Thursday, June 23, 2022

Today is *National Typewriter Day*


This is my 1929 Underwood No. 5. Millions were manufactured but it takes some luck to find a nice one. I spent a week polishing away nearly a hundred years of oil, dust, and cigarette smoke. What I like most about this machine is how the chrome-ringed, glass-topped keys feel. Those raised, silver rings cradle your fingertips and help keep them in place atop the smooth, glass circles--a good thing, since typing on this machine requires a sharp, staccato effort much different from a modern, electronic keyboard.

Thursday, June 2, 2022



Another poem from In Inks of All Colors.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how extremists are getting all the airtime these days, even though we in the middle, the quiet ones, are more accurate representations of America.

Another influence on this poem is my continued belief that even the most divisive issues are never as black and white as politicians portray them. There's a lot of gray in most issues--many points of view, many primary and secondary stakeholders, and lots of complexities. Details. Details that politicians regularly gloss over, like modern artists painting with broad swaths of black and white.

Thanks for listening while I continue searching my way through all the division in our great country.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022



From my Instagram account, a poem from In Inks of All Colors, a look back at the old me, the unhappy me, the version of John who was far too worried about what others thought and too preoccupied to listen to his own instincts.


Found this when sorting and recycling OLD things--my very first flash fiction and fantasy story (sort of). It's not brilliant, but the last line makes me laugh.



From my Instagram account, a poem from I'm Not a Kung Fu Badass.

This was one of my first attempts to cope with my worries for our country and my sadness for how divided we sometimes appear. I furled and unfurled versions of this poem for over two years, all while capturing more thoughts, anxieties, and feelings. Several of the poems in In Inks of All Colors have this poem at their roots; they began with me questioning why the stitches in our flag have been especially stressed in recent years.

My grandfather's 1935 Royal "O."


When my father first gave me this beautiful machine, it wasn't shiny, it smelled horrible, and it needed mechanical work. Adam, a collector in Columbus, Ohio, cleaned and repaired it for me and did a fantastic job.

During one of my visits with Adam, another machine captured my imagination--an old Western Union (Underwood) typewriter that had written countless telegrams a century earlier. I expressed an interest in buying it, right then or any time in the future. Sadly, Adam refused to sell it.

Recently, however, someone did convince him to give it up--Tom Hanks, an avid collector of typewriters.

Tom Hanks, huh. Well... I guess that's okay, Adam.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

my latest...

In Inks of All Colors, the ebook, can now be purchased.
CLICK HERE to go to Amazon.


Book Description:

Fans of I’m Not a Kung Fu Badass, John Arthur Lee’s first poetry book, will celebrate the return of his unique storytelling style, creative metaphors, and honest self-reflection. In Inks of All Colors offers 35 new poems exploring American society, corporate culture, untimely illness, relationships, and more. Examples below.

A Good Friend

Sees you more clearly
than the mirror house inside you.

Defends your weak side
when you throw punches at yourself.

And celebrates your every success
louder than a preschool teacher.


I was twenty-three
when my first stroke arrived.
One eye studied the ceiling,
the other pondered the floor.
A bizarre double vision,
nauseating funhouse prank.
Then my ear started ringing
and my legs let me fall.

I survived,
and with resynchronized eyes,
I saw life as more finite
and swore I’d capture more.

But routine roared back,
like a DC-10 behind schedule,
so I hurried aboard,
my clear vision forgotten.



Wednesday, March 16, 2022



As a writer, I'm constantly thinking about the power and potential destructiveness of words--I can't help it. These are some thoughts that have been eddying together for a while (first draft).

Sunday, February 20, 2022


This version began as an exploration with line breaks and reading direction (and thoughts about what makes us who we are and what we must do to grow further). Now it has a home in my latest poetry book, In Inks of All Colors.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A daisy wheel. Still fascinating.




Younger readers may not be familiar with this wonderful piece of old technology. Many electronic typewriters produced at the end of the typewriter era used daisy wheels to type letters on paper. Some home-office printers used daisy wheels too.

How did it work? Depending on which key you pressed on the keyboard, the typewriter would swiftly spin the wheel and a print head (driven by an electromagnet, I think) would strike the backside of a single "petal," press an "inked" ribbon against paper, and print a very sharp character.

Daisy wheels were easily removed and replaced, allowing one typewriter to produce different fonts and typefaces (a really cool feature during the days of Sony Walkmans, Polaroid cameras, and MTV).

I was very excited when a stranger sold me my first daisy wheel typewriter, complete with three additional wheels and typefaces, all for just $15!

Who really wins when we're divided?


The Other Half

half this country isn’t
                                    or selfish.
That other half has views
they believe you are blind to.
Politicians, Personalities, and Parties
don’t help anyone see the other side.
They only preach their brand of extremism
and vilify those who think differently.
They make us believe everything is
wrong or right,
                      stupid or smart,
                                              unfair or just.
But who benefits when we lose empathy?
Who celebrates distrust and anger?
Who gains when we’re divided? 
Politicians, Personalities, and Parties. 
They want us to see a world
where one must win or lose.
And thanks to our compliance
we’ve given them just that.
But they’re the only winners.
The rest of us . . . are losing.
One of several poems I wrote while trying to figure out how the America I grew up in became so divided, and how its citizens seemingly lost empathy for each other.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021



When I turn down the noise makers, it's easier to remember we are all Americans, all members of the greatest country on Earth, and, easy or hard, we are all in this together. Well, most of us are. A few are strictly in it for themselves.

This shows a final edit before publication.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Even the most common have so much character


(click image to see greater detail)

I was visiting one of the most scenic places in the world--the Grand Canyon, West Rim--when this little feather puff distracted me. A female house sparrow, I think. Very common, but the lighting was just right to capture her details nicely.

I've been fascinated with birds since I was young. And even now, during a time in our history where planes, drones, spacecraft, and satellites routinely fly over the Earth, there's still something magical about a feathered creature taking flight and soaring through the air effortlessly. And this one gave me an additional gift--she sat still long enough for me to enjoy her company.



Friday, October 29, 2021

Mockingbird (Arizona)

This one made beautiful music but seldom stayed in one place.

Birdwatching... Paused to enjoy the tree.

 I was trying to snap some shots of a wonderfully musical mockingbird, when I realized how beautiful the tree itself was.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Windy Day at Lake Erie (the gulls are aligned)


(taken with my phone while struggling to stand still.)

The wind racing across the lake was so powerful that the gulls grounded themselves and faced into the persistent breeze so they wouldn't get blown over. 

I like this snapshot's many components and textures.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021





Competition not comradery.
Money-first decision making.
Denials of personal responsibility.
These are the roots of an unhealthy tree
and the greatest limiters of meaningful growth.

Org charts lack compassion;
their brittle branches are not real.






* One of my generous test readers suggested I add the word "brittle." That little addition really pushed this poem to a new level. Thank you, Kristen!


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Friday, January 22, 2021

Now available...



I'm Not a Kung Fu Badass, the ebook, can now be purchased.
CLICK HERE to go to Amazon.


Book Description: 

I’m Not a Kung Fu Badass is John’s first poetry chapbook, 30 poems exploring the issues and forces that shaped him—love, race, mental health, and art. Often told from the viewpoint of a Chinese-American longing for acceptance, I’m Not a Kung Fu Badass offers an engaging journey thanks to John’s storytelling style, creative metaphors, and unguarded sincerity. Example poems below. 


64 Colors

pure human goodness.

without a defender,
a mentor,
or artistic expression,
the hopeful idealism
of a 64-color childhood
dims to gray
one broken crayon
at a time.


“dash” American

When I was born
my family lived
above a laundry.
Our last name, Lee,
was just like Mr. Lee,
a ridiculous character
in a Calgon commercial.

Back then,
people like me
were labeled “Chinese.”
No one bothered adding
“-American” at the end.

Maybe if they had,
more people
would have treated us
like we belonged.


Friday, November 27, 2020



My manual typing skills need some work, but I wanted to capture this one using an actual Underwood No. 5 (1929).

Monday, November 9, 2020

My camera may have a tiny painter hiding inside it.


I saw this Bulgarian ship on Lake Erie from miles away, too far for my point-and-shoot camera. But it's neat how the fully-zoomed shot looks like an oil painting.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020



Typed on an Olivetti Lettera 36 (electric), thanks to the kindness of a stranger, Marilyn, who gave me the wonderful machine so it would see use again. Thank you, Marilyn!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Beneath the Covers. Hiding.
by John Arthur Lee

We giggle beneath plush covers,
like children camping in a backyard.
Our glistening eyes reach for each other,
our warm fingertips touch.
“Love you forever,” we say, teeth shining.

Yet forever is the problem,
and fresh memories reincarnate around us,
like spectral ghouls whispering of death.

Our only defense is a hug,
a pairing of our terrified heartbeats.
So, secretly, I beg for help,
while praying He’s real and willing to listen.

Eyes still joined, too frightened to let go,
we shiver and pull the warmth of denial over us.
And for the rest of night one, we almost forget
the doctor's solemn nod.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Now available...

Hollywood Has It Backwards, the short story (ebook), can now be
 Hollywood Has It Backwards (a short story):

Whether we want them to or not, movies shape our expectations. Take dating, relationships, and love, for example. We expect unrealistic bliss from each of these because we have watched and enjoyed countless happily-ever-after endings.

But Marc, the narrator of this short story, learned to see right through Hollywood’s false promises and myths. Or so he thought.

When a pair of wondrous, blue eyes stare at him for the first time, his cynical armor crumbles and his life changes in ways that even the most seasoned Hollywood storyteller could not predict.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Scratched-lens landscape

I took this before I replaced the badly scratched lens window over my cellphone camera. The low lighting and poor focus resulted in a texture resembling film grain, not to mention a surreal mood.

Postcards for a Songbird, an AMAZING book.

I'm not sure what alchemy or magic Amazon uses to suggest books, but I found this Rebekah Crane novel thanks to their recommendation and I am so happy I did.

Rather than craft a much-too-long review, I'll just list the words, phrases, and incomplete sentences I jotted down when thinking about how to describe this book to my friends. Here goes: 1) characters so well developed that you get a physical urge to hug them, 2) sincere and intimate, yet simultaneously surreal, 3) makes you believe that the highest levels of love, admiration, and imagination truly exist, 4) artistry unmatched, 5) inspiring, 6) moving--no, soul shaking, 7) unlike ANYTHING I've ever read. And, finally, 8) contains wonderful extended metaphors that soar and land so gracefully.

Full disclosure: I do NOT know this author, but if I ever cross paths with her, I will definitely go out of my way to congratulate her. I think this book is AMAZING.

Here's a link:

Thursday, January 2, 2020

I replaced the glass over my cellphone camera.

My cellphone's camera window had so many scratches on it (from 2 years of normal use) that my photos were routinely coming out blurry. It got so frustrating that I was ready to recycle the phone. Then I discovered a replacement window (on and a how-to video (on and I dared to make the repair on my own. And the results? See for yourself. I couldn't be happier and it only cost me $7.89! (All images were taken with my phone held steady against a table top.)

Sunday, October 27, 2019


This was typed on an old Olympia Report Electric typewriter, a machine I received through kindness. Maria (an online stranger) and her husband Jerry gave it to me. It wasn't working at the time, but it was clearly taken care of in the past. Fortunately, I found a large O-ring to replace the damaged drive belt, and a kind man at a fastener specialty store gave me some screws to replace a few missing housing connectors. I cleaned the machine and replaced the ribbon, and now it's working better than I hoped. All thanks to kindness and a desire to keep something old and useful out of a landfill.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My last open-water paddle.

Pictured Rocks was beautiful. Amazing, really. But it will also be my last open-water paddle. About an hour into the tour I started feeling seasick. An hour later, I was hanging over the side of the boat, if you know what I mean.

A truly Superior Lake

Michigan's Lake Superior from a kayak.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


                                                               by John Arthur Lee

The Spanish guitar sings. The audience quiets. She enters.
Dark hair braided and tied up. Flower above one ear. Her lean arms
rise and float, like weightless spirits. Her polka-dot dress swishes and spins,
its ruffled edges cresting like ocean waves.
Amid rhythmic clapping, she drums the wooden floor with her fierce
Flamenco shoes. And in the reverberations, I hear lovers’ heartbeats. A surging
train. The staccato of warring armies.

I remember the first time I visited her home. Old metal chairs, one violet,
one seafoam, greeted me on the porch. Inside, I found sunlit walls painted
lemon ocher, sage green, autumn orange. No clutter. No extravagances. Just the
photo of a yogi. A sketch by a relative. A newspaper clipping. An old table with history. Her lover’s guitar.
She reserved one room for healing. And there, in dim light with the sound of ocean waves whispering, she floated her hands above my heart in a mystical energy dance. And despite my doubts and suspicion, I found myself lying in the hull of a canoe, looking skyward, a grand eagle flying above me. And while the universe’s rhythmic power rocked my injured body, my bruised soul unwound. And I wept.

The Spanish six-string calls me back. Her polka-dot dress spins downward.
Her electric irises fix on me a final time. You’re worthy, she says wordlessly.
Leap without regret. Fly.
The guitar stops humming, and I see an empty floor before me.
Life’s dance has pulled Cynthia away, and like a star-fire comet, she orbits
beyond my seeing. Though, somewhere, I’m certain, her arms float above her,
and her healing hands still swirl the positive power of the universe.