Two bibliophiles walk into a bar …


“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish, Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Two bibliophiles walk into a bar and talk books, sharing favorite opening sentences? “Call me Ishmael,” one says, referring to the celebrated opening line of Moby DickThe two begin to speculate, “What if Ishmael had a phone number?” … and now Ishmael does.


This post includes several absolutely delightful videos by way of experiencing Call Me Ishmael. If you are reading this from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to view them. Each is under two minutes.

CALL ME ISHMAEL is a website founded by Stephanie Kent and Logan Smalley in 2014 subsequent to their conversation. It presents messages people leave in voicemail for Ishmael. The messages left are about favorite books: the beauty and pleasure enjoyed, the inspiration gained, the way lives changed, or how reading the book led to some special and unexpected experience.

There are more than a thousand stories and every type of book represented – poetry, nonfiction, books for children, youth and adults, and both literary and genre fiction.

In the past “Ishmael” transcribed a message with founder faves, featured each week and shared on the website and through social media platforms. Under “Galley Calls” visitors could listen to recordings of calls and vote on whether Ishmael should edit, transcribe and feature the voicemail message.

More recently I noted there haven’t been new videos in a while and I contacted Stephanie and Logan.  Here’s the response:

Hi Jamie, We are still active, but focusing more on our Call Me Ishmael Phone program than posting calls. Planning to kickstart the videos in the next few months, though, so check back in soon  …  Thanks!


This is a fun site. I love listening to the videos. I suspect you might as well. Check in periodically for the promised new videos … and maybe call in yourself. There’s also a volunteer opportunity (1-2 hours a week) to help with “Galley Calls” and other projects.

Here’s are sample videos ~


This is one young woman’s experience with an old favorite of mine, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the book that started so many young women on our path as writers.

This one on the Harry Potter series is from Nathan, “the boy who lived.”  Grab a tissue.

The YouTube Channel is HERE.

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” Italo Calvino, The Uses of Literature

Photograph – 1940s rotary telephone – is courtesy of Kornelia und Hartmut Häfel under CC BY-SA 3.0 license


Poet and writer, I was once columnist and the associate editor of a regional employment publication. Currently I run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers.

My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation Press, The River Journal, The Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman.

THE LIFE OF AN ARTIST … the captive and the liberator …

Today: A quiet reading day.

A quiet Saturday, reading.

Joyce in Zurich, c 1913

Joyce in Zürich, c 1913

“The life of an artist … differs from the lives of other persons in that its events are becoming artistic sources even as they command his present attention. Instead of allowing each day, pushed back by the next, to lapse into imprecise memory, he shapes again the experiences, which have shaped him.  He is at once the captive and the liberator.” Richard Ellmann in  James Joyce (Recommended)

American literary critic Richard Ellmann (1918-1987) was also an excellent biographer and wrote about Joyce, Wilde and Yeats.  As far as I know, all three books are still in publication.

Joyce photo is in the public domain.

SATURDAY … prescheduled post, no computer, no writing … just a good “LONG” escapist read

Oscar loves a good mystery.

Oscar loves a good mystery.

Brevity might be the soul of wit (Shakespeare) and of lingerie (Dorothy Parker), but it has now evolved to be ubiquitous and fashionable in a wordy kind of way… Twitter stories, flash fiction, even one-sentence poems and one word responses to emails. However tantalizing or practical some of these are, too much abbreviated word-play is a bit like feeding mind and heart on nothing but hor d’oeuvres. I want to shout, “WHERE’S THE MAIN COURSE!”

An appreciation for short snappy creative writing seems somehow inevitable though. While the world lauds mindfulness, it demands multitasking and the expectations for productivity are ever-expanding. We just don’t have time for lengthy reads… and maybe we don’t have patience anymore. In any given moment it seems a thousand things call for our attention.

No doubt we also owe some of the penchant for sound-bites to our explosion of tech toys and social networking. I could certainly give them up if I had to, but I’d rather not. Nor do I want to give up the convenience and economy of my Kindle library, which is perfect for living in small spaces.

Nonetheless, on Saturdays like this – with no immediate deadlines, no appointments, no chores – I love to live in my big chair with a book and an iced coffee mojito. What luxury to get lost for long hours in an imagined world, painstakingly created, served up on paper with good old-fashioned paper binding.

Wishing you a pleasant Saturday.



Nothing beats a good thriller for escape and John Lescroart is the absolute best

IMHO nothing beats a good legal thriller for escape and John Lescroart is the absolute master – my read for the day.

International bestseller John Lescroart joins Alex Dolan on Thrill Seekers, Authors on Air, Blog Talk Radio




“We have that book at home.” so say the under-five set

A mother reads to her children, depicted by Jessie Willcox Smith in a cover illustration of a volume of fairy tales written in the mid to late 19th century.

A mother reads to her children, depicted by Jessie Willcox Smith in a cover illustration of a volume of fairy tales written in the mid to late 19th century.

“We have that book at home.”

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“There is something utterly charming about little kids recognizing the books they have at home when they come to the bookstore. Little ones come in every day and almost all under the age of five feel the need to announce when they see a book they know from home. There is comfort in the familiar. The characters in the books have become friends, the artwork can be anticipated and there are no surprises.” MORE Josie Levitt yesterday in Publisher’s Weekly ShelfTalker, “In which children’s booksellers ponder all things literary, artistic, and mercantile.”

Illustration, public domain