Obituary for Joanne Lynch of Philadelphia, PA

My mom was happy to see the Pope when he came to Philadelphia.


Joanne Lynch died Thursday, April 27th, 2017, at her home in Wildwood Crest, NJ. Born to William and Joan Shefski on July 17th, 1957, in Philadelphia, PA, Joanne is survived by her mother, her husband Walter, her brothers William, Daniel, and Patrick, her sisters Barbara Anne, Dianne, Suzanne, and Peggy Anne, her children Katherine, Matthew, Megan, and Sean, her grandchildren Rosie, Olivia, and Ronan, as well as numerous other family members. Joanne has been battling Ovarian cancer since she was diagnosed in February of 2016. She celebrated her 40th wedding anniversary with her husband and family in October of 2016. Joanne was a dedicated member of her parish, Notre Dame de la Mer, in Wildwood, NJ, and found joy in teaching CCD classes and committing herself to other charitable work. A hard worker until her sudden diagnosis with stage four cancer, Joanne’s last job was as a server at Aleathea’s Restaurant in Cape May, NJ. 

Above all, Joanne was a devoted mother who sacrificed her time and energy to help provide for her family through phases of financial and emotional hardships. Joanne passionately cared for her family, and was never afraid of making her opinion known, especially with her husband. Inheriting her mother Joan’s strong will, Joanne had the ability to seem contentious even if she agreed with you on the subject at hand. Joanne’s love for baseball and football stemmed from her late father, William Shefski, who was a sports writer for the Philadelphia Daily News.

Joanne graduated from Haddon Township High School in 1975. Her favorite classes were Russian and English. Even though Joanne did not attend college, she was intelligent and very knowledgeable on a vast range of subjects, especially religion, politics, literature, art, fashion, and design. Joanne was immensely proud of her Irish heritage, and delighted in learning about Irish culture, loved reading Irish literature, listening to Irish music, and watching Irish dancing. 

Joanne worked countless jobs, including as a server, shoe salesperson, and furniture salesperson, however, she especially loved working at Aleathea’s Restaurant because of her co-workers and the environment. Aleathea’s is a beautiful Victorian Inn right by the Atlantic Ocean in Cape May, and since Joanne’s favorite past time was sunbathing on the beach, it was the perfect place to work for her. Joanne’s other favorite activities included reading, watching sports, and praying. 

Joanne was a fantastic salesperson and server, but her best role was as a homemaker. One could often find Joanne singing Feist, Sting, or U2 while cleaning the kitchen. As a mother, Joanne invested all of her hopes and dreams into her children. Her strong Catholic faith was her guidance. 

A private viewing will be held for close friends and family at Assumption Church Monday at 9am. The funeral service will be held at Assumption Church in Wildwood Crest on Monday at 10am. After the funeral, attendees are invited to gather at Aleathea’s Restaurant in Cape May. Interment will be at St. Mary’s Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Love of Linda Cancer Fund, PO Box 1053, Wildwood, NJ, 08260. 

My mother and father at the Irish Famine Memorial at Battery Park in NYC.

Letter From the Editor #8

Dear readers, thank you for opening up our 8th issue of Whirlwind, which focuses on Mother Earth. This one is personal for me, as my own mother has recently been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. A combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors are what cause this particularly dangerous form of cancer, but it’s worth noting that Ovarian Cancer is far more prevalent in industrialized countries, implicating that the chemicals (solvents, dyes, herbicides, and talc) that can cause Ovarian Cancer, are indeed significant culprits. This metaphor, of our mothers becoming poisoned by pollution, their genes being mutated in the very organs that gave life to us, is all too profound when applied to Mother Earth. We’re destroying the planet that gave birth to us, human beings, and we’re threatening the massive suicidal extinction of our own species, not to mention the already apparent extinction of too many other animal species.

In this issue, like all of our past issues, we present to you literature and art that bears witness. However, this issue is more pertinent to social justice than any other topic. We can talk about our identities all we want. We can theorize about intertextuality all we want. We can apply irony to art and literature all we want. But if we don’t confront this existential threat, the threat of fossil fuels, the threat of carbon emissions, the threat of multi-national corporations destroying our planet, mowing down rain forests, killing coral reefs, slaughtering endangered animals, ripping a hole into this planet’s atmosphere, our children and our children’s children will all die. Storms and other weather patterns will become more severe. The seas will rise and flood our cities. The summers will become unbearably hot. And some scientists say it’s too late.

Catastrophists say that if we would have done something in the 1960’s, then we could have saved ourselves. They say that individuals can do nothing to stop the irreversible, oncoming tidal wave. But there is still hope. In the contemporary literary and art world, hope is a dirty word. There are too many cynics who want you to give up hope. To go on with your ordinary lives and keep consuming the mass-produced gadgets. To live in the present, and to cast aside true compassion as sentimentality. But we must not give up hope for our planet and for all peoples. And yet with hope comes responsibility and sacrifice. Each of us needs to do our part to put an end to man-made climate change. What other option do we have? Succumb to nihilism?

Our mothers teach us the most important lessons in life. To be caring, to be disciplined, to work hard and be unselfish. Through their womanhood, their willpower and resolve, we must find inspiration to save our collective mother, the planet we all inhabit. We need to speak up against the cranky old men who have a strangle hold on our politicians, the fossil fuel lobbyists, the climate change deniers, the 1% who only care about profits, and speak of “the market” as if it’s some living entity that needs to be endlessly served. It’s as Pope Francis has said, “…worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal.” This golden calf is what’s destroying our Mother Earth. We must cast down this idol and work together to build a sustainable world for our descendants to live in harmony with nature.

whirlwindfrontcover(8)jpg.jpg

Cover Art by G Scott, Design by Melissa Rothman

A Review of Prerna Bakshi’s Burnt Rotis, With Love

This review will appear in Whirlwind Magazine issue #6 due out in mid-November.

At Whirlwind we like to support our contributors even after publication. We’re honored to be a part of an international community of diverse writers and artists focused on social justice and human progress. That being said, we’re happy to announce that the talented sociolinguist Prerna Bakshi, a poet of Indian origin currently based in Macao, is publishing a collection of poems called Burnt Rotis, With Love that will be available in December through Les Éditions du Zaporogue.

Prerna Bakshi graced page nineteen of Whirlwind Magazine Issue #5 with her moving poem “Let it Rain!” The title of this piece serves as a refrain at the end of each stanza, culminating in an effective repetition of the phrase. Bakshi laments at the state of her poverty stricken home-country, as well as her new adopted home in China. Through the eyes of this poet it’s apparent that the world is on the brink of environmental catastrophe. In “Let it Rain!” Bakshi beckons the sky to open up for “…the drought stricken land…” as she bears witness to the struggles of people with disabilities, children, and factory workers, as she listens to “…a farmer’s outcry…” and also the “distant scream” of indigenous people fighting “…against the state’s repressive forces.”

Along with the aforementioned poem, there are over a hundred pages worth of urgent and meaningful poetry in Burnt Rotis, With Love. For the book’s themes Prerna Bakshi says that she “…will explore and interrogate the narratives of Partition of India/Punjab post British colonialism, women’s identity, gender and class struggle. The poems in this collection will cover themes of violence, oppression, exploitation, abuse, struggle, survival and resistance.” The advance reader’s copy certainly attests to this, and it makes for a powerful read.

Other highlights in the book include the dramatic “Guns and Graves,” where Bakshi writes an elegy for the many innocents killed by the Indian state in its dispute with China over a relatively unheard of area called Arunachal Pradesh. It’s poems like these that stand out to the reader, especially because they shed light on topics and events that too often remain shrouded. The further one gets into Burnt Rotis, With Love the more one begins to fall in love with not only the poems in the collection, but also the invaluable footnotes that accompany some of them. After “When the Poor Woman ‘Leans In’…” Bakshi writes that the “poem is written from a critical, Global South Marxist feminist perspective, in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s corporate feminism of ‘Lean In’ and its approach to feminism and work.”

One critique of Bakshi’s work could be that she’s often very forward and unequivocal in the points of views that she displays. However, that more often than not makes her writing accessible and heightens the clarity of her poems. What’s important about Prerna Bakshi’s poetry is that it can be easily read by anyone. The messages that she delivers are vital stories about oppressed people around the world that Westerners should especially be made aware of, and it’s clear that Prerna Bakshi deserves critical praise and recognition for her brave and touching new work, Burnt Rotis, With Love.

A Tribute to my Mentor’s Mentor: Sam Allen

Sam Allen at Romare Bearden Collection

Samuel Washington Allen lived for almost a century, from 1917 to 2015, and in his life he fought for justice, as a lawyer, a scholar, but most importantly, as a poet. Richard Wright first introduced Sam Allen to the literary world via the Parisian journal Présence Africaine; Allen later published under the pseudonym Paul Vesey (in order to keep his legal and literary lives separate), and we at Whirlwind had the honor of publishing him last in 2014.

Sam Allen’s poems in our second issue, “Nat Turner or Let Him Come an Invitational Appeal” and “Law and Order” showcase the late poet’s many rhetorical nuances while maintaining a straightforward, almost demanding exhortation that invokes freedom and equality in his signature song-like voice stemmed from, but also innovating upon his African heritage. In the 90’s Allen read his hymn-like Nat Turner poem in the Sorbonne, one of his many Alma Maters; his student, Lamont B. Steptoe, reproduces that moment through the poem entitled “Spirits Movin’ in the Sorbonne,” which we have the honor of sharing with you. Through the letters, poems, and photographs in the following pages, we wish to offer our readers some insight into how this exemplary American author, Samuel Allen, perceived and wrote about injustice under the Empire.

As our founder’s mentor, Sam Allen wrote Lamont B. Steptoe over 160 letters, only a few of which are featured here. In the letter entitled “Congratulations Lamont,” Allen displays joy at Steptoe’s “flourishing” career, and expresses gratitude for Larry Robin’s organizing of a series on African Francophone poets. In another letter, Allen commends Steptoe’s reading style as an integral facet of communicating his poetry.

Sam Allen’s graciousness to curators of poetry is apparent in his thank you letter to a now extinct arts program at the Walt Whitman Center for hosting him in a residence. During that same visit the mayor of Camden, NJ awarded Allen a key to the city. Allen praised Steptoe later on in the letter as a “highly valuable asset” in booking famous poets to visit and perform at the cultural center in Camden, such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Sonia Sanchez, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, and Dennis Brutus.

Sam Allen, Everett Hoagland, Sonia Sanchez, Dennis Brutus, and Larry Robin

Sam Allen, Everett Hoagland, Sonia Sanchez, Dennis Brutus, and Larry Robin

Steptoe wanted to do even more for fellow poets, and so he founded Whirlwind Press in order to publish the poetry of exiled anti-Apartheid activist Dennis Brutus. The subsequent book, Airs and Tributes, included an introduction by Samuel Allen, in which he proclaimed that the book stood as an “…eloquent testimony to the triumph of the creative spirit over the rigors of imprisonment and exile which have so vainly sought to silence [Brutus].”

And finally, we have the delight of witnessing the poetic processes of Sam Allen and Lamont B. Steptoe, as the former advises his mentee on editing Steptoe’s poems “Bleeding Diamonds” and “A Rose for Oliver Tambo.” Through these edits it’s apparent that Allen understood rhythm and the syntactical significance of words, even in the seemingly simplest of contexts, at a profound level, which proves to be highly edifying for his readers and students.

The genius of Samuel Allen remains evident throughout these letters, and it’s truly an honor and a pleasure to be able to share this literary giant’s writings. However, Allen has not yet received enough recognition for his talent and life’s work. At the time of this writing, one can find information online about Allen by prestigious institutions such as Oxford and Yale, but you have to google “Sam Allen poet” – because if you just google “Sam Allen” it comes up with some boring old businessman in a suit.

Not only that, but major outlets have not even reported on the poet’s death. So far the only media evidence of Sam Allen passing away comes from an obituary in The Columbus Dispatch. Let us hope that Samuel Allen receives the recognition he deserves as a literary great in his death, although his remarkable voice lives on through many of us regardless. The late Baraka once told Steptoe that he “must be one of the advanced.” Certainly this was due to the brilliance of Steptoe’s mentor Samuel Allen.

It is our responsibility as a community of poets and socially-aware humans to make sure that Allen’s legacy will endure. That legacy will arise in the same way as Samuel Allen wrote of Nat Turner, “In his name I say Come / For the thousands gone, Come / For the living the dead and the not yet born, I say Come…”

Indeed, the day will come. Otherwise we’re doomed to cynical nihilism. Thank you Sam Allen, for your words. Your spirit. The Empire collapses from within due to you.

An Introduction

The following is the foreword to Rocky Wilson’s upcoming book of poetry, which will be published by Whirlwind Press. It was a pleasure editing and collating Rocky’s poems for this collection. Mr. Wilson has been a friend, mentor, and inspiration. His collection should be released by the end of this year.

The bus ride to Camden from the JFK Airport felt longer than I’d expected. The passing scenery of post-industrial New Jersey was depressing in contrast to the rolling green pastures of western Ireland that I’d grown used to in the past week. I owed a fellow traveler a couple hundred Euros borrowed out of desperation. I was to immediately head to an ATM as soon as we arrived at the Rutgers campus in Camden, and pay him back with even more borrowed money from my parents. Human Resources decided that I didn’t work enough hours to earn vacation pay.

It was hot for early June. I was a sweaty mess. My mindset was in self-centered, pissed off at the world mode. As my friend and I got off the bus we encountered a bronze figure on a bicycle calling out in a high pitched voice to passer-bys while waving a monkey puppet. I smiled, but my creditor-companion had a look of mild concern on his face. I turned back and saw the figure approaching us while walking his bike. This man was darkly tanned with wavy gray hair, wearing a black tank top, shorts, and sandals. His bike basket was filled with fruit and miscellaneous items. He was dazing off at the Philadelphia skyline behind us.

“Rocky!”

“Sean! I thought you were in Ireland!”

We hugged each other.

“I just got back. You’re so tan.”

“I was in Atlantic City. Where’s my post card you promised?”

I apologized to Rocky for not being able to send it due to something called a “Bank Holiday.” I almost didn’t recognize him without one of his signature rainbow tie-dye shirts. We talked briefly about the Aran Islands and western Ireland, as he’d been there a few years earlier for a poetry festival. He said he stayed in the same house on Inishmore as John Synge. I asked him when the next Pizza and Poetry reading was taking place (the date changes every month, a reflection of Rocky’s mercurial personality). I told him that we’d have to meet up for a Blue Moon at The Victor beforehand, but that I had something I had to take care of at the moment with my friend. Rocky said hello and introduced himself, as well as Bongo, his monkey puppet, then they both took off toward the Delaware River.

My friend was baffled.

“Was that a hobo?”

“No. He’s a poet.”

“Oh…”

Serendipity allowed Rocky to welcome me back home, making me smile in the moment I needed it most. Rocky actually lives one block away from where we had stood, on Penn Street in Camden. His house is a beautiful three story brick row-home built over a century ago. This wasn’t the only time that I’d introduce Rocky to someone and they thought that he was an eccentric homeless person. This is because Rocky Wilson is the epitome of what it truly means to be anti-establishment. Although he grew up in comfortable Haddonfield, he’s far from a bourgeois poser. In the 70’s, Rocky felt the need to return to the decaying city of his birth, Camden, not to evangelize, but rather to spread enlightenment. And to Rocky that involves both poetry and puppetry.

“The puppet man” some people call him, he prefers to declare himself the Puppet Laureate of Camden. Why not? Rocky Wilson is one of the few who actually makes a difference in America’s most infamous city, along with priest and poet, Father Michael Doyle (famous for being one of the Camden 28). However, Rocky isn’t a grassroots activist. He’s much more than that. He is in the grass, one blade among many; he lives the pure life that the beatniks could’ve only wished to have led. Rocky brings joy to the hearts of strangers, especially children. As a substitute teacher in Camden, Rocky has built relationships with residents of the city that have endured for decades. It seems like every time I walk down Cooper Street with him someone calls out “Mr. Rocky! Where’s Bongo?” Rocky replies with heart-warming sincerity, a virtue which is present throughout his poetry as well.

At first glance Rocky Wilson’s poems could be dismissed as confessional or romantic. The former being over-killed by the beat poets of the last century, the latter even more so in the century before that and since. However, there’s something deeper here, a myriad collage based off of an awareness of all that has preceded it, but with a subtlety that does not explicitly acknowledge it like too many contemporary, “post-modern” poets do. The status quo has been stagnant for decades. In the age when Anne Carson is touted as the avant-garde of North American poetry, Rocky Wilson brings us back to our poetic roots. He does this in the spirit of Walt Whitman, which may seem trite to some, but it’s necessary in our fragmented and bewildered society.

Rocky Wilson proves that what’s needed isn’t art which reflects more confusion, but art which cures confusion. Rocky does this through recognizing subconscious pain stemming from a lost baby brother, bearing witness to natural beauty surviving in urban ruins, reflecting on the potentiality of love, observing camaraderie between whales, and in many more ways. These poems may seem more like stories at times, prosaic, narrative driven, and even conclusive. That’s because Rocky sees life as poetry, and vice versa. He does all of this and still manages to avoid cliché, which is one of the many remarkable yet simplistic traits that can be found in his poetry. This is what America needs.

-S. W. Lynch

Photo courtesy of Moonstone Arts Center.

Photo courtesy of Moonstone Arts Center.