Tuesday, July 25, 2017

UNION RIVER: POEMS and SKETCHES by Paul Marion

 

UNION RIVER: POEMS and SKETCHES by Paul Marion

Review by Doug Holder

Paul Marion uses a Walt Whitman quote to begin his collection of poems and sketches “Union River..."The quote goes, “ The United States themselves are the greatest poem.” And like Whitman, Marion takes in everything. He listens closely to his French- Canadian relatives talk with their rapid fire “Canadian, American-Franglais French” cadence, as they sat around a table discussing old Lowell, MA., with its enclaves of “Little Canada”, and “Centraville,” its tenements, and its teeming life on the canal and the river. He remembers the marginal men and women—the people we often blind ourselves to. He notices the old, gone- to- seed buildings with their dirty layers of history and meaning. He takes in our country—the plasma night skies of the West, he mixes Balanchine with Muddy Waters; he paints it all with his artful choice of words.

Marion is a native of Lowell, MA. He has written extensively about the city, and has been active in its development. He is the author of a number of collections and books, and he edited “Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings by Jack Kerouac." Marion feels Lowell is as good as place as any to understand America. In his essay from the collection, “Cut from American Cloth” he writes of the city—once know for its manufacturing of textiles, as a place that produced the “stuff of America itself; ideas and merchandise, entrepreneurs and generals, politicians and artists, religious leaders and labor champions... and a multitude of citizens from immigrants, refugees, and migrants who crowded its streets.” Of the many interesting points that Marion makes, and of particular interest to me (since my late father was an advertising man of Mad Man vintage) was the role of Lowell in shaping advertising through its patent medicine industry. 

Marion points out that pill making and bottling plants were combining with on-line printing shops. J.C. Ayer & Company published promotional material, and according to Marion the company published the “ American Almanac” that had a print run in the millions. In fact when we order a “tonic” today— that dates back to a time when a hit of Sarsaparilla could cure what ails you.

There is an ample supply of poetry in this collection. The poetry for the most part is straight forward, evocative, non-experimental—full of imagery and “things” that make it often quite delectable.

One of a number of poems that stood out for me was “Steel Rain.” This poem depicts a scene right from a nocturnal Lowell, where the mills, the canal, are transformed into a painting of dark beauty:

 One a long street
By the black canal
There's a man alone
At the railing, counting
The leaves in the flow,
Watching a slice of moon
Above housing blocks
Drenched by a shower,
The roofs all washed and
Soaked by steel rain.

Marion gets the expansiveness, the inclusiveness, the diversity, the eclecticism, and the influence of our country, and he encapsulates it in this poem that combine the art of the blues singer Muddy Waters, with the highbrow Russian ballet master, George Balanchine. Here is an excerpt from the poem “Mississippi Delta Blues, Ballets Russes,” where American, its art and culture, shows its face in even the most far flung places,

America's all over the map, its mix a staple crop.
Muddy Waters pirouettes on steam guitar, spreads the blues on canvas.
He's a rolling stone on the bayou, a boatman on the Volga.
There is a French Quarter balalaika, there's a jazz master in Red Square
There's a George Balanchine in a golden cowboy suit.

Marion's book of poetry will make you take a harder look at your own city, the landscape, the ghost tenements, the people—and you will perhaps rediscover America yet again.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Three Prominent Irish Poets: Duff, Daly, Rooney to Read at Seamus Heaney Memorial Reading--Aug 30

( Click on pic to enlarge)  Hasting Room Series-- First Congregationalist Church  11 Garden Street--near Harvard Square  7PM

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Sunday Poet: Marguerite Bouvard

Marguerite Bouvard



For many years, Marguerite Bouvard  was a professor of political science at Regis College and a director of poetry workshops. She is the author or 12 non-fiction books in the area of women and human rights as well as 8 books of poetry, two of which have received awards. Both her poetry and essays have been widely anthologized.
Marguerite has received fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute, the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women and from the Puffin Foundation. She has been a writer in residence at the University of Maryland and has had residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Yaddo Foundation, the Djerassi Foundation, the Leighton Artists’ colony at the Banff Centre and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Marguerite’s activities as a resident scholar include organizing the first Tillie K. Lubin Symposium, as well as sponsoring lecture series on women and human rights and on environmental racism. Marguerite was also a founding editor of the All Sides of Ourselves publication series. She continues to organize panels for Women’s History Month and has had two collaborative exhibits at the Dreitzer Gallery and one at the gallery in the Women’ Studies Research Center.

Current Projects

Research on the wars in Iraq and Syria, and the international response to refugees.




 In Secluded Cove

Beyond Poela Bay, naupaka, creeping vine
with its maze of bark like stems,
gleaming white buds, holds
the volcanic and granite rocks
that rise above the clanging ocean,
covers up the flotsam dumped
by the heavy surf, keeping water
in its leaves in time of drought
and traveling in waves over the mountains
as the earth that is laid bare
changes, and turns on its molten
core, its story humming
around us that will outlast the jeeps
and trucks on winding roads,
those who build fires at night
leaving empty bottles
and trash behind them,
the wet cement of the highways.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Endicott College/Ibbetson Street Press/Young Poet Series releases " A Waterless World" by Maisie Ross



( Click on pic to enlarge)
Maisie Ross writes of ignited passion, turmoil and poems that descend into darkness, ...the nights go on and the silence becomes crowded.... Haunting and beautiful, these poems resurrect something that all of us have felt. A powerful book of poems that should be read.--Gloria Mindock/Cervena Barva Press/Somerville Poet Laureate

for more information go to  http://www.lulu.com/ibbetsonpress

Monday, July 17, 2017

PROVINCETOWN ARTS: An annual look at the visual and literary arts.

Founder/ Publisher of Provincetown Arts magazine


PROVINCETOWN ARTS: An annual look at the visual and literary arts.           

Article by Doug Holder

I have had the pleasure to host Christopher Busa, founder and publisher of Provincetown Arts, at the Ibbetson Street Press Visiting Author Series at Endicott College—where I teach. Busa, a man hovering around 70, has an urbane presence, a plethora of anecdotes about artists, writers, academia, and the love of his life Provincetown, MA. This magazine, published annually since 1985—appears every summer—the height of the season for this artist enclave at the tip of Cape Cod.  This magazine has beautiful production values (Even the ads—especially for the galleries—are candy for the eyes), and the writing is as artful and evocative as the town itself.

The summer 2017 edition is no exception. I told Busa I wanted to write a small piece about the current issue. Busa told me to focus on things that “spoke to me.” So I of course pursued the literary offerings. I found that Busa’s piece “Alec Wilkinson and the Poetry of Witness” spoke very loudly. Wilkinson—a longtime writer for the New Yorker—has written many profiles of people who are off the beaten path. In some ways he reminds me of Joseph Mitchell (and Busa points this out too), the Southern gentleman and New Yorker writer who wrote about Greenwich Village eccentrics (most notably Professor Seagull- a man who claimed he wrote the history of the world in the language of seagulls, and carried his tattered notes on the street with him), bearded ladies, characters he encountered in Mc Sorley’s Bar in NYC, and the flophouses of the old Bowery. Like Wilkinson's work—these were not simply journalistic accounts, but they were infused with creative use of language, imagery, etc... Wilkinson told Busa, “I think of myself as a descriptive writer because I don’t think writing divides itself between fiction and non-fiction.” Wilkinson’s non-fiction is infused with poetry.

Wilkinson has written about his year as a Wellflett , MA. police officer; he has written about sugar cane workers, in his book “RIVERKEEPER” he has accounts of men who live by rivers or venture out to the ocean, as well as features about Pete Seeger, Paul Simon and the infamous John Wayne Gacey (who ironically had a distaste for murderers).   He is able to capture the authentic way his characters speak—he leaves you with the feeling that real people do talk this way.

Busa points out that Wilkinson is a man who embeds himself with his subjects. Busa compares the writer to the painter J.M. W. Turner , the artist who strapped himself to the mast of a ship to experience a storm. Busa writes about the artist,” “He wanted to paint the inner turbulence of the storm itself, rather than view it safely from the shore.” And indeed it seems Wilkinson is able to capture that turbulence in his subjects.

Wilkinson reveals to Busa his experience with the  late, longtime fiction editor the New Yorker, William Maxwell. Maxwell, a well-respected novelist -acted as a mentor to the young writer. Wilkinson gave this account of Maxwell’s thoughts on the maturation of a writer,

“There is no way to begin as a writer or anything else than by imitation. You find, by chance or design, the works or the philosophies that appeal to you and begin to make use of them. At first it appears that you are no writer (or musician, painter or lawyer) at all, but only a collection of gestures and observations  other people have already made and of references to them… they become absorbed, they settle into you, so that instead of being the patterns that determine how your own works sounds or looks or proceeds, they become the technical means you might make use of to describe another person’s face… the weather, the impressions of a landscape…”.

The article “Downtown on the Beach: The Path from Greenwich Village to Herring Cove.” by Brett Sokol, examines current artists’ nostalgia for the less-commercialized sensibility of artists back in the 50s and 60s.   Sokol, uses an exhibit at New York University’s Grey Gallery titled,” Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City 1952 to 1965 “as a center which spirals out to examine the connection of P-Town, and Greenwich Village in that era.

Busa also penned an excellent profile on performance artist Karen Finely, who in her recent work embodies Donald Trump in surreal drag. I found myself in an ongoing conversation with Provincetown Arts—and only fine writing can facilitate that.




Chief Jay Strongbow is Real: Timothy Gager Hungers for Truth



Taking its title and prevailing metaphor from a faux-native wrestler who was “arguably the biggest racist gimmick in history,” Timothy Gager’s new collection, Chief Jay Strongbow is Real, sets out to debunk our tidy, comfortable myths and cut through romantic and cultural illusions. The book is set in eight “Acts” that take on loaded topics like politics, addiction and sobriety, love and its demise, family, and poetry itself. 

The collection’s introduction and opening poems indict the actions of those currently in power (“sign the contracts / then set the tap water on fire”), but he’s equally allergic to simplistic or idealistic solutions from the other side:


The most radical revolutions
Become conservative
The day after the revolution
(“Me Thinks we Protest”)

Gager’s poems are disruptive and clever, full of his characteristic wordplay: “What doesn’t kill you makes you thinner,” “as a fly crows,” and, most light-heartedly:

You know you slay me
so what?

I have dragon breath
(“Loose Flowers”)

Gager is also bold and funny in his skewering of consumer culture (seventies style):

Take Sominex tonight and sleep
after Coke and a smile
is how you spell relief
(“I Feel Good About Amerika”)

The collection punctures the balloon of romance and easy intimacy (“this / dating is either gaga or nothing”) but still allows for the hope of deep connection “like a worn t-shirt / is a perfect imperfection.” Silly posturing is off the table here, but love remains a comfort.

In a world of counterfeits, compromise, disappointment and disgust (which extends even to the self: “today at the beach, my patience / vanished like waves taking turns”), the clearest story to tell may be of the adolescent hollowness that cannot be assuaged. Hunger, at least, is true, and memory doesn’t soften it.

At age sixteen, a hundred and forty pounds
An empty pit, my ribs stuck out like a step ladder
My toothpick arms with bulbous hinges
I think it impossible to fill my stomach
(“When I Think of my Childhood”)

With its distrust of smug certainties and empty nostalgia, Chief Jay Strongbow is Real might help us sharpen our own gaze, see more clearly, and act simply and boldly: “Cook a meal. / Plant a garden.” If there’s a message here, it is to look for truth and to persist. “By no means stop.”


--Laura Cherry

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Sunday Poet: Dan Provost


Poet Dan Provost


 
Dan Provost has been published throughout the small press for years.  He is the author of eight books and currently lives in Bellingham, Massachusetts.




A Thought in the Snow




The little things don’t matter anymore…

Breathing in air from a recent storm…

Lying in wait, looking at the clouds that form

Attainable shapes and images…

No,

These are things good people adjust to

When they are torn within—or barren

Only for a moment, of battle of soul…


You walk tainted, alone…

Turning up your collar to keep

Away the deadening cold,

And your thoughts are of penance…

A pathetic form of forgiveness to

A spirit that is unattainable…


Not to be seen nor heard

From the legions that swell all

Around you.


They see the time of day and

A moment of accepted clarity…


You see an army of nothing

Alone

Living

Dying

A quest for the steps

Of a nowhere that

Has been resolved

By the damned few

Who’s terrible escape

Is all too fast

and much too sudden…