Whirlwind Magazine Issue #3

Dear reader,

Hello, and welcome to the third issue of Whirlwind Magazine. Much of this edition features writing and art created by our friends whose families originated from Latin America or Spain. Latina/o writing is an integral part of American literature. Spanish is a beautiful and poetic language that so often sounds smoother and lovelier than English. Our Latina/o sisters and brothers are essential elements to the culture of Philadelphia and Camden, the two cities which we at Whirlwind call home. This all may be obvious to some, but we feel that Latina/o culture is too often still marginalized. (A quick note, I emphasize the use of Latina/o in this letter in order to indicate the Magazine’s views on gender equality, some use the term Latinx in order to be inclusive of all gender identities, and we would like to recognize that as well).

Now, admittedly, I am a novice in regards to the Spanish language. Entiendo algunos, pero nunca mucha. Hopefully Whirlwind’s new staff member, Courtney Gambrell, who is fluent in Spanish, will make sure the preceding sentence made sense. One of my favorite books in my bookcase is Pablo Neruda’s “The Captain’s Verses,” which includes every poem in both Spanish and English parallel to one another. Another favorite of mine on the poetry shelf is the late Justin Vitiello’s, “amapolas y cardos,” published by none other than Whirlwind Press. We have included four pages at the end of this issue of Vitiello’s poems in the same format: Spanish on one page, English on the next.

Vitiello passed away a little over a year ago. A professor at Temple University both in Philadelphia and Rome, Vitiello was a prolific and powerful poet who bore witness to issues of social justice and human rights. Whirlwind Issue 3 is dedicated to this man who deserves the notoriety and renown that only the best of poets gain after their death. On the Industrial Workers of the World website, Nathaniel Miller wrote, “…[Vitiello] was a fighter, and like all great working-class soldiers understood that we must fight for bread and roses too. Justin organized poetry readings against the mafia in Sicily, telling me that the best way to fight hate and ignorance was simply take a public space as collective triumph over fear, and in Philadel- phia he always stood on the picket lines. That fearless determination is his legacy.”

We honor Vitiello’s legacy in this issue by publishing writers and artists who share his love of words and images and believe in advancing human rights and equality. From exploring the tribulations of imprisonment, to acknowledging the extent of continuing imperialist oppression, Whirlwind Issue 3 welcomes you to expand your awareness along with us. As always, thank you so much for reading.

-S.W. Lynch

Querido lector,

Salud y bienvenido a la tercera edición de Whirlwind Magazine. La mayoría de esta edición publica escritura y arte creado por nuestros amigos cuyos familiares proceden de Latinoamérica o España. La escritura Latino es parte integral de la literatura americana. Español es una lengua hermosa y poética cual suena más suave y más rica que Inglés. Nuestros hermanos latinos son elementos esenciales a la cultura de Filadelfia y Camden, las dos ciudades que Whirlwind reconoce como un hogar. Aunque estos detalles puedan ser obvio para alguna gente, proveemos el sentimiento que la cultura Latina se queda marginada tanta. Nota por favor, subrayo que el uso del término Latino/a en esta forma indica que la posición de la revista en cuanto a la igualdad de género. No es raro para ver el término Latinx, para incluir todas las identidades generas, lo reconocimos también.

Es verdad que yo sea un novicio con respecto al idioma español. “Entiendo poco pero no mucho.” Esperanzadamente nuestro nueva emplea, Courtney Gambrell, quien está fluida en español, pueda asegurar que la oración anterior tiene sentido. ¡Ahora sí! Uno de mis libros favoritos en mi estante por Pablo Neruda, “The Captian’s Verses,” cual incluye cada poema en los ambos idiomas: español e inglés. Otro favorito en la estantería de poesía mía es por Justin Vitiello, “amapolas y cardos,” publicado por Whirlwind Press. Hemos incluido cuatro páginas al fin de esta edición de su poesía en el mismo formato: español por una página, inglés siguiente.

Desafortunadamente, Sr. Vitiello ha fallecido hace un año. Un profesor en Temple University aquí y extranjero, Vitiello fue un poeta prolífico y poderoso quien cuestionaba los temas alrededor justicia social y los derechos humanos. Esta edición está dedicado éste hombre quien merece el gran renombre que solamente los mejores poetas ganan después de morir. En la página web, Industrial Workers of the World, Nathaniel Miller escribió, “[Vitiello] was a fighter, and like all great working-class soldiers under- stood that we must fight for bread and roses too. Justin organized poetry readings against the mafia in Sicily, telling me that the best way to fight hate and ignorance was simply take a public space as collective triumph over fear, and in Philadelphia he always stood on the picket lines. That fearless determination is his legacy.”

Honramos el legado de Vitiello por ésta edición por publicando los escritores y artistas que com- parten su amor para las palabras y las imágenes y creen en su valor para avanzar los derechos humanos e igualdad. De explorar las tribulaciones del encarcelamiento, reconocer el alcance de la opresión imperi- alista que continúa, la tercera edición de Whirlwind da la bienvenida a Ustedes para extender la concien- cia con nosotros. Como siempre, te damos tan agradecimiento por leer.

-S.W. Lynch
Translation by Courtney Gambrell

The cover art is a detail of a Karina Puente piece. Designed by Melissa Rothman.
The cover art is a detail of a piece by Karina Puente. Cover designed by Melissa Rothman.

Whirlwind Magazine Issue #1

All summer I’ve been working on Whirlwind Press’s magazine release, and finally here it is. This issue collects poems and art together from a diverse range of voices, all of which bear witness to injustice as well as beauty in urban and natural environments. We’ve gathered local poets and artists as well as some nationwide and even international contributors for the debut issue. The launch party was hosted at the nation’s oldest journalist club, The Pen and Pencil, and it was a huge success, a full house, and featuring big names like Nzadi Keita, Jim Cory, and our founder, Lamont B. Steptoe. Visit us at to learn more, and even submit some poems and art of your own!

Whirlwind Cover

Non Fiction

The Public Death of a Human

I wonder if there are bumper-stickers that say “What would Dionysus do?” Maybe there aren’t any because it would run the risk of catching the mythologically-aware police officer’s eye. I wonder how many cops are well-versed in the traits of Greek gods. Maybe it’s better not to posit arbitrary hypotheses. It’s best to keep such worries bottled up. Or maybe I should just drown them in the water of life.

Speaking of whiskey, this tiny bottle of Tully has been sitting on my bureau for a few months now. It’s almost empty. I’d guess that there’s only a 1/5th left, 4/5ths of which were swigged while writing a poem lost in pages of drunken stream-of-consciousness.

I don’t know why I’ve saved this last little bit of Tullamore Dew. My nihilist self says for no reason. My hypochondriac self says that since the seal has been broken and the cap has been left half on by my drunken past-self, that there runs a risk of contamination, somehow. My anxious self says the same thing, but not for any clinical reason, which is perhaps better, because the former is absolutely absurd, (ad infinitum via the paranoid delusional parts of me.) My melodramatic self says that I’m saving the ultimate sip for when the friend who gave it to me as a gift dies.

Although now I don’t think that will happen to him all that soon anymore. My friend recently had surgery in order to remove a tumor from his bladder. It was successful, and should stem the tide of nothingness for a little while, (although the malignancy in his prostate is a different story). Back in September I didn’t know he had cancer. That was when he travelled to Lithuania because he was invited to read at a poetry festival in Vilnius. The somewhat large, autonomous, and semi-recognized-as-independent-commune that hosted the event, (and awarded him with the title of Ambassador of all African Americans) is built on the ruins of a WWII-era Jewish ghetto. He told me he could not feel comfortable there, no matter how accommodating his hosts were, on account of the tortured phantoms of forgotten individuals.

It was sometime in October and the night after he returned from halfway across the world when we went to McGlynchies and he showed me photographs of the artists’ collective and poetry festival. He drank Cuervo and Harp. I drank Tully and Lager. When we departed from one another he told me he had cancer and gave me a gift. If I abide by my melodramatic self then I hope it will be awhile before I sip the rest of that whiskey he gave me.

When we hang out I don’t speak as often as I usually do around other people I drink with. I imbibe in his anecdotes and conspiracies as well as our usual drinks. He’s given me other tokens, usually mysticism-related trinkets, but this whiskey is the most heartfelt. It’s only 50ml, kind of like the mini airline bottles of liquor. Although this gift wasn’t picked up haphazardly and conveniently duty free. It’s from Lithuania, specifically the hotel he stayed in in Vilnius, complete with a white sticker filled with Lithuanian words. He got it for me because he knows me. He notices the little things. Our weekly communion hasn’t gone unnoticed to him, even though it’s only been going on for the past year, out of the other sixty some-odd-years he’s been alive. How about I drink this last little bit now in the hope that it will go on for some time.


Dear L

I have come to know you through your many stories,

and as I close my eyes, I envision your experiences

as prophecy, blood soaked rice paddies, washed away

by monsoon rain. Then war comes again. And fresh blood

runs through crimson streams anew. I have respected you

from the outset, yet at times I think you’ve taken mysticism

too far. However, I have only become world-wary abstractly,

and can count the number of dead bodies

I’ve seen in the flesh on one hand, unlike you. Some people

are possessed with an unhealthy obsession of death,

and in the process forget about life. You’ve taught me

that the two are intertwined, and even though you’ve witnessed the unspeakable,

you still somehow find the lost grain of hope in any dire situation.

I want to thank you for your sable hand of guidance,

always grasping an ebony cane crafted in the cradle of humanity, Africa,

the continent whose descendants you have taught me more about than anyone else.

I am grateful.

“Walk in Beauty” and endure.

-your loving friend,


Non Fiction

Who will be Philadelphia’s Next Poet Laureate?


Sonia Sanchez has been remarkable in her tenure as Philadelphia’s inaugural poet laureate, which began in 2012, and ends in two months due to the mandated two year term limit. Sanchez, who just turned 79 in September, is an internationally renowned and influential poet whose poetry is often categorized under the Black Arts Movement, which is often called the sister to the Black Power Movement. Sanchez, in spite of her frail health, has propagated poetry in Philadelphia during her tenure, and her most tangible accomplishment was the “Peace is a Haiku Song” mural on Christian street, a beautiful painting featuring children, poetry, and origami swans; the mural was “inspired by Sanchez’s belief that the haiku form is inherently non-violent in its intent and structure and engenders beauty, serenity, and brief reflection.”

While Sanchez’s legacy will surely be solidified by her exceptional work as Philadelphia’s inaugural laureate, the looming question is who will replace her? The first poet that comes to mind is Lamont B. Steptoe, a Pittsburgh born, but decades-long Philadelphia resident and Vietnam War veteran who has recently returned from headlining an international poetry festival in Lithuania.

Thom Nickels wrote an article for The Huffington Post on Philadelphia’s upcoming selection of a new poet laureate, in which he questions whether “a Steptoe-Sanchez succession [would] interfere with the city’s racial diversity goals”. What racial diversity goals? The city’s population is majority Black, but why should race matter in this situation anyway, unless someone has a pre-conceived notion that two Black poets are too similar? Nickels claims that Steptoe has the same kind of voice as Sanchez, but if he had actually read or listened to their respective poetry, he would know that Steptoe and Sanchez’s voices couldn’t be any more different from one another. Sanchez advocates peace and justice through a passive voice that focuses on natural beauty and the interactions of people through intimate relationships. Steptoe is a raw, no holds barred truth-seeker, a spiritual warrior, and certified Reiki master who has converted Rimbaud’s abstract idea of the poet as shaman into an everyday practice of poetic prophesy.

The Huffington Post article at times borders on conjecture, with labels that arbitrarily question the nomination of fictional poets, such as: “a safe mom poet”, “a vegetarian, Asian, female poet”, “a gay feminist poet”, or “a waspish W.H. Auden or Robert Lowell type”. In doing this, as well as introducing the article with an again, label-ridden description of Moonstone Arts annual Poetry Ink, and repeatedly and mistakenly calling the event “Poetry Link”, Nickels sounds slightly disparaging of what he calls “Poetdelphia”.

There’s no doubt that Thom Nickels had good intentions in his attempt to illuminate the status of poetry in Philadelphia for the usual HuffPo reader. His article would be informative if it wasn’t for his incessant “Poetry Link” misnomer. Nickels speaks favorably of a few poets that he actually mentions by name, including Jack Veasey, Daisy Fried, and CAConrad. Nickels praises Veasey’s poetry, and gives him props for being raised in pre-gentrified Fishtown, but then laments that Veasey is now a Harrisburg resident and therefore is not eligible to be poet laureate. Nickels concludes his article by declaring that Fried should be the next laureate and defends his decision by quoting Joyce Carol Oates on why Fried has “an original voice”. Yet Fried’s poetry consists largely of confessional narrative free verse, which is fine, but it does little to represent the city of Philadelphia as a community.

However, this does not mean that all hope is lost in the pursuit of an adequate poet laureate. As mentioned before, Nickels speaks highly of CAConrad, but then dismisses him because Conrad’s bizarre yet captivating poetry might not go over well “at a City Hall business luncheon”. Although that question should be irrelevant, considering that the laureate’s job is not to give readings in City Hall, but to go out on the streets and advocate poetry to the people. Nickels brings up a valid point, does politics matter in the selection process? Considering that Mayor Nutter will not be making the decision himself, but rather will sign off on a recommendation by a committee of eight poets and academics, politics may not matter as much as Nickels suggests.


So CAConrad, who is currently in residence at the famous MacDowell Colony, where Thornton Wilder wrote “Our Town”, should not be looked over in comparison to a conventional poet like Daisy Fried. Conrad was just published in October’s issue of POETRY, the foremost poetry magazine in America, and so it would be interesting for the panel to select an out-of-the-ordinary, nationally-on-the-rise poet to represent the city. Yet Steptoe has the advantage of decades of experience, and he also has explicitly represented Philadelphia in his poetry without ever having been given the task by someone else. Race and politics aside, Lamont Steptoe deserves to be the next poet laureate, and two years after that, CAConrad.