Reviews of books and "Deanotations" by Dean Blehert
Reader comment: "The pieces of yours I've seen in LIGHT
QUARTERLY as well as SATIRE glimmer with a manic energy that's delicately
and precisely channeled into precision puns" --Chris Scribner
KRAX Magazine review of Deanotations 82 - 84: According
to the TV series, "Friends" seems to be the point where fantasies
end, and at 25 going on 45, the "real world" takes over. However,
Dean always proves that this is not so with this regular bi-monthly
broadsheet. The puns are as bad/good as ever, and he always gets
in plenty of fresh ones, the palindromes are by now a tad contrived
and probably need a rest for a few issues, yet, like Alice, he still
has his own private looking glass to slip through and find the real
world about as real as a cheap computer game. Issue 83 has the brilliant
long poem "Why We're Here" -- one for the young child's endless
"Why?". No. 84 has more complex world-play puns and witticisms --
and while we all suspected it would happen as a side-effect, it's
here that they discovered Viagravation! Compulsory reading -- start
right away. -- Andy Robson, editor
"Dean Blehert is a radical innovator in contemporary poetry.
He has rediscovered pleasure. his poems are -- how contrarian --
both fun to read and wonderfully perceptive about the follies of
modern life. I hope he represents the cutting edge of poetry for
the new millenium. But if not, we can console ourselves by rereading
him." -- Dana Gioia
"Dean Blehert is a provocateur of poetry and poets. He
plays the Devil's Advocate to expose tedium and cant. He is
doing what every modern poet should be doing -- publishing themselves,
distributing their work successfully, and earning a living as a
modern poet." -- Thom the World Poet
Deanotations, which has a small but loyal following, is filled
with pithy observations, light limericks, and quirky puns. "Impeachment
isn't about sex, but character," he mused in a recent issue.
"Does Clinton care, or is he a great care acter? Did he lie?
Sure. (With whom?)" In another issue, a poem reads: What's
worse than a giraffe with a sore throat/ Or a Serb with a sore Croat/
Or a swollen lip on Mick Jagger -- Ah!/ Bill Clinton on Viagra!
"Dean is one of the best writers of light verse in this
country," Moore says. "His mind is lightning-quick."
-- Guy Raz, The Washington City Paper, 4/2/99
Mainstream Magazine, Animal Protection
Institute, Vol 28, No 31 Spring 97 Book Reviews:
I Swear He Was Laughing: Poems About Dogs (Mostly) Who Only
THINK They Are People, But Aren't, So Can't Read This Book, So Will
You Please Read It for Them? by Dean Blehert, Illustrations
by Pam Coulter Blehert Words and Pictures Press, 82 pp., indexed,
$8.95. ISBN 0-96448574-5.
I Swear He Was Laughing is a delightful book of poems about
everyone's best friends, dogs. The book made me laugh, smile, and
it also brought tears to my eyes. Anyone who has or has known a
canine companion will find a well-painted portrait of their friend
somewhere in this easy to read book. For example I laughed when
I read, "The dog, who leaves messages in urine,/likes to watch
me flush the toilet,/admiring our high tech: He thinks/I'm making
a long-distance call." And I cried when I read "After
I have the dog put to sleep,/the dog cries all its tears/through
my eyes, relieving me/of the mute, tearless gaze." There were
many more, perhaps bettei; definitely longer verses than these I
have chosen to share with you, but I only want to give you a taste
of the variety of emotional flavors included in this book. Read
the book. Curl up on a rainy day and allow yourself to enjoy all
the wonderful feelings and memories it so simply, yet skillfully
calls forth for you. -Tina Perry
No Cats Have Been Maimed or Mutilated
During the Making of This Book: ...But Some of Them Are Disappointed
DEEPLY Disappointed - in Me by Dean Blehert, Illustrations by
Pam Coulter Blehert Words and Pictures Press, 82 pp., indexed, $8.95.
Dean Blehert knows all too well the joys and frustrations of being
owned by cats. In poems as brief as two lines - "The cat pokes
her face into places,/thereby certifying them as places." -
or as long as four pages - the psalm entitled "Low Though She
Walks" - Blehert captures with wit and economy the special
appeal cats have for every ailurophile. "I'm not rich,"
he writes, "but I've left my cat/fixed for life." I can't
idly browse through this book, not even for this review. Everywhere
Blehert's poems grab me by the scruff of the neck and demand to
be read aloud, or be read quietly to myself, but be read. It's like
eating potato chips, you can't stop at just one. Only the occasional
eulogies that brought a lump to my throat made me want to stop for
a while, and reflect on the cats I've lost over the years. (Waif,
does your spirit self still glue you to my lap whenever I sit?)
This is too good a book to keep selfishly. Buy two, one for you,
one for your friends, and be grateful that Blehert has so accurately
let us look at ourselves too, through our foibles as cats' caregivers
and surrogate parents and servants. - Gil Lamont
From KRAX No. 30 (review by Andy Robson):
DEANOTATIONS 45 - (Dean Blehert, 11919 Moss Point Lane, Reston,
Virginia 22094) - $10 for six issues.
Every two months Dean does a large broadsheet of his own poems;
these range from punning two-liners, clerihews, pithy homilies to
eight or nine stanza witty cynicisms. Some poets would take five
years to produce stuff up to the standard of one of these. I don't
know how he keeps it going (9 years and counting) on the writing
level alone - let alone producing and mailing the thing. Sure there
are some corny bits but I don't think he has time to stop for bad
days! Who could you read monthly and still want more? This is marathon
From Creativity Connection (review by Marshall
CC Small Press Rapport
Poet offers 'spirit of dream' observations in personal newsletter:
Dean Blehert says he'd hate to have to choose between sex
and silliness. So he fills his personal newsletter, Deanotations,
with loads of both.
I never thought I could like a poem about John Wayne Bobbitt, especially
one that rhymes "media" with "tedia". But Dean
Blehert makes it work.
"I write these poems because I am very interesting," Blehert
asserts in the 50th issue, which also marked his 50th birthday in
the fall of 1992, "and it's unfair that only those who meet
my body/should get to know me."
Blehert defines his writing as "spirit of dream," the
opposite of "matter of fact". If Richard Brautigan had
written "Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten,"
it might have sounded like Dean Blehert. Here's a sample:
- A rabbit's stillness increases as he fills up with motion like
an arrow in a taut bow.
- The tree rose higher and higher above the fenced area, but was
- Most birds flap their wings
to stay aloft, but the spirit bird
flutters frantically to hold itself
near the earth. If you shoot one,
it falls into the sky.
Blehert comments frequently on the role of the poet in society:
"In the good old days," he writes, "most poets were
consigned to oblivion. These days even oblivion won't take poets
on consignment." And again:
A pride of lions, an ecstasy of larks,
a preening of starlets, a clutch of fans,
a privy of poets, a carping of critics,
a quibble of scholars, a scarcity of readers.
Blehert started Deanotations in August of 1984 by sending the first
issue to about 90 people he knew. They sent names and addresses
of others who might like it, and readership swelled to nearly 3,000.
For the first six years, Blehert gave his wit and wisdom away. "Over
the years, about 1000 people sent me enough money to pay a bit more
than half my out-of-pocket expenses," he says.
In 1991 Blehert and wife Pam, who does all the drawings for Deanotations,
both quit their "cash-cow jobs" to concentrate on his
poems and her paintings. Blehert started charging for Deanotations
in January of 91, and readership stabilized at about 400. "Lost
a lot of readers," he reports, "but still, I gather, have
more subscribers than does the average little mag."
Deanotations is $10 for six issues a year or $17.50 for two years.
Most issues are four-pagers, with a double or triple issue once
a year. The 10th Anniversary Issue 61 n August 1994 is a whopping
This one's a bargain and a delight. Blehert offers proof that a
writer with something to say can find an audience. Write to Dean
Blehert, 11919 Moss Point Lane, Reston, VA 22094.
From Interesting!, issue 2 (1994), by
Richard J. Sagall, M.D., page 9:
Dean Blehert is a poet and observer of life who publishes his writings
in Deanotations. And to make it a family affair, his wife adds whimsical
sketches to each issue. I like his writings so much that each issue
of Interesting! will have a column or two of his stuff.
Same issue, page 24:
(I recently received three issues of Deanotations. This bimonthly
newsletter, published by Dean Blehert, contains his poetry and his
wife's illustrations. I liked it so much I got his permission to
include some of his writings in each issue of Interesting!...)
[The rest of the page is excerpts from "Deanotations".
From Light, Winter, 1992-1993 issue, page
Dean Blehert publishes and for the most part writes a publication
called DEANOTATIONS. It's illustrated amusingly, and filled with
a fertile wit LIGHT will feature in an upcoming issue. [Subscription
From HWUP "The Wordshop for Poets",
reviews in various issues, all by Larry Gross.
From issue 6, April, 1992:
DEANOTATIONS. Dean & Pam Blehert. This one's new to me
& too creative to wait for our June issue on Ways to Make Poetry
Pay. It's a 4-page newsletter composed entirely of Dean's introductory
column & his poems illustrated by Pam. It started free in 1984,
slowly graduated to yearly subscription, & is evidently doing
well, claiming a subscription list of "around 500." Good
poetry with a wry sense of humor & biting edge. [Then gives
subscription data and quotes two poems from recent Deanotations.]
From issue 8, June, 1992:
DEANOTATIONS, 11919 Moss Point Ln, Reston, VA 22094. #47 (Apr.
92) just out - It's a Must Have! Dean wonders what our world would
be like if we had tails like other animals; delightful, like an
From issue 15, Feb., 1993:
DEANOTATIONS: Bi-monthly Blehert-letter - Dean's poetic ramblings
& word play, Pam's sketches. I wouldn't be caught alive without
it. [Gives subscription info and quotes a poem from issue 51.]
From issue 16, Mar., 1993, p. 8:
REVIEW: Poems For Adults And Other Children, Dean Blehert;
illustrated by Pam Blehert. 55pp, 5x8, saddle-stitched, 1988, $5.95.
What can I say - I'd rather read Dean Blehert's poetry than my own.
Though I'm 20 years his senior, he's the me I'd like to be when
I grow up - if only I had the time, talent & insight. This book
is about childhood - sort of - & contains poetry & prose,
largely drawn from the pages of his newsletter, DEANOTATIONS. Dean's
ramblings offer outrageous puns & language tricks that send
you off in one direction so that his sneaky insights into being
human can snatch you back the other. Then, while you're searching
the strewn path for brain & breath, he's off again. Pam's Thurber-like
sketches aptly snap her husband & his subject both in midstride.
Catch them here in their 1st book (maybe others by now), or subscribe
to his bi-monthly NL (See HWUP! 15), 11919 Moss Point Ln, Reston
The chocolate chip ice cream
emerged from the freezer, found
a child and was fulfilled.
...The proper place for
children is in a poem about
how lovable they are.
From issue 25, Feb., 1994:
Dean Blehert has whetted my appetite with his draft of an
article that may soon appear in a well-known journal. It suggests
the current craze for biopsychiatry does great harm to human society
& to poets in particular. The idea that whatever quirks individuals
may have can be treated away with drugs bodes ill for whatever creative
individuality may still survive in our world's turn toward political
(& social) correctness. If mood-changing drugs can make us all
One in Happy Oblivion, where is the place for a poet, a painter?
If deviations from the norm are merely the result of chemical imbalances
in our mind/body, what the world needs is a local pharmacy, an Rx
rather than an artist. Is that a frightening catechism? Stay tuned!
From May-June, 1994 issue of Lighten
Up!, by Bob McKenty, p. 6:
[After printing one of my poems:] Dean publishes, and his
wife Pam illustrates, a bi-monthly newsletter (DEANOTATIONS) of
his musings. Many poems (not that many rhymes). Lots of great wordplay.
One of Dean's pithy counsels: "For zingier punctuation use
DASH! - the UnColon!" [Then gives address, etc.]
From KRAX, no. 31, review by Andy Robson:
DEANOTATIONS - (Dean Blehert, 11919 Moss Point Lane, Reston,
VA 22094) - $10 for six issues. These bi-monthly broadsheets just
keep on going full of little punning epithets, wryly witty philosophies
and paradoxical observations. Issue 50 is a huger than usual 16
pages with a lavish selection of illustrative sketches by his wife.
Not many people could turn out so much that was readable in the
time (especially small press writers), so it's worth reading just
to be amazed. They always make my day - try 'em.
Review by Dave Castleman in Dusty Dog
#22, p. 6:
Dean Blehert, Deanotations; Mr. Blehert, 11919 Moss Point
Ln., Reston, VA 22094; 20pps, $10/several issues.
"Sentimental raindrops on leaves don't know
it's only a street light that sparks them."
Mr. Blehert is an exceedingly alert and astute fellow whose habit
is to chat to some imaginary extrapolation of himself, and we become
that imagined self. His is a godforgiven universe and basically
a happy universe, and he laughs immoderately because he has chosen
not to lie.
"Some say time is a river. If we die
and are reborm to meet again, time is, indeed,
Puns are execrable filthy squirming little things, and if Mr. Blehert
ate all of the sheep's milk cheese that his wife had so kindly bought,
perhaps he would tell her that the cheese was feta accompli. O dastardly
He writes poems silly and serious, rhymed and unrhymed, rational
and fanciful. He tilts at windmills of his own selecting, because
life has been kind to him.
"The trees out my window stand silent in the hum
of unseen trucks."
Every so often this little bark of words is launched upon the paper
seas of literacy against the tides of human lunacy, and such a quixotic
launching must sometimes seem disappointingly hopeless to such an
irrepressible punster and rationalist. But then, Mr. Blehert understands
the inevitable result of such an attack, and he understands that
there is no such thing as a free launch.
Deanotations has been excerpted twice in issues
of Bogg. In each case, the editor published a letter by Dean
Blehert describing the current state of "Deanotations",
followed by about 12 sample poems taken from issue of Deanotations.
Implosion, Issue V, Dec., 1988, Irving
Barat, Windsor, Ontario:
Dean Blehert (Reston, Virginia) edits DEANOTATIONS, a regular
paper of poetry, quips, witticisms and musings...Dean is a "one
man show of poetry."
Creativity Connection, Madison, WI,
Oct.-Dec. 1994 issue (Vol. 6 No. 1), page 3, in article "Mixing
apples, oranges, bananas and kiwi", by editor, Marshall Cook.
In the article, Cook is arguing that it's wrong to dismiss small-press
publications as insignificant when they include "...many of
the most vibrant publications in America." He continues: "I
love dishwasher. I read Deanotations the instant it hits my mail
box. Cancel my subscription to Esquire, but don't take away my Prairie
Rambler. Categorize these pubs? ('Quirky, quirkier, quirkiest?')
They defy categorization. Isn't that the point?"
Review by Miles David Moore in the review
section of Bogg a few years ago (pp. 62-3). This is a review
of my book, Poems for Adults and Other Children, which consists
mainly of poems previously published in "Deanotations":
Dean Blehert stated his goals plainly in Bogg 56: "I'd
like to write poetry that, while recognizable as 'serious' poetry,
not greeting-card smarm, can yet reach the vast audience of literate
people who think they don't like poems." This precisely is
why Blehert is at odds with most contemporary poetic camps: he is
too informal for the academics, too direct for the "language"
poets, and too gentle for the followers of Bukowski and Todd Moore.
Blehert is more reminiscent of recent fiction writers - a friendlier
Cheever, a less pretentious Vonnegut, a happier and healthier Brautigan.
He harks back a couple of generations to when people still lined
up to buy the books of Carl Sandburg and Ogden Nash (two poets he
superficially resembles). Poems for Adults and Other Children, Blehert's
fourth book of poetry, is culled mostly from his free poetry newsletter,
Deanotations, and is mostly Blehert at his best. The book revolves
loosely around the theme of childhood, and is full of Blehert's
trademark, deceptively simple squibs:
A long argument
with a four-year-old: I'm cured
of wanting to be right.
"They even killed the children!"
Why say that? When anyone suffers,
a child suffers.
"You be a good boy, or I'll call the
POLICE and put you in JAIL!"
Some people are good
the way other people are in jail.
More ambitious are Blehert's uniformly impressive longer poems:
"The Doll's Journey," based on an incident in the life
of Kafka; "What the Child Knows," which addresses the
child's innate sense of order, his faith "that ideal form signifies
immortality"; "Left Behind," which breathes eccentric
life into that most hellish of verse forms, the sestina. To enjoy
Blehert, you have to share, or at least endure, his near-obsessive
love of puns and wordplay (in his cover blurb, he describes Deanotations
as his "popular and momular poetry letter"). To an amazing
degree, however, Blehert succeeds in writing poetry designed for,
and deserving of, a wide general audience. The book's charming line
drawings are by Blehert's wife, Pamela Coulter Blehert, who also
From HWUP No. 37, Nov./Dec. 1995, from
an article by editor Larry Gross on the relative importance of "Show"
vs. "Tell" in poetry:
Much poetry is short on the SHOW and long on the TELL, so
I remind poets of the fact. If SHOW is slighted or absent, a poem
can still be successful, but compensation must be made thru other
means: sparkling wit, bright word play, clever constructions, etc.
A TELL poem is dull far more often than a SHOW one. One of my favorite
small press poets is Dean Blehert. His DEANOTATIONS is crammed with
wit, puns, skillful word play & cogent observation. It is relatively
short on what we think of as "detail," but he makes the
reader forget that. If everyone wrote that well, I wouldn't have
to stress these other points.
From How To Write and Publish Poetry, 1994
edition, by Larry Gross:
On p. 52, in the chapter on parodies, Larry writes:
"Dean Blehert, whose bi-monthly newsletter DEANOTATIONS
is overflowing with witty parodies, puns and other magical word
play, sent us a poem that is both a parody and a palinode...".
From KRAX, issue 33, Apr., 1996, review by
editor, Andy Robson, of Deanotations, issues 63, 64, 65:
Whimsical and occasionally twisted philosophies from Dean
in the form of poetic short hiccoughs. Not averse to or with bad
puns and happy to squeeze a rhyme till it squeals, his one-man-band
broadsheet is distinctively illustrated by Pam's drawings and understated
cartoons. The whole is a proper treasure. " 'You're walking
on thin water,' she said -/proof that even sons of God can go to
far?"..."This is all just my imagination,/ but what are
you doing here/ in my imagination?" Forget Oriental haiku;
this is the Occidental variety. A groan, a wry smile and a guffaw
in one column must be worth having - unless you're part of the bureaucracy
he gives short shrift to.
From Creativity Connection, Marshall
Cook, issue 28, Aug., 1996, p. 13:
Deanotations hits another milestone
Dean Blehert's wonderful poetry newsletter, Deanotations, recently
celebrated Issue 70. "Poetry publications age faster than dogs,"
Dean notes. "Most die after issue 1 or 2, poor mayflies. This
one should be sleeping all day, no longer leaping up to answer the
door, glad of your company. But it doesn't know it's ancient - let's
not tell it! GOOD boy! GOOD old poetry letter!"
Will success ruin this good old poetry letter? "So ruin me
already," Dean says. [followed by subscrip. info.]
From FACTSHEET FIVE (Aug., 1996):
DEANOTATIONS #69, December, '95
I always tell people there's a lot more zines out there than are
listed in "Factsheet Five". Every day close to half the
zines that come in are brand new to us. Usually these are publishers'
first efforts that rarely make it past their second or third issue.
This is the first time I've seen Dean Blehert's "Deanotations",
but it's been around for almost as long as "Factsheet Five"
Each issue starts off with a short discussion about what co- editors
Dean and Pam Blehert have been up to recently, followed by a plethora
of poems, quotations, drawings, and little pearls of wisdom. Very
reminiscent of Dennis Brezina's "Enough is Enough" or
"The Prairie Rambler", it's a quiet zine that you can
read in front of the fireplace. "How to turn to stone: Lie
about your rage." "The smog creeps in on little pigs'
feet..." "An optimist burns his candle at both beginnings."
"Reality - Love it or Leave it."