer quickly snatched the fish. It turned the tasty meal in its beak and swallowed it, headfirst and whole.
The heron that had caught and lost the fish uttered neither squawk nor hoarse croak against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. It merely continued on its flight toward the marsh.
On the previous day I had walked the Brainerd Levee, near the Chattanooga Airport, where I saw several herons sanding stately in the water, waiting for a fat fish or frog to pass by. When a heron flew in from the east and landed on the marsh, another left the shore near the levee and flew directly at the new arrival.
The new arrival lifted off and flew an overhead loop with the other in close pursuit. One of the birds made that hoarse croaking noise characteristic of their species, though I was never sure which one called. Soon the interloper was gone, back in the direction from which it came.
I looked at the colony of stick nests above South Chickamauga Creek and noticed that no herons stood on the nests or nearby branches. I knew this would soon change. Herons are early nesters. That evening I read that Herons defend feeding territories when they are not nesting.
The day I saw the heron with the fish, I noticed that the nests in the small marsh near the dam were occupied. Herons stood, singly or in pairs, on the nests and nearby branches that seemed barely able to support their weight. Nevertheless, the Herons would nest there. There they would hatch their eggs and feed their hungry young until the next generation was ready to stand sentry-like along the shores of rivers, lakes and marshes.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Household Hazardous Waste

Household Hazardous Waste
The City of Chattanooga provides a Household Hazardous Waste Facility which appropriately disposes of these materials. The Household Hazardous Waste Facility is operated on the second Saturday of each month from 8:00 AM to Noon, Eastern Standard Time. It is located at the Wood Recycling Center at 3925 North Hawthorn Street (just two blocks east of Amnicola Highway). For directions call the city information switchboard at 311. There are some materials that the facility will not accept, such as radioactive materials, commercial hazardous waste, and medical waste. For information on how to dispose of these materials look at the city government web page.

See also

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday greeting

Whatever holiday you may celebrate, I wish you joy at this time of year. Here is my Christmas greeting. - Ray

Christmas Papers

I was older when I noticed
the same color and pattern
on the Christmas paper
year after year,
though each year
a pattern graced
a smaller package.

I remember opening
the packages with scissors,
carefully cutting the tape
so as not to rip the paper.

I was older when I noticed
my mother’s hands,
ironing on Christmas night.
She ironed the same towel
again and again.

Under the towel
the Christmas papers
lost their creases.
regained smooth surfaces.

She lovingly rolled them up,
put them away,
to await
the next year’s gifts.

If you see a writer on fire, fan the flames.

Monday, December 21, 2009


The lyric nature of Rachels Carson’s writing is illustrated by this passage, which appears near the end of The Edge of the Sea:
“Now I hear the sea sounds about me, the night high tide is rising, swirling with a confused rush of waters against the rocks below my study window. Fog has come into the bay from the open sea, and it lies over water and over the land’s edge, seeping into the spruces and stealing softly among the juniper and the bayberry. The restive waters, the cold wet breath of the fog, are of a world in which man is an uneasy trespasser; he punctuates the night with the complaining groan and grunt of a foghorn, sensing the power and menace of the sea.
Hearing the rising tide, I think how it is pressing also against other shores I know – rising on a southern beach where there is no fog, but a moon edging all the waves with silver and touching the wet sands with lambent sheen, and on a still more distant shore sending its streaming currents against the moonlit pinnacles and the dark caves of the coral rock.”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hellbender Press

Hellbender Press has resumed publication after an 18 month hiatus. Ray Zimmerman's poems "Reincarnation," "Cranes," and "Glen Falls Trail" appear in the winter issue now available free at locations in Knoxville, Chattanooga and the Tri-Ciites.

I have put them out at the following Chattanooga locations:

Grumpy's Music and Books near Northgate

North Chattanooga:
Stone Cup
All Things Grovey
Winder Binder

The Grapevine
Pasha Coffeehouse

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Age Old Question

Great Literary Figures Answer the Age Old Question:

John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath) –
There was nothing left for them back in Oklahoma. The chicken crossed the road to get the family to California.

Earnest Hemmingway (To Have and Have Not) –
A chicken alone in this world hasn’t got a chance.

Charles Bukowski (AKA the poet laureate of skid row) –
Show me that chicken. I’ll kick the chicken’s ass across the road.

Anais Nin (Delta of Venus) –
She saw the rooster strutting on the pavement, his thighs gleaming in the bright mid day sun, and she was compelled – she must cross.

Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire) –
Yes, cross she must, though she knew his bite would send her to ecstasy, and then plunge her into eternal darkness.

William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying) -
My mother is a chicken.

Allen Ginsberg (Howl and Other Poems) –
I saw the chicken in the supermarket and couldn’t buy it with my good looks.

William Shakespeare (Hamlet) –
To cross or not to cross, that is the question. The chicken crossed the road to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness) –
I saw the tread marks on the chicken’s back, leaned close, and heard her cluck, “The horror! The horror!”

Robinson Jeffers (Rock and Hawk) –
A proud column stands there, where once the chicken bravely crossed the road.

Mark Twain (Public Speaking Engagement) –
The recent talk of the chicken’s demise is greatly exaggerated.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Voices

Jim Pfitzer has agreed to emcee the December 19 edition of New Voices.
So far we have the following readers at the December New Voices reading:

Ray Zimmerman
Nancy L. Diwan
E. Smith Gilbert
Bruce Majors
Ginny Sams
Ninian Williams

New Voices
Saturday, December 19
7:00 to 8:30 PM
Pasha Coffee House
3914 St. Elmo Avenue
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Call (423) 315-0721 for full information

New Voices includes readings of poetry and short prose works, as well as musical interludes by Jim Woodford (keyboards), Bob Voigt (saxophone) and friends. Ray Zimmerman, former president of the Chattanooga Writers Guild hosts the event although it sometimes features a guest emcee.

This will be the last New Voices reading for a while. I expect to resume in March.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review

This one from Carolyn Sieradzki of Silver Spring, Maryland.

Consider This, Señora Harcourt Brace & Company
Harriet Doerr 15 East 26th Street
New York, NY 10010
Copyright 1993
ISBN: Q-15-193103-8 Reviewed: November 30, 2009

To continue with the simile first used by my mother-in-law, this book also does not taste like milk. It tastes like a banana. After one has read the jacket notes, one opens the peel with anticipation brought on by color and hints of bruising, secrets within the protective covering, and certainty of the varieties of smell, taste and texture, even threads that remind one of mysterious permanence.

Immediately after the peel is drawn down like a woman’s nightgown, a burst of scent erupts like an upward spray of mist. But it is not an olfactory image. It is the introduction of three of the characters, described with the precision of eruption. Essential details about their lives and their personalities crowd into the reader’s mind in a flurry. Those details will not be forgotten, nor will the details of the deal the three strike; they lay the foundation for all that follows.

The jacket notes say that Consider This, Señora is the story of the lives and internal discoveries of the Americans who have come to a Mexican mesa. The novel equally captures life and discovery among the Mexicans who live in the town below. Their lives reflect and intersect with those of the Americans.

As the reader unfolds the outer story of the book, the effects of the bruises emerge: some are learned from experience, some consumed without gain, and some even set aside without consideration or expression. The very existence of secrets – as in life everywhere – complicates and somehow comforts every interaction. The secrets are memories; present events known only to the participants; dreams for the future; wisdom known but unspoken. No one is without them.

The ever-present thread, like that found between the peel and the flesh of the banana, is the coming and going of the rainy season and – when the rain is gone for long periods – the desperate need for water and the failure of authority to heed pleas for help. It is that often annoying remnant of our primal selves that we all experience, dependent on something outside ourselves that we cannot control and for the failure of which there is no help.

One of the inhabitants on the mesa, a musician, brings a piano and, for months, plays only a single note, like the taste of the banana as we hurry to consume it on our way to work. But just as the first rain brings needed water for the crops and for the household, music – in every form from sonata to opera, from fugue to rhapsody – simultaneously begins to pour forth from the piano. This music becomes the source and symbol of renewal. It brings with it discovery of the diverse flavors of the banana – the colors found in overt descriptions of materials, flowers and scenery, as well as in the dimensions of the characters’ fruitful inner lives. Finally, each of the Americans finds that which they sought.

A friend loaned Consider This, Señora to me in a bag of books I “really should read,” without saying a word about it; I was completely surprised to find it so delightful. It is not a “heavy read.” One could easily sit and read it straight through because it is not only an effortless read, it is very engaging. You want to know what happens next, and you would rather not wait until tomorrow to find out.

Harriet Doerr entered the community of authors as a relatively older woman. She has received numerous honors and awards, including the American Book Award in 1984 for her novel, Stones for Ibarra.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Voices

New Voices
Saturday, December 19
7:00 to 8:30 PM
Pasha Coffee House
3914 St. Elmo Avenue
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Call (423) 315-0721 for full information

New Voices includes readings of poetry and short prose works, as well as musical interludes by Jim Woodford (keyboards), Bob Voigt (saxophone) and friends. Ray Zimmerman, former president of the Chattanooga Writers Guild hosts the event although it sometimes features a guest emcee.

This will be the last New Voices reading for a while. I expect to resume in March.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Ray Zimmerman
Will appear in the Chattanooga's Got Talent show, Tuesday, November 24, 6:30 PM at the Vaudeville Cafe. It is on Market Street, directly across from the Tennessee Aquarium. Call (423) 517-1839 for tickets.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Your Manuscript is important

“…Nor does anyone need your manuscript. Everyone needs shoes more. There are many manuscripts already – worthy ones, most edifying and moving ones, intelligent and powerful ones. If you believed Paradise Lost to be excellent, would you buy it? Why not shoot yourself, actually, rather than finish one more excellent manuscript on which to gag the world?”

The Writing Life
Annie Dillard
Harper Perennial
ISBN 978-0-06-091988-7

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gary Snyder in Berkeley

Dennis Fritzinger posted this on the Warrior Poet Society mailing list. Hope he doesn't mind my copying it here.

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems

Friday we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems by Gary Snyder, in the Morrison Library on the Berkeley campus.

The place was packed. Robert Hass was there, emceeing, Michael McClure was there and spoke, Gary Snyder was there, looking and sounding younger than his 70-plus years, very active still, and the brand-spanking new 50th anniversary volume was there on a back table, flying off it as fast as the sellers could ring up sales.

The event went from 4:30 to 6:00, after which Gary went out into the hall and sat down at a table where he autographed copies. The line was long, and Gary seemed to be talking with everyone who brought him a book to sign, so it went slowly.

The 50th anniversary volume is very good looking, with cover art by print-maker Tom Killion, who co-authored another worthy volume, Tamalpais Walking: Poetry, History & Prints.

After Hass's introduction, when he reminisced about his first encounter with Riprap, saying that the poem "Paiute Creek" struck him like a lightning bolt, Michael McClure read some prepared remarks, apparently hand-written, as he frequently lost his place, stumbled, or mis-spoke and had to recover. Still, what he said established a certain context, as he described the Gallery Six Reading he, Snyder, Philip Lamantia, Phil Whalen, Kenneth Rexroth (acting as emcee) and Allen Ginsberg were all at--the legendary reading that kicked off the so-called Beat Generation.

Michael said that although the East Coast critics focused on Ginsberg and Kerouac (who didn't read but hung in the back of the room shouting "Go - Go - Go" while Ginsberg read), Snyder's poem "A Berry Feast" that he read, introduced the figure of Coyote into western literature for first time (except for the legendary Jaime De Angulo, who brought him up in "Indian Tales"). McClure called "A Berry Feast" an "eco poem", which it certainly is. McClure has written before about the ecological impulses underpinning the literary upwelling of the time, particularly the west-coast members of the so-called "Beat Generation".

Snyder then took the podium and gave background sketches of the poems in Riprap, being careful to locate them in place as well as time. He also brought in a fair amount of personal history to do that.

Snyder's resume includes working on a ship, as a fire lookout, a trail builder, and a logger. All these professions find their way into the pages of Riprap, perhaps Snyder's most accessible book. In fact accessibility was the point, Gary said. He said he thought a poet ought to earn the right to publishing his difficult stuff by publishing his easy stuff first. Which probably explains that the poems in Riprap are mostly about work.

Cold Mountain Poems, translations of a minor Chinese poet named Han Shan, is a different story. These are translations that Gary wrote while an undergraduate at UC taking a class with one other student from a brilliant Chinese scholar. After they were published, Gary said, they were criticized by another Chinese scholar who happened also to be a poet. The critic said that the actual mountain, "Cold Mountain", was in southern China and covered with trees and bushes--in fact not exactly cold at all. Gary made it sound as if the hermit poet Han Shan (it was typical of hermits to go by the name of where they lived) lived in the Sierras (which was where Gary had worked building trails).

There were many other stories and anecdotes I could go on about, but I think I'll stop here.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Voices

New Voices
Saturday November 21
7:00 to 8:30 PM
Pasha Coffee House
3914 St. Elmo Avenue
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Call (423) 315-0721 for full information

New Voices includes readings of poetry and short prose works, as well as musical interludes by Jim Woodford (keyboards), Bob Voigt (saxophone) and friends. Ray Zimmerman, former president of the Chattanooga Writers Guild hosts the event although it sometimes features a guest emcee.

Readers for the November edition of New Voices include
Ninian Williams
Ginny Sams
Pam West
Jane Starner
Ray Zimmerman
others to be announced
New Voices Schedule for Autumn, 2009
7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Saturday, October 17
Saturday November 21
Saturday, December 19

New Voices Poetry Readings are presented by MusePaper Productions.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


“Just keep in mind that it won’t be the birthday cake covered with twinkling candles that will make readers feel that you were really at the party, but the bone handled serving fork with one tine missing and the place where the lace has pulled loose from the hem of the table cloth.”

Ted Kooser
The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets
University of Nebraska Press
ISBN 978-0-8032-5976-2

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Writing Life

“You write it all, discovering it at the end of the line of words. The line of words is a fiber optic, flexible as wire; it illumines the path just before its flexible tip. You probe with it, delicate as a worm.”

The Writing Life
Annie Dillard
Harper Perennial
ISBN 978-0-06-091988-7

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

mad to live

mad to live

In the brief volume, "mad to live," Randall Brown reveals his masterful story telling in eighteen flash fiction stories. For those of you not familiar with the genre, flash fiction stories are 1000 words or less, yet must be a complete story. Character development is minimized, with a focus on the story line.
Brown’s characters range from childhood to middle age, engage in the battles of day to day life, and live with dilemmas that never seem to quite reach a resolution. In one story, a boy and his grandfather escape from the attack of two hoodlums when the boy delivers a well aimed kick to the groin of one attacker and the grandfather recovers from a blow to the head long enough to find and use his shotgun stored behind the counter. As they exit the grandfather’s store, sirens wail in the distance.
Brown presented several of the stories in a highly entertaining reading at the recent Meacham Writers Conference here in Chattanooga.
The title is not capitalized and is drawn from Kerouac’s book, On the Road. With the decreasing attention span so obvious in American culture, flash fiction may well be the wave of the future.

mad to live: a collection of very short fiction
Randall Brown
Flume Press
ISBN 10:1-886226-13-5
ISBN 13:978-1-886226-13-5

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


With the controversy about the statues on the Market Street Bridge,
I was reminded of a poem I wrote about another Chattanooga Statue. This poem appeared in my chapbook, First Days.


Immodest she stands
Before the museum
Jaybird naked
In front of God
And everyone

Her bronze constitution
Has made her immune
To summer’s heat
And winter’s cold
To the stares of
Prudish visitors

Though I am certain
She is lovely as
The original
She is unaware
Of her audience
Wholly unresponsive

Thursday, November 5, 2009

two landscapes

A Tale of Two Landscapes – Appeared in the Chattanooga Chat, Newsletter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, Chattanooga Chapter and in my chap book Guardians and Other Sightings.

The land had once been a private estate, and the large front lawn was green and well fertilized and manicured, and much like any other lawn, but behind a hill stood a wild and “unkempt” thicket where shrubs and vines and blackberries abounded. It was a somewhat wet landscape, enough to attract an occasional killdeer.
Every spring the thicket produced a crop of young rabbits, in fact the property was never short of rabbits. Occasionally a red fox would saunter by, no doubt gathering a dinner of rabbit meat. Beyond the thicket was a hay field and beyond that, a forest. At night, coyotes howled in the near distance.
One winter day I led a bird watching expedition and we saw a female Peregrine falcon land in a tree. Soon a male bird joined her, dropping a prey item as he landed. Perhaps he saw us at the last minute and dropped the bird that he was carrying to his mate. Soon, both falcons flew away and we discovered that the dropped bird was a killdeer.
A high ranking government official dropped by my office one spring day and informed me that we would embark on a project of “landscaping for wildlife.” Soon the bush hog arrived and the thicket was leveled to be replaced with a few trees, whose fruit is reputed to attract birds. Low lying areas were filled to accommodate foot traffic.
The last time I visited the property, I saw neither rabbits, nor fox, nor killdeer. I definitely saw no peregrine falcon. Where branches in the thicket had been alive with the songs of nesting birds, it was eerily silent. And so the landscape was tamed, and so it was “landscaped for wildlife.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Ray Zimmerman
Will appear in the Chattanooga's Got Talent show, Tuesday, November 24, 6:30 PM at the Vaudeville Cafe - directly across from the aquarium. Call (423) 517-1839 for tickets.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why I write

Some one posted this reply on the facebook group, "Feed Your Brain."

I write for the same reason I like to view art or listen to different various points of an argument -- to inform myself of other points of view to reality. The more ways I see something, the better various areas of my brain can translate it and help me understand the total picture of what is.
October 27 at 7:19pm

Saturday, October 31, 2009

New Book

I meant to review KB Balletnine's new book by now, but some one borrowed my copy and has not returned it. Perhaps that is praise enough.

Fragments of Light
by K.B. Ballentine

Published by Celtic Cat Publishing
July 2009;
ISBN: 978-0-9819238-1-9

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Write?

Here are a couple of responses I received by email. There is also at least one posted on the facebook group, Feed Your Brain.

You already know why I write. I feel like I have a story that nobody else can tell. Also, because I see more than some people do ------ like the real fat lady hurrying toward Mckenzie Arena for UTC graduation on sandals with fragile looking French heels. I wondered how they held up her bulk.
She had on a red dress with a row of red roses across the top of her rump. They danced and jiggled as she hurried along. I haven't figured out how to tell this, but I will one day.
Nobody else in our car saw her.......Take care and BEware on Sat. night (Halloween)

Another reply read:
The young student character (in Shadowlands, I think) says, "We read to know we are not alone."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why I Write

Author’s Statement
Passion is all that matters in writing. As a certain old Jazz singer said, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that zing.” The greatest issue I see with much of the writing I read is that it lacks fire. We write to combat the indignities thrust upon us by nature, our fellow man, and sometimes even by God. We write to make sense of a violent, harsh, and indifferent world. We write to make our lives count for something. Beside that, the trite and banal clichés you hear in writing clinics, such as “Show, don’t tell,” are mere pabulum.

Now tell me why you write.

If you don't write, tell me why you read, paint, draw, or sing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Voices Poetry Reading

New Voices
Saturday November 21
7:00 to 8:30 PM
Pasha Coffee House
3914 St. Elmo Avenue
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Call (423) 315-0721 for full information

New Voices includes readings of poetry and short prose works, as well as musical interludes by Jim Woodford (keyboards), Bob Voigt (saxophone) and friends. Ray Zimmerman, former president of the Chattanooga Writers Guild hosts the event although it sometimes features a guest emcee.

Readers for the November edition of New Voices include
Pam West
Jane Starner
Ray Zimmerman
New Voices Schedule for Autumn, 2009
7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Saturday, October 17
Saturday November 21
Saturday, December 19

New Voices Poetry Readings are presented by MusePaper Productions.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Voices

New Voices Poetry Reading

The Third Saturday of each Month
Pasha Coffee House
3914 St. Elmo Avenue
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Call (423) 315-0721 for full information

New Voices - October Lineup
Ninian Williams editor of
E. Smith Gilbert - Published in Great Brittan and the US .
Ray Zimmerman - Former Presidetn of the Chattanooga Writers Guild
Other Poets TBA

Saturday, October 10, 2009

book review

- Poachers by Tom Franklin

ISBN 0-688-16749-3

“…But I’ve never lost the need to tell of my Alabama , to reveal it, lush and green and full of death. So I return, knowing what I’ve learned. I come back where life is slow dying and I poach for stories. I poach because I want to recover the paths while there is still time, before the last logging trucks rumble through and the old dark ways are forever hewn.” (From the introduction)
Tell it, he does, with the power of one who knows the people and places first hand. The short story collection, Poachers, holds within its pages a host of characters that work in a chemical plant and a sewage treatment plant. One runs a mill that makes grist for sandblasting and one tends bar in a honky-tonk. The characters live lives of desperation as raw and jagged as a broken tooth. In the introduction to this unique book, Tom Franklin reveals a personal history that includes early years hunting deer and wild turkey in the land between the Tombigbee and the Alabama Rivers .
In the title novella “Poachers,” the reader meets the three Gates brothers, as wild and untamed as the creatures that they hunt for a living. When they kill a rookie lawman, the legendary and mysterious game warden, Frank David, comes out of retirement to track them down. Some people say that Frank David was an orphan boy raised by a Cajun woman on a bayou. Some say that he was a special services sniper in the Korean War. Others say that he is so good at catching poachers because he himself was once the best poacher in the state. All agree that he is a man of average build, able to catch any poacher that he tracks. When one of the Gates brothers dies, killed by dynamite in a “fishing accident,” the local sheriff begins to think that the legendary lawman has crossed the line.
The title novella was included in two anthologies, New Stories from the South, The Year’s Best, 1999, and Best American Mystery Stories, 1999. It is a splendid example of Tom Franklin’s masterful storytelling. The novella alone makes the book, Poachers, a must read.

- Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman

Ray Zimmerman’s poem “Glen Falls Trail,” won second place in the Tennessee Writer’s Alliance 2007 poetry contest.

If you see a writer on fire, fan the flames.

Review - The Canoist

The Canoeist
John Manuel
Jefferson Press
ISBN 0-97189-747-6
I remember rolling under the canoe; the way the water muffled the roar of the rapid and softened the sun’s glare. All around me were bubbles, millions and millions of them, rushing along at the same speed. We are like this – souls traveling through space. We are born in the tumult of the river, carried along by forces we cannot control. And we’re also beautiful in the way we hold the light, murmuring to one another on this journey toward the surface, our short spiraling lives.
–Page 208
The river in this passage was Tennessee’s Ocoee, portrayed as an ultimate challenge for canoeists, a river generally reserved for kayaks and white water rafts.
The author’s trip down the Ocoee is the climax to a journey that began on the peaceful waters of the Chagrin River near his parent’s home in Cleveland, Ohio. Along the way Manuel traversed such well known waterways as the Allagash (Maine), the Nantahala (North Carolina), and the Chattooga (Georgia). This last was the whitewater backdrop for the movie Deliverance based on James Dickey’s novel of the same title.
Manuel skillfully weaves in the story of his family and his career along the way. Within the pages he recounts emotional distance from his father, a hard nosed businessman who taught him canoeing skills but never understood his career path as a conservationist working for nonprofit organizations, or his later decision to become a writer.
Manuel also recounts the courtship of his wife Cathy, a strong canoeist in her own right. He tells the reader about his son and daughter, and about his determination to maintain a healthy relationship with them and not repeat the separation between him and his father.
Manuel’s ability to weave these many stories into a unified whole reveal his skill as a gifted writer. The canoeist is an enjoyable read.

- Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Banned Books

There is also an exhibit on banned books at the Bicentennial Library. Remember, September is banned books month.

zen saying

If you understand,
things are just as they are.
If you do not understand,
things are just as they are.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Banned Books

Check out the exhibit on banned books at the newly reopened Stone Cup coffeehouse in North Chattanooga. Remember, September is banned books month.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I know several of you have already read or heard this, but here it is again. - Ray

Sign – First Published at

This message brought to you
by the Tennessee Valley Authority,
by business, industry and government,
by progress, prosperity and jobs.

It’s an element.
It’s a metal.
It’s a liquid.
It’s toxic.

It’s a capsule
launched into space
to orbit the earth,
splash down
in the Pacific Ocean.

Alan Shepard
rode the first
Mercury capsule;
splashed down
in the pages
of history books.

Tennessee River waters contain
not the space capsule,
but the element.
It’s a metal.
It’s a liquid.
It’s toxic.

Tennessee River fish contain
not the space capsule,
but the element.
It’s a metal.
It’s a liquid.
It’s toxic.

Pregnant women
should not eat
these fish.

Nursing mothers
should not eat
these fish.

should not eat
these fish.

Adult males
may eat
these fish.

Women past child bearing age
may eat
these fish.

Elderly people
are encouraged to eat
these fish.

Homeless people
are required to eat
these fish.

That is all.
Have a nice day.

This piece was first published at and has since appeared in Presenting the Beatniks, a publication of the Trenton Arts Council, Trenton, Georgia. It also appears in my chap book, Searching for Cranes. Contributing Editor Jeff Biggers reviewed Searching for Cranes in the November/December, 2008 issue of Bloomsbury Review. Copies of Presenting the Beatniks and Searching for Cranes are archived at Poets House, New York, New York.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


After privately celebrating my birthday on Thursday, September 17, I will begin my 58th year with gusto. I have a leadership role in four events this weekend. Contact me at for details.:

Saturday, September 19 at 2:00 PM I will lead a discussion of Ted Kooser's book, Poetry Home Repair Manual at Rock Point Books, 401 Broad St., Chattanooga. TN.

Saturday, September 19 at 6:00 PM I will participate in the New Voices Poetry Reading at Pasha Coffee House, 3914 St. Elmo Ave., Chattanooga, TN.

Sunday, September 20 at 8:30 AM I will serve as Lay Reader for the 8:30 worship service of First Centenary United Methodist Church, 419 McCallie Ave., Chattanooga, TN.

Sunday, September 20 at 1:00 pm I will lead a guided wildflower walk at Reflection Riding, 400 Garden road, Chattanooga, TN.

Congratulations KB

Congratulations to Chattanooga Writers Guild member KB Ballentine. She will read from and sign copies of her new book, Fragments of Light at Carpe Librum Booksellers, 5113A Kingston Pike, Knoxville on Saturday, September 26, 2009, at 2 p.m.
I have read the book and recommend it highly.
According to the Press Release:
Fragments of Light explores how light and shadows affect both nature and people. One reader states, "It reminds me of a Monet painting with all the soft colors in the poems." Steven Cramer, MFA Creative Writing Program Director at Lesley University, notes that KB "invites nature 'indoors,' into her subjective life." Fragments of Light tempts the reader to linger with each poem as language wraps around illusion.

Ballentine teaches theatre arts and creative writing at Rhea County High School. Celtic Cat Publishing published her first collection of poems, Gathering Stones, in 2008. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and publications, including Bent Pin, MO: Writings from the River, Sequoia Review, River Poets Journal, and Naugatuck River Review. In 2006 she was a finalist for the Joy Harjo Poetry Award and in 2006 and 2007 was awarded a prize from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund. Readers can contact KB via her website:

For those of you attending the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, KB will participate in the panel "Stones and Light: The Natural World in Verse." at noon on Saturday, October 10. She will sign copies of her books at 1:30 p.m.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Revising Your Poetry

Discussion of Ted Kooser's Book
Poetry Home Repair Manual
2:00 PM
Saturday, September 19
Rock Point Books
401 Broad St.
Chattanooga, TN 37409
For Info call (423) 315-0721
Led by Ray Zimmerman, former President, Chattanooga Writers Guild

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Voices

For Immediate Release
Contact: Ray Zimmerman, (423) 315-0721

New Voices Poetry Reading
Saturday, September 19
Pasha Coffee Shop
3914 St. Elmo Avenue
Chattanooga, Tennessee
6:00 PM to 8:30 PM
(423) 315-0721

Enjoy readings by local writers and intermission music by Dr. Jim Woodford and friends.

Featured Writers:
Jim Pfitzer Jim has shared his tales about wild places, simple living and adventures from coast to coast at festivals, libraries, schools, parties, coffeehouses and special events. He has been called “a True Tennessee Treasure!” and his two CDs reflect a great love of that “greenest state in the land of the free” and wild places all across our great land.

Ray Zimmerman read his poem “Glen Falls Trail” at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville , in October of 2007. The poem took second place in the Tennessee Writers Alliance poetry contest, and the reading was part of an awards ceremony.

E. Smith Gilbert has published extensively in the United States and Great Brittan. His works appear regularly in Poetica and in TPQ Online.

Jane Starner has been writing poetry for decades. Most of her published work, however, has been essays in literary journals. Since moving to Chattanooga after 36 years of teaching (high school and college), she has been a docent at the Hunter Museum, a carousel animal carver, and a writing specialist for Allied Arts.

Bob Dombrowski is the chairperson of the Trenton Arts Council and has published and distributed approximately 100 artist’s books. In 1993, he was nominated for a pushcart prize. He has been published with “The Unbearables” in the Autonomedia20Publication, “Help Yourself”. He has also been published in the Daumler-Chrysler book “Moving People with Words”. He is also included in the publication “Emerson at Harvard”.

Michael Bodine is informally known as the Poet Laureate of East Ridge. His poetry is noted for intricate and sometimes humorous rhyme schemes.

Ginnie Sams writes poetry as a daily meditation. She is one of the original Trenton Beatnik Poets.

Music by Dr. Jim Woodford and Friends
Dr. Jim Woodford, PhD, Forensic Chemist, will play keyboards.
Dr. Bob Vogt, PhD, Medical Researcher, will play soprano saxophone.

If you see a writer on fire, fan the flames.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Non Poetry Published Works List

Selected Publications and Awards

“Nature’s Bookshelf” was Ray’s regular column in The Hellbender Press Knoxville, Tennessee for nearly two years. Each installment was a profile of an environmental author or nature writer. The column began with the November/December issue, 2005

Ray won Second Place in the 2007 poetry contest of the Tennessee Writers Alliance. He read his poem, “Glen Falls Trail” at the awards ceremony of the Southern Festival of Books at Legislative Plaza, Nashville, Tennessee.

In Legacy: The Journal of Interpretation, National Association for Interpretation, Fort Collins, Colorado
“The End of Nature” (Book Review), Volume 1, Number 3
“Wildlife Rehabilitation and the Chattanooga Nature Center” (Article) Volume 2, Number 2
“The 1991 Science Teacher Enrichment Workshop at Everglades National Park” (Article) Volume 2, Number 6
“Being Kind to Animal Pests” (Book Review) Volume 3, Number 3
“Joe Taft, Veteran NAI Member,” (Biographical Sketch) Volume 3, Number 5
“Dinosaurs Come to Chattanooga” (Article) Volume 5, Number 6

In Photo Traveler, Los Angeles, California
“Alabama: Little River National Preserve” (Article) October/November, 1993
“Okefenokee Swamp” (Article) February/March, 1994
“Tennessee’s Ocoee River” (Article) February/March, 1995

In EnviroLink Magazine, Chattanooga, Tennessee
“Moccasin Bend, Part One: Key to the Past” (Article) December, 1995
“Moccasin Bend, Part 2: Preserving the Resource” (Article) March 1996

In The Hellbender Press, Knoxville, Tennessee
“A Walk on the Levee” (Article) June/July 2003
“The Levee Revisited” (Article) October/November 2003

In Cappers, Topeka, Kansas
“Annual Chincoteague Pony Roundup” (Article), 1989

In Tennessee Conservationist, Nashville, Tennessee
Growing Green at Greenway Farm (Photographs to accompany an article by Louise Zepp, Editor), May/June 1997

In The PSA Journal, Photographic Society of America, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma “Pic of the Month,” (Photograph) April, 1997

The United Methodist Reporter, First Centenarian Edition, Chattanooga, Tennessee
“25 Years of Inner City Ministry” October 30, 1992
“Send an Inner City Child to Camp” April 14, 1995

In The Signal Mountain Post, Published in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia
“Dulcimer Concert at Mountain Arts Community Center was Stunning” (Concert Review) July 21, 2005

In Native Ground, Newsletter of the Chattanooga Nature Center (also under the publication’s former title, Nature Notes):
Numerous short articles on nature, astronomy, and natural history over an eleven year period from 1990 through 2002

In The Art of Living, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Numerous short articles on nature and natural history

In Southern Exposure, (also under the publication’s former name, Franklinia), Region III newsletter of the National Association for Interpretation, Fort Collins, Colorado
Numerous short articles on natural history and the profession of nature interpretation

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Voices

The next New Voices poetry reading at Pasha Coffee House (3914 St. Elmo Avenue) will take place Saturday, September 19, 6:00 to 8:30 PM. It will feature readings by area poets and improv music by Dr. Jim Woodford and friends.

Poetry Is

Poetry is
looking the Devil
in the eye
and telling him
to get on back
to Hell
where he belongs,
or if you are
Charles Bukowski,
inviting him in,
for drinks.

Composed August, 2009

Author’s Statement

Passion is all that matters in writing. As a certain old Jazz singer said, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that zing.” The greatest issue I see with much of the writing I read is that it lacks fire. We write to combat the indignities thrust upon us by nature, our fellow man, and even by God. We write to make sense of a violent, harsh, and indifferent world. We write to make our lives count for something. Beside that, the trite and banal clichés you hear in writing clinics, such as “Show, don’t tell,” are mere pabulum.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Published works

Biographical Sketch

Ray was born in Canton, Ohio in 1952. He has been a naturalist, a science teacher and a park ranger. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee and is a former president of the Chattanooga Writers Guild, Chattanooga, TN

Ray authored “Nature’s Bookshelf” a regular column in The Hellbender Press of Knoxville, Tennessee for nearly two years. The profiles will be posted here along with other previously published work.

Ray's poem “Sign” first appeared in The Pittsburgh Quarterly

Ray's Poems “Sign”, “No Hair”, “Moonscape”, “North Chattanooga”, and “Dog Star – Isis” appeared in Presenting the Beatniks, an anthology of works read at the Second Beatnik Poetry Reading of the Trenton Arts Council (Trenton, Georgia)

Ray's Poem “Glen Falls Trail” won second place in the Tennessee Writers Alliance 2007 poetry contest and was published by the online literary magazine,

Rays's Poem “Cranes” was first published in the Chattanooga Chat, newsletter of the Chattanooga Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society.

Ray's Poem “Reincarnation” was previously published in the Earth First! Journal under the nom de plume “Mockingbird.”


This is my blog. I use this space to post my reviews, profiles, and previously published work. Please drop by often to read and respond.