Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Out of the Blue Art Gallery: Friend of Somerville Artists and Poets Needs Your Help!


The mission of Out of the Blue Gallery is to organize, support, and present to the public at large the creative efforts of local artists, musicians, and more from our community. The gallery encourages artists of all backgrounds to share with us and celebrate the uniqueness they bring from different cultures, genders, ages and academic backgrounds. Artists of all abilities are given an opportunity to share in the expression of the arts and all of its varieties and forms; painting, music, dance, poetry, short story, acting or singing, and for these same artists to intermingle with those of different disciplines to better be able to grow and learn from each other. The Gallery’s purpose is to bring people together in an inspiring, supportive, and empowering environment.

For many years I have been a patron of the Out of the Blue Gallery now located in Central Square, Cambridge. Tom Tipton, Deb Priestly, and many others have been a great friend of poets, writers, painters, etc... I have had many poetry readings there, and many Somerville poets have had their first reading experience at the Gallery. Now this place is in danger of closing--please go to their site and make a donation--there are fewer and fewer places like this that speak to the community!

The Somerville Bagel Bards will have a fundraising reading  June 25  at 12 Noon--at the gallery--please come and support this vital venue!

541 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA, 02139
Email  for booking, submitting, or any other questions at
Call the Gallery at 617-233-0269

FINAL HASTINGS ROOM READING this Wednesday May 31st at 7:30pm

FINAL HASTINGS ROOM READING this Wednesday May 31st at 7:30pm
First Church Congregationalist 11 Garden Street, a few blocks north of Harvard Square

The final reading of the Hastings Room Poetry Reading Series in the Hastings Room proper,
a beautiful early 20-th century salon-style room that has served many years as a meeting and reading space in one of Harvard Square’s oldest churches, the First Church Congregationalist on Garden Street, will be held this Wednesday, May 31st at 7:30pm.

Readers will include Harvard Divinity Students JB Fields, Walter Smelt III, and series
co-founder Michael Todd Steffen author of the poetry collection Partner, Orchard, Day Moon.
The event will be hosted by series founder Steven Brown.

The interruption of the use of the Hastings Room is due to planned renovations at First Church.

THIS IS NOT TO BE THE END OF THE HASTINGS ROOM READING SERIES, however. The series will continue to be held in other ambient spaces of First Church, such as the McKenzie Library, the Choir Room and Sage Hall (where we have already held some of the readings). Our 4th annual Seamus Heaney Memorial Reading is scheduled for Wednesday August 30th at 7pm, with readers Denis Daly, Valery Duff and Aidan Rooney.

The series began in April of 2015 and has run continuously with quarterly readings, including improvised readings. We mark the occasion by extending our thanks to the willing participation of some of the area’s best poets, with visitors to Cambridge in the mix, including
Daniel Tobin  David Ferry   late Pulitzer Prize poet Franz Wright   Frank Bidart  
Michael Dickman     Deborah Garrison     Dan Wuenschel    Alex Green
Frannie Lindsay       Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright             Fred Marchant           David Blair
Lloyd Schwartz      Joan Houlihan        Martha Collins           Doug Holder
Simeon Berry       Natasha Saj√©              George Kalogeris       Meg Tyler     Marc Vincenz
Mark Pawlak     Louise C. Callaghan      Kevin Cutrer               Bert Stern
Ernest Hilbert          Gloria Mindock          Lo Gallucio      Toni Bee        
Jean Denis Joachim    Peter Payack     Denise Bergman         Jennifer Formicelli
Irene Koronas          Jaime Bonney    Brother Nicholas Bartoli        Mary Buchinger       
and members of the Woodberry Translation Group Monika Totten, Adnan Adam Onart, Gwendolyn Jensen and Kathryn Hellerstein.

While we are glad to be carrying our series onward, it will be a moment for pause to say goodbye to this lovely space as we know it. Come and join us.

The Sunday Poet: Sebastian Lockwood

Sebastian Lockwood


Sebastian Lockwood is a Storyteller who specializes in the epics and has narrated a series of audio books available at and  Lockwood lives with his wife, singer and producer, Nanette Perrotte, under Crotched Mountain, NH.


Climb that Cliff

Boys on the beach in grinding shingle

Climbing the rotten clay cliff

Incoming pigeon bombs

A thousand small deaths later

Nose and lip over the top

To find four foul golfers at golf.

Now from the height of this hill

Sixty some winters later

I look back down at the cross-roads

The dead-ends and paths not taken

But granted, see both blessings and toil

Now the heft and thwack of memory

Sucks like quicksand and quagmire

So climb that cliff, run the manifold paths

That all lead to this high hill.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Endicott College Young Writers Workshop June 24-7

Click on to enlarge

Endicott College to Host Young Writers Workshop for Local High School Students

 The Endicott Young Writer's Workshop, which will be held on June 24-25, 2017.   This camp-like experience provides students who will be in grades 9-12 in the fall, and who have an interest in creative writing, an opportunity to meet other student writers and to work closely with three of Endicott's most accomplished professors and writers: Charlotte Gordon, Dan Sklar, and Elizabeth Winthrop. 

Here is a link to a press release about the Workshop from the College's website:

To register
High school students with an interest in creative writing are invited to attend a Young Writers; Tel-978-232-2178).

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Interview with Somerville writer Joelle Renstrom: “Closing the Book” on her late father

( Left--Doug Holder/Right--Joelle Renstom)

Interview with Somerville writer Joelle Renstrom: “Closing the Book” on her late father

Interview with Doug Holder

Even though I lost my own father over 14 years ago, I still sense his presence—and I am still engaged in an ongoing conversation with him. So I was particularly interested to meet and interview Joelle Renstrom, a Somerville writer and professor, who wrote a book about her physical journey and her mental one—with the presence of her deceased father always in the background. I loved the way Renstrom mingled literature, loss, grief and discovery in this fine memoir. 

 Joelle Renstrom is a writer living in Somerville, MA. Her collection of essays, Closing the Book: Travels in Life, Loss, and Literature, was published by Pelekinesis in August, 2015. Joelle's blog Could This Happen? explores the relationship between science and science fiction, and won a 2012 Somerville Arts Council fellowship and a 2013 Writers' Room of Boston Nonfiction fellowship. She's the robot columnist for The Daily Beast, a space news reporter for, and a contributing writer for Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel. Her work has appeared in Slate, Aeon, The Guardian, Cognoscenti, and others. Joelle teaches writing and research with a focus on robots/AI, technology, space exploration, and science fiction at Boston University. Follow her on Twitter @couldthishappen.

DH: So how is it being a writer living in Somerville?

JR: Really awesome. It is quite an inspiring place to be. Especially for someone like me that is very interested in science and technology. There is this confluence of art and science. People are doing all kinds of artistic things with their science. I mean you can take a class to make a robot right down the block. When you have very artistic people who know how to make stuff happen—well, it is a place of endless inspiration.

DH: I have run poetry groups for psychiatric patients at McLean Hospital for many years. Poetry—the writing of it—can be therapeutic. Did you write this memoir about your journey in search of your deceased father as a form of therapy?

JR: I never intended to write the book. And when I was writing it I didn't really know why. But I was so consumed with grief and I didn't know what to do with it. It was a story I had to tell, and certainly the process was therapeutic. I read a quote once, “ A poet is someone for who no event is finished until he or she has written about it.” I think this is true of all writers. I don't think I would have processed what had happened to my dad if I hadn't written about it.

DH: You used quotes from a variety of literary figures, including: Walt Whitman, Don DeLillo, Ray Bradbury, etc...

JR: Yes. They all wrote works that inspired me. Those writers spoke to me then ( and now)--they spoke to my experience. They spoke about what I was going through.

DH: Why did you not include women writers in this group?

JR: You know I really despise classes that deal with only female writers. The choice was really clear for me because this was a book about my dad. All these male writers—in some way—played a paternal role. There are many women writers that write about grief and loss. One I admire is Joan Didion. But I just felt that I had a different attachment to the writers I chose.

DH: You quoted Walt Whitman. Whitman—like you—wandered all about, took it all in, and was not judgmental. Do you think you were Whitman-like.

JR: I think that is something that I would aspire to. I don't think I actually got there. I tried to channel him, though.

DH: In your memoir your father presence is felt through nature.

JR: After his death I sensed my late father's presence all the time—not only in nature. I taught at Western Michigan University for awhile, and the class was right down the hall from my dad's old office. I thought I could sense him there.. When I went to Scandinavia—I felt him around all the time. I can't explain it, but it was a great comfort.

DH: You basically write in the science fiction genre. Was this a stretch for you?

JR: This was my first foray into creative-non-fiction. It felt natural though. Since then I have gone back to science fiction.

DH: Does teaching distract you from your writing?

JR: I teach at Boston University. I do get inspired from students. And really—you don't ever know a book as well as when you are teaching it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Somerville Artist Lois Blood Bennett Presides Over A Marriage of Computers and Art

Somerville Artist Lois Blood Bennett Presides Over A Marriage of Computers And Art

by Doug Holder

Digital artist Lois Blood Bennett met with me on a cool spring morning at my usual seat by the fireplace in the back of the Bloc 11 Cafe. We were to talk about her brand of art that involves-- her--(the human artist) and a computer, collaborating to make a piece of art.

Bennett is somewhere in middle-age, with long gray-speckled hair, that belies her almost girlish enthusiasm for the genre of art that she practices. She and her husband live in the Brickbottom, an enclave for artists and other creatives, that is located in the outskirts of Union Square. She told me that she and her husband love the community of people that live there. She commented, “ The vibe that this place creates is wonderful. It is also well-managed, and the Brickbottom frequently hosts great events.”

As for our own “ Paris of New England,” Bennett is equally enthused. She said, “I love the Somerville Arts Council. They help make Somerville an exciting place to work as an artist. They have a great list serve that I often use to hook up with something of interest—like a bookbinding course, or—well--this very interview we are having now.”

As Somerville undergoes a big transition and gentrification creeps into our city—Bennett does have her concerns. She told me, “In the case of the Brickbottom --a new subway station will be built close to it. This will cause a lot of traffic and noise. There also seems to be a plan to change the area from light industry to more housing. I think artists and light industry are better co-inhabitants. Housing , I think, will bring on a totally different vibe.” Bennett went on to say that the Brickbottom community is politically active—and will be strong advocates for their neck of the woods.

Now—getting to her art-- Bennett herself told me that it is not easily explained. But—here is the Monarch Notes version. Bennett works in something called “Fractal Flame Design.” Fractal Flames are mathematical constructs that are capable of creating great complexity from rather simple equations.

Bennett uses software and her own artistic sensibility to create patterns from this that are often but not always, evocative of nature. The images I have looked at ( and it is subjective, of course) suggest clusters of cells, swirling feathers in a surreal mix, ancient, bony fish, a shrouded, spectral woman etc... Bennett told me, “I use my color sense, random chance, and my knowledge of theory to create fascinating patterns.”

Bennett also told me she was involved in a piano project, titled: “ Play Me I'm Yours.” It was hosted by the Boston Celebrity Series. Pianos were donated that could be played or could be made playable. One of Bennett's designs was transferred to the surface of a pure white piano—for a stunning presentation. Her piece was displayed at the Prudential Towers in Boston--the other pianos were spread around Boston sites

Bennett also told me that her patterns have been transferred to fabric—scarves, dresses, etc...She added that one of her images is now displayed at the Millbrook Lofts in the Twin City Plaza.

Bennett left our table to rush to her job as a Computer Systems Analyst . Bennett is just one of the faces in the crowd that make our city unique.

For more info go to:

Monday, May 22, 2017

List of Contributors for Ibbetson Street 41 due out in June 2017

Michael Ansara

Linda Bamber

Molly Mattfield Bennett

Denise Bergman

Michael Brosnan

Cheryl Buchanan

Mary Buchinger

Philip E. Burnham, Jr.

Jo Carney c/o Galvin

Michael Casey 

Ruth C. Chad

Laura Cherry—

 Llyn Clague

Robert J. Clawson

Louisa Clerici

Charles Coe

Dennis Daly

Holly Day

Beatriz Alba Del Rio

Richard Dey

Kirk Etherton—

Roberta Carr Flynn

Lillian Freedman

Brendan Galvin

Harris Gardner

 Mary Hampton

Maximilian Heinegg

Lucy Holstedt—

Paul Hostovsky

Robert K. Johnson

Judy Katz-Levine

Lawrence Kessenich

Ted Kooser

Tom Laughlin

Lyn Lifshin

Ellaraine Lockie

Jim Maguire—

Jacquelyn Malone

Michael Gillan Maxwell

Eileen McClusky—

Triona McMorrow

Ed Meek

Alfred Nicol

Tomas O'Leary

Mark Pawlak

Joyce Peseroff—

Marge Piercy Box

Susan Edwards Richmond

Gayle Roby

Bridget Seley-Galway

Lainie Senechal

Zvi A. Sesling

Priscilla Turner Spada

Kathleen Spivack

Tim Suermondt 

Bert Stern—

T. Michael Sullivan—

Sandra Thaxter

Keith Tornheim

Paulette Demers Turco

Joyce Wilson 

Pui Ying Wong

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Sunday Poet: Pui Ying Wong

Pui Ying Wong was born in Hong Kong. She is the author of a full length book of poetry Yellow Plum Season (New York Quarterly Books, 2010), two chapbooks: Mementos (Finishing Line Press, 2007), Sonnet for a New Country (Pudding House Press, 2008) and her poems have appeared in Angle Poetry (U.K.), The Brooklyner, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Hong Kong), Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Crannog (Ireland), Desde Hong Kong: poets in conversation with Octavio Paz, Chameleon Press (Hong Kong), Pirene’s Fountain, Prairie Schooner, The Southampton Review and 2Bridges Review among others. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband.  She recently won the PUSHCART PRIZE for her poetry and is a member of the Somerville Bagel Bards



That winter, water froze in the pipes
and the faucet wheezed like asthma.

Icicles teethed along the power line,
I opened my mouth and my speech stuttered.

The entire city lived in a snow globe,
even big men trod timidly in the wind, hiding their faces
like shamed felons caught by the TV camera.

The market sold out everything,
a young boy snatched the last pack of meat.

Sleet fell all night, tapping
on the windows the way the dead might.

In my dream I went back to the house
that had forgotten about me,
not one there asked how I’d been. 

But I sat with them just the same,
watching TV like I had never left.

Who will remember what, who can say?

Mornings punctured by sounds of dragging snowplows,
I peeped at the sun, the feeble white disc,
failed again to burn off the clouds.

It was so cold I could think of fire
and only fire.

First published in deComp 

Pui Ying Wong

River of Bones Poems by Holly Guran

River of Bones
Poems by Holly Guran
Iris Press
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
ISBN: 978-1-60454-228-8
93 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Perfecting a persona in poetry can be a tricky business. Personal feelings to the point of intimacy need to be balanced with distance and a level of objectivity. Holly Guran, in her new collection, River of Bones, achieves this equilibrium with a consistent well-modulated tone. In fact this modulation of diction astonishes with its adeptness whether she is speaking as one of her forebears or a young nineteenth century millworker or herself. Even at her most confessional Guran never descends into the rabbit hole of obsessive self-importance and soggy feelings. Her descriptive words reveal the wonder of both hurt and joy in her chosen contexts.

Guran takes us down a tidal river into a murky ancestral past in her poem Phragmites that opens the collection. Marvels abound. The nature metaphor suggests an expedition into the dim mirrored past, a trek through time tethered to genetic clues, as well as personal memories and soulful cross-century identifications. Here’s the heart of the poem,

Our canoe barely leaks
and the hawks dip in pairs
at first haphazard
then in tandem hungry
poised for the dive.
A lone muskrat’s shining fur,
our dark underwater path

And ahead the golden
Phragmites and all around they
barely speak in silent tongues
a wall between water
and shore they grow uncontrollably
hold the marsh mysteries
in papery stalks and tassels.

Notice how the apparitions (muskrat’s shining fur, hawks diving in tandem) disassociate the reader from mere private emotions with their intrinsic interest. The images become omens, predicting the surprises and scope of what follows.

 Fortune’s ups and downs compose tragedies writ large for those lives gripped by them. Unsteady Cradle Rocking, Guran’s gut-wrenching poem of dashed hopes and survival, uses a combination of commentary and fragments of correspondence between her grandfather and great grandfather beginning just prior to the Great Depression. The technique works extraordinarily well, aided by the understatement of their letter-writing diction. That said, you can feel the desperateness and the guilt of both parties. Consider this request and reply,

wishing for a son to ease the fear
drive the long miles
inject hope into the troubles
            Now I’m short on funds to meet the taxes.
            Can you help me out?
            I made some mistakes in investments,
            thank you for your check.

loyal son helped with money
never made the trip too far
his own life, his own fortune’s slings
            Times have been so dull
            our income barely enough
to keep us from hand to mouth.
I long to see your faces and grasp your hands.

The matter-of–fact delivery in Guran’s unsettling piece entitled Daddy’s Girl conceals a sense of profound foreboding. The poet sets her mnemonic landmines artfully: a word or phrase here or there within the narrative. Her school girl persona hints about what is broken and imparts a vague feeling of unease. Understanding arrives in a perfect metaphor. Here’s the metaphor,

Remember the paper about deep sea divers—
among the first to journey down,

lowered by stages into heavier waters?
Coming up they’d get the bends.
Nitrogen bubbles formed in their blood.
I marvel at anyone
Willing to travel into darkness

In her poem Shock Treatment Guran uses the same tone as Daddy’s Girl, but the approach is markedly different, more analytical. She drains out the emotion and chooses her words carefully. The connected phrases are both economical and exact. She straight-forwardly describes her father’s dual illnesses in this way,

…I find you
wandering. You stand and talk,
even smile, mostly stare off
somewhere and take pictures,
pointing the camera at me

as you’ve always done, this time
empty—broken father,
a fractured vertebra, chalky
marks on either side of your forehead
where the shock went in.

Borrowing from A New England Girlhood by Lucy Larcom, Guran versifies the Lowell millworkers’ experience of the early nineteenth century in a series of 16 poems. The genuineness of the pieces take your breath away. My favorite poem from this section is Turn-Out, 1834. I have some first-hand knowledge on how this works, and Guran nails it. The piece opens brilliantly,

From the upper rooms
women walk out.
In the lower rooms
those who discussed strike hesitate.

Should we? Then Harriet’s
I don’t care. I’m turning out.
This girl of eleven leads a line
into the street where others stream

from brick mills so much water
bursting the dam
suddenly weak
with the weight of heavy looms

and arms lifting
Young women aging fast

Through a series of petitions to the Massachusetts General Court the mill girls asked for some redress. Guran uses this historical information to fashion a piece entitled Fight for the Ten Hour Day. The complainants speak thusly,

… we write of contagion, privation
toiling fourteen hours a day,

breathing poison air by the looms, we stay
inside barred from proper physical exercise
and send home what’s needed, much of our pay.
Exhausted. How can any mind realize

its vigor? Now as we organize
you will learn the perils of our labor.  

Guran closes her collection with an epilogue poem she calls Summer, Marshfield. This striking nature piece doubles as a delicate love ode. Just reading it relaxes one with a sense of continuance. The poet rhapsodizes,

He moved with ease and, once inside,
set a bowl of raspberries on the table.
And then his willing back offered itself,
dough for my hungry fingers.

There I lived.
Sprouting moments encircled the house.
Love’s sluice grew an opening in the deep canal,
and we paddled, a pilgrimage down
longing’s great channel …

Guran deftly commands her material, and the artistic boat she propels so effortlessly into the tidal wilderness seems uncapsizable. Exquisite poetry!