Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Benefactors for the Ibbetson Street 48 Fundraiser


Thanks to all you poets and wonderful holy fools for supporting the Ibbetson Street Press:. Doug Holder/Ibbetson Street Press/Sept. 2020

Bill Falcetano

Tom Miller

Maureen McElroy

Rodger LeGrand

DeWitt Henry

Joy Martin

Gloria Mindock

Susan Tepper

Mike Steffen

Alexis Graudberg

Elizabeth Wolf

Ron Kalman

Barbara Brock

Karen Klein 

Ed Meek

Bridget Galway

Shelby Allen

Blaine Hebbel

Lee Varon

Steve Bodwell

Nina Alonso

David Miller

Phil Temples

Llyn Clague

Beautiful Music

David Donna

Wendell Smith

Rachel Cann

Small Poet at Large

Ruth Smullin

Helen O'Leary

Timothy Gager

Julia Carlson

Dennis Daly

Norlinda Conroe

Lee Varon

Phil Temples

Paul Steven Stone

Glen Bowie

Tomas O'Leary

Lawrence kessenich

Big Table Publishing

Steve Glines

Robert Miller

Michael C. Keith

Denise Provost

Harris Gardner

Zvi Sesling

Doug Holder to read for the Worcester County Poetry Association as part of their Frank O'Hara Award Celebration

**** Holder was the judge of the event in 2020.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Julia Emiliani: A Somerville Artist, Illustrator and Designer


"A Composition of Moments"   by Julia Emiliani

Somerville's Julia Emiliani earned a BFA in Illustration from Massachusetts College of Art and Design.While working full time as an illustrator at Wayfair, Julia also runs an Etsy shop of illustrated goods called Over it Studio. I decided to interview this talented artist,who resides in the "Paris of New England."

Where have you lived before, and how does Somerville compare?

I was born in Florida and raised in Connecticut, I’ve been living in the Boston area for the past nine years. I’ve lived all around Boston and have been in Somerville since 2017. I love how Somerville feels like a small town, but has all the perks of a city. There’s a sense of community and convenience coupled with beautiful neighborhoods and access to nature. Especially in these Covid times, I’ve been thankful for how accessible nature is in the city of Somerville. I’ve recently been drawing a lot of inspiration from it and have been enjoying long winding walks through Somerville’s many neighborhoods.

You have done a lot of commercial art, as well as your own. Can you tell us a bit how you manage both sides of your career?

It’s a tricky balance. My 9-5 takes up most of my time and energy, but I still try to take advantage of my free time to squeeze in personal work. Mornings are huge for me, and while not having an office to go to for my 9-5 can be a roadblock at times, I love having back all of the time I usually spend commuting. It’s when I feel most clear-headed and energetic, so usually use this time to paint before the rest of the world wakes up. I try to carve out peaceful moments like this for myself on evenings and weekends as well, but mornings are especially instrumental in striking a balance between 9-5 work and personal work.

The artist Norman Rockwell was known for his Illustrations in magazines.  He was accused by critics of not being a real artist, but simply an illustrator. Have you run into this?

I haven’t personally run into this, but I wouldn’t necessarily echo this idea! To me, art is self expression. Even if commercial art ultimately ladders up to a client, brand, or company’s business goals, the illustrator still has to bring their own thoughts, expression, and sense of self into the final deliverable in order to make it work. Of course a fine artist may have more wiggle room in exploring how they want to express, but the artist is never removed from the process, even for commercial work.

In an article from the Boston Globe, it described your handmade work as “cute and cheeky.” Is this how you would describe it?

I would definitely describe my work in that way at the time that article came out! And I think a lot of the work in my etsy shop (www.etsy.com/shop/OveritStudio) also can be described like this. Currently, the rest of my personal work draws a lot of inspiration from my experiences observing nature with my experience as a commercial artist. I find myself contrasting visual qualities of nature with that of digital art, and more frequently painting using analog materials as a way of slowing down and meditating on a single moment, especially in these hectic times. Now I would describe my work more as bold, graphic, and observational -- or something along those lines.

You developed a line of prints with people riding the MBTA. Tell us a bit about this?

At the time I was spending a lot of my time commuting and drawing on the T, so this series was very reflective of my experiences and surroundings in the Boston area, as well as my personal preferences in color and fashion.

How has the pandemic affected your career?

The pandemic puts everything in perspective. It makes me thankful to still have a day job and makes me think more intentionally about my personal work. It forces me to adjust how to market and sell work in a time where live events like craft fairs and gallery openings, that often bring in engagement and sales, aren’t what they used to be. It also forces me to think more critically about what I’m making and why, relative to these times. Whether it’s making work that brings delight and comfort, protest or activist art, producing work in an environmentally-friendly way, or regularly donating sales to causes that need support. All of these practices are now of higher priority in my work as I adjust to the changing marketplace.

What can we expect to see from you in the near future?

I have a lot of ideas! You’ll definitely see more painting from me, both small and large works. I also have some new printed goods dropping in my Etsy shop Fall/Winter 2020. Beyond that, I’ve been dabbling with different ideas - maybe a line of greeting cards, maybe surface design on fabric, maybe something with ceramics? We’ll see where my explorations take me.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Sprawled Asleep By David P. Miller


Sprawled Asleep

By David P. Miller

Nixes Mate Books


Allston, Massachusetts

ISBN: 978-1-949279-21-4

70 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Too often contemporary poetry dwells on the versifier rather than the verse. The confessional reigns and the uniqueness and self-importance of the poet drives both the narrative and the music. In the worst and most extreme examples of this navel-gazing art the poet and his readers develop an unhealthy bond of elitism, which separates them from any objective world view and renounces the joy of detail shared by soulful creation. David Miller’s first full length book, Sprawled Asleep, does not do this. Its meditations are directed by an exactness of observation that deemphasizes the poet-observer to the point of irrelevance. As this poet-observer fades, his objects achieve a singular, eye-opening clarity that leaves one somewhat stunned. The motif in which this observer delineates his objects is often mass transportation. Alienation, counter intuitive as usual, finds a niche here.

In his poem Look at the Sky Miller seeks word precision in his atmospheric scan. He does identify the observer’s position as in a bus, his intellectual preparation (it doesn’t take), and his sensory limitations. The piece opens with directness,

Pinned and plunging beneath the flat

of a thunderhead, a thick purple-

bruised ceiling more threatening

than night’s translucent black.

The bus scrambled out

from beneath that dark table,

toward the blue shelf

opened at the horizon.

I can write thunderhead. Or write

these: horsetails, lenticular,

buttermilk sky. What I want:

to exhale ah! Altostratocumulus.

To know the mundane sky

direct as knowing the breath.

No study or action of mind.

Gaze, or Don’t, Miller’s poem of humorous denial or, perhaps, faux resurrection, triumphs with deadly accurate observations and deductions. The poet considers the life or death evidence pertaining to an unmoving sedentary elderly man attracting some attention from his fellow travelers on the subway. A determination is made in the heart of the poem,

Men in shirts of Egyptian cotton,

suede shoes of charcoal grey,

slumped at the railings in end seats,

chins at their chests, wide woven hats

upside down at their feet,

are: asleep.

Asleep at the end

of the line and asleep

when the train switches back.

Sleeping for us who gaze, or don’t

at scaly red arms, the flushed crown

of a head, smart slim-fit jeans.

See his fingers are twitching.

Miller zeroes in on the mass of humanity in his poem Landscape with Hilton. He opens with the portrait of an elderly female beggar holding a paper cup in a wash of playgoers exiting a theatre. His action then moves to his well-drawn sketch of a waitress in a Faux-Fifties restaurant and past door men ushering a wealthy man to a taxi. This stratified jumble of society mixes in just the right way to elicit the connective Aha of memetic recognition. Next the poet surprises by etching historical contexts into the denouement of his urban landscape. The poem concludes this way,

Slide one block to the Tenderloin—

pale block letters against brick

remember Elegantly Furnished Rooms

Private phones Steam Heat

Hot Water Elevator Service

Private Baths $20 Month.

Above the sidewalk, a voided sign

for a vanished café, shaft rising

toward Corinthian columns and satellite dish,

overpainted entirely in white.

Taking one step beyond his usual ruminations, Miller’s deadpan tone of “just the facts, Ma’am” becomes almost Kafkaesque in his piece entitled Someone Else’s Daughter. Time in this strangely enclosed dimension intertwines with movement and thus with breath. The mode of transportation becomes more real than the travelers, who are reduced to mere passersby status. Instinct drives knowledge. Consider these lines,

The same train on the same rail

enters the same tunnel. Two faithful

train-on-track tones: the upper

thickens as tunnel walls resound

overtones against the body. Remember

how your dog always sat up when the Rambler

slowed, two turns before the house?

The train returns to open air and you rise,

Open eyes, the dog coming home.

My favorite piece in this extraordinary collection Miller entitles Another Poem About Fireflies. But this is not your generic firefly poem straining to connect the microcosm with the macrocosm. Instead Miller’s delightful meditation happens after he is drawn onto his porch by a misconception. He thinks he hears a soft rainfall or drizzle, but the basis of his sensory perception is rather the sound of leaves caught in an air draft. Nature sometimes surprises and this confused state can illuminate other mysteries. The poet notices how his objects assume a fuller reality as his perception withdraws. They dominate this shared world, and, to some extent, dispossess mankind. The poet describes his irrelevance,

I don’t remember when I last saw

fireflies, and I don’t know if I will ever

see them again. So stark, their white-yellow signals

pull from deep in the yard across the street,

and down the street. Each its own light-

point cycle, so many aerial lighthouses.

Flash cycle nebula densing the more

the more I abandon eye focus. This erratic

point cloud beneath tides of treetops,

and me in the fade to black…

The abnegation of self becomes an exquisite meditation and more in the collection’s concluding poem, Half the Day is Night. On the surface an ode to autumn’s equinox, the piece delves into eternal stillness. The poet outdoes himself in these lines,

I sit outside this dark September night.

The hand of dusk across my heart, my spine

caressed by stillness. The listening to come

to what there is to hear when nothing is to hear.

Miller’s remarkable poems lead us beyond his uncommon, well-wrought observations. They verge on the ethereal and visionary. Sprawled Asleep deserves serious artistic acclamation.

Monday, September 14, 2020

From the Mosh Pit of Punk Rock: To Somerville City Councilor


From the Mosh Pit of Punk Rock: To Somerville City Councilor

I met Kristen Strezo at The Somerville Times Annual Dinner some years back. At our table were columnists Jimmy Del Ponte, and Bill Shelton. Among these folks with the gift of gab, Strezo impressed me as an articulate and dynamic presence. So a couple of years later we finally got a chance to talk, not in person but virtually. 

Tell us about your experience in Somerville. It was once described as the "Paris of New England."  Does that ring true for you? 

Somerville is truly one of a kind. I am inspired serving Somerville surrounded by so much creativity. My goal is lift up our artists, musicians and creative class of residents, to do all I can to help us all thrive, including support during the pandemic shutdown. 

You became a Somerville City Councilor at Large during the pandemic.  How do you conduct business now?

I never imagined I’d be sworn-in during a pandemic! Of course, now, some aspects of the job are different than how they are traditionally done. For one thing, I have not had a chance to sit at my desk during City Council meetings and committee meetings are also now held over Zoom. 

During a pandemic with so many diverse needs, City Council has had to respond to a wide array of pressing issues as quickly and effectively as possible. Some of the changes I hoped to make as a City Councilor—like climate change issues—have been slightly  sidetracked in the face of the new pandemic-related challenges. My priority is the health and safety of my constituents. Other priorities—like addressing food insecurity—have been fast tracked through this crisis. 

But, safety protocol is paramount and keeping our COVID numbers down is vitally important, so we cannot for a moment let our guard down yet. I know I will eventually be able to sit at my desk during meetings and see my colleagues in person. Like many of my

constituents, I’m impatient to get back to regular life. However, for now we need to remain cautious. 

What do you attribute to the low rates of infection in our city? 

We’re a city filled with a lot of intelligent people who get it. We prioritize public health, understanding that it’s key to everyone’s best shot at successfully navigating this new normal. I feel like in Somerville, we’ve truly accomplished this COVID response as a team. I’m happy to hear so many people take their roles seriously from mask wearing to looking out for our neighbors. I’m proud of us as a community. I believe in us. 

We hear that folks, including many artists are being forced to move from the city because of gentrification. Artists have really given Somerville its cache. How do you plan to address this issue?

If we lose our artists and creative residents and some of the people that make Somerville so captivating, we lose a part of our soul. I worry about our small artist businesses making it through. I worry about our creative residents being able to stay in their homes and studios. I have heard from some artists that they cannot get to their studios. Some can’t afford to keep their studios. Through close contact with the artist community, I have been listening intently and tailoring my advocacy to reflect those conversations. 

I also worry about the emotional health of our creative residents during our COVID shutdown. Many musicians rely on the energy of the audience while they perform. But, how do you do that in 2020? We have so much more work to do to support our creative community in Somerville. 

Thinking forward, I’d like it to be standard and implied that all future developments that establish in Somerville choose Somerville artists for design work on their offices and properties. That way, we maintain our Somerville character while supporting our community as the city continues to grow. 

In your bio you said you were a singer in a punk rock band.  Tell us about that. Did you bring any of the things you learned during this time to your role as a politician?  I imagine stage presence is one.

My message of social justice remains the same—my voice is just expressed through a different medium of public office! When I told some of my former bandmates that I was running for office, they said that they were not surprised and that they were proud of me. As a performer I was always focused on singing about how we can fix our world. So, I take that energy with me as a public servant. 

You got a degree in journalism from Harvard University Extension. Tell us about your forays into the world of writing. 

I’ve always felt that our personal stories guide us to learn from each other and heal as a society. After writing lyrics and singing my messages to audiences, I wanted to write them down to connect with my audience on another level. 

I love to write and I always thought journalists were the best writers. So, I studied journalism to become a better writer and in the hope that it was contributing to healing the world through the stories I focused on.

I had a great time in school but I wasn’t your typical grad student. In addition to my full-time class schedule and Harvard magazine internship, I was a mom of two kids while caring for my elderly grandmother. I leaned into the experience, writing about the struggles of it all and focusing on wanting graduation bad enough to make it through the tears and adversity. 

My perspective resonated with my professors and I was honored to be chosen to give the commencement speech to my graduating class. I carry that moment with me, because it helped me understand that there is power in vulnerability. That lived experience has value and can help others who are living through something similar. It’s something I think about constantly as I work with my constituents—we are all trying to do our best with what we have. 

Do you consider yourself an artist in any way?

Being a performer and singer is in my blood. I spent over a decade in bands as a lead singer in a feminist punk band. We toured and performed all over the country. I still sing on stage when I can. In Somerville, I’ve sung at Porchfest and at the City’s menorah lighting several years in a row. And I never miss a Honk! festival.

Sunday, September 13, 2020




Interview with Doug Holder 

I talked with Amanda Hill—the artist who created the wonderful mural at the Cambridge Health Alliance site in Somerville. A lot has been written about the mural—but I wanted to get a little more about the artist --in her own words. 

From her website:


  “Amanda Hill is a multimedia artist and muralist living and working in Greater Boston.


Hill's work is rooted in the deep exploration of objects. Hill elevates the status of her subject matter, heightening what many considered to be commonplace. Her paintings demonstrate an interest in color theory, color relationships, and structural tension.

Hill takes a special interest in a community's ability to make and experience art, as such she regularly designs, consults, and coordinates mural and placemaking/public art projects.

Hill received a BA from Smith College (Northampton, MA), and an MS in Nonprofit Management from The New School, Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy (New York, NY).  

DH: Although you don't live in Somerville now--do you still feel a strong connection to it?

AH: I lived in Somerville for about two years before I moved to Malden. I do still feel a strong connection to Somerville. I have fabulous memories from my time there, living with my partner for the first time, backyard bbqs, pottery classes Mudville the list goes on… I still frequent a number of restaurants and cafes in the area. I also have a good number of friends who are still in the Somerville area. I grew up on the South Shore, and went to college in Western, MA so I definitely feel a strong connection to Massachusetts and the Boston area as a whole. 

DH: Do you come from an artistic family? 

AH: Yes and no—a good deal of my family was drawn to music rather than the visual arts. My maternal grandmother was a concert pianist and played with the Boston Pops. She was incredible for her time. She was a professor of Music at Wheaton College, graduated from New England Conservatory of Music and attended the Fontainebleau School. She also traveled with the USO giving concerts. In terms of a career and the gig-economy, I would say her career was most closely related to mine. My maternal grandfather was a structural engineer who toyed with painting as an adult. My mom also has a natural talent for the visual arts and is quite adept at the piano. My twin brother has always had a natural talent for the piano as well, but he went into accounting and finance. One thing that my mother, brother, grandfather, and I have all had in common is a love for manipulating space—we love to be outside and often take on large building/gardening projects.  

DH: You seem to have extensive experience with public art. In some ways is public art more vital than art in museums?  Do you think it sparks interest in people who never really thought about art?

AH: I have been around/practicing public art since a sophomore in High School. My first foray into public art was with the organization Tape Art that is based out of Providence, RI.  In reference to museums vs public art, I wouldn’t say that one is more vital than the other—each are equally vital. However, I do believe that museums can lack accessibility. Museums tend to carry a certain stigma (and often a large admission fee) that can make them inaccessible or even uncomfortable for some to visit. This is one reason why I went in to public art! Public art is one of the most accessible art forms out there. I do truly believe that it can spark interest in people who have never really thought about art or have had minimal exposure to art. 

DH You did the mural at the Cambridge Health Alliance building in Somerville. What has the feedback been like so far? 

AH: The feedback has been great so far. I had a number of visitors while I was putting up the piece who comment on how much color and levity the mural brought to the space. I haven’t heard any complaints as of yet J 

DH: I see that you have a strong business background—and studied Business at Harvard, etc...  So many talented artists complain that they don’t have a business sense.  This has probably helped your career as an artist—am I right? 

AH: I have what I consider a very weird career trajectory. I drifted to the administrative side of the art world for about five years. I went to grad school, co-founded a nonprofit, and worked in operations and philanthropy before switching to working freelance and concentrating on my own artistic practice. Overall, my business/non-profit background has been helpful to my work as an artist, but I would also say that sometimes that business sense does get in the way of my work. I have definitely struggled with the lack of structure my artistic practice can sometimes take whereas the business side is relatively structured and constrained. Striking a balance can be difficult. 

DH:  You often use unused spaces for your work.  What do you look for when you pick a site?

I don’t often pick my own sites. I love working on all types of walls and structures. Most of the time, squarish, flat, untextured, unobstructed walls are some of the best canvases. With that said, walls that are irregularly shaped or textured can be very interesting to work on too. Mainly, I think is visibility is key—can the viewer take in a piece and see the work as a whole? 

DH: Tell us about upcoming projects?

Right now, I don’t have any public solo projects that I am working on. As it goes, projects that I had lined up a month ago have changed course and either been postponed or cancelled. I am in the process of finishing up some work for the City of Chelsea. Since June, I have been working as one of two lead artist/coordinators. Together with the City, we have organized a number of artist calls and hosted virtual artist-mentoring groups. We will be putting up a variety of painted murals and wheat-paste pieces by local artists in mid-September along Division and Cherry Street in Chelsea, MA. 

I am always looking for gigs, so feel free to get in touch if you or your community is looking to install a mural or public art piece.