Monday, March 27, 2017

The Phenomenal *Personal Shopper* starring Kristen Stewart

The Phenomenal *Personal Shopper* starring Kristen Stewart, directed by Olivier Assayas

article by Michael Todd Steffen

There is an empty empty house at the beginning of the new film starring Kristen Stewart, *Personal Shopper*, directed by Olivier Assayas, which makes an apt setting for a long opening of silence, situating the viewers precisely in their seats, in the act of watching. As Michael Nordine in his City Pages review observes, “*Personal Shopper* is a quiet movie, all the better for us to hear every creaking floorboard and let our minds follow sounds that might not be emanating from our realm.” Nordine’s term “quiet movie” recalls the old original “silent movie,” so called after “talkies” were invented. It’s not too simple to remember here that we call them “movies” because they are pictures in sequence, that move. Any director or film that includes significant silence, or scenes thereof, is citing the art at its origins. The way Assayas has the camera following Maureen (Kristen Stewart) through the empty house, room to room, in this long opening scene is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s following little Danny on his tricycle through the empty halls of the vast resort hotel in the mountains in *The Shining*.
     Another reference to Kubrick in Assayas’ astonishing ghost story comes by way of the material opulence encountered in the fashion luxuries Maureen shops for. These high-priced glitzy dresses and leather handbags and spike-heeled shoes are not for her. Maureen seeks the items out to rent for a high-profile vedette whose career status is uncertain, yet whose fate (you’ll have to see this for yourselves) stuns both the viewer’s sense of humanity and better-knowing. (It might be added that the star’s fate is not unusual in terms of the dynamics of Inspiration/follower, and the character Maureen comes under suspicion.)
     Hence the film’s title, *Personal Shopper*, serving as the film’s primary scenario. Celebrities of whatever profession, movie stars themselves, must have helpers of all kinds, among them clothing shoppers. It is assumed in the film that Maureen is bodily identical (shoe size, dress size, height, etc.) with the vedette she shops for. An interesting element of the film is how Maureen feels about trying on and at times wearing these luxury items, which is a kind of taboo for her. For though she and the star are dimensionally parallel, they are of distinctly separate personalities. One thing the film does is to remind us of the dangers of vanity involved in just being a star, in belonging to the capricious circle of affluent, important people. Stewart’s character Maureen otherwise dresses down, in just jeans (uncomfortably stiff and narrow at the calves) and sweatshirts and awkward bright white running shoes.
     The film’s driving scenario and back stories are calibrated into a delicate balance that actually evokes a lot about film making (any creative or artisanal vocation, even cabinet making, for that matter), acting, and the lives around the profession. Most of us know something about shopping for clothes, to some extent. What most of us perhaps do not know much about is waiting in an empty house for the phenomenon of a ghost or poltergeist to make itself known. It is odd and enjoyable that the film reverses the terms of familiarity and the exotic or odd, to underscore our capacity for personal loneliness, with the Internet configured into our cell phones. While we probably communicate more with one another than ever before, we are likely more personally and bodily alienated from one another, and full of strange ideas about “others,” to the extent of the paranoia that makes a murder/horror film credible as a psychic mirror. At one point in the film a mystery texter asks Maureen what she hates. The audience gets a good laugh at her reply: horror movies.
     For a viewer attuned to the genre, there’s a lot more humor throughout the film, particularly in the fleeing (moped) scenes ensuing the film’s intensely scary moments. Even veterans will feel the hair on their necks rise. The ghost is convincingly intractable and dominating, with awesome special effects. Yet the outcome of the film leaves one wondering whether the star Maureen shops for isn’t more terrible. In our times it isn’t so farfetched to think that it is we humans who haunt our world.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A.D. Winans: The Holy Grail: Charles Bukowski and the Second Coming Revolution


Charles Bukowski
A.D. Winans: The Holy Grail: Charles Bukowski and the Second Coming Revolution

Interview by Doug Holder

This is an interview with poet A. D. Winans concerning the new memoir he penned dealing with his relationship with the "dirty old man" poet himself, Charles Bukowski. In poet A. D. Winans' new memoir, "The Holy Grail: Charles Bukowski and the Second Coming Revolution," the author tells the fascinating story of a personal and literary friendship with none other than the , bohemian bard,Charles Bukowski. Winans takes us back to the 60's, 70's and 80's and gives the "out of school" report about this prolific, hard drinking, and womanizing writer who changed the face of the small press. Bukowski, best known for writing the screenplay " Bar Fly" featuring Mickey Rourke,was also a staple of the famed Black Sparrow Press. Winans defines his friendship with the poet through their poetry, letters, and "bad elbows." The book also explores Winans' acclaimed literary magazine, "Second Coming," and the fecund literary milieu it occupied in the San Francisco and the world small press movement during the 70's, and 80's. I conducted an interview with Winans via the internet, from his home in San Francisco.

DH: What do you feel is Bukowski's single most important contribution to Literature and or Poetry?

ADW: I think Bukowski himself answered that in an article he wrote for Second Coming. He said, " My contribution was to loosen and simplify poetry, to make it more humane. I made it easy for them to follow. I taught them that you can write a poem the same way you can write a letter, and that there need not be anything necessarily holy about it."

Hemingway did much the same thing with prose, and then along came Bukowski to do the same thing with poetry. And I'd add that Bukowski's letters were often poetic gems. The art of letter writing has all but disappeared, lost in email transmissions that too often are cold and impersonal.

DH: Your own entry into Poetry was fueled by the injustice witnessed while you were in the service in Panama. Would it be fair to say that politics and social injustice was your first muse rather than a poet or a specific body of work?

ADW: My first influence came from musicians and not poets. When I was in high school, I would sit in my room for hours listening to Hank Williams, Senior sing his haunting songs. When I came home from Panama, my mother said: " You are not the same person. What did they do to you?" What they did was to take away my innocence. The things I saw there burned themself into my social conscience. It took me over thirty years to put my experiences down on paper. It's all there in " This Land Is Not My Land." Green Bean Press published some of the poems in a small chapbook, and Harold Norse encouraged me to expand the book, which I have done. I just haven't gotten around to sending it out to a publisher yet.

DH: What similarities do you see between yourself and Charles Bukowski, both as a man and a writer?

ADW: We both went to city college, we were both heavy drinkers, we were both womanizers, we both ( to a large degree) wrote for the same audience, we were both in trouble with the law, we both came up through the small press, we both saw the futility of writing workshops, and we both realized a writer could either spend his time writing in relative isolation, or he could hang around with other poets in cafes. We both chose the former over the latter.

DH: Can you describe the milieu of North Beach in the 50's and 60's, that was your spawning ground as a poet. Was this area of San Francisco as significant as Greenwich Village in NYC?

ADW: North Beach was the West Coast equivalent of Greenwich Village, and many of the poets ( Ginsberg, Corso, Micheline, Kaufman) frequently spent time shuttling from one place to the other. The " Cedar Tavern" was a focal point for NY poets. In San Francisco it was "The Place" (presided over by Jack Spicer) and " The Co-Existence Bagel Shop", where Bob Kaufman made his home.Gino and Carlo's was another favorite hangout, and you would often find Spicer and Richard Brautigan there. I didn't visit NY and the Village until the 60's, and it of course had completely changed by then.

DH:If it wasn't for little magazines and small presses, do you think guys like you and the BUK would have a platform or a venue for your work?

ADW: No, I don't think we would have. Other than Hank having an early story of his published in STORY magazine, the great body of his work appeared in the "Littles" He was published in Penguin Poetry Anthology, but those were isolated incidents. Early on, I had poems accepted by Poetry Australia and even sold some short stories to the Berkeley Barb and Easyrider( a biker mag.), but it wasn't till much later that APR ( American Poetry Review), City Lights Journal, and a few academic journals began to publish my work. Later Gale Research paid me a thousand dollars for a 10,000 word autobiography and Brown University bought my archives. In the last few years I have been included in some important anthologies, like Thunder Mouth's Press' THE OUTLAW BIBLE OF AMERICAN POETRY. I don't think much of this would have been posssible had I not been first published in the small presses.

DH: You started an acclaimed literary magazine in the early 70's, SECOND COMING. What was the mission statement of this magazine? You had a special Bukowski issue, how was that received?

ADW: I don't know if you could say that there was a statement; it was much more of a personal mission. I felt at the time that a lot of crap was being published and I wanted to start a magazine that would return to the spirit of the 50's and 60's. The Bukowski issue was a success in that Bukowski himself said it was the best unbiased issue ever done on him. The special Bukowski issue, my own North Beach Poems, and the California Bicentennial Poets Anthology were the only Second Coming issues and books that turned a profit. It's sad but true that too few poets support the magazines that publish them

DH: So many artists and writers are afflicted or choose to afflict themselves with drugs and alcohol. Writers, especially young writers tend to romanticize this lifestyle. You and Bukowski had serious problems with these demons. Does this lifestyle help the writer in terms of his creativity? Why do so many turn to it. Is there something about the sensiblity of an artist that makes it attractive or even necessary?

ADW: That's a lot of questions rolled into one. Poets and writers do seem to be drawn to heavy drinking, and a good number of them are drawn to drugs. Alcohol was my drug of choice. I started drinking in my junior year in high school and became a heavy drinker in Panama. There was nothing romantic about it. I was more or less a social alcoholic. Put me in a bar and I'd drink myself into a stupor. Unlike Bukowski, I never drank and wrote at the same time. I tried a few times, but what came from it were poorly written poems. I can't speak for other writers as to whether it would help their creativity or not. It obviously helped Buk, but I don't think it helped me, in the least, and I never drank the day after a night of heavy drinking. I hated those hangovers. It was when the hangovers began to last two days that I knew I had to stop heavy drinking. I limit myself to two drinks these days and seldom go to bars.

DH: You write in the book that Bukowski was far from a saint. He could be brutal with his friends, unfaithful to his women, treacherous in his business dealings, etc... Yet you loved him. Why?

ADW: I admired his persistence and grit. His drive to make it to the big time. He developed a persona to achieve that goal. I also admired his giving up the security of the post office to write full time, and at an age it would not have been easy for him to find another job. I admire his honesty with the written word, although his honesty did not always show itself. None of us are saints, there are things in my past I am far from proud of, but I can honestly say I never set out to deliberately hurt anyone. In my book ( The Holy Grail), I tried to treat everyone fairly. With Buk, he had this thing about not wanting to get too close to people and when that would happen, he cast them aside, or ridiculed them in poems and short stories, and even bragged about it. But in all fairness, he stopped doing this, after he became a success. So I guess I loved the best in him and tried to overlook his weaknesses.

I might add that the Buk said to me, " To live with the Gods, you first have to forgive the drunks." Early Bukowski, when he was drunk, was not a nice person. When he was sober, he could be shy, and quite likeable. In the end, however, his art prevailed over his persona.

DH: Bukowski is sometimes mistaken for a "Beat" writer. How would you classify him?

ADW: I hate putting anyone in a category. Bukowski told me he was never a Beat. Let me quote you from a letter he wrote me, " I never liked the Beats. They were too self-promotional, and the drugs gave them all wooden dicks or turned them into cunts. I'm from the old school. I beleive in working and living in isolation. Crowds weaken your intent and originality."

Well Bukowski remained true to the latter part of this statement, but one could certainly question his comment about the Beats being too self-promotional. I mean Ginsberg certainly was a master at self-promotion and Ferlinghetti isn't far behind, but Bukowski promoted himself pretty well too. If I were pressed I would say Bukowski was a Bohemian, as was Jack Micheline, although Jack used the Beat handle to his advantage when it was benefical to him.

DH: Do you see any new Bukowskis on the horizon?

ADW: No I don't.

DH: Do you think the small presses today are as effective as in your salad days, in terms of getting the "word"out?

ADW: The small presses have always had problems with distribution. They simply lack the money or power to gain the attention of the established media, and most small press publishers lack promotion skills, as well. There are of course exceptions, but they are few and far between. Second Coming was never a money maker, but I got the word out well enough. I left copies of the mag in doctor and dentist offices, where you had a captive audience. There were also bookfairs and library conferences where we participated, and COSMEP ( Committee of Small Magazine editors and Publishers) helped promote and distribute books to some extent. The most important thing to come out of COSMEP was to provide a kinship among small press editors and publishers. Those were fun times. We were thumbing our noses (in the 1970's) at the collective masses, and having fun doing it. That doesn't exist today.

I know there will be people out there who say the internet and the web have provided a background where more people can see a poet's work, but there is no evidence whatsoever that this has resulted in any significant sales. In fact, if you can read the work free, why would you want to pay to read the same poem in print format? Well some of us still feel strongly about the print world, but I don't know about its future-twenty-thirty years from now.

DH: Do you think Bukowski's corpus of work will be used in courses at colleges around the country as part of the literary canon?

ADW: I don't suspect that this will be the case. The academics have not seen fit to give him the proper recognition that his work deserves. But who knows? Bukowski may be required reading fifty years from now, or he could be forgotten. Either way, Bukowski would be laughing his ass off.

The Sunday Poet: Barbara Rich


Born in 1934, Barbara Rich  achieved her Kripalu Yoga teacher training certification at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, MA. She teaches weekly yoga classes in her private, peaceful yoga studio in Groton, Massachusetts. She is also a damn good poet.  She writes, "Defining myself as a Jewish Buddhist Unitarian lesbian vegetarian, I would very much like to connect in writing with others, with similar or different self-definitions."


We don't want to be told the obvious:
"You're lilving in the age of distraction."
"You cram in too much"
"You should take Yoga".
We want to know we are known and cherished.
We want to be assured we are truly known and
Truly loved.

We know about lack of focus.
We know about not enough exercise.
We are aware of not being aware.

We need the sweetness of caress,
We want the healing of touch,
We crave the authentic relationship,
We long for giggling over secrets.

Don't inundate us with platitudes or
Euphemisms about mindfulness or
The ubiquitous cautious conversation.

Give us hugs that linger,
Eyes that sparkle,
Foreheads that touch,
Lips that laugh,
Toes that wiggle with delight.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Message from the Memoirist Poems by Paul Pines

Paul Pines

Message from the Memoirist
Poems by Paul Pines
Art by Marc Shanker
Dos Madres Press
Loveland, Ohio
ISBN: 978-1-939929-28-0
135 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Tick Tock Tick Tock. Hickory, Dickory, Dock…. The various concepts of scientific time tell us almost nothing with their deconstructing conundrums. Nursey Rhymes do conjure up a sense of play and curiosity but then abandon us to the immediate. Only when time intersects with the eternal or the pinned-down specific does meaning appear, gleaned from the residue of the fiery crossover or the accelerated collision. Paul Pines, in his wonderfully illustrated poetry collection entitled Message From the Memoirist, uncovers precious pieces of memory from the dreamscape of mind and transmutes these quark-like particles into summonses that evoke the true nature of fundamental things. The spectacle or rather spectral results can be unsettling. Or exhilarating. Even funny.

In tracing his expansive memories back to the “time before thought” Pines, presumably dressed in a cowl and carrying a torch, leads us through a primordial darkness. Shades appear and vanish from our reach. A cock crows and dawn’s light drenches with creation all who have passed over the River Lethe again.

Early in the collection, in his piece entitled Toward the Creation of a Perfect Science, Pines considers the importance of memory to the present, as well as the positive attributes and the capacity for natural healing that society also assigns to forgetfulness. The poet puts it this way,

One forgets and then
When one remembers

It seems so important
Not to forget again

I want to say that
Forgetting is a merciful act

But when what is called
Feels essential to being

Who one is in the present
I am not sure

We all live through what
we see and don’t see

When older people lose a lot of weight, one of two things could be happening. Pines dwells on the positive in his poetic meditation entitled Yesterday’s Conversation. As time speeds up and the present merges into memory and archetypal moments the poet’s response becomes more and more physical. I sympathize. We’ve done this before. We can beat this. Consider these lines,

              I see myself shrinking
              Not like an old man
but slipping back into the young one
who ran through Coles Woods
the day after his wedding
and think,
                  “You may be in denial,
                  but look at you go!”

I will once again lift weights
put on a glove to field grounders
observe overweight guys
on the basketball court at the Y
and scream,
                  “I can run rings around these suckers!

In the end
I want to laugh all the way
to where ever it is
we’re going    

A Message from the Memoirist, Pines’ title poem, begins as a narrative with the poet’s persona reviewing the efficaciousness of a soon-to-be-given lecture on memoir writing in the early morning hours. Evolving into natural imagery until a central, a core template seems to emerge.  The piece introduces a subconscious nesting of fractals. Here is the conclusion that doubles as a beginning,

                        … what’s re/membered
                        is made whole

patterns from which
all patterns
are born

                        the field
                        in which we
                        are embedded
                        in us

the Genius
who begins to whisper in our ear as soon as our lips
touch Lethe

                        and we drop
                        into the

If we are not looking in the right direction our creative function from the “fields before thought” might enter our souls in such a way that the end result resembles possession, demonic or otherwise. One recognizes this possession immediately because of its referential patterns. The patterns complement what we already know. In his poem entitled The Field Theory According to Mel Blank Pines alerts us to the deep comedy hidden our origins. He uses Mel Blank, the legendary voice of cartoon characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig.  The poet spins possession into a telling vignette at the end of the piece’s first section. Mel Blank’s son recalls,

a moment after

an auto accident
and two weeks

in a hospital bed
he remained

until a neurologist

asked him, How
you feeling Bugs?

and Mel answered
 What’s up Doc?

Ties between the world of forms and human kind are many. Symbolism plays its part. Pathos too. Toward the end of the book Pines places a prose poem entitled Remembering the Memoirist. He raises a lantern on the psychology of time and emotions embedded in that concept. The poet relates a narrative fragment that illuminates the beginnings of a creative life,

…Fifty years ago,
grieving my father’s death, I listened for messages to quiet
the explosive anger and desperation of a boy who found
himself homeless. In a tenement on 9th St. & Ave. B on a
winter’s day sans heat or hot water, maybe a few chicken-
hearts in the fridge, I sat with a Ouija board on my knees.
The furnace in the tenement basement, like the one in my
heart, no longer burned. The hood of my sweatshirt cover-
ing my head, I cried out to whatever voice might rise from
the cave within. Scared of what the future held, I framed
the question: What will become of me?

Many years ago Wolfgang Pauli, the famous physicist and pioneer of Quantum Theory had a vision of The World Clock, a contraption of wheels and pendulums supported by a large black bird and emitting pulses. The experience gave Pauli a deeper understanding of his scientific work and a psychological feeling of well-being. 

Pines references this World Clock in his poetics and Marc Shanker interprets it in his accompanying illustrations. As the reader pages through Pines’ provocative collection, led by his young persona in a hooded sweatshirt (no cowl this time) illuminating the awful truth, it strikes one that these pieces and their intersecting memories make up a clock not unlike Pauli’s. Pines’ poem Epitaph for Icarus III has this passage,

a dust mote
his presence

fills the space

and waking

through Time-

to land softly

re/minds me
to listen for

what follows

Remember to take the time (steal it if necessary), let this book unfold, and soak in the compelling and quantum landscapes of master poet Paul Pines.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Doug Holder interviews poet David Blair

     We start out talking about his new collection of poetry Arsonville. David Blair grew up in Pittsburgh. He is the author of three books of poetry, Ascension Days, which was chosen by Thomas Lux for the Del Sol Poetry Prize, Arsonville, and Friends with Dogs. His poems have appeared in Boston Review, Ploughshares, Slate Magazine, and many other places as well, including the anthologies, The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Devouring the Green, and Zoland Poetry.

He has taught at the New England Institute of Art and in the M.FA. Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter, and he has a degree in philosophy from Fordham University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 

Holder interviewed Blair on his Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer program on Somerville Community Access TV

“Elemental: A Dissection of Parts” by Ivy Page Review by Timothy Gager

“Elemental: A Dissection of Parts” by Ivy Page
Review by Timothy Gager
Paperback: 68 pages
Publisher: Salmon Poetry
ISBN-10: 1910669261
ISBN-13: 978-1910669266

While reading through “Elemental: A Dissection of Parts” by Ivy Page, I was struck not only by the metaphor of the building blocks of the human psyche, but the ability of the poet to place me on the outside looking in, and on the inside looking out. The book is divided into four sections: F i r e, Air Child, Dark Water and Earth Eater, all classical elements in popular culture. Within the basic building blocks of these, Page explores growing from child to adult, finding love, having a child but also our fragile existence—our own building blocks of life, growth, losses and death. All of these existing simultaneously at all times for us, leaving it up to the individual to pick through these elements.
Ivy Page defines her poems within our senses, both from the again from the inside and the outside of the narrator. It’s personal, private but also can be distant---as if to say, don’t get too close, be amazing but still stay detached when necessary. We, as humans, have the ability to protect ourselves, process our instincts and create what we can be safe with in our world. Page does this admirably, drawing us in, and pushing us away, when required. We become intimate with the poet, the subject, the time and place---but we are reminded that we also fear this exposure.
In the poem, Just in Case, Page summarizes
I didn’t tell you, when I woke-up this morning
that your wordless face left me wanting more
song in the world, and that the way
you had discarded the sheets and exposed your
bare body made me linger as I put on my clothes.

Even the day to day rat race can be solved by words, within art. This is brought out in, On A Dusty Shelf in the Corner

The working mothers are tired,
and the working fathers are looking
for their epic to be written on Wall Street,
not between the pages of this book

Come in and hide with me.

Then on the very next page, in Spine, Page writes personally, to ease oneself open, “above two half-length pieces”—written about both opening a book, but indeed opening oneself up emotionally and also leaving oneself open by exposing one’s words to the world. Quite complex, this trifecta, if the reader, as a reader should, decides to go all the way in. Page does it with words of lips, tongues, taste, touch---all exposed within the pages of “Elemental: A Dissection of Parts”.

In the section Air Child, Page again explores the fragility of being, and how much we need words in times like these:

Nothing seems right
My fingers feel fat
my hair greasy.

I long to find a way to the place
where creativity can let the sun set
in the upper left hand corner of the page
and magic will happen.

The fourth section, Dark Water, is the most playful of the four. Again, the reader is dared to go deeper than meets the eye. The musical poem Coal Train, engages the reader with terms from music, but alas, John Coltrain—is the homonym. In Ode to a Vein, Page opens with, “Like a trampoline I bounce fingers across skin to find your rivers laid deep, down below.” Here I found, a play on, love in vane (vein), but was there intent? I would like to think so, because what we uncover within ourselves, within this poem, is sheer brilliance. Again, it’s the outside looking into the inside looking out.

In ‘Ol Woman, Page gives us play with in dialect. In A Ride with Milton and Jonson, you are a passenger being driven by references to and by the playwrights and poets, John and Ben. The section finishes with Call ---  I Will Answer,  allowing the books familiar themes to explode once more.

it will get better
         how you used to think I was amazing
just hand in there,
         I pretend to be a little case on the outside,

The book ends with the section, Earth Eater, which doesn’t summarize the book but rather takes us to additional places. The poem “Broken” stands out to me, as an affair has occurred, and though it was described as just something which happened with a friend, the broken is not the relationship, but rather the now broken inner safety of the narrator, as the poem concludes:

Echo of who I used to be resonated
like an empty drum against your ears---
I let myself slip
into loving you and
hating myself.

Thus,“Elemental: A Dissection of Parts,” by Ivy Page leaves me blessed with the largeness and the smallness of the world, with all the pieces and the individuality of each and every piece. It is the way life is observed by the observer and by all of us—pulled in and pushed back.