From Small Fires, Little Flames: A Reading

Here’s some video from Friday’s reading at BJ Spoke Gallery in Huntington*. Thanks to the gallery, those who came to listen and, especially, Kelly Powell, for hosting the event.

If you missed me here, you can find me featuring at the Blue Duck Bakery in Riverhead on Sunday, November 26th @ 2PM.

See more info about upcoming readings by clicking the Readings tab above.

*I’m not sure how the audio sounds, so I’ll post the poems I’m reading below.  If you like what you hear, you can purchase a copy of Small Fires, Little Flameshere.


The magician learns his art
and knows this spell or that one
will turn a stone into a dove.
The audience participates and sees.
There was no bird and now there is.

And saints practice humility,
praying for God’s will
who first caused doves to rise.
There is no art to this.
The congregation believes or disbelieves.

The poet is the one I love,
who tries to turn his heart into a dove
and fails or gets it right,
but no one cares or sees.


What god would prick
who could do more?

The one I know isn’t a wind.
He is a whisper.

Among the many voices he is one,
advising yes and no.

So long to other notions of the divine!
This one must do.

It’s been a good friend
since I was born.


I would revise so much
is how it used to go,
and then it changed and all
I used to know as loss
became not loss but possibility.

Potential is the better word.
I almost called it hope
but stopped, and would, just short
of that, because hope also means,
to my chagrin, hold on.


What word was it?  Oh, yes.
That one the heron said.
Was it only yesterday I heard it?

Or the day before and all the rain…
It’s better to be wet and know it
than think: the sun, the sun.

As if to pray were more than confirmation:
this is, and that’s enough.  No more
wishing for this monk.  Yes, that’s right.

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5 Responses to From Small Fires, Little Flames: A Reading

  1. A very fine poem is here. You seem to be trying to tap your (human) imagination, in a similar way a water dowser seeks to hone in on his lucky spot of earth. In the process, maybe a poet not only embraces the divine…but perhaps he becomes divine. Or is poetry just artifice? I tend to lean to the first as opposed to the latter. Now if his poem stinks, I don’t think anyone can make a legitimate claim to being divine.
    Your poem sets a very fitting parable up for the reader’s eyes. A poet is, to a large extent, an illusionist. But an artist who believes in himself and his craft is usually more than a sleight of hand man. I liked this poem. You did it right.

    • Adam Penna says:

      Thanks, Mike, for the close reading and (as always) your keen insights. You’re directly at the center of the problem of poetry here. I love what you’re saying. I hope this finds you well.

      • No problem, dude. It always awesome to read your stuff. Could you ever send me the “3 Poems by Adam Penna,” ? They used to be on the web…but no longer. I want to write a critical review of the great “spider” poems of the American (maybe even British) literatures. Those poems were totally out of the ballpark. I am especially interested in your “spider” poem. If you could send me them via e-mail that would be really cool.
        I am doing well, thank you. I hope you are doing well too. Your poems definitely have some real kayo power. But what l really admire about your verse is that you write for all people for all time…Your poems are linguistically vibrant and philosophically original, though you truly try to appeal to every member of society. You are successful in these aims. I can’t ever remember reading a poem of yours that was boring or lexically lacking. You’re a poet’s poet…and that’s a good thing!
        My e-mail address is As long as you keep on writing, I’ll keep reading. Good luck with everything! You are an amazing writer.

      • Adam Penna says:

        I will see if I can find those poems and when I do I’ll send them to you. Thanks so much, Mike. All my best. Always.

  2. Thank you, Adam. Take your time. I’ve got quite awhile to go before I get around to doing it. Right now, my historical research is taking precedent over everything else (except my poetry). So, say (if you remember) by summer. I really do appreciate your help.

    Take care,

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