Monday, March 02, 2015

Complicity, by Adam Sol – A Review

Complicity, by Adam Sol – A Review
(McClellan &Stewart, 2014)

Adam Sol

Review by Denise Provost

I chose to read Complicity, the fourth book by Canadian poet Adam Sol, to see what writings might warrant the title of the collection. The title itself inspires a kind of furtive curiosity – in what might the poet consider whom to be complicit?

The answer would seem to be: pretty much everyone, in pretty much every human endeavor, from the civic to the intimate. The poem “Note Found in a Copy of a Midsummer Night’s Dream,” for instance, conflates two texts to induce queasiness about relationships between men and women:

        It’s the moment when Helena pursues
              Demetrius into the forest.
        Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me   
        Bryan, I love you and I don’t want you
            To feel like you raped me….

Sol displays an utter unsentimentality about human relationships. “Evening Song” presents a single mother, recounting, “Laundry panic/Phone bill panic/Anger panic/ Television/A new scar on my arm” and musing:

            Tuesday night.
            After my shift,
            I’ve got the whole            
bus ride home to
decide if I should live.

Sol’s poems about people have a current of tenderness running through. Take “Nearly Blank Calendar”,
In which the bed bath of a disabled man is described with a clinical accuracy verging on reverence. Both the patient himself (Her husband, needing a change,/accepts the spoon/of pudding she nudges/past his teeth./Butterscotch./His surprised eyes….) and his attendant wife (Pillcase.Tissue/Radio.Gave up hope. Breakfast./Two hours sleep) are portrayed with the kind of compassion displayed in early Renaissance or Flemish paintings depicting the sufferings of religious figures.

Sol has far less mercy towards our more depersonalizing institutions. In writing about the public realm, however, he doesn’t come off as cynical, just painfully perceptive. In “Engagement,” he comments on warfare:

        Their commanders have intentions and intelligence, but they are wrong.
        We’ve heard the story before. It’s wrong.
        The news will document it, but it will be wrong….

He takes on domestic surveillance in “Security Cameras” (“Sweethearts in school uniforms spoon froyo/into each other’s mouths on a bench across/from the Korean consulate./Death to the infidels.”), and skewers the whole domestic security apparatus in “Security Review”:

        We were concerned about an element
        and wanted to protect the delegates
        from injury or, worse, embarrassment….
        The outcome was that we preserved the peace.
        We whored our city, then fingered the receipts.

But Sol’s poems are not screeds. They are too full of nuance – and anguish – to be so dismissed. “Ivory Fugue” weaves images of elephant-headed Hindu deity Ganesh with clinical descriptions of the slaughter and de-tusking of elephants (courtesy of National Geographic Magazine, according to the acknowledgements at the back of the book. The lovely, but excruciating “Poem for Noah Pozner” – the youngest of the school children shot to death in Newtown, Connecticut – ends with words from Noah’s mother, taken from an account of an interview with her:
                I just
                want people to
                know the ugliness
                of it so we
                don’t talk about it
                abstractly, like
                these little
                angels just
                went to heaven. No
                They were

Fragments – and larger pieces – of found text are woven into many of the poems in Complicity. It’s clear that Sol is an omnivorous reader, but not just that. Above all, he possesses a voracious intelligence, which finds and creates connections from sphere to sphere.  His relentless efforts to make sense of the world employ information from many unexpected sources.

Sol’s poems are not always an easy read, but are also not without humor. “Dwarf” juxtaposes the changing status of Pluto – planet, or ex-planet – with the worthiness of art as human endeavor. “We Oppose the Teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills” riffs on a plank from the 2012 platform of the Texas Republican Party.

We may have much to make amends for, much to repudiate. Have we not all be complicit in some folly or another, some failing? Skewering our complicities, Sol yet affirms them as part of our human condition. He may not let us off easy – but he understands; he’s complicit, too.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The King of Second Avenue Book and Lyrics by Robert Brustein

The King of Second Avenue
Book and Lyrics by Robert Brustein
Muisc by Hankus Netsky
Directed by Matthew ‘Motl’ Didner
July 12-15
New Repertory Theatre
at the Arsenal Center, Watertown, MA

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

My wife Susan absolutely loved this musical enjoying its world premiere at the New Repertory Theater in the Arsenal Center, Watertown, MA. In fact, she loved it so much she went twice and I understand.

The story is based on “King of the Schnorrers” by Israel Zangwill that takes place in early 20th century England. Robert Brustein has transplanted the play to New York’s Lower East Side in the format of the long dead Yiddish Theatre. It also throws in a bit of Brustein’s affection for Shakespeare in the form of a “Romeo and Juliet” theme, which when you add music and disagreeing tribes of Jews instead of Puerto Ricans and whites, harks on the Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim masterpiece of “West Side Story.” Many Yiddish words and Klezmer music add to the atmospheric by-gone days.  What has been created is a 1920s time piece that takes place in the 1960s.   Go figure.

The play is a comedic gem, especially appealing to the older Jewish audience the evening I attended. It also provides a window into what – more than a century ago – was a schism between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.  In the Zangwill/Brustein view the Sephardic in the persona of an out of work actor named Da Costa is a kinder, gentler, smarter man than his Ashkenazi foil named Lapidus.  In the  course of the play Da Costa outwits Lapidus conning him out of his pants, his food and especially his money. 

The play has a many one liners, catchy songs and dance numbers with Klezmer music, often called Jewish Jazz. The orchestra is perfectly matched to the performance and actors. The music by Hankus Netsky, who is founder and director the New England Conservatory’s Klezmer Conservatory Band has served up a plate of music that had the audience clapping and toe tapping to the hypnotic tunes. 
Matthew ‘Motl’ Didner’s direction was precision perfect, bringing out the best of the actors.He also assured exactness of the timing between actors and orchestra while using the scenic designs of Jon Savage and costume designs of Frances McSherry to portray the rundown areas of the Lower East Side along with the schnorrers (beggars), fishmongers, early 1900s police.

As for the actors, Da Costa, played by Will Lebow was excellent, his con man-schnorrer convincing and humorous.  His singing was well done and even his attempts at Eastern European dancing did nothing to distract from the action on stage.  The same can be said of Jeremiah Kissel’s Joseph E. Lapidus who played the snookered foil as if he were one himself.  Kathy St. George as Lapidus’s wife Rosalie played her dual role – she was also one of the schnorrers – flawlessly and her take off on a torch song would probably be a show stopper on Broadway.  Dolores, Da Costa’s daughter was finely portrayed by Abby Goldfarb, Ken Cheeseman was a funny butler, perfect “ nothing, see nothing” policeman, fishmonger and schnorrer.   Remo Airaldi (Schmuelly), who kept reminding me of Danny DeVito was one of the highlights of the evening with his singing and acting.  If there was one disappointment it would be Alex Pollack as Joseph E. Lapidus Jr. in that he was hard to understand and, while his character was not likeable, one felt he was not up to the task.

The play has proved popular enough to have several performances added to its stay at the New Rep and if you can find a ticket to this mostly sold out run, pay the money and go see it, on one of these cold, snowy days. It will bring you warmth, perhaps make you qvell.
Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer, Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7

Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 8

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

City of Somerville: Official Notice of the New Poet Laureate: Nicole Terez Dutton

 City of Somerville, Massachusetts
Joseph A. Curtatone

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 February 24, 2015

Somerville resident and accomplished poet, Terez Dutton will serve two year term.

SOMERVILLE – Last month, the City of Somerville gained its first-ever Poet Laureate in Nicole Terez Dutton, a Somerville resident with an impressive literary background. A teacher at the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College, Nicole’s work has been featured in Callaloo, Ploughshares, 32 Poems, Indiana Review, and Salt Hill Journal. She has been awarded fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Cave Canem and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

“Somerville has so much creative energy and power, and we are well known for our vibrant arts scene. Similarly, we have a talented, well-educated, and thoughtful writer’s community that needs a voice. In Nicole Terez Dutton, Somerville gains a tremendous advocate and partner for the writing arts, and I am proud to welcome her as our City’s first Poet Laureate,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone.

The City announced in late 2014 that it was seeking candidates to enhance the profile of poets and poetry in Somerville and surrounding communities. The Poet Laureate is expected to bring poetry to segments of the community that currently have less access or exposure to poetry: senior citizens, youth, and schools. The Poet Laureate will serve a two-year term, appointed by the Mayor, and will be provided an honorarium of $2,000 per year.

“Nicole’s work is poised and insightful, and I think it will really resonate with the Somerville community,” said Greg Jenkins, Director of the Somerville Arts Council. “She conveyed a thoughtful perspective on her approach to this new position, and has a passion for promoting poetry through collaboration with youth, elders, and community groups. We’ve gained an impressive ambassador in Nicole Terez Dutton.”

The Poet Laureate was chosen based on a series of criteria, including excellence in craftsmanship, professional achievement, and creating a vision for the position.

“I am thrilled to have been chosen as Somerville’s Poet Laureate and am excited to collaborate with the very talented and passionate members of our community to make poetry more accessible,” said Terez Dutton. “It is an amazing opportunity to share what I love, to connect with writers and readers, and to bring poetry into wider conversation.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thursday, March 5th, will be the hottest night of the year. Women Musicians Network 18th annual concert.

Thursday, March 5th, will be the
hottest night of the year.
Women Musicians Network
18th annual concert.

By Kirk Etherton

    The Berklee Performance Center is the place to be. You'll see 11 original acts: Jazz, Latin, spoken word, funk, pop/R&B, rock, and more. The focus is on Berklee women students and their bands from around the world. 25 countries are represented (including the U.S.).

    This year's special guests are Berklee faculty Melissa Ferrick (acclaimed singer/ songwriter who's released 17 albums), plus Helen Sherrah-Davies and Vessela Stoyanova. (Vessela on midi-marimba and Helen on five-string violin; they play a unique Balkan/jazz.)

    This high-powered, eclectic show is always memorable, and always different. It's directed by Berklee faculty Lucy Holstedt and Christiane Karam.

    Student standouts include Cuban pianist Zahilli Zamora, Mexican poet Joaquina Mertz, and Thai singer/songwriter Prong Praison (to name just three).  NOTE: men are not excluded; you'll see plenty of very fine, non-female musicians.

    Tickets are only $12. Go to

Women Musicians Network
18th Annual Concert, 2015
Thursday, March 5th, 8:00 pm
Berklee Performance Center
136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cindy Hochman: Habeas Corpus

Cindy Hochman
Habeas Corpus
Glass Lyre Press, LLC
Glenview, IL
© Copyright 2015 by Cindy Hochman
ISBN-10: 1941783023
ISBN-13: 978-1941783023
Softbound, 27 pages, $12

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

This is a book about body parts.  Before you say yuk, let me tell you it is very entertaining. Let me also, for disclosure say that Ms. Hochman published my poetry in her magazine, First Literary Review - East and I will be publishing her this fall in Muddy River Poetry Review.  Having confessed, I can now say that I did judge this book objectively and of the body parts she writes about I have never thought of in quite the same way, except one, which you will figure out if you read this short (27 pages, 13 poems) book.  She writes about the womb, legs, tongue, mouth, liver, fingers, eyebrows, heart, mind eyes, ears, ears (revised), breasts and full body scan.

Yes, she has really written these, and they are quite personal, and all as prose poems, some half a page long, some only one line or two.

Hochman also is prone to puns such as “Eve didn’t know her asp from her elbow because she was too busy tendon her garden.” (from “Womb”).

“Tongue,” on the other hand, is a one line touching tribute to both religion and her father:
“This tongue has said hello to God—and good-bye to Dad.”

Her poem “Heart (a sonnet)” is a hysterical take on former vice president Dick Cheney, and unless you are fan of his or his former boss, you will enjoy her take down of this forever politician. 

And when you read “Full Body Scan,” you will wonder whether it is all true, and I believe it probably is, given she lives in Brooklyn, NY and has survived all these adventures, years and people she has encountered.

Hochman has her own style and way of saying things which is very enjoyable and easy to read.  She is, however, more difficult to classify.  Is she a confessional poet, a dramartic poet or a humorist?  Maybe all of them—sometimes in one poem.  

I really did find the book not only funny but serious – a dichotomy, yes, but nonetheless one which I recommend to all.  You can probably get it by emailing the publisher, Glass Lyre Press at or you can order directly from the poet by emailing

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and  Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review

Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7& 8

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Poet Laureate Wants to Inspire: Somerville's Nicole Terez Dutton

Nicole Terez Dutton


 Interview with


Somerville, MA, Feb. 11 – Somerville recently opened its arms to the city’s first new Poet Laureate. Poet Nicole Terez Dutton hopes to expand poetry through various venues and programs around the city.

“For me personally, it means I have the opportunity to bring attention and to bring my passion to more people,” Dutton told Somerville Neighborhood News (SNN).

With the help of the City and the Somerville Arts Council, Dutton will have support to network and build programs, but she must be the one to carry out projects.

“The first thing I want to do is to implement an apprenticeship program so that youth have the opportunity to have workshops and tutelage in poetry. My hope is to implement poetry into the schools and implement a mentorship program where I work with,” she said.

At a very young age, the Cleveland, Ohio native was impressed by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, whom first met while in grade school. Dutton recalls the experience to be “incredibly inspiring.”

“Mary Oliver is a fantastic poet who came to my school,” she remembered. “She’s from Ohio and she sat with us and read her poems and she talked about her life as a poet and that was incredibly inspiring. I remember as a young person how you can be really compelled by someone just taking the time to share themselves. I hope to bring other poets into schools to do that as well.”
Dutton began her teaching career in 2007 and currently works at the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College. It’s one of the programs Dutton takes pride in, mostly in part of helping writers build their poems through their life experiences.

“It’s a treat and a privilege for me to work with people who are really invested in their own growth as writers, to have those types of intensive conversations with them and be able to watch them grow and learn and work so hard towards their own goals,” she said.

In 2011, Dutton won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for her collection If One of Us Should Fall. She has recited her collection in open mic events, poetry slams, and poetry salon series. Her work has been well respected among those in poetry in creative writing.

“I have always felt that her poetry reflected a greater imagination, a greater capacity for the kind of use of language that to me makes for a great poem, the kind that cracks the reader into a new understanding of reality and teaches a reader how words can be used in new and breathtakingly innovative ways,” Tom Daley, poetry writing instructor at the Boston Center for Adult Education, told SNN during a “Round Robin” Poetry evening in Boston.

Dutton was the featured poet in January meeting of salon series, led by Daley. The event gives the opportunity for poets to recite and discuss thought-provoking poems. Her participation in the series sparked another goal for her to accomplish as Poet Laureate, and that is to expand the salon series in Somerville.

Somerville resident Jason Henry Simon-Bierenbaum was at the evening.
“I have read her books a few times; I’ve used it to teach. It was just really nice to see her reading from it, and her warm presence and just hearing some of her approaches,” he said.

 Dutton  is happy to be in a community that supports “growing young poets.”

“I want people to know that I am open and I am available,” she said. “I am an accessible person and I’m really interested in working with people to get things accomplished, so if people have ideas or if people want to invite me to come to the classroom or they have a notion for other poets to come to where they are to set up events, we can make that happen.”

Joanna Fuhrman’s "The Year of Yellow Butterflies"

Joanna Fuhrman

Joanna Fuhrman’s "The Year of Yellow Butterflies"  ( Hanging Loose Press-2015)

Review by Amanda Gnau

Joanna Fuhrman’s "The Year of Yellow Butterflies" takes profound elements of surrealism accompanied with a feeling of pure nostalgia, that allows for a mind boggling read. Each poem in this book is able to captivate the reader and create a desire in their mind to understand the purpose and motive. Each poem tells a part of her story growing up and figuring out what life is all about. At  first glance, the meanings and messages hidden in the work can seem uncanny and improbable to grasp. Fuhrman’s writing  displays a large command of vocabulary and unconventional ways of describing people, events, places, and objects around her. 

Fuhrman’s poetry in this book represents the impact of technology, gender stereotyping, and varying cultures on people. The subjects written about in this collection are aspects in life that typically have a strong effect on the mind and the body in various ways. The bouncing back and forth between the mind and body can be seen in Fuhrman’s style of writing, evidenced when she turns back and forth from reality to a sort of illusory world. In an untitled poem she writes, “So many people forgot their babies that year they needed to open baby libraries across the country…I liked to go to the baby library at my lunch break. Under the mounds of congealing drool, I could finally remember my own lost babyhood – how blurry it was, how loud.”  Her diligent choice of descriptions and images is able to lure the reader in to learn more about these issues. With the use of repetition, consonance, outstanding imagery, and personification, this book can be seen as one of Fuhrman’s best. Her poems such as “New Eyes for the New Year”, “The Letter”, and “Dear November”, are just a few examples in which Fuhrman uses these literary devices in order to create a read that is enjoyable in terms of  the sound it creates in the reader’s mind. Fuhrman’s choice of utilizing euphemisms for serious topics so that the reader feels more comfortable addressing important issues is a wise choice that has worked to her advantage.

The middle section of this collection, with the same title as the book, is what makes The Year of Yellow Butterflies exceed any set expectations the reader may have had before diving in. Fuhrman twists from childhood to the more serious times of her life where she tried to be a mature adult. Her poems reflect her years in existence when perhaps she was not able to grasp or cope with certain issues occurring right before her eyes, and was left to produce these pictures and zones that seem to be derived from some sort of make believe era in time and space. Her interpretation and ability to place conflicts in a light that is easier for the everyday person to understand is one of her strongest traits as a poet and author. One untitled piece in the collection compares the layers of the life that we are all living, to the layers of clothing a woman would wear, “holes revealing leggings,…little rips, glimpses of neon paisley tights…through the holes we could see little patches of perfect skin-colored knee-makeup…a gap where the real skin would peek out…another hole and in it a surgically implanted transparent window reveling veins…muscles, predictable bones”. This comparison, although unconventional, is considerably concrete and hits the reader abruptly with a feeling of grief and confusion.

It seems that this book is a complete success for Fuhrman and will grab the attention of a wide range of audiences. Her style of writing can be best described as fresh, innovative, suspenseful, and most importantly, thought provoking. The Year of Yellow Butterflies is recommended to those who wish to have their opinions and minds altered with while enjoying a systematic syntax of poetry.


Amanda Gnau is a sophomore English major at Endicott College. She has taken courses in advanced poetry, creative writing, and literary criticism and interpretation. Along with having a passion for new and contemporary works, Amanda also enjoys earlier poets such as John Milton and Alexander Pope. Her plan for the future is to continue writing poetry in her spare time and attend law school in the near future.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bouncy House by Michael Estabrook

Michael Estabrook

Bouncy House
by Michael Estabrook
Green Zone Editions
Copyright © Michael Estabrook
softbound, no price given

Review by Zvi A. Sesling
This poem in the middle of Michael Estabrook’s new poetry chapbook made me laugh when it should not have, which is a positive indicator of his poetry.

The Boston Strangler

I’m at my desk at work
finishing up a poem about frogs
(everything in my life ends up
in a poem it’s a sad yes
but what can you do?)
when one of my co-workers
sticks his shiny bald head
into my office and says
“hey I heard this great joke
on TV last night about a frog…”
of course I’m stunned by the coincidence
but can’t say anything about it
because nobody at work knows
I’m a poet when I’m not at work
like the Boston Strangler was a strangler
when he wasn’t driving a cab

I get how Estabrook thinks. Some of these poems are nostalgic and other humorous. Each is based on something in his experience. The poem “Flashback” for example begins with a young engineer explaining something that reminds Estabrook of his father in a kind, warm way, while in “Bigfoot” there are a dozen other names for the legendary character and Estabrook writes from Bigfoot’s perspective.

Then there is his poem “Peter Sellers” which speaks for itself:

When I woke this morning
I was surprised to see how much
my wife looked like Peter Sellers.
Maybe it was the way her nose
came out from her face
or the way her hair lay flat against
the side of her head or maybe
it was because the light
was so dim. I’m not certain
but I was worried because I know
peter Sellers is dead.

Okay I’m not supposed to laugh at this one either, but couldn’t help myself because
if anything, Michael Estabrook has a terrific sense of humor which he is able, unlike
many poets, to make leap off the page and slap you silly.

He has also written one about himself, his grandchildren, earlobes, feeding ducks, eating lobster rolls and a number of other subjects any reader can breeze through and enjoy – hopefully as much as I did.

Zvi A. Sesling is author of King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street, 2010), Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011) and the soon to be published Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva). He is Editor of Muddy River Poetry Review, Bagel Bards Anthologies #7 and #8.
He regularly reviews for the Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene