John Roche
John Roche
Joe Poems:
the Continuing Saga
of Joe the Poet

(Available July 21.
Free shipping if ordered by July 20.)

John's other FootHills books:
Topicalities and On Conesus.

In a unique and quirky form of his own, ten-line poems with a 100-word limit, Joe the Poet spins his tall tales, his hair floating and his eyes flashing as he rambles, tongue in cheek, from town to town to the delight of those he's touched and are waiting to be touched again. Joe morphs into a variety of idiosyncratic wanderers and Josephina, Don Quixote-like dudes and who knows- he could be any poet messiah--after a few poems the reader won't know what to expect as Roche takes the reader on an odyssey from Montana to Paris to Penny Lane. The poems are witty, terse, darkly and oddly funny, often with a mild twist at the end as in Joe disputing academic rigor.   References seem right for the kaleidoscope of changing settings-like Shakespeare and Co., the Piggly Wiggly stores, etc. The poems are fun to read and must have been fun to write.
-Lyn Lifshin, Vienna, Virginia

Roche's The Joe Poems: the Continuing Saga of Joe the Poet refracts his vibrant, unique and far-flung life experience through the prism of a mind on lyric. The result is a fantastic realism that sticks with you. The new forms he uses here sport a command of the poetic matching his mastery of historical past, creating a staying power for the soul of 'Joe the Poet' to be forever balanced on the cusp of the borderlands-but the best thing is simply that it's all a wide angle on the great pageant and turns out Joe's a pretty good guide.
-G.E. Schwartz,  Henrietta, NY

"A rewarding read.  There's a lot of erudition beneath the surface of these unassuming little gems."
-Charlie Rossiter, Oak Park, IL

From the book:

Author's Note

These poems are all ten-lines each. I took Alan Casline's advice and set a word-count restriction. It was going to be eighty words, but I quickly found myself cheating and so raised the debt ceiling to one-hundred words. Resemblances to people alive or dead are purely intentional, though each of Joe's incarnations is, it goes without saying, drawn from multiple sources, most of which I'm not aware of. These are tall tales meant to stretch the neck of credulity, in the American humorist tradition. One of the poems alludes to Whitman's claim to have fathered six illegitimate children in New Orleans, which confused an audience member at one of my readings. Of course, Joe is as big a liar as Whitman or Twain. Doesn't matter if there are scorpions in Joe's Montana as there are just as likely to be dinosaurs.

Prologue: Joe the Poet 2

We're still waiting for Joe the Poet
waiting for his secret sign and saving word
possessing the origin of all poems
and the good of the earth and sun
disguised as the cheerful voice of the public road
still waiting for the man with a single rose and a mojo hand
Beware! Beware! his flashing eyes, his floating hair!

He's just a working bard who roams from town to town
silver hair, ragged shirt and baggy pants, a ragged clown
a stargazing Tom Thumb who carries his books in a gunny sack
grown old with wandering through hollow lands and hilly lands
along the seashore washed by the suds and foam
singing, Soft is the grass, my bed is free

Though evening's empire has returned into sand
vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey
the doors themselves unscrewed from their jambs
we're still waiting for Joe the Poet
to give us a broadside to revive us again
singing softly, Let grief be a falling leaf at the dawning of the day

Might be Josephine the Poet we're waiting for
might be Crazy Jane
might be someone whose name we don't yet know
man in black or frowning babe
but we're still awaiting, and a singing
still awaiting, and a singing
Been a long, a long time coming

Invisible Joe

You won't find him in the Norton anthology
though Joe might be there under another name
maybe was there until the latest edition
Garrison never reads his poems on the radio
Poet Laureates don't drop Joe's name in casual conversation
never had the privilege of turning down a White House invite
He was once included in a collection of 13th century Sufi poetry
or was that 12th century Zen poetry?
or 11th century Timbuktu griots?
Joe's had so many lives even he's not sure

Joe the Poet in San Francisco

Joe disembarks after rounding the Horn from New York
ships out on brigs plying Sandwich Islands & China trade
doesn't spill his glass when the earthquake hits
founds Bohemian Grove with Dan O'Connell's Chronicle gang takes long hikes with John Muir
helps Jeffers build his Hawk Tower
sits fire watch on Desolation Peak
backs up an unknown Janis Joplin at The Coffee Gallery
spends a year in a Zendo, then hits the monk with his own stick wanders off to Tamalpais and is gone

Photo by Jules Nyquist

John Roche has lived along various rivers, creeks, and lakes.
This is his third poetry collection from FootHills.

The Joe Poems
is a 60 page hand-sewn paperbook  with spine - $14.00.

To order through mail click here.     


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 John Roche
(See John's previous FootHills book
On Conesus)

You won't need a secret decoder ring to open up these poems by John Roche-they're right there in your face, full of the energy & direct imagery of daily life and composed with careful grace for the way they sound in your ear. Not to simplify things too much, but this is the kind of poetry I like!
  --John Sinclair
December 14, 2007

This is a good, solid book, musical and full of unexpected turns, defining the topics of the day just before they turn the dark corner into history. And, even more important, Roche refuses to draw a line between the personal and the topical. After all, our lives are on that table where the dice of politics are being thrown. In an age when so much poetry is predictable and solipsistic, Topicalities is a gift.
--Steven Huff

I can't think of any other way to phrase this:  John Roche's Topicalities is a manifesto for our grim times, a “must-read” to help us survive the Bush Years and their aftermath. Yet the political sensibility of his poems is anything but grim. These poems raise awareness of the costs of the war in Iraq, for example, but his touch is deft. It moves, it rattles, it shakes and breathes passion, compassion… This poetry is honest without being brutal; hope rises from these pages. Thus, he makes us see both a “child's broken body” on the road to Damascus and the hosta lilies of spring in Western New York.
                       -- Karla Linn Merrifield


Dedicated to the proposition that the topical poem is not inferior to the personal lyric and that poems about today's struggles are not necessarily lacking in “eternal themes.”  At a recent Wheeler Hill reading, Susan Deer Cloud alluded to a poet who apologized before reading a “political poem.” Expect no such apologies here. Neither expect a clear demarcation between the personal and the political, except in those poems, like Rick's Café or Coalition of the Willing, where a distinct p.o.v. is assumed.

Dedicated to poets like Janine Pommy Vega, John Sinclair, and Ed Sanders who've kept the issues, and the music, alive. And to Woody Guthrie, who was always ready to confront “the new situ-ation.”

From the book:


It's 1955
I'm being rocked in my cradle
My father's on the road
driving the byways of Connecticut
for the American Tobacco Company

Four decades later he'll succumb to emphysema
in what lungs remain from the cancer surgery

But, right now, he's tanned and young
energetically setting up the Camels display
flour-pasting Lucky Strike decals on the windows
of package stores and general stores and grocery stores
in Goshen Hebron Pomfret Scotland Norfolk Cornwall Coventry Norwalk New Canaan, New Milford, Norwichtown Deep River

This morning he's sitting at a lunch counter
in some pharmacy in some hamlet too small for a Woolworth's
My Dad's got a cup of coffee a donut a cigarette
 (a triad that was a constant in his life-
 matched only by Mom and morning Communion)

I would create a world where such pleasures are non-lethal

Picture him outside
on a sunny June day
leaning against a wooden post
examining his work with a satisfied eye
and enjoying one more Lucky
while morning stretches out and around the elm-draped bend
in the road that goes on the road that goes on the road that goes on forever

Virtual Wendell Berry

Rushed out of work and onto the freeway
burning fossil fuels
to get to reading by the famous farmer poet
hear why we need to slow down to mule-speed
and learn to jettison consumerist dissatisfactions
become human beings in human-scaled communities
once again

But first I'm shunted into snaking line around reflecting pool
at the art museum
then herded along with a hundred or more ethical sheep
into the overflow pen (wainscoted and elegant)
to watch our contemporary Thoreau
over live videostream
get an award for truth-telling

Right after two words from our sponsors:
a local state university branch
and a globalizing bank

Baghdad Boogaloo

If it ain't broke, don't fix it
If it ain't broke, don't fix it
If it ain't broke, don't fix it
If it ain't broke, don't fix it

You break it, you bought it
You break it, you bought it
You break it, you bought it
You break it, you bought it

Jus' a little glue will do
Jus' a little glue will do
Jus' a little glue will do you
Jus' a little glue will do

Superglue that Sumerian figurine
Superglue that pipeline
Superglue that armor plating to the Humvees
Superglue that power plant
Superglue the Coalition of the Willing
Superglue the Shias to the Sunnis to the Kurds
Superglue their government

You think you're quite the handyman, don't you?

Down on the ranch jus' choppin' wood
Choppin' wood all day
Choppin' wood down on the ranch
Jus' choppin'
All day
Jus' choppin'

You can't fix it and you can't leave it
You can't fix it and you can't leave it
You can't fix it and you can't leave it
You can't fix it and you can't leave it
You can't you can't you can't you can't
Your cant your cant your cant your cant

Jus' more Baghdad Boogaloo
A whole lot more Boogaloo
Jus' more and more Baghdad Boogaloo
Next time it's Tehran Tooraloo

To contact John Roche -

is an 84 page hand-stitched paper book with spine.



To order through mail click here.     


 On Conesus
"There is a lovely resonance and particularity in these various poems. One's brought home to the physical world again, its daily, relieving insistences.  So a life finds its company, always."

Robert Creeley

"John Roche's  On Conesus traces for us a place he located in his life-journey where the mind's contours could fit, for him, with the spiritual contours of the land and water on which and near which he and his wife lived.  You can trust that vision.  Thus, the silent loss when a beloved cottonwood falls, the poem notes it, and we can feel  its loss for all of eternity, as long as words stand black on white.   A pig farm mentioned in the Maximus Poems is long gone, but the poem remains. Long live the vision of Conesus."

Ed Sanders

Short review of On Conesus
by Levi Asher on his Literary Kicks Site

From the Book:

On Conesus

wine glow of
"Indian summer"
no wine-dark sea
but sparkling
water and
air that intoxicates
--why "Indian"?
autumnal images
(even John Ford employed)
Senecas once
a lake rich with
northern pike
wild ducks
turtle stones
longhouses on Conesus Creek
(village of old Can-ne-hoot,  Chief Conesus in Hosmer's  Yonnondio)
beaver colonies before the hat fad
(Did Rushville's "Great Wolf Hunt" of 1811 reach here?)
--reverie broken by jet ski--
stillness returns
even Thoreau had the railroad
reverberations across his lake
--whose lake?
aboriginal canoes
Mort Zuckerman bulldozers
Don Henley concerts


stream path
from hill
through our
on beach
forms ice-
soon widens
into bay
as ice

we drank from this spring
until January
broke concrete
of driveway
drilled frozen ground

now we have
chlorinated baths
a mound of earth
an eroding trench

for fifty years
people drank from the well-
within this house

Solar Returns

island sun

Take a Carnival Cruise
in my li'l rowboat
but it's 40°F.
and the boat leaks

Van Morrison
on the box
"Too Long in Exile"
"Til We Get the Healing Done"
for now
for a wee bit
o' sun
after yesterday's
1st snow
that stuck
barely broke 30°
two layers
of socks
two sweaters
in the house
burning fossils
eating carbs

That old cave mentality
almost enough
to make one
a Republican

ISBN 0-941053-57-1

On Conesus is a 96 page hand-sewn paperback with flat spine - $16.00


To order through mail click here.