Apple of Sodom named a “must-read”


Congratulations to BrickHouse Books author Mary Hoffman for the glowing review of her book Apple of Sodom! In the words of Rosemary Barkes, a reviewer with the Pen Woman Magazine, the book is “an educational, eye-opening, heart-wrenching and exciting peek into the lives of those who deviate from the norm” and “a must-read.” Click here to read the full review or here to purchase Apple of Sodom.

Review of Mata Hari

EyeoftheDayMataHari-1080x675Congratulations to our prose editor Charles Rammelkamp for an exciting new review in the Green Hill Literary Lantern! The reviewer praises Rammelkamp’s book Mata Hari: Eye of Day as “a narrative that reifies the centrality of the Mata Hari tale, while also modernizing it to appreciate how timeless a warning it really is of the double standard applied to this “double agent,” which still seems difficult to shake in 2016.” Click here  and scroll down to see the full review or here to order Mata Hari online.

Fairness for all lifers, not just juveniles

Please enjoy a letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun by BrickHouse Books author and prison rights activist Walter Lomax. The letter was published in the Sun on 7/4/2016 and is excerpted below. Click here to read the full article. 

“Maryland traditionally had a parole expectation built into its prison system as a mechanism to control behaviors. People serving parole-eligible life sentences were paroled after serving 20 to 25 years. These programs were discontinued in 1993 following a tragic domestic murder-suicide by a participant, and state corrections officials moved all 134 lifers from pre-release to medium-security prisons. In 1995, then-Gov. Parris Glendening announced that no one serving a life sentence in Maryland would be paroled.

Without incentives for a change in behavior, the system fails. […] By relieving the governor of [the responsibility to grant parole], it would remove the appearance of politicization in decision making. This can be done by striking the sections requiring the governor’s signature. This is why legislators should seriously consider approving those changes. They will restore faith in the system, giving those incarcerated incentive to change and remove politics that unnecessarily waste taxpayers dollars that could be used other places. While we recognize that those who were juveniles are deserving of a second chance, we also recognize that all persons should be treated fairly in the criminal justice system.”

–Walter Lomax, Executive director of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative.

Reflections on Orlando


The Pulse club shooting in Orlando recently served as a stark reminder that, while gay marriage is now legal, the fight for LGBTQA safety  is not yet over. BHB author Kathi Wolfe reminds us in her article “Orlando bursts our bubble of complacency,” published by the Washington Blade, that “love must carry the day” as the modern gay rights movement continues to pursue equality. See her full article here.

Summer Events

Summer is the season for festivals and we have some great events coming up! Please see below for a quick summary or check our Events calendar for a more extensive list.


Painting by Zsudayka Nzinga. For more, see her online gallery at

July 8 (6-9pm) – Zed’s Cafe July Open Mic – Featuring two husband and wife duos, poets Teri Cross Davis and Hayes Davis and artists Zsudayka Nzinga and James Terrell. Enjoy readings by the poets and live painting by the artists in this cozy Silver Spring cafe. Don’t forget to bring your own work to share after the reading! For more information, see the event’s Facebook page or the Zed’s Cafe website.

July 23 (1:30-3:30 pm) – A Poetry Extravaganza – Poems will be read by a diverse spectrum of poets at George Washington University’s Estelle & Melvin Gelman Library. There will also be a music demonstration “On Synchronization Of Poetry Imagery”by Wing-chi Chan. The event will be followed by a reception. For more information, see our Events Calendar.

August 4 (7-9pm) – Cracks in the Road – An open mic for people of color & allies responding to recent acts by law enforcement. Read your own work or the work of others, sing, or support by listening. Sign up begins at 6:30 pm. Co-hosted by Regie Cabico, Doritt Carroll, and Teri Cross Davis.

August 5 (6-9pm) – Zed’s August Open Mic – This month’s open mic will feature Kathi Wolfe as the opening reader and former featured reader Cort (CL) Bledsoe as an MC. Bring some of your own work to read after the features or just stop by and listen.

And For The Mouth A Flower, A Review

AndForTheMouthAFlower Cover

And For the Mouth A Flower, by  J. Tarwood, was recently reviewed by Sonja James in The Journal. Her full writing is shown below and can also be found in its original formatting here.

A review by Sonja James

J. Tarwood’s “And For the Mouth a Flower” is the latest poetry collection by one of the nation’s most intriguing poets. In this slim volume, Tarwood writes of family, childhood, the natural world, and his travels throughout East Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. These are poems that grace us with the elegant interplay between the mundane and the exotic. The poet reaches deep within himself while simultaneously searching the globe for his material. These poems are a grand and explicit dialogue between self and world.
The opening poem, “Come,” is an open invitation to a deceased sibling: “Visit me.” The poet speaks with poignant clarity as he summons his dead brother:

You can talk if you like…
You can be quiet too,
remembering that dead end
on the Illinois shore
where Mom and Dad made you a home…
Dying young, you settled
for being me. But I’m not
forever either. We can
haunt the world together.

In “Home for the Holidays,” Tarwood criticizes his father while inventing himself: “Dad had no backbone to spare./I took mine from a squirrel.” The poem concludes with an aphoristic aside: “The wise heart is sad and slow.”
“A Drinking Man” is yet another family poem. This poem celebrates the poet’s father, who liked to drink hard spirits: “Bundled good, he drank/gifts to shut up his own,/each cold shot a threshold/to yet another.”
In “Learning to Read,” Tarwood evokes a childhood memory of the Dick and Jane primers once used in elementary schools. He thus records the magic moment of understanding when the book came alive for him: “What hocus pocus, then/triggered book to talk/till I at last/had to talk back?”
In the subsequent poem, “Balloons,” the poet pays homage to those common childhood toys. He first categorizes them, describing both carnival balloons and parade balloons. He then describes how he once tried to save a balloon: “I stashed one once/in my top drawer./I thought it was my soul./It kept shriveling up//though air was everywhere.”
Not just a poet of family and childhood, Tarwood is also an exceptional nature poet. “Kingfisher” is a nature poem of profound beauty. Here the poet describes a kingfisher: “Sunshine floats in the flow,/melting gold, when a sudden/glint of jewelry IDs the bird,/green willow, blue water, melting gold.”
In the later poems, “Bogota” and “Havana,” Tarwood celebrates these two cities he has visited. Another travel poem, “Education in Yemen,” chronicles an experience he had as a teacher in Yemen when a wild hawk flew against the window: “A hawk swoops into my classroom window.” He and the children watch the bird peck at the glass until it finally tires and flies away “soar[ing] off on a sudden thermal,/shriveling into nothing/as we head back to words.”
Perhaps the loveliest poem in the volume is the love poem, “Blue of You.” With passion, Tarwood writes: “To think of you/is like/a horizon of violins/or a jasmine discovering stoicism:/ blue lingers/a soul/a silence.”
As a whole, J. Tarwood’s “And For the Mouth a Flower” is a stunning collection of poems chronicling events triggered by memories of Tarwood’s unusual life experiences. These are passionate poems that overwhelm with their dignity and respect for life. As a fierce master of human perception, Tarwood has created a poetics of vibrant insight into the human condition.
Sonja James is the author of The White Spider in My Hand (New Academia Publishing: Scarith Books, 2015) and Calling Old Ghosts to Supper (Finishing Line Press, 2013).
Poets are invited to send recent books for review consideration. Contact Sonja James at