About the poem, Harmonica, from River by the Glass, and notes by the poet, Monika Rose

One of the most interesting things I ever found was a tiny harmonica on a chain at Tuolumne Meadows, embedded in the sand bank, close to the Tuolumne bridge that traverses the Tuolumne River. The one-inch harmonica lying in the sand, attached to a tiny chain, sported four tiny reed holes. I tested the sound, a resounding and high-pitched tweedle–which added harmony to the river burble and the distant murmur of a pair of lovers’ voices dangling over the bridge. I gave the harmonica away, and then got it back and promptly lost it somewhere. Some things continue to want to be lost. The memory of my friend who passed away, fellow poet Julia Holzer, is intertwined with that harmonica. She was with me when I picked it up. She has been lost to the river of sky, no longer with us. The music of the harmonica still sings to her somewhere. Someone lost that harmonica. I wrote a poem about the losing. I wonder whose amulet it was. I wonder if they will find me through the poem. It won’t matter. The harmonica remains lost. The poem stays. If someone reads it, the harmonica will be found again, though in another form.

Side note having nothing whatsoever to do with the poem: The moniker, “harmonica” had been attached to my name, Monika, by my old Geometry instructor Mr. Flynn, who, in his darling Boston accent, would call out “harmoniker,” referring to me, while erasing the board with the elbow patch on his tweed coat and at the same time, and with the same arm, writing new material on the board simultaneously with erasing the old.   

Notes by the poet on the poem, “Harmonica, ” in River by the Glass




Forgetting the music

But finding new sound

Here by the river

Where stone shapes the

River songs,

An amulet glitters

In the sand


A talisman lost

By a lover

Maybe, last night

Here, by the water

Straining under the weight

Of new romance


A four-holed harmonica

On a black string tossed

In a groan

Or a sigh

Flown into sand

Reeds altered by grit


Bitter on the tip

My lips almost envelop

The musical words

Wondering how

The tryst went

How deep

Did it slip

And how the

Taste lingers.




Publisher GlenHill Productions, Ron Pickup, Praises River by the Glass in his Introduction


I first published Monika Rose’s poetry in the Mindprint Review, a literary journal of regional and international writing and art published back in the late 1980s. And even then, I was taken with her whimsical wit and metaphysical humor in poems such as “Carp” and “Eye.” Today, she has evolved these skills into the biting imagery but sensitive and haunting verse found in the likes of “Drowning in the Kern, ”  “Chester and the Bluebird,” and “On the Fence. ”

This is the ethereal yet concrete fine poetry of a master poet. In “Chester and the Bluebird,” a spirited bluebird standing in for a beloved pet steer, just reduced to sizzling steaks on the family barbecue, is Rose’s respectful reply to the classic, important image of a “red wheel/barrow/glazed with rain/water/beside the white/chickens,” written by the pillar of Objectivism, William Carlos Williams.

The poetry in this collection has been forged and tempered over decades of writing, while also teaching English at the secondary and college level; attending numerous workshops with some of the best writers of our time; and promoting and showcasing the work of her fellow writers and artists through founding Writers Unlimited and editing and publishing the Manzanita anthologies and other publications.

With the publication of River by the Glass, we at last have the collected poetry to date, of the hardest working poet I have been privileged to know. GlenHill is proud to present these fruits of her long labor.

Ron Pickup

March 23, 2011


Authors Praise River by the Glass

River by the Glass front cover smallHere are what other poets and writers say about River by the Glass:

Pattiann Rogers, poet, says:

The poems in River By the Glass are rich with the details of the earth moving moment by moment from death to life, from life to death.  Monika Rose understands the union of these transformations and records them with the energy, contemplation, and originality of finely composed poetry.  Like glass, her poetry offers both a reflection of the physical world and a window into our human experiences of its shifting beauty and mystery.

       –Pattiann Rogers

Kathy Isaac-Luke, poet, says:

In her new collection, River by the Glass, Monika Rose shows her
formidable range. By turns meditative, profound and imaginative, her
poems are always, at their core, genuine and unflinchingly honest.
Whether rooted in landscape or familial memory, these poems are rich
in metaphor and finely crafted. With the precision of a scalpel and
the clarity of fresh water, River by the Glass takes the reader on a
journey of discovery.

           —Kathie Isaac-Luke, author of Chrysalides, 2010, Dragonfly Press


Kevin Arnold, poet and director of the San Jose Poetry Center says:

Monika Rose inhabits the Mother Lode country, a geography that produces poetry.  Down the highway from where the Squaw Valley Community of Writers winter with Gary Snyder, her poems grow out of local soil.  No wonder Monika is dedicated to bringing out the best of her community.  These fine poems could have been written nowhere else.

        –Kevin Arnold

From Mary Mackey, novelist and poet:

“Rose’s poetry captures the texture and currents of the river, translating water into words.”
           –Mary Mackey            


Order River by the Glass!

River By the Glass Cover Front and BackRiver by the Glass is ready to ship! Monika Rose wants you to sip and dip in! It’s your glass and you can cry if you want to. But you won’t cry ~ most of the poems will make you see aspects of life once again, from your own buried memories. Bring up those shards and hold them up to the light! There are pieces for everyone, encompassing a wide swath of subjects. You will be awash in reflective delight. Poetry is meant to shake you and make you think about what is really important. Forget the movie you had planned. Sit down and swim in the important aspects of life that you will create within yourself. And enjoy the beautiful river photos by Ron Pickup, Tuolumne County renowned photographer and writer and photographer for Sierra Seasons.  In fact, there is a mysterious thing you can do with the cover that will astound you! Ron’s cover photo is absolutely astounding when you hold the book in your hands. 216 pages of a two-decade span of poems, polished and shining ready for your reading.

Order now!  Mail a check made out to Monika Rose c/0 Manzanita Writers Press for $26.50, to cover 21.95 sales price, plus tax, plus shipping. PO Box 632, San Andreas, CA 95249. In fact, order extras for your friends and family for gifts and the upcoming holidays! Allow 3.50 for shipping costs per volume and 8.25% tax per volume.

Many of the poems spin around the river themes and flow of life and love and death and explore absurdities and wonders of experience. The kinetic energy from “Tuolumne River” in which a mother’s childbearing cycle winds down into memory, blending with the water, sand and boulder life of the river’s cycle, and her once-productivity, reflects on our time in this world and what we are here to do. “Cleaning Fish” evokes an Elizabeth Bishop kind of experience, but darker. “Variations on a Skipping Stone,” takes you back to your skipping stone days and then turns on you.  “Carp” is a hilarious depiction of fisherman wisdom with a twist.

And there is that word reflection. River by the Glass ~ depicts mirrors, windows, watery reflections, kaleidoscopic bits of meaning, camera and digital lenses, videorecording lenses, eyeglasses, car windows, glass on art frames, purity of water that should be drinkable but often, isn’t….in any glass, and more.  Refractory and reflective ~ visual and visceral ~ the poems force us to see, whatever it is we see or want to see, in a new light. It’s similar to picking up a piece of old glass from another century, and straining to see through its cloudy, hard membrane. We see what we’re able to see, what we construct for ourselves.

Read poems about clashes and meldings with nature, elegies to those who have passed before us, quirky poems about life (like “How to Spot a Serial Killer” and “Yellow the Dead Canary” or “Venial Sins” and more. If you’ve ever felt guilty about eating beef, or had sympathies with the rancher’s dilemma, dare to read “Chester and the Bluebird” and/or “Animal, Vegetable, darkly humorous poems with a twist.  These are not greeting card poems. Their particular images will evoke your own memories and bring them up to the surface in a bubble of haiku moments.

There are romantic or sensual poems like “The Ritual of Coffee Making,” or “Harmonica” or “The Long Dance” and “Coming into Love” and a love of the wild in “What is to Wilderness” –“Deer in the Road” or “Bull Pine” —  or even a love poem gone sour, based on ironically sweet-sounding language from the business pages of the Wall Street Journal, called “Love and Finance.”  Maybe you’d like to contemplate the metaphysical, with poems like “On the Fence,” in which a fox hanging on barbed wire fence from a child’s memory, linked to a dead fox found in the underbrush, evoking a strong gut-level reaction. “Worms” explores death wriggling from under the concrete walk, and friends who have passed, communicate out from beyond the grave in a universal call of beautiful sadness. Or “You Can Take It With You” makes a person think about the hereafter, with its series of exhibits of life and death.

There is the “Estate Sale” and another, “Food for Thought,” searching for meaning in everyday events, as well as “The Other Side,” a touching dialogue between the collective family narrator at a distance, and the dementia-laden speaker who just wants to go home, wherever that may be. Yes, there are poems about death – many of them. The opening poem, “Drowning at the Kern,” provides one of the strongest, lyrical visions of a honeymoon couple separated by the waters of the eternal reality, with the call of a bride echoing eerily in the canyon, while seeing her draped in the algaed strands of river tangle. The Kern River is a dangerous lover.

The poems are whimsical, touching, and artistic. Yet, if you’d like to be cheered on, and laugh along with the poet, why not read a narrative poem about a teacher’s mistaken thought that what she teaches, likeThoreau, and the Crucible,  is actually relevant to teens lost in the throes of their own private worlds,  in “Transcendental Perch.” Or poems about art, like “A Poet” or “Slowpitch Poetry, or “Eye Think.”

There are poems dedicated to fathers — one having the words, Prenatal, Parental, and Paternal, all containing the same letters, as sections framing the movement of a daughter’s love for her father contained in a poem. There are poems dedicated to mothers and daughters, exploring genetic traits passed down the line. There are elegies like “Desert Bloom” and “Navajo Traveler” and “Need Fire,” combining Clampus E. Vitus rituals with a departed friend. There are poems dedicated to children and eternal guilt in parenting ~ “There is a Cough” and “Nails” and in the mysteries of animals ~ “Black Dog” and the “Gift of the Fat Dalmation.”

Or dip into poems of conscience, “Navajo Gifts” and “Leper Lady at Swiss Park” or “Beauty and the Beast: The Movie.” Squaw Valley experiences include “Marimba Mountains,” or “What is to Wilderness” (a question posed by Jane Hirschfield of a nature panel) , or “Four Levels of Mist” and “Top of the Mountain.”  Photographers will wonder at what is going in “Eye for and Eye” or “Glass” or “Yoga at the Y.”

Anyway, I won’t give it all away. There are 85 poems in this collection.  You should see the ones that got away! Or rather, dove into the depths.  Hid in folders! Dipped down under the waters, chilled to the bone, and looking for cover from boulders and shoulders!

Please write me comments!

Delightfully yours,