Cahuenga Press Publishes Undercurrent Blues

Cahuenga Press Publishes it’s 14th Book of Poetry!
by Sanora Bartels

Too often in the world of poetry, books come out without the usual attention paid to publication of a new volume. On July 17, 2005 I was invited by Cahuenga Press to an afternoon party/reading celebrating James Cushing’s latest collection Undercurrent Blues (Cahuenga is a cooperative press and Undercurrent Blues is the 14th book they have published since their inception in 1989). The collection includes poems written from 1989 through 1991 and 1997 through 2002. If you’re like me, you immediately ask where 1992 through 1996 went. Mr. Cushing kindly explains the skip in time in his Author’s Note at the beginning of the book and true to his personality; he does it with humor and grace. Basically, the book reflects the first 25 years of his writing life.

I want to take a moment to express how wonderful it was to spend time with a large group of writers who support one another and truly enjoy giving the limelight to one of their colleagues. I should also mention that Mr. Cushing is an engaging reader and it was a pleasure to sit back in the midst of such good company on a Sunday afternoon and be entertained by poetry.

In Undercurrent Blues, The poems from 1989 through 1991 are from Mr. Cushing’s first book, You and the Night and the Music published by Cahuenga Press in 1991. The titles and poems are inspired by 20th Century American songs that have become jazz standards. Among these, one of my favorites is Fly Me to the Moon. His lyrical style matches the desire for transport in that old standard but he offers us a deeper yearning in his stanzas.

We picked roles (insomniac shepherd, complaining nymph) from
a basket of fruit. Orisons rise from every third house, a glow like
a broadcast ending, and we wanted this, to live near the sun, that
constant burnt offering.

His poetry from 1997 through 2002 is a reaction to the death of both parents and the end of his second marriage – to put it in the author’s words “darker stimulation”. In spite of the dark stimulation, these poems have a sly sense of humor, an acceptance of life’s slings and arrows. Of these, I love The Turn of April (which he read):

I think we are moving, slowly and patiently,
within a great walled garden along an eastern path,
and I think I can assume we keep walking, lightly
and with kindness, until the garden ends, and we fall off the edge
where the next dream begins in a rush of kisses and cameras.

In his introduction to the reading of this piece, he dedicated it to his love, Marnie L. Parker (who is also the recipient of the dedication of the book).

Undercurrent Blues by James Cushing is a wonderful book and lives up to the reputation that Cahuenga Press has for publishing only poetry of the highest quality. You can order it (and other books they’ve published) by going to their website

If you purchase the book, I would love to know what you think, so please send an email to



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