Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Video: Doug Holder interviews Milton scholar, translator, and poet--Francis Blessington

Left to Right  Francis Blessington/Doug Holder

 Holder interviews Milton scholar, translator, and poet--Francis Blessington--on his Somerville Community Access TV show  " Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."  (Click on to view)

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Robert Klein Engler

 Robert Klein Engler

 Robert Klein Engler lives in happy exile in Omaha, Nebraska and sometimes New Orleans. He is a writer and artist.   Robert holds degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana and the University of Chicago Divinity School. He has received Illinois Arts Council awards for his poetry. Just google his name to find his writing on the Internet.  Michael Morgan, writing in the Comstock Review, says that Robert Klein Engler " a poet of the first rank,” whereas Andrew Huff writes in Gaper's Block that Engler's writings is, "a sublime banquet of bullshit.


The light falls platinum against the Civic Center wall. We are in Topeka, Kansas, the navel of America. There is a landlocked loneliness around, and also, a loveliness of rolling hills not far off. I remember the face of a woman waiting yesterday for a bus on Dodge St. The evening light falls on her face like the moon as she sets a shopping bag against a poll. The bus will be a while. She has time to think of her daughter and the two kids. It's not been easy but it's been good. From the hotel window we see a Jeep follows the road's curve into the low hills and then is lost from sight. My mother would be rocking now on the front porch looking out into the bowl of night wondering what star could be a widow's star.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years


The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years

Review by Kate Douglas

From the band’s own commercial films to the countless documentaries and exposés that already exist, it’s hard to imagine that there isn’t an angle of The Beatles that hasn’t been shown to audiences yet, but Ron Howard’s The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years somehow manages to show the world’s most popular band through fresh eyes. The film is a wonderful mix of new and archived interviews from the four band members, perspectives from those who worked with the band, celebrities offering their personal anecdotes, and never-before-seen footage from Beatles’ shows. It’s not just a trip down memory lane for tried and true fans, even for those who lived through the band’s touring years. Howard manages to intertwine old footage with fresh narratives to create a new lens with which to examine Paul, John, Ringo, and George – and the men important to their success, Brian Epstein and Sir George Martin. There’s a wonderful moment in the film in which notorious Beatles manager Epstein is seen just off stage at one of the band’s American stadium concerts, bobbing his head to the music. It’s an illuminating moment in which the audience is allowed to pull back the curtain and experience these men in an entirely new way.

Eight Days a Week is a brilliant film as a rock-doc alone, but also as a historical piece. The film touches upon how the band experienced and interacted with the hot button issues of the time, from the band’s refusal to perform for segregated audiences when they brought their tour to America to the ill-spoken “more popular than Jesus” remark. Just as The Beatles themselves were able to weave together culture with counterculture, black with white, and male with female, Howard’s film knits a complex narrative that connects the band to history and humanity. It’s certainly worth a watch.

Kate Douglas

 Kate Douglas is a local writer and aspiring filmmaker. A transplant to New England, Kate grew up in North Florida and graduated from Florida State University.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Deniece Woodward

 Our poet this week is Deniece Woodward. She is a member of Teen Voices Emerging--a program that 

gives a voice to Boston teen girls. Prema Bangera, a proud director at this organization hooked me up with

 these talented poets. More information about this organization can be found at

Twin Among Twigs
by Deniece Woodard

Here her rhyme book lays. A simple, small notebook.
Its pages bear no lines, for it is ruled by the strokes you leave on it.
But it hasn’t got those either.
No character, but it could have hers.
Yes, her, and all the mess she is.
The physical scars her past suicide attempt left,
and the emotional scars left by everyone who told her:
Get over it.”
You’re just looking for attention.”
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
The ignorance which uttered, “People have it worse than you.”
As if her problems lose validation because someone else’s are “worse.”
Like the mirror above the bathroom sink,
she should see the damage left by this caustic earth in its presence.
She’ll batter the pages with her insecurities,
empty the clip, once loaded with her pain,
pierce the off-white sheets with her blade of self doubt
till she’s lacerated the last leaf.
Her soul will assume it’s found its long lost twin among these twigs.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Timothy Gager's Grand Slam: A Coming of Eggs Story (Big Table Publishing, 2016)


Timothy Gager's Grand Slam: A Coming of Eggs Story (Big Table Publishing, 2016)

A Review by Mignon Ariel King

The first thing one notices in Timothy Gager's Grand Slam: A Coming of Eggs Story is the Holden Caulfield-like anti-hero protagonist Woody.  There is an ensemble of characters in the novel who make up the staff and management at a chain diner, Grand Slams, and Gager deftly weaves their backstories and inner lives into the fast-paced narrative.  Despite the often more bizarre and troubled manifestations of the other diner workers' lives, Woody is clearly the focal character.  Woody is a young almost-man who is emotionally distressed and unfocused.  He is in an emotional and social limbo a year post high school, and still living with his parents, yet he is focused enough to seek and find work over the summer break from college.  The two characters who are also Woody's age are working their part-time diner gigs around college schedules, would-be college schedules, and pre-career funks.  It is unclear at times whether the trio have any clear plans.  They do, however, have dreams and passions, the passions often misdirected.  Of the three, Woody is the most attuned to what is going on around him, very invested in how other people's lives are turning out, whereas Sugar and Bobby are just going through the motions, enduring their surroundings and coworkers.

Woody's mother (Mrs. Geyser) attempts to monitor and guide; his father, a political progressive who named his son after Woodrow Wilson, grumpily tunes out his family to focus on favorite television shows.  A comparison is drawn between Woody's father and his "work mother," Maura.  Maura is fifty-something and seems plunked in the diner with her crumply stockings and middle-aged wide middle; Woody's father is plunked in his living room in a Michelin man body.  It is no wonder that the Grand Slams "work family" is so dysfunctional with Maura as its matriarch.  She keeps things moving, but she emotionally detaches from everyone at work to go home to nobody after she picks up her check each week.  Maura left her daughter behind for a better life...perhaps, but really her life is only simpler, uncluttered by the needs of others.  She has no suitors, no girlfriends, just her job and subtle dreams of making more, having more, materialistically speaking. 

Most of the low-level workers in the diner are more invested than their superiors.  Keating, a nasty bastard of a boss, does as little as possible while screaming at his employees, most notably emotionally abusive toward Kayak Kenny, a developmentally challenged bus boy who fantasizes about buying a canoe.  Kenny believes girls will fall in love with him if he has a canoe, swept up in the romance of floating on the pond with him.  Keating floats on cocaine and a rather sleazy sex life.  He sweeps women off their feet with the lure of free drugs.  Sugar is the diner's beauty; she is lusted after by every man who comes within reach of her pretty, pony-tailed, short skirt- and cowboy-booted beauty.  More power to the male author who makes Sugar one of the most intelligent, focused, compassionate characters in the book.  Her flaw is pathologically bad taste in men.  She has a small life and thinks small, but she evolves and matures faster than her age-appropriate male interests.  Sugar's introspection leads her away from the sweaty, portly, mustard-stained tie and rumpled suit grasp of Keating.  Her next conquest is a socioeconomic upgrade, Sayid, an Egyptian man who is too sexually repressed (for religious reasons) to use Sugar as a sex object.  He courts her, and this is obviously something to which she is unaccustomed but which she grows to realize she deserves.  Meanwhile, Woody pines for her from afar, as he did in high school, while being her platonic friend.

There are standard types throughout the narrative. Marisimo, the half-blind ex-boxer with cauliflowered ears, is less than fluent in English and over invested in his dishwasher job.  Dyed-haired Bob, the transplanted new boss, could not care less about anyone who works for him; he re=trains the staff with an iron fist.  Woody resists the ridiculous, superficial changes in a hilarious sequence of passive-aggressive actions, such as hiding the clip-on bowties.  Even the chilly Maura begins to warm up to coworkers as her career waitressing is challenged by the new regime.  She at least is proud of her work and her 20-plus years' commitment as the company girl.  The last romantic hope she had divorced then paired up again without noticing Maura's romantic hopes for him.  Maura is a bridge between the detached elders, with their selfishness, rigor, and paternalistic actions only in the condescending sense, not in any way caring about role modeling for or promotion of the Grand Slams staff.   The three young characters are not slammed over the head of the reader, and Gager manages to use character typecasting without making the characters seem wooden, stiff props in the narrative.  In fact, the characters are so realistic, and subtly nuanced with uncharacteristic personality traits as well as those expected, that the reader is frustrated by wanting to hug or slap them.  Throughout the novel, the almost-adults keep the momentum going in the midst of the socially odd and borderline tragic, invested adults.  How will this trio grow up while surrounded by infantile, base, or simply lost adults?  The reader is invested by the third chapter in finding out.

The Sunday Poet: Molly Lynn Watt

Molly Lynn Watt
Molly Lynn Watt’s poetry memoir “On the Wings of Song: A Journey into the Civil Rights Era” Ibbetson 2014, poems “Jazz Riff” will soon be installed in a Cambridge sidewalk, and “Civil Rights Update” is required reading in Dallas paired with Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream”, co-creator/performer for “George & Ruth: Songs & Letters of the Spanish Civil War” also on CD, “Shadow People,” Ibbetson 2004, curator of Fireside Readings, Bagelbard Anthology editor and ukulele player.


I am not in mourning
I will rise from my periwinkle bed sheets
watch the sun cast shadows on the garden

I will wrap myself in purple
remember playing in the lilac bush and
grandma’s lavender-infused linens

I will be warm energy
and cool serenity going forth—
a blend of red and blue

I will fly ribbons in the wind
write love poems with purple crayon
I will not let despair build a nest in my heart

                                    Molly Lynn Watt, Nov. 10, 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

Collisions on a Non-Existent Highway By Rosalyn Marhatta

Collisions on a Non-Existent Highway
By Rosalyn Marhatta
Red Dashboard LLC Publishing
Princeton, NJ
ISBN-13: 978-1535469135
46 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Avoid the musk of Orient jungles and the threat of tiger paws. Or don’t. Rosalyn Marhatta’s Collisions on a Non-Existent Highway doesn’t. Instead, she entices her readers into a movable feast of dangerous love, loss, and longing. She infuses her stanzas with cardamom-spiced passions in a pulao of cultural contradictions. From the first poem, Beware the Tiger Burning Bright, the exotic captures the imagination (not to mention the lust) of Marhatta’s youthful persona. She opens the piece this way,

His scent assailed me in the dorm stairwell,
Moved the staircase sideway till I stumbled.
It lingered in my nostrils, lured me to a lagoon
Where palm trees sang and he served skewered lamb
Sauced with love songs.

Marhatta sets the atmosphere for one coming cultural collision in her poem Epicurean Love. After a meal of curried chicken the poet reveals a bit of the magnetic attract-and-repel dynamic going on. She recounts her lover’s cautionary stories and her smitten reaction,

You spun a tale of a tiger
who leaped from a photograph
to kill a king in a locked room,
because the king could not escape his fate.
We argued about fate’s inevitability
On our second date.

You led me with your stories
To a land of silk sarees
And husbands who were gods to their wives,
And I touched your curved khukri,
the weapon of the Ghurka warriors
who pushed past fear to deliver death to the enemy.

We create the accoutrements of harmony in life’s composition, arranging them methodically to reinforce our personal narratives. Marhatta’s persona does this in her poem Himalayan Tea Song. Sitting with “angels in saris,” she breathes in the scents of masala tea and cow dung. The presence of mountain blue pervades all. But interruptions do occur. The poet notes one such intrusion,

My niece in pink silk
brings me chai tea
with milk, cinnamon,

sugar—four teaspoons—my tongue
revolts, stung by its sweetness;
a brown neighbor boy with a cherub grin

saunters by, his stomach a balloon,
arms and legs spindles
like a “Feed the Children” ad from Vogue.

I want to feed that boy
Dal, vath turkarie : rice, beans,
curried vegetables, but the sun

reminds me I’ll be gone
in a month …

Taste becomes geography in Marhatta’s poem Tea and Virginity. Detail dominates the mnemonic canvas. Little rituals more than equal the loom of the massive mountain ranges as gatekeepers to exotic hidden worlds. The poet explains this equivalence in her concluding lines,

The eldest sister
pours me tea in a glass. I wonder
how to lift a hot glass
with no handles
without burning my fingers,
how to sip like a lady
without drinking that milk skin
that floats on the top.

I grasp The glass
At the top,
Tip tea into my mouth,
Swirl its sugar on my tongue,
Inhale the cinnamon-cardamom
Infusion and taste the Himalayas.

Vicarious satisfaction in art, specifically the cinema, often saves the day by absorbing raw emotions and delivering a resolution of sorts. In her edgy piece, Bollywood Noir, the poet seems to relish the lead-up to an obvious violent denouement,

Maybe you never wanted
to brush your face against her breasts
that pointed to a heaven
where angels ply sitar
on your temple to soothe
away nightmares of Yeti fangs
at your throat.

Maybe I never took that cab
To the pink neon sign
Blinking “Desert Rose Inn”
Or saw through that window
How she perfumed
The light bulbs and fed you chocolate sex,
How she caressed your toes
I had kissed early that morning.

The poet embeds the title of this collection in her poem Riyadh Odyssey, 1982. Beneath the surface of Saudi society knots of foreign women chafe against medieval restrictions. On the other hand hospitality reigns supreme in this complicated culture. Marhatta observes the obvious from her protected confines,

Saudi women glided down streets
cloaked in abayas and veils—
black ghosts to most—
hiding everything womanly,
except wrists jingling gold bangles
and feet flashing fuchsia shoes from Paris.

Saudi men, all in white, flailing swords,
danced together on TV.
Fred and Ginger embraces
would have been erased
by religious police.
And we Americans craving commercials
with women in bikinis,
titled an onion-domed building
the pink tit.”

Setting out her last best meal of salmon with caper sauce, Marhatta’s persona imagines her former lover in his alternative universe, with an alternative wife, and eating an alternative meal. Her recipe of pathos with a touch of humor captures the time-scape perfectly. Here is the heart of the poem,

My meals must bite.

Once you would have fed me chunks of curried meat,
spiced and sliced through the bone,
with notes of cilantro and cinnamon rising high,
fed me raisins with sea foam rice,
and cucumber pickle in sesame sauce.

But now, you cook for another wife,
or probably she cooks for you.
Does she glide her body across the stove,
to spark a light to boil your beans?

If you have an appetite for spicy food and percussive passion, you’ll like this book.