Saturday, August 18, 2018

Spare Change News Poems: An Anthology of Homeless People and those Touched by Homelessness--Edited by Marc Goldfinger and Lee Varon

Spare Change News Poems: An Anthology of Homeless People and those Touched by Homelessness
Editors: Lee Varon and Mark Goldfinger
Ibbetson Street Press ( 2018)

Review by Doug Holder

In the introduction to the new anthology Spare Change News Poems... editors Lee Varon and Marc Golfinger write:

" The Spare Change News newspaper was founded in 1992 by a group of homeless individuals and a housed advocate. Since its inception, Spare Change News has worked to elevate the voices of the homeless and economically disadvantaged people in the Boston Area.

In these pages you will find the poetry of many people who are who are homeless, or who have been touched by homelessness in some way. You will find the poetry of veterans, of those with mental health issues, or those struggling with substance abuse disorder. You will find poems written by incarcerated or formerly incarcerated  people."

Personally-- I have a real connection to the paper not only for its laudable mission of giving the homeless a voice (and in some cases a chance to make a living by selling the paper),  but years ago I was an arts reporter under the managing editor at the time Linda Larson--and assisted the poetry editor Don DiVecchio. I worked closely with late assistant editor Cynthia Baron, and former editor Marc Goldinger, as well. I learned a lot during my tenure with all these people.  That being said, the poetry you will find in this anthology is not New Yorker-style work. It can be raw as the streets, visceral,  heartbreaking and even heartwarming.

There are many fine poets, with fine poems in this collection like: Martin Espada, Marge Piercy,  Alexis Ivy, the late Sarah Hannah and many more. In a poem by the editor Lee Varon  titled "Colleen,"  the poet uses colors to vividly portray a young woman doomed by her torrid love affair with heroin:

Heroin is white
      but your lips are blue
and blue is seeping into the room
where you passed out last week,
the room
where your head hit the floor,
blue dust is wafting from the ceiling,
oozing froom the floorboards...

In Martin Espada's poem " How We Could Haved Lived and Died This Way," Espada quotes Whitman,

Not songs of loyalty alone are these,
but songs of insurrection also,
For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel the world

Here in hardscrabble detail Espada, like Whitman, takes it all in-and sings a song for the marginal rebels who survive or don't survive the vagaries of the street:

I see the dark -skinned bodies falling in the street as their ancestors fell
before the whip and steel, the last blood pooling, the last breath spitting.
I see the immigrant street vendor flashing his wallet to the cops,
shot so many times there are bullet holes in the side of his feet....
I see the man hawking
a fistful of cigarettes, the cop's chokehold that makes his wheezing
lungs stop wheezing forever. I am in the crowd, at the window,
kneeling beside the body left on the asphalt for hours, covered in a sheet.

From reading this poetry it is evident that there is tragedy, and beauty on these mean streets  and perhaps. ..salvation.

There will be a reading at Porter Square Books in Cambridge  7PM  Aug 22

To order the book go to:



Friday, August 17, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Meg Smith

Poet Meg Smith

Meg Smith is a poet, journalist, dancer and events producer living in Lowell, Mass.

Her poems have appeared in The Cafe Review, Poetry Bay, Astropoetica, Illumen, Dreams & Nightmares, the Dwarf Stars anthology of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association and many more.

As a journalist, her coverage has been in honored by the New England Newspaper And Press Association, including first place awards for coverage of racial and ethnic issues, and coverage of religion.

She is a past board member of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! and produces the Edgar Allan Poe Show, honoring Poe's presence in Lowell, Mass. She recently published a second book of poetry, Dear Deepest Ghost, available on Amazon.

The Amulet

For keeping,
on a Cairo balcony
gardens of satellite dishes
rooftop flowers
and rose-colored dusk
calling, chanting.
I know
every life here.
I hold this, close,
wearing, to signify,
everything copper,
everything in a diminishing sun.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Hastings Room Reading Series Presents: Seamus Heaney Memorial Reading: August 29th 7PM Tobin, Buchinger, Vincenz

Seamus Heaney Memorial Reading

The Hastings Room Reading Series presents   August 29th  7PM

Polished linoleum shone there. Brass taps shone.
The china cups were very white and big—
An unchipped set with sugar bowl and jug…
“Clearances” from The Haw Lantern

W i t h g u e s t r e a d e r s—

Daniel Tobin is the author of eight books of poems, most recently of The Stone in the Air, his suite
of versions from the German of Paul Celan (Salmon Poetry, 2018). The translation is called “lucid and lyrical” by Stephan Schneider. Tobin’s many honors include the Julia Ward Howe Award, The Robert Penn Warren Award, the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry, "The Discovery/​The Nation Award,"the Robert Frost Fellowship, and creative writing fellowships in poetry from the National Endowmentfor the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

Mary Buchinger is the author of three books of poetry, most recently e i n f ΓΌ h l u n g/in feeling (Main Street Rag, 2018) and Aerialist (2015, Gold Wake). Her poetry was chosen for the Raining Poetry Project on Boston sidewalks and will be permanently installed in the city of Cambridge, where she has served as a Cambridge Poetry Ambassador. She’s been a featured reader at the Library of Congress and is President of the New England Poetry Club (founded by Robert Frost, Amy Lowell, Conrad Aiken).

Marc Vincenz has published twelve books of poetry, including, most recently, Becoming the Sound of Bees (Ampersand Press, 2016), Leaning into the Infinite (Dos Madres Press, 2018) and The Syndicate of Water & Light (Station Hill, 2018). He is also a prolific translator and has translated from the German, Romanian and French. His work has received fellowships and grants from the Swiss Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. 

 7pm at Christ Church ,O Garden Street--just outside of Harvard Square..

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Susan Tepper

Susan Tepper is the author of seven published books of fiction and poetry. Her most recent title “Monte Carlo Days & Nights” is a Novella set in the South of France. For more please visit her website at

Petal by Petal

The moon has settled down
to dust, and the sadness
of time overwhelms
your eyes—
Each morning
an otherwise unobstructed view
they scarcely open
Despite the beauty of
the day
beyond window shades—
O darkness
scrape away what you can
gouge them ‘til they open wide
Letting in deliverance petal by petal.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Jesus in the Ghost Room by Rusty Barnes


Jesus in the Ghost Room
by Rusty Barnes
Copyright © 2017 Rusty Barnes
Nixes Mate Books
Allston, MA
ISBN 978-0-9991882-7-9
Softbound, 63 pages, $9.95

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Rusty Barnes’ poetry is cold, hard, raw. That is exactly what makes it an engaging read. It is about Rusty Barnes … at times Rusty and his late father. Barnes is also warm, soft and polished. His poems are down-to-earth, easily accessible.

In “Arrow-Fishing” he recounts his days fishing in what was once fairly deep water and how animals get the best of the quarry he was after.


The pond has become marsh now
but when it was waist deep I would
go to the middle in the depths
of much to arrow-fish for the huge gold-
fish my landlord had stocked years
before. I remember brining the bow
to my eye and sighting like a gun7
along the top of my thumb the string
tense in my fingers and the feeling
as I Barnes f I were going under. I remember
overshooting as I adjusted my shot
for refraction. I didn’t make that one
but eventually the heard heart of the world
won out and the goldfish became bones
on the bank killed by coon or mink.
But I love the tense thrill of the shot still
I have only to close my eyes to recall.

As in his other poems, Barnes reflects on his past and in this poem, “Circus,” he recalls
some aspects of those days.


If the Ringling Brothers were alive today
they wouldn’t know how to begin.

Freak shows today are everywhere
if you know where to look,
there on the common field of life
with the tattooed and the pierced,

the extraordinarily hairy together
with the unfunny and the trolls

who try to ruin it for everyone who
is not so jaded. I can see the tents in

my mind, the huge spikes that serve
as pegs and the groups of rope fest=

ooned with elephant shit and stale popcorn.
It is pur magic and we only have so much.

What makes Rusty Barnes interesting is that many of us have, “been there, done that,” but have not seen it in the way Barnes portrays it in this book.

In “My Father’s Hip: 1972 Flood” Barnes provides insight into not only his childhood and tenderness toward his father, but his daughter as well. He recalls an important moment in his life despite the dangers he encountered.

One day the crick rose a couple feet
after three days steady rain that brought
logs ramming into rocks and a couple
dead dogs floating in the brown spume.
My dad lifted me up and brought me
to the very edge of the eroded banks
that with every rainstorm came just
a little closer to our house. I don’t recall
what he said to me but I felt safe next
to his gritty cheek and the typical cigarette.
Beside me my brother Joes jumped from foot
to foot excited as all hell to be a branch
in that raging water. He slipped down
the bank screaming but dad never lost
a beat still holding me he whipped around
and caught my brother by the back
out pretty heavily once he was safe
but sitting on his hip in the driving rain
I felt overcome by my smallness.
Like all kids I returned to the site
of the scene 30 years later, dipping my
young daughter’s feet in that same water.

These are examples of Barnes’s recollections of life. In particular his poetry recollects memories of his father, the death of his uncle and his leaning on his loving wife for support.

Barnes grew up in rural Appalachia. He weaves those years with his life in the Boston, MA area into a book of poetry that moves along at a rapid, always interesting pace,
with many poetic stories not soon forgotten.

Zvi A. Sesling, author of The Lynching of Leo Frank
and the forthcoming War Zones (Nixes Mate Books)
Publisher & Editor of Muddy River Poetry Review
and Editor of Bagel Bard Anthologies 7,8 & 12
Poet Laureate, Brookline, MA

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Heather Sullivan

Heather Sullivan
Heather Sullivan’s work has appeared in numerous print and online journals, most recently Chiron Review, Paper and Ink Literary Zine and Trailer Park Quarterly. Her debut collection, Waiting for an Answer (Nixes Mate Books 2017), is available both through the publisher and Amazon. She is also the co-editor at Live Nude Poems. She and novelist Rusty Barnes live with their family in Revere, MA.

Piggy Bank

Every happy thought I have ever had
is stored away in a square shaped
piggy bank on my dresser. I dole them
out to pay the toll keeper of existence
like peeled off pesos in that trip south
of the border for low priced pain meds
for my slipped discs that we never took.
When I’m out, I’ll be holding up the line
behind me just like when I’d overshoot
the bucket with my change, digging
through the ashtray looking for quarters,
shoving my hand down the side of the
console for the profligate dimes. You
remember that old joke your uncle would
rib any newlywed with, every time you
have sex the first year of your marriage
you put a marble in a jar on the bedside
table, then pull a marble out every time
you have sex thereafter – you’ll never
empty the jar. My storehouse is almost
empty, and Joseph has left his post.