Bramble Spring 2019 print issue available now.

From the Editor

William Carlos Williams, in a poem called “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower” wrote: “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.”

Those lines, I suppose, could be interpreted in several different ways, but I’ve always thought of them as a call to both readers and poets. For readers, to not be satisfied with a daily dose of newsprint; and for poets, a reminder that while poetry is not journalism, poets can serve an important function in the public discourse. 

The theme for this issue of Bramble is “poetry responds to the news.” I was both surprised and impressed with the number and the quality of the submissions, as well as with the breadth of subject matter that was addressed. I reviewed many more excellent poems than can be included in our little journal, and I sincerely hope that those of you whose poems were not chosen, are not discouraged from submitting them elsewhere.

In the end editors are as subjective in their likes and dislikes as anyone else. These poems are not so much the best poems that were submitted, as the poems I liked the most and that there was room for.

The subject matter covers everything from Rami Malek’s performance as Freddy Mercury in the film, Bohemian Rhapsody, to wild fires, caged border babies, the opioid crisis, and the Trump investigation.

Another privilege of the guest editor is to suggest the art work for the issue. I have chosen to feature the art of Susan Bietila, an artist who has been active in social justice issues for decades. Please take the time to read her artist’s statement, and look for more of her work online.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Bramble as much as I’ve enjoyed being a part of it.

Peace and justice,
Ed Werstein


Ed Werstein, Milwaukee, WI, is a regional VP of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. He was nearly 60 years old when his muse awoke and dragged herself out of bed. His poems have appeared in over 50 different journals and anthologies. He won the Poetry Society of Michigan’s Margo LaGattuta award in 2015. In 2018 he received the Council of Wisconsin Writers Lorine Niedecker award. His book, A Tar Pit To Dye In, is available from Kelsay Books.


Cover Art.JPG

Cover Art is Susan Simensky Bietetila’s Wisconsin: Walk like an Egyptian.

Susan Simensky Bietila is an activist artist who has worked in collaboration with movements for justice since the mid-1960s. Media include scratchboard, ink drawing, printmaking and other 2-D media including photography. Her work has been published and shown widely. She also collaborates in street theater, currently making giant Sturgeon puppets for Water Protection events in the Midwest. She has written art criticism and art history. For the past 15 years, she has been a contributor and co-editor of the premiere graphic non-fiction annual anthology, World War 3 illustrated magazine, writing and drawing stories. 

Her art has been part of Native/non-Native movements against metallic sulfate and iron mining, to protect the rivers and lakes. She is a member of Voces de los Artistas, making art to defend immigrants and is a member of MTEA, working at Art Builds to advocate for Teachers and Public Education. She is a retired School Nurse and is best known locally for artwork about our historic occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol in 2011.

She co-curated Drawing Resistance - a d.i.y. traveling art show (2001-2004) with Nicolas Lampert of Justseeds (which had 32 exhibits across the U.S. and Canada) as well as many other art shows, such as Carlos Cortez and Allied Artists (2011) at Walkers Point Center for the Arts and Graphic Radicals, a WW3 illustrated traveling retrospective (2009-2010).

In Wobblies - a Graphic History (Verso, 2005), she created a series of narrative monotype prints and wrote the chapter, “The Free Speech Fights”.  And an interview about the 1960s and the separation of politics and art in the U.S. is in Allan Antliff’s Anarchy and Art (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007) . Her work been featured in the feminist SF&F journal Cascadia Subduction Zone. 

50 years ago, she was one of the women who took over the New York underground newspaper The RAT, co-editing and drawing for this pioneering 2nd Wave Feminist publication. She grew up in Brooklyn, and has lived in Milwaukee, WI since 1986. 


Poet & Literary Activist:
Melissa Tuckey

Melissa Tuckey is a poet and literary activist. She has a background in environmental activism and is a co-founder of Split This Rock, a national organization dedicated to “calling poets to the center of public life.” Tuckey is author of Tenuous Chapel, a book of poems selected by Charles Simic for the ABZ Press First Book Prize (2013) and editor of Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (University of Georgia Press 2018).

Her honors include a fellowship at Black Earth Institute, a winter fellowship at Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and writing awards from DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and Ohio Arts Council. She holds an MFA from George Mason University, and teaches community-based creative writing workshops in Ithaca, New York.

Melissa Tuckey will be reading at the WFOP Spring Conference in 2020.

Cluster of Berries.JPG


On the Anniversary of King’s Assassination

A tree frog emaciated on road
and we ourselves, so easily lost
walking together at sunrise
Read More

Walking the woods, I became dizzy
trying to learn the names of trees, looking up at not
one steady thing, the whole canopy waving
Read More

The Day After

This oil has a mouth

The clownish hair, his petulant scowl and bulldog face
That Halloween mask
Go ahead, remove the mask, show us who
Read More

filled with crude             the oil has read

 our founding documents          the oil has rights
Read More

Extras_300 dpi.jpg

Original Art by Susan Simensky Bietila

A FAMILY AFFAIR: Finding History in Collective Storytelling

By Jillian Marie Jacklin


Managing Editor: C. Kubasta
Layout/Design: Tori Grant Welhouse
Bramble Logo: Bobbie Lovell