Hi... there is a new book of poetry from the Ibbetson Street Press by Robert K. Johnson " Choir of Day." Here is a review by Dennis Day
Choir of Day: New and Selected Poems
By Robert K. Johnson
Ibbetson Street Press
Review by Dennis Daly
If you like taut moments, touching scenes and wings of sunlight, these tempered yet beautifully written poems are for you. In a Morning to Remember Johnson takes a very ordinary Norman Rockwell-like slice of life memory and injects it with devastating future- knowledge. He describes the arrival and sing-song Halloo of a little boy outside his kitchen door, who
Holds up his ball and mitt—
ready to play catch—
the week before he drowned.
In My View of a New England Autumn, the poet relates the deaths of both his parents with a graphic realism very unlike the details of the gorgeous deepening blaze of his present autumn, “dying/ a few leaves at a time,”
My father waved back to me
as I left his hospital room;
and, a minute later, gasped
in pain and died.
He describes his mother as steadily looking worse until,
while I bent over her bed,
her eyes hardened
like blue water turning to ice.
After portraying his nine year old first-born son making his way through the ordinary world of delivering newspapers and bike riding in his poem, While Driving, the poet loses himself in an instinctual, yet touching moment when he celebrates,
And my brain and pumping blood—
Every part of me says,
That’s my son. My son.
In the poem, Our Daughter’s First Time Away From Home, there is another deceptively simple scene, in which the poet’s daughter discovers a little gesture,
… when we start to drive
away, an impulse leads you
to discover what it feels like
to blow someone a kiss.
In The Speck the winged protests of a fly unable to breech the seasonal impediments are compared to the vain protests of a poet trying to make straight-line sense out of the world’s circularity,
And though, unlike the fly,
I have a mind and it tells me
“In vain,” I—too—protest: despite
the chills of age, I keep
circling—in these straight lines I write.
Choir of Day is filled with sunlight, much of it falling on wings. In The Lecture the poet juxtaposes the techniques of teaching poetry with an actual moment of inspiration,
… And, glancing outside, you see
the sunlight splash a swooping bluejay’s wings
gold-bright… and know no word your students heard
roused what, in you, that flash of sunlight stirred.
In Parvane, a haunting poem, the moment of knowledge comes with winged sunlight this way:
and you will see a distant bird
gliding with sunlight on its wings
across a shining field
where the tip of a tree’s low branch
waits for the bird to alight.
The poem Lover’s Words starts off this way:
Each gliding gull that tips sunlight
across its tilting wings will die
and so will love. …
For Johnson love seems to be yet another poetic moment or time or inspiration only more so. Therefore true love, like poetry’s moment, is fleeting, does not survive death, and possibly not even our life spans, since whenever the gods decree,
the love we share will be as dead
as flowers frozen by an early frost
Johnson’s Choir of Day is chock-full of troubling, touching poems like these and well worth the read.
DEWITT HENRY: PLOUGHSHARES and other ‘Sweet Dreams’
Interview with Doug Holder
DeWitt Henry is an acclaimed essayist, and fiction writer. He is the founding editor of Ploughshares literary magazine. Ploughshares is perhaps the most influential literary magazine in the country. Henry has a new memoir out, Sweet Dreams, that covers his youth, his time at Harvard, the formation of Ploughshares, and his coming of age as a writer and a man. I spoke to him on my Somerville Community Access TV show: "Poet to Poet to Writer to Writer."
Doug Holder: You are one of the most educated men I know. You have a PhD from Harvard and completed course requirements for an MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop.
DeWitt Henry: I wanted to avoid the draft (Laugh).
DH: You came from a Philadelphia Main Line family, but your childhood was far from idyllic. Your dad was an alcoholic, a racist, and he abused your mom. Some people would retreat into drug abuse, mental illness, etc... in reaction to all this. Do you think literature was the elixir that saved you?
DWH: I was a child when this was going on--so I had an innocent perception of things. My father was a decent man; he tried to make up for what he did. I was the baby of the family; my older siblings experienced the brunt of it. But really--I don't think anyone has a so-called totally "happy" background.
Yes. Literature was a shelter for me. My mother was a writer and artist. During the trauma caused by my father she had her own nervous breakdown. My mother hooked up with a prominent psychiatrist--and later on she became a sort of psychiatrist's assistant. She helped my father and in a way protected me. In retrospect I grew up in a protective environment. My sister and mother promoted reading. My sister was very literate and a good writer. She encouraged me to read stuff over my head. So in eight grade I was reading Crime and Punishment. I probably didn't understand it!
DH: Your father was a successful candy manufacturer. What did he think of your desire to be a writer?
DWH: He wanted me to be a candy maker. I considered it--we all did at one point. He himself was second generation. My grandfather started the company. He sent my father to business school. My father got into chemistry which was sort of the high tech of the day--very in vogue. This was in the 1920's. He worked for DuPont for a year, then briefly for the family business, where, during the depression he attracted the attention of a chemist at Walter Baker Company here in Boston. One thing led to another; he was hired by Baker, and before I was born, he was moving up in the Baker management. But then my grandfather had a heart attack, and begged him to come home and take care of the family business. He essentially sacrificed a corporate career for the sake of family.
DH: You got your PhD at Harvard and you also attended the Iowa Writers Workshop where you studied with Richard Yates, author of Revolutionary Road among other novels. Was Yates' background similar to yours?
DWH: Well, he was born in Yonkers, N.Y. His mother was socially pretentious and ambitious. She appeared in many different guises in his fiction. He was 14 or 15 years older than me--but both our families had the drive to rise in society. The Main Line Philadelphia society where I grew up was very socially stratified. It was worse than the Boston's Brahmins. It was the kind of a place if you went into a dry cleaner or a Woolworth's, within five seconds they tried to place you . So we had that common background of parents dreaming of gentility.
DH : Was there elitism prevalent in the Boston literary scene when you arrived?
DWH: When I arrived there was a literary stratification between the establishment and the young and unknown writers. The big Boston publishing houses, Harvard, were not interested in the newer or younger people. They did not encourage community. They were just the opposite. It was a Brahmin culture.
One thing about starting Ploughshares at the Plough and Stars Pub in Central Square, Cambridge, with the co-owner Peter O'Malley--was that it was Irish. Behind it was tradition of the Irish against the Boston Brahmins, against Harvard, against the established order.
DH: Is a pub a good place to birth a magazine?
DWH: I'm not sure I would recommend it, but there is the Irish tradition of the literary pub. It goes way back to William Butler Yeats and the Irish Renaissance. The literary pub has a tradition of readings and publishing broadsheets. The tradition was inherent in the presence of Peter O'Malley . O'Malley is still around--you will probably find him having a drink at the pub to this day.
DH: The memoirist Malachy McCourt told me that when you write a memoir you should not get bogged down with facts. Memoir is more about impressions.
DWH: The kind of memoir I write is more like fiction--rather than literal fact. You have to look hard for details for your writing. I tell my students to look for artifacts around their homes that are unexplained ... kind of bizarre. In my family we have these bear skin rugs--bear skin rugs--how do you figure that? You really have to use your imagination to make things come alive.
DH: How important was the founding of Ploughshares in your development as a writer?
DWH: As I say on p. 196 of Sweet Dreams, the venture of starting Ploughshares lent me social identity as a writer...I was taken seriously by writers my age who had themselves managed to publish books and land teaching jobs." I needed that because my first novel was such slow going. The magazine also exposed me to contemporary poetry and fiction, and to the emerging writers producing it, like colleagues, and I felt both in my editing and my writing that I was talking back to them in "the cultural conversation." I think of Tim O'Brien, Andre Dubus, Fanny Howe, Thomas Lux, James Tate, Jim McPherson, Sue Miller, Frank Bidart, David Gullette, Joyce Peseroff, the list goes on. The magazine helped to forge my sense of literary enterprise, combining editing, writing, and teaching. It also proved to be the credential--more than my PhD--that helped me find my place at Emerson College and the Creative Writing Program there. Of course, in the long view back, I had been writing and producing magazines since my school days with a toy printing press, and later a basement print shop, and then in college editing the Amherst Literary Magazine. My love of reading, writing, and publishing had been one love for most of my life.
Hugh Fox: Way, Way Off On His Final Road: 1932 to 2011
Hugh Fox: Way, Way Off On His Final Road
By Doug Holder
*From the introduction of “ Way, Way Off the Road: The Memoirs of The Invisible Man” by Hugh Fox (Ibbetson Street Press)
Several years ago the Ibbetson Street Press published a Hugh Fox poetry collection “Angel of Death.” I had never actually met Fox in the flesh, but I was aware of his substantial contributions to the small press over the past 40 years. Fox was a founding member of COSMEP, (a seminal small press organization), a founding member of the PUSHCART PRIZE, and edited the groundbreaking anthology “ The Living Underground,” to name just a few achievements.
One day, in my apartment on Ibbetson Street in Somerville, Mass. I was just about asleep when I heard my doorbell ring. I went to answer it and a man of a certain age, with long gray hair spouting from the sides of his cap and a heavy Bronx accent said: “ Hi Doug, what do ya’ have in there a Blonde?’ I said: “Well my wife is here, she’s sort of blondish.” I asked him in but I guess he sensed I was in no condition for company. He declined and promptly took a cab back to his hotel.
Since then I have had the opportunity to meet him on a couple of occasions. Fox is full of anecdotes about many of the stumble bums, poets, poseurs, publishers, editors, with all their infinite variety, on the small press scene. I am glad this manuscript has seen the light of day. And when you read it hopefully you will see the light too.
--Doug Holder (2006)
I don’t remember when I first became aware of Hugh Fox. He was a prolific writer across all genres. It might have been through one of the many reviews he wrote for the Small Press Review; it might be from the manuscripts he sent me to publish, or through the many poets of the “Invisible Generation” ( A term he used to describe his peer group of writers) he befriended over the years. Whatever you say about Fox, he wasn’t a cliche of a man—he was a total original. He was a PhD with a big disdain for the academy; his breadth of knowledge left me breathless; he could be incredibly kind and incredibly rude, but I loved him warts and all—-hey ain’t that what love is after all?
I asked Fox a few years ago what he would like to be remembered for. He told me: "That I reminded people to take a close look and engage the world around them.”Fox took it all in: from sex, the Aztecs, religion, the meaning of being, the meaning of meaning…you name it.
He was a firm believer in the small press—not the New York publishing houses where the buck is the bottom line. It was his religion, his passion, to review the thousands of small press books of all genres for the late Len Fulton’s Small Press Review, and other publications. To Hugh, the chap, or the big tome was all high holy. Nothing was too obscure, too raw. He called many a writer a “genius,” but what I think what he really was trying to say was he recognized the genius in all of us.
He took many a writer under his wing. He could be unapologetically flirtatious but more often that not he would charm the pants off you—and in his younger days I am sure he literally did. Hugh had a huge cadre of writers that were the objects of his affection.
He introduced me and countless others to the short form or capsule book review. In one of his short reviews he could really get to the core of the book with an economy of words, and he nixed the deadening academic jargon that could bleed the life out of any writing.
I would get unexpected calls late at night from Fox. He would say: “ Hey I miss you pal—why haven’t you called?” When I was laid off of my job of many years he offered to put me and my wife up at his home in Lansing, Michigan; he lobbied for me to be included in the important avant-garde poetry anthology “ Inside the Outside.” Fox told me he loved me more than once… and you know what?... I truly think he did.
I thought that Fox would never die. He told me for years he was on his last legs with cancer, and his time was short. He even wrote a play that concerned him and the noted small press poet Lo Galluccio, meeting cute while in the throes of ovarian and prostate cancer. To my knowledge Galluccio has never suffered from ovarian cancer, but she was a dear friend of Fox and he included a lot of us in his work.
As Samuel Beckett wrote: “ We are born astride the grave,” and Fox is gone. He died in a hospice in Michigan at 79, heavily sedated, out of pain finally, drifting up into the ether in a dream—to the cosmos—to that grand poem—infinity.
I thought my friend the poet Kathleen Spivack would be the best person to write about Boston as a literary city--and here it is for "The Word." Poet Kathleen Spivack: Boston as a Literary City
Boston as a Literary City
By Kathleen Spivack
Boston is a historically literary city. The beauty of Boston for writers today is that it is manageable, friendly, diverse, and non-hierarchical. I am sure the reverse is equally true, of course.
Whether you are a young aspiring student or an established writer it is easy to meet and speak, read your work and share ideas. Boston is non-intimidating and, despite its variety of poets, very democratic actually. There are numerous presses and as well as many writing centers that encourage our work. Our long winters help: we huddle together around the metaphoric campfires and warm our hands on writing.
In 1959 I came to Boston on a fellowship to study with poet Robert Lowell, both in his famous workshop and in private tutorial. He introduced me to other poets. They included Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, Basil Bunting, Jonathan Griffin, and others. Later, writers Frank Bidart, Andrew Wylie, Robert Pinsky, Jonathan Galassi, Lloyd Schwartz, Fanny Howe, Gail Mazur and James Atlas; to name only a few, gravitated to Lowell as well. Lowell championed his writers, and the experience of working with him changed lives.
The Grolier Poetry Bookshop has always been a historic center for poetry, and survives today under its new owner, Ifeanyi Menkiti. Founded by Gordon Cairney, it was a home for the young T.S Eliot, E.E. Cummings, Archibald MacLeish, Richard Wilbur, and later for Margaret Atwood, Robert Creeley, Gerard Malanga, James Alan McPherson and many others. Its roster of patrons mirrors aspects of our literary heritage. It is lined with photographs.
The young Louisa Solano who had worked at the Grolier took over the store when Gordon died. She brought it into the 21st century. One of the legendary dedicated great booksellers in America, Louisa’s knowledge, taste, passion, width of book buying, and her reading series reflected the whole span of American poetry. She also sponsored prizes for young poets.
Seamus Heaney was in Boston during that time and often at the Grolier. He inspired us with his poetry and also with his open generous nature. The Woodberry Poetry Room, at Lamont Library, Harvard University grew under the directorship of Straits Haviarias. The Woodberry Poetry Room opened to all members of the writing community and had a vast collection of recordings, books and little magazines. The Voices and Visions series was one of their projects. Christina Thompson, Don Share, Christina Davis and others continued with the Woodberry Poetry Room to make its archival material available. The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House in conjunction with the New England Poetry Club, sponsors readings on its patrician grounds. The Boston Public Library hosts several festivals for writing.
And on the grassroots level, the Bagel Bards as well as many other community writing groups welcome local writers, editors, and publishers to weekly networking sessions. There are similar groups in other parts of Boston. Our city is small and multicultural and there are many opportunities for writers of diversity to come together. First Night, a city wide New Year’s celebration, began in Boston in 1976 under Clara Wainwright and Zaren Earles. It opened its doors to literary readings from writers from every community.Later Patricia Smith was instrumental in bringing the Poetry Slam here, which helped youth of all backgrounds to hone skills in writing and performance. Poets in the Schools started in the 70’s as well, and linked writers working in schools with each other, and with the diversity of Boston’s school population. Sam Cornish, Boston’s current Poet Laureate, a writer and scholar teacher and former bookstore owner, has been tireless in his efforts to encourage poetry. We’ve seen many Boston area literary festivals blossom.
Under its recent ownership of the Grolier, the warm and wonderful Ifeanyi and Carol Menkiti have brought a specifically multicultural approach to the store and it is once again a lively magnet for the poetic community, with its own ambiance. Theirs is a labor of love indeed and we love them for keeping this historic bookstore alive. We also cite the presses of Steve Glines, Doug Holder, J. Kates, and others. The work of Harris Gardner and Jack Powers. Sajed Kamal at the Fenway. There are many links between the writing circles in Boston. We are lucky to have the resources, the dedicated bookstore owners and teachers and administrators, the open heartedness of our poetic institutions, the diversity of community, and the manageable size of greater Boston’s literary landscape to support our writing life. Generosity is the word that best describes Boston’s literary scene.
*******Kathleen Spivack is the author of A History of Yearning, Winner of the Sows Ear International Poetry Prize 2010, first runner up in the New England Book Festival, and winner of the London Book Festival; Moments of Past Happiness (Earthwinds/Grolier Editions 2007); The Beds We Lie In (Scarecrow 1986), nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; The Honeymoon (Graywolf 1986); Swimmer in the Spreading Dawn (Applewood 1981); The Jane Poems (Doubleday 1973); Flying Inland (Doubleday 1971); Robert Lowell, A Personal Memoir; (forthcoming 2011) and a novel, Unspeakable Things. She is a recipient of the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award 2010, the 2010 Erica Mumford Award, and the 2010 Paumanok Award. Published in numerous magazines and anthologies, some of her work has been translated into French. Other publications include The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, Massachusetts Review, Virginia Quarterly, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, Agni, New Letters, and others. Her work is featured in numerous anthologies. She has also won several International Solas Prizes for “Best Essays.”
Kathleen Spivack has been a visiting professor of American Literature/Creative Writing (one semester annually) in France since 1990. She has held posts at the University of Paris VII-VIII, the University of Francoise Rabelais, Tours, the University of Versailles, and at the Ecole Superieure (Polytechnique). She was a Fulbright Senior Artist/Professor in Creative Writing in France (1993-95). Her poetry has been featured at festivals in France and in the U.S. She reads and performs in theatres, and she also works with composers. Her song cycles and longer pieces have been performed worldwide. -Kathleen Spivack-
Len Fulton, who founded dustbooks.com and The Small Press Review was my hero. He died recently which really threw me for a loop. I have written for SPR on and off for a number of years, and through him and his magazine I learned the ropes of the Small Press, and how to write a short and concise review of a book. I was inspired to form my own forum for reviews and essays the "Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene" (dougholder.blogspot.com). Here is an essay by my old pal and guru Hugh Fox, the doyen of small press reviewers about Len Fulton...may he rest in peace.
age 77, July 24, 2011 in Paradise, CA.
Hugh Fox Remembers Small Press Legend Len Fulton
Like saying goodbye to Debussy or Hemingway or H.G. Wells. I first met Fulton in Berkeley in 1968 when we founded COSMEP, a small press org. that had yearly conventions here, there and everywhere: St. Paul, Minnesota, New Orleans, New York, you name it. And everyone would be there, all the editors of small presses and lit mags. And poets and other writers. Always reading-shows, and I'd always read.
I got to know EVERYONE in the literary scene. And visited Fulton up in his place in Paradise, California, way in the middle of nowhere, or everywhere, if what you loved was California wilderness.
Tall dark-haired, a little mustache, always bright, on the ball, kind of Harvard professorish, but at the same time a kind of exploratory cowboy explorer always moving further into the essence of Nature itself. For years, two or three times a year I'd get a huge envelope filled with books and literary reviews to review for SMALL PRESS REVIEW, and he slowly turned me into a kind of central writer for the mag. Which I loved. Sadly COSMEP slowly disappeared over the years. Run by Richard Morris in San Francisco, it's a book in itself that would go through the slow decapitations of all our dreams and hopes. But Morris died from cancer and COSMEP kind of died with him.There's a huge file over in Special Collections at the Michigan State University library dealing with my connections with the death of COSMEP.
A couple of years back Fulton turned SPR into an on-line mag, which I wasn't crazy about. But he'd always send me a printed copy too, and I've got this huge file in my bookcases, years and years and years of copies with my reviews in them.
In the last few years he became increasingly solitary. Suffering from lung cancer, but not aware that was what was going on. When I recently told him that I'm dying from cancer, he wrote a beautiful letter back and mentioned he wasn't "quite up to it" either. But I don't think he was aware it was lung cancer.
He was/is a central figure in the development of literary culture in the U.S. He published an INTERNATIONAL DIRECTORY OF LITTLE MAGAZINES AND SMALL PRESSES which I always found of central importance in finding publishers for my books and articles. An odd name for a press -- Dustbooks. Always aware of the transience of life and everything surrounding him/us. Always Señor High Concentration, High Seriousness. I couldn't believe the size of the library in his Paradise ranch house. I asked him "Any of my stuff here?," and he walked over the showed me volume after volume after volume, almost everything I'd ever written, the whole library a veritable treasure house of literary treasures.
His death is a huge loss. Will his son, Tim, continue the SMALL PRESS REVIEW and all the rest of it? No words from him.
Hard to believe Fulton is really "gone." I always thought of him, and still think of him, as an IMMORTAL.
*Hugh Fox is a founding editor of the Pushcart Prize, and has been widely published in the small press.
Ibbetson Street Press to release a collection of poetry "Dead Beats" by the first Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish.
Doug Holder, founder of the Ibbetson Street Press, is pleased to announce the upcoming July 2011 release of a new poetry collection from Sam Cornish, the first Poet Laureate of Boston titled "Dead Beats." Cornish is an influential African American Poet, and has had a long and distinguished career. Poet Maya Angelou said of Cornish:
"Sam Cornish is to poetry what Ray Charles and the song "Georgia" is to music. Both men were constructed for their art forms."
The book retails at $14 and can be pre-ordered by sending a check , or money order to Ibbetson Street Press 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143 ($2 postage/handling)
Check the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene http://dougholder.blogspot.com for further updates.....
Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish: The Interview
By Doug Holder
When I lived in Brighton ( a section of Boston) in the 1980’s I used to see poet Sam Cornish walking down Commonwealth Avenue. With his thick glasses , powerful stride, and intense stare, I thought to myself this cat means business. I never approached him, but I knew of his reputation as part of the “Boston Underground” school of poets, and knew he taught at Emerson College. It wasn’t until he was appointed to the position of Boston Poet Laureate did I actually meet him, and now our paths have crossed more than a few times. Cornish, 73, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and for a long time commuted between his native city and Boston. He was a poor kid, raised by his mother and grandmother after his father died. He was influenced by the small press movement in poetry, as well as the Black Arts Movement, but basically he has been viewed as poet who is hard to classify. His poetry deals with slavery, civil rights, as well as pop culture: from Louie Armstrong to Frank Sinatra. His poetry is usually stripped down and potent. Cornish’s breakthrough book of poetry was “Generations” published in 1971. The book is organized into five sections: Generations, Slaves, Family, Malcolm, and others. He combined his own family with figures from African-American history. Cornish received a National Endowment for the Arts Award in 1967 and 1969, he was the literature director at the Mass. Council of the Arts, and owned a bookstore in Brookline, Mass for a number of years. He has a number of poetry collections under his belt, the most recent: “An Apron Full of Beans” (CavanKerry). I talked with Cornish on my Somerville Cable Access TV Show: “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer”
Doug Holder: Sam, you told me that you did not consider yourself to be part of the Black Arts Movement in the 60's and 70's. Yet I have read in a few places that people consider you an "unappreciated" figure of the movement. How would you define yourself?
Sam Cornish: What might distinguish me from poets of this generation in the movement, folks like: Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, etc... , was that I was influenced by a number of writers and sources that may not have been part of the influence and education in the Black Arts Movement. Some of the poets in the movement came from a conventional negro background. The negro middle class: doctors, lawyers, teachers. I came from a poor family, raised by my mother and grandmother. My mother was forced to go on welfare when she could no longer work. I went to a neighborhood school and frequented the public library.
I bought books and as a result became interested in poetry. The poets that moved me were T.S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, prose writers like James T. Farrell and Richard Wright. As an adolescent I loved Farrell's character , Studs Lonigan. I could identify with him and I was motivated to find other books that I could identify with. I read books by George Simeon, the great French writer of psychological murder mysteries, for instance.
DH: Who published many of the writers of the Black Arts Movement?
SC: The Broadside Press. It was a small press that was based in Chicago. It was started by a man named Dudley Randall. They were publishing young black writers who were very militant and defined themselves as being "Black" rather than "Negro." There was a very strong political stance to them.
DH: Didn't you have a strong political slant to your work?
SC: If I did it was politics that grew out of the 1930's. That was a mixture of left-leaning, the communist and the socialist.
DH: This was in contrast to the militancy of the 60's?
SC: Yes. Because a lot of that was directed at whites generally. It was confrontational or abrasive. You were now BLACK and different from previous generations. You had no patience with your forefathers, your parents, those who were living as NEGROES. It was a very angry and self-destructive ideology. People like James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Robert Hayden were viewed as not being pro-black.
DH: Your poetry seems to be stripped down rather than weighted with ornate flourishes.
SC: For me it is a choice of language. How do you describe something? How do you create a poem? How do you communicate? I would say that it is the influence of the hard world or the naturalistic writer, where you use the language that's employed in common speech. At the same time you recognize the lyric possibilities in this language.
I have had my days when I had tons of words on the page. I realized though that it was necessary to use fewer words.
DH: You told me that a poet should reveal something about himself in a poem?
SC: I'm back and forth about that. There are poems where you can't find the poet. There are novels where you can't find the writer. I just feel very strongly that it is important to present yourself as honestly as you possibly can. Hold yourself up as a mirror people can see their selves and vice a versa.
Poetry does provide an opportunity for people to hide themselves behind the language. They use the poem as a form of escape. And that's OK as a form of entertainment.
DH: You have talked about the photographer Walker Evans, who used to hide a camera under his coat, and snapped pictures of people that truly captured the moment, on the New York subway for instance. Should a poet be Walker Evans-like?
SC: For me perhaps. But maybe not for others. I like the idea of interacting with people--different kinds of people.
DH: So you must have been an admirer of the late Studs Terkel?
SC: Very much so. He transcended the genre.
DH: Your breakthrough poetry collection was "Generations" published in 1971. How was it a breakthrough?
SC: It might have been a breakthrough because the number of black writers being published at that time were few.The Beacon Press of Boston published it. As a black writer there may have been anger in the book. It was not an anger directed at White America. It attempted to describe living in an America that is black and white, and all the other things that go with it. The book is arranged like most of my books are: from past to present. It begins with a slave funeral and it ends with a sense of Apocalypse. The history comes from things I heard from home, and things I picked up from the neighborhoods, not to mention popular culture.
DH: We have discussed Alfred Kazin's memoir A Walker in the City. Kazin was inspired by pounding the pavement on the teeming streets of NYC. How about you in Boston?
SC: I used to walk with a pocket camera, and took pictures as I walked. I would also walk with a notebook. I would describe things I would see, and imagined them as little scenarios. That was an important part of my day.
DH: I get the impression that you are the consummate urban man. Could you survive in the country?
SC: If I did live in the country I would like the freedom to move back and forth. I like to be near theatres, bookstores and cinemas.
DH: You had your own small press: the Bean Bag Press. You hung with small press legends like Hugh Fox, and co- edited the anthology: "The Living Underground: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry" ( Ghost Dance Press: 1969) with him. What is vital about the small press in the literary milieu?
SC: Publication. The major presses publish very few books of poetry. They also have a fixed standard as to what they select. So you often get the same voices. The small press allows us to have a variety of voices. It allows us to be challenged, upset, disturbed and sometimes angered by what we read. The major press' books are pleasant and fun to read. But they are not disturbing. They are basically not truthful. The small press has novelty, surprise, can be violent, and sometimes it can be damn good poetry.
DH: What are your goals in your position of Boston Poet Laureate?
SC: Right now I am available for people through the library and also through Mayor Menino's office. If people call and request my presence at a school or senior citizen's center, or where people would like a poet, I go. I try to be the person to bring a poem to people who might not read poetry, or those who want to talk to a poet about the craft.
Doug Holder/ Nov. 2008/Somerville, Mass.
Somerville Poets Patrick Sylvain and Kim Triedman: Words as a balm for disaster.
Somerville Poets Patrick Sylvain and Kim Triedman: Words as a balm for disaster.
Interview with Doug Holder
Poets Kim Triedman and Patrick Sylvain joined me on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer,” to talk about the acclaimed poetry reading they were part of and the subsequent anthology “Poets for Haiti.” All this was in reaction to the tragic earthquake that brought Haiti to its knees. Triedman, managing editor for the Ibbetson Street Press in Somerville, Mass, edited the anthology and was instrumental in organizing the reading. Sylvain is originally from Haiti and now lives in Somerville. He is a well-regarded poet, educator and activist.
Doug Holder: How do you think poetry has helped people connect with Haitian culture? Did your readings and others like it help people realize what was lost during the earthquakes?
Kim Triedman: I think the enormity of the disaster was enough for people to stand up and take notice. Poetry, at least to my knowledge, had not been used in this way significantly before—in terms of the way the poetry community supported us. I think it was a very valuable model if nothing else. The fact that so many people came out and responded to the poetry, responded to the situation, responded with donations, made the reading a tremendous success. We had five Haitian American poets. I think the situation in Haiti demanded this attention.
Patrick Sylvain: I agree, I was thrilled with it, and when I saw the lineup of all the other poets, I knew it would be a success. But I did not think it would be as successful as it turned out. Even the reading we did at Porter Square Books in Cambridge was great—I think we sold 170 books.
KT: Yes. It really excited us. There was tremendous energy. The whole thing took over two hours. And no one got up to leave.
PS: What impressed me was all the generosity of the poets and Kim in putting it together.
The Arts have been central to Haitian culture. Whether its poetry, fiction, painting, etc… Haiti is known for its artistic expression. After the earthquake we sort of made a pact with the devil. It brought us attention, but also destruction. Haiti has been demonized in so many ways. So I think an event like this to counterbalance that image—is so good for an alternative way to look at things. It provides a way took beyond the fact that Haiti is the poorest country. The language of poetry is universal. And poets speak with one another. The readers at the event and the poetry lovers interacted in a very warm and heartfelt way.
DH: Kim-- there is always a litany of disasters-so why did this particular one—light a fire for you?
KT: I can’t say exactly. But I happened to be in my poetry workshop a couple of days after the incident and one of my colleagues said as we were leaving: “I wish there is more that we can do.” We had all written checks; we all watched the footage. For some reason I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. And that night it occurred to me that I had a friend who was a poetry organizer. She made me realize I could put something together with poets and artists. I ended up working with Jim Henle of Harvard University who had the same idea. I think what prompted me was that line from my group: “I wish there is more that we can do.” Once we asked people to be part of our reading etc…we had a full roster of poet in two days, etc…
DH: The reading took place Feb. 23, 2010 at the Harvard Ed. School. It has been said that the “Poets owned the evening.” What does that mean?
PS: Our words and emotions took us someplace that was unexpected. It was not a catastrophe reading so to speak, nor was it overwhelmed with emotions. It was sort of a heartfelt literary event that took us to a spot where we understood human frailty, human resilience, but at the same time we talked to each other. Fred Marchant (Director of the Suffolk University Poetry Center) read a poem by a Haitian poet. The poem he read was connected to one of his own poems. There were many of these “interconnections.” Fred read the work of a poet he never met. We had 13 poets, and the audience wanted more!
KT: It almost had a spiritual aspect. People were elated. It was an incidental reading forum. There was no grandstanding. Robert Pinsky (Former U.S. Poet Laureate), as well as an award-winning Haitian High School poet read. Other poets like Rosanna Warren, Gail Mazur read—so we had an amazing group. It took its own shape.
DH: Patrick—in your poem “Boulevard Jean Jacques Dessalines” you write of this famed street in Port-au-Prince. Tell us a bit about the street in its salad days, and how it is now. Who was the man it was named after?
PS:When I grew up was you Port-au-Prince was very small. I left Haiti in 1981. The Boulevard was like Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, Mass. It was a central artery. It had a lot of business going on, and two hundred yards to its right you had the seaport—so literally you could see the sea. I remember when I started to go to school you could see the increase in merchants. And when I went back to Haiti in 1990, I wanted to see some of these places. I wanted to look at people. To me Haiti is theatre. The merchants pressing against each other, all the theatrical battles that took place between them…I wanted to witness this yet again. I had a very specific memory of a very chaotic place. So when I went back, I could see the street was overwhelmed by vendors, and the poverty and desperation was very evident.
Dessalines was one of the founders of Haiti. He became a liberator and later ironically a dictator. Later he was murdered, a little outside Port-au-Prince. So this same thoroughfare named after the great liberator is full of chaos and poverty.
DH: Kim—in your poem “Toil” you write “Spring will come.” Has spring sprung in the aftermath in Haiti?
KT: It’s going very slowly. I hope it will. There is just a relentless of catastrophes these days.
PS: I think we can only be hopeful. People in Haiti don’t believe in suicide—as long there is hope there is life.
Three Somerville Bagel Bards Win " Must Read" in Mass. Book Award
(Krikor Der Hohannesian-- GHOSTS and WHISPERS)
(Tam Lin Neville- TRIAGE)
( Ruth Kramer Baden--East of the Moon)
The Massachusetts Book Award will announce next month that three Somerville, Mass. members of the "Bagel Bards" have won "Must Read" designations: Krikor Der Hohannesian for his poetry collection " Ghosts and Whispers," (Finishing Line Press), Tam Lin Neville " Triage" (Cervena Barva Press), and Ruth Kramer Baden "East of the Moon" (Ibbetson Street Press). The Bagel Bards is a literary group founded by Doug Holder and Harris Gardner in 2004 in the basement of "Finagle a Bagel" in Harvard Square. When that eatery closed they eventually moved to the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square, Somerville. The Bards meet every Saturday at 9AM--all are welcome. Previous Bards who have won a "Must Read" have been Robert K. Johnson "From Mist to Shadow" ( Ibbetson Street Press) and Bert Stern"Steerage" (Ibbetson Street Press). An interesting note--two of the small presses that published two of these winning titles are based in Somerville, Mass: Cervena Barva Press http://cervenabarvapress.com and Ibbetson Street Press http://ibbetsonpress.com.
To learn more about the Bagel Bards go to http://bagelbards.com And look out for the new Bagel Bard anthology to be released in May 2011. For more info. about Mass. Book Award go to http://massbook.org
Well--another year, another Boston National Poetry Festival--hope you all can attend!
THE BOSTON NATIONAL POETRY MONTH FESTIVAL 2011
(Left--Harris Gardner--founder of the Festival. Right- Boston Poet Laureate--Sam Cornish)
THE BOSTON NATIONAL POETRY MONTH FESTIVAL
Now In Its Successful ELEVENTH!!! Year
CO-SPONSORS: Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with the Boston Public Library, SAVE the DATES: Saturday, April 9th 10:00 A.M.- 4:40 P.M. OPEN MIKE: 1:30 to 3:00P.M.; & Sunday, April 10th, 1:10 to 4:30P.M. The Festival will be held at the library’s main branch in Copley Square. FREE ADMISSION
56 Major and Emerging poets will each do a ten minute reading; ALSO
Featuring 6 extraordinarily talented prize winning high school students: from Boston Latin High School; Boston Arts Academy. These student stars will open the Festival at 10:00 A.M. SAM CORNISH, Boston’s current and first Poet Laureate will open the formal part of the Festival at 11:00 A.M. 55 additional major and emerging poets will follow with a
Some of the many luminaries include SAM CORNISH, Diana Der Hovanessian, Rhina P. Espaillat, , Richard Wollman, Jennifer Barber, , Alfred Nicol, , Doug Holder, Elizabeth Doran, Charles Coe, Kathleen Spivack, Ryk McIntyre, January O’Neil , Regie O’Gibson, Kate Finnegan (Kaji Aso Studio), Victor Howes, Susan Donnelly, Jack Scully, Rene Schwiesow, Chad Parenteau, Sandee Story, Tomas O’Leary, CD Collins, Marc Goldfinger, Gloria Mindock, Tim Gager, Diana Saenz, Stuart Peterfreund, Valerie Lawson, Michael Brown, Mignon Ariel King, Tom Daley, Molly Lynn Watt, Ifeanyi Menkiti, Mark Pawlak, Lainie Senechal, Harris Gardner, Joanna Nealon, Walter Howard, Susan Donnelly, Robert J. Clawson, Irene Koronas, Fred Marchant, Danielle Legros Georges, Robert K. Johnson, and a Plethora of other prize winning poets.
This Festival has it all: Professional published poets, celebrities, numerous prize winners, student participation, OPEN MIKE.
Even more, it is about community, neighborhoods, diversity, Boston, and Massachusetts. This popular tradition is one of the largest events in Boston’s Contribution to National Poetry Month. FREE ADMISSION !!!
FOR INFORMATION: Tapestry of Voices: 617-306-9484
Wheelchair accessible. Assistive listening devices available. To request a sign language interpreter, or for other special needs, call 617-536-7855(TTY) at least two weeks before the program date.
Boston Area Small Press Scene/Ibbetson Street Press Exhibit at the Halle Library at Endicott College/Beverly, Mass.
Well there is a display of Ibbetson Street Books and other books on the main floor of the Halle Library at Endicott College. The display is titled: Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene/Ibbetson Street Press. And if you want to contribute a book you penned, be it poetry, or fiction, then send it to us and we will catalogue it and put in the Endicott College Poetry and Literary Arts Collection. Here are the books currently on display:
Out of the Ordinary / Robert K. Johnson
PRESA 13 / Editor Eric Greinke
From Mist to Shadow/ Robert K. Johnson
Missing Moments/ by Robert K. Johnson
Blossoms of the Apricot/ Robert K. Johnson
Blood Soaked Dresses/ Gloria Mindock
Wren’s Cry/ Dorian Broooks
JID Jesuit / Andrew Gettler
Anytime Blues/Linda Lerner
City Woman/Linda Lerner
Entering Dennis/ Dennis Rhodes
East of the Moon/Ruth Kramer Baden
King of the Jungle/ Zvi Sesling
The Dark Opens/Miriam Levine
Living In Dangerous Times/Linda Lerner
We hope to have an extensive collection and we would love for you to be part of it. Send your donations to :
ATTN: Brian Courtemanche
376 Hale St.
Boston Area Small Press Scene/Ibbetson Street Press Exhibit at the Halle Library at Endicott College/Beverly, Mass
Cambridge Community Poem: Bringing Poetry to The People
Former Cambridge Populist Peter Payack sent me the introduction to his book project (Cambridge Community Poem) that should be released in Feb. 2011. I am very pleased to be included:
Bringing Poetry to The People
As Cambridge’s first Poet Populist, one of my first initiatives was to create a poem, by the people of Cambridge. Instead of me writing about Cambridge, my idea was to let the many voices of Cambridge write a poem about their town. The result is now in your hands.
What makes this collection, this poem of 231 parts, unique is that it is not written exclusively by poets. It is written by the very people who make up Cambridge itself.
This volume includes poems by octogenarians, third graders, college presidents and professors, city workers, Pulitzer Prize winners, elected officials, Grammy Award winners, teachers, All-Americans, All-State athletes and a five-time NFL Pro Bowler, comedians, street performers, carpenters, high school students, scientists, researchers, lawyers, actors, doctors, artists, nurses, coaches, bicycle mechanics, marathoners, Poet Laureates, firefighters, pharmacists. And even poets and writers, if you can imagine that!
I put out a call asking for poems with up-lifting themes of city life, peace, community spirit, and the past, present and future of Cambridge. This was followed up with several news stories including a front page piece in the Boston Globe (February 20, 2009). I received hundreds of poems, from people down the street to people around the planet.
I attended various city events, like the Cambridge River Festival, the Revels RiverSing and Fresh Pond Day, went to visit the Kennedy-Longfellow School, Cambridge Rindge & Latin, and Haggerty schools, gave numerous poetry readings and talked with people that I ran into on the street.
Then out of the blue, the idea itself was endorsed by one of the living legendary poets of our time, John Ashbery. When on a visit to Harvard to receive the University’s Arts Medal, he said when asked in the Boston Globe: (Q) “Cambridge’s Poet Populist, Peter Payack, is asking residents to submit a few lines of poetry for a ‘community poem.’ Do you think this is a good idea?” And to tell the truth, I held my breath wondering what Ashbery was going to say! (A) “I like the idea of many voices contributing to a single poem. The 19th century proto-surrealist French poet Lautreamont once wrote that poetry should be made by everybody, and that sounds like what this project is carrying out.” Phewww…. But, I already knew the answer, anyway.
For forty years I have made it my mission to bring poetry out of the hands of strictly the academics and bring it back to the people, where it belongs. I have done this with a number of projects starting with Phone-a-Poem, The Cambridge/Boston Poetry Hotline, (1976-2001), which some weeks would receive up to 50,000 calls. And most recently Poet Populist Peter Payack’s Poetry Cookies that you can still buy at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop. (Find complete list of my major public poetry projects in the addendum.)
Cambridge has always been seen as a special place. And what makes Cambridge that special place is the people who have at one time or another called it their home, from the Wampanoag Tribes, the first European settlers who re-named the area Newtowne, George Washington and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to our venerable senior citizens and our school children of today.
As intended this collection, this poem, has a symphony of voices. I tried to give artistic freedom to each writer and so did very little stylistic editing. These are Cambridge voices through and through.
I hope the Cambridge Community Poem brings some poetic light to the special place we call home.
January 29, 2011
The Year in Poetry: One man's provincial perspective. By Doug Holder
The Year in Poetry: One man's provincial perspective.
Well-- I am writing this from my small table in the corner at the Sherman Cafe in Union Square. And I am writing with my gimlet eye fixed on the poetry world in Somerville and just beyond. I am not writing about the luminaries of the literary world: the Ploughshares, The Paris Review, the new schools, the latest trends, the much lauded retreats, you know the drill. I am writing for the most part about the everyday folks in my world who engage literary pursuits on the grassroots level.
I am writing about poet Kim Triedman who edited the acclaimed anthology "Poets for Haiti." Triedman tells me that all proceeds from the sale of this anthology will go to benefit the people of Haiti. I am writing about Tom Daley, poetry workshop guru who created a one man show about Emily Dickinson that was a hit at the Concord Poetry Center. I am writing about Chad Parenteau who runs the Stone Soup Poetry Series and keeps the tradition that the late Jack Powers started alive and well. I am talking about Deborah M. Priestly and Tom Tipton, who run the Open Bark Series at the Out of the Blue Gallery, and have been a supporters of poets and poetry for many years. I am going to mention my pal Sam Cornish, the first Boston Poet Laureate, who continues to pound the pavement in nursing homes, schools, hospitals, to bring the word to the people. My friend, and co-founder of the Somerville News Writers Festival, Timothy Gager, still heads the Dire Reader Series from the Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge and has had a prolific output of the best area poets and writers in town. This venue has been going on close to a decade! Gloria Mindock, the founder of Somerville's Cervena Barva Press produced a slew of poetry books this year (with the help of her loyal partner Bill Kelle) from their small nook of a place in Union Square. Marc Goldfinger, the poetry editor of Spare Change News, publishes a long-running poetry column that brings poetry from the street for you to meet. Marc is a great poet as well-and many are grateful for his long and hard work in the poetry community.
Shall I mention the Bagel Bards? Damn right I will. This iconoclastic group of poets, writers, poseurs, stumble bums, and publishers are going into their 7th year and still meet every Saturday morning at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square, Somerville.
My buddy Harris Gardner, continues to come up with great poetry venues. Gardner has started a poetry venue at the Liberty Hotel ( Formerly the Charles St. Jail), a stone's throw across the Charles River, and is starting yet another one at the Arts Amory in Somerville the "First and Last Word" series with his pal Gloria Mindock. And least I forget-- Molly Lynn Watt warms our world with her Fireside Reading Series in North Cambridge, Mass.
Oh--how about the magazines? I am not going to mention the Boston Review,Harvard Review and Agni, and their ilk--sorry. They get enough play. And we know-every dog has its day. So how about the Wilderness House Literary Review, headed by Steve Glines? Or the Somerville-based Istanbul Literary review edited by Gloria Mindock and Susan Tepper? There is a new magazine I noticed in town the "Inman square Review"--it may be the magazine for you. And of course the little treasure out at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. the "Endicott Review" of course.
And those book reviewers--I love them. I am talking about the ones who write for the online blog Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene. Folks like Irene Koronas, Barabara Bialick, Zvi Sesling, Rene Schwiesow, Paul Steven Stone, Lo Galluccio and others have reviewed hundreds of books from the vast world of the small press.
Of course I have to mention my own press (Ibbetson Street Press) and magazine that has been publishing in these parts since 1998. We are pleased to be affiliated with Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. This is a great break for Ibbetson Street! I want to thanks professor and poet Dan Sklar for his efforts in our behalf as well as Chairman of the Humanities Mark Herlihy and Dean of Arts and Sciences Peter Eden.
Also--to the staff at Ibbetson, my fedora is off to you: Dorian Brooks, our managing editor, Poetry editors: Mary Rice/Harris Gardner, Website/ Linda/Ray Conte, Steve Glines/ Designer, Arts Editor/ Richard Wilhelm and Consulting Editor/Robert K. Johnson/.
And how about The Somerville News? What newspaper do you know that consistently publishes a poetry column ( Lyrical Somerville) and a substantial literary page? Not many, pal. Thanks Donald Norton, Billy Tauro, Cam Toner, Bobie Toner, George Hassett, for your support!
Bert Stern and Tam Lin Neville over on Quincy St. in Somerville continue to run the Off the Grid Press for you folks over 60 who have a hot poetry manuscript in your hand. A lot of local folks I know have put out new poetry books including: Zvi Sesling, Ruth Kramer Baden, Tam Lin Neville, to just give you the tip of the poetry iceberg.
Some many more out there to mention--but as always--words fail--- in any case Happy New Year!
Advertise with the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene! http://tinyurl.com/ddjca
My good friend Steve Glines has published DOSHA, FLIGHT OF THE RUSSIAN GYPSIES under his Wilderness House Press imprint. Here is a review from Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene contributor Rene Schwiesow.
**Rene Schwiesow is a Massachusetts poet and writer, co-host of Plymouth’s Art of Words, she thrives on bringing words to life behind an open mic.
Dosha, Flight of the Russian Gypsies
Wilderness House Press
The atrocities inflicted upon cultural groups have existed for centuries. Roma have been hard hit by the full impact of prejudice and persecution. From pre-Third-Reich Germany to Stalin’s reign of terror, to the illusion of Kruschev’s thaw, Rom and Romni have been captured, tortured, left for dead or murdered. Still today, Roma are faced with torment. Sonia Meyer, author of “Dosha: Flight of the Russian Gyspies,” knows the threat of persecution first-hand. At the young age of two, Sonia fled with her parents from the Nazi regime, taking refuge with partisans and Gypsies. By the age of 7 she knew no other life beyond that of war and death. Sonia grew up reassured by the howl of the wolf, for at that moment she knew that she was safe, that the forest could, once again, awaken to its own sounds, following the cacophony of bomb droppings and the crack of gunfire.
From the memories of the nomadic life Meyer was forced to live hiding out in forests, abandoned houses, inns and barns during and post World War II, the story of Dosha, Russian Gypsy, has been given Roma wings to fly. And “Dosha: Flight of the Russian Gypsies,” does soar from its pages, each of its three parts a mixture of action, intrigue, and romance blended seamlessly into harmonious balance.
While the story of Dosha as a Lovari woman is fictional, the historical perspective of Russian Gypsies on the run from the Nazis, from Stalin, and from Kruschev’s Roma round-ups has been successfully and accurately woven through the book with a deftness that slips around factual ennui as silently and mysteriously as the Roma navigate their beloved woods. This is the beauty of Meyer’s ability to bring to life the way of the Roma amidst war and post-war oppression.
In 1941 Dosha is a small child facing life in a war-ravaged country. Days, months, years lived on the move, sharing family around campfires, sleeping soundly in caravans, and becoming one with her horse courses through her veins. It is a life that captivity can never truly separate her from. Later, drafted by the Soviet government as a horsewoman, she and her stallion are trained in Russian dressage. Employed by the State behind the Iron Curtain, Dosha knows the constant pull of longing to be free again, the ever-present threat of death, the inevitable entanglement of lives ordered into service, frightened into silence.
Meyer has put pen to the page in a lyrical movement of literature with a European flair. Her personal knowledge of gypsy life and the time spent in historical research have served this story well. There is richness to her images, depth in her characters, and fluidity in her narration. The swish of a Gypsy skirt, the camaraderie of the Gypsy men, the laughter of their children, and the Roma’s ability to understand and intuit the hidden forces of this world will stay with you long after the last word of this story offers its hush to your soul.
Stone Soup Poetry Founder Jack Powers: Doug Holder Looks Back…
By Doug Holder
The last time I saw Jack Powers was the last night I worked at McLean Hospital in the summer of 2009. Out of the blue he visited me with his companion Margaret at Waverly House, the hospital program that I worked at for the past seven years. The house was empty save for my co-worker Richard Wilhelm, who also has been involved with my Ibbetson Street Press since its inception in 1998. Jack obviously had seen better times. He had suffered several strokes, so this always articulate man was alarmingly mute. That was the last time I remember seeing him. I knew he was in a nursing home in the North End of Boston. My friend, the poet and artist Deborah Priestly recently told me he was near the end. She later told me that he passed.
I had lost touch with Jack the past few years. But I can remember 10 years ago bringing a rather affected editor of some tony arts magazine to Jack's ramshackle abode so we could conduct an interview. The editor hailed from some upscale suburb and had a fancy degree from some arts college. He was cutting edge, and as haughty as Betty Davis in her prime. He seemed very dismissive of Jack. He looked askance at his bohemian digs. But I think after the meeting he was rather impressed with this very complex and nuanced man. He just wouldn’t invite him to his Lincoln, Mass. cocktail parties or anything.
In addition to the above mentioned interview, I also had conducted several solo interviews with Jack at his apartment around this same time. This ranged from his birth at Boston City Hospital, to his last apartment in the North End of Boston. This was before he became incoherent from the booze and the strokes.
I had been aware of his poetry series since the 1970’s when I was an undergraduate at Boston University. I was even in the audience at one of his events back then. In those times I had no idea of myself as a poet so I never read.
He was a striking man in the old days, with a thick black Afro, broad shoulders, and standing well over six feet tall. He was to say the least charismatic. He was admired by many women and men alike; he had a deep and commanding reading voice, and was very adept with hand gestures. When he read he evoked something in you—you reacted—you weren’t inert. He was deeply spiritual; a mixture of Boston housing project Catholicism and Eastern Religion.
His gone-to-seed apartment in the North End was a living archive. In a dark and damp basement there were piles of letters, posters, and books from the poetry world. He used to show me correspondence from Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Herbert Huncke, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and many others in his makeshift living room. There were piles of videos of the thousands of poetry readings he held over the years. I once asked my friend Mike Basinski, the curator of the University of Buffalo Poetry and Rare Books Archive to come down to Boston and bring back items from Jack’s apartment to start a Jack Powers collection. But when Basinski arrived Jack couldn’t bare to part with his stuff. It was so much a part of him. A second skin, an arm or leg—his heart.
Jack showed me a good selection of the eighty or so books he published under his Stone Soup imprint. Many of the poets he published are now in academic posts and in the bright lights of the literary world. Ironically, this is not where Jack felt comfortable. Most any poet I have talked to has had some experience with Jack. They have either got their start at one of his venues, or passed through there. I read for the first time there in 1985, and I was absolutely thrilled. I read my McLean Hospital poems, and Jack was very encouraging. Julie Stone, his long-time girlfriend was also very supportive. The rest is history—I haven’t stopped reading since.
I will always will be grateful to Jack for the help he gave us putting out the anthology “City of Poets: 18 Boston Voices” (Singing Bone Press 2000). He got blurbs from his old pals Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lyn Lifshin, and Dianna der Hovanessian. He set us up with his printer in Boston and he promoted the hell out of the book.
When Timothy Gager and I started The Somerville News Writers Festival in 2003 I wanted and did give Jack the first annual Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the small press. Jack was always a friend of the small press—to the poet “outside the academy.” And he gave a voice and a venue to them.
From his early days Jack was dismissed by the mandarins of the Boston poetry world. He started Stone Soup in 1971 at the foot of Beacon Hill (or as it was know “Beatnik Hill”) as a reaction to this. Although many poets have not read at the hallowed halls of Harvard, or the Blacksmith House, and other venues of that ilk, he always gave a place for them at Stone Soup.
Like many artists and writers from Robert Lowell, to his pal John Wieners, to Anne Sexton, he suffered for substance abuse and perhaps mental illness. It is hard in this society to live as an artist. But Jack did. His last years were spent in poverty, surviving on the kindness of strangers and friends like the street artist Sidewalk Sam. Deborah Priestly was a close friend and was with him near the end and Chad Parenteau, carries on the tradition of Stone Soup at the Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge.
Jack Powers—no matter what you thought of him inspired countless people. He inspired me to start the Ibbetson Street Press that publishes poetry books like Stone Soup did. He truly believed poetry could transform things, and as he put it “You translate yourself when you write a poem.” This quote needs no translation…it come from the heart—may he rest in peace.
Somerville, Mass Independent Press Ibbetson Street Forms Partnership with Endicott College in Beverly, Mass.
A New Literary Partnership: Endicott College and the Ibbetson Street Press (Beverly, Mass)
Endicott College of Beverly, Mass. and the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass. have announced a literary partnership the other day. The two organizations have agreed to establish an affiliation between the 12-year-old well-regarded independent literary press and the college. Holder said in regards to his plans for this new partnership: “I hope to bring a number of prominent poets and writers to take part in a reading series we are going to launch. The first Poet Laureate of Boston Sam Cornish will lead off the proceedings, other features will be Gary Metras of the Adastra Press, Gloria Mindock of the Cervena Barva Press, Luke Salisbury, the author of “The Answer is Baseball,” poet Miriam Levin, Bert Stern and others. “I also want to play a mentor role to aspiring poets and writers.” Holder continued: “I want the literary community and the community at large to know about the vital literary and arts programming at Endicott." Holder has published a number of Endicott faculty members including the poetry collection “Bicycles, Canoes and Drums,” by English Professor Dan Sklar, as well as the poetry of Margaret Young, an instructor on the English faculty of the College. Holder also expects to have his brother Donald Holder, a two-time TONY AWARD winner (“Lion King,” South Pacific”), and Paul Stone, Creative Director of W.B. Mason and novelist to be guest speakers at the college.
This initiative will be on a trial basis for the Academic 2010 to 2011 school year. The school has a solid reputation for its business program, nursing, human services, and education, and the college wants to make sure the public knows Endicott as a destination to study the arts and literature. The student who graduates from Endicott College will be literate, well-informed and well-rounded, as well as being highly sought after. This affiliation will be just one component of the mission at Endicott. Doug Holder, who is an adjunct faculty member at Endicott and also the Arts Editor for The Somerville News as well as the Director of the Poetry Series at the Newton Free Library, said “This is a wonderful opportunity to be aligned with a rising academic institution. And with their new Arts Center and their commitment to the arts in general, I am hoping to be involved in the creation of the Hub for the Arts on the North Shore.”
The Somerville News Writers Festival-2010--Announces its lineup!
Malachy McCourt will be the featured for the festival Nov. 13, 2010 - Somerville, Mass.
Timothy Gager and Doug Holder founders of the Somerville News Writers Festival announced the lineup yesterday for the November 13, 2010 event to be held at the Arts Armory on Highland Ave. in Somerville. Gager, the founder of the acclaimed Dire reading series as well as a well-published author in many genres, and Doug Holder the arts editor of The Somerville News, and a member of the faculty of Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. and Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, are: “Very excited about another literary extravaganza,” according to Gager. This year the Festival will feature such writers and poets as Malachy McCourt, Rusty Barnes, Michelle Hoover, Ethan Gilsdorf, Sam Cornish, David Ferry, Ethan Gilsdorf, Steve Almond, Matha Collins, and others. Holder and Gager proposed the festival to the board of The Somerville News in the summer of 2003 and since then the festival has established itself regionally and to some extent nationally. Over the years poets and writers like Robert Olen Butler, Sam Cornish, Tom Perrotta, Robert Pinsky, Robert Olen Butler, Franz Wright, Lan Samantha Chang, Nick Flynn, David Godine, Sue Miller and many others have read for the Festival. Below is the lineup of poets and writers:
MALACHY McCOURT-- As well as being the co-author of the play A Couple of Blaguards with his brother Frank, Malachy has written his own New York Times bestseller memoir, A Monk Swimming, published by Hyperion Press. His memoir, Singing My Him Song, now out in paperback is published by Harper Collins. Running Press recently published four of Malachy’s books: the history of the song Danny Boy, a history of The Claddagh Ring, Voices of Ireland, an anthology, and Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland. Recent books, Harold Be Thy Name and Bush Lies in State, are published by Welcome Rain. In the works is I Never Drink When I’m Sober for Harper Collins. Malachy writes a column, Sez I to Myself, that appears in the Manhattan Spirit, The Westsider and Our Town in NYC. (Read his latest article).
STEVE ALMOND--Steve Almond is the author of the short story collections My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow, the novel Which Brings Me to You (with Julianna Baggott), and the non-fiction books Candyfreak and (Not That You Asked). His most recent book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, which comes with a ‘Bitchin soundtrack’
RUSTY BARNES --Rusty Barnes grew up in rural northern Appalachia. He received his B.A. from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania and his M.F.A. from Emerson College. His fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in over a hundred fifty journals and anthologies. After editing fiction for the Beacon Street Review (now Redivider) and Zoetrope All-Story Extra, he co-founded Night Train, a literary journal which has been featured in the Boston Globe, The New York Times, and on National Public Radio. Sunnyoutside Press published a collection of his flash fiction, Breaking it Down, in November 2007. He is a nationally recognized and oft-solicited authority on flash fiction under all its various names and permutations, and serves on writing conference faculties and panels throughout the country, including recently with Associated Writing Programs, Somerville News Writers Festival, Writers@Work, The Parlor, Grub Street Writers and their annual Muse & Marketplace conference. He taught composition, fiction writing, and literature for over ten years in New England universities such as Emerson College and Northeastern University. His stories have been translated into Finnish, French, Polish, and Russian. His collection of traditional fiction, The Ground Always Gives Way, will be published by Sunnyoutside Press in early 2011. His recently completed novel, tentatively titled “Three of a Kind,” is about northern Appalachia, family and community dynamics, sex, drugs, and not so much rock ‘n’ roll.
MICHELLE HOOVER---Michelle Hoover teaches writing at Boston University and Grub Street.
She has published fiction in Confrontation, The Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Best New American Voices, among others. She has been a Bread Loaf Writer's Conference scholar, the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University, a MacDowell fellow, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and in 2005 the winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award for Fiction.
She was born in Ames, Iowa, the granddaughter of four longtime farming families.
ETHAN GILSDORF--Ethan Gilsdorf is an American writer, poet, editor, critic, teacher and journalist. He was born in Dover, New Hampshire, and raised in the nearby town of Lee. He has lived in Northampton and Amherst, Massachusetts; Brattleboro, Vermont; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Paris, France; and currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. He attended Oyster River High School in Durham, New Hampshire, and received his B.A. from Hampshire College and his MFA from Louisiana State University.
Gilsdorf is the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms (The Lyons Press)
A regular contributor of travel, arts, food, movies, books, and pop culture stories in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Improper Bostonian, Gilsdorf has also written for National Geographic Traveler, Psychology Today, Fodor's travel guides, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Poets & Writers, and The Christian Science Monitor. He is a book and movie critic for The Boston Globe, and his blog "Geek Pride" is seen regularly on PsychologyToday.com. He also blogs for TheOneRing.net and Tor.com.
As a poet, he is the winner of the Hobblestock Peace Poetry Competition and the Esmé Bradberry Contemporary Poets Prize, and has published poems in Poetry, The Southern Review, the North American Review and several national and international anthologies. He is co-founder of Grub Street's Young Adult Writers Program (YAWP), volunteers as a guest speaker in the Boston public schools and leads journalism, feature writing, travel writing and creative writing workshops at Grub Street, Emerson College, Media Bistro and, for younger students, in schools and community centers.
JENNIFER HAIGH-- Jennifer Haigh (born 1968) is an American novelist and short story writer.
She was born Jennifer Wasilko to a Ukrainian Catholic family in Barnesboro, a Western Pennsylvania coal town 85 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in Cambria County. She attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 2002. Her fiction has been published in Granta, Ploughshares, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Good Housekeeping, and many other publications.
Her debut novel Mrs. Kimble -- telling the story of a mysterious con man named Ken Kimble through the eyes of his three wives -- (2003) won the PEN/Hemingway Award for outstanding debut fiction.
Her second novel, Baker Towers (2005), depicts the rise and fall of a western Pennsylvania coal town in the years following World War II. It was a New York Times bestseller and won the 2006 PEN/L.L. Winship award for best book by a New England writer.
Her third novel, The Condition, was published by HarperCollins in July, 2008. It traces the dissolution of a proper New England family when their only daughter is diagnosed with Turner's Syndrome, a chromosomal abnormality that keeps her from going through puberty. She now lives in the Boston area.
SAM CORNISH--Cornish, Sam (b. 1935), First Boston Poet Laureate, poet, essayist, editor of children's literature, photographer, educator, and figure in the Black Arts movement. Born into urban poverty in Baltimore, Maryland, on 22 December 1935, Samuel James Cornish was the youngest of the two sons of Herman and Sarah Cornish. From his older brother Herman he learned early the lessons of the street, which he later would incorporate into a street-tough observancy in his poetry.
Cornish served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps (1958–1960), then returned to Baltimore, where he published two poetry collections—In This Corner: Sam Cornish and Verses (1961) and People Beneath the Window (1964). While working at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, he became part of Baltimore's political and literary underground, self-publishing a sixteen-page pamphlet entitled Generations and Other Poems (1964). A subsequent edition of Generations (1966) appeared when Cornish was editing Chicory, a literary magazine by children and young adults in the Community Action Target Area of Baltimore. Lucian W. Dixon and Cornish edited a selection from the magazine entitled Chicory: Young Voices from the Black Ghetto (1969). In 1968 Cornish won the Humanities Institute of Coppin State College Poetry Prize for his “influence on the Coppin poets” and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Soon poets as diverse as Maxine Kumin, Clarence Major, and Eugene Redmond would acknowledge Cornish's significance.
By 1970 Cornish was represented in the LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and Larry Neal anthology Black Fire (1968) as well as in the Clarence Major collection New Black Poetry (1969). He reconsidered his early poems of black historicized kinship, restructuring them into the Beacon Press's Generations (1971). After a brief stay in Boston, Cornish returned to Baltimore to work in secondary school and college writing programs. While there, Cornish published Sometimes (1973) with Cambridge's Pym-Randall Press. Teaching poetry in the schools led to several children's books: Your Hand in Mine (1970), Grandmother's Pictures (1974), and My Daddy's People (1976).
Returning to Boston in the mid-1970s, Cornish worked with the Educational Development Corporation and attended Goddard College in Vermont. He appeared in a host of new anthologies, from George Plimpton and Peter Ardery's American Literary Anthology (1970) and Harry Smith's Smith Poets (1971), to Ted Wilentz and Tom Weatherly's Natural Process (1972) and Arnold Adoff's One Hundred Years of Black Poetry (1972). Sam's World (1978) continued the historical and genealogical project of Generations.
Since the 1980s Cornish has divided his time between bookselling and teaching creative writing and literature at Emerson College in Boston. Songs of Jubilee: New and Selected Poems, 1969–1983 (1986) recasts earlier work into sequences of a historical and biographical nature. His autobiographical narrative, 1935: A Memoir (1990), blends poetry and prose into a montage of twentieth-century history. The poems of Folks Like Me (1993) offer political and cultural portraits of African Americans from the depression to the early 1960s. Current projects include the next volume of his autobiography, 1955, and a critical study of Langston Hughes.
DAVID FERRY--Ferry was born in Orange, New Jersey, and grew up and attended Columbia High School amid the “wild hills” of suburban Maplewood, New Jersey. His undergraduate education at Amherst College was interrupted by his service in the United States Army Air Force during World War II. He ultimately received his B.A. from Amherst in 1946. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and it was during his graduate studies that he published his first poems in The Kenyon Review.
From 1952 until his retirement in 1989, Ferry taught at Wellesley College where he was, for many years, the chairman of the English Department. He now holds the title Sophie Chantal Hart Professor Emeritus of English at Wellesley. He has also taught writing at Boston University. Ferry was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998, and he is a fellow of the Academy of American Poets.
In 1958 Ferry married the literary critic Anne Ferry (died 2006), who later became the first full-time woman member of the Harvard University English faculty; they had two children, Elizabeth, an anthrophologist, and Stephen, a photojournalist.Before moving to his current home in Brookline MA, Ferry lived across the Charles River in Cambridge, in the house where 19th century journalist and women's rights advocate Margaret Fuller lived before she joined the Brook Farm community.
In 2000, Ferry’s book of new and selected poems and translations, entitled Of No Country I Know, received the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress (for the best work of poetry for the previous two years). He is the author of a critically praised verse rendering of the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. The poet W. S. Merwin has described Ferry's work as having an "assured quiet tone" that communicates "complexities of feeling with unfailing proportion and grace."
Ferry is also a recipient of the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award.
MARTHA COLLINS--Martha Collins is the author of Blue Front, a book-length poem based on a lynching her father witnessed when he was five years old. Blue Front won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was chosen as one of "25 Books to Remember from 2006" by the New York Public Library.Collins' chapbook Sheer (Barnwood, 2008) is her most recent publication.
She has also published four collections of poems, two books of co-translations from the Vietnamese, and an earlier chapbook of poems.Her other awards include fellowships from the NEA, the Bunting Institute, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Witter Bynner Foundation, as well as three Pushcart Prizes, the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award, and a Lannan residency grant.
A selection of poems from Blue Front won the Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize in 2005; other selections from the book appeared in Kenyon Review and Ploughshares.
Collins founded the Creative Writing Program at UMass-Boston, and for ten years was Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College. She is currently editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press.
In spring 2010, she is serving as Distinguished Visiting Writer at Cornell University
DIANA DER-HOVANESSIAN--Diana Der-Hovanessian, New England born poet, was twice a Fulbright professor of American Poetry and is the author of more than 23 books of poetry and translations. She has awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Society of America, PEN/Columbia Translation Center, National Writers Union, Armenian Writers Union, Paterson Poetry Center, Prairie Schooner, American Scholar, and the Armenian Ministry of Culture. Her poems have appeared in Agni, American Poetry Review, Ararat, CSM, Poetry, Partisan, Prairie Schooner, Nation, etc., and in anthologies such as Against Forgetting, Women on War, On Prejudice, Finding Home, Leading Contemporary Poets, Orpheus and Company, Identity Lessons, Voices of Conscience, Two Worlds Walking, etc. Among the several plays written by DDH, two (The Secret of Survival and Growing Up Armenian) were produced and in 1984 and 1985 traveled to many college campuses in the 80s telling the Armenian story with poetry and music. After 1989, The Secret of Survival with Michael Kermoyan and later with Vahan Khanzadian was performed for earthquake relief benefits. She works as a visiting poet and guest lecturer on American poetry, Armenian poetry in translation, and the literature of human rights at various universities here and abroad. She serves as president of the New England Poetry Club.
FRED MARCHANT--Fred Marchant is the author of Tipping Point, winner of the 1993 Washington Prize in poetry. His second book of poems, Full Moon Boat, came out from Graywolf Press in 2000, and House on Water, House in Air: New and Selected Poems came out from Dedalus Press, Dublin, Ireland, in 2002. He is also the co-translator (with Nguyen Ba Chung) of From a Corner of My Yard, poetry by the Vietnamese poet Tran Dang Khoa. This book was published in 2006 by the Education Publishing House and the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.
He is a Professor of English and the Director of the Creative Writing Program, and Co-director (with Robert Dugan) of The Poetry Center at Suffolk University in Boston. A graduate of Brown University, he earned a Ph.D. from The University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought. He is also a longtime teaching affiliate of The William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. He has taught creative writing workshops at sites around the country, ranging from the Robert Frost Place in Franconia, NH to the Veterans Writing Group, organized by Maxine Hong Kingston, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 1970 Marchant became one of the first officers ever to be honorably discharged as a conscientious objector from the United States Marine Corps. Recently he has edited Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford, 1937-1947. This collection of poems, to be published by Graywolf Press in April 2008, focuses on Stafford's time as a conscientious objector in Civilian Public Service camps during World War II. Fred Marchant's new collection of his own poetry, The Looking House, was published in June 2009, also from Graywolf Press.
4th annual Ibbetson Street Poetry Contest Deadline Sept 15, 2010
4th annual Ibbetson Street Poetry Contest
Ibbetson Street Press is pleased to announce the 4th annual Ibbetson Street Poetry Contest.
The winner of the Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Contest award (must be a Massachusetts resident) will receive a $100 cash award, a framed certificate, publication in the literary journal "Ibbetson Street" http://ibbetsonpress.com/ and a poetry feature in the "Lyrical Somerville," in The Somerville News. The award will be presented at the Somerville News Writers Festival: November 13, 2010. The Somerville News Writers Festival is in its eight year and has hosted such writers and poets as: Rick Moody, Franz Wright, Robert Olen Butler, Sue Miller, Tom Perrotta, Steve Almond, Sam Cornish, Margot Livesey, Robert Pinsky, and many others. The Festival was founded by Timothy Gager and Doug Holder in 2003, and has been sponsored by The Somerville News, GRUB STREET, Porter Square Books and others.
To enter send 3 to 5 poems, any genre, length, to the Ibbetson Street Press 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143. Entry fee is $10. Cash or check only. Make payable to "Ibbetson Street Press." Deadline: Sept 15, 2010.
The contest will be judged by The Somerville News Arts Editor and founder of the Ibbetson Street Press, Doug Holder http://dougholderresume.blogspot.com.
The winners will be announced at the Somerville News Writer's festival, where they will receive his or her award. A runner up will be announced as well.
Poet Ed Galing: 93: In a wheelchair: still writing: still kvetching
Poet Ed Galing, 93, in a wheelchair, still writing and still kvetching!
By Doug Holder
When you are 93 it is an achievement just to get up in the morning. Well in spite of his infirmities my old friend Ed Galing, the poet Laureate of Hatboro, Pa. still writes poetry and is being published by some of the finest literary magazines in America. Not only that he has still has the strength to gripe that the New York Quarterly refuses to publish him! Imagine that. I published Ed in every one of the 27 issues of the literary journal Ibbetson Street, and promised him that as long as he is alive I will continue to do so.
Ed wrote to me recently:
“I’m old and venerable at 93. Indeed it is a struggle everyday—so much on my own—even though there is help. I have a ramp now to go out—one needs fresh air. I go out on an electric scooter—a chair with a motor. I don’t think I will use the walker anymore as it is too painful in the knee joints. I miss my wife and our youth, but it’s over. Being alone is hard—facing death is hard also. I try hard to be optimistic. Poetry keeps me going.”
Ed Galing was born in the Lower East Side of New York City in 1917. A child of Jewish immigrants, much of his poetry harks back to the teeming streets of the Lower East Side, with its pushcarts, street urchins, the maze of outdoor markets, the frock coat Jews, the whole milieu that was so wonderfully described in Irving Howe’s “The World of our Fathers.”
Ed had some poems in the current issue of the Chiron Review; I’d like to share one of them with you. Just to remind you that Ed is not going gently into the good night. By-the-way- for a guy of his age his poems make you sing, reminiscent of Louie Armstrong’s famed croaking plea: “Take your shoes off Lucy and let’s get juicy.” So if you are looking for a wholesome poem look elsewhere!
FROM ME TO YOU ONLY
Just because I wind up in
A nursing home
Doesn’t mean it’s all over
Just because I had a stroke and am in a
Don’t mean I can’t get
A hard on
Just because my
Nurse Olive, with
Her dark skin and long
Fingernails takes me
To the bathroom
Dresses and undresses me
Don’t mean she don’t notice
My hard on,
Just because this nursing
Place has a few
Hundred people in it suffering
All kind of maladies
Don’t mean I don’t feel
Sorry for them, knowing
Sooner or later we are
All gonna die in
This fuckin place,
Just because I am in here
Day after day
Don’t mean that Olive can’t
Give me a blow
Job when no one is
She always licks her
Lips with her tongue
And says, you got a
Nice big cock and I
Love it that way,
Just because she gives me head
And makes me come
Don’t mean she is a cocksucker
She just does it cause
She knows I need it
Just because I tell you
All of this
Don’t mean I want you to go
This is between you and me.
Ibbetson Street Press: Publishing * Writing* Series to be launched This July (2010)
Ibbetson Street Press: Publishing * Writing* Series to be launched This July (2010)
Doug Holder, founder of the Ibbetson Street Press and Arts Editor for the Somerville News, announced that an ongoing literary series titled the "Ibbetson Street Press Publishing* Writing* Reading* Series" will be launched at the Newton Campus of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston. Holder had a number of discussions with Silka Rothschild, the Arts Education Director of the JCC and others in the organization. Holder said: "Because of the reputation of the press and the poets involved with it, the JCC decided to include the Series as part of their program." During the month of July there will be a number of events including a workshop with novelist Luke Salisbury, and a poetry workshop with poets Harris Gardner, of Tapestry of Voices and Holder himself.
In the fall the plan is to have a self-publishing panel, a reading and discussion with notable Jewish poets, a morning with the grassroots poetry group the "Bagel Bards," and other events. Holder said: " It is very flattering to be approached by the JCC. It is a great feeling to be recognized by a great organization for the work Ibbetson Street has been doing in the community since 1998. I think the arts communities of Newton, Somerville and Boston need to come together and this is a great way to do it."
(Reading series at the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston*** Leventhal-Sidman JCC/Newton)
LEVENTHAL-SIDMAN JCC - NEWTON MA
Gosman Jewish Community Campus
333 Nahanton Street, Newton Center, MA 02459
Telephone: (617) 558-6522
The Leventhal-Sidman JCC is a branch of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston. JCCGB is an agency of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
Novelist Paul Steven Stone and Poet Doug Holder to read for the Perkins School for the Blind
Novelist Paul Steven Stone ("or So it Seems," "How to Train a Rock") and Poet Doug Holder ("The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel--Cervena Barva Press)have been asked to read from their work at the Perkins School for the Blind (Watertown, Mass.) in the school's ongoing project to record books for the visually impaired. Here is a history of the Clive W. Lacy Recording Studio (at the school) and the valuable work they do. The Studio Director is Robert Pierson.
HISTORY OF THE CLIVE W. LACY RECORDING STUDIO
The recording studio was established with funds left to the Perkins Library by Clive W. Lacy. A patron of the library for many years, Mr. Lacy was often frustrated by the lack of “significant” materials in the book collection. His generous contribution enabled the library to establish a professional recording studio environment where narrators could record books to be added to the National Library Service (NLS) collection.
Planning and research for the establishment and installation of the recording studio began in mid 1987. Bill West, Audio Book Production Specialist with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and Ray Fournier, a Braille and Talking Book Library patron, were instrumental in this process. Their willingness to give guidance and to share information was invaluable.
The original Lacy Studio was located in the lower section of the Howe building and had two analog booths. At the end of 1999, the entire Braille and Talking Book Library relocated across the Perkins campus to a newly renovated building. Additional funding made possible the purchase of four new recording booths and the hiring of the first full time studio manager.
Like the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL), the Clive W. Lacy Recording Studio is founded on the belief that people who are visually impaired or print disabled must have access to as many of the materials that are available in the public libraries as possible. Therefore, the studio produces recreational and informational reading to augment the Perkins BTBL collection. These books range from novels, biographies, and poetry, to children’s books, books on travel, history, and cooking.
Because the Perkins BTBL primarily serves residents of Massachusetts, the studio produces many recordings of books on local topics, and/or by local authors. In addition, the studio records English and United States literature of lasting value. To serve the most Perkins BTBL patrons, we record books that will interest many rather than just a few.
SOMERVILLE POETS TO READ AT BOSTON NATIONAL POETRY FESTIVAL April 10-11, 2010
This will be the tenth year that I will have participated in the Boston National Poetry Festival at the Boston Public Library. My friend and co-founder of Somerville's Bagel Bards Harris Gardner has kept this two day reading fest alive with a lot of sweat, and his own very precious time. This year, as always, there will be a number of Somerville poets reading including: Timothy Gager, Afaa Michael Weaver, Gloria Mindock,, and Ifeanyi Menkiti. Hope you will attend.....
CO-SPONSORS: Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with the Boston Public Library, SAVE the DATE, Saturday, April 10th 10:00 A.M.- 4:45 P.M. OPEN MIKE: 1:30 to 3:00P.M.; & Sunday, April 11th, 1:10 to 4:30P.M. The Festival will be held at the library’s main branch in Copley Square. FREE ADMISSION
56 Major and Emerging poets will each do a ten minute reading; ALSO
Featuring six extraordinarily talented prize winning high school students: from Boston Latin High School: Andy Vo and Justin Singletary, and Emmanuel Oppong-Yeboah; Boston Arts Academy:Erica Telisnor and Osiris Morel; Gabriella Fee: Walnut Hill School for the Arts. These student stars will open the Festival at 10:00 A.M. SAM CORNISH, Boston’s current and first Poet Laureate will open the formal part of the Festival at 11:00 A.M. 55 additional major and emerging poets will follow with a
Some of the many luminaries include SAM CORNISH, Diana Der Hovanessian, Richard Wollman, Jennifer Barber, Afaa M. Weaver, Barbara Helfgott-Hyett, Alfred Nicole, Ellen Steinbaum, Doug Holder, Charles Coe, Kathleen Spivack, Ryk McIntyre, Elizabeth McKim, Regie O’Gibson, Kate Finnegan, Michael Bialis, Susan Donnelly,John Ziemba, (Kaji Aso Studio), Sandee Story, CD Collins, Marc Goldfinger, Gloria Mindock, Tim Gager, Diana Saenz, Stuart Peterfreund, Valerie Lawson, Tom Daley, Molly Watt, Ifeanyi Menkiti, Mark Pawlak, Lainie Senechal, Harris Gardner, Joanna Nealon, Richard Hoffman, Susan Donnelly, Irene Koronas, Robert K. Johnson, and a Plethora of other prize winning poets.
This Festival has it all: Professional published poets, celebrities, numerous prize winners, student participation, OPEN MIKE.
Berklee Performance Center stage on Thursday, March 4th, 2010
*****The Women Musicians Network takes to the Berklee Performance Center stage on Thursday, March 4th, at 8:15 p.m.
This will be their 13th annual concert. It has 12 original acts: jazz, Brazilian folk, modern classical, Middle Eastern rock and more. Tickets are only $10, available at the B.P.C. box office: 617.747.2261.
Article by Kirk Etherton
This concert has something for everyone. (Or is it everything for everyone?) One of the most inspired and inspiring annual concerts in Boston is produced by the Women Musicians Network, a student club at Berklee College of Music. “The overall level of musicianship was astonishing,” says Cambridge resident Matthew Greif, recalling last year’s event. “Also, I was impressed by how eclectic the evening was. You never knew exactly what was coming up next—or how it might resonate on a personal level.”
The W,M.N. concert has been featured on WGBH’s "Eric in the Evening," and as a Boston Phoenix Editors' Pick for shows not to be missed. Like last year, the 2010 concert will feature 12 original acts in a wide range of styles—from jazz and R&B, to contemporary classical. Like every year, it will highlight Berklee women students from around the world.
The March 4th show does not exclude men. Lucy Holstedt, W.M.N. Faculty Advisor, emphasizes that “this concert aims for diversity and inclusion. We feature women as arrangers, producers, band leaders, lead guitarists and drummers because there’s so much female talent in these areas that’s under-represented.” Holstedt mentions Julgi Kang, a superb violinist from South Korea who has prepared a funk-fusion arrangement of “Caprice No. 24,” Paganini’s famous composition. “Julgi will be performing this piece with Evan Veenstra, a fine electric bass player from Ontario, Canada. This is a very original and inspired act,” says Holstedt, “and that’s the bottom line.
Ultimately, our concert is about great music.” This year’s largest act is Women of the World—a group that has performed at the United Nations. The group itself represents many nations: its core members hail from Japan, Brazil, Italy, India, South Africa, Ghana, Mozambique, the U.S. and Australia. According to Boston poet Harris Gardner, “this annual show serves up a potpourri of music offerings that will satisfy any palate. I’d even say that if you can go to only one concert every year, make it this one.”
*NOTE: Lucy Holstedt thanks the Middle East Restaurant & Nightclub for their “valuable support of this concert every single year.” The 13th Annual Women Musicians Network ConcertMarch 4th, 8:15 p.m.Berklee Performance Center 136 Mass. Ave., Boston Tickets $10, available only at the Box Office:617. 747.2261 www.berkleebpc.com
POEMS FROM THE LEFT BANK: SOMERVILLE, MASS.
I recommend this chapbook to everyone and anyone who wants to read good writing. Don't pass this book by.
Poems from the Left Bank: Somerville, Mass. by Doug Holder was reviewed by Irene Koronas (we love her!) for the Wilderness House Literary Review:
Poems From The Left Bank: Somerville, Mass.
2010 Propaganda Press
$5.00 (plus $2 US shipping; $4 out-of-US shipping alt-current.com)
Doug Holder's sense of humor is refreshing in this politically-correct-up-tight-consumer-society. Holder doesn't buy into the pre-packaged-cherry tomatoes, "with leafy laminated balls of Romaine." The poems come from the city of Somerville, Mass., which still has pockets of working class folks, vaudeville expressions, and the students' bawdy release on weekends. Holder, a master craftsman, observes the mundane with poetic intelligence:
The close habitation of sunlight and brooding shadow,
The incestuous tangle of backyards
The sudden eruption of a hill…
(from HAMLET ST., SOMERVILLE)
Every poem in this collection widens our experience because of his ability to contain what is an apparent situation or the reality therein of any given situation. And the humor he interjects in some of the poems becomes a place for the reader to finally relax and laugh. These poems show us, the reader, who we are, where we live, who we have become. We reacquaint ourselves with the everyday people we pass by; people and places, as an actuality, not just the someone who is part of the crowd.
Holder has the ability to pick out a scene, and then depict the actions related to those people, ... within the context of their private settings, urban reality, concrete walks, brick and wooden structures that may induce a reluctance on our part to notice anything or some of the happenings related to the everyday people. Holder sees people, places, and things, in a non-judgmental way, he gives us a glimpse, an opportunity to meet one another:
He turned his face toward me --
A smiling mouth
That had turned cruel
Still with the fleshy
of a choirboy.
(from FALLEN CHERUB OUTSIDE A LIQUOR STORE)
Café Society with an Open Mic
Bloc 11: Café Society with an Open Mic.
Now, I am a regular of the cafes in my home turf of Union Square, Somerville. I try to alternate between the unpretentious home of the oatmeal scone at Sherman, and the sleek, hip environs of Bloc 11. For some reason I prefer to have my bagels at Bloc 11 (with my supplement of pickled herring) and keep to the baked goods at Sherman. Years ago I had a poetry reading at the Sherman Café, and now I noticed that Bloc 11 on Bow St. has an open mic every Thursday night from 6PM to 9PM for musicians, singers and even poets. On Wednesdays nights they have featured musicians play such as: Audrey Ryan, “Quill,” and Somerville resident Jennifer Greer. A press release states:
“This all ages, weekly series will provide a house guitar, keyboard and PA system, along with the chance to play 2 songs for peers and fans alike. This series will give back as much as it receives from performers. Never charging a cover, offering a free podcast of each performance, plus a video recording, steaming online and on Somerville Community Access Television (SCAT).
Sponsored by Rockin Bobs Guitars and Performer Magazine, those who shine at the Bloc 11's Open Mic can win free musical gear and an ad in Performer- a national music publication.
Hosted by local indie-rocker Kristen Ford, this Thursday night series is meant to foster community among musicians.
‘There is so much we can learn from each other, musically and professionally. With so few all ages venues in the city- it’s a shame to ostracize so many up and comers because of liquor sales. It’s not right to expect a starving artist to pay a cover, and buy drinks just for the opportunity to play. The open mic at Bloc 11 is open to all ages, all genders, all ability levels and all income brackets. We just ask that you come to play and listen. Those who join in have the opportunity to network, be considered for a full set on our Wednesday night acoustic series, plus the chance for national exposure with Performer Magazine.’
Kristen Ford's open mindedness has rubbed off in the first few weeks yielding memorable performances across genres, ages and genders. With initial open mics packed- one can only assume great things are to come for Bloc 11 Cafe's open mic night, and for the players who fill it.
The Bloc 11 Cafe Open Mic series will be every Thursday, starting January 7th 2010. Sign up is from 5-6pm with music 6-9pm. Open to all styles of music, spoken word and performance, Bloc 11's open mic night is only missing one thing- your performance.”
I had the chance to talk the founder of this spanking new enterprise Kristine Ford, who hails from Aldersey Street in Somerville. Ford is an employee of Bloc 11, an aspiring musician, and grew up in Western, Mass. She attended college in Chicago, and eventually moved to Somerville. Like any artist she needed a steady job to keep the income flowing, and allow her to follow her avocation. Bloc 11 has proven to be haven for her. She makes a living (and a pretty mean bagel with tomatoes, onions, and butter on the side) and works with other young artists with gigs outside of their job. Megan Brideau, for instance, is a smiling and welcoming presence behind the counter as well as the curator of art exhibits at Bloc 11. Presently her own provocative work is on display, but she has exhibited many other local artists.
Ford said he recently navigated the dangerous shoals of city government to get an entertainment license. I asked this vivacious guitarist where one could hear her play: She said:
"I’ve been around town: The Toad, Burren in Davis Square, the Lizard Lounge, and, well of course-- Bloc 11."
***Bloc 11 Café is located at 11 Bow Street, Union Square in Somerville, MA 02143
Ph: 617 623 0000
Open 7 days, 7am-9pm Open Mic Thursdays sign up at 5, music 6-9pm.
Doug Holder to teach: Residencies at the Asylum: Poets at McLean Hospital / Newton Community Education / Starting Jan 12, 2010
To register for "...Poets at McLean Hospital" contact:
Newton Community Education http://newtoncommunityed.org
360 Lowell Ave
Newton, MA 02460-1831
McLean Hospital is known as a top shelf psychiatric hospital with Harvard faculty psychiatrists, groundbreaking research, etc... But it also has been a residency of sorts for poets such as Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and Anne Sexton. Poet Doug Holder worked at McLean Hospital for 27 years and ran poetry groups for patients for over a decade. He has interviewed the social worker for Plath and Sexton as well as the manager of Anne Sexton's rock band, he wrote an introduction to Lowell's classic poem about the hospital "Waking In the Blue" for Robert Pinsky's anthology "America's Favorite Poems", he was interviewed by Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam for material for his controversial book "Gracefully Insane" and has talked to many others who provided a trove of anecdotes about these renowned and tragic poets. In this course we will cover McLean Hospital as a muse for their poetry, and the experience of these poets in the "Asylum."
Ibbetson Poetry Prize Winners 2009// Kirk Etherton // Marc Goldfinger// Frank Bidart to get Ibbetson Lifetime Achievement Award
Both poets will read their award-winning poems at the Somerville News Writers Festival: Nov 14, 2009 7PM http://somervillenewswritersfestival.com
The Ibbetson Poetry contest was judged by poet Richard Wilhelm.
"Georgia, 1963" by Kirk Etherton
"Flower Days" by Marc Goldfinger
**** Frank Bidart is the winner of the Ibbetson Poetry Award. This will be presented at the Somerville News Writers Festival as well. Previous winners have been Robert K. Johnson, Louisa Solano, Robert Pinsky, Afaa Michael Weaver, Jack Powers, and David Godine, Jr.
What Americans can learn from Gypsy culture: A talk by Sonia Meyer
What Americans can learn from Gypsy culture
Littleton Massachusetts – September 1 2009 –Wilderness House Literary Review is pleased to announce a one hour lecture by noted Gypsy (Roma) scholar Sonia Meyer at 7:00 P. M. on October 14 2009 at the Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge Massachusetts. Tickets are $5.00 at the door.
Sonia Meyer will speak about the Roma (Gypsy) culture and what we can learn from them in this high tech, money-worshipping society. She hopes the audience look inside the Gypsies self-exiled world, and come to realize that their freedom is available to all of us.
Sonia Meyer was born in Cologne, Germany in 1938 and spent her formative years living in the woods among partisan and Gypsy fighters during WWII. She has been fascinated by Gypsies, or the Roma people ever since becoming a self-educated scholar of Roma (Gypsy) culture.
Meyer, who may indeed be part Gypsy herself has been intrigued by the freedom, the art, and the celebration of magic and mysticism of the Roma people. She encountered them throughout her travels in Europe, and struck up fascinating conversations with these enigmatic vagabonds. She lived much of her life like a Gypsy, moving from city to city across Europe, and eventually landing in the states. In Geneva she worked with Jewish refugees, she spent time with the Bedouins in the Negev desert, eventually moving to the States.
In the narrow and winding stacks of the Widener Library at Harvard she discovered a translation by Matteo Maximoff, Russian Gypsy, which concerned Russian nomadic Gypsies. She visited him, and traveled to Macedonia to visit the so-called “Queen of the Gypsies,” and lived with a family in the Gypsy section of Skopje where the Gypsies were well off.
She is the author of a novel to be published in the Summer of 2010. “Dosha” is about a Gypsy girl. The novel spans her childhood spent with Russian partisans in Polish forests to her defection during Khrushchev’s visit to Helsinki on June 6, 1957 “Dosha” will be published by Wilderness House Press (www.wildernesshousepress.com) and will be excerpted in the spring issue of Wilderness House Literary Review (www.whlreview.com ). For further information see www.soniameyer.com.
For further information contact Steve Glines (email@example.com ) 978-800-1625 – Industrial Myth & Magic (www.industrialmyth.com ) is a public relations firm specializing in literary persona and events.
Steerage by Bert Stern
Steerage, by Bert Stern
Ibbetson Street Press
$15 Review by Miriam Levine
BURNING STARS, JADE SILK, CAMARROS
We’ve heard a lot about American individualism; and, in American literature, about writers like Melville, who have what one critic has called, the voice of “the imperial self,”: majestic, heroic, grand. In “Walden,” Thoreau, though a less imperial writer than Melville, still creates a narrator who lives heroically alone in his tiny cabin in the woods and sees few people. He’s a man without family. In actual life, Thoreau walked daily to Concord village to see his mother. In contrast Bert Stern writes about his deep connection to the living and dead. He sheds his ego and takes on the voices of his ancestors who immigrated to America from Eastern Europe. Though him, we hear his dead mother’s account of the voyage. The family is out to sea; order falls apart; the family loses its center. Sailing in limbo, his mother says, “Nobody talked. We could not look at the sea or the dead sky/ above us. We hung between these. We would be here always.”
In “Lotty is Born” Stern bears the weight of generations: “All suffered to bring me here to this room/ where I write, bigger than the house/ my mother was born in.” Beautifully, in fluid lines, he registers a dissolving self: “I am somebody’s dream . . . let them tell me if they can/ if I am recompense for what they endured.”
A descendent of those who in steerage endured the stink of “of seawater and piss, animals and human sweat,” Stern brings his ancestors into the light. His mother says, “my spirit was waiting for me, dancing on the shore.” The spirit is feminine, like the Shekinah: the principle of immanence, the divine showing itself. I’ve heard the Shekinah described metaphorically as a single green leaf that keeps falling to earth but is never seen to land. Stern refers to the Shekinah in “Hannah Remembers,” notable for its sense of shining, never-ending time: “Evenings that went on forever/ still unfolding.” In “Driving Home from Elizabethtown” the poet is gathered into transcendent light:
. . . I am ready to fall
with the turnings of poplar
and oak. Through the windshield
even the thin rain that takes on
gold light from the sun in its falling
is fuel for the burning.
Stern’s “Wait,” the long poem, which comprises part five of “Steerage,” is a triumph, sweet and mysterious. The Shekinah takes the form of a dying girl who lives inside the man Stern calls “Jacob.” “He called out to her as one might/ throw a flower at a star.” The girl keeps falling, imperiled, but she comes back to life: “she’s close as your skin, still humming her tune.” Stern gives the girl a voice: “She said this. The girl said this now was always as it is now.” Nothing is lost. Time is eternal. The poem ends by connecting a tender earthly image—“the turnip’s sweet spheroid,/ its little tail”—with an image of fire and living water: burning stars and icicles dripping as if they were “breathing.”
Besides water-fire-falling-burning poems in which Stern invokes a self’s dissolving in radiant never-ending time, there are poems about closely observed everyday life. (I prefer the spirit-Shekinah and daily-life poems to the fable poems, “What the Teller Knows” and “Early autumn in the Mountains,” which seem unreal to me.) Stern writes about his neighbor, Kenny, a Vietnam war veteran; he watches him capably “sizing boards with a handsaw,/ setting them snug.” But at night, in his dreams, he keeps shooting at a girl who is “hardly a shadow.” He describes Kenny’ son, “washing his car,/ a black Camarro/ with V8 engine,” and the everyday of American life with its skateboards and televisions playing all night in store windows.
“Tea,” which I’ll quote in its entirety, demonstrates the lyrical beauty of Stern’s poems. Here, the feminine appears as a muse. “Tea” is also a love poem that recognizes the separateness of the beloved:
That clear song—
was it you while I slept,
slipping down in your jade
silk to feed the stove
with pine and drink your tea
alone, at down, as you like to do?
Stern could be describing his own clear song: tender, lyrical, beautifully phrased.
*Miriam Levine's most recent book is The Dark Opens, winner of the 2007 Autumn House Poetry Prize. She is the author of In Paterson, a novel, Devotion: A Memoir, three poetry collections, and A Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. Her work has appeared in Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, and Ploughshares, among many other places. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts writing fellowship and grants from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, she was a fellow at Yaddo, Hawthornden Castle, Le Château de Lavigny, Villa Montalvo, Fundación Valparaíso, and the Millay Colony for the Arts.
Well I was laid off from my job at McLean Hospital. It has been 27 interesting years. Fortunately I have a generous severance package, and I am "exploring" other career opportunities. Who knows where I may wind up! I decided to reprint this article from The Boston Globe (Feb. 2000) about my poetry efforts during my tenure there. Poetic Healing: As the hospital and its clients have changed, counselor Douglas Holder adds another dimension.
By Michael Kenney (Globe Staff)
SOMERVILLE—In the fourth collection of poetry of poetry Douglas Holder has published at his Ibbetson Street Press here, he includes a poem of his own, titled: “ A Simple Nod.”
I saw him in Harvard Square,
happily walking with a friend.
As we passed each other
we exchanged a simple, understated
Our silence was a friendly conspiracy
a reminder of where he once was
and where he was
The where is never stated—although two words, “the ward,” a few lines further on provide a hint. Holder, 44, is a mental health counselor, and for the past six years he has been conducting poetry workshops at McLean Hospital for its patients. “ I’d been working there 17 years, and I’d had my poetry published in small journals,” he says. I wanted to add another dimension to my job and help a few folks out.”
While Holder would not think of ranking himself with Anne Sexton, who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967, he does invoke the legendary poetry workshops she conducted at McLean in the late 1960s. Sexton, a patient at the Belmont hospital in 1973, committed suicide in October 1974.
Nor does Holder claim that the hospital today resemble the institution of those years. “It’s not like the old McLean,” he says, “with patrician types sitting around drinking tea from bone china.” That was the McLean of Harvard fullbacks, Porcellian Club members, and “ Mayflower screwballs.” That was the McLean that Robert Lowell, a frequent patient there in the 1960’s, memorialized in his poem “Waking in the Blue,” and that writer Susanna Kaysen, a patient in 1967, recalls in her best-selling memoir “Girl Interrupted,” now a major motion picture. Today, Holder says, the members of his poetry groups are more likely to be the homeless “ coming in with a bit of doggerel.”
He runs two workshops, one on Thursday afternoons for patients in the hospital’s open-ward program, which meets in a converted Victorian mansion, and other Friday evenings for patients on two locked wards where Holder works. Neither is open to an outside visitor. But whether in the mansion or in the more institutional setting of the locked ward, Holder says, “ I try to sort of have a coffeehouse atmosphere. We’ll have a round of applause when some reads a poem.”
Of course it doesn’t always work out as planned. Holder remembers reading Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” at his very first workshop. “I was pretty enthusiastic then, and a bit naïve,” he says. I thought they’d like it. I saw the poem—with its lament about the “best minds of his generation lost to madness”—as a haunting cry that would be a catalyst for discussion.”
And he says with some self-deprecation, “ I thought they’d think of me as, “ Hey, this guy knows where I am coming from.” Instead , “they were angry and one of them walked out,” he says. “And one of them told me: “Why do I have to hear this? I live with it.” Another time, Holder says, a young woman became hysterical and ran out when he read a poem of his own about a kosher butcher in Brookline. “It turned out the young woman had a painful experience in her life, which she associated with chickens, and she couldn’t take it,” Holder says. “ I had a lot of explaining to do with the clinical staff.” “You never know,” he adds, “when you might hit a vein.”
The problem is compounded, Holder says, by the fact that today’s hospital stays tend to be shorter—a week or two instead of several months. “You don’t always know what to expect,” he says. It also means that the workshops aren’t quite they were in Sexton’s day. “I get in their face about it,” Holder says. “ I’ll go around to the rooms in my wards and ask: “Are you coming to the poetry group tonight?’ “And sometimes, I’ll have a doctor or another staff person tell me that so-and-so is a well-known writer, so I’ll make a special effort to get them to come.”
A number of poems written by patients in these workshops have been published—usually anonymously in the now defunct Boston Poet and other small poetry magazines. But not in his own magazine, which shares the name of his small press, Holder says, because that would violate hospital policy.
Because he believes that poetry can play a healing role, Holder started Ibbetson Street Press, out of house in Somerville—naming it after the street where he lives with his wife, Dianne Robitaille, a poet and geriatric nurse. Holder, who got a master’s degree in literature from Harvard’s extension school while working at McLean, has been publishing his poetry in small magazines and especially Spare Change, the monthly journal for the homeless. “I write a lot about homelessness and mental health problems.”
Starting a small press to publish local poets, Holder says, was “ a way to get connected.”
The most recent issue—38 pages on 81/2 by 11 paper with a paper cover, bound with black slip plastic binder—sells for $4 and contains 40 poems; an interview with Ed Galing, an elderly small press poet; and several reviews. Among the poets are a number of first-time writers and others described as “mainstays” of Holder’s press. There are also two professors of literature—John Hildebidle, who teaches at MIT, and Robert K. Johnson, who teaches at Suffolk University—as well as Don DiVecchio, the poetry editor of Spare Change.
Ibbetson Street Press has also published a number of chapbooks, and old English term for a small collection of poems or ballads, most recently: Poems From 42nd Street” by Rufus Goodwin, a poet and journalist who lives in Boston; and a collection called “ Poems for the Poet, the Working Man and the Downtrodden,” by A.D. Winans, who published a small poetry magazine in San Francisco.
“What distinguishes our journal,” says Holder, “is that it contains poems that anyone can read.” They deal “with everyday life. There’s not a lot of arcane words or funny verse patterns.” Anyone, he adds,” can get something out of them.” The following is a poem written by an anonymous participant in one of Douglas Holder’s poetry workshops at McLean Hospital:
When The Hunter Arrived
When the hunter arrived
at the place
where it was unfamiliar
he became the prey
stalked by everything
by the conspiracy of creation.
to the edge he cantered
idols toppling by his sides
until at last
those that were against him
trusted his insight into their
Finally pushing a hole through
God’s left eye
past what had separately
designed the limitless war
streaming beyond infinity.
This is a great opportunity for Boston Girl Guide Readers to have their poetic talents recognized! Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Award 2009
Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Award
IBBETSON STREET PRESS POETRY AWARD
The Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Award is presented at the annual Somerville News Writers Festival (http://somervillenewswritersfestival.com/ ) held this year at the Armory Arts Center in Somerville, Mass.. The festival will be held November 14th (2009) this year. In past years poets and writers such as Pulitzer Prize winner Franz Wright, Junot Diaz, Robert Olen Butler, Oscar-nominated novelist Tom Perotta, Iowa Writer’s Workshop head Lan Samantha Chang, Sue Miller ( author of “The Good Mother”) , Steve Almond, Boston Globe Columnist Alex Beam, poet Nick Flynn, and many others have read in this event. This year Frank Bidart will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement award.
Ibbetson Street Press is also pleased to announce the 3rd annual Ibbetson Street Poetry Contest.
The winner of the Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Contest award (must be a Massachusetts resident) will receive a $100 cash award, a framed certificate, publication in the literary journal “Ibbetson Street” http://ibbetsonpress.com/ and a poetry feature in the “Lyrical Somerville,” in The Somerville News.
To enter send 3 to 5 poems, any genre, length, to Doug Holder 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143. Entry fee is $10. Cash or check only. Make payable to “Ibbetson Street Press” or “Doug Holder." Deadline: Sept 15, 2009. The contest will be judged by Richard Wilhelm http://richardwilhelm.blogspot.com/ poet and arts/editor of the Ibbetson Street Press.The winner will be announced at the festival, and will receive his or her award. A runner up will be announced as well.
"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)
IBBETSON STREET PRESS "A journal and publisher of poetry."
Since 1998 Ibbetson Street publishes the best of the small press. Our press is nationally distributed. We have received favorable notice in The Boston Globe, Verse Daily, Harvard Review, Small Press Review, PRESA, Rattle, and other repsected journals. We have published poetry books by AD Winans, Robert K. Johnson, Gloria Mindock, Abbott Ikeler, Helen Bar Lev, Lo Galluccio, Irene Koronas, Molly Lynn Watt, Patricia Brodie, Linda Larson and many others. Ibbetson Street books have been featured on TV shows and radio, including: WBZ Radio, PBS, NPR, Newton Cable, Boston Cable, Cambridge Cable, Somerville Community Access TV, as well as a feature on MIT Radio. Our magazines and books are carried at a host of independent bookstores in the area.
On June 20 there will be a celebratory reading for the release of Ibbetson 25. Featured poets will be : Sam Cornish, Bert Stern, CD Collins, Dorian Brooks, Mignon Ariel King, Pam Rosenblatt, Cameron Mount and others. Open mic $4 donated. suggested 3PM Out of the Blue Art Gallery 106 Prospect St. Cambridge http://outoftheblueartgallery.com
Dorian Brooks: A poet who ponders what is behind "The Wren's Cry"
Interview with Doug Holder
Dorian Brooks is not a self-promoter, but if one was to read her poetry he or she would surely be hooked. Reviewer Barbara Bialick wrote of her latest collection from the Ibbetson Street Press "The Wren's Cry,"
"She both enriches and breaks our hearts with well-edited, polished lyrics carved out of love, nature and memory. But don’t stop till you read the last poems, which will almost kill you with their powerful anti-war messages, one after another, landing as a dead monarch butterfly on Sitting Bull’s hat…"
Brooks is a widely published poet, an editor for the Ibbetson Street Press, an independent scholar of women's history, a politcial activist, a graduate of Harvard, to name a few accomplishments. I interviewed Brooks about her writing life and her new collection.
Doug Holder: Why did it take to your 30's for you to take your writing of poetry seriously?
Dorian Brooks: I was always writing, but as a child of Sputnik I felt torn between poetry and science, studying science and the history of science in college and grad school. When I was about 30, living in Connecticut, I took a poetry workshop, and I remember the woman who ran it saying she liked my work but found it distant, academic, and at one point said to me, “Dorian, when are you going to get in touch with your gut?” A few years later we moved to Minnesota, where poetry was big—in the schools, in the streets—as I imagine it’s been in Russia. I took several workshops there that encouraged me to write more about what I felt strongly about, which at that time tended to be personal relationships, family.
DH: You were a technical writer in the corporate world. Many poets I interviewed have been journalists and they found it a good training ground for being a writer—how about technical writing?
DB: I suppose that in forcing you to write clearly and economically it’s a bit like poetry. But there wasn’t much emotion involved (unless you count my increasing dislike of corporate America!) The principal of the high school I went to said that a poem has to begin with an emotion, and he was right.
DH: You first thought you had to write poems that were difficult to understand. Later you changed your tune. Why?
DB: I gradually realized there was no point in being obscure; it was a kind of affectation. I used to haunt the poetry sections of libraries, taking out books of contemporary poetry I liked, and they were usually by poets whose work spoke simply and directly in ways I could understand, like Sylvia Plath, Denise Levertov, Louise Bogan, James Wright, John Haines. When I lived in Minneapolis in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, I had a wonderful teacher, Jim White. I remember him saying of his own work, “I went from opaque to translucent to transparent.” I think that was true of mine as well.
DH: How does your concern for the environment, and for women's history, play out in your new poetry collection The Wren's Cry?
DB: Several poems come out of a concern for the environment, mostly in the section “The Earth I Travel On”—such as “Back Road,” “At Martha’s Point,” and “Ground Zero,” in which I touch on our disengagement, our split from the natural world. In “Green Man” I suggest a little more directly that our dominant religious traditions have been part of that split.
As for women’s history—in poems scattered throughout the collection, but especially in the section “Who She Was,” I draw on the theme of silenced women’s voices, as in “Historical Marker (also an anti-war poem),” “In Memoriam,” and “Who She Was.” “To Brigit” and “Sea Child” express my strong interest in female spiritual figures and women’s voices in folklore.
DH: You say poetry for you is a way to come to terms with things. You say your new collection concerns the great themes of love and death. Have you come to terms with the fact that we die...even love dies...?
DB: Well, some of the poems are on those themes. Poetry is a way to connect with, to clarify, to express one’s deep feelings and thoughts, whether about love or death or whatever—hopefully in ways others can relate to. Maybe writing itself comes out of an awareness of the transitory nature of all things, ourselves included. I guess many of the poems in The Wren’s Cry are more or less elegies—for loss of the earth as we have known it; loss of those whom I, or we, hold dear.
DH: You have a great affinity for Native American cultures. Do you find a certain purity in native cultures ... or is it wrong to characterize them as such?
DB: It’s not that I have such an affinity for Native American cultures, though I’ve tried to learn what I can about them, or some of them. It’s more that I’ve come to realize how much of those cultures we (Euro-Americans) have destroyed over the past several hundred years. As a country, we’ve never really acknowledged that part of our history, and I think that until we do, it’s just lying there like a wound festering beneath the surface of things. Indians were mainly to be got out of the way—by assimilation, removal, or outright genocide—so we could take their lands and resources; and this taking is still going on, most recently in the appropriation of their spiritual traditions. I know “it wasn’t me” personally that did it, but it was my culture, whose hallmarks of dominance and greed are with us still and I believe directing much of what our country is doing vis a vis the rest of the world today.
As for Native cultures being “pure,” I wouldn’t put it that way, but I do think they often reflect important values that we in the dominant culture have lost sight of, such as a closeness to and spiritual affinity with nature, and a sense of community, of interrelatedness with others. I think that some older, pre-Christian, pre-industrial European cultures have held similar values, but they were mostly lost, and we’d do well to revisit them now.
DH: How does editing the magazine "Ibbetson Street" help or hinder your work as a poet?
DB: It doesn’t hinder my work. To some extent I think it helps it in the sense that it makes me aware of how many good poets are out there these days, writing on all manner of subjects, and that’s a source of inspiration.
By late summer, the maples
have gathered so much darkness
among their boughs,
we finally concede
our own maturing.
We hear crickets and mourn
an earlier music,
the days grown shorter now,
even our few words
a measure of acquiescence.
And in time,
longing itself dwindles
to a single leaf—
fine-veined and lucent,
and we are one
with the vesper sparrow,
at home with solitude
and night descending.
* From The Wren's Cry." ( Ibbetson 2009)
To order "The Wren's Cry" contact firstname.lastname@example.org Or send $17 check or money order to: Ibbetson Street Press 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143
THE BOSTON NATIONAL POETRY MONTH FESTIVAL
Now In Its Successful NINTH!!! Year
CO-SPONSORS: Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with the Boston Public Library, SAVE the DATE, Saturday, April 4th 10:00 A.M.- 4:45 P.M. OPEN MIKE: 1:30 to 4:00P.M. The Festival will be held at the library’s main branch in Copley Square. FREE ADMISSION
53 Major and Emerging poets will each do a ten minute reading;
ALSO... Featuring six extraordinarily talented prize winning high school students: Dianna Willard & Joshua Mejia from Boston Latin High School; Yolanda Cruz, Peter Li & Yamira Serret: Boston Arts Academy; Gabriella Fee: Walnut Hill School for the Arts. These student stars will open the Festival at 10:00 A.M. SAM CORNISH, Boston’s current and first Poet Laureate will open the formal part of the Festival at 11:00 A.M. 52 additional major and emerging poets will follow with a
Some of the many luminaries include SAM CORNISH, Diana Der Hovanessian, Richard Wollman, Jennifer Barber, Afaa M. Weaver, Barbara Helfgott-Hyett, Dan Tobin, Ellen Steinbaum, Charles Coe, Ryk McIntyre, Elizabeth McKim, Regie O’Gibson, Kate Finnegan, Michael Bialis, Gary Tucker, (Kaji Aso Studio), Marc Widershien, Sandee Story, CD Collins, Marc Goldfinger, Diana Saenz, Stuart Peterfreund, Valerie Lawson, Joseph DeRoche, Frannie Lindsay, Ifeanyi Menkiti, Dick Lourie , Mark Pawlak, Lainie Senechal, Harris Gardner, Joanna Nealon, Susan Donnelly, Irene Koronas, Doug Holder and a Plethora of other prize winning poets.
This Festival has it all: Professional published poets, celebrities, numerous prize winners, student participation, OPEN MIKE.
Even more, it is about community, neighborhoods, diversity, Boston, and Massachusetts. This popular tradition is one of the largest events in Boston’s Contribution to National Poetry Month. FREE ADMISSION !!!
FOR INFORMATION: Tapestry of Voices: 617-306-9484 or 617-723-3716
Wheelchair accessible. Assistive listening devices available. To request a sign language interpreter, or for other special needs, call 617-536-7855(TTY) at least two weeks before the program date.
NEW ENGLAND POETRY CLUB
Founded in 1915 by Amy Lowell, Robert Frost, and Conrad Aiken
*Free and open to the public*
*For information, please call (617) 744-6034*
FIRST MONDAY POETRY READINGS
Monday, April 6th, 7:00 p.m.
AT: Harvard Yenching Library, Common Room, First Floor, No. 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge (off Kirkland Street, near Sanders Theatre/Memorial Hall)
Panel on Publishing by Poets Who Edit:
The Perils of Starting a Press
VALERIE LAWSON: Former editor of South Shore Poet, is that rare combination of prize-winning slam poet and editor of literary journals. She has traveled in Ireland and Europe on youth poetry cultural exchange programs. She and Michael Brown edit Off the Coast in Maine.
GLORIA MINDOCK: Editor and publisher of Cervena Barva Press, who is a social worker, was founder and former editor of the Boston Literary Review. She authored two new chapbooks and the collection, Blood Soaked Dresses which will be translated into Romanian.
DOUG HOLDER: Co-editor of the Ibbetson Street Press and of Ibbetson St. Review with Steve Glines and Diane Robiitaille. A tireless promoter of local literary events, Holder founded BAGEL BARDS along with Harris Gardner, and publishes the Bagel Bard anthologies with Mr. Glines. Holder’s three newest chapbooks are The Man In the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel, No One Dies At Au Bon Pain, and Wrestling With My Father.
I have a new collection out of interviews: "From the Paris of New England: Interviews with Poets and Writers." It has a number of interviews that I have conducted with poets and writers in New England's "City of Light" Somerville, Mass. The following is an introduction from the Curator of the Rare Books and Poetry Collection at the University of Buffalo, Mike Basinski.To order go to: lulu.com/ibbetsonpress "Welcome to the Neighborhood"
Within the realm of the poem are communities in which constellations of poets reside with their poems, and their journeys and influences, books, poetics and colleagues, and where they were born and where they work, and the color of their dogs, cats and washing machines. Of course, individual poets have individual lives and spheres. However, in order for their poetry to expansively thrive and develop, there must be a place for them to do so. There has to be a place for poets to be poets, which is to say people. I liken these locals to networks of waterways where the wandering flocks gather to honk in delight or where the frogs congregate to engage their necessary singing. Without these vast neighborhoods of mind there would be no poetry. For communities of creativity to form and function, we, the poets, need to know who we are. This book is the imagination's welcome wagon. Hello.
It takes a certain individual to build a city of poets. It demands a person of commitment and singular vision and purpose, a person who can live way beyond the mysteries of plumbing and MLA sessions on the role of 20th century amebas in metaphors or how paramecium influenced Pound's economic agendas. Of course, these are important instances for the masses and pedantic scholars. Yes, but the poem needs place to generate and germinate.
I will say that Doug Holder is a maker of a space for poetry. He does the wallpaper and the wash and he makes a protective headquarters where the poetic imagination can rest in comfort and where poetry roams and rules, where the poem is alive and functions as a center of the daily. It is a place where poets can resist troublesome headlines, headaches, cholesterol and salt and do it in comforting chorus. Doug Holder keeps company. Holder holds it together. He is a keeper of the imagination, in the tradition of the Native Americans who are the keepers of the earth. Doug Holder, a culture worker without prejudice, must be labeled steward. It is in his care that poetry gets from today to tomorrow. Really, if it were not for the likes of Doug Holder we poets would be... alone.
Therefore, what we have here is a book that manifests a vision of a world of poetry from the unique and well tended and considered world of Doug Holder. It is a world where all poetry counts. This book dose not segregate and it does not separate. It is the place of the poet. When it comes to family, Hugh Fox and Gloria Mindock and Robert Creeley and Marc Widershien and Martha Collins all do join hands and smile. Cheese.
I was recently in conversation with a mighty prestigious politician in western New York and it was an honor. She put a question to me. And it was (forgive my strained memory) something like: Is the poem still a vibrant entity... as I remember it from school? Stopping by the snowy woods and all? I said, of course. I mean, here we are! This book vibrates. But that is a big question that does get asked by those not on the invite list. I say here's the phonebook. Make the call. Use the poem, poetry and the poets to stop all the wars and all the Wal-Marts and all the lawn mowers and hedge clippers disturbing sleepy Sunday mornings.
We need poetry in this century more than ever before. Poetry from the person as poet is not complex or distant, if we meet on the corner or the corner bar. Poetry is the occasion of the everyday and it is everywhere. Doug Holder knows that and so he assembled here peeks into many different lives. Now you know this. We are all human. Here is a fine introduction into the poet's parlor. It is a relaxed and permissible passage into the lives of those summoned to the poem. You can get with it.
There are many ways into the sublime, up the Alps! We can all be poets. Read about the many paths. Ed Sanders is a cultural activist. Dick Lourie is poet and one of the editors/publishers of that most democratic of magazines: Hanging Loose and Louisa Solano was owner of the Grolier's Poetry Book Shop. (Oh I do remember my first visit. It was decades ago. It was like I was a young monk making it to Rome! I bought, I remember distinctly, a thin book of poetry by Doug Blazek!). And then some of us do strange things with poetry: put it in alphabetical order, order it by size, talk about its blurbs, and keep all the books of poetry safe from gigantic book barn dumps and the "Brave New World" of relentless digitization, from the digital fire. The wider world must walk into the world of the poem. Like, here is the yellow brick road! It ain’t on TV! We don't live in Paris. But here it is. It is us! We have here simply much, much more than a collection of Doug Holder's interviews. We have here more than his superior vision that all the poetry is unified and that all of poetry is one poetry flush hot and red from the imagination. Here poets are people from different walks and different, defiant lives and in fact, it is from all walks of living that poetry ascends. Let's get walking? Door to door.
The Poetry Collection
Buffalo, New York
You get to a certain age where there is more behind you than ahead of you, unless of course I live beyond 106. Anyway I have written a helluva a lot of poems during my time across this stage we call life, and I revisited some old ones that I have forgotten. I came across them in my dusty and decidedly musty archives. May I share them with you? Well, really, you have no choice.
KITSCH ~ Appeared in the Cambridge Tab ~
In the parlor
By the Lava Lamp
Under the gaze of the sea monkeys
Blooming in their tank
I took a bite of my Twinkie…
Only the crème de la crème
Letting my hair down…
Falling over my polyester collar
Luxuriating in the quotidian
Resting my cocktail on the ornate coaster
The sunlight spilling through the windows
The intricate pattern.
After my third drink
I could almost swear…
I saw the plastic beak
Of the flamingo
Break into a resplendent
A DISCARDED BOTTLE ~ Appeared in The Laureate Letter ~
The wind gave it a voice
Whipping a hollow sound from its mouth.
Like a gravestone
Signaling a name, an existence.
It waved at me
Plastic and striped
This was the last straw.
Mike Amado is a poet friend of mine who is suffering from “End Stage Kidney Disease.” The Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville has released a collection of poetry by Mike: “Rebuilding the Pyramids: Poems of Healing In A Sick World.” Mike was diagnosed at age thirteen, and at 24 he started on dialysis. Later, Mike received a transplant that didn’t take.The poems in this book deal with his journey and his attempts to take control of his health.
In spite of Mike’s illness he regularly attends the Bagel Bards in Davis Square, publishes his work, and hosts his own reading series in Plymouth, Mass. I decided to use a couple of his poems from his new collection.
Waiting for the Doctor
Waiting for the pills
Waiting for the scalpel
Waiting to heal
Waiting for treatment to begin
Waiting for treatment to end
Waiting to feel better
Waiting to feel worse
Waiting for an organ
Waiting for the worst
Waiting for an ambulance
Waiting for the hearse.
To order this book and other Ibbetson titles go to http://www.lulu.com/ibbetsonpress
"The Word"(Doug Holder) has a new poetry book out "The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel" (Cervena Barva Press) To order go to: http://lulu.com/cervenabarvapress
Here is a review by Don Winter:
THE MAN IN THE BOOTH IN THE MIDTOWN TUNNEL
By Doug Holder. 2008. 63 pages. $13 Cervena Barva Press. POBOX 440357 W. Somerville, Mass. 02144-3222
Rather than puzzle poems the reader must pick to find meaning, Doug Holder presents crystal portraits filled with small details that resonate more and more with repeated readings:
Counts the seconds
As you wipe
The Crumbs from your
Face and return
To your post.
Stream of letters
To a ravenous federal machine.
Your eyes dimmed
From the sea of manila
The bland white face
Of the mail
Be returned to
Holder often aligns himself with those emblematic and beneath notice, voicing experience as a tollbooth attendant, a heroin addict, and a psychiatric patient. And often the poetry is the response to the desolation and the ominous surroundings that engulf characters. When characters aren’t anticipating some form of anxiety (“You felt/It press/Again/In your/Stomach”), they are displaced, or home retreats. “She could never run that way again,” a voice admits in “For Sarah,” and in “The Family Portrait” we are told, “Nothing will last.”But while this is book is about loss and anguish and darkness, it is also about hope:“A daily ritual Of decrepit defiance Walking the ground That will own them.”
(Cambridge, Mass: Two Old Women,” p.26)
What may in fact be best about this book is the way the poetry oscillates between the chaotic and the organized, the terrifying and the peaceful. Holder’s is a voice both comfortable and uncomfortable with itself, a voice that allows both the catastrophic and beautiful to co-exist harmoniously. As the speaker in “The Last Hotdog,” suggests, bad things are happening, with worse on the way, but we can find small moments of (mitigated) joy even where hope is no longer possible:
She brought it
To his sick bed,
He bit through
The red casing
The familiar orgasm of juice
Hitting the roof
Of his mouth
In some facsimile
Of his youth.
Holder takes the grit of everyday life and transforms it into elegant, generous and personal poems, as easy to read as a pop novel, as fulfilling as a hearty meal. “The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel,” is the type of book that might bridge the aesthetic gap between popular culture, which often does not acknowledge the existence of the fine arts, and the usually snobbish intelligentsia, which rarely acknowledges the existence of popular culture.
~ Don Winter’s work has appeared in the: New York Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, 5 AM, Passages North, Slipstream, Portland Review, Chiron Review, Sycamore Review, Pearl, and close to 500 other journals in the U.S, Canada, England, Australia, Switzerland, Scotland and Ireland. His work has been nominated for twelve Pushcarts. His first collection, Things About to Disappear, is the best seller at Bone World Publishing and in New York Quarterly’s on-line store. He is co-founder of Platonic 3Way Press, home of Fight These Bastards ~
They Don’t Look Like Real Books: Taking A Stand on Print-On-Demand. Rebecca Wolff: Founder of "Fence" magazine
I was at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival on Oct 11, 2008 to take part in the Small Press Festival. There were a number of presses and magazines represented there, such as: Godine Publishing, Cervena Barva Press, Ibbetson Street, Boston Review, Fulcrum, Zephyr Press, Zoland Books and many more. I got the chance to speak to many folks, both publishers and the general public. Ed Sanders, legendary poet, and founder of the 60’s political/ folk/art/rock band the “Fugs,” as well as “Fuck You: The Magazine of the Arts,”( to name just a few accomplishments), was there. He was in Ibbetson Street 23, and I interviewed him recently for The Somerville News, so it was nice to run into him.
As I wandered around the tables, I stopped off at Fence Books, an offshoot of the hip and influential literary magazine “Fence” I spoke to the founder Rebecca Wolff, who I met briefly years ago at the Boston Alternative Poetry Conference. Since then she has come along way and Fence has received recognition from the literati, and is now housed at the University of Albany in New York, where they are the recipient (no doubt) of institutional largess. I admired the Fence books that were on the table and innocently asked if any were “Print-On-Demand.” Well Wolff was like a wolf on a meat truck, and replied: Never! “I never saw one that looked like a ‘real’ book.”
Well perhaps Rebecca works in a rarefied atmosphere, far above the banal masses of the small press. But as an editor and reviewer myself, I see a slew of poetry books each year, review my share: good, bad and indifferent. I certainly can determine what a “real” book looks like. And these perfect-bound collections coming from Print-On-Demand printers are “real” books, and books to be proud of.
I invited Wolff to come by the Ibbetson Press table to take a look. She did after I called out her name as she passed my table. She looked over titles and said: “ Oh, I don’t know, the covers look like pictures of pictures.” Whatever. She did allow; “ I suppose they are comparable.”
There was a small press panel during the festival, and I situated myself in the front row so I could partake in the Q and A. On the panel were Ed Sanders, Geoffrey Young, Anna Moschovakis, Rebecca Wolff, and Kyle Schlesinger. Somerville, Mass. poet Joe Torra, a neighbor of mine, moderated it.
I asked the panelists about the “elitist” attitudes I face when I tell people we now publish Print-On-Demand books. I used Rebecca Wolff’s comment as an example. I talked about the history of the small press and its role in fostering new talent, its job of getting worthy poets on the margin out there and heard. For many of us, without the largess of the academy, foundation grants, big lips for ass kissing, etc…the only affordable way ( especially in the economic straits we have now) is Print-On-Demand. Because of low and non-existent start up prices, and printing geared to exactly how much we need at a given time, we don’t have books sitting around collecting dust. The books are quality productions, our own have been bought by university libraries, bookstores, for classes, and we get regular commissions. We are lucky if we break even, but you go in this for the love.
Anyway the panelist seemed to agree that Print-On-Demand is a viable option. Sanders, a veteran of the Mimeograph Revolution on the Lower East Side of NYC in the 60’s reminded us of the importance of printing poetry, even if it is a simple broadside, and has a press run of 2 or 3 copies. Another panelist said if he had Print-On-Demand in his day, all the books decaying in his garage would not be there. Wolff made some comments about her advocacy of poets and her efforts for the best presentation of their work ( as if we don’t!). At the end she said: ” I am intrigued…” or something in that vein, well, you know the drill.
Whenever a new technology, or new approach, is around there is always a lot of resistance. But now publishers like David Godine Jr., and others are starting to experiment with Print-On-Demand. We must remember what Jerome Rothenburg points out in his preface to “A Secret History of the Lower East Side” ( as noted in the program for the festival:
“American poetry, the part by which it has been and will be known, has long been on the margins, nurtured in the margins, carried forward, vibrant in the margins…”
Perhaps, now that Wolff has joined the ranks of the literati, she has lost sight of the fact. Let’s encourage not discourage.
Look to Lowell, Mass., birthplace of Jack Kerouac, for a great poetry festival Oct. 10 to 12. The Mass. Poetry Festival will feature readings by Robert Pinsky, Nick Flynn, “Bagel Bard” Regie Gibson, Ed Sanders, and many others. There will also be a small press fair, where many of the state’s small, indie presses will be represented.
Did you know that the Ibbetson Street Press has an online Print-On-Demand poetry bookstore? Go to Lulu.com/Ibbetsonpress and check out the new titles.
There is a new Biker poetry anthology out edited by Joe Gouveia, “Rubber Side Down” ( Archer Books) There are great poems riding on these pages from folks like: Marc Goldfinger, Linda Lerner, Susie Buck, Valerie Lawson and many others.
We are gearing up for the sixth Somerville News Writers Festival Nov. 22, 2008. Acclaimed poets and writers like: Junot Diaz, Afaa Michael Weaver, Dan Tobin, Meg Kearney, Ifeanyi Menkiti, Steve Almond, A.C. Kemp, Marty Beckerman, and others will read from their work. Check out: SomervilleNewsWritersFestival.com for more info.
And “The Word” will be giving a workshop out at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., the home of that fine literary journal “The Endicott Review” edited by Dan Sklar. “The Word” will be talking about his new poetry collection “The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel” ( Cervena Barva Press) with the students. By-the-way, Sklar , the head of creative writing at Endicott, has a new book out with the Ibbetson Street Press: “Bicycles, Canoes, and Drums.”
Breaking News…. Boston poetry activist Harris Gardner has a new poetry reading series at the Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston. The first reading will be Sept 11 at 6:30PM—open mic—food and wine available in hotel. The Omni Parker House Hotel is on the Boston Literary Trail, and has a rich literary tradition, that includes such folks as: Charles Dickens and Longfellow. Contact Gardner at: email@example.com
Well … at a recent editorial meeting at The Somerville News Mayor Joe Curatone told me he is working on the Somerville Poet Laureate position…nothing specific…no times…dates… so it goes…
I have already spoke to Bob Trane, (Alderman), Gregory Jenkins (Somerville Arts Council)….A new Biker poetry anthology is out “ Rubber Side Down” edited by Joe Gouveia. Check it out…available the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square…ask the manager an about the book and tell him Doug sent ya!
I am proud to announce that my new poetry collection “The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel” (Cervena Barva Press) was a pick of the month in the Small Press Review. July/August 2008 To order go to: www.lulu.com/cervenabarvapress.com
Well Gloria Mindock, Mark Pawlak and myself had a great time teaching at the Cape Cod Writers Center. Many thanks to Anne Elizabeth Tom who is the new director and made this annual conference a success!
Afaa Michael Weaver is gearing up for his International Chinese Poetry Conference at Simmons College in Boston. [Click here] for more information.
Well, there is a season for everything… and this is the season the “Ibbetson Street” literary magazine’s long-time poetry editor Robert K. Johnson will retire. Bob has helped the magazine in many ways, and he will be sorely missed. He will still be around on a consultant basis, and he will still work with a select group of writers who contribute to Ibbetson Street.The next issue, Issue 24, will be his last. The good news is Irene Koronas, veteran Boston-area poet, and Wilderness House Literary Review poetry editor will assume his duties.
Joe Bergin of the Jamaica Plain (Boston) Carpenter Poets tells me he is organizing a big reading for poets at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester, Mass. for October. The theme will be poets reading about their jobs. Check out their site and their new anthology “Break Time.”
Ifeanyi Menkiti will be replacing Tino Villanueva in the Somerville News Writers Festival, Nov. 22, 2008. Villanueva, a Boston University Romance Language Professor has to be overseas. We hope he will be able to join us in 2009. Menkiti is the current owner of the famed Grolier Poetry Book Shop and a well-regarded poet in his own right.
And the Somerville Poet Laureate status is still up in the air. I spoke to Greg Jenkins of the Somerville Arts Council who basically said he supports the idea but told me there is there is no dough for it. He suggested I bring it up to the City Council. Alderman Bob Trane told me at a meeting at The Somerville News that he may have private corporate sponsorship… but he won’t reveal the name before it is a done deal. Meanwhile Cambridge and Boston are enjoying their laureates…don’t hold your breath on this one folks…
And hey… I have a new poetry collection out: “The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel” from Somerville’s Cervena Barva Press… Get yourself a copy, make my day…and yours…
I was on a TV panel on (Somerville Community Access TV) with a number of female writers, some from the MIT faculty, and another from Hampshire College. They were upset with the genre titled: “Chick Lit” One astute panelist said” Hey, every time a man writes something should we call it “Dick Lit?” She’s got a point.
The Word has been quite busy of late. I had the privilege to be on a small press panel at UMASS BOSTON with Martha Collins (Field Magazine), Jennifer Barber (Salamander), Bert Stern and Tam Lin Neville (Off the Grid Press) and Steve Glines (Wilderness House Literary Review).
Later I was covering the Grace Paley Tribute for The Somerville News at UMASS (William Joiner Workshop), a celebration and discussion of the life and work of this late poet/writer/political activist and former Vermont Poet Laureate. Paley’s husband Bob Nichols was there, as well as Pushcart Prize winner Afaa Michael Weaver, Fred Marchant (Director of the Poetry Center-Suffolk University), and other notables.
I was also invited to the dedication ceremony for “Louisa Solano Square” in Harvard Square. This was a well-deserved honor for Louisa Solano, the former long-time owner of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop. Later I went with Harris Gardner, the poet impresario of Boston, and his charming companion, poet and noted ecologist Lainie Senechal to tape a TV show for the Cape Cod Writers Center.
In August I will be on a small press panel at the Center: “Demystifying The Small Press” with Mark Pawlak (“Hanging Loose press”) and Gloria Mindock ( Cervena Barva Press). Check out the Center at: http://capecodwriterscenter.org
And breaking news: The Ibbetson Street Press http://ibbetsonpress.com will be publishing a collection of poetry by Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish…stay tuned…
Somerville poet Afaa Michael Weaver has won the prestigious PUSHCART PRIZE for his poem “American Income,” published in POETRY magazine.
Speaking of Weaver , I am organizing a public discussion between Weaver and poet Major Jackson next April 2009 (poetry month) titled: “Two Generations of Black Male Poets/Two Sets of Eyes on the Urban Landscape
(Location: Somerville Community Access TV studios) Afaa Weaver & Major Jackson
In a public chat in the SCAT television studios in Somerville, these two poets share the experience of their lives as black men who came of age in large American cities, Baltimore and Philadelphia. They discuss the music, visual art, and literature that were influential in their times, from The Temptations to Grandmaster Flash and Chuck D, from Ron Milner to Susan Lori Parks, and more. They share intimate moments in their lives and some of their own work as well as that of poets they know and admire in an evening setting in the burgeoning artistic community north of Cambridge to be recorded in front of the live audience. The moderator for the said event will be announced in the coming months.
Well, still no word on the Somerville Poet Laureate. The Word has spoken to Sam Cornish the Boston Laureate a few times, and he is full of ideas and plans. Hopefully Somerville will follow …Poets Michael Brown and Valerie Lawson moved to Maine recently from the Cape. They have taken over the small literary magazine “Off the Coast.”and I am told they are looking for submits. Contact Brown at: firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
I had the pleasure to interview poet Eva Salzman on my SCAT show “ Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer” who was visiting from London. Salzman is the author of a new collection of poetry “Double Crossing…” ( Bloodaxe) She was also the good friend and mentor to the late Sarah Hannah. I had Hannah on my show before she took her own life about a year ago. Salzman gave an emotionally charged reading of Hannah’s work at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge last month, She tells me she edited a new anthology of women poets: “ Women’s Work: Modern Women Poets Writing in English.” It will be released soon…stay tuned.
Well Anne Elizabeth Tom, the new head of the Cape Cod Writers Center, has finished booking and planning their annual conference in August. Go to their website to see what the program includes. Mark Pawlak, Gloria Mindock and yours truly Doug Holder will be on the panel titled: “Demystifying the Small Press.”
Still no word on the Somerville Poet Laureate. Boston’s got its Cornish, Cambridge has its Payack, and Somerville has its??? The Word brought it up with Somerville alderman Bob Trane, and hopefully the Trane is on track pushing this through…will keep you posted.
Boston –area vocalist/poet Jennifer Matthews is leaving the area for good (along with her manager & BGG creator Rose Gardina) for the wilds of Alaska and the greener pastures of Europe. The Word has it that she plans to eventually settle in the West…so as Bob Dylan sang “ When your rooster crows at the break of dawn, look out your window and I’ll be gone…” Good luck!
Little did Tim Gager know that when he secured the services of novelist Junot Diaz for The Somerville News Writers Festival that Diaz would win the Pulitzer Prize. Well he did…stay tuned for November
Well April as Eliot wrote is, “the cruelest month,” but it is also poetry month. On April 12, Harris Gardner’s brainchild the “Boston National Poetry Festival” will be held at the Copley branch of the Boston Public Library at 10 A.M. Hey—it’s free, a whole bunch of established and emerging bards will read, open mic, book table—come on down. For more information contact Gardner at email@example.com.
At the Newton Free Library annual poetry festival the readers will be Freddie Frankel, Robert K. Johnson, and Deborah DeNicola. It starts at 7PM, April 8, 330 Homer St.,Newton Free Library, Newton, Mass.Cambridge poet Philip Burnham Jr. will have a poem read from his collection “Housekeeping” ( Ibbetson Street”) on the Writer’s Almanac on NPR April, 4. This is a national broadcast.
Congrats Philip! Well Bagel Bard Anne Elizabeth Tom is the new director of the Cape Cod Writers Center. Anne tells me she has lined up the creative writing head at Emerson College in Boston, Dan Tobin as poet –in-residence. THE WORD will be out at the center in August as part of a small press panel. Tim Gager, co-founder of the Somerville News Writers Festival has secured Junot Diaz as the featured reader in next November’s fest. Keep tuned on this one folks!
Well, THE WORD hopes March will be the proverbial lamb and warm up the creative juices with the promise of spring. Ibbetson poet Jennifer Matthews is back from her Italy tour, and she tells me that a publisher in that boot-shaped land wants to translate her Ibbetson poetry collection “Fairytales and Misdemeanors.” I think that “translates” into pretty damn-good news for this rocker/bard!
THE WORD recently suggested to Somerville alderman Robert Trane that he consider a Poet Laureate position for Somerville. I am told that Mayor Curatone fully supports the idea, and Trane has brought it up at the latest board meeting. My editor at The Somerville News was at the meeting and he opined that it has a good chance. Of course funding in these lean times are always a problem.
Meanwhile, my pal poet Harris Gardner invited me to the Parkman House in Boston for a reception for Sam Cornish, the new Poet/Laureate of Boston. Gardner was on the committee that selected Cornish. Hey, it was nice affair: good grub, witty conversation, Mayor Menino in attendance, and all those players on the Boston-area poetry scene.
Well Timothy Gager and The Word have been working feverishly on the next Somerville News Writers Festival. http://somervillenewswriterfestival.com So far we secured; Junot Diaz, Marty Beckerman, Dan Tobin, Meg Kearney, Steve Almond, Afaa Michael Weaver, Tino Villanueva…stay tuned.
THE WORD is proud to say it will be the featured poet in the journal of the groundbreaking avant-garde PRESA PRESS. “Presa” (the journal) will be out later this month. http://presapress.com And Poesy magazine (http://www.poesy.org) will be out online and hopefully in print this month. Harris Gardner, the impresario of the Boston poetry scene will be a featured subject of an interview by THE WORD. I am told the new edition will be perfect bound. Well, that’s just perfect.
From The Heart of Union Square, Somerville to the Heart of Israel
Up until this December (2007) I had never been overseas. I’m not a kid. At 52, I have arrived at the second half of the roller coaster ride, or as Camus put it by now I am “responsible for my own face.” I have never been the adventurous type. I have been content to travel back and forth to my ancestral grounds of New York City, or to my favorite isle in Maine, or perhaps the rare trip to the heat and swamps of Florida to visit an old friend. I was well traveled in Somerville of course: from the tony environs of Davis Square to the hinterlands of Sullivan Square. But when I had the offer to judge the “International Reuben Rose Poetry Award” sponsored by the “Voices Israel” literary organization, and to travel to Israel to run workshops and read from my own work, I was like a dog on a meat truck. I knew my time for travel had finally arrived. Mind you, for my maiden voyage, I was not traveling to a relatively benign England or France; I was heading to a part of the world that has seen its share of strife. But I never really had any doubts that I would undertake the trip, and I am glad that I did.
Say what you will about Israel’s foreign policy, it is none-the-less surrounded by countries hostile to its existence. Traveling the country from the mountains in the north, to the south and the Mediterranean Sea, there is a strong sense of a country under a siege. Soldiers, young women and men, with M-16s slung over their shoulders are a ubiquitous sight. Conducting workshops in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, it seemed that everybody had been intimately and recently affected by violence. I often stayed in homes or apartments complexes that were hit by SCUD missiles in the last Lebanese incursion. Security checks are common in restaurants and shops. But in spite of this the people I met were vibrant and alive.
The city of Jerusalem where I spent a little time in is a mosaic of ethnicity, architecture and intrigue. While in the “Holy City,” I was guided by “Voices” member Adrian Boas, a senior lecturer at Haifa University in Archeology. He was an expert guide who gave me some of the history of the city, took me to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Wailing Wall among other places. I placed a book of my poems “ Poems from Boston and Just Beyond: From The Back Bay to the Back Ward” in one of the many cracks and crevices in the wall. It kept company with the many folded notes people slip in. It was my own message in a bottle drifting out to sea.
Mike Scheidemann, the president of Voices, and one of the co-founders of the “World Congress of Poets,” sponsored by UNESCO, ferried me to many of my destinations, and I stayed on the kibbutz he resides in called "Yizre'el." "Yizre'el" is located about 60 miles outside of Tel Aviv. A kibbutz is an Israeli collective community. It combines socialism and Zionism in the form of practical Labor Zionism. The original kibbutzim developed as a pure communal mode of living.
"Yizre'el" is one of the last purely socialist kibbutzim. I ate some of my meals in the communal dining hall. The food was nothing fancy, but they had excellent produce, sardines, eggs, etc… A lot of their food is grown on their own farm. I was also told the kibbutz has its own fish farms, and produces internationally acclaimed pool filtration equipment in their factory. Schiedman told me that everyone on the kibbutz has their ownhouse, everyone from plant manager to dishwasher gets the same pay, and they all share a small fleet of communal cars. Each resident is required to have some type of job in this community.
Later in the trip I stayed in Metula, the most northern city in Israel. Metula is right next to the Lebanon border, and the town was hit over 100 times by SCUD missiles during the Lebanese incursion. I stayed in the home of Helen Bar-Lev and Johnmichael Simon. Bar Lev is a well-respected landscape painter in Israel and abroad. She used to own a successful art gallery in Jerusalem. She is the current editor- in -chief of the “Voices Israel” anthology. Her partner, John Michael Simon is a published poet, and a collaborator with her in many projects. Recently Bar Lev and Simon published a poetry collection “Cyclamens and Swords” with the Ibbetson Street Press.
There was an informal poetry workshop at their home. It included a female Rabbi, an art therapist, and an English teacher—in short an interesting mix. Like all the workshops I ran I found the participants as passionate about their poetry as they were about their politics.
Being the urban and hopefully urbane man that I am, I was anxious for more of a taste of the cities. One night I stayed at the home of Voices members Susan and Richard Rosenberg who have an apartment in Haifa. Susan is the secretary of the Voices organization. It is situated high up on a hill above the city, with a striking view of the Mediterranean. Wendy Blumfield, a journalist with the Jerusalem Post, and her husband David, were my guides around the city the next day. They showed me the old Arab Quarter, and the Jewish section that was peopled with many Hasidic Jews in full traditional garb.
Haifa is the third largest city in Israel. It is situated in the Carmel Mountains, and it has a terraced landscape with some breathtaking panoramas of the sea and the city. I had the chance to see the Bahai Shrine—a golden-domed spiritual center for the Bahai religion. The Bahai Garden around it is artfully manicured, making a striking picture for a legion of tourists’ cameras.
From Haifa the Rosenburgs escorted me by train to Tel Aviv. I had judged the “Voices” poetry competition so I was expected to help present awards, make a speech, and read from my own work at a venue in the city
Tel Aviv is the second most populated city in Israel after Jerusalem. It is located on the Mediterranean coastline. As we took a cab and traversed the downtown I got the impression of a sleek, modern city with little of the traditional trappings of Haifa. The award ceremony was held at the ZOA House. ZOA House was founded in the 1950’s. by the Zionist Organization of America. It has established itself as a cultural center for the city that operates 24 hours a day. In this center there are three auditoriums for theatre performance, a movie theatre, workshop, course facilities, an art gallery, etc…The ceremony took place in of all places “Douglas Hall” and was well-attended. The award-winning poets Zvi Sessling and Celia Merlin were announced and Merlin read from her work. The honorable mentions also read from their selected poems.
The last part of my trip was in the seaside resort of Netanya, on the seashore between Tel Aviv and Hadera. There is a long stretch of beach along the seemingly placid blue/green waters of the Mediterranean that I had a chance to jog on. There are a bunch of cafes, with relatively cheap food on the beach. I love hummus so I savored this creamy delicacy while enjoying the balmy weather and the ocean view. In fact it was so warm in this southern city that a few folks were swimming. What a contrast to the chilly environs of Jerusalem! Many Russian immigrants hang out at the beach, playing chess, cards, and down more than a few shots. There was a huge influx of these immigrants in the 1990’s I have been told.
The Hotel I was staying at was named the “Residence Hotel” It overlooked the beach, and my room had a tremendous view of the ocean. I ran two workshops at the hotel during Friday and Saturday. In attendance were a number of fine poets from Voices, many of whom won awards and honorable mention in the contest, including Celia Merlin the author of the second prize-winning poem: “Paris Unsaid.” It turned out that Celia’s sister Peri works at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., the very place I have worked at for the past 25 years. I used to work with Celia’s sister in the early 80’s, on the inpatient ward of McLean; which is world-renowned psychiatric hospital outside of Boston. For you poetry aficionados out there Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton, were all hospitalized at the hospital at one point. Sexton was most noted for the poetry workshops she ran at the hospital. Other poets in attendance at the workshop were Donna Bechar (who grew up in a neighboring town on Long Island, NY around the same time I did), Rena Nevon, who won a record of four honorable mentions in this year’s contest, and noted literary critic, Saul Bellow scholar, and peace activist Ada Aharoni. Aharoni, 74, has taught Comparative Literature at Haifa University, and she founded the group: “ The International Forum For Literature and Peace” of which she still is president.
Also in the workshop was actor/poet Amiel Schotz, who wrote a groundbreaking book for theatre training: “Theatre Games and Beyond: A Creative Approach for Young Performers.” Dara Baranat, a poet and faculty member of the English and American Studies Department at Tel Aviv University where she teaches creative writing and poetry was also an active participant.
I had my fears traveling across the world to the Middle East, especially in these troubling times, but I faced them. I was challenged on many fronts: the jam-packed schedule, finding relevant and helpful things to say about scores of work-shopped poems, and dealing with an unfamiliar culture and environment. But I am glad to say I have arrived back at my usual seat at the Sherman Café (and occasionally Bloc 11) in Somerville in one piece, and I am a much better man for the experience.
Well, the Somerville News Writers Festival was a hit. To see the pictures of this year’s festival go to: somervillenewswritersfestival.comI just got word that Timothy Gager has given birth to a new baby: a poetry collection that will be released by the Cervena Barva Press…stay tuned.
Seems like a lot of local poets are releasing books this season: Mary Bodwell of Cambridge has a new release from the “Finishing Line Press”: “Roomful of Sparrows.”…way to go Mary! Robert K. Johnson, submissions editor for “Ibbetson Street” has recently released a collection from “Mist to Shadow.” My good friend and founder of Tapestry of Voices, Harris Gardner has a collection out “Among Us” that deals with those heavenly denizens: angels! Richard Wilhelm’s collection “Awakenings” released by Ibbetson Street has finally hit the street!
I recently read out at the Poetry Session at O’Shea’s in Dennis, Mass. which is hosted by playwright and graphic artist: Greg Hischak. A good bunch of poets out there folks, contact Greg at: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
And I am off to Israel this month as a guest of the “Voices Israel” organization. I will be reading and conducting workshops in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and will be reading at Tel Aviv University.
The Word was sorry to hear that Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theatre is closing November 1. A lot of great shows were staged there, and I had the pleasure to review more than a few.
“Inflorescence” a poetry collection by the late poet Sarah Hannah is out from the Tupelo Press. Lo Galluccio will be reading a selection of Hannah’s poetry, as well as her own work, at the Somerville News Writers Festival , Nov. 11, 7PM at the VFW Hall, 371 Summer St. Davis Square, Somerville.
We are anxiously awaiting the debut of “Eden Waters” a new yearly anthology published by Bagel Bard Anne Brudevold. Keep tuned.Speaking of Bagel Bards, that Somerville/Cambridge band of poets and writers; it seems that five members are among the nominees for the Cambridge Populist Poet position!
And did you know that Somerville poet and Bagel Bard member Afaa Michael Weaver was featured in the current issue of Poets and Writers? His thoughtful mug is graced on the front of the said magazine. Weaver has recently released a new poetry collection: “ Plum Flower Dance.” (U Pitt Press)
I am proud to announce that I am traveling to Israel to judge the Rueben Rose Poetry Award for the “Voices Israel” literary group. I will be running workshops, and doing a few readings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I am very excited about it all.
There will be a memorial service for the late poet Sarah Hannah ( 1966-2007) at Poets House in NYC Oct. 25 7 to 9PM. The Tupelo Press has released a memoir in verse by Hannah: “Inflorescence.” Poet Lo Galluccio will read from Hannah’s work at the Somerville News Writers Festival www.somervillenewswritersfestival.com Nov. 11, 2007 at 7PM.
I got an email from poet Robin Clarke who runs a new poetry venue in West Dennis, on the Cape. Named the “Poetry Session,” it is housed at O’Shea’s Olde Inn. It meets the third Thursday of every month from 7 to 9PM. Open mic, music features. I hear the likes of Richard Cambridge, Valerie Lawson and others have read out there. I will be reading out there Nov. 15.
Speaking of a new poetry series; I hear that Gloria Mindock’s “Cervena Barva Press” reading series at the Pierre Menard Gallery 10 Arrow St. Harvard Square was a hit, Sept. 19. The readers were Lucille Lang Day, Diana Der-Hovanessian, and F.D. Reeve. I heard that my dear old friend David Slavitt was in the audience. How I miss him! The next reading will be Oct. 17. The featured readers: John Minczeski, Mark Pawlak, and Susan Tepper. Starts at 7 PM …wine and chesses and stuff follows… See you there!
Well gang, we hope to see you at church this Saturday ( Sept. 15). No. I haven't gone fundamentalist on you. But at the International Community Church 30 Gordon St. Allston ( right down from Twin Donut) there will be a 70th birthday celebration for Jack Powers. Such poets as Marc Widershien www.marccreate.com, Bob Clawson, Diana Der-Hovanessian, Linda Larson, Deb Priestly outoftheblueartgallery.com, will read in honor of the founder of Stone Soup Poets jackpowerspoet.blogspot.com Jack Powers. Sidewalk Sam, the celebrated street artist and veritable "Pavement Picasso" will preside. Music will be provided by the poetess and songwriter Jennifer Matthews jennifermatthews.com and the "Blue Dust Drifters" Potluck dinner is scheduled so please bring a dish, a poem to read, and a friend. Starts at 5PM.
I hear that Don Share, former curator of the Harvard Poetry Room, and editor at the Harvard Review, is in Chicago, and is working as a senior editor at Poetry Magazine. No word on the new curator of the Poetry Room, but we will keep you informed. They are looking for someone with strong library science skills, as well as having a font of knowledge about poetry.
A few new poetry titles are out by the Ibbetson Street Press: ibbetsonpress.com Robert K. Johnson's "From Mist to Shadow," Linda Larson's "Washing the Stones," "Blood Soaked Dress" by Gloria Mindock and "Sonatina" by Johnmichael Simon. Many of these books can be purchased at lulu.com
The fine Somerville small press sunnyoutside.com has shuffled up to the artic-like environs of Buffalo, N.Y. We wish Dave McNamara and his band of brothers and sisters good luck!
And I can't keep track of poetic whirlwind Gloria Mindock. (new reading series, books, etc...). You can though...Check out her newsletter at cervenabarvapress.com The word has it she is going to be releasing a book by Boston-poet Harris Gardner. Gardner tells me its' all about angels. He didn't tell me more. Maybe the devil is in those details, pal!
And who will be Cambridge's populist poet? Names like Deborah M. Priestly, Richard Cambridge, and Charles Coe have been making the rounds. Time will tell.
Well, two venues of publishing and readings for and by the small press in the Boston-area will have a reading at Schoenhof’s Books in Harvard Square, Aug 18 at 4PM. Lee Kidd the founder of the “Squawk Coffeehouse”, and “Squawk” magazine, and yours truly( Doug Holder) founder of the Ibbetson Street Press,will read from their work.
Did you know the founder of Stone Soup Poets Jack Powers will be turning 70? Well there is going to be a party for him Sept 15 at 5PM at the International Community Church in Allston, 30 Gordon St. Email me for details: email@example.com
Although not formally known as a poet, The Word” was sorry to hear that “Mr. Butch” a beloved street figure in the Hub (mostly between Kenmore Square and Allston/Brighton) passed away at the age of 56 in a motor scooter accident. Butch was known to spouts bits of verse and wisdom over the years, and “The Word” will miss him.
And “The Word” has heard that Linda Larsen former editor of Spare Change News will be releasing a book of poetry this summer from a local press. Poet Anne Brudevold, has a new baby, and she named it the “Eden Waters Press." The first issue is due out this fall.
And do you have a book project in mind? My good friend Steve Glines has started a new agency that may be just the thing the doctor ordered. ISCS PRESS http://www.iscspress.comCheck them out!
Poesy Magazine http://poesy.org, founded some 17 years ago by Brian Morrisey was the top pick of the month in the Small Press Review. (May/June) Hundreds of small press mags from around the country are sent to SPR, so competition is tight. I am proud to say that for nine years I have been the Boston editor of the said magazine. The folks at http://sunnyoutside.com are churning out books at a good clip. I just got poetry titles in the mail from Nathan Graziano, and Christopher Cunnigham. Dave McNamara, founder of the press, is leaving Somerville at the end of the summer. The “Word” wishes him well.
I was asked to participate in a small press publishing panel at U/Mass Boston, as part of the William Joiner Writers’ Workshop last month. On the panel were Mark Pawlak (Hanging Loose Press), Sara Burke (Peacework), and others… I also attended a panel on politics and publishing at the Center and chatted with Lady Borton, the noted translator. She tells me that she has a book she edited of Vietnamese poetry titled “Defiant Muse” coming out from the Feminist Press.
“The Word” has it that Cynthia Brackett Vincent publisher of the “Aurorean” is editing an anthology: “Words&Images of Belonging,” and she is looking for submissions. Email her for details: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ibbetson Street Press http://email@example.com has had a flurry of new releases including poetry collections from Wilderness House Literary Review http://www.whlreview.com poetry editor Irene Koronas, not to mention Emerson College prof. Abbott Ikeler, and rumor has it that Robert K. Johnson (submission editor for the Ibbetson Street Press), and Linda Larsen (former editor of Spare Change News) will have releases later this summer.
"The Word" has it that long-time curator of the Harvard Poetry Room Don Share, is leaving for Chicago to be senior editor of "Poetry" magazine.Jack Powers, founder of "Stone Soup Poets" (1971) is celebrating his 70th birthday Sept 15, 2007. A dinner and reading will be held at the International Community Church in Allston, Mass. at 5PM. Contact me if you want to attend, read a poem, or bring a dish for the potluck dinner. Rumor has it that poet/vocalist Jennifer Matthews and Powers' sons will be providing the music!
Sad News. "The Middlesex Beat" a magazine for the arts that I wrote for has folded after 8 years. Doreen Manning, the editor, did a great job and "The Word" wishes her good luck on her next venture.Cambridge, Mass. poet Lo Galluccio got a glowing front page review for her book "Poems for Dave Tronzo," in Len Fulton's "Small Press Review.' Way to go Lo.
"The Word's" good friend Beth Purcell, PR Guru for the Newton Free Library in Newton, Mass., is leaving her post of many years to teach. Beth has been very supportive of the "Newton Free Library Poetry Series" and she will be sorely missed.
Word is poet/singer/songwriter Jennifer Matthews will be at St. Peter's Church in Central square on Friday May 11th for a special evening that will transform & transcend you..
Tala... 'Sacred World Music' debut performance featuring Jennifer Matthews on Lead Vocal, Gtr, Tev Stevig on Oud, Saz, Chumbush, Gtr, and Mike Daillak on World Percussion. Talas' music is as intoxicating as it is inspiring...combining styles ranging from the Middle East, Africa and American Roots.. Tala will send you soaring through the stratosphere.
Also sharing the bill is Hudost... an 'Alternative World Music' ensemble with Moksha Somers on Lead Vocal, Harmonium and Jemal Wade on Gtrs & Mandolin... Hudost music ranges in style from Alternative World to their own 'Country and Eastern' Fusion - a blending of traditional Sufi Music, Bulgarian & Balkan Translations, Turkish, Arabic, Folk, Pop and Southern Gospel. Get tickets at the door or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, it is true; Robert Pinsky former poet/laureate of the United States has emailed me and said he will accept the Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award at the Somerville News Writers Festival next November. Tim Gager, co-founder of the said festival, has secured the services of Oscar-nominated novelist Tom Perrotta as a featured reader for our fiction lineup. Other poets in the festival will be: Gloria Mindock, Sarah Hannah, and Danielle Legros Georges.
Rumor has it that Cambridge poet Douglas Worth has agreed to edit Somerville poet Richard Wilhelm's first collection of poetry. This long-time arts/editor of the Ibbetson Street Press will be turning sixty soon, so it's about friggin time!
The Bagel Bards, that band of bagel- chomping poets and writers will be reading at the Somerville Museum June 23 from 3 to 5 PM, as part of the "Imagining Somerville" extravaganza.The legendary San Francisco poet A.D. Winans' apartment was burnt down and he is now living with his sister out-of-town. He is still writing up a storm; stay well my friend.
Ed Galing, that soon -to-be ninety year old poet/laureate of Hatboro, PA. has not slowed down a bit, and is getting published in every nook and cranny of the small press. An inspiration to us all!
Well the new "Bagel Bard" anthology is out and available from http://www.lulu.com The "Bagel Bards" is a group of iconoclastic poets and writers who have been meeting at the Au Bon Pain in Central Square, Cambridge, and Davis Square, Somerville for the past two years. This is the second anthology they have released. Harris Gardner's brainchild "The Boston National Poetry Month Festival" will be held at the Boston Public Library (Copley Square) April 14 to 15 this year. Go to http://www.tapestryofvoices.com for more information.
On a personal note: yours truly will have two new poetry collections released by two cutting-edge Somerville presses titled " No One Dies at the Au Bon Pain"(http://sunnyoutside.com) and "Of All The Meals I Had Before," (http://cervenabarvapress.com)
The oldest literary magazine in the state "the new renaissance" http://tnrlitmag.netis rumored to have a new home at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. We will keep you posted.
Somerville poet Afaa Michael Weaver had two poems in what some would call the most prestigious poetry magazine in the country "Poetry" He also made the front cover.Way to go Afaa!
Tim Gager is starting to grease his wheels so he can bring us another Somerville News Writers Festival
http://somervillenewswritersfestival.comthis November. I have already selected a few poets for the festival. You want names?... stay tuned.Hugh Fox, that bad boy (well, the bad elderly man) of the small press scene is slated to visit Cambridge's "Out of the BlueGallery"http://outoftheblueartgallery.com for a book party and reading for his newpoetry collection to be released by Higganum Hill Books in May.
There is a new journal on the literary scene “Tuesday; An Art Project” tuesdayjournal.com, and they had an inaugural reading at Lame Duck Books in Cambridge, Mass. Always good to see a new lit mag hit the streets.I noticed my old pal from The Somerville News, Amber Johns is on the staff… what comes around goes around. The “Celebration of Somerville’s Small Presses” played to a packed house at Richard Cambridge’s Poets Theatre at Club Passim in Harvard Square. Special thanks to Dave McNamara of sunnyoutside press, Gloria Mindock of Cervena Barva Press, and Lo Galluccio for making this possible.
“The Word” has it that Lo Galluccio has signed a contract for a new poetry collection to be published in 2008 from the Cervena Barva Press in Somerville, Mass. I hear the Diesel Cafe in Davis Square, Somerville is going to put up a new branch in Union Square, Somerville…and folks there is going to be poetry there…I’ll keep you posted.
The Somerville News and Poetry Series headed by singer/songwriter Lisa Locke is a hit, with packed crowds, at that fine independent bookstore” Porter Square Books,”portersquarebooks.com in Cambridge. It meets the first Sunday of every month from 3 to 5PM. Open Mic included. This month’s featured poet is Valerie Lawson—who has a new book out.
A lot of activity in the Small Press around town. Gloria Mindock of Somerville’s Cervena Barva Press has released a chapbook of fiction by Ian Randall Wilson “Out of the Arcadian Ghetto.” Check it out at cervenabarvapress.com
And in “The Word’s” mailbox—a beautifully illustrated book by Cambridge resident Andre B. Toth, with writings by Julia H. Low. The introduction reads: “This little book is dedicated to the residents and friends of the City of Cambridge.” Want a copy? Contact: email@example.com
I was at my usual seat at my old haunt in Union Square, Somerville “Sherman” Café (they have a wonderful oatmeal scone-folks.), where I talked with Mike O’Connell, the curator of the Somerville Museum. Mike’s last brainchild is “Imagining Somerville: Discovering A City Through Art,” a collaborative effort from artists of many mediums to present works that will hopefully influence the way Somerville is perceived and defined. There is going to be a poetry and writing component to this… “The Word” will keep you posted.
Harris Gardner is working feverishly on the “Boston National Poetry Festival” scheduled for April 2007 at the Boston Public Library tapestryofvoices.com “The Word” will be there and will read there.
Also Tim Gager and yours truly will be meeting with the powers-that-be at “The Somerville News” thesomervillenews.com to plan yet another “Somerville News Writers Festival” slated for next November.
"The Word" has it that Molly Lynn Watt the popular host of the "Fireside Reading Series" in the People's Republic of Cambridge has a poetry collection to be released by Somerville's scrappy independent press "Ibbetson Street." She calls her baby "Shadow People." Simmons College professor Richard Wollman and co-director of the "Zora Neale Hurston Center" at the said college has a new poetry collection out from Stanley Moss' Sheep Meadow Press: "Evidence of Things Seen."
Poet/Vocalist Jennifer Matthews tells me she's got a gig with the original founding member of the J. Giles band "Danny Klein & Friends" in June. Stay tuned for that one! Get her current schedule @ myspace.com/jennifermatthews
And Lo Gallucio, poetry editor "The Alewife" has a memoir she's shopping around titled: "Birdman" I read it and it rocks! You can read an excerpt on my literary blog: doughholder.blogspot I have been told that U/Mass Boston is opening a creative writing MFA program, to be headed by poet Joyce Peseroff.
Oh did you read Alex Beam's column the other day about poet/translator David Slavitt? Seems that Beam is of the opinion that Dave is a pornographer as well. Dave you are so eclectic!
Well another Somerville News Writers Festival has come and gone. It was great to hear readers such as: Nick Flynn, Joanne Nealon, Marc Widershien, Marc Goldfinger, Tim Gager, Michael McGlone, Hugh Fox, Steve Almond, Lisa Carver, and Lifetime Achievement Award winner David R. Godine. The festival was not without controversy… but hey, tell me about one that doesn’t have any!
I am proud to report that my article on 89 year old Hatboro, PA. Poet Laureate Ed Galing, will be in “Rattle” magazine this month. Galing puts us youngsters to shame, and is still writing up a storm. He calls me almost everyday with his latest publication credits. The December issue of “Rattle” will be dedicated to poets of the “Greatest Generation.” (World War ll era)
A few folks around the area and my little circle have been nominated for that coveted small press award the “Pushcart.” On my list are: Lo Galluccio (Poet and Cambridge Alewife columnist), Ibbetson Street Press art/editor Richard Wilhelm, Emerson College professor Sarah Hannah, and Spare Change Poetry editor, Marc Goldfinger.
Deb Priestly’s popular "Open Bark” poetry series at the “Out of the Blue Art Gallery,” in Cambridge, is now presenting features, and who is booking them?... Bagel Bard poet Mike Adamo, that’s who!
Speaking of the “Bagel Bards,” they are rather nomadic these days—splitting their time between the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square and the Au Bon Pain in Central Square. (I’m talking Somerville, Cambridge respectively). Jan Gardner of the “Boston Globe” calls them “the moveable feast,” and “poetry in motion.” For more info about the Bards call 617-628-2313.
The “Word” has it that Boston area poets: Sarah Hannah (Professor Emerson College), Lo Galluccio (Cambridge Alewife Poetry Editor), Richard Wilhelm (Arts-Editor/ Ibbetson Street Press), Marc Goldfinger (Poetry- Editor/ Spare Change News), and Tomas O’Leary (Wilderness House Literary Review), have been nominated for the venerable small press award “The Pushcart Prize.”
Rumors abound: Somerville’s independent press “sunnyoutside,” is pondering publishing an encyclopedia of Somerville, Mass. You never know what Dave McNamara, the founder, is up to next!
While sipping my java at the Diesel Café in Davis Square, Somerville I noticed this popular spot is putting out their own lit mag “Work.” The “Word” has it that they will take some submits from folks other than their employees. Send your literary works to: info@ diesel-café.com
And my friend and founder of the Cervena Barva Press in Somerville, Gloria Mindock is opening an online bookstore the “Lost Bookshelf” that I encourage all you poets and writers out there to send your books to. For more info go to: http://www.cervenabarvapress.com.
While leafing through the Fall 2006 Season Program for Poet’s House in New York City, I noticed that my pal Afaa Michael Weaver is reading at the “Cave Canem” celebration along with such all-stars poets as: Yusef Komunyaka, Walter Mosley, Major Jackson, Lucille Clifton, to name just a few. The reading will be Oct 12 to Oct 14. “Cave Canem” is a retreat that for the last decade has been dedicated to nurturing emerging African- American poets. Go to http://www.poetshouse.org for more info.
A couple of years ago I was a visiting poet at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. Well, I noticed in my dog-eared copy of “The Best American Poetry: 2006” that a poem from the “Endicott Review” was selected. Congrats to Dan Sklar the Creative Writing head. The word has it he is starting a new MFA program out there.
The next reading at the Newton Free Library will feature poet and songster Lo Galluccio (“Hot Rain”) http://logalluccio.com, Jean Monahan http://jeanmonahan.com, and Richard Cambridge. Jean has a new book out the “Mauled Illusionist,” and Richard is the curator of the “Poet’s Theatre” at Club Passim in Harvard Square.
By-the-way former poet/laureate Robert Pinsky phoned me at home to graciously bow out of the Somerville News Writers Festival. ( Nov. 12 Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theatre—Davis Square) http://somervillenewswritersfestival.com However David R. Godine, legendary Boston small press publisher and new owner of the famed “Black Sparrow Press” imprint, will be around to accept the Ibbetson Street Lifetime Achievement Award.
I just interviewed local poet and songwriter Lisa Locke http://www.lisalocke.net . She’s slated to take over the “Somerville News Poetry and Music Series” from Chiemi in November, and move it from the Tir Na Nog to the Porter Square Bookstore. http://portersquarebooks.com.
Well September is here, and the "Word" has its nosey little ear to thegrapevine. Bagel Bard member, and Simmons College literature professor Richard Wollman has a new poetry book out: "Evidence of Things Seen," from the Sheep Meadow Press of N.Y.
The Mad Poets Café at the Warwick Rhode Island Art Museum had its final event in August with readers Timothy Gager and yours truly.
There is a rumor, well, isn't there always one or two floating around?. that the Somerville News Poetry and Music Series is heading for Porter Square Books in the Fall, with a new host.stay tuned!
I met with visiting Israel poet, and "Voices Israel" editor Helen Bar Lev at my favorite haunt in Brookline, Mass. Zaftig's ( they make a mean bagel and lox), and she tells me she is working on a manuscript of poems about her said country along with her stunning illustrations. she gave me a peek. She's looking for a publisher.hey I'm one, no? Ran into an old publisher/friend of mine Diana Saenz of http://www.bostonpoet.com fame. She said she is ready to release an anthology of poetry that includes Somerville's own poet laureate ( I say he is.so there!) Afaa Michael Weaver.
“The Word” is out that the Newton Free Library Poetry Series is up again Sep 12, 7PM with poets Ifeanyi Menkiti, Mark Pawlak, and Jennifer Matthews…that’s 330 Homer St. in Newton Centre.
Well…I was in contact with former poet/laureate Robert Pinsky, and he looks like a good bet to be at the The Somerville News Writers Festival this November to receive the Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award…somervillenewswritersfestival.com
Hard to believe, but I ventured out from the safe environs of my native Somerville recently to go to Watertown Community Access TV to take part in the filming of a documentary based on local writer Susie Davidson’s Holocaust anthology “I Refused to Die…” http://www.irefusedtodie.com I am told the film should be out in a few weeks…”The Word” will keep you posted…
Somerville poets Alex Kern and Bert Stern are making a few waves…. Seems that Kern has edited an anthology of spiritual poetry and prose by twenty and thirty-somethings, and he calls the collection “Becoming Fire…”
Bert Stern knows that old age isn’t for sissies, so he has become involved in a new venture “Off the Grid Press” that published poetry books by writers over sixty…you’ll have to wait your turn kiddies! http://offthegridpress.net
Oh…by-the-way at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square, in Somerville Mass. the “Bagel Bards” are baking in the summer sun, and talking about poetry and other such stuff every Saturday morning starting at 9AM…come and go whenever you want…
Louisa Solano, former owner of Harvard Square famed Grolier Poetry Book Shop is slated to be the luncheon guest at the “Wilderness House Literary Retreat” Aug. 5, in Littleton, Mass. The retreat was founded by Steve Glines…want to find out more? …go to http://www.wildernesshouse.org...
The "Word" has it that writer Nick Flynn has agreed to be a featured reader at the "Somerville News Writers Festival," this November. Flynn is the author of the acclaimed memoir "Another Bullshit Night In Suck City."... And rumor has it that the former Poet/Laureate Robert Pinsky has tentatively agreed to be the recipient of the "Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award," at the same festival.
Roaming around my old stomping grounds at Harvard, I noticed that the Lamont Library poetry room has closed for renovations for the summer and will reopen in September. And yes there is life beyond the Charles River, local literary activist Tim Gager, founder of the Dire Reader Series held at the Out of the Blue Art Gallery in Cambridge, is scheduled to read for Harris Gardner's "Tapestry of Voices" series at the Warwick Art Museum ( Warwick, Rhode Island) with yours truly in August.
Sad news for you literary, java freaks... it seems the "Someday Café" in Davis Square lost its lease ( according to The Somerville Journal) and will be closing in the dog days of August. I wrote many a poem and ate many a scone in that hallowed hole-in-the wall. The café is to be replaced, I hear, by a " Mr. Crepe." Don't that take the cake, or crepe, as the case may be.