Chapbook Open Call 2019 Selections

Swimming with Elephants Publications, LLC has concluded our Open Call for Chapbook Submissions. We had literally over three times as many submissions as last year and many, many quality works to choose from. This was no easy task.

We are excited to be welcoming four new poets to our Parade.

Many thanks guest judges Maxine Peseke and Gina Marselle who did a wonderful job selecting the manuscripts. Not only did they read, discuss, and select the manuscripts, but they did an AMAZING job writing the reply letters. Like many writers, I receive lots of regret letters and many are generic and curt. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem like the publisher read the submission. But these two ladies did an amazing job reaching out and giving personalized feedback to every submitter.  I am grateful to have them on the team and representing Swimming with Elephants Publications.

We would like to thank everyone who submitted and all of our amazing supporters who have kept us afloat over these past five years. We are grateful and very appreciative.

Keep your eyes on the site and the Facebook page for updates on the progress of our new publications.


And now…

…without further ado, the selected manuscripts are…..

….in no particular order….

drum roll

…actually they are in alphabetical order….

drum roll

Belly-up Rosehip: a Tongue Blue with Mud Songs

by Tyler Dettloff

I’ve Been Cancelling Appointments with My Psychiatrist for Two Years Now

by Sean Dever

Shorn: apologies & vows

by Benjamin Bormann


by Abigayle Goldstein


Weekly Write: ” Somnambulist” by Charles Duffie


The pills knock you out, so you’re asleep when I make the rounds. That’s good. Easier. You hate that I still do this. I got into the habit when you were pregnant. It was prayer back then, pausing in each room, murmuring, “Thank you” and meaning it. Every night. Sixteen years.

So, I make the rounds, even now. Stand in the kitchen, where he picked up your love of cooking. The living room, where every Wednesday was Family Game Night, even when he got busy in high school. Our bedroom, where you fell asleep so easily, curled in contentment. The little sunroom where I pretended I was a novelist and he pretended he was a songwriter. His bedroom, where he evolved like the history of man, from neanderthal toddler to cro-magnon tween to a sometimes surly, often fine homo sapiens.

So every night I make the rounds, pause at each station, but without “Thank you” now, those clasped words slammed apart as easily as the Honda slammed through the guard rail, our boy asleep at the wheel. He just fell asleep. That’s all. Why is that the one detail I can’t accept?

The first few weeks, it hurt you, that I kept making the rounds. Your husband became a somnambulist and all you could do was sleep. I envy your hibernation. You’ll survive this long winter and wake in some unseeable spring. Meanwhile I go through the motions. I feel unmoored even from my grief. I kneel in the surf of the shag carpet; I’ve been in a shipwreck, a castaway washed ashore in my own home.

That annoying grandfather clock he loved chimes downstairs. As if summoned, I shuffle into the kitchen. This routine I do for you, while you sleep. I make the rounds for me, I make dinner for you. This was your sacred space with him. God, he was a chubby kid. That’s why you learned to cook. No more fast food, you said. All the diets the two of you started and quit.

I flip The No Meat Athlete Cookbook to the next recipe. I hated all his plant-based lectures. But I have to admit, he lost weight, got trim and fast. Watching him glide downcourt, stretch his body, pluck the ball from the air and finger-float it through the rim — he was more beautiful than anything in nature. A gazelle leaping is a graceful machine, but a boy doing that? That’s conscious grace. That has to be proof of something.

Tonight I’m making Loaded Spaghetti Squash, Garlicky Rosemary Potato Soup, Kale Salad with You-Won’t-Believe-It’s-Cashews Ranch Dressing, and No-Bake Mocha Cheesecake. The silvery sounds of new pans, ceramic plates, glass bowls, steel measuring cups — his birthday present from you, a complete set. Crisp cuts through squash, potatoes, kale stems; easy motions, pouring, whisking, scooping; distinct smells, garlic, rosemary, basil, bay leaves; stirring slow like cranking a gurney or prayer wheel. I lose myself in these mundane things until the flavors sweeten the air and pull me back.

It’s a feast. Center all the bowls on the white table, each filled with color: bright orange pasta, golden soup, blue-green salad, small black cheesecake with blanched almonds serrating the edges. Sometimes I notice there’s no silverware, sometimes I don’t.

It’s almost 3 AM. We haven’t sat together, husband and wife, at this table since the crash. But I end up here every night. Maybe I’m waiting for the day I’ll feel hungry again. I don’t know. It’s only been six weeks. Give it time, people say. I’ve lost thirty pounds. How do fathers do it? This is an old story, losing a son. How have all the fathers before me carried on? Why can’t I wake up?

My foot bumps something. His basketball rolls out from under the table, across the hardwood, taps against the front door. Yesterday when you went shopping, I played in the driveway, then hid the ball when you came home. I forgot to move it back to his room. You don’t like me doing anything we used to do with him. His death grated across us, leaving all these holes in our life. Everything is falling through.

It’s cold outside. Look at that moon. Almost full, almost there. I shoot a few hoops, the ball bouncing, hitting the rim, so loud in the silence I stop, waiting for someone to shout out their window. But if anyone’s awake, they keep it to themselves.

I should go back in, but the park is just down the block. I can’t see it, so I walk to the street lamp on the corner. From here, the jungle gym looks like a pile of empty cages; the trees are as still as a diorama. And all that night behind it. Somewhere out there is the basketball court where we played until, one day, he magically was better than me.

“What?” I say to the half park.

It’s so quiet, I hear water in the sewer flowing under my feet. Somewhere behind me, the freeway sounds like a river too. I feel like I’m being swept away.

“What?” I call. “What?!”

I throw the ball like I’m trying to hit something. It loops high into the dark, gone. A moment later I hear it bounce on the court, again, again, then gone.

It takes a long time, until the sky softens, but I turn around. There’s nothing to do but follow the curve of the earth back home, choke the food down the disposal, and clean the kitchen before you wake up.


Charles Duffie is a writer and designer from California. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books and Role Reboot, and will be featured in the 2019 American Story Anthology published by New Rivers Press.



“Like”, “Share”, and comment on this poem to nominate it for the Annual Swimming with Elephants Publications 2019 Anthology.

Click here check out Parade: Swimming with Elephants Publications Anthology 2018 available for only $7.95.

A list of our 2018 Publications (and links to buy)

We had a busy year!

Swimming with Elephants Publications produced several books during 2018. Review this years publications and get your hands on them before we embark on our publications for 2019.

All our books are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BookWorks Albuquerque, and can be ordered by Independent Bookstores around the world.

Parade: A Swimming with Elephants Publications Anthology 2018

Get your hands on Swimming with Elephants Publications 2018 Anthology, Parade, featuring the poetry of Kevin BargerSaraEve FerminWil GibsonJessica Helen LopezMatthew BrownMaxine Peseke and so many more!

Only $7.95 and free shipping with Amazon Prime. Make great gifts and are a fine sampling of the poets Swimming with Elephants represents.


La Diáspora de un Aztlán norteño:: MiChicanidad Creativity as Witnessed in Bilingual Ethno-Poetry and Photography 

“La Diáspora de un Aztlán norteño” details the unique ‘MiChicanidad’ experience of life on the border in Michigan. This is another definition of Aztlán, as seen on a Northern Border, this time between Canada and Southwest Detroit’s predominantly Mexican American neighborhood. Growth of this Spanish speaking barrio began in the earlier part of the 20th Century due to the rise of migrant labor and employment at factories. Later, the area prospered as those immigrants began to choose to stay. Their addition to the interpretation of life on the border, as well as the community’s vibrant nature, is unparalleled especially as it is defined through creativity.


Rock Paper Scissors

“…this collection carries both the beauty of human resilience and the searing pain of postatomic burning carnage. The poetry, like hope, is an obstinate and sturdy survivor, for ‘what could i do but write songs.’ These verses often push the envelope, asking questions that make more sense than our grammar. ‘are you out there in the stealth night on the edge of blue? listening/ are you loving me for sending you this fix of heartbreak/ slid down metal, taut and wound. electric. are you?’…haunting, resonant odes and the rhythmic power of promises and truth, poems spread across Hiroshima and Barcelona, Laos and Albuquerque. These poems bring the world into a familial embrace, but spit out the naked power of truth, both personal and political, as if it were a well-chewed chicken bone, gnawed raw. Through it all, this mother-daughter poetic duo reminds us that, in the beauty of human hope, ‘nothing sacred can be lost.’”

-Carmen Tafolla, State Poet Laureate of Texas


I Bloomed a Resistance From My Mouth

“Mercedez Holtry’s poetry speaks to the origin stories of her Chican@ and Mestiz@ people. It is a mixed bag of mixed blood and the celebratory songs of family, culture and the history of the la tierra that she has blossomed from. Her poems are resistance and resilience. She is a fierce page poet warrior who also casts her spells from the stage, as a true bruja does. Oppressors beware. Holtry mixes up curses, prayers and incantations with her poetic brew. This is a poet who uses her mas palabras for healing and retribution. Her collection de poesia es muy firme, a true reckoning of what is to come from a generation of woke poets who have much to say and aren’t afraid to say it. ”

-Jessica Helen Lopez, ABQ Poet Laureate, Emeritus and Author of the award winning book


Pina Bausch

Originally written in french by Werner Lambersy, this short book serves as an homage to Pina Bausch, an extraordinary modern dancer. This English translation, by Jack Hirschman, serves as a continued remembrance to not only an amazing modern dancer but the poet whom she inspired.




bliss in die/unbinging the underglow

“Bassam writes poems that feel like slow motion car crashes where, at every turn, you’re also reassured that it’s ok to feel like this, like even if nothing is going to be ok, there is strength to hold like a parking brake, like the axis of a planet. Bassam’s words are a gut punch, a pull to beating heart chest, a hand that holds yours in the bleak. One senses that the act of poetry for Bassam is truly one of survival. What a strength it takes to show our deepest insecurities, to not ask for forgiveness. To not be the hero of your own story. Bassam is a bright non binary voice. One that asks not for acceptance, but simply is, and tells the stories of body and mind that is so intimate and accessible to those of us who endlessly battle with our shapes, our selves. What a gift to give.”

—Charlie Petch, Spoken Word Artist, Playwright, Musician


BEKIMI I NËNËS / A Mother’s Blessing 

Within these pages, entitled “Bekimi I Nënës, A Mother’s Blessing,” Jack Hirschman and Idlir Azizaj present a translation of Jusef Gërvalla’s poetry. This is the first time this collection, originally published by the Naim Frashëri Publishing House, in Tirana, Albania in 1983, is translated in the English Language. In 1983, a year after the original publication in his native Kosovo Albanian, Jusuf Gërvalla, his brother Bardhosh, and comrade Kadri Zeka were allegedly murdered by the Serbian secret service in their exile in Germany. Gërvalla was known as a journalist and a musician as well as a poet, novelist, and founder of the Marxist-Leninist group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo. For the first time, Jusuf Gërvalla’s poetry, including selections from his three books: They Fly and Fall, Green Stork, and Sacred Marks, can be shared by the english speaking population.

Unease at Rest

“Unease at Rest” is an ‘ugly butterfly’, anatomized. It is the death’s-head moth pinning itself under glass. Every poem is another marking on the insect’s back, resembling a human skull. Each one steadfastly reminds its author that it isn’t, in fact, a skull. But each feels about that heavy. In this grossly gorgeous collection, Gibson doesn’t wrestle or toss away the bones on his back. He quietly, humbly carries them. Wil doesn’t fly straight into the lantern’s yawning flame. He stares it down, he names it, and he reaches for it. He does so for us, sparing us the discomfort. And he does it with a steady and trained hand: imperfect palms stretched perfectly. The textual body of his poems, too, flex and fold this way. Every page a ‘soft, awkward, and most authentic’ wing. Wil reaches for the fire with such an ugly human grace, that it explains the ugly human light that swallows us too, by which we are lit from inside, to which we all are bound.”

– Bill Moran – author of “Oh God Get Out Get Out”


Nail Gun and a Love Letter

This collection of poems alternately pierces the reader with astute and heartbreaking observations (Good Drums is a particularly devastating musing on white, male American-ness) while at the same time using evocative language to spar with and challenge the ideas of belonging and connection and love. These poems invite the reader to contemplate what it means to come from somewhere, and how it feels to long for a place that isn’t home, but could be. They invite us to see the mundane as essential, and to see and celebrate the things that connect us to our identity. The title of this collection is apt; like a nail gun, these poems violently pierce, but do so in service to building something sturdy and sheltering, and every one is a love letter to the dance that makes us who we are.

– Sherry Frost, Educator


from below/denied the light

Out of Denver, Colorado, Paulie comes “from below” and rises to join our parade of writers. A two time National Poetry Slam finalist, Paulie Lipman is a loud Jewish Queer poet, performer, and writer. His work has appeared in the anthology ‘We Will Be Shelter’ (Write Bloody Publishing) as well as The Emerson Review, Drunk In A Midnight Choir, Voicemail Poems, pressure gauge, and Prisma (Zeitblatt Fur Text & Sprache).



The Promethean Clock or Love Poems of a Wooden Boy 

“These poems are a way of telling you what I saw, at least the remnants of those things. My poems have codes in them. They have forms that have long since lost favor. They have rhyme schemes and syllabic structures of old and new places. They have formlessness that abides by current trends, but embraces none of them wholesale. They are, as Milton once wrote, poems that attempt to champion the unnamable and the indeterminable. Mine are the equations of empty sets and irrational numbers as much as they are of ritual and nostalgia. I have decided not to appease all critique. I am at rest, because the people I trust most have said that there is something in them, something of where I am from, what became of my home, and what is becoming in the world. And for the first time in a long time I’m not ashamed of my part in this story. With all that I am, let these poems be a part of my apology to the world and to my beloveds, an apology for each moment as it passes to the next…”

~from the preface


Student Anthologies


Tiempo/Oolkil – Now is the Time: Voces Summer Writing Institute Anthology 2018


Eye of the Eagle 2018: Native American Community Academy

Are you ready for the Weekly Write?

Starting next Sunday, January 6 2019, follow this site for a new featured work of writing every week.

The Weekly Write will post a variety of poetry and prose. Each week, read our new addition and if you like it and share it, it may be featured in the 2019 Swimming with Elephants Print Anthology.

The twenty pieces with the most “likes” and “shares” get a spot in our 2019 anthology, so don’t be shy about promoting the work you like, especially if it is your own work.

If you would like to learn more about our yearly anthology, click here to check out Parade: Swimming with Elephants Publications Anthology 2018 for the current low price of $7.95 plus free shipping through Amazon Prime. This collection features a variety of poetry from around the world and would make a great addition to any poetry lovers collection.

Tune in next Sunday and every following Sunday until October 2019, for the Weekly Write.