20th-Anniversary Issue

Edited by Richard Levine and Barry Wallenstein

ISSN 1542-3123
Nicholas Johnson

‘The lost ones go over the same old ground. So many pathways, back and forth, make clear the way they came and went.’– from “In the Woods”
Nicholas Johnson 1944 – 2019

Dear Friends,
Poet Nicholas Johnson passed away in August 2019. We at Bright Hill Press were honored to publish his book, Degrees of Freedom, and we were honored and happy that he read at Word Thursdays several times and during the Speaking the Words Festival. Nick was the consummate poet and friend to poets. His poems were published in many literature journals, and he, with his partner Maureen Holm, edited and published the online journal, nycbigcitylit.com. That publication was ahead of its time in the depth and breadth of its content, and both NYC poets and those of us from elsewhere were lucky to be included. Some comments about his work: “With metaphoric dexterity and an uncanny ability to invigorate common expressions so that they become pure poetry, Nick Johnson writes his poems with skill and candor. The opening of each poem in Degrees of Freedom parts the sky with perceptual lightning, and by the time we finish, a devastating clap of truth’s thunder rolls in, taking the poem and us by storm”– Molly Peacock. “Nicholas Johnson is a poet of incandescent wit, the kind of mordant intelligence whose first target is its own assumptions, and a strange haunted tenderness. I love his work for its dark, sotto voce originality. This is a collection that the writing community has been waiting for”-Dennis Nurkse. Nicholas Johnson’s poetry has been published in Poetry London, Poetry Wales, American Poetry Review, Shenandoah, American Letter’s Commentary, The Journal, Pivot, and the 1997 Anthology of Magazine Verse, Yearbook of American Poetry. It was my privilege to know Nick and his work. He will be missed. Write on, in your new air, Poet/Friend Nicholas!
Bertha Rogers

Call for Uncollected Poems of Nicholas Johnson

Several readers at Nicholas Johnson’s memorial service read from literary journals that published his poems. There were many. Others talked of hearing his poems in workshops or at readings. Those who knew and heard Nick over the years know he had written far more poems than were included in Degrees of Freedom (Bright Hill Press, 2006). In an effort to collect some of his work, BigCityLit puts out this call: If you have any Nicholas Johnson poems, whether from journals or workshops, please send a copy to BigCityLit.com. Include a note about where you found it. In the subject line please write Uncollected Nick Johnson. Thank you.

in Memoriam:
Rosalie Calabriese    Steve Dalachinsky    Robert Klein Engler    Allen C. Fischer    Colette Inez    Nicholas Johnson    Donald Lev    Frank Simone

In This Issue:


Jan Barry    Jon Benner    Laurel Blossom    Christopher Hirschmann Brandt    Patricia Brody    Robert Burr    Patricia Carragon    Albert Dépas    W. D. Ehrhart    Barbara Elovic    Rhina P. Espaillat    Allen C. Fischer    David Francis    Vernon Frazer    Philip Fried    Carol Graser    Walter Hess    Amy Holman    Kate Irving    Marc Jampole    J. Chester Johnson    David M. Katz    Maeve Kinkead    Samantha Kitsch    Steve Koenig    Alison Koffler    Dean Kostos    Robert Kramer    Annie LaBarge    Gerry LaFemina    Pamela L. Laskin    Iris Lee    Beth Levin    Richard Levine    Helane Levine-Keating    ellen ‘windy’ aug lytle    Djelloul Marbrook    Quitman Marshall    Stephen Massimilla    Richard Newman    D. Nurkse    Alicia Ostricker    Jaclyn Piudik    Ron Price    Gretchen Primack    Stephanie Rauschenbush    Bertha Rogers    Carl Rosenstock    Adam Roufberg    Daniel Shapiro    Neil Shepard    Matthew J. Spireng    Mason Trent    David Tucker    Helen Tzagoloff    Gerald Wagoner    Barry Wallenstein    Chocolate Waters    Joe Weil    Judith Werner    Kathleen Widdoes    Jeffrey Cyphers Wright    Michael T. Young    Kip Zegers

A Call to Armistice – Poems and Commentary:

Richard Levine, Preface
Jan Barry, Commentary
W. D. Ehrhart, Poem and Commentary
Richard Levine, Two Poems
Marc Levy, Slice of life – quiet time in war
Fred Marchant, Three Poems and Commentary
Suzanne Rancourt, Two Poems and Commentary
Karen Skolfield, Poem
Julia Whitehead, Commentary
Dan Wilcox, Poem
Veterans for Peace, Commentary

Short Fiction & Memoir:

Bad Judge Men by Elisabeth Amaral
Grief and the Little Sparrows by Christopher Hirschmann Brant
A Good Man by Suzanne Kay
The Library by Donal McLaughlin
Jarred’s Millennium by Paul Oppenheimer
Bad Job by Thaddeus Rutkowski
Red Shoes by Kathleen Widdoes


Renga Chunk 2 by Milton Dawg, Michael Morical, and Philip Miller


Theatre a Literary Art? by Christopher Hirschmann Brandt
The Power of Tides, The Impulses of Mankind: A Marxist and Cultural Materialist View of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness by Mark Doherty
The Fool as Teacher-Poetry and Karl G. Kasberg by Robert Klein Engler
1.Trump acts talks like a stand-up comic2. but the joke is on American people by Marc Jampole
Examples of Unclear Writing reported by Kallistos
The Arrivals, NYC, 1951 by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
David’s Tree: Escaping Skin by Quitman Marshall
Lady Vanessa by Andrew Sarewitz
Cover Story by Margo Taft Stever


Degrees of Freedom by Nicholas Johnson reviewed by Stephen Massimilla
Cooking with the Muse: A Sumptuous Gathering of Seasonal Recipes, Culinary Poetry, and Literary Fare by Stephen Massimilla and Myra Kornfeld, reviewed by Hannah Howard
Love in the Last Days: After Tristan and Iseult, by D. Nurkse reviewed by Carl Rosenstock
Now and Then: Selected Longer Poems, by J. Chester Johnson reviewed by Melinda Thomsen


Richard Levine, Selected Poems
Bertha Rogers, Wild Again


Barry Wallenstein-Lisbon Sunset
Eric Wood-Cat’s Out of The Bag, Hairpin Curve
Talkin’ Frackin’ Blues

Call for submissions for forthcoming Issue: Spring 2020

We will begin accepting submissions January 2nd in any genre (poetry, fiction, articles, essays, reviews, etc.) for our new issue, due online in Spring 2020. Please send to Editors: Alyssa Yankwitt and Christopher Cappelluti at BigCityLitSubmissions@gmail.com. In the subject line of your email, please indicate the genre of your submission (poetry, fiction, essay, etc).

BigCityLit Donations Request

Many thanks to all contributors who have made this issue possible. BigCityLit needs donations to continue publication. Please make out checks to Barry Wallenstein and write in the memo box “for BigCityLit only” and mail to Barry Wallenstein 340 Riverside Dr. NY. NY. 10025. Thank you for considering this appeal – any donation would be greatly appreciated. Though we are non-profit, we are not registered as such. Note: All donations are for webmaster fees.