Review of Ibbetson Street #39
*** I haven't been to the theatre in a while, but I thought it would to be a perfect opportunity to see my old friend Sheree Louis play a minor role as Letta, in the Death of a Salesman.. Here is my review of the play...
*** The Ibbetson Street Press was founded by Doug Holder, Dianne Robitaille and Richard Wilhelm in 1998.
Review of Ibbetson Street #39
by Mary Buchinger
Boats on the front and boats on the back (photography by Dianne Robitaille and painting by Bridget Galway, respectively), this summer issue of Ibbetson sails with poetry, opening with Kathleen Spivack’s poem, “The Café,” set in a dim French establishment where women “[clutch] small glasses of absinthe,/reproaches, and the waste of possibility” and Jennifer arber’s poem “Visiting Jerusalem” asking “How long/have I been the enemy?/What god am I counting on?” and endingB with Joyce Wilson’s “The Envy of the Gods: “We…acted out in scenes/To trick the gods observing from afar/That they might praise what we had undertaken:/A quiet life, hardworking and soft-spoken.”
This issue contains all the hallmarks of Ibbetson that I have come to depend on—new work from long favorites like Marge Piercy, Denise Provost, Molly Mattfield Bennett, Philip Burnham, Richard J. Fein, Robert K. Johnson, Barbara Claire Kasselman, Ted Kooser, and X.J. Kennedy, as well as a first-ever publication—“Where Your Phone Rang”—“Home was where the creaking of the trees outside/played see-saw with your breath,/where the book bounced/off your chest and slipped to the floor,/and the whiskey cabinet’s door yawned wide”—by Tim Kinsella, an American Sign Language interpreter from eastern Mass.
One particular delight of #39 is a “A Poem for Fred Marchant” by David Blair beside “On a Poem from David Blair” by Fred Marchant—“small cat/ boogers in the dark/runnels of wet nose” in Blair’s poem translates into a cat purring “through its soft, slightly crusted/nose, the air carrying to its mind/the sparrow” in Marchant’s. Opening the pages of this journal is like boarding a harbor cruise with friends and neighbors. There’s talk of travel, of Remembered Places (William Harney), of childhood and merry-go-rounds (Alfred Nicol), remonstrations: “unplug yourself girl” (Susan Nisenbaum Becker, “O Woman Get Off the Rock”), a fine description of “James Wright’s Hammock” (Tom Laughlin) “where the dream drifts toward dawn” and T. Michael Sullivan’s meditative prayer for the sacred and the lost “refugees/of our greed and waste…dimming the kingfisher’s fire/ and the dragonflies’ flame…Before the dearest freshness/deep down things disappear,/dona nobis ah! ” (spem means “hope”). If you haven’t already cracked the spine of #39, the sailing season is winding down, get to it!
****Mary Buchinger is the Co-President of the New England Poetry Club.
Death of a Salesman. By Arthur Miller. Vokes Players. Wayland, Mass. Directed by John Barrett
"I don't say he's a great man. Willie Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person."
― Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
Death of A Salesman. By Arthur Miller. Vokes Players. Wayland, Mass. Directed by John Barrett Willy Loman , the tragic hero in Arthur Millers " Death of a Salesman" is captured by this quote from his wife Linda. Loman, a long-in-the-tooth salesman whose shoe shine has lost its luster, and has a handshake that went firm to limp, may have not amounted to hill of a beans in the play, but he remains a powerful symbol of lives of quiet and in this case not so quiet desperation. He is an icon of the nightmare that hides behind the sizzle but no steak billboard of the American Dream. Loman makes his sales pitch to mocking laughter, to rolling eyes, as he completes the last half of the roller coaster ride to oblivion. Robert Zawistowski, who plays Loman like a clinically depressed Falstaff, has mastered the body language, the stoop, the perpetual sweat on the brow, the speech, of a defeated man. This play is directed by John Barrett and is true to the original. I have seen television and film adaptions with Lee J. Cobb, and Dustin Hoffman, that were marvelously produced. I have never seen the play on stage. But-the stage has an intimacy-the feel of the press of the flesh, the texture that can't be captured in another medium. Biff, the wayward son of Loman is expertly played by Bill Stambaugh. Stambaugh interprets the character as a tightly coiled-powder keg of a man, stunted to a degree by his father and his own limitations. Deanna Swan, who plays Linda, Willy's wife, is the definition of long suffering. Her smile seems like a brittle pop-- a thin scrim to the unfolding tragedy. The last scene in the play, at Loman's funeral, was particularly striking. The lighting designer Dan Clawson ( and I always noticed lighting because my brother Donald Holder is a Tony Award -winning lighting designer), had affected a melancholy line up of silhouettes over Willy's grave-- a somber Greek Chorus that left a chill down my spine. The Vokes Players, in this production, have contributed to a night of theatre that I will long remember.
*** Doug Holder is the arts/editor of The Somerville Times, and teaches writing at Endicott College abd Bunker Hill Community College.
From the Bloc 11 Cafe: Doug Holder interviews musician/artist Yani Batteau
Back in 2010 I interviewed musician and artist Yani Batteau at the Bloc 11 Cafe. Since then she has moved to Medford from Somerville because of the astronomical rents she experienced. I revisited Batteau at the same spot at the Bloc some six years later, to catch up on her art and life. We talked about the gentrification of Somerville, her "American Soul" brand of music, and her art.
Longtime Somerville, Mass. Poet and Publisher received Allen Ginsberg Award
For years I heard about Gloria Mindock, the founder of the Cervena Barva Press, but I never met her in the flesh. She was the editor of the Boston Literary Review for a decade. She was involved in avant-garde theatre, (her theatre company won a Rockefeller Grant) as well as being an accomplished poet and a strong presence in the arts scene in these parts.
About 10 years ago I finally got the chance to meet her. I had noticed that she started a new venture–the Cervena Barva Press. I was intrigued – Somerville has always been a home for small presses – and so I want to see what this lady was about.
She agreed to meet me in the basement of the now defunct Finagle-a-Bagel in the heart of Harvard Square. Our early meetings of the literary group the Bagel Bards met there every Saturday. At first glance she seemed to be very reserved and a bit nervous. But we all know what can be beneath placid waters. Gloria Mindock proved to be a dynamo with an infectious, zany laugh.
With the help of her partner, Bill Kelle, she has published over a hundred titles, including translations, plays, fiction, poetry collections and has received international recognition for her work, especially in Eastern Europe.
The Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville published her poetry book Blood Soaked Dresses that pays tribute to the Salvadoran people who suffered greatly during their civil war in the 1980s. I am also glad that Mindock published my first perfect bound collection of poetry The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel.
Mindock has now established a studio and bookstore for her press in the Somerville Arts Armory and has established a number of reading series, the current one being The First and Last Word Reading Series with her cohort Harris Gardner.
Mindock is an accessible, warm and kindhearted women, but doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
Robin Stratton, the founder of the Newton Writing and Publishing Center presented Gloria with the Allen Ginsberg Community Service Award on May 14, 2016 at 1 p.m. For more info go to http://newtonwritingandpublishingcenter.com
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Doug Holder will be the guest poet for a guided tour of the surrounding and former grounds of McLean Hospital May 22, 2016
From Ann-Marie Lambert/Belmont Citizen's Forum
Poetry Walk at the Lone Tree Hill Reservation In Belmont
Hello friends, colleagues, neighbors, and participants on previous Nature Walks:
I invite you to join a guided nature walk through the Lone Tree Hill Reservation in Belmont Sunday, May 22, 1:30-3:30. I am delighted to be joined by special guest poet Douglas Holder, who has served since 1982 as a Counselor and Poetry Workshop Leader at the adjacent McLean Hospital. Mr. Holder also plays many roles in the local poetry scene, including: Host of “Poet to Poet, Writer to Writer” on Somerville Community Access TV; various roles at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., including Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing, Director of the Ibbetson Street Press and Associate Faculty Editor of the undergraduate literary review; Adjunct Professor of College Writing at Bunker Hill Community College; Senior editor at ISCS Press in Littleton, Mass.; Book Review Editor, Wilderness House Literary Review; Poetry Workshop Leader at Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston; Curator of the Newton Free Library Poetry Reading Series; Arts Editor of The Somerville Times; and Advisory Board Member--Tapestry of Voices/ Boston National Poetry Festival. Mr. Holder will help us enjoy poems which reflect on the drama and awakening taking place in this season, both within McLean and without, in Nature. We will explore the forests, meadows, and trails in the gem of a landscape which surrounds the "Lone Tree Hill" and McLean. We will stop along the way to read short poems from a variety of cultures, each with their own perspective on human and wildlife activities of Spring. We will meet at Belmont's Highland Meadow cemetery, stroll along the famous Pine Allee, take in stunning views of the meadow and surrounding forest from Lone Tree Hill, explore the forest habitat surrounding the old Coal Road, and discover the mix of clues that nature and civilization have left for us to learn about the history of this land. People have been strolling here for centuries, healing and gaining inspiration from this beautiful home to wildlife such as red fox, coyote, cottontail rabbit, voles, chipmunks, bees, dragonflies, and many residential birds such as wild turkey, red-tailed hawks, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, chickadees, tufted titmouse, and goldfinches. Come reconnect with the land through poetry from New England and around the globe. Poets are keen observers of nature and human nature, of the drama and rebirth of Spring, and of the importance of land and place. Find inspiration from those whose poems express love and concern for the natural landscape, and for oftentimes more mysterious internal landscapes. Let the poets help you appreciate this nearby gem, with its rich history as a part of the grounds of the McLean hospital of Belmont. What: Listen to poetry as we stop along a one-mile nature trail in Belmont with a special guest from McLean
When: 1:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 22, 2016
Where: Highland Meadow Cemetery, 700 Concord Avenue, Belmont. If you are already familiar with the area, town officials strongly urge you park early at the parking lots by Rock Meadow on Mill Street and hike 10-15 minutes to the cemetery location. If not, park cars along one side of the cemetery driveway loop across from Somerset St. (stay on the pavement).
Who: Anne-Marie Lambert is a Belmont Citizens Forum board member who has been leading local nature walks and writing Newsletter articles about Belmont history and storm water. This is her fourth guided nature walk to explore the four seasons at Lone Tree Hill. Bring/Wear: water to drink, closed shoes, weather-appropriate clothing, and, optionally, a walking stick for uneven terrain. Rain: Only thunderstorms will cance
Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Reading at the Whittier House
Ibbetson St. Poetry Reading
March 21, 2016 Edith Maxwell
On April 13th at 7:00PM the Whittier Home Association hosts an evening of poetry presented by the Ibbetson Street poets at the Whittier Home, 86 Friend St. Amesbury, MA. There is no charge but donations will be gratefully accepted.
The Ibbetson Street Press was founded in 1998 in Somerville, MA by Doug Holder, Richard Wilhelm and Dianne Robitaille. The Press publishes collections of poetry, and the literary journal Ibbetson Street. Ibbetson Street is now affiliated with Endicott College in Beverly, MA.
Doug Holder of Ibbetson House said, “We are pleased to be able to have our poets read at the historic Whittier Home & Museum in Amesbury, MA onApril 13th, 2016 at 7:00pm. We would like to thank Lainie Senechal, the Poet Laureate of Amesbury, the Whittier Home Association, and the Amesbury Cultural Council for making this happen.”
The following poets will read at the event: Lainie Senechal, Amesbury’s Poet Laureate; Harris Gardner, founder of the Boston National Poetry Festival, and Poetry Editor of Ibbetson; Steve Glines, the Design Editor for Ibbetson Street and the publisher of the Wilderness House Press; Gloria Mindock, a celebrated poet as well as the publisher of the Cervena Barva Press; Michael Todd Steffen, Director of the Hastings Room Reading Series in Cambridge, MA; Michael Goodwin, a creative writing student from Endicott College in Beverly, MA; Denis Daly, author of the poetry collection The Custom House; and Doug Holder, publisher of Ibbetson Street.
Please call the Whittier Home at 978-388-1337 for reservations.
THE AU BON PAIN BY DOUG HOLDER
There has always been a cafe in my life—some haunt where I can read the paper, get my head on straight, maybe do some writing—and then move on. T.S. Eliot wrote that he could measure his life in coffee spoons. I guess I can relate to that. Back in the 1980s when I moved from the student ghetto of Allston in Boston to Cambridge, the Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square became my cafe of choice. This sprawling cafe was my home every morning after I left my small rent-controlled flat on Forest Street-- a short distance away.
The cafe is located right outside Harvard Yard. On any given morning I would prop myself on a hard metal chair, put my feet up on the railing, and watched the pedestrians of every nationality, every slice-of-life, rush by for points beyond. After awhile I became part of the subculture that existed there-- a place marked by chess-masters, homeless people, students, poseurs, stumble-bums, poets, academics, you name it.
There were a number of people who were castoffs fromHarvard—unmatriculated hangers-on – people expelled from the academy—or people who graduated but couldn't take the next step. They seemed to caught in the orbit of the university. There was one guy I used to talk to who was once a promising lawyer. He showed me a newspaper clipping about a case he argued in front of the Supreme Court. But the years of booze and other demons defeated him and he was left to drift about the Square talking about his long-ago triumphs to any willing listener. There was Myron who was something of an expert on Indian artifacts, and made a name for himself in the field when he was younger. He was divorced, and survived on a dwindling trust fund. He was picked up by the cops for disorderly conduct now and then. He told me about his trips to Indian reservations, and would sometimes sell me Native American statuettes that I would present to my future wife.
There was George-- a shambles of a man—who would pick newspapers from the trash cans and often would discuss current events with me—pointing to a soiled Boston Globe. He was forever talking about some scandal at Harvard that he was privy to. It was rumored that he had a daughter who was a Harvard-trained lawyer but that they were estranged for years. All the while I was taking mental notes—ideas for future poems, trying to get insight into my own confusing life—what to avoid—what to embrace. Later I moved on to other Au Bon Pains, and wound up as a regular at one in Davis Square, Somerville, where I started a writing group that has lasted for over a decade. I don't hang at the Harvard Square cafe much anymore, and many of the characters I have known have passed away or split the scene. But one day while sitting on the 2nd floor of the Starbucks overlooking the Square, I saw what I thought was George, picking through the trash like he was at a buffet. I rushed outside and scoured the Square—but he was nowhere to be found. I never saw him again. But that time in my life at the cafe—those long, hot summer mornings with a spinach croissant and a French Roast, my legs propped up, my limbo before the next phase, stage, or whatever, is something that comes back to me time and time again.
P.A.'s Lounge Gives it to you straight no chaser
By Doug Holder
So I am in Union Square, and the cold winter winds are whipping me like a frenzied sadist, when I entered P.A.'s Lounge. I needed a story and P.A.'s seemed to fit the bill. In one corner of the bar Jon Dorsett nursed a beer, and stared at a flat screen. He had the look of a guy who has seen and done that, and has no time for happy horseshit. The bartender and co-owner Tony Amaral, Jr. looked at me with world-weary eyes, as if to say, “ So, what are you selling?” I told him I am Doug Holder from The Somerville Times—he was not impressed. But I sat down, and as the bar was basically empty this afternoon; he agreed to chew the fat.
It seems that Tony runs the bar with his brother Jerry and his old man Tony Sr. P.A.'s was founded in 1971. It was called the Portuguese American Lounge back in the day. It specialty was seafood, but later the lounge morphed into a live music venue and bar. The restaurant was in its heyday from 1975 to 1989. Tony Jr., told me they served a Spanish/Portuguesa dish Mariscada that Boston Magazine raved about. It was a savory concoction of shrimp and other seafood that made many a mouth tremble and water with delight.
Speaking of Tony Sr. who birthed this lounge, he is a spry 75 years old and still keeps his finger on the pulse of the joint, and keeps his sons in line. In fact P.A.'s is a family affair. Tony Jr's girlfriend works here as well as the brothers.
Tony Jr., is the real McCoy. He was born in Somerville Hospital, and he went to school with Mayor Curatone—who he says stops in now and then to say hello to his old classmate.
The bar is a no-nonsense kind of place. You are probably not going to get a craft beer, more likely a Miller, Guinness or Bud. Dorsett ,the lone patron piped up: “It's sort of like Cheers, where everyone knows your name. And they are always glad you came.” Dorsett has lived in Somerville since 2001 and is a fan of the music and entertainment the joint has to offer.
I noticed a white guitar mounted on the wall. “Makes sense,” I thought. According to Tony Jr.--many an up and coming band has played here. Dorsett said “ Three years ago Arcade Fire played here.” According to Tony Jr., mostly indie rock bands are the standard fare, but they have “Americana Mondays” where Hank Williams-style music is the flavor of the week. Some local bands that have or will play here are "Big Screen Radio," " Amateur Athletes," " Triax Coalition" to name a few. The bar has also hosted poetry readings, acoustic open mikes, and throughout the week they have different acts.
But it is not only musicians, poets and other stumble-bums who make the scene, but comedians as well. Most notably, according to Tony Jr., and Dorsett, the comedian Eugene Mirman strutted his stuff here. Dorsett told me that Mirman now hosts his own TV show. No joke.
Tony Jr. has seen the neighborhood change in the last 10 to 15 years—for the good and bad. He thinks the Green Line ( If it ever makes it here) will certainly bring new business. But he has seen real estate taxes rise, and many people displaced.
Tony Jr., told me that the family owns the building; so they will be around awhile. He figures they might put more emphasis on food in the future. But I think in this dark and moody gin joint—they will keep it—straight... with no chaser.
A Day in the Life: Early Morning : Union Square, Somerville
A Day in the Life: Early Morning : Union Square
By Doug Holder
Early Morning, Union Square. I walk down Bow Street—Goodyear's lights are on-- and a slow stream of people with tired treads, dirty transmission fluid, in need of change—of oil, in need of alignment, enlightenment—make their way into the office. I hear the jocular good morning from the Hispanic crossing guard—we are all her children, as she guides us through the gridlocked traffic of the Square. In the post office—I exchange gossip with the clerk—she told me a SWAT team was here earlier, “Well—I figured I would tell my journalist—thought you would like to know...” She tells me she is going to retire next year... “Maybe I will work the election booths with the other old ladies,” she laughed. At the Community Laundromat on Bow Street—a gaggle of homeless men are in semi-coherent chatter: “ Hey you are a weird dude—stop touching me,” one tells the other. There is an argument about which liquor store opens the earliest—vodka nips are in vogue for them. Bloc 11 is open—and there are the usual. A tall man with a reddish beard engrossed in his book, and the handsome woman I have seen for years, with a helmet of stylish gray hair-- (me thinks she works at Harvard), props a book up for her before work read. Hip baristas croon at me “The usual?” Honey grain bagel --tomatoes-- dry-- I add my hummus and fish in the back room. Outside the parade starts-- mothers with their strollers, the tight spandex of the bicyclists. At the Union Square Smoke Shop where I get my Globe and Times—the Indian woman at the counter chirps a “Good morning.” There is a strong smell of tobacco and I watch the lottery people ask for arcane combinations of tickets, mega this and thus—and in the back an opium den?—no, TV sets where patrons are hypnotized, and watch the numbers cross the screen. Back in the Bloc11 I solicit teaching advice from my friend Steve Swensen, a retired teacher from St. Joseph's and Somerville High. He feels lucky to have spent a 39 year career around a few blocks—more or less. Later I listen to a group of dog walkers talk about their canine charges as if the mutts were in psychoanalysis—a treatment plan for each—I suppose every dog has its day. People start to squeeze in Union Square Donuts—artisan donuts—not the pedestrian glazed munchkins you get at Dunkin. There are cabals of people at tables—hunched over—hatching conspiracies—or so it seems. The Neighborhood Restaurant is still there—I remember their Cream of Wheat—that wonderful—cinnamon infused lead weight in my stomach. And the outdoor eating under a lattice of vines. Bloc 11 fills—Mayor Curatone, dapper and handsome, in a dark suit—fields a pitch from another developer or what not. Mothers try to muffle their babies' cries. People come and go, and get on with their lives...
Somerville's Cervena Barva Press has published a collection of short stories by Ed Hamilton: "The Chintz Age..." The stories deal with artists, writers, poets, and other folks trying to hold on and find meaning in an increasingly gentrified New York City. This is very applicable to Somerville; a city that is experiencing massive new development and rapid change. Here is an interview I conducted with Hamilton.
ED HAMILTON INTERVIEW BY DOUG HOLDER
Women Musicians Network 19th Concert Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 8:00 pm
Photo taken March, 2015. Photographer: Caroline Alden. Singer: Nadia Chechet
Women Musicians Network 19th Concert
Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 8:00 pm (doors 7:30)
Berklee Performance Center
By Kirk Etherton
One great thing—or problem—about my living here in "Greater Somerville" (which includes Boston) is that there are always so manyvery good events, it's easy to miss something great.
The W.M.N. concert, usually held in March, is truly a great thing. I've seen at least the past 12 shows, and I won't miss this one.
What sets this event apart is always the exceptional level of diversity, plus very fine musicianship.
Women Musicians Network is a student club at Berklee College of Music. Somerville resident Lucy Holstedt (also a Berklee professor and the club's co-founder and faculty advisor) directs and hosts the concert.
Every time, the focus is on women students and their bands from around the world. There are plenty of guys performing, too, but the spotlight is on women—as composers, bandleaders, rock guitarists, you name it.
I got to hear "audition tapes" from all of the 11 original acts chosen to perform on Nov. 10—from jazz and blues to gospel, folk, and fusion. Here is some of what impressed me the most.
1. Olivia, a composer and pianist from Spain, doing a Spanish / Indian fusion piece along with an Indian singer and a sitar player.
2. Shir, a woman from Israel who has an amazing vocal range, leading her "electro-pop" tune. (It would be difficult to describe, without losing most everything in translation.)
3. Mariana, a pianist / guitarist / singer-songwriter from Portugal, doing a very beautiful, original song in her native language.
4. Gretchen, guitarist and vocalist from Chile. She leads a mostly male band; her singing on the rock tune she composed brings to mind some of the most powerful and affecting female vocalists of the past 40 years.
That's four of the 11 acts. I could go on and on, but space is limited. Besides, music doesn't come across very well in a newspaper.
I should mention that most of these women arrive at Berklee with significant musical credits. Natalia has a great Andean folk-based tune that's doing very well on the radio charts in her native Columbia. Some of these "college students" have already taught in universities, and performed around the world.
Special guests this year are three Berklee professors, also doing original material. Christiane Karam, concert co-director, will be leading her Pletenitsa Balkan Choir.
The concert starts at 8:00 pm and ends at 9:30 pm, which I feel makes it an extremely efficient international music festival.
Women Musicians Network 19th Concert
Tickets: $8 in advance / $12 day of show
|Professor Charlotte Gordon/Endicott College
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon
(Random House, 2015)
By Lawrence Kessenich
If you’ve ever wondered, as I have, why the name of Mary Shelley, the wife of famous Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, is so often written Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Charlotte Gordon provides a full and fascinating answer. Although Mary Shelley never knew her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, who died ten days after her daughter’s birth, Shelley not only inherited her mother’s name but also her spirit. And, as Gordon makes us fully aware in this lively biography, what a spirit it was—in both of them!
Despite the fact that mother and daughter only lived together for ten days, Gordon presents their lives like a dramatic, intertwined novel, alternating chapters on each and continually leaving the reader to wonder what will happen next—and what new parallel will emerge in their lives. By presenting these two amazing women side-by-side, Gordon helps us to know both of them, and their times, better and to admire what they accomplished.
Wollstonecraft is best known for writing A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792, a book that provided an eloquent, ringing defense of women’s rights at a time when most people wouldn’t even consider the subject. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call her book the opening volley of the Women’s Movement, and it was written nearly two centuries before general acceptance of women’s rights in Western nations! Spurred by the helplessness of her mother in the face of an abusive husband, Wollstonecraft saw the subjugation of women—and especially married women—with a clear eye and called it what it was: slavery. Although her arguments were dismissed by most men—and women—at the time, she had laid the groundwork for later writers and crusaders.
One woman who decidedly did not dismiss Wollstonecraft’s arguments was her daughter Mary. Her father, William Godwin, a philosopher and novelist who also challenged the status quo in his writing, revered Mary’s mother, engendering a deep respect for her in his daughter—until, that is, his daughter acted upon his and her mother’s words and challenged the status quo herself. At seventeen, Mary eloped with married poet Percy Shelley, and lived with him out of wedlock, inviting—and receiving—the approbation of polite society and her supposedly revolutionary father. Both Mary and her poet husband read and reread Mary Wollstonecraft’s work, and spent their life trying to live by her tenets of personal freedom that disregards societal norms.
But being an outlaw—Romantic or otherwise—carries a stiff price, and both Marys paid that price throughout their lives. Both were mocked and scorned, privately and in public, for living lives of sin. Mary Wollstonecraft had an illegitimate child by American businessman Charles Imlay and was impregnated by William Godwin before the two were married. (Not surprisingly, considering the contemporary belief that, outside of a few days after menstruation, frequent sex made pregnancy less likely!) Mary Shelley broke up Percy Shelley’s marriage and was also impregnated before she married Percy (after his ex-wife committed suicide). Because of this, and because they espoused “free love,” both Wollstonecraft and Shelley were called whores and snubbed in public.
Worst of all, despite the fact that both Wollstonecraft and Shelley were highly original, skilled, professional writers, their being free thinkers and women often prevented them from being taken seriously by most of the writing establishment and the public at the time. And those who wrote about, and falsely interpreted, Wollstonecraft’s and Shelley’s lives immediately after their deaths also ensured that both writers would be misunderstood for nearly two more centuries. As Gordon describes it:
Wollstonecraft was written off, first as a whore and then as a hysteric, an irrational female hardly worth reading—slander that proved so effective in undercutting the ideals of A Vindication of the Rights of Women that it persists today in the rhetoric of those who oppose feminist principles. Mary Shelley, on the other hand, would be condemned for compromising the revolutionary values of her genius husband and her pioneering mother [and]…she was discounted as intellectual lightweight, her only important work done with the help of her husband.
The irony is that these were both highly intelligent, learned women—mostly self-educated, of course—who were capable of holding their own with the learned men of their time. Wollstonecraft took on social and political philosophy, expounding original and thought-provoking ideas in those areas—which were often praised, until it was discovered that a woman was putting them forward. Shelley’s Frankenstein challenged the ruling ethos about the unassailable goodness of science and progress—an ethos very few men were brave enough to challenge, and no one thought a woman had the right to challenge. And her education was so wide that, later in life, she was able to write (anonymously) five volumes in a book series entitled Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men.
Perhaps the biggest irony of these great, independent lives, as Gordon describes them, is how much both Wollstonecraft and Shelley suffered over the men they loved most. Then again, perhaps it is not ironic, or even unusual. Don’t we still see strong, intelligent, independent women pining away for men who hardly seem to deserve them?
Wollstonecraft’s romantic nemesis was American businessman Gilbert Imlay, whom she met in Paris during the French Revolution. They seemed a perfect intellectual and romantic match, and spent blissful months together. But Imlay’s attentiveness to Wollstonecraft soon waned, and he used his business travels to get away from her. Wollstonecraft, who had become pregnant by Imlay, refused to accept that the relationship was not the ideal one she had envisioned.
These feelings were exacerbated when their child was born and Imlay did not care for the child as Wollstonecraft did. Long-lasting post-partum depression intensified Wollstonecraft’s suffering, and she pursued Imlay with a vengeance via letters and during infrequent face-to-face encounters. Ultimately, it took several years before she finally gave up on him and found her own equilibrium again.
Although Mary and Percy Shelley were artistic soul-mates until the tragic end of his life, he caused her a good deal of suffering during their years together—and, as Gordon fairly represents it, Mary could be hard on him, too. Shelley could be the very embodiment of many people’s image of the Romantic poet: dreamy, impractical, self-involved, putting art above everything else. Unfortunately, these attitudes usually left Mary, who was trying to write herself, to deal with the everyday responsibilities of running a household: planning meals, caring for children, shopping, paying bills, and so on. (Her mother had similar problems with Mary’s father, Godwin, who wanted little involvement with domestic duties.) Of course, as a wife of her time, Mary was expected to do these things. But Mary was not a typical wife of her time, she was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, and she came to resent Percy’s comparative freedom.
To make matters worse, Percy often had crushes on younger women—as he’d had on Mary when she was seventeen and he was twenty-two. These younger women were often part of social groups with whom the Shelleys spent a good deal of time, so Percy’s flirtations were in full view of Mary. Although Mary espoused free love, in the event it was often difficult to see herself displaced in Percy’s attentions.
Percy always came back to Mary, however, even if she sometimes made it difficult by being cold and distant. He seems to have loved her to the end, as she did him, even if they were not as close as they’d once been. And they never ceased sharing their literary efforts, each going to the other for advice and support until the very end.
But with all the sturm und drang that sometimes characterized their love life, these two women produced an impressive array of fiction and nonfiction works. To give just two examples from the output of each: Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women has a fresh, personal voice that makes its world-changing arguments clearly and simply, unlike most contemporary philosophical writers, which is why it still speaks to us today. Her Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark seems to have introduced a whole new style of essay writing, full of personal and passionate responses to people and places. Gordon doesn't make this comparison, but this style sounds to me like a pre-cursor to the New Journalism of the 1960s.
As for Shelley, her Frankenstein was a bold and wholly original work of philosophical fiction whose theme is as challenging today as it was when she wrote it. Her “monster” has become an icon of Western civilization, and with the advent of the atomic bomb, her cautionary tale about the hubris of science was instantly proved prescient. Her voluminous, erudite contributions to Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men demonstrates the depth and breadth of her knowledge as well as her writing skill. As one source describes her contribution to this series:
Shelley's biographies reveal her as a professional woman of letters… Her extensive knowledge of history and languages, her ability to tell a gripping biographical narrative, and her interest in the burgeoning field of feminist historiography are reflected in these works.
These two bold women led interesting, complex, difficult, colorful lives, and Gordon presents them to us with all of their complexity and contradictions. She makes us appreciate how important it is that the reputations of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley have been rehabilitated over the past few decades. And Gordon’s well-thought-out dual biography will certainly continue to advance those reputations. She sums up the importance of these two women at the close of the book:
Without knowing the history of the era, the difficulties Wollstonecraft and Shelley faced are largely invisible, their bravery incomprehensible. Both women were what Wollstonecraft termed “outlaws.” Not only did they write world-changing books, they broke from the strictures that governed women’s conduct, not once but time and again, profoundly challenging the moral code of the day. Their refusal to bow down, to subside and surrender, to be quiet and subservient, to apologize and hide, makes their lives as memorable as the words they left behind. They asserted their right to determine their own destinies, starting a revolution that has yet to end.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
During his time at Houghton Mifflin, Lawrence Kessenich recruited W. P. Kinsella author of “Shoeless Joe,” Rick Boyer’s “Billingsgate Shoal”, a mystery that won an Edgar Award for best mystery novel of the year, “Confessions of Taoist on Wall Street,”by David Payne, and “Selected Poems of Anne Sexton,” edited by Diane Middlebrook. Kessenich was the editor for Terry McMillan’s first book “Mama,” as well. Kessenich is an accomplished playwright, poet, and a managing editor for the literary journal: Ibbetson Street.
Some pictures from the Allen Ginsberg Award Ceremony--- Newton Writing and Publishing Center--Aug 2015 ( Presented to Doug Holder)
|Gloria Mindock/Doug Holder
( Left to Right) Jennifer Matthews, Doug Holder, Robin Stratton
( Left to Right) Dianne Robitaille, Robin Stratton, Doug Holder
Tim Gager( above) Doug Holder
|Robin Stratton with Doug Holder
|Doug Holder--Recipient of the Award
Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997) is best known for his leading role in the 1950s Beat Generation, and as the voice of the counterculture, anti-establishment, pro-planet, pro-love movement of the 1960s. His wild drug-induced antics, his joyful, childlike naiveté, his refusal to be anything less than completely authentic, and his solemn, profound spirituality influenced millions of poets, and he dedicated his life to helping others investigate their soul through writing. An enthusiastic world traveler, he advocated peace, free speech, gay rights, and the importance of experiencing the spectrum of emotions as the best way to appreciate the divinity of Life.
The Allen Ginsberg Literary Community Contribution Award is given each year in recognition of a New England author or poet who not only has accumulated a distinguished body of work, but who has supported the local writing community by tirelessly promoting the work of others.
CONGRATULATIONS TO DOUG HOLDER
The winner of our first
Allen Ginsberg Literary Community
Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. He is the Arts Editor for The Somerville Times, and teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, and Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. Holder’s work, both poetry and prose, have appeared widely in the small press. He holds an M.A. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University, and has published a number of collections of poetry over the years. He is the host of Poet to Poet, a televised interview series, and the Newton Free Library Poetry Series in Newton, MA.
New Ibbetson Street Press book to address sociology of punk rock
Jim Sullivan, journalist, former Boston Globe rock music critic and host of the XFINITY on Demand music-interview show Boston Rock/Talk, and freelance journalist/author Susie Davidson have begun a book project on the political and social elements of punk, post-punk and new wave rock of the mid-late 1970s and early 1980s.
Punk rock got rolling in America - credit the Ramones, Heartbreakers and Television - but its appeal was limited, early on. It spread, however, like wildfire in England, especially after the above-mentioned American bands toured there. In England, punk rock was, for a time, pop music (meaning: popular) - far more so than in the U.S. In 1976 and 1977, England was in the throes of high unemployment and under the reign of the union-busting Margaret Thatcher. Unrest and disaffection was in the air. Politics infused the music.
The Sex Pistols and the Clash seized the moment, the Pistols releasing the most powerful 1-2 opening salvo in rock history with the singles “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “God Save the Queen.” The Clash likewise sounded the call for London youth in “London’s Burning” - it was “burning with boredom now” - and in “Career Opportunities,” where those opportunities were “the ones that never knock.”
As Sting told Sullivan in 1979, backstage after a concert at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club, “The Police are not a punk band, but punk kicked open the doors for bands like us.” And while the Police were not overtly political, a number of those who rushed through the doors were. In the aftermath of punk rock, no subject was off-limits.
Although some bands from its heyday are still performing live and even releasing new works, the ambiance of the era is now both finite and nostalgic. Therefore, Sullivan and Davidson believe that the time for archiving and documenting the political and social aspects of punk rock and its musical outgrowths is now, as the movement recedes into musical history, and as misleading caricatures tend to prevail.
To wit, Sid Vicious and his personal and public demise may be the face of punk rock to many - then and now. He lived fast and died young. But as Johnny Rotten told Sullivan in a 1996 Boston Globe interview conducted during the Sex Pistols 20th anniversary tour, "He was a coat hanger from start to finish. Amazing. He's the most popular coat hanger in this history of bad music. . . . Old Sid. That man never played."
Added guitarist Steve Jones, "It was kind of a mistake getting him in the band. It was mainly 'cause he looked the part and he'd come to all our shows, and John knew him. But he couldn't play, and when he joined, the whole chemistry just went out the window."
Sullivan and Davidson aim to explore and publicize the social consciousness inherent in punk rock - some of it, anyway - and dispel the myth that the scene was one of self-destruction, negativity, and purposeless anger. (Although, of course, there was some of that!) But at its best, there was a mix of intellectual integrity and pure passion, a reflection of the political and social forces of the times.
The book, tentatively titled "The Politics of Punk Rock: A Mythbusting Primer," will include anecdotes and insights from Sullivan's interviews with major players of the punk scene, and draw from Davidson's own past music articles and personal insights as it explores both the varied social issues and influences of the day, and the wide, continuing musical manifestations of punk rock.
For Sullivan and Davidson, the late teens and early to mid-20s ages of most punk musicians reflected their own comings of musical age, and their emotional reactions to these same pressing issues and the music that individually interpreted and defined them.
Photos from Boston scene photographer Phil-in-Phlash and songs throughout the book will depict well-known original and latter-day punk, post-punk and new wave groups such as the more well-known Green Day, Midnight Oil, The Jam, The Sex Pistols, the Clash and Gang of Four. Other classic punk and post-punk bands will include Dead Kennedys, Agent Orange, the Adverts, Mekons, the Anti-Nowhere League and Naked Raygun; topical punk performers including Attila the Stockbroker, Billy Bragg, the November Group, the Proletariat and the Fall; Ska and 2-Tone bands The Specials, The Selector, UB40, Madness, The English Beat and other skankers; and pioneering female-led punk ensembles such as X-Ray Spex, Crass, the Au Pairs, the Slits, and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
These are just a few of the bands and the punk genres that will be covered in this new work, which will explore post punk and new wave, and touch on modern-day influences.
Sullivan writes: I saw the Clash at their first Boston area performance, in early 1979, at the long-gone Harvard Square Theatre. Anticipation ran high - for as the hype went, the Clash was “the only band that matters” - and, hype be damned, the Clash did not disappoint. In fact, they opened the assault with the salvo that was “I’m So Bored with the USA.” It was a British kids anthem - they were not only fed up with their own system, be it pop music or politics, they were tired of being fed American pop culture. Here, when they performed the song, it hit home immediately. We too were bored with the USA. (Well, bored and angry … Jimmy Carter’s malaise had settled in.) At the Harvard Square Theatre, people were standing, pogoing, fists pumping. At one with the band, with those sentiments.
But here’s the thing: The song wasn’t originally conceived as an anti-American song at all. When Joe Strummer wrote it, it was initially an anti-love song, a kiss-off to a soon-to-be-ex. “I’m so bored with … you!” It was only through the band working it through together that it became what it became. Iconic, important, cathartic. It surely would have been a great song had it remained in its initial form, but in its political form, it gained a whole lot more traction than it might have had, had it remained personal and pissed off.
It is worth noting: The song has got to work as a song - the melody and rhythm - before is works as a message. People hear and feel the music first; understanding the lyrics - or the thematic thrust - comes a bit later down the line. For the bands, for fans.
The book, which will be published by Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, will be available in print at local bookstores, and in print and online through Amazon.
For information, contact email@example.com
Book Review: Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur 1974 to 1983. By Doug Holder
Book Review: Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur 1974 to 1983. By Doug Holder ( Big Table Books) $12
Review by Ed Meek
Doug Holder is a force in Somerville. His press, Ibbetson Street, publishes local poets. He interviews writers and artists on his blog and on SCAT—the local television station. He is the Arts Editor for The Somerville News where he introduces and publishes a poem each week, and he is the founder of Bagel Bards, a group of poets who meet Saturday mornings in Davis Square at Au Bon Pain. He teaches writing at Endicott and Bunker Hill Community College and still finds time to dedicate to his first love: writing. It’s kind of surprising how many people actually still write poetry in our digital age surrounded as we are with entertainment, sports, movies, television, music and video games. As one of those people, I was excited to hear that Doug Holder had published a short memoir in the form of prose poems with Big Table Publishing Company, a new local press whose Acquisitions Editor Robin Stratton is another force in the local writing community.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Poseur covers the years of 1974-1983 when Doug Holder had just graduated from college. As a contemporary of Holder, I know those years in the mid-seventies were hard times to find jobs. The market was flooded with baby boomers and many of us found ourselves using our college degrees to tend bar or like Holder, flip burgers behind the counter as a short order cook, barely getting by. But in those days, you could find a room for $38 per week on Newbury Street! There he’d run into luminaries like the great Richard Yates, author of Revolutionary Road, or the young, but just as rumpled, Barney Frank.
Though his parents told him to “Get the hell out of there!” Lucky for us, Holder stuck around and eventually found a job at McLean Hospital, whose famous “guests” included James Taylor, David Foster Wallace and Sylvia Plath. Famous people are not the focus of Holder’s book though. He’s more likely to zero in on details. “The croissants from the Savory Bakery in Audubon Circle were flaky concessions, the dark beers and the dark cavernous bar at Browns, my balm. And the elevated tracks on Harrison Avenue—elevated me—I was a transcendent blur cross-town.” Whether you’d like insight into what it was like in Boston back then or you’re someone who appreciates good writing, you might want to pick up a copy of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Poseur by Doug Holder
A Newton, Mass. Writing and Publishing Center for the Diehard Somervillian ( Click on for full article)
Somerville offers many opportunities for writers and other creative types. There are a plethora of writing groups and organizations where the aspiring poet and writer can hone their skills and network.
But just beyond our borders, I found yet another place, the Newton Writing and Publishing Center. This nascent Center, has many writers I have worked with and know, such as Somerville's Timothy Gager, a stalwart of the literary community. Robin Stratton, whose poetry has appeared in the Lyrical Somerville column in The Somerville Times, is the founder of the said organization, and is a force of nature in the local writing community.
In addition to publishing my new lyrical memoir Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur... through her affiliated Big Table Publishing press, the center will be awarding me their first Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, with a ceremony this August.
Our guest columnist this month is Kirk Etherton:
Boston National Poetry Month Festival, 2015 April 9 -12 (Boston Public Library & Fisher College)
By Kirk Etherton
|Denise Provost/Somerville Poet/State Legislator
Somerville is home to so many fine writers, chances are good you may be one them. Even if you aren't on the "official program," perhaps you'll recite a poem at the Open Mic.
The Festival is celebrating its 15th year; 2015 promises to be more diverse and exciting than ever. It begins Thursday evening with a program of Poetry, Music & Dance (produced by Somerville resident & Berklee prof. Lucy Holstedt). Participants include various members of the Berklee community, and electric bassist Ethan Mackler.
Friday afternoon features 13 great "Keynote Poets." Included are Somerville resident& Pulitzer Prize winner Lloyd Schwartz, David Ferry (National Book Award), Kathleen Spivack, Charles Coe, and Diana Der-Hovanessian (recipient of the Barcelona Peace Prize—plus countless other accolades).
Friday evening, it's the Festival's first "High School Slam Poetry Competition." Six teams will compete. The event is hosted by well-known slam poetry organizer "Mr. Hip"; teams represent schools from Brookline, various areas of Boston, plus the North Shore.
I should mention that poet Harris Gardner—who co-founded this annual event— resides here in Somerville. Denise Provost, one of the fine "Featured Poets" on Saturday, lives here as well; of course, she is also a highly regarded State Representative. On Sunday, you won't want to miss award-winning poet Ifeanyi Menkiti (Somerville resident and owner of the world-famous Grolier Poetry Book Shop).
Somerville's Doug Holder, who kindly suggested I write this week's column, is another exceptional poet you'll want to hear on Sunday. Doug's neighbor Bert Stern, a profoundly talented writer, is reading Sunday as well.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that I, too, am a "Somervillen"! (I'll be hosting some events, and also performing.)
NOTE: this is a FREE event, and all are welcome. One reason it's free is the generosity of various excellent area businesses. In Somerville, many thanks to The Norton Group (real estate), Master Printing & Signs, Blue Cloud Gallery, and Sweet Ginger Thai Cuisine. Thanks also to Union Square's fantastic Market Basket, for helping with publicity.
In what I call "Greater Somerville," which includes Cambridge and Boston, special thanks also to Harvard Book Store, boloco, and the Middle East & ZuZu Restaurants and Nightclubs.
I can't begin to mention everything and everyone this Festival has to offer (a panel discussion on "Craft & Publishing," a reading by Boston's new Poet Laureate, book tables, etc.), so you should really check out the Festival's website.
It's easy to learn more—including how to sign up for the Open Mic I mentioned at the beginning, plus where and when everything is taking place. Go to: bostonnationalpoetry.wix.com/poetry
Doug Holder recites Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur ...
(click HERE to listen)
This is a long, stream of consciousness poem that I wrote about my early years in Boston ( 1978 to 1983), just after college, when I was searching for my identity.
This is a long, stream of consciousness poem that I wrote about my early years in Boston (1978 to 1983), when I was just out of college..
Theatre @ First: A Nurturing Arts Organization in the heart of Somerville
Left to Right: Andrea Humez and Elizabeth Hunter photo by Jason Merill
There is something to be said about sitting at your favorite table, beside a fireplace, having a bagel, with the requisite smoked fish--tomatoes and onions, and a dark roast. Of course I am talking about my favorite haunt Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square, Somerville. My guest on this cold winter's morning was the founder of Somerville's Theatre@First, Elizabeth Hunter, and playwright Andrea Humez.
Hunter, a gregarious woman somewhere in her 40s, moved with her husband from the hinterlands of Arlington to the Paris of New England a couple of years ago. She lives behind Davis Square, and finds Somerville " An intense city, interactive, with a strong sense of community." Hunter started Theatre@First in 2003, and their first production was " Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," by Tom Stoppard.
Besides producing plays, Hunter and director Andrea Humez have started a new program FirstWorks that provides workshopping opportunities for playwrights to receive feedback on their new scripts from experienced directors and actors, and from the audience itself. Their first staged reading is titled: That Night in the Field, by Christopher Lockheardt , that is described on the website as a play that involves: A black envelope, a visit from a summer fling,... recriminations at a family gathering, etc..."
According to Humez First Works has a reading committee of theater professionals who review and vote on the most important manuscripts. The program provides the playwrights with help with drafting, the play, rehearsals, etc...
Hunter told me that the organization is a non-profit, but the get most of their their funding through ticket sales. They perform at a number of venues in Somerville, like the: Elizabeth Peabody House, the Unity (church), the Somerville Theater, and elsewhere. They have extensive experience performing Shakespeare ( As You Like It, Winter's Tale, etc...), and have received press coverage in The Boston Globe and other media outlets.
Hunter is a graduate of Wellesley College, and has acting and directing experience in college and community theater settings. She had an acting role as the psychiatrist in Equus-- a role traditionally played by a male. Hunter reflected:" Being a woman changed the relationship with the protagonist. It brought in a maternal element-- a relationship with a sympathetic woman."
Humez is an educational researcher, and is finishing up her PhD. She had her first directing experience at MIT in 1997, and has been involved in theatre ever since.
Hunter is excited about doing theater in Somerville. She said " There is a huge explosion of play-- writing--conversation--engagement, and audiences that are willing to pay attention to all of this."
On Feb. 27, 2015 Hunter and Humez will be presenting the play Mousetrap at the Unity ( church).
For more information go to: http://www.theatreatfirst.org
Somerville’s Poet Laureate, Nicole Terez Dutton.
Nicole Terez Dutton’s work has appeared in Callaloo, Ploughshares, 32 Poems, Indiana Review, and Salt Hill Journal. Nicole earned an MFA from Brown University and is currently serving as the the 2013 Dartmouth Poet in Residence at the Frost Place. She has been awarded the fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Cave Canem and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is the winner of the 2011 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for If One Of Us Should Fall. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts and teaches at the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College and Grub Street.
The panel that selected Nicole consisted of Somerville Arts Council Director, Greg Jenkins, Ibbetson Street Press founder and Arts Editor of The Somerville Times, Doug Holder, Tapestry of Voices founder, Harris Gardner, Poet Linda Conte, Poet Bert Stern, Mass. Cultural Council, Charles Coe, Grolier Poetry Book Shop owner, Ifeanyi Menkiti, and Interim Director of the Somerville Library, Ron Castile. The panel and position were founded by Harris Gardner, Greg Jenkins and Doug Holder.
The finalists were: Gloria Mindock, and Ralph Pennel.
Molly Lynn Watt's "On Wings of Song" flies high
Molly Lynn Watt's "On Wings of Song" flies high
Review by Bert Stern
To order go to Wings of Song
"On Wings of Song" ( Ibbetson Street Press) is a clear-eyed account of racial oppression in the US and of the people, black and white, who struggled to end it. What gives the book its special authenticity is the point of view, which is intimate – a positioning of the narrator’s eye gained by Watt’s own lifelong efforts in the struggle.
While the book is historical, it is also lyrical. “Crayola World begins:
Robin draws sky-blue arches
burnt orange sun sepia earth sprouts
maroon father strums raw-umber guitar
bittersweet mother hold pink flower
purple sister suck plum thumb.
And it ends when the child-artist
. . . picks up black
draws herself in the center
the most beautifulest.
Bushels full of poems have been written about Billy Holiday, but Watt’s “Billy Holiday Sings “Strange Fruit” tops them all. It begins with a close-up picture of Billy herself, and ends, in an astonishing shift, with a first-hand account of an observer’s experience at a lynching.
"On Wings of Song" is canonic. It restores for all of us the beating heart of an evolving conscience that may never be complete.
-- Bert Stern, author of Silk," "Steerage," and "Winter in China".
The Somerville Poet Laureate--It is finally here!
The Somerville Poet Laureate--It is finally here! Harris Gardner (Tapestry of Voices) and myself (Doug Holder--Ibbetson Street Press) met with Gregory Jenkins,( The Director of the Somerville Arts Council), at the now defunct Sherman Cafe in Union Square this summer to discuss the prospects of getting a Somerville Poet Laureate. I have been pushing this for years, but to no avail. There were either vacant promises from local pols, the eye-rolling, the patronizing hand shake--slippery as a snake--well you know the drill. Jenkins was on board with the idea; so then we met with the mayor and he thought it was a good idea as well. Now we have an official announcement, and information about how to apply. We are forming a selection committee, so far it is Greg Jenkins, Doug Holder, Bert Stern, Harris Gardner, Linda Conte, Charles Coe, Ifeanyi Menkiti and others. So if you are a fine poet, community-minded, have a track record of promoting poetry, and have a strong vision for your possible tenure--apply!
Somerville Poet Laureate
Application and Overview Statement of Purpose
The City of Somerville announces the creation of a Poet Laureate for Somerville. The City views the position as a means to further enhance the profile of poets and poetry in the city and beyond. The Poet Laureate is expected to bring poetry to segments of Somerville's community that have less access or exposure to poetry: senior citizens, youth, schools and communities. The Poet Laureate will be a person of vision with the ability to enact his/her vision. Duration
The Poet Laureate will serve for a two-year term and will be provided an honorarium of $2,000 per year. A contract will be derived with expectations detailed as to the public benefit required of the position, which will be jointly determined with the final applicant and review committee. The expectation is that the position will support and expand poetry in the city. The Somerville Arts Council/City of Somerville will support the Laureate in networking within the community but actual work must be accomplished by the chosen candidate. How to apply
Deadline: Postmarked by November 17, 2014 Candidates for Somerville Poet Laureate must provide the following:
How to submit
- One page contact info sheet with name, address, phone number, email, website (if applicable)
- Proof of residence demonstrated by sending a copy of a utility bill, lease, phone bill. (a jpg image of a current bill or statement is fine if emailing application, or a photocopy of statement if mailing application)
- Curriculum Vitae / Poetry-Related Bio
- Up to 20 pages of original poetry
- One to three-page vision statement with details as to how you will implement the public benefit component.
Selection Process for Poet Laureate of Somerville A committee, comprised of local poets, teachers, and arts administrators, will review the applications based on the evaluation criteria and select no fewer than three and no more than six applications to be finalists. Finalists will be interviewed in December with the expectation that they will further refine their proposed vision and public component for the position. The interview process will also provide the selection committee the ability to inquire more of the candidate. Based on the four criteria below, the committee will select a final candidate and alternate who will be presented to Mayor Joseph Curtatone for his approval. Evaluation Process for Poet Laureate Nomination The Poet Laureate will be reviewed and chosen on the basis of the four criteria (percentage weights included): · Excellence in craftsmanship, as demonstrated by submitted original poems (25%)
- Either email PDFs of the above items to Gregory Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org with Poet Laureate in the subject header:
- Or mail the following documents to: Somerville Poet Laureate, Somerville Arts Council, 50 Evergreen Ave., Somerville, MA 02145
· Providing a vision for the position. How will you work with the community, schools, nonprofit or municipal arts and service departments. Please convey your vision for the position with details of outreach and collaborations. (25%)
· Professional achievement in the field of poetry. Merit shall be proven by publication credits either in small press or large press publications; at least one collection, full size or chapbook published by a small press or large press; also, awards or recognition such as grants, fellowships, prizes, and/or other recognition. (25%)
· A history of actively promulgating the visibility of poetry in Somerville’s neighborhoods and literary communities through readings, publications, promotion of events, public presentations and/or workshops and other types of teaching and literary community involvement. (25%) City of Somerville
Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone
This week's guest columnist is Somerville Bagel Bard Michael Todd Steffen. Mike is a widely published poet and critic, and a mainstay on the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene http://dougholder.blogspot.com
What’s Next in Poetry? –a discussion about the future of poetry, hosted by the Grolier Poetry Bookshop on Friday September 13, with guests Adam Kirsch, Philip Nikolayev, and Marjorie Perloff.
article by Michael Todd Steffen
Marjorie Perloff, retired Florence Scott Professor of English Emerita at the University of Southern California, widely known for her writing on experimental and avant-garde poetry.
Adam Kirsch, senior editor of The New Republic and a contributing editor to Harvard Magazine,
has been described by John Palattella as “the offspring of the New Formalists.”
Philip Nikolayev, editor of Fulcrum, an Annual of Poetry and Esthetics, which has included the poetry of Paul Muldoon, John Kinsella, Billy Collins and many others.
Maybe the main point about an unrecorded meet-up in an intimate, iconic space like the Grolier is being there, and the wisest thing to comment about it: You’d have to be there… The event was spirited and to the day, and with renowned critic Marjorie Perloff, as well as her co-panelists Adam Kirsch and Philip Nikolayev, the evening generated vital ideas on the topic, What’s Next? What’s upcoming, what does the future hold for poetry?
Some of the main ideas discussed by the panelists included: How poets evolve from different traditions in poetry to new voices; how our technical-visual-image oriented culture posed a different challenge to poets than the book-word oriented culture of the past before television, movies, pcs, iphones…; what has come to be the standard anecdotal poem prevalently turned out by MFA writing programs and published in the major poetry journals; and the terrible difficulty of discerning which poets among the virtual sea of new emerging poets each year would survive.
On that last topic, Marjorie Perloff noted that while it’s easy for most commentators and anthologists to agree who the major Modernist poets are, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, agreement on the great voices of the ensuing generation (the “models” for today’s poets) has been more elusive, while names like John Ashbury, Frank O’Hara, James Merrill, Robert Duncan, Derek Walcott and Mary Oliver were brought up. The notion of a central tradition for poetry in the English language such as the one Eliot established, beaming back through Tennyson, the Romantics, Pope, Milton and Shakespeare, has given way to a new stable of potential poets from university programs, most of whom are not even familiar with Theodore Roethke.
So far, all is well. A grim outlook, with much to complain about, despair of: these have forever only nourished poets and their rankling, poetry.
Adam Kirsch notably observed that writing and reading poetry in our time has been affected by the consumerist tendencies of the culture. We go through more poetry (that is less carefully written), we go through it faster, and the poems seem to mean less, they are shelved in schools for packaging rather than for contention, scrutiny, debate, genuine dialogue, where wide acceptance of origin is the rule.
Some of the highlight points made by Philip Nikolayev, after much meandering consideration, paradoxically yet convincingly in the broad allowance of the discussion were that there remained a nobility to the expression of true poetry, a challenge of betterment to the self. At the end of the day among those in the practice of the art, Nikolayev offered, there were “poets and non-poets,” which drew many silent nods of acquiescence around the closely felt space in the historic book shop.
Marjorie Perloff engaged the audience in a more specific, animated, and I think very timely talk about Frank O’Hara’s book Lunch Poems upon the 50th anniversary of that book’s publication in 1964 by San Francisco’s City Lights Books. Perloff gave extended attention to O’Hara’s 17-line composition “Poem” (“Lana Turner has collapsed”), significantly pointing out the very human—“trotting”, rushing to meet somebody, weather conscious, fallible “I have been to a lot of parties/and acted perfectly disgraceful”—elements of O’Hara’s language (vernacular) compared to the remote, very technically neutral and uncompromising voice that dominates poetry in the journals being published today. Perloff’s tribute to O’Hara ramified to comments about conceptual poets, using others’ texts in original arrangements, with a fairly direct critique about how censored and cautious today’s poets seem compared to O’Hara and on back to Cummings, Pound and Eliot, the poets who were ready and able to scope out the challenge of their societies’ ponderous expectations of language and to overthrow those expectations necessarily to emerge as new meaningful voices. This doesn’t seem to be happening today, whether due to its failure by the poet at the page or by editors unwilling to take risks beyond current standards.
One of the hopes offered in the course of the evening, I thought—and no two accounts of this discussion could possibly be the same—was Kirsch’s observation that while new scientific (and technological) breakthroughs supplanted and to an extent obsolesced those of their predecessors, the cycles of human experience, witnessed especially by poetry, in the songs of words and their arrangements, although successive and changing, were renewably meaningful. We still read Homer and Sappho and find much insight, inspiration and pleasure that cannot be substituted by reading, say, Robert Pinsky and Louis Gluck, wonderful and plentiful as their poetry is. The mark of great poets is indelible. Pertinently and plainly, Nikolayev reiterated that the viable poet of today heading for tomorrow had to be “steeped in poetry,” a nearly amorphous vast reservoir of the past constantly attracting addition and alteration.
I think everybody present would want to join me in thanking the guests for their very considerate thoughts, and to thank Ifeanyi Menkiti, his wife Carol and Elizabeth Doran for organizing the event at the Grolier, “the oldest continuously run bookshop in the country.”
Interview: Author Anthony Sammarco finds the ‘Lost Boston’
Author Anthony Sammarco finds the ‘Lost Boston’
By Doug Holder
Writer Anthony Sammarco is a walking archive of the lost Boston. He has written a plethora of history/ photography books about the various neighborhoods in Boston, as well about that beloved, defunct, fried clam-- totting franchise Howard Johnson’s, that was founded in the Bay State. His latest pictorial history book is titled Lost Boston… a book that traces the long vanished landmarks and institutions in the city of Boston. Sammarco brings all of these back to the collective consciousness.
I had the privilege to interview Sammarco on my Somerville Public TV show: Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer. I asked Sammarco if this book was a lament for things past, he responded: “I lament the lost institutions, and buildings in Boston. I understand though that Boston is in a constant state of change, and some of the buildings must be destroyed by the advancement of the city, fires, natural causes, etc…But I hope people reading and viewing the book will realize the importance of preservation. The city always reinvents itself, every generation. Boston and the surrounding suburbs are now very different than the they were 25 to 50 years ago.”
Sammarco pointed out that Boston has a rich overlay of the 17th and 18th century and a strong connection to its historical past. In the past 25 years the city has been built up a great deal, with a strong emphasis on the downtown and the waterfront. Sammarco reflected: “I was on the waterfront recently looking for shops and bars that I remembered and patronized. For the most part they are gone. The hotels and restaurants that are there now attract people who would never go there in the past. And so this new development becomes an integral part of the city.” Sammarco continued: “There are neighborhoods that remain frozen in time, Beacon Hill, and the Back Bay. This has happened because of preservation interests, historical commissions, etc… But I always remember that the city is going to change, and that is probably for the best.”
As Sammarco talked my mind drifted back to Ken’s Deli in Copley Square in the 70s. I used to hang out there after a night of the theatre at the Colonial, a movie at the old Exeter Theater, or after hanging out in bars, or clubs. It was a wonderful place, with a great cast of characters: drag queens, eccentric old ladies who lived with a brood of cats, surly waitresses who would call you “honey ” through gritted teeth, people who got off their night shift jobs, theater people, entertainers, all nursing a sandwich and a cup of coffee or tea, and perhaps a pastry, after a night of working or partying. The Deli closed a long time ago but I asked Sammarco about it: He recalled, “I remember frequenting it in the 70s and 80s, to get my favorite turkey club. I used to ogle the people who were in the place. During Halloween for instance you would see a variety of Dorothy-- costumed people , as if they were from the cast of the Wizard of Oz, waiting online to get in. They served great food with copious servings. There was no drinking; you had that at the clubs before you came. During the day there were businessmen, or ladies who lunched, but at night it really came alive.” Although Ken’s is part of the lost Boston, Sammarco is philosophical about it, he said: “As the city evolves you begin to realize that younger people have different interpretations of our city. A place like Ken’s—coffee and sandwiches—a place to chat, may seem like some quaint, archaic things to folks now.”
And being, well…a, sort of man of letters… I have been a longtime denizen of the Boston Public Library. I worked on my thesis there at the Bates Reading Room, with the dour bust of Henry James peering over me. He probably spotted typos. I wanted Sammarco to fill me in on the history of this great public institution. Sammarco was more than willing, he said: “Well…you know at the time of the Civil War the Boston Public Library was a very important institution. There was a sign over the door there that stated: ' Free to all.' " According to Sammarco Boston had private libraries like the Boston Athenaeum, but nothing really for the public at large. A bunch of people came together and donated their private libraries to benefit all the people of Boston. The Copley Square building was completed in 1895. The old Boston library was down the block on Boylston St. across from the Boston Common. The Colonial Theater now resides there. The Bates Reading Room, which I spent many a long hour in, was according to Sammarco, named after a benefactor of the library Joshua Bates, an international financier born in Weymouth, Mass. In 1852 he founded the old library near the Common by giving 50,000 dollars for that purpose. He also gave 30,000 volumes to the library.
I also remember the elevated tracks in the South End. I used to love the train that lifted me above the city in a sort of transcendent state, to see a panoramic view of the crowds, the buildings, the ebb and flow. Sammarco again filled in the details: “The elevated tracks were started in the late 19th Century. They were in reaction to the city streets that were jammed with pedestrians, carriages and wagons. The elevated tracks provided a quick way to get around Boston for the working class citizens and others from 5:30AM to 12AM.”
I told Sammarco my favorite bus line was the Dudley line. I took that bus from the Back Bay ( Where I lived at the time) to my teaching job at Dr. Solomon Carter Mental Health Center. The route traverses quite a cross section of the city: from Harvard University to the heart of Roxbury. Sammarco said: “The Dudley Bus is quite dramatic. I also enjoy the downtown bus that goes to City Point in Southie.”
At the end of our discussion, Lost Boston was found, at least for me. I was glad Sammarco so skillfully facilitated this… here, in the Paris of New England.
Somerville's K. Gretchen Greene: An artist happy with soot in her face and steel at her feet.
|K. Gretchen Greene
Somerville's K. Gretchen Greene: An artist happy with soot in her face and steel at her feet.
By Doug Holder
In Gretchen Greene’s artist statement she writes: “ I am a sculptor; and in that work I see all the other things I am, all the other things I have done. As I carve and twist steel, face covered in soot, scraps of golden steel at my feet, I know I’m home.”
Forty something Gretchen Greene does not look like someone who works with steel. Tall, slender, with a slight build—she seems like someone who is cerebral rather than physical. Yet, this accomplished woman is both. Greene was educated at Yale, Princeton and Oxford among other institutions of higher education. She also has a work history that includes work as a government mathematician and a corporate lawyer for the tony Boston firm Ropes and Gray. But Greene left the corporate world to pursue a career as a sculptor of steel. She often includes fragments of poetry to soften the hard surfaces of her medium.
Greene has a small studio at Somerville’s Artisan’s Asylum, an innovative warehouse of artists and creators in the Union Square section of our city. Of Somerville Greene says: “ I love the mixed zoning aspect of Somerville. By this I mean the mix of shops, residential space and industrial space at reasonable rents. I love the concentration of creative people who live in this area, and their impressive educational backgrounds. Of course this might change in a couple of years with the gentrification of Union Square. In that case people will have to move to cites further away from the hub of the action.”
Greene told me that she left the Brooks Brothers- corseted world of law to pursue the development of her own business. While she majored in math at UCLA, she also took courses on sculpting on the side. When she attended Yale Law School she took classes in printmaking as well. She told me that she uses her mathematical and legal analytical/ research skills she picked up from her education in her work. Such challenges as how to bend and manipulate forms are met with her knowledge of Geometry and other skills in her formidable knowledge bank.
I asked Greene about the process of making her abstract steel sculptures. She said: “ First I get a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet of steel, which is only about a sixteenth of an inch wide. I then take it to a welding bay and use a plasma cutter to heat the surface. Then on the surface I sort of make an abstract painting on the steel. I have been trained in traditional brush painting and I need to have a very fluid motion to make it work." The text or poetry she places on her pieces are abstract, fragments of her memories. One work is titled "Tide Tables." Greene said: The poem concerns the ebb and flow of the tide. I used to live on the coast of Rhode Island with my partner. The poems are visceral reflections of my memory."
Greene said that the Artisan's Asylum is a great place for her to make things; it provides the resources and access to creative people essential for her business, as well as media exposure. All of these are elements needed to fertilize the seed of her nascent enterprise.
Greene has had exhibits in Somerville at the Nave Gallery, Artisan's Asylum, Brooklyn Boulders, as well as the Todd Merrill Gallery in New York City, and other venues across the country and internationally.
Greene said her works go from anywhere from 500 dollars to 6,000. She feels this a range that people with some disposable income can afford. Greene had to leave our table at the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square to unload a shipment of steel that was to be delivered to the Asylum. She will undoubtedly use her well-honed skills to create something enigmatic and beautiful here in the Paris of New England.
SINGER/SONGWRITER JENNIFER MATTHEWS: An artist of the road, heart and life.
|Jennifer Matthews (Photo by Syed Zaman)
SINGER/SONGWRITER JENNIFER MATTHEWS: An artist of the road, heart and life.
By Doug Holder
Jennifer Matthews doesn’t walk into a room; it is more like she drifts in like some stray, haunting riff from a distant, deep, deep blue guitar. Matthews, formerly a Somerville resident is an accomplished musician who defies categorization. She told me at the Sherman Cafe as we consumed some tea and scones that she considers herself "A singer, songwriter and roots/ rock&roll musician.” By “roots” Matthews means she uses an acoustic mandolin, foot stomps, hand claps, and her signature acoustic blue guitar. She and her guitar are in a committed and monogamous relationship for the past 12 years. She was shown the guitar at a music store and was not impressed with it at first. She told the clerk, “But it is a Blue guitar!” He told her: “Play it.” And like many affairs of the heart, she reluctantly, but hopelessly fell in love. And this guitar is a perfect conduit for her brand of music.
There is a word in Yiddish “luftmensch” which means an “air person”—a person who drifts around—is the opposite of materialistic— he or she moves freely with her intellect- seeks the spiritual— tastes philosophy-literature, a range of subjects and interests. This defines Matthews and her music. Her music addresses the ontological questions, the long journeys, the joys and the ephemeral nature of love, with always a look what is beyond this material dimension. Her ever-present wanderlust has taken her all over Europe, Alaska, Austin, Texas, and to an off- the- grid, hand built Earthship house in the Ortiz mountains outside Madrid, New Mexico. According to her website, from 2006 to current times she has been touring locally and abroad. When she was in Rome in 2010 she released a DVD “ Live at the Piper Club Rome.” This was one of the venues she played at during her stay in Italy.
Matthews is releasing a 7th CD "Tales of a Salty Sweetheart." She has engineered this album herself and it was mixed by Phil Greene ( 25- time Grammy Award-winning engineer) who according to Matthews told her, “Tales of a Salty Sweetheart is one of my favorite records I have mixed in the last 10 years.” Matthews had a number of musicians preform on this album including Russell Chudnofsky who played the Dobro slide guitar. The CD will be released by the label Thundamoon Records founded by her manager Rose Gardina, who also founded the Boston Girl Guide website and magazine.
Matthews, who is studying at Salem State University for her degree in English, said when she writes lyrics she literally locks herself in a room. She smiled "I can’t be disturbed.” And like the poem finding the poet ,the song finds Matthews. Matthews says she is in touch with her “inner voice.” Her lyrics can be ethereal and transcendent and she counts Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan as spiritual masters who have influenced both her lyrics and music.
Matthews, who lives just across the border from Somerville, but often plays in our city, plans to have a media campaign that will reach college radio stations both locally and nationally. Matthews has lived the life of an artist. At times it was a hand to mouth existence—as Dylan sang --“better pawn it babe,” and she did at one time, no doubt. I remember her telling me a story of when she was a little girl. Once she jumped up on a table and started singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in front of her friends. I can still see that girl in the woman and I have to believe she is somewhere near that place now.
For more information about upcoming events go to:Jennifer Matthews
The Bagel Bards, a literary group founded by Doug Holder and Harris Gardner in 2004 is celebrating its 10th Anniversary. It meets every Saturday morning at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square. Here is the introduction to our 9th Bagel Bard anthology due out in June 2014.
The Bagel Bards.
Au Bon Pain.
The lone figure
of Dennis Daly,
at a table
over a poetry book.
flush with The Somerville Times
begging for a review
Michael Todd Steffen
deep in thought
talks of his
and the day job
his endless pitches
tensed on the phone
to some distant
replendent bald head
Hemmingway white beard
mayor of the town.
A newly published
edition of a man,
from his daughter
in South Korea.
on the morning breeze
a Greek gypsy
carrying handcrafted books,
"don't fuck with me"
A savior of Eastern European Poets
outrage at "a-holes"
and the atrocities
that we inflict
on each other.
This is how Saturday morning breaks for the Bagel Bards. By 10 AM there is a cacophony. 90-something Joe Cohen, on his wheelchair, bites into his cheese danish, drinks his black coffee, and shows us his latest photographs. Krikor arrives, tall and regal, looking for all the world like a refugee from a Russian novel. And Harris Gardner, a shock of white hair, an Einstein with a bag of books from Salvation Army bins--offers all of us a share of his pastry and back rubs for the ladies. And so it goes with Luke and Zvi and Lawrence and Paul--and all the others. We are regulars. We are kibbitzers-old, middleaged, rarely young. Stumblebums, friends, writers , poets. We cross our stage-give our soliloquies, our Sermon on the Mount, the stunningly bad jokes, the salient points. Then...we call it a day... and drift away....
Our guest columnist this month is Dennis Daly. Daly is a noted literary critic--feared and loved by many. Here--he reviews acclaimed experimental poet Irene Koronas' new collection of work Turtle Grass:
a series of shadows
By Irene Koronas
Muddy River Books
Review by Dennis Daly
Mankind inhabits a green world wreathed with huddles of life—both weedy leas and bluegrass lawns. In turtle grass, her third full- length book of poetry, Irene Koronas taps into this common, yet often quietly invisible existence and renders up extraordinary visual meditations on nature, art, and most of all, family. Her poems remind one of the short-line imagist poems of H.D. (Sea Rose) and Amy Lowell (The Pond), except Koronas’ poems seem more vivid in both their movement and sense of color.
In “cucumber plant” the poet’s natural images convey motion by mimicking the tides and turbulent relationships of lovers. Here the poem seems to arc up from the page,
tendrils curl, cling to hard objects
pliant when pulled gently
grows stiff when pulled forcefully
the stiffer the spring
the more tightly it curls
Darkness and tears set up Koronos’ poem “after joy.” The poet’s persona wears black, presumably in mourning. Then the poem takes an upturn, not so much on sound or definable images, but unsettling splashes of color. Here’s the heart of the poem,
my black blouse
pitches me into night
I could wear pink shoes
my nails might be painted
with blue polka dots
bright red streaks in my hair
Sometimes a listing of facts can rise to the level of poetry. Koronas makes this happen in the poem, “grass family.” As the poem builds the significance of grass in the plant world a change takes place and the reader understands the poet has crossed over into a personal realm and the subject has become the hardiness of the human family. The poem opens this way,
only the sunflower and orchid families
are larger than the grass family, with 10,000
species and 650 to 900 genera. The grass
family has more individual plants
and wider environmental range than
any other family. Grass reaches the limits,
in polar regions and on mountaintops, grass
endures extreme cold, heat, and drought. Grass
dominates various landscapes worldwide.
Family connections take center stage in this collection’s title poem, “turtle grass.” The poet considers her responsibilities in light of the toughness and stability exhibited in the submerged turtle grass. The pathos of her long distance relations quivers with white and pink flowered subtleties. The effect is really quite beautiful. Koronos details her conundrum,
flat blade turtle grass
submerged under water
each node has two to five
ribbon like leaves
during spring and summer
pale white and pink flowers
anchored in thick roots
the plant stabilizes ocean floor
a fruit bearer
green sea turtles graze
my son, his wife and two
children live in saint Petersburg florida
when I can I fly
As winter storms onto the landscape with its destructive power of warping and rusting, even angels cower. Hard work results. Koronos’ mother brings clarity to the poet’s troubled outlook in this piece entitled “blizzard.” Koronas explains,
evergreens bend sideways
my coffee in large red cup
the toast eaten. I’ve shoveled a path
to mother downstairs
I tell her it’s snowing. She says,
Well, it’s winter. What do you expect
“eve,” my favorite poem in this collection, reverberates with multiple meanings and suggestions. It speaks of knowledge, art, and worldly deceit. Oddly, there is no Adam in this piece and God seems otherwise engaged. Eve, who has a thing for juicy plums, and silver-tongued males, converses with the oh-so-devilish snake, both playing their associated parts of flirtation and temptation wonderfully in the lush Garden of Eden. The poem ends as it must,
…his tongue flits in and out
more beautiful than any birds flight
no. she says. No. not that apple.
no. that apple is not for me
not for me. Yes he says
so cool so cold. His deceit
plies. eat, eat, he says,
you’ll come to know what everything means
even birth wailing back.
her plaited hair, slender nails, bitten skin.
nothing will ever be easy again
Koronas’ poem, “you scared me to death,” is a touching piece about her mother that includes ancestral pride, detailed descriptions of grasses and subtle humor. Consider these lines,
grasses spread and evolved as the result
of their ability to adapt to seasonally dry
habitats from 58 to 34 million years ago
mother is almost 100 years old.
her ancestry stems from the mountains
in Greece. When I touch her sleeping
body, she says, “you scared
me to death.” her sensitivity awakened.
I remember reading scientific reports
how plants, when approached with scissors
in hand, the plant trembles. Mother
does not see. Her hearing is minimal
“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom,” Soren Kierkegaard famously said. Koronas catches this profound freedom with compelling natural images painted on the page in her poem, song 7. The poet says,
sea hair and crabs print the beach
and the surf still unknown
I saw the ocean gulls
and called them God
I looked again while sky was clear
and I named the sky, God
God like gentle drops on
What already holds large amounts
The ocean rose
The day’s procession
The sparkling signs
All meaning crashing onto shore
Children on a white page
From Koronas’ striking cover art of grass splendor to her final poem, a meditation on the primary colors, this poet transforms life’s commonality into a breathless and gorgeously green celebration. A marvelous read.
The book table at the 2013 Festival
Well for the 14th year I have been on the board for Tapestry of Voices, ( An organization founded by Harris Gardner (Far Right) ), that every year brings to you the much lauded Boston National Poetry Festival to the greater metro area. Somerville poets are well represented including: Yours Truly, Lloyd Schwartz, Bert Stern, Kirk Etherton, Lucy Holstedt, State Representative Denise Provost, Harris Gardner, and Gloria Mindock. Below is a peek into what the Festival offers...
The Boston National Poetry Month Festival
Boston Public Library, Copley Square and Old South Church (Thursday)
April 10-13, 2014. FREE ADMISSION.
~ more than 75 established & emerging poets~
Now in its 14th year, this annual festival begins at 7:30 Thursday night (April 10) with a new feature: an evening of poetry set to music and dance across the street from the Library, at Old South Church.
Events at the Library start on Friday at 11am, when 15 Keynote poets will read in the Salon. All are widely published and highly acclaimed. (One example: David Ferry won the 2012 National Book Award in Poetry, and the 2011 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.) The Festival continues on Saturday and Sunday, with readings by local established and emerging poets in Rabb Hall, plus open mics. and a writing workshop.
Thursday, April 10, Old South Church (645 Boylston St.) 7:30 pm FREE
16 perfomances of poetry set to music and dance (Guild Room, 4th floor. accessible)
Friday, April 11, Commonwealth Avenue Salon Room at the BPL, 11:00 – 4:00pm FREE
11:00-12:00 Lloyd Schwartz, Miriam Levine, Tino Villanueva
12:00-1:00 Dan Tobin, Christine Casson, Jim Schley
1:00-2:00 David Ferry, George Kalogeris, Martha Collins
2:00-3:00 Diana DerHovanessian, X.J. Kennedy, Alfred Nicol
3:00-4:00 Kathleen Spivack, Richard Hoffman, Fred Marchant
Saturday, April 12, Rabb Lecture Hall at the BPL, 10:00 am – 4:40 pm FREE
40 poets read for 10-minutes each. The day begins with five Boston-area high school students. Other poets include Regie O. Gibson, C.D. Collins, Charles Coe and State Rep. Denise Provost.
Sunday, April 13, Rabb Lecture Hall at the BPL, 1:10 – 4:40 pm FREE 21 poets read for 10-minutes each. They include Ifeanyi Menkiti, Lainie Senechel, Doug Holder, Lo Galluccio, and January O'Neil. (concurrent with open mic. and workshop)
OPEN MIC. Sat & Sun 1:30 - 3:00 (Room 5-6). FREE
WORKSHOP with Tom Daley Sun 3:15 - 4:30
Festival co-sponsored by Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio, in partnership with the Boston Public Library.
FOR INFORMATION: Tapestry of Voices: 617-306-9484. Library: 617-536-5400.
Our guest columnist this month is David P. Miller:
Rattle Young Poets Anthology 2014 Timothy Green, editor
Rattle Young Poets Anthology 2014
Timothy Green, editor
Studio City, California: The Rattle Foundation
88 pages, $7.95
Reviewed by David P. Miller
Reading anthologies of poetry by children can be a delight: I often find it so. But attempting a review is a different matter. If you consider this at all, you find that the evaluative goals brought to poetry written by adults are largely irrelevant – the less relevant the younger the children. That sort of assessment might be appropriate for the older classroom, if done with insight and compassion. You also want to avoid the almost opposite approach: sentimentalizing children and their writings, reading it all through a shimmer of words like freshness, innocence, originality. Even though those words are valid enough, there are people behind these writings, not generic “children.” Even the youngest children represented here have individual voices.
The Rattle Foundation, which publishes a quarterly journal in print and online and maintains a web site rich in resources, has published its first annual collection of poems by children. The poems are by people fifteen years old or younger at the time of writing; this collection includes works by children as young as three (most likely spoken?). Three-year-old Frank Colasacco contributes a poem about a bear. Well, of course, cute, you might think, but you might be wrong:
Bob the Bear
bob the bear breaks himself
and some balls come out
and that lamp comes out
and a daddy comes out
and a hammer comes out
and a nail
and bob the bear
hammered the nail
and fixed himself
I sense a dissertation on Surrealism and the Imagination of the Child lurking in the wings. And that might be an interesting dissertation, but I don’t plan to write it. I am simply brought up short by what this toddler saw and said. I don’t understand it. Likewise, I can only ponder this briefest poem in the volume, “Untitled” by Mikey Kelsey (6):
the moon behind the clouds –
all these little old ladies
More concise than a haiku. If you appreciate lacunae in poetry, the electric charge sparking across the empty places, here is one for you. What was Mikey thinking? I have no idea, but I want to compose lacunae like that. Which might take us toward words like spontaneity.
As the writers enter adolescence, the poems almost inevitably become more self-conscious, often more deliberately artful. The sentimentalizer wants to say, “No: don’t try to imitate what you think adult poets do!” But of course, that’s just another way of not-seeing the person behind the writing. You have to let adolescents grow into the writers they become, and follow their focus as they try out adult-like voices. If you give yourself interest in their interests, and push back the impulse to judge as you might the poems of people just a few years older, any of these may be satisfying. One of my favorites by older children is “Grandpa Bob” by Sophia Dienstag (13), which concludes:
Once little children in the park thought he was wearing a disguise.
He told them he wasn’t.
They didn’t believe him.
But he wasn’t exasperated.
He just told the children to try
And take off his nose.
More sobering is “Twine: A Prayer” by Chloe Ortiz (14). Its extended metaphor almost self-destructs:
God is a rope.
Long and thick,
it pulls us out of the water.
The roughness burns our skin.
We continue to climb, the waves
are still splashing. Our hands are red
and we shout to God.
We feel his leniency, strong and continuous.
Then, with a flick of his wrist,
we are flung back into the sea.
Most of the children are represented by “Contributor Notes”, but instead of having bios (“Frank was born just over three years ago and has already been nominated for a Pushcart Prize”), there are answers to the question, “Why do you like writing poetry?” I find that many of these are also reminders to myself:
When I write poetry, I feel like I empty myself and then I can start myself anew. (Elliot L. Armitage, 11)
My favorite part is when the piece of paper is blank because then I get to think. (Raya Gottesfeld, 6)
Poetry allows me to write whatever I want unless I am in school. (James Dailey, 10)
Poetry uses a certain kind of language where you switch words around, not like speaking. It makes it more like a riddle. (Melody Goldiner, 9)
To conclude, from a series of “Haiku” by sisters Bree, Liya, and Anya Miksovsky – a sequence that allows us to think about children’s perceptions and expressions, changing as they get older:
Water gurgling, water splashing
rushing towards me and flowing away
as if it can’t stand to sit still
– Liya (9)
You know it’s true
because I said it.
Write that down.
– Bree (5)
while Liya and Bree screech
in their falling tent.
– Anya (11)
I am looking forward to the stimulation and pleasures of the next Rattle Young Poets Anthology.
***** David P. Miller is a librarian at Curry College outside of Boston
Poets in the Asylum: The Poets of McLean Hospital: Mass. Poetry Festival May 2013
Poets in the Asylum: The Poets of McLean Hospital
This panel will present during the Mass. Poetry Festival May May 2 to 4, 2014
This panel will discuss three noted McLean Hospital associated poets: Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath. All three of these Confessional poets were psychiatric patients at one time at McLean. Lowell wrote his canonical poem "Waking in the Blue," about his experiences at McLean on Bowditch Hall. Sexton led poetry groups there and was once hospitalized briefly at McLean; Plath was hospitalized at the hospital and her novel The Bell Jar was based on her experiences during her tenure there.
McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Belmont, Mass. has been declared a national literary landmark, because of the many creative geniuses afflicted by mental illness that have been treated on its wards. The panel will discuss each of these poets, ((Lowell, Plath and Sexton) their experiences as patients, how their experience is reflected in their work, and how and what they managed to create with such a heavy burden of psychiatric illness.
Panel members will include Lois Ames author of the biographical note to The Bell Jar and Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters, Kathleen Spivack author of With Robert Lowell and His Circle... and Bob Clawson--confidante to Sexton and manager of her folk/rock band Anne Sexton and Her Kind.
The moderator will be Doug Holder, a poet, counselor and, author of the poetry collection: From the Back Bay to the Back Ward... Poems of Boston and Just Beyond and poetry group leader at McLean Hospital since 1982.
Bagel Bards Celebratory Reading Jan 15, 2014 at Somerville Public Library
This reading is to celebrate the occasion of the Somerville Library accepting # 1-8 of Bagels With The Bards Anthologies for permanent archiving in the Local History Room.
The Bagel Bards is a literary organization founded by Doug Holder and Harris Gardner in 2004. This group of poets, novelists, playwrights, poseurs, stumble-bums, and whoever joins us on Saturday mornings at 9AM at the Au Bon Pain in Somerville, is an egalitarian group, an informal band of brothers and sisters, outside the mainstream, outside the academy, and just outside from the mandarin environs of the Republic of Cambridge, and the Brahmins of Boston. Some of the readers for the said event:
Portrait of the Bagel Bards by Bridget Galway
There will be a Bagel Bards Celebratory Reading at the Somerville Library (main branch) , Highland Avenue (next to the High School) on January 15th. There is a pot-luck reception at 6:15 to 7:00P.M. . The reading is from 7:00 P.M. to 8:30P.M.
Joseph A. Cohen
Afaa M. Weaver
Kate Chadboune: An Irish Gal for All Seasons
Kate Chadbourne with her constant companion
Kate Chadboune: An Irish Gal for All Seasons
Interview with Doug Holder
Kate Chadbourne is about all things Irish. She radiates warmth and a passion for Irish folklore, music, literature, poetry, food…in short everything the Emerald Isle has to offer.
Chadbourne is a singer, storyteller, and poet whose performances combine traditional tales with music for voice, harp, flutes, and piano. She holds a PhD in Celtic Languages and Literature from Harvard where she teaches courses in Irish language and folklore – but the heart of her understanding of Irish folk tradition comes from encounters with singers, storytellers, and great talkers in Ireland. She has been a “tradition bearer” in the Revels Salon series and in the Gaelic Roots Concert Series at Boston College. Her music was featured recently on NPR’s programs, “Cartalk” and “All Songs Considered,” and songs from her latest CD, The Irishy Girl, are played on Irish radio programs throughout the country. The Harp-Boat, a collection of poems about her father, a Maine lobster man, won the Kulupi Press 2007 Sense of Place Chapbook Contest and was published in 2008. Whether she is singing, telling stories, teaching, or sharing a poem, she aims to leave her audiences moved, enlivened, and eager for their own adventures.
I had the pleasure to speak to her on my Somerville Public TV show Poet to Poet Writer to Writer. Doug Holder: Kate you have a PhD in Celtic Studies, you have taught at Harvard--- you are a scholar. But in fact you said you learned more from your informal education—talking to regular folks in Ireland than in your scholarly pursuits. Kate Chadbourne: I think you need to learn from both. You need to do your book learning, but then you have to get out and around. I was walking in the hills of eastern Ireland and I meet this cheerful, little man. I was fresh out of doing folklore research at the Folklore Archive in Dublin. I asked him: “What do you do for fun in the evening?” He replied, “Oh, we talk, play cards or fight.” And it so happens I was looking at things like ritualized conflict and there it was. So this was the payoff from the scholarly work. So I listened to what people were saying about their lives. And this is when it all comes together. I am mad about the music, poetry and the storytelling of the Irish. I want to hear it in life. Like when you are in a pub, and the fiddler is playing slowly, and you observe the etiquette of the moment—and it comes together. DH: You have an award-winning collection of poetry “The Harp Boat” that is about your late lobster man father in Maine. The sea, I am sure you will agree is a good source for poetry- we are often transfixed by it. Did your father instill in you a love of poetry? KC: My father would have said he was the farthest thing from a poet and yet there were rhythms in his speech and his swearing that were poetic. Or just the way he could complain. I really got a sense of season and time. My father was with nature. Hey—you reach a certain point in life, and this all comes together. DH : You play the harp—quite impressively—how did this come about? KC: I have worked with harpers for 10 or 11 years now. When I was doing research in 2003, a friend looked at me and said: “ You look like a harper.” So when I was back in the states, my ex-husband bought a harp, because it was his dream to play one. So I kept my hands off it. He never played it, but eventually I did. I was going to play music in an assisted living home and I asked him to borrow his harp to make some chords. And that was the beginning of my affair with the harp. I lost my husband, but I gained a harp. (Laugh)
DH: How do you integrate your music and poetry? KC: I integrate it all the time. When I tell a traditional Irish story, I bring up some poetry. I am crazy for putting poems to music. Not so much mine but others’. I do it with poems that speak to me. I get seized with the desire, and then I hear it in my head. I just love the process. Song writing is like poetry writing. You are trying to access this bedrock of truth and feeling. DH: You started this online website the Bardic Academy http://www.bardicacademy.org Tell us about this. KC: I view it as a resource for writers and musicians. It is a website for my school where I give lessons in voice, harping, poetry, piano playing—singing in the Irish language. I also compose well-wishing poems, to make my music useful. People send me letters—about a sick loved one, their wife, etc...—I hold it my mind—then I let it rip on the piano—I send a recording to the person. DH: Reading your poems I get the sense that you do not manipulate nature, but you sit back and learn. KC: I love that. I have a great deal of trust in nature—human nature too. I love the integrity and holiness of the world.
How are Sea and Ocean Different? Ocean is the realer thing-
brine with real salt that dries the lips
and sun off the wave knits a web in the eye.
Men spend a life drenched through their waders,
hauling up empty pots, eyeing the chickens.
Good ones hanging offshore; the hull needs work. Sea is the wind between two planets,
the silver place on ancient maps,
spuming with narwhals and dolphins,
collared with green lace and hung with pearls.
Ships there go with quiet sails,
and the wind is kind to travelers. I have sailed a life at sea
while my father works the ocean.
Bagel Bards Anthologies: 1 through 8 to be part of the Permanent Collection at The Somerville Public Library
The Bagel Bards
Just got word that the Bagels with the Bards ( 1-8) Anthologies will become part of the permanent Local History Collection at the Somerville Public Library. The Bagel Bards is a group of poets, playwrights, novelists and short fiction writers that have met since 2004. Originally the Bards met in the basement of the now defunct Finagle-A-Bagel in Harvard Square, but now preside every Saturday morning at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square in Somerville.There are over 100 members and a core of 25 to 30 folks who have shown up every Saturday for almost a decade. The group was founded by Doug Holder and Harris Gardner. Somerville Historical Collection
Bagels with the Bards 1 to 8
The Bagel Bards
We have a vibrant community of poets and writers who meet to chew the fat every Saturday morning at Au Bon Pain in Davis Sq. Somerville Massachusetts. Our membership reads like a Who's Who in the Boston Glitterati.
These now famous bards have produced an annual book for the five years. sample it:
Bagels With the Bards #1
So it came to pass that a couple of poets ‐‐ congenially munching their bagels in the spacious basement refectory of a bagelry called Finagle‐a‐Bagel on JFK in Harvard Square, all the while conjecturing upon the potential mental, spiritual and perhaps even physical salubriousness of occasional social interface with other human beings likewise blest or cused to pursue the word, to ply their craft or sullen art, in isolation ‐‐ gave birth to the idea of Bagelbards. At any rate, here it is: The First Annual Bagelbards Anthology, in celebration of the first full year of informal weekly Saturday morning gatherings of Bagelbards in the aforementioned spacius basement of Finagle‐a‐Bagel. Read it, and eat.
Bagels With the bards #2
It all came to fruition the day we made our first bagel, after a few energetic drafts of the thing. It got up from the table, shook its rolling shoulders, yawned from the hollow core mouth of itself, and began to dance. At that precise moment, the miracle came as sure as the Matrix Oracle would have predicted from over her pan of cookies. Sunlight hit the bagel, and it became lines on the floor, long lines that would have been perfect for any chorus line, but instead filled themselves with words, words that made promises to all of us. These words spoke the premise. The poet is a baker although he may never have the dough. We looked at each other and knew this was our creation myth, this dance of language on some piece of paper, or in our hearts, or in the burrowed brow of the manager trying to wrap his head around the idea that poets gather in the corner of his place on Saturdays and spend a few hours living, living, living. O bard, a bagel has become a poem.
Bagels With the Bards #3
Bagel Bard – noun. 1. A poet that is glazed and ring-shaped whose poetry has a tough, chewy texture usually made of leavened words and images dropped briefly into nearly boiling conversations on Saturday mornings— often baked to a golden brown. 2. –verb. To come together in writership over breakfast. To laugh so hard at an irreverent statement that the sesame seeds of the bagel you’ve just eaten explode from your mouth like grenade shrapnel. Welcome to the third Bagelbard Anthology. As some of you know (or can guess from the above definition) the Bagel Bards meet every Saturday morning at a designated spot. We breakfast in the original sense of eating, but also, because most of us are so busy working on our writing careers that we often find ourselves starved for great conversation. Well, the Bagel Bards breakfast hang is not only a place in which to do the aforementioned, but also to observe characters who themselves could be the subjects of poems and fiction.
Bagels With the Bards #4
The Bagel Bards are a group of poets varied in age, race, gender, who meet, share poems, discuss poetry, drink lots of coffee, chew a bagel if so desired, sometimes sell their books. The atmosphere is generous and open to all, and you don’t have to be a poet to attend. What I find most exciting about the Bards, people here are not conscious of reputation and achievement, but love the poem and good friendly unpretentious talk. That doesn’t mean that pretensions don’t exist if that’s what you desire, but the coffee is strong, the people sincere and are publishers of small press magazines, pamphlets and books. If you want to be in an atmosphere that is intelligent without self-involved, convoluted literary talk of people who need to prove themselves and announce themselves as artists, here is a place to find the pleasure that good literary company may offer. — Sam Cornish, Poet Laureate of Boston, MA
Bagels With the Bards #5
The work here is as individual and unique as each contributing Bard. Delighted readers will find a variety of styles and forms, including ekphrasia, prose poems, villanelle, and free form poetry. Between these covers can be found little day-to-day deaths, dreams, and wounds, lost causes and dead ends presented in playful, whimsical, and experimental ways. If you haven’t discovered the Bagel Bards yet, start with their latest anthology. Short of having breakfast with them at the Au Bon Pain, reading the results of their Saturday mornings is the next best thing. — Laurel Johnson Midwest Book Review
Bagels with the Bards #6
Once a year, we celebrate our writing by putting together an anthology. It is as democratic as our gatherings — if you’re a Bagel Bard, you’re in. But this year I asked each Bard to submit three pieces, so I could choose among them. I’m glad I did, because I always found one piece that was stronger than the other two. Consequently, I think you’ll find this an interesting collection, with styles as varied as the personalities of the Bards. Enjoy! — Lawrence Kessenich, Anthology Editor
Bagels with the Bards #7
If you were to ask me about one of my best days or my most memorable poetry experiences I would fold them into one and say the day I met Doug Holder he invited me to the Bagel Bards at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square, Somerville MA. I had not heard of the group, but from my first visit I was made to feel at home, like walking into a living room of cousins I had not yet met. This group, however, was far more eclectic, diverse and totally literary. Men. Women. Caucasian. African-American. Seniors. Young. Jews. Christians. Novelists. Teachers. College professors. Mental Health workers. Artists. I probably have not named them all, but you get the idea: a melting pot of heterogeneous creativity. Here were people with whom I could associate on many levels.
I am told it started eight years ago. Doug and Harris Gardner, another fine poet, decided to start “Breaking Bagels with the Bards” - now known as the Bagel Bards. It began modestly with a few people and has grown to as many as fifty on any given Saturday.
Bagels with the Bards #8
Nine years ago two poets Doug Holder and Harris Gardner, were having breakfast when they decided to form a writers social group, “Breaking Bagels with the Bards.” This is now known as the Bagel Bards. It began modestly with a few people and has grown to as many as thirty-five on any given Saturday. From initially a small group, Bagel Bards now has more than one hundred and twenty members. To join, one need only attend once. There are no attendance requirements, no dues, no fees.
Who comes to these Saturday gatherings? Well, you might run into Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish or maybe novelist Luke Salisbury. Then again, poet Afaa Michael Weaver may be there. Poet, memoirist and teacher Kathleen Spivack may be found chatting. Gloria Mindock editor of Cervena Barva Press, is usually an attendee. And there are many more wonderful writers who have been published, and a number of others in the process of writing or finishing books. Most have seen their work in print, in hard copy, or online
With an old friend at Jacob Wirth
By Doug Holder
I have never seen him look so bad...his face was ashen...he was skeletal..he was heavily medicated...it was heartbreaking. I picked him up at his house in Allston, and we went to Jacob Wirth an old hangout of ours in Boston for dinner. When we walked in there was a loud entertainer in the main dining room, so I pointed to the waiter for a room in the back. We sat next to this woman of formidable girth, dressed like an old hippie, gray hair and granny glasses. She had this huge meal--plates surrounded her--pot roast swimming in gravy, cornbread mopping up a mash of meat and red cabbage, her pinkie finger circling the plate making sure nothing remained. As the entertainer belted out trivia questions from the 1970s she turned to us, daintily putting her napkin to the edges of her mouth and said " I know the answer to the question--they don't--." She laughed quietly to herself, as if enjoying a private joke.
I didn't think of it at the time. But the universe was talking to me. That woman---- that particular woman-- was iconic for us, the classic Boston eccentric
was a type both Jim and I lived around in rooming houses in Boston, and was almost a re-creation for us from our past. The subject of my latest book " Eating Grief... is all about what she represents--people like her fascinated us, and to a degree both Jim and I became what was the object of our fascination. For some reason I was compelled to take that back table--I didn't see that iconic woman until I got there. Everything seemed to hit me after the dinner--I know at some point , some point in the distant or not so distant future I will see her again....
Poet Deborah Finkelstein on the creation of Like One-- a poetry anthology in response to the Boston Marathon Tragedy.
“People turn to poetry in times of crisis
because it comes closer than any other art form to addressing what cannot be said.”
W.S. Merwin, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2010 Essay by Deborah Finkelstein In Freshmen Seminar: Literature of Disaster, a class I teach at Endicott College, students read literature about many disasters including Chernobyl, Hurricane Katrina, 9-11, and The Titanic. I’ve witnessed visceral responses from students. Tragedies do not just raise the emotions of sadness and anger but also of fear and helplessness. There are moments in my class, I have learned, where it’s important that we take a break from these topics. Sometimes I include comedy while other times I use uplifting pieces to remind students of the good in the world. I’ve used many different types of pieces—short plays, essays, cartoons, jokes, etc. Poetry was by far the most powerful, which by itself wasn’t surprising, but this wasn’t my creative writing class; these were freshmen that were taking this seminar as a requirement. When the semester began, most claimed to dislike poetry. But when I used poetry in these dark moments, the effect was profound. It led to me integrating more poems into other classes at Endicott and at North Shore Community College. There is something about poetry, it seeps into the soul and heals the spirit. This is one reason why it’s used in programs at hospitals and memorials; it is a powerful healing tool. Like most people, the Boston Marathon Bombing left me with feelings of sorrow, anger, fear, and helplessness. I decided to redirect my energy into a project that would help others by creating a poetry anthology of uplifting and humorous poems. The book would not only raise money for The One Fund, but also help heal readers. Poets loved the idea. Like me, they wanted to do something to help. I approached several poets and it didn’t take long for the idea to go viral. Novelists, non-writers, and poets not in the book also helped spread the word. I wanted the book out quickly so that we could help with the healing process as soon as possible. I am honored to feature poems from 40 amazing writers from across the U.S. and from a variety of backgrounds, including former U.S. Poet Laureate and Boston University Professor Robert Pinsky to Endicott College student Emily Pineau, a junior and author of No Need to Speak. There are 12 state and city Poet Laureates, as well as winners of the LAMBDA award and recipients of many other poetry honors. “We are one Boston. We are one community.
As always, we will come together to help those most in need.
And in the end, we will all be better for it.”
Mayor Thomas M. Menino Once the book was compiled, I ran the manuscript through Wordle, a free program that creates word clouds to demonstrate which words appear most frequently in speeches, surveys, or other texts. The Wordle illustrated that the most common words used in the book were “like” and “one.” I knew this had to be the title because it captured what the book was about—the way that we all came together as a community “like one”. Poets came from all over the country: red and blue states, city and country poets, different ages. During tragedy, our differences do not matter. Disasters make us realize how alike we are and that we have the same vulnerability. Together we all make a difference. “At moments like this, we are one state, one city, and one people.”
Governor Deval Patrick Currently we are in the process of setting up readings and placing Like One in bookstores. We are also launching the Like One Library Initiative. In order to ensure that everyone has access to Like One, we are encouraging people to purchase a copy for the library in their town or city, or at their school, or the local hospital or nursing home. We are striving to have it in Greater Boston’s local libraries by October 15, the six-month anniversary of the bombing.
Like One features poetry by Rusty Barnes, Debbi Brody, Kevin Carey, Cally Conan-Davies, Nicolas Destino, Emily Dickinson, Deborah Finkelstein, Robert Frost, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, David Giver, Kat Good-Schiff, Benjamin S. Grossberg, Meghan Guidry, Doug Holder, Aaron M.P. Jackson, Jennifer Jean, Julie Kane, Joy Ladin, Lance Larsen, Joan Logghe, Fred Marchant, David Mason, Jill McDonough, Donnelle McGee, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Judson Mitcham, Wesley McNair, Alfred Nicol, Paulann Petersen, Emily Pineau, Robert Pinksy, Miriam Sagan, Jan Seale, Dan Sklar, Kevin Stein, David Trinidad, William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, Margaret Young.
Sixty-Seven Poems For Downtrodden Saints. Jack Micheline. Editor: Matt Gonzalez.
I guess I am privileged. I know, have published, have interviewed and exchanged letters with a well-known North Beach poet, who harks back to the days of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and others of that ilk, A.D. Winans. Winans, poet and friend to the late, great Beat poet, Jack Micheline, sent me a collection of Micheline's poems, "Sixty-Seven Poems for Downtrodden Saints." Charles Bukowski said of Micheline in a letter to A.D. Winans: " Jack loves the sun...and the horse and the streets, and he loves the strong and the common people. Jack is the last of the holy preachers sailing down Broadway singing the song...He's fought hard...sleeping on people's rugs, sponging, playing the clown for a night's sleep, a piece of stale bacon..."
Sixty-Seven Poems For Downtrodden Saints. Jack Micheline. Editor: Matt Gonzalez. (FMSBW, 1999 www.jackmicheline.com) Dist. by The Jack Micheline Foundation for the Arts. POBOX 30153 Tuscon, AZ. 85751 No
From reading Micheline's work it seemed that the Buk hit it right on the head. His work is generously laced with booze, "broads", the horses and hounds, the down-and-out, the gone-to-seed, the neer-do-well, the wail of the sax and sex, in short, a long funny/mournful Blues song.
Micheline was concerned with the plight of the common man. He was in the tradition of Kerouac, living as the vagabond-bohemian bard. He never pandered to the academics, and his poetry lacked any hint of pretense. Jack Micheline (aka Harvey Martin Silver) was born on Nov. 6, 1929 in the Bronx, N.Y. During the 1950's he spent years traversing the country and working Blue Collar jobs. He was everything from a dishwasher to a street singer. His first poem published under the Micheline name was STEPS in Le Roi Jones' magazine YUGEN (1958). He was included in two early Beat anthologies, THE BEATS by Seymour Krim and THE BEAT SCENE edited by Elias Wilentz. He had several collections of poetry published including: I KISS ANGELS (1964) and NORTH OF MANHATTAN: 1954-1975. He self-published his first collection of stories: IN THE BRONX AND OTHER STORIES in 1965. In June of 1997, Micheline's book, SIXTY-SEVEN POEMS... was published by FMSPW in San Francisco, his home for many years. In 1998 Micheline died from a heart attack on a Subway in the same city.
The poems in this collection have a stong sense of setting. They take place in mostly urban settings, where the working-stiff and the marginal characters tend to hang. Micheline constantly celebrates the outsider looking in at the absurdities of the mainstream. In POEM TO THE FREAKS, he writes: " To live as I have done is surely absurd,/ in cheap hotels and furnished rooms,/to walk up side streets and down back alleys,/talking to oneself/ and screaming to the sky obscenities.../ Drink to wonder/Drink to me/ Drink to madness and all the stars..."
Contrary to popular notions, Micheline raises a defiant cup and embraces the life of an often-indigent poet. IN CHASING KEROUAC'S SHADOW, Micheline again sets himself up as a downtrodden bum, only to come back and celebrate the fact:
" I am the gray Fox some schmuck
The old pro chasing the mad dream
The crazy Jew himself,
I only know when the cock rises and the crow howls,
To eat, to drink, to take a leak,...
Let's sing a song,
For those who chase the night
For those that dance with light...
Fuck the Gung Ho!"
It seems evident in every poem that Micheline knew where he was from, and would not let the reader forget it. He was a street kid from the Bronx, a stumble bum from 'Frisco, and a snake oil salesman. In SOUTH STREET PIERS, the poet describes the setting in where he hopes to have his ashes scattered to the wind: "...the red brick warehouse stands
the stevedores haul the rigs to the masts
the kids fight in the streets...
the cleaning girls are scrubbing Maiden Lane,
the smoke pours stacks from the Brooklyn shore--
the fog horn tickles my belly
I hear the drums beat
throw my ashes from the pier when I die."
This collection of poems (many of them unpublished before), are not all stellar. Often they are raw, violent and vulgar. Yet, they are a fitting tribute to a man who represented a vanishing breed of poets. Throughout the book are photos of the poet and his friends, and samples of his prolific body of artwork. It is also an important historical and artistic document of an era and a movement, that will be a great interest to scholars, students, and readers in years to come. Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/Somerville, Ma./Oct. 2002
MEMOIRS OF A HACK MECHANIC By Rob Siegel A review from guest columnist Tom Miller, a member of Somerville's Bagel Bards... MEMOIRS OF A HACK MECHANIC
By Rob Siegel
Review by Tom Miller
Someone said, “Hey Tom. You’re a car guy. This book is being released soon and it’s right up your alley, why don’t you give it a review?” I said OK and the publisher Fed Ex’ed a copy to me. I dove into it knowing that the release was scheduled within the next couple of weeks and I set myself a deadline to get the book read and the review written as quickly as possible. But as I set about the task at hand, I found that each time I picked up the book I had this sense of resentment. Odd.
It took me a session or two before I realized that what I resented was the fact that I was under a deadline and that I needed to rush. This is not a book to rush through. Not if you are a car guy. If you are a car guy this is a book to stroll through. I don’t know how to define exactly what a car guy is, but I know that I am one. And I know that all car guys know what the term means – and their loved ones probably know as well. You know, you recognize the smell of brake fluid and old grease that lingers like cologne when you enter a room. You have barked knuckles and a screw driver in your back pocket. You think about shock absorbers and tune ups and stuff like that.
Anyway, this book is written by a car guy for car guys about car guy experiences. It is part autobiography, part encyclopedia, and part advice column. It is chocked full of useful hints about everything from acquiring a car, repairing a car and even when the sad event is necessary, disposing of a car. It is a lifetime of experience hard won and passed on gladly.
Now I will forgive Rob for focusing on his passion – BMWs – since I am a died in the wool Detroit iron fan of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, (…and newer, …or older, if a neat car pops up), but as all car guys know, experience generalizes and sound advice is sound advice. And this book is full of sound advice. Rob has written a column for the BMW Car Club of America’s magazine Roundel for over twenty-five years, no mean feat in itself. To have accomplished that kind of longevity with what surely must be a group of BMW purists speaks volumes.
Included in the book are some amusing anecdotes as well as some self incurred foibles that get told, all of which adds to its entertainment value. And there are some really neat photos of his passions and his rather unique five car garage – one bay of which is under the deck (why not? Car guys know how to do that kind of stuff).
This is a book that I will lend out but only grudgingly and to friends who have demonstrated that they are responsible enough to be trusted to not abscond with it. I also will buy copies of it to give to other car guys for birthdays and I most definitely would recommend it for the upcoming Fathers Day. Especially if…your Dad is a car guy!
**** Tom Miller is a retired auto industry executive, and an occasional reviewer for BASPP.
An Interview with Literary Outlaw Alan Kaufman
I sent Alan Kaufman, the editor of The Outlaw Bible of American Literature, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, and the final entry of the Outlaw anthologies trilogy, The Outlaw Bible of American Essays, a note telling him I was using the The Outlaw Bible of American Literature in my Urban American Literature course at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass.. He wrote me back:
"Here's a little anecdote that you might want to impart to your students, as a point of interest. On Tuesday, I was invited by the Sheriff's ...Dept, as part of National Poetry Month, to go into San Bruno County Jail to speak about writing to a group of incarcerated largely African-American military veterans. I asked the inmates if they'd heard of Robert Beck? Hands shot up. 'You mean Iceberg Slim!' they called out and proceeded to reel off the titl! es of his books, PIMP, TRICK BABY, et al., and all kinds of inside information about him. Then, I asked: have any of you ever heard of Donald Goines? More hands shot up!! He wrote, they called out, NEVER DIE ALONE, BLACK GANGSTER, WHORESON, et al. and again poured out a wealth of details about his career and life. Had I put the same question to a room full of literary-minded caucasians, as I often have,I would have gotten blank stares. One of my aims, in editing THE OUTLAW BIBLE OF AMERICAN LITERATURE was to break down this segregating literary wall that still exists in our country. Two worlds, in which one knows nothing about the fact that writers like Goines and Beck are the biggest selling authors in their communities nationwide. But because of their color and because, as the inmate veterans said Beck and Goines "Keep It Real" they are, to this day, and despite being spellbinding writers of high literary merit, critically ignored, and left completely out of the national ! discourse. So, it's heartening to know that college students are using this book and gaining exposure to the Other side of American literature. Thank you for your courage in fostering that."
I asked Kaufman for an interview and he generously consented:
Doug Holder: Give me your definition of a literary outlaw.
Alan Kaufman: Well, the sense that I mean is largely in an American vein. But even there, one must distinguish in kind. For example, Hemmingway and Faulkner were very much in the mode of the Damun Runyon hobo/bohemian writer popular at the time-- one who consorts with riff-raff and criminals and the like, a vein that begins with Twain and Whitman and Melville—the 'Redskins' referenced in Philip Rahv’s seminal essay 'Palefaces and Redskins'--and extends through Sherwood Anderson who, one day rose from the paint factory he owned, walked onto the railroad tracks and in a state of breakdown ended up in Chicago, where he became a writer (in realty he made it to, I think, Cleveland, was rescued by his wife and for years continued to work in the advertising business for years whole writing his novels). This refutation of respectability was succinctly American. Only an individual driven to the extreme edge of personal crisis could conceive of abandoning Capitalist respectability for a precarious life of art: one had to be literally nuts to become an uncompromisingly honest writer. As mentor to Hemmingway and Faulkner, Anderson passed this model along. And yet this very tradition stops short of Henry Miller who never achieves the acceptance conferred upon these predecessors.
Miller is an important point of divergence. Because though both Hemmingway and Faulkner wrote early on with a sense that the respectable is antithetical to great art—that, as Faulkner put it, “a great novel is worth any number of old ladies”--in other words, a writer must be willing to break every rule to express his truth-- still, and despite that Faulkner liked to disport in ragged tramp clothes and Hemmingway never washed--they achieved the unequivocal embrace of the mainstream and even won Nobel Prizes. This is perhaps because they offered versions of the self that were, in the wake of the First War’s horrors, forgivable, understandable, even admirable: a whole generation emulated Hemmingway's hard-bitten and private code-driven heroes.
But there is nothing “admirable” about Miller, who stands in guffawing disdain of America and her values and surrealistically dances, so to speak, on what he perceives as America's air-conditioned zombie corpse. He was a hedonistic and an Europeanly selfish prophet of total rejection of whatever his world stood for.--closer to Spengler then Whitman(he claimed both as influences). And though he earned the praise of such writers as Orwell and Huxley, he could never be fully embraced by the mainstream and to this day remains, an outsider. And even when he finally gained broad commercial success once my friend, co-editor and also publisher Barny Rosset brought out Miller's Tropic of Cancer, he yet faced pernicious rejection---his book stood trial before the Supreme Court, and after a a couple of decades of being read to the amusement of chiefly hippies or the likes of Norman Mailer who appreciated Miller for all the wrong reasons, the author fell from sight again. Today, far fewer read Miller then ever before.
Thus, a literary outlaw is a writer who has either lived on the margins of society or else felt themselves to be relegated by personal circumstance to an extreme edge of human experience.
The author's sense of separation, alienation must be deeply personal and profound. This experience births a new and often radical sort of perspective –though not necessarily political-- that demands to be expressed in an effort to bridge the gulf between oneself and humanity, to make a case for ones membership in the common plight; a corrective to an injustice.
No one ever wanted full acceptance more then Miller. Near the end of his life he campaigned vigorously for a Nobel Prize, to no avail. The very notion was ludicrous. Yet, poignantly, he tried. So, too, with Charles Bukowski, considered a consummate rebel, but who wrote, at the end of his life, about the joys of paying for Hollywood dinners with a gold credit card. Only a true outlaw could grasp the pleasures of finally gaining acceptance.
As such, outlaw writers are inherently more moral then the very society that outlaws them. For in portraying his or her condition the outlaw writer who really craves acceptance learns, since everything is at stake, that any sort of internal or normative restriction on absolute naked honesty constitutes not merely betrayal of their experience but of the literature they are seeking to form. This alone is a paralyzing dilemma. But then, if the decision to write is made the writer often discovers, paradoxically, that not only do the popular formal conventions prove inadequate to what he or she must express but that the only way to express it is through outright transgression—artistic and moral---against the most sacred premises of the society and its literature.
The irony of this must be grasped. For the writer who feels cast out of and seeks somehow to reclaim his relationship to society can only do so by a literary act of complete iconoclastic destruction of acceptable ideas and forms, which in turn only marginalizes the writer even further . The work provokes response ranging from outright dismissal or critical scorn, commercial rejection or social ostrcacization to legal resort and even threats of violence.
This is true of everyone from Allen Ginsberg, poet of HOWL, to Iceberg Slim, author of PIMP. Each are cases made against a version of social norm that has proved, in the author's own experience, not merely hypocritical but savagely murderous. Sometimes, though, as in the case of Donald Goines, author of the masterpiece 'Never Die Alone', one finds among the subterranean social strata of one’s own impoverished and criminalized milieu a vaster reading audience then any mainstream writer could ever dream of having. Goines, brilliant by any standard, is widely known among chiefly Black men incarcerated in American prisons, and remains largely unknown to the mainstream..
DH: I share with you a Jewish heritage. Do you think Jews are natural outlaws?
AK: Because my mother was a French-Jewish Holocaust survivor I was inculcated early on with the sense that even among American Jews I did not belong to a normal state of affairs that the blood of horror and survival ran in my veins. Her tales of horrific ordeals in the war were my childhood Harry Potter stories. She imparted to me a very keen sense that the world of the Holocaust was another kind of world then the one we know, and that though ignored and denied, yet it lurks everywhere, awaiting its return, to devour the rest of us Jews that Gentiles neither grasp nor care about what happened to our people at Auschwitz, Belson, Buchenwald.
My father, a Bronx-born Jewish street guy, came from a very criminalized family. Two of my cousins died at Rikers Island. A third died with a needle in his arm in his mother's bathtub. Neither of these two experiential trajectories are typical of most Jews.
And yet, they are signifiers of an outlaw fate that begins in the Torah when Abraham, the first Jew, an iconoclast, smashes the popular idols of his day, renouncing commonly worshipped deities like Moloch and Baal who horribly required devotions of child sacrifice. A great deal of the Torah is an account of the Israelite effort to purge child sacrifice from the world. Perhaps this is the birthing essence of morality itself, which begins in the helpless child's need for protection from the parents and the parents’ efforts, against all cost, to provide it. Abraham refutes these child-murdering deities through the expression of an innate moral sense that is so alive in him that it drives him to rebellion against the very norms and Gods of his day, in favor of an invisible God who is a new kind of moral authority, a personal God, one guiding Abraham's steps through the very world that he revaluates as not only not commonplace but actually corrupt.
Abraham is an ultimate kind of outlaw of extraordinary faith and courage. That is what I find so moving about the Akidah, the story of Abraham and Isaac, in which Abraham's faith in the essential ethical rightness of his God is so complete that even when he is presented by that God with a seeming contradictory command, to sacrifice his own son, he goes through every step, each motion of the horrific ritual, right to the very last knife-plunging finale when, dramatically, the Angel stays Abraham's hand.
The meaning of this, I think, is that Abraham knows implicitly that his God would never permit him to perform child sacrifice. That God's ethical sense is what guides his, Abraham's own hand, rather than Abraham's own flawed and human personality. But none of this has yet been codified. It is Abraham, the outlaw iconoclast, following his own deviating outsider code, like any Robin Hood would, or Hells Angel.
And then, in Judaism, the most beloved figures, David and Moses are outlaws. Moses, born an outlaw by Pharisaic edict that all first-borns of the Hebrews are to be slain, is saved and lives to not only kill an Egyptian overseer, for which he must lam it out of Egypt but then, leads his entire people out of Egypt—an illegal act of rebellious exodus for which he and the others are pursued, hunted, by Pharaoh’s charioteers, who intend to kill them, man, woman and child.
In the desert, once Moses goes up to the mount to get instructions from God, the Hebrews quickly resort to idolatrous behavior. Moses, in turn, smashes God's commandments on their heads—an irreverent act of personal anger. I mean, God wrote His laws on those tablets with a fiery finger! To destroy that text as an act of their affirmation suggests a literary method that prefigures the Modernism of Joyce and Hemmingway by thousands of years. And then, having brought the Hebrews to the borders of the Promised Land, Moses is banned from entering. He must, even in death, retain his outlaw status. For the outlaw, the smasher of convention, there can be no accommodation, no rest.
There is a Chassidic explanation somewhere that Moses was not allowed to enter the Land because he had killed the overseers, just though it was—that God's holy prophets cannot, under any circumstance, kill. Thus, the Chassidim regard Moses as an outlaw. But I like to think of it rather that Moses was a visionary and that a visionary cannot cross over into his own vision. He, like the artist, is outlawed from that which he summons from out of the imagination.
David, the most beloved figure in Judaism, was, of course, for a time, an outlaw, who served as leader of a mercenary band, who raided and pillaged. As king he was a murderer and a shameless philanderer. Yet, we love David, for his courage, his hubris, his artistry, his beauty and his powerful and repentant poetry in the Psalms.
We Jews have lived on the margins of normal human society for millenniums, hounded, rejected, ghettoized, refused, slain—though that, I think, produced a kind of culture of delusion which made us blind to the real meaning of the coming of Hitler. In some sense, we Jews once more occupy a mindset strangely not unlike that of Jews before the Holocaust. A paralyzing denial about the threatening shadows growing over us.
Zionism was born out of a sense keenly felt by Theodore Herzl (himself a consummate assimilationist his first solution to 'The Jewish Problem' mass conversion to Christianity) that we Jews are doomed never to find acceptance among non-Jews and thus the only possible recourse for us is to possess our own State and military.
Interestingly, he was at the time of the writing of The Jewish State --his call for Jewish statehood--the Paris correspondent for the Neu Frei Presse, the NY Times of his day. He was a journalist of the stature of, say, Thomas Friedman. And he came feverishly to his conclusion that a Jewish State was our only hope after witnessing the public denigration of Alfred Dreyfus, a fully assimilated and completely loyal French-Jewish army captain, who was falsely accused of treason and condemned like any common outlaw to a lifetime of penal servitude in the penal colony in French Guyana, a hellish fate.
Of course, events proved that Herzl was right. Fifty years later, still without a state of our own, six million (!) Jewish men, women and children were systematically slaughtered by the Nazis and with the fairly complete cooperation of the European nations.
Today, Israel, Zionism and Jews as a people face increasing marginalization on a global scale—an effort to delegitimize not only the Jewish State but the very right of Jews to exist at all. For if modern history has incontrovertibly proved anything, it is that a Jewish people without a state and army of our own are doomed to certain annihilation.
Lastly, Jewish marginalization has produced a tendency among our writers to either embrace the literary mainstream and all its compromises with a zeal verging on self-righteousness---the writers who came up with Partisan Review, like Bellows, Roth, Malamud (once known as the Hart,Shaftner and Marx of Literature) or else to go in the complete opposite direction of literary outlawry, like Ginsberg, or d.a. Levy, or Tuli Kupferberg, or even, strangely, the reincarnated Henry Roth of 'Mercies of A Rude Stream' who goes from classic modernist to late-age shameless post-modern self-revealer of a lifetime of incest with his sister, and other fascinatingly sordid revelations.
DH: Do you find that the outlaw poets and writers you published some years ago are now part of the canon to a greater extent?
AK: Yes and no. Today, writers like Iceberg Slim and David Goines are no better known than they were before I published The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, The Outlaw Bible of American Literature and The Outlaw Bible of American Essays. On the other hand, thanks to those books they have gained more audience then before among the young, college-educated elite. Some, like Sapphire, have gone through the roof of success and kept going. But is Sapphire part of the Canon yet? Popular, yes; canonized: no. Hubert Selby Jr. is still pretty much overlooked today. Mid-career writers like Patricia Smith, Luis Rodriguez, Paul Beatty have gone on to become respected their books issued by excellent publishers, yet none have reached higher then, say, a mid-list status in the mainstream lit world. And others like d.a. Levy or David Lerner, though more widely recognized for their brilliance, are no more widely read then before. Their names are known. A poem here or there remarked. But nothing more. Or take Kathy Acker, whose name was once a byword of literary discussion. Kathy is almost completely forgotten today. No one reads her. I've been shocked to mention her name to younger writers who return blank stares: 'who's that?' they ask. In other words, the Outlaws still are waiting for their day. The greatest achievement of the Outlaw anthologies was to articulate for future scholarship a new stream of literary discourse which is now part of the larger discourse, and to familiarize young high school and college students—future scholars-- with this kind of writing, and these sorts of authors. Someday, they will be recognized as more then anomalies ---admired for their strange brilliance, their terrifying candor, their gutsy innovations.
DH: There is always a fascination with criminal writers from Genet to Jack Henry Abbott... What do you think the source of this fascination is?
AK: The belief that out of extreme experience some brand new insight into the human will be revealed. Also, there's the Walter Mitty’s voyeurism of the cowardly conformist who vicariously spits in the face of his or her oppression through reading about the outsider life of real revels. Also, behind it is a human intuition that when the chips are down, when authority mutates abusive evil, only outsiders with nothing to lose will dare to risk everything in order to defy it. This was actually borne out during WWII in France by the fact that oftentimes the early resisters were outsiders. A criminal has the ability to pretend to be legal, a square citizen, while secretly conducting his or her illegal enterprise. That is integral to the mounting of a successful act of resistance. It's little known for instance, that Samuel Beckett, a complete literary outsider in every respect, and despite his Nobel Prize, was also an active member of the French Resistance, for which he received a Croix du guerre. He never talked about it. In The Sorrow and The Pity we meet one of the first Parisian resisters: a pipe-smoking Beat-style weirdo with a taste for opium, a penchant for outsider lit and who looks like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and William Burroughs. By the way, as a young man slumming in Nazi Germany in the 30's, Burroughs subversively married a Jewish woman to enable her to escape from Hitler's grasp. So, we sense, or hope, romantically, that the outlaw will possess a rough code of justice that will pull through in a pinch. Sometimes they do.
DH: You have a memoir out about your life--and your trails and travails with booze. What is it about booze and the muse? Do you think a lot of young writers and poets are fixated on libations of one sort or the other. Have booze and drugs helped you creatively?
AK: The book you're referring to is DRUNKEN ANGEL, which just came out in paperback. The hardcover appeared last year. It's my second memoir, actually. The first, JEW BOY, recounts my experiences as the son of a survivor. DRUNKEN ANGEL chronicles my hellish descent into alcoholism and the incredible turnabout in events that lead to my becoming clean and sober, which I now have been for 22 years. Of course, yes, I bought into the whole drinking and drugging myth of the American literary genius. The problem was, I couldn't write a thing worth a damn while drunk. For that reason I strongly suspect that, say, Bukowski was not actually a real alcoholic, but just a drunk who could control his drinking as needed. This was recently confirmed for me by his long-time consort and biographer, Neeli Cherkovski, who said that Bukowski was, in a sense, a very high-maintenance drinker who could keep a job for ten years in the post office while he built his career and crank out book after book. So too Faulkner and Hemmingway. Bad drunks, yes. Alcoholics: I don't think so. A true alcoholic dosen’t write and publish book after book after book and sustain a career in Hollywood or off hunting big-game. Of lucky, he maybe produces one book, like Hubert Selby Jr., who comes out with LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN and then descends into a nightmare addiction and poverty. It was only when he got sober that he began to generate the other books which kept him alive as a writer. I knew him through the publishers of my book JEW BOY, Fred Jordan and Barney Rosset, who did the paperback and hardcover respectively. Selby Jr. when sober he was the dearest man alive. He once asked me in a telephone chat if I was sober and when I replied yes, revealed that he had 25 years clean and sober. I nearly fell out o f my chair with surprise. For me, the real writing of books and anthologizing of others began when I stopped drinking in 1990. Drinking had taken me into the streets of the East Village where I was dying. It killed every possibility to be a writer. Realizing that, and with help from another writer, I began my climb out, one day at a time, and the books have come one after another ever since. No, I don't believe that drugs and alcohol are necessary to the creation of literature: to the contrary—they are the enemy of creation.
A poetry reading you should not miss !
TUESDAY APRIL 9, 2013
Newton Free Library Poetry Series
330 Homer St. Newton, Mass 7PM
Mazur, Pawlak and Holder
DOUG HOLDER GAIL MAZUR
After nearly 13 years of apprenticing herself to poetry, during which she studied with Robert Lowell
and immersed herself in the Boston/Cambridge literary scene, Mazur published her first collection, Nightfire
(1978), at age 40. Other books include The Pose of Happiness
(1986); They Can’t Take That Away from Me
(2001); and Zeppo’s First Wife: New & Selected Poems
, interviewing Mazur for the Atlantic Monthly
in 2006, described the work in Zeppo’s First Wife
as “restless and canny, penned in the voice of a tough-minded, comic speaker who names the minute disconsolations of daily life and then urges herself to engage this named world more wholly or more deeply.”
A graduate of Smith College, Mazur has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. Her work has been recognized with a Massachusetts Book Award, and she has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times
Book Prize, and the Paterson Poetry Prize. Active in the Boston and Cambridge literary communities, Mazur has served as the founding director of the Blacksmith House Poetry Center, and as Distinguished Writer in Residence at Emerson College.
Speaking of the series at Blacksmith House, Mazur explains what has become a mission: “To keep the thing going, to support and validate the work of poets, to make a dent in the isolation writers feel in their working life.”
Mark Pawlak is the author of seven poetry collections and the editor of six anthologies. His latest books are Go to the Pine: Quoddy Journals 2005-2010 (Plein Air Editions/Bootstrap Press, 2012) and Jefferson’s New Image Salon : Mashups and Matchups (Cervena Barva Press, 2010). His work has been translated into German, Polish, and Spanish, and has appeared widely in English in anthologies such as The Best American Poetry, Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust, For the Time Being: The Bootstrap Anthology of Poetic Journals and in the literary magazines
New American Writing, Mother Jones, Poetry South, The Saint Ann’s Review, and The World, among many others. For more than 30 years Pawlak has been an editor of the Brooklyn-based Hanging Loose, one of the oldest independent literary journals and presses in the country. He supports his poetry habit by teaching mathematics at U Mass Boston, where he is
Director of Academic Support Programs. He lives in Cambridge.
Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass. He is the arts/editor of The Somerville News, and teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College and Endicott College. His poetry and prose have appeared in The Boston Globe Magazine, Rattle, Toronto Quarterly, The Long Island Quarterly, the new renaissance, Cafe Review, and many others. His latest collection of poetry is The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel ( Cervena Barva Press)
This is a review of a new memoir released from
Somerville's Ibbetson Street Press
The Black Buddhist by Meikle Paschal
The Black Buddhist by Meikle Paschal
(Ibbetson Street Press) $15 Review by Afaa Michael Weaver
In sentences that are as sincere as they are nostalgic, Meikle Paschal gives us a valuable portrait of the journey of his life from the poor neighborhoods of Boston to the comfort of a consciousness furnished by the loving kindness of his Buddhist principles, principles that save him from the bitterness and resentment that can occupy the mind of someone who has fought adversity for his entire life. An African American man gifted with unusual intelligence and a keen intuition, he is lifted also by a penchant for forgiveness. As a reader, I am especially endeared to his portraits of a Boston I could never have known, the old Boston of the mid twentieth century. Paschal seems remarkably adept at recognizing and seizing the chance in life, even when he was not aware of the fuller meanings of his actions at the time. He implies repeatedly that something saved him, and it is that hope he offers the reader, namely that if we would just believe there is a way, the way will reveal itself to us. He is not blind to the tragedies of life, as he notes the people who did not have or see the chance, people who fell victim to things we would rather not imagine, but he offers his own encounters with those chances. He explores the vicissitudes of upward mobility in stories that are insightful and inspiring. In admitting the perfection possible in life, he admits the imperfections, the double binds, the impasses, and he continues on with life, even as the apparent paradise proves itself over and over to be only that and not something ultimately real. Paschal lets us see only the journey is real.
Afaa Michael Weaver
Poetry Series Continues at the Newton Free Library, Feb 12, 7PM
Poetry Series Continues
at the Newton Free Library,
Tuesday, February 12, 7:00 pm
The Poetry Series at the Newton Free Library continues on Tuesday, February 12 at 7:00 pm with readings by Irene Koronas, Jack Scully with Nancy Brady Cunningham, and Nicole Terez Dutton. An open mic will follow with a limit of one poem per person. Come early to sign up for the open mic; limited slots are available, time permitting. The series is facilitated by Doug Holder of Ibbetson Street Press. Irene Koronas has been writing poetry and working as an artist since the age of twelve. Her poems are published in various small press journals; she has five chap books and is the fiction editor of the Wilderness House Literary Review.
Jack Scully and the late Mike Amado co-founded two ongoing poetry venues in Plymouth, MA. Poetry: The Art of Words, a monthly poetry series, and The Poetry Showcase, a poetry reading held in conjunction with the Plymouth Guild for the Arts annual juried art show. Mike Amado published three books of poetry during his short life. Scully and poet Nancy Brady Cunningham edited Amado’s fourth book and will read from his works. Scully, who currently serves as the literary executor of Mike’s work has read Mike's poetry as a feature reader at Greater Brockton Poetry and Arts Society, Boston National Poetry Month Festival, Main Street Café, Poetry in the Village, Stone Soup Poetry and Salem Literary Festival 2010.
Nicole Terez Dutton's work has appeared in Callaloo, Ploughshares, 32 Poems, Indiana Review and Salt Hill Journal. Nicole earned an MFA from Brown University. She has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She won the 2011 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for If One of Us Should Fall.
For more information call the Newton Free Library at 617-796-1360. All programs are free and open to the public, parking is free. The Newton Free Library is handicap accessible.
There is an exciting new series starting in Cambridge that I wanted to let you in on. I am glad to be hosting the lead off one:
Wine Hour Reading January 13th: Meet These Authors
Sunday, January 13th
3 - 5 p.m. Relax with a glass of wine and listen to authors read from their work. Emcee is Doug Holder, founder of the Ibbetson Street Press and the arts editor for The Somerville News. He teaches writing at Endicott College and Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. His own poetry and prose have appeared in The Boston Globe Magazine, Rattle, Main St. Rag, Cafe Review and many others. His latest collection of poetry is The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel (Cervena Barva Press).
The series will run through the spring and is sponsored by Merrimack Media.
Kathleen Spivack will read from her latest book, With Robert Lowell and His Circle, a memoir, forthcoming from the University Press of New England. A History of Yearning (2010) won the Sow's Ear International Poetry Chapbook Prize and also won first prize in the poetry book category at the London Book Festival. Recent poems have won first prizes including the Allen Ginsberg Memorial Poetry Award and the New England Poetry Club's Erika Mumford Prize. She has also won several Solas International Best Essay awards. Residencies include the Radcliffe Institute, Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony and the American Academy in Rome. Fellowships include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fulbright Commission. She teaches in Boston and Paris.
MARGARET YOUNG will read from her newly released book,Almond Town "Nimble, spirited, marked by xsharp and witty insights, Almond Town offers us a sensuous feast of music. This poet has an excellent ear for language, and affectionately celebrates hummingbirds, dogs, kingfisher, fox, as well as landscape. 'Valentine's Day', a prose poem, richly sets the tone.
Robert Mark Alter SEX WITH A MARRIED WOMAN, A MAN’S GUIDE TO LOVING HIS WIFE
Robert Alter, a Newton psychotherapist, will read from this funny and game changing book that is for men who love their wives and love sex . . .For women who love their husbands and want a better marriage (and sex) . . .For anyone, male or female, who has ever complained or joked about the sorry state of sexuality in their marriage, and thinks that’s as good as it gets in marriage . . .For anyone who is married, or thinking about being married, and wants a wonderful marriage with wonderful sex in it, and wants to know how to have that . . .For readers who like a good read—a funny, eye-opening, life-changing book.
Steve Pinkham From his phenomenal collection of over 22,000 articles and stories of the Maine Woods, Steve Pinkham has selected many of the most exciting and old hunting and fishing tales, as well as stories of animal encounters, lumbering, canoe trips, and even a few ghost stories for his book, OLD TALES OF THE MAINE WOODS. A natural storyteller, Pinkham will recite one of his stories and you'll be transported to Down East in another time, long ago. Ranging from 1849 to 1913, the book covers the Maine Woods from Magalloway to Moosehead, and Mopang to Madawaska.
AT THE GLOUCESTER WRITERS CENTER NOV. 14, 2012
I rode out with poet Afaa Michael Weaver to the Gloucester Writers Center, to hear Martha Collins, Sam Cornish, and Afaa read. Also I wanted to touch base with Maxwell Snelling, an intern from Endicott College where I teach Creative Writing and other writing courses. Snelling, I am glad to report is doing a great job out there. I met the staff--a very passionate and dedicated group of folks. We had a lovely fish chowder prepared by the Center at their shack on the Gloucester Harbor. Then we went to a reading presented by the Writers Center at the Gloucester Cultural Center in the Rocky Point section of the city. Great reading, atmosphere, not to mention crowd. I included a flier for the event, and I encourage folks to visit the Center for future events...donations wouldn't hurt either...
The Gloucester Writer's Center
126 East Main Street, Gloucester MA. 01930
GLOUCESTER WRITERS CENTER NO 14, 2012
The gang at the Gloucester Writers Dinner
(Left to Right) Doug Holder, Afaa Michael Weaver, Sam Cornish
My friend, the acclaimed poet Kathleen Spivack has a new memoir out With Robert Lowell and His Circle. Here is some information about the book and the book launch. Book Launch Dec 2, 2012:With Robert Lowell and His Circle Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley
Kunitz, & Others by Kathleen Spivack
Please celebrate with us!
The Harvard Bookstore and the Grolier Poetry Bookshop
invite you to the book launch of With Robert Lowell and His Circle
Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, & Others
by Kathleen Spivack
A memoir of a famous poetry circle
published by the University Press of New England, November, 2012 Sunday, December 2, 2012, 4-6 p.m. Co-hosted by the Harvard Bookstore and the Grolier Poetry Bookshop
Refreshment, books, and celebration at both locations The Harvard Bookstore: 1256 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA, 617-661-1515
The Grolier Poetry Bookshop: 6 Plympton St, Cambridge, MA, 617-547-4648 **************** The book is available for pre-order through the University Press of New England, and will be released on November 13.
Call toll-free, 1-800-421-1561, email email@example.com, or visit their website here.
Also available at your local bookstores and online. ****************
"This book is absorbing and alive, human and compelling . . . the best memoir yet about Robert Lowell."
-- Steven Gould Axelrod, University of California, Riverside
"A portrait [of Lowell] that serves to define his role as poet and teacher in fresh and significant ways . . . . This is a memoir that will make an impact right away and that will be referred to by scholars, readers and biographers for many years to come."
-- Thomas Travisano, Hartwick College
"I devoured your book in one sitting last weekend; it's extraordinarily evocative of the poet and his time, your time. Thank you so much for writing it . . ."
-- Don Share, Senior Editor, Poetry Magazine **************** With Robert Lowell and His Circle
Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, & Others
by Kathleen Spivack A memoir of a famous poetry circle
In 1959 Kathleen Spivack won a fellowship to study at Boston University with Robert Lowell. Her fellow students were Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, among others. Thus began a relationship with the famous poet and his circle that would last to the end of his life in 1977 and beyond. Spivack presents a lovingly rendered story of her time among some of the most esteemed artists of a generation. Part memoir, part loose collection of anecdotes, artistic considerations, and soulful yet clear-eyed reminiscences of a lost time and place, hers is an intimate portrait of the often suffering Lowell, the great and near great artists he attracted, his teaching methods, his private world, and the significant legacy he left to his students. Through the story of a youthful artist finding her poetic voice among literary giants, Spivack thoughtfully considers how poets work. She looks at friendships, addiction, despair, perseverance and survival, and how social changes altered lives and circumstances. This is a beautifully written portrait of friends who loved and lived words, and made great beauty together.
A touching and deeply revealing look into the lives and thoughts of some of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, With Robert Lowell and His Circle will appeal to writers, students, and thoughtful literary readers, as well as to scholars.
To spot a diamond bit
among crushed beer cans
and rusty cars
is to find truth
in this man-made world.
Lummox Press announces the inaugural issue of a new annual magazine/anthology entitled LUMMOX, due out in Nov. of this year. The first issue has the work of over 160 poets in it and features SPECIAL SPOTLIGHTS on poetry from all over the US and beyond! Guest Editors Georgia Santa Maria (ABQ, NM), Jane Lipman (Santa Fe, NM), Biola Olatunde (Nigeria), Don Kingfisher Campbell (San Gabriel Valley, CA), Doug Holder (Boston area), Ed Nudelman (Academia), Jaimes Palacio (OC poets), Jane Crown (International), Marie Lecrivain (LA Poets), Mike Adams (Colorado area) and Ryan Guth (Mid-South) represent their areas with gusto! In addition to all this, the poetry from all over the US, Canada and the world is represented by both known and unknown poets. There are essays on poetry; reviews of poetry; 2 interviews with a couple of SoCal movers and shakers: G. Murray Thomas & Rick Lupert! There is also a Tributes section to fallen poets. On top of all this there is also artwork by Robert Branaman, Mark Hartenbach, Claudio Parentela, Norman Olson, James McGrath and Raindog. All this for just $25 (shipping included) when you buy direct from the Lummox Press website!
Reserve a copy at: www.lummoxpress.com/journal.html scroll to the bottom of the page for the Pay Pal button or directions to pay by check.
Literary /Musical Reception for Elizabeth Warren-- Sept 13, 2012-- Union Square, Somerville ELIZABETH WARREN FOR SENATE
Elizabeth Searle and Steve Almond Invite You to a Literary and Musical Reception In Support Of Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts Senate
Policy Director for Elizabeth for MA With readings by local authors
Andre Dubus III, Anita Shreve, Tom Perrotta, Mameve Medwed, Anita Diamant, Lise Haines, Suzanne Strempek Shea and more
And a musical performance by
Amy Correia Thursday, September 13, 2012
VIP Pre-Reception with Authors: 7:00PM
General Reception: 7:30PM Precinct
70 Union Square
Somerville, MA 02143 VIP Pre-Reception: $250 (Give or Raise)
› Friend: $100
› Supporter: $50
› General Reception Guest: $25
Please RSVP to Katherine O’Koniewski at Katherine@ElizabethWarren.com
or by phone at 617-591-2816 or online:
Small Press Festival Sept. 29, 2012
Medicine Wheel Productions in collaboration with the Ibbetson Street Press is proud to present A Celebration of the Small Presses at the home of Medicine Wheel Productions in South Boston on Sept. 29, at 7PM. The event is free and open to public.
This event is conjunction with Medicine Wheel’s Spoke Gallery’s exhibition, Terrain. The Spoke exhibition is based on the word Terrain and all of its meanings- although maps and mapping will be key the thread of investigation. Many small presses are named after the sites where they were founded. The event is also in conjunction with the annual international event, 100 Thousand Poets for Change which is also occurring on September 29th.
The small presses and little magazines have long been the life blood for the literary community. Many poets from Walt Whitman to Allen Ginsberg got their start in the print and now online literary subculture. The Small Press has been there to give a voice to the emerging, the iconoclast,, the experimental, the mad man, the holy fool, all of whom would not have a chance with mainstream publishers.
Participating local presses will included the Cervena Barva Press http://cervenabarvapress.com/
Wilderness House Literary Press http://www.wildernesshousepress.net/
South Boston Literary Review
Off the Grid Press http://offthegridpress.net/
Ibbetson Street Press http://ibbetsonpress.com/. Readers will be Prema Bangera, and Lawrence Kessenich
There will be a reading from authors from the said presses as well as student readers from Endicott College (Kara Bonelli and Samille Taylor) that is now affiliated with Ibbetson. Books will be available for purchase, and a small reception will follow.
"Ibbetson Street Press is a unifying force in the Boston poetry scene, and the most viable way for poetry lovers to keep in touch with what's happening. There's nothing sectarian or cliquey about Ibbetson, and I think the variety of its poets...reflect the breadth of its community." (Peter Desmond- Cambridge, Mass. poet and winner of two Cambridge Poetry Awards)
Medicine Wheel Productions (MWP) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform communities from the inside out by inviting all members to participate in the healing and transcendent power of public art. MWP’s Spoke Gallery is an innovative new program that seeks to act as a hub for artists of all disciplines who want to join the conversation.
Medicine Wheel Productions and its exhibition programs are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, and in part by a grant from the Boston Cultural Council, a local agency which is funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, administrated by the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism, and Special Events.
Medicine Wheel Productions
110 K Street – 2nd floor, South Boston, MA 02127
(617) 268-6700, http://www.mwproductions.org/ , Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 617-710-0163 MBTA: Redline Broadway Stop- no 9 Bus to K St.
Time Being: An Improvisation by Joe Torra
Time Being: An Improvisation by Joe Torra (Quale Press, 2012. http://www.quale.com $16) Review by Doug Holder The banal lives astride the profound. Life lives astride death. The comic dwells amidst the tragic. Joe Torra in his long poem/journal/improvisation titled Time Being takes it all in, in this stream of consciousness work that takes place in Somerville and the surrounding environs between Dec 2006 to Dec. 2007. Anyone from Somerville, Mass. will recognize Torra’s references: Highland Ave, the defunct Grand Café in Union Square (Where I observed Torra hold court at a poetry group held there on weekends,) the dour day laborers waiting for a gig at Foss Park, the looming tower of the Schraff’s Building, “The Goth chick unlocking the porn store,” the long gone eatery Virgies that Torra describes as a: “ … neighborhood joint catering to postal workers, and local tradesman bad bar food, pool table darts and Keno—after its facelift it’s Madison’s on the Ave., no more Bud signs…” Like the late poet William Carlos Williams who Torra makes reference to in this passage: “Williams was right when he wrote that it’s the hours we keep to see things make all the difference,” he sees it all and with clarity. And Torra observes, makes pasta, sees more, comes back to the meal, and generously mixes his musings about death, Chinese poetry, and dental bills in this eclectic recipe. Throughout the book an image of a deceased neighbor who used to live on his block emerges. They saw each other in passing for years but never even exchanged a “hello.” This spectral elderly woman appears rudely in the midst of Torra’s horn of plenty of a life: the noisy clatter of his kids, the creaking and the disrepair of his old house, the notes from his students, the phone calls of his friends, and his conversations with his wife. She is a constant reminder to stop, smell, touch, feel, to experience the here and now. And this is how it is, isn’t it? You can be looking out the window of your car thinking about your visit to the therapist, or the grocery list, or the root canal you have to get, and then the memories flood in. In this passage Torra dwells on the swan song of his father as the author drives by a hospital in his car: “I will always call it Spaulding Rehabilitation my father’s dead eyes look up before the doctor closes them and pulls the sheet over…” And then just as quickly he focuses on: “…down the tunnel and three men in a white pickup truck fuck you out the window they think I cut them off…” Torra, with minutely crafted attention to detail, creates a master work, that any man or woman can point to and think: “Hey, I thought that, I felt that, I mourned, I loved… like him.” Highly Recommended.
The Custom House by Dennis Daly --Ibbetson Street Press- New Release!
To order click on: Custom House by Dennis Daly
The Custom House
By Dennis Daly
Preview Price: $12.95
Again and again, in poems of precision, conscience, and formal elegance, Dennis Daly arrests our vertiginous world so we may see its beauty, horror, and promise. Daly is a masterful poet, whether he is writing in free or formal verse, and the poems in this substantial gathering of his work accrue to a mature vision of our world as it is and as it could be. The Custom House is a book to savor, a book to treasure.
~ Richard Hoffman, author of Gold Star Road and Emblem
MAY 20, 2012: Have a laugh at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop’s Expense!
By Doug Holder
Who said poetry has to be staid and stuffy? Not The Grolier Poetry Bookshop, which is sponsoring a one-time event filled with poetry, levity and laughter. Laughter at the Grolier cranks up the merriment May 20, 2012, 3:30PM at the brand new Grolier Poetry Room--upstairs at the Bloc 11 Cafe--11 Bow St.--Union Square-Somerville.
You’ll experience a wild concoction of poetry, mixed media, and mirthful merriment featuring hilarious poetic luminaries. You’ll also be helping the famed Grolier Bookshop--a literary landmark--in the heart of Harvard Square to thrive and stay alive!
This will be the second event at Grolier’s Poetry Room above Bloc 11 in Union Square. The first event Madness at the Grolier was a resounding success, and the sponsors promise to please with this one too!
Featured readers will be hilarious local poets X. J. Kennedy, Tomas O'Leary and Dan Sklar. In addition, the event’s curiously titled “Readers of the Lost Arc” will be Lo Galluccio, Doug Holder Paul Steven Stone, Alice Weiss, and the owner of the Grolier himself: Ifeanyi Menkiti.
In addition to the Grolier Poetry Bookshop, Laughter at the Grolier is sponsored by Ibbetson Street Press and Blind Elephant Press. The suggested donation is a paltry $10. So come and support this unique poetry bookstore, and have a laugh, guffaw, or yes, even a yuck—at their expense!
How Are Ya' Charlie? By Doug Holder
And now a flash memoir piece from The Word...
I used to listen to the late Jerry Williams on Talk Radio years ago. I was fairly new to Boston, and Williams gave me his unique take on the city and all its colorful players. On many of his shows he would do this parody of Mayor Kevin White's decidedly strong Boston accent. Williams shouted over the air " How are ya' Charlie!" with a very pronounced emphasis on the "rs"--if you know what I mean. I thought at the time that White couldn't possibly sound like this--Williams was just trying to get his ratings up with this cornball sketch. So one evening while strolling down Charles St. on the foot of Beacon Hill I head a voice behind me sounding very much like the one I heard on the radio: " How are ya' Charlie!" I figured it was Jerry Williams doing his shtick on the damp cobblestone sidewalk. I turned around and it was the Mayor himself , in all his glory, calling to a friend in the distance. I never doubted Williams again--I can tell you that!
Last Call: The Bukowski Legacy Continues
Last Call: The Bukowski Legacy Continues
Editor: RD Armstrong
$18.00 Review by Dennis Daly
Here you will find shit jobs, mad women in miniskirts, junkies, cigar smoke, insomniacs, booze, broads, swollen testicles, and despair. Sound like the world of the late writer and poet Charles Bukowski. Well it’s not. But it is an anthology inspired by him and Bukowski remains the central reference point throughout.
RD Armstrong edited this ambitious book (apparently his second attempt to get it just right) hoping to lay out the legacy and influence of Bukowski for all to see. Like their mentor’s own work many of these pieces are angry and defiant in both style and subject matter. One of their repeated targets, and deservedly so, is academia.
Michael Ford’s poem, Not Celebrity Bowling: Cerebrally Bowling, goes right to the heart of it,
spare me the hypocrisy of the gutless rituals of
anthologized poetry; English Department ivory
tower cowards publishing what they have turned
the art of poetry into: bubbles on a fat vat full of
Mark Terrill puts it another way, but no less effective, in his poem Bukowski: 3/10/94,
..there are the
Great Living Poets
the Great Dead Poets
and then there’s me
another two-bit guttersnipe.
In an obscenity- laced poem, appropriate to the book, FN Wright’s Bukowski and Me makes the point that the underside of culture where Bukowski found his muses is not only alive and well but still a suitable setting for intense poetry,
I attract bad women
whores… catholic girls gone bad
& Baptist minister’s
fond of me
I am not
a great poet
but I’m damn good… My Comrades, a poem by Joe Speer with a provocative title, needles the literary establishment. Speer allies the underclass, non-elite writers with luminaries such as Sir Thomas Malory, a prisoner, Cervantes, impoverished, Thomas Hardy and Emile Proust, self-publishers, William Faulkner, a rum smuggler, and others. He details his points of comparison thusly:
this one teaches
that one lives with his mother and cat
another pencraft master takes drugs, non-prescription
and cleans house as his wife earns a living.
In other words, here are poets from the real world, not that rarified artificial world of artsy-fartsy elitism.
Poets, who emerge from this seamy world of damaged creative people, have advantages. In order to measure out the truth, they lie better than most. And that is only the beginning of it. Ellaraine Lockie in her clear-eyed telling poem, Poets at Any Price, says,
confessor, friend or family … And,
I tell you
Because I’ve been truth’s victim
Verbal accounts reiterated
verbatim in someone else’s poem
Secrets exposed as sonnets
Composites as transparent
as the silk panties I wore… Plato was right: never trust poets.
The world of Bukowski and his acolytes is reduced to a piece of bruised fruit in an interesting piece by Doug holder entitled, It Is Late and the Fruit Is Bad. Beware there is a little bit of DH Lawrence’s poem Figs here. Holder’s persona chooses to eat in a way not acceptable in polite society. He says,
I take its flesh
deep into my mouth
digest the ferment
of its rotten skin
cut the lights
Cutting the lights seals the deal. We are among the vulgar. Not just everyman seeking satisfaction and a high, but an artist, who, even in miniature, meticulously records the truth of his appetites. If eating rotting fruit this way seems vaguely licentious, eating rotting fruit in the middle of the night in the dark seems downright obscene. Another all-nighter was had by G. Murray Thomas. In his poem, To the Editor Whose Name Will Appear on my Next Rejection Slip, the poet says,
I sat up all night
and going over my
searching for one written
in the cheap… The poet tries to match expectations of a Bukowski –like poem. He finally gives up, becomes himself again and writes this poem chronicling the process. I wonder if the rejection letter he expected was from this very anthology. Breaking the mood, but not the context, the short story by RD Armstrong, Two Drink Minimum, grabs you with its great musically obscene refrain. The refrain breaks up the story of a construction job gone bad. Add the battle of the sexes and the result is a hilarious read.
Another one of the stories is an odd but serious piece by John Macker, called Not Too far From the Maverick Bar. The protagonist has packed his dead dog’s body in dry ice and trekked into the desert to bury him and seek redemption. The story takes a neat and satisfying turn at the end with Bukowski doing a cameo.
I found all the essays interesting, but one was especially memorable, A Buk Remembrance by Michael Meloan. Three quarters of the essay describes the legendary Bukowski alit with booze and on a rampage. The last quarter portrays a thoughtful, workaholic, with more than a touch of irony in his pronouncements.
That Charles Bukowski would really get a kick out of this book.
Somerville Poet Amanda Torres: A Chicago Native Struts Her Stuff In Somerville
Somerville Poet Amanda Torres: A Chicago Native Struts Her Stuff In Somerville
By Doug Holder
Amanda Torres who is well-established as a writer, teacher, youth leader and poet in Chicago decided to leave the safe environs of her hometown to test the waters and her talents in Somerville, Mass. Torres, who is Mexican-American, came from the the wrong side of the tracks in Chicago, but thanks to writer Anna West and her Young Chicago Authors Program, she was able to pull herself up and out with the help of writing.
Torres said after her father's premature death she got involved with the wrong crowd, illicit activities, etc.. But one day during her shift as a server at the Chopin Theatre in Chicago, writer Anna West saw her writing in her journal, sat down with her, and asked her to join her program for young authors.
Since that significant moment Torres was intimately involved in the poetry scene in Chicago and beyond. Her travels brought her to London where she was part of a slam championship team--to statewide and national slam championships.
Torres first moved to Somerville a few years ago when her mentor Anna West came to these parts to study at Harvard. After West graduated Torres stayed behind. " I wanted to see if I could make it some other place rather than Chicago where everyone knows me. It is part of the growing process," she said.
And indeed Torres has succeeded. She lives in a historic home in East Somerville--the very last house on our famed Illumination Tour. She has worked as a teacher at Somerville's Books of Hope project, and now is a principal player in MASS L.E.A.P-- a program founded by Somerville resident and poet Jade Sylvan, as well as a program director for the Mass. Poetry Festival. This program is sort of a literary outreach for statewide youth.
Torres continues to teach poetry. She uses model poems from her favorite poets to get the creative juices flowing in her young charges. She believes being a teacher involves being honest and authentic. This builds lasting relationships with her students.
Torres reads her own work at the Lizard Lounge and the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, and seems to be perfectly comfortable in our burg. She smiled and said: " I feel at home here."
My name does not fit me.
It is summer dresses and blue eyes.
I have always been,
will always be, cigarette burns
and back alley beer contests with my boys.
My eyes as brown and calloused as
my fathers hands.
My name means to be loved.
There are cracked bricks in my spine
where I was
with a metal rod
my father flattened and dulled.
when I cry,
drywall dust comes out
and I have to dry my eyes to keep from sneezing.
I have been loved
in the briefest of ways
by so many
I am more accustomed to loss
than to love.
My brown star boy
just found my dimples
with his fingertips.
He took a picture and that's how I knew my face
could be sweet.
I am learning softness
but I was not born into it.
because I know
I could kill
I decided to include an interview with one of the Boston Girl Guide's very own Jennifer Matthews. Matthews is an accomplished vocalist, poet, and lyricist. I like to compare her to Patti Smith--she likes that too. It is hard to believe that my first interview with her was in 2003 in the Cambridge Chronicle---time flies my friends- so carpe diem...
Jennifer Matthews Interview with Doug Holder -
Singer/Songwriter Jennifer Matthews brings 'Tales of a Salty Sweetheart' back to Somerville, Mass. Interview with Doug Holder
Somerville musician Jennifer Matthews was in the words of Willie Nelson, 'on the road again' for the past several years, and she has brought home 'tales of a salty sweetheart.' The sweetheart is not exactly flesh and blood, but her new album to be released in the spring of 2012 based on her experiences across the country, and in Europe. I met Matthews a number of years ago, and I was impressed not only with her musical acumen, but her strengths as a wordsmith. Later the Ibbetson Street Press published a chapbook of her poetry "Fairytales and Misdemeanors" that is in the library collections of Harvard and Brown Universities, among others. Matthews agrees with me that Somerville is great burg to be an artist, and I have had the privilege to interview some fine musicians like Audrey Ryan, Kristen Ford, Allegra Martin, Yani Batteau, Lucy Holdstedt,(of the Women's Musician Network), and others. So it was good to have dinner with Matthews recently in Union Square and see what she has been up to.
Doug Holder: You have lived in Somerville on and off for years...and now after a 3 year stint touring Europe, living in Alaska, New Mexico and Austin, Texas you have come back to the Paris of New England --is it good to back home gain?
Jennifer Matthews: Yes, it is interesting to be back after traveling to and living in these other places. Somerville does have a great creative energy and definitely a very progressive flow, which I can appreciate more now having experienced so many other cultures and towns. One of the significant differences I see is in the world of poetry. Here in Somerville there is a lot to offer for writers on all levels.
DH: Can you tell us about the Female Revolution compilation you were involved for ACM artists? I hear a song of yours is included in a soundtrack for an independent film?
JM: ACM records is a label based out of NYC and they signed on my record 'The Wheel' soon after it was released in 2005. They are a record company that really focuses on placing music in movies, TV, etc... I found out what they were doing with my songs off that record after the fact... so it is always news to me too. I also found out recently that they placed one of my songs in a movie as well, which also has not yet been released.
DH:Your songs are often nature-based--and you seem to be open to what non-human and even inanimate objects are telling us if we stop and listen. Did this take conscious practice or do you have a natural poetic sensibility?
JM:I am a very nature based person... so everything I do tends to flow in and out with the rhythms of life and nature and at times what is unseen but felt through the veil. I tend to naturally tune in to the natural world around me. This tends to reflect in my poetry and lyrics and something as simple as the markings on rocks, or water, sky, ocean, tree can spark a song and filter through the music.... for example in one of my songs 'a dream of you' the lyric is .... "and there was music of a carnival, and you were waltzing under a silky moon and when you spoke the sky would turn from twilight into a haze of water falling blue" ....I am very drawn to the big mountainous areas which has led me to live in such places as Colorado, Alaska, and New Mexico. I like to be deeply in nature as much as possible. It speaks to me on all levels and provides a freedom and space to create. I think that is where the rootsy style of my music comes from... it reflects strength and peace at the same time....just like a mountain.
DH:You lived in Austin, Texas for a while, which is known as a last bastion for the bohemian, the low rent artists, and the alternative music scene. Give me your impressions of the town?
JM:Yes, Austin is absolutely more affordable than most places I have been for artists!! Lower rents, lower food and gas prices... and audiences that LOVE original music. I had a great time and really enjoyed playing shows there. I found that the audiences truly appreciate the craft of singing and songwriting!! As for what is surrounding there is Barton Springs that runs through the town of Austin and the actual springs are heavenly... pure water that regenerates itself every day.... lots of cool turtles floating around as well... but that Texas sun does burn blazing and mighty hot for half the year.
DH: How have the thematics changed in your songwriting since you first hit the scene. Has wisdom tempered some of the fire or is it now more a powerful but controlled entity?
JM: Yes, still fire, but perhaps a quieter, more reflective one. I have been writing songs for what feels like all my life... so when I write now it feels like an old friend... even though each song is born new, there is a deeper sense of familiarity... and when a great one comes through, it resonates very loudly and deeply.....
DH: Can you tell us about your upcoming new CD coming out?
JM: This record is a special one for me as it was written over the last three years as I was living a very different life style, on and off the road...traveling extensively.... some days feeling richer and luckier than ever and some days not knowing where my next penny was coming from... missing the loved ones that I am close to here. Through that time I was living the dream in some respects. I was living off the grid on a New Mexico mountain in an artist hand built house made of mud and stucco....we had no running water, only an outhouse.... but was surrounded by gorgeous views, endless freedom, sounds of howling packs of coyotes at night and nature abounding... Other songs were written on the road while on tour playing shows in Alaska, also rural area of Florida, in Italy as well as other states in between that I spent some time in and played shows like Louisiana, Texas,and Arkansas.
This record, I am having a great time with... it is as if I am recording it on my own. I am engineering all of the basic tracks on my 8 Trk Tascam home studio. I have some great local musician friends of mine whom I have played with and recorded with in the past who are adding color to the tracks .... Russell Chudnofsky is laying down some guitar magic as well as Rohin Khemani on drums/percussion and Matt Glover on mandolin and an exotic Bulgarian instrument.
The beauty of this is that it allows me all the time I need to lay down each song in its own time and not have a clock ticking behind me.... and in turn it has a really sweet magic to it in vibe and sound.
I think this collection of songs is one of my best and I am very excited to have it released and share it with the world. Each song has a strength of its own, a strong message and hook ... it has me at my best I think as a singer/songwriter... it is clearly an acoustic, rootsy rock album... of course with a poetic sensibility.
It is entitled 'Tales of a Salty Sweetheart' ... and am working for an early 2012 winter or spring release.