Red Wolf Editions Spring 2020: True Love

true love issue 16

Red Wolf Editions Spring 2020
Theme: True Love

An honorable human relationship…that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love”—is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

—Adrienne Rich

On the subject of true love what are your thoughts? I guess you do not doubt that there’s such a thing in the Platonic realm. But in the world of sinners the quest is truly tricky. Of that forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, is there a sense of that present in true love, that true love is a test of character, involving a transgression of sorts? For without the breach there’s no struggle, no tried and tested. If true love is divinely ordained, there must be a struggle to find it. We’re searching for a divine union so as to enable a coming into knowledge (or rather knowing)? For in impediment do we grow. Not just love thoughtlessly, like mating rabbits. How else do we discover ourselves? How do we discover another except in how we love? Or how we are loved in return. Or not. Are we using the other person, wanting them for reasons other than love? Are we being loved or used? Love is blind they say, but that blindness does contain sight. True love is about seeing. We need to see and discern another person’s heart. Is it true? Or false? Only time will tell. So only time is a test of love.

Part of why true love is difficult is that we are so imperfect it is difficult to love truly. There seems no such thing as immaculate love—love is an expression in action, often involving sexual desire. In its passionate form it is a deep union. However it can and often is fraught with complications. Why? Because human nature is selfish. Inconstancy, fickleness, disagreement, illusion, self-sabotage, illness, third parties, all sorts of selfishness. Any of that can surface in your poems. All of which you are probably privy to being properly adult.

It is true isn’t it—we are not making this up. The institution of marriage enshrines the Platonic concept of true love. But being sanctified by church or temple does not mean that a marriage is sure to last. It is a union but is it lasting? The actual experience of a marriage is a test…of true love. It all goes back to a testing of this fundamental goal.
So what is true love? Is it something that has to be tried and tested? Does it need to have physical expression for it to have meaning? Sometimes it seems that the physicality of love dominates so its absence makes love intangible, unreal. On the other end of the spectrum, physical love is only one aspect of love and without all the other spiritual and practical aspects, true love fails. Love that is real providence—financially and everything–or captivated by mesmerising beauty, is that true love? Take away the providence, take away beauty, does love remain? As the fallen, we ask ourselves, is it real or is it fake? Is it an illusion of mirrors? Love is about seeing I said. Seeing the other person’s emotional core, all analysis and logic being pretty meaningless. What makes you fall in love with another person is beyond words. I guess poetry is as close to falling in love.

True love sounds testy, and it really is. What kind of a quest it is is a subject of interest in this issue. I believe that we’re all looking for a version of true love. In a way that it is the most important quest, it is the soul that is searching. Maybe we hope to find God (redemption) there, in so doing we become who we’re meant to become—our best selves. I want to hear your version of it. Does the quest interest you? We want poems about love in all its tender, or violent moments. Love poems in all its complexity. Real (even if imagined), touching poems.

Look at these lines from Li-Young Lee’s “Adore”:

This strewing and gathering
of Love’s face, of Love’s gaze, and only this,
begun in death’s audience, is the founding
action, call it the fundamental
paradise…did I say paradise?
I meant paradox…the fundamental paradox
of the breaths we breathe,
the thoughts we witness,
the kisses we exchange,
and every poem you write.

The idea of love beginning in “death’s audience”—how can love come through except through an awareness of the other’s mortality? I love you more because you and everything you represent will die and then the world will become a shadow of what we once had. Death is both literal and figurative. Lee once said, “My dream is love.” I suppose that will be our dream in this issue.

We don’t have to be limited to couple notions of love. The parental edition of true love seems the purest form of unconditional love. Brotherly or sisterly love, friendship based on love—are these acceptable notions of true love? The way a sister cares for an ill brother seems to me a remarkable statement of love. How does love, what love does to survive adversity or loneliness? How does love celebrate the beloved, what does it see? How love is a fixation, an anchor? How love exist even when the beloved is absent? And the fact of unrequited love. Can a lonely heart be in a good space? What about love even if your protagonist does not actually have a person to love or the person is gone? What is the calm after the storm? Love that is true and isn’t true.

Shall we just come right out and say it—true love is hard because it’s supposed to be unconditional. It’s agape. It is not eros is it? There’s such a gap there. Write about eros anyway. The world as a love poem—what does it mean? We want love stories. Remember John Lennon’s all you need is love. And Freddy Mercury’s I need somebody to love. How you choose to interpret love, to breathe love, that really matters. As Lady Gaga sings, we’re far from the shallow now…that resonates somehow. If you had not fallen in love, and loved deeply, and lost, would you call that as having lived? Love as abundance. Love as suffering. Love as discernment. True love is wisdom.

Above all to risk one’s heart–because it is a risky undertaking, your poems should try and reflect some of that complexity and not be a tad easy, too empty, too airy…if you know what I mean. You do want to leave the reader with something significant.

Here’s Mary Oliver’s “A Pretty Song” for inspiration.

From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.
Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?

This isn’t a play ground, this is
earth, our heaven, for a while.
Therefore I have given precedence
to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods

that hold you in the center of my world.
And I say to my body: grow thinner still.
And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song.
And I say to my heart: rave on.

—Mary Oliver, Thirst

Read our submission guidelines here. Please check back on our site to see if your poem has been selected. We will not be sending out any rejection letters.

Submissions period: August to February 2019. Selected poems will be posted on this site and compiled into a PDF release in Spring 2020.

Good writing.

Irene Toh
Spring 2020

PDF Release of Borrowed Poetry, Fall 2019 Issue 15

Borrowed Poetry Fall 2019 Issue 15

We are pleased to announce the release of the Fall 2019 Issue.

The poets with work in the Borrowed Poetry edition are:

Jonathan Beale
Gabriella Brand
Misky Braendeholm
Kersten Christianson
William Conelly
Tim Dunne
Lisa Fleck Dondiego
Jo Angela Edwins
Linda Goin
Sue Mayfield Geiger
Christopher Hileman
Diane Jackman
Ron. Lavalette
Barbara A Meier
Lisbeth L. McCarty
Annie Morris
Kevin Oberlin
Stephanie Pressman
Debi Swim
Alan Walowitz
Martin Willitts Jr,

You may download a copy of the PDF release here.

Borrowed Poetry Fall 2019 Issue 15

You’re invited to submit to our new issue, titled True Love. Read submission guidelines here. You may also find us over at the other site at Red Wolf Editions. Happy writing!

Irene Toh
Fall 2019

Conflicted Excitement, by LindaAnn LoSchiavo



Download the collection here:

Conflicted Excitement by LindaAnn Loschiavo

LindaAnn LoSchiavo’s debut collection is an Italian memoir about coming to America. It traces the first footsteps to a country that would become home. The sense of belonging proved to be elusive for her immigrant grandparents.

“Fit in!” advised her husband. Neither did,
Unnoticed by America’s embrace.
–Merletto [Lace]

Setting up roots would be reflected in the efforts of her grandfather, affectionately called “il nonno mio”, growing fig trees in Brooklyn. In fact the poems about her grandparents endearingly anchor this collection.

Her poems—peopled by her grandparents, parents, her sister, her relatives, her friends–engage us in an effusive warp of story-telling. Sometimes one gets the feeling of being wrapped in a cocoon of Italian babble but thankfully there’re translations to get us through them. For of course one brings one’s own language along with oneself, and LindaAnn’s poems reflect that. We also learn where she got her gift of narrative from…her father! (See “The Wizard of Words”).

Along with her native language, religion is weaved through her personal rite of passage, enabling her to cope with death and the question of eternity.

Where Jesus, spotless, guiltless, is then beaten
For others’ sins returns me to my oyster
Shell, hard home where I dwell with grains of sand,
Intruders I coat with a glaze to make their
Existence not so scratchy, making it
All easier to slip around till I’m good
And ready for that opening up.
–A Little Choir Girl at Passiontide

For us then, the poems are secret musings of oneself, but it is when she makes leaps towards the sublime that “Like death’s jewels, feathers fell from pelicans.” (“Aboard S.S. Guiseppe Verdi”).

Release of Fall/Winter 2017/2018 Issue 12: Memento Mori

fall winter 2017 2018 cover


We are pleased to announce the release of the Fall/Winter 2017/2018 Issue.

The poets with work in this edition are:

John Aylesworth
Gershon Ben-Avraham
Wendy Bourke
Marilyn Braendeholm
Tony Daly
Holly Day
Milton P. Ehrlich
Joseph M. Felser
Jared M. Gadsby
Howie Good
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois
Miriam Green
Christopher Hileman
Diane Jackman
Laurinda Lind
Arthur Lamar Mitchell
Felicia Mitchell
Keith Moul
Sergio A. Ortiz
Jared Pearce
Roslyn Ross
Margarita Serafimova
Debi Swim
Alan Toltzis
Candelin Wahl
Martin Willitts Jr
Alan Walowitz
Barbara Young
Janet Youngdahl

You may download a copy of the PDF release here.

Red Wolf Journal fall winter 2017 2018 Issue 12


We welcome your submission of new poems to our Spring/Summer 2018 issue, on the theme of “Coming Home”.

With pleasure,
Irene Toh & Tawnya Smith
Fall/Winter 2017/2018 Editors

Coming Home (Spring/Summer 2018 Issue 13)

spring summer 2018 cover

Late last year I attended a sharing session by Li-Young Lee. I’d already been enraptured by his poetry of course, his meditations on love in particular. But until I read his memoir, I didn’t really know about his family’s harrowing journey as refugees before they sought asylum in the United States and settled into a new home. He had said that we’re all a version of Odysseus trying to get home.

Why is that? Home—is that a place of origin that determines who we are? Home is tied up with the stories that get told. It’s history and geography and a lot of storying of self. What if you’re an emigrant? Well then yours would be an emigrant’s story. America is a melting pot of people of different origins isn’t it? But even if place plays a key role, the journey is a journey with self. It is ultimately a spiritual journey, a journey of becoming.

Remember the epic story of Don Quixote, who imagines himself as a knight in a chivalric setting? It’s really a journey of the imagination. Sure Don Quixote is delusional, living in a kind of personal utopia—a fantasy no doubt. But if the exploits of the anti-hero in Cervantes’s picaresque novel is infused with so much humor, warmth, humanity and imagination, can it be meant as a total indictment of the world of fantasy? Sure we have to come down to earth but if there are only Sanchos, wouldn’t life be dull as ditchwater? Imagination is self. Perchance there’s more than one self. If the self is imagined, then the song is the thing. I think the best poets know this. Well, isn’t the song of the poet just the way poetry operates to lie against time, to hold a staying hand against time and nature?

One of my favorite stories is the film, Cinema Paradiso. It tells a touching story of the relationship between a famous Italian film director and his town’s projectionist, Alfredo, who had taught the young Salvatore how to operate the cinema projector. But Salvatore was advised by Alfredo to leave his village to pursue his dream to become a film-maker. Thirty years later, Salvatore returns to his village to attend Alfredo’s funeral and as he plays the film reel that Alfredo had left for him comprising all the censored kissing scenes of films he once projected, Salvatore experiences a sense of fruition as well as deep loss. His coming home is a coming home to self–the beginning of self meeting the journeying self if you will.

So there it is—the theme of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue is “Coming Home”. If journeying is exploration, adventure, and becoming, then no journey is complete without coming home. Inasmuch as it will be a physical journey, it is really a poetic one. Its reality is spiritual, so I’m calling that poetic because it’s how we get to a sense of the sublime. It is remembrance. It measures the spiritual distance between our original condition, having not journeyed, with the post-journey self. So journey is transformation. How can we not call this reality poetic, because as Lee pointed out,

“Poetic reality is the reality. All other realities are packaged bites. I think poetry is reality. The world is a poem.”

What he meant was that as much information as possible has been packed in as tight a space as possible—that reality is actually saturated. Much like what we experienced at the ending moment of Cinema Paradiso. We’re all a version of Odysseus getting home.

In this issue, we call for poems about the spirituality of self, the self in moments of sublimation, the fictions of self, journeying, the return. We explore what home means. Where do you feel at home? How do you feel at home? Or do you not feel at home? What is home? Does it mean coming to a kind of peace with the life you’ve been given? Does it mean changing your life and if so what are your choices? What does it mean to come home, to be home? Is home a place, a person, a feeling, a journeying back?

Oh that quote from T S Eliot’s “Four Quartets” goes:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

Life’s a cycle, so things from the past come back to haunt. We journey back, this time much wiser, and things assume a clarity that wasn’t there before. And ultimately we return to dust. But before that we’re on a quest aren’t we? What is your quest? Are there common grounds with others or is yours unique as hell?

Whatever it is, we hope it will be a worthy one and that you’ll share those poetic moments filed under “notes toward becoming who one is supposed to be”. In other words, think about your narrator’s destiny. What is the path or journey of your narrator? What shape or meaning does his or her life take on? Does coming home mean coming home to the self after the soul’s journey, a kind of soul recognition? I mean, really think about who he or she is, and also who we are. Life’s journey perhaps is best seen as one of being cured of one’s delusions. But what a ride. Tell us stories. Tilt at windmills if you must, because you can’t help it.

These stories, I think, tell of the soul’s longing, its quest, do they not? Whose soul? We’re not really sure. If it is ours why do others find resonance in them? I once saw a performance where a woman started off with a feather and started to place all kinds of twigs and branches over her body in counterbalance, one thing balancing the other, till she’s totally laden with twigs and stuff. She held an amazing, seemingly makeshift contraption. In the final act, she removes that feather and everything falls. Is the soul a feather, holding everything together?

Submissions are open for the Spring/Summer 2018 issue. Closing date: 28 August 2018. Please read our submission guidelines before submitting.

Selected poems will be posted on this site from March 2018 to August 2018.

Our journal has a prompt site, Red Wolf Prompts. You are encouraged to write to the prompts over at the site, if you so wish.

Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith, Editors
Red Wolf Journal

Say This In A Whisper, by Dah

dah gauguin cover1

Dah’s poetry collection, Say This In A Whisper, should perhaps come with an advisory: there are sexually charged poems such as “How To Love A Lover”, “Summer, Ocean”, “Pulsar” and “Underwater, Still Breathing”.

Their nexus is the relationship between lovers which leaves you in no doubt about where the potency lies. “Summer, Ocean” carves out physical intensity in an almost predictable way yet doesn’t strike you as being facile:

“You, the matador
drinking the bull’s blood
Me, the bull goring you into ecstasy
until we lay finished off
our bodies trembling
smelling of ocean summers”

The collection’s first poem, “Oceans Of Rain”, sets a kind of framework by disavowing religion. The speaker is “an old inmate” with the gravitas of age:

“Now, I’ve seasoned
to this gray winter
an old inmate
waiting for light
to reap darkness
waiting for darkness
to bear down

Dah writes with disarming physical candor in his love poems. There is so much light and shadow in them, that it’s most certainly spiritual while being physical. But after the ecstasy comes the agony. The lover’s absence leaves the speaker emotionally stranded. The poems segue to a requiem. Every poem shines a different light on the grieving process of remembering. There is savagery in “you were the feathers/plucked from my mouth” (“A Missing Story”) to distraction where “we drink wine each night/to reach that neon glow/in the dark of a cloistered room” (“Pictures of You”).

Sure, there’s pathos there, but someone has said, if you haven’t loved deeply enough, haven’t had that kind of physical experience, you don’t know anything much. Such pathos may be another path to transcendence, if not through religion. Why, to speak of eternity as “a strange fracture/always breaking/before one reaches the line/the mood variations, another farewell” in “Another Picture of You” to the discernment of trees in “Pulsar”:

“I look through the grille
of bare trees
through the mineshafts
of shadows”

A tender, riveting read for all lovers!

Download the collection here.

Say This In A Whisper by Dah

New Site!
Red Wolf Journal’s digital collections has a dedicated new site
at Red Wolf Editions here.

Release of Spring/Summer 2017 Issue: Sweet Sorrow


We are pleased to announce the release of the Spring/Summer 2017 Issue.

The poets with work in this edition are:

Ed Ahern
Iris J. Arenson-Fuller
Salvatore Buttaci
Marilyn Braendeholm
Darren Demaree
Edilson Afonso Ferreira
Christopher Hileman
John Huey
Diane Jackman
Michael Lee Johnson
LindaAnn LoSchiavo
Patricia McGoldrick
Josh Medsker
Sergio A. Ortiz
Roslyn Ross
Elena Sands
Debi Swim
Alan Toltzis
Walter J. Wojtanik

You may download a copy of the PDF release here.

Red Wolf Journal spring summer 2017 Issue 11

In conjunction we are releasing a special prompted edition featuring the work of the poets who had written to the prompts at our sister site, Red Wolf Poems.

spring summer 2017 prompted edition

You may download a copy here.

Red Wolf Journal spring summer 2017 Issue 11 Prompted edition

The third release is a collection of the poems written by Irene during the period of the Spring/Summer 2017 edition. You may download a copy here.

sweet sorrow by irene toh1

Sweet Sorrow by Irene Toh

We welcome your submission of new poems to our journal, particularly on the theme of memento mori.

With pleasure,
Irene Toh & Tawnya Smith
Spring/Summer 2017 Editors

Green-Weak Poems by Therese Broderick–A New Poetry Release

Red Wolf Editions is pleased to announce the release of a new poetry collection by Therese Broderick.


A daughter’s labor in grass-cutting epitomizes these elegiac familial poems. The three sections of this endearing collection act together as memory and catharsis, with an overall tone of love and whimsy. The first “green-weak” section opens with the remembrance. It defines the father-daughter relationship, its roots in the practice of scissoring the cardboard found within her father’s Roxy shirts into a child’s hand-made cards.

The poems take us through art and illness, a mother’s sense of lack, a brother’s divorce and other undoings. At heart the poems honor the perfection of imperfections: “And I loved him/to the end/despite a lifelong lack/of luster.” (Song for the Colorblind Artist). The collection’s title refers to her father’s congenital “green-weak” colorblindness, a faulty perception of reds and greens.

Her idyllic musings while cutting grass by scissors is at center, a meditation (glimpsing “the conjuring garden knot, its green snaking”) serving as transition to the third “regreening” section. It deals with death and loss. It is grief contained by noticing “an opened bag of nougat and milk/chocolate truffles” at her mother’s cremation and tellingly endured through the arrayed riches of Morocco. The reader takes each mouthful of poems, cupping them, full of weight and weightlessness.

Then there’s the one and only erotic poem, which is clinically breathtaking, a kind of Spanish blessing.

Green is the trope, whether in the Moroccan silk of “Paradise Green”, or in grass’s “emerald blade”, or “the neon L sprouting from Google’s trademark.” How deep sorrow, how deep the green. It becomes blue.

Download the collection here.


Spring/Summer 2016 Issue 9

Song of myself

We are pleased to announce the release of Red Wolf Journal’s Spring/Summer 2016 Issue 9:

Red Wolf Journal Spring Summer 2016 Issue 9


The poets with work in this edition are:

Pat Anthony
Vivienne Blake
Marilyn Braendeholm
Edilson Afonso Ferreira
Grace Harriman
Christopher Hileman
A.J. Huffman
Kathleen Kimball-Baker
Ron. Lavalette
Patricia McGoldrick
Sanjeev Sethi
Debi Swim
Robert Walton

You are welcome to submit work to our upcoming Fall/Winter 2016/2017. The theme is “The Heart Knows”. Watch this space for the official announcement.

With pleasure,
Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith
Spring/Summer 2016 Editors

Release of Winter 2015/2016 Issue 8

Seeing beauty


We are pleased to announce the release of Red Wolf Journal’s Winter 2015/2016 Issue 8:

Red Wolf Journal Winter 2015 2016 Issue 8


The poets with work in this edition are:

Holly Day
Edilson Afonso Ferreira
Christopher Hileman
Nancy Iannucci
Christopher Oak Reiner
Roslyn Ross
Debi Swim
Alan Toltzis

You are welcome to submit work to our upcoming Spring/Summer 2015 Issue 9. The theme is “Song of Myself”. Watch this space for the official announcement.

With pleasure,
Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith
Winter 2015/2016 Editors