Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Somerville Poet Laureate: Call for Applicants for 2019

Nicole Terez Dutton
Gloria Mindock

We are coming to the end of the tenure of Gloria Mindock--Somerville's second  Poet Laureate. She has done a great job. We are looking for new candidates for the position--please read below...  Best, Doug Holder/ Poet Laureate Committee

Somerville Poet Laureate

Application and Overview

Statement of Purpose

The City of Somerville announces the creation of a Poet Laureate for Somerville. The City views the position as a means to further enhance the profile of poets and poetry in the city and beyond. The Poet Laureate is expected to bring poetry to segments of Somerville's community that have less access or exposure to poetry: senior citizens, youth, schools and communities. The Poet Laureate will be a person of vision with the ability to enact his/her vision.


The Poet Laureate will serve for a two-year term, 2019 & 2020, and will be provided an honorarium of $2,000 per year. A contract will be derived with expectations detailed as to the public benefit required of the position, which will be jointly determined with the final applicant and review committee. The expectation is that the position will support and expand poetry in the city. The Somerville Arts Council/City of Somerville will support the Laureate in networking within the community but actual work must be accomplished by the chosen candidate.

How to apply

Deadline: Postmarked by Monday, November 5, 2018

Candidates for Somerville Poet Laureate must provide the following:

  • One page contact info sheet with name, address, phone number, email, website (if applicable)

  • Proof of Somerville residence demonstrated by sending a copy of a utility bill, lease, phone bill. (a jpg image of a current bill or statement is fine if emailing application, or a photocopy of statement if mailing application)

  • Curriculum Vitae / Poetry-Related Bio

  • Up to 20 pages of original poetry

  • Provide a one to three page vision statement that is realistic in execution, which details how you will implement the public benefit component.

How to submit

  1. Either email PDFs of the above items to Gregory Jenkins at with Poet Laureate in the subject header:

  1. Or mail the following documents to: Somerville Poet Laureate, Somerville Arts Council, 50 Evergreen Ave., Somerville, MA 02145

Selection Process for Poet Laureate of Somerville

A committee, comprised of local poets, teachers, and arts administrators, will review the applications based on the evaluation criteria and select three finalists. Finalists will be interviewed in November with the expectation that they will further refine their proposed vision and public component for the position. The interview process will also provide the selection committee the ability to inquire more of the candidate. Based on the four criteria below, the committee will select a final candidate and alternate who will be presented to Mayor Joseph Curtatone for his approval.

Evaluation Process for Poet Laureate Nomination

The Poet Laureate will be reviewed and chosen on the basis of the four criteria (percentage weights included):

  • Excellence in craftsmanship, as demonstrated by submitted original poems (25%)

  • Providing a vision for the position. How will you work with the community, schools, nonprofit or municipal arts and service departments. Please convey your vision for the position with details of outreach and collaborations. (25%)

  • Professional achievement in the field of poetry. Merit shall be proven by publication credits either in small press or large press publications; at least one collection, full size or chapbook published by a small press or large press; also, awards or recognition such as grants, fellowships, prizes, and/or other recognition. (25%)

  • A history of actively promulgating the visibility of poetry in Somerville’s neighborhoods and literary communities through readings, publications, promotion of events, public presentations and/or workshops and other types of teaching and literary community involvement. (25%)

City of Somerville

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone

The View from Flyover Country by Sarah Kendzior

The View from Flyover Country by Sarah Kendzior. Flatiron Books. 235 pages. $16.99.

Review by Ed Meek

Sarah Kendzior is a unique voice in journalism. She has a PhD in Anthropology. She studied authoritarian regimes. She is known for predicting Trump’s rise to power. The View From Flyover Country is a collection of essays written between 2012 and 2014. Many were penned for Al Jazeera. They were originally posted online and were just recently released as a book. She has a wide range of interests: the media, higher education, race, the economy. She is on the same page as Naomi Klein who wrote in The Shock Doctrine about the way those in power use a crisis in order to advance their own agenda. The essays taken together do a good job of explaining how we got into this fine mess.

Kendzior traces the election of Trump back to the Bush administration. In an essay called “Iraq and the Reinvention of Reality” Kendzior reminds us that back in 2002, in what the white house called, “the roll-out” of the war, Karl Rove said, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” That reality included the “fake news” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that did not actually exist. None other than Secretary of State Colin Powell made a presentation to the United Nations claiming such weapons did exist and were a threat to us and the world. Condoleezza Rice went on television warning of a mushroom cloud if we failed to act, and Dick Cheney leaked “proof” of such weapons to The New York Times.

In the years following the invasion and occupation of Iraq, we had reality television, Sarah Palin, and The Apprentice, a show that beamed the decisive boss, Donald Trump, into the homes of 20 million Americans. Then, in 2015, Trump the celebrity was able to find support for his populist message to make America great again because, as Kendzior, puts it, so many Americans never recovered from the Great Recession of 2008 and they needed to blame someone. Trump offered them Mexican immigrants, Muslims, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, and her husband Bill. At the same time, he stoked their fears of terrorism. Like Palin he addressed them as the real Americans, the true patriots—those who were the victims of open borders, free trade and identity politics. And he addressed their concerns about the “Swamp” Washington had become. “I alone can fix it,” he claimed.

Sarah Kendzior is from St. Louis one of those forgotten cities in America. Do you remember the Judy Garland movie Meet Me in Saint Louis? It came out in 1944 and was set at the turn of the century when St. Louis hosted the World’s Fair. She sings “Easter Parade” at the end. It was an upbeat movie about the time when St. Louis, like many other cities in America, was thriving. Now St. Louis has high unemployment and underemployment and underfunded, racially-segregated schools. Kendzior connects the dots between Americans stuck in low wage jobs working for McDonalds and Walmart and Americans who used to be high income professionals who are now stuck in part time jobs in fields like journalism, academia, and publishing, in what she calls the post-employment economy.

From Kendzior’s perspective, most Americans, what Bernie would call the bottom 90 per cent, are not in good shape. Millennials are graduating from overpriced colleges saddled with debt. Mothers are forced to make impossible choices between taking care of their children and working to pay for daycare. College admissions are slanted toward the rich, as are internships, because the rich are the only ones who can afford to do them. Poor people are blamed for poverty and if they cannot afford to pay their water bill, the water in the richest country in the world is cut off, as it was in Detroit.

As someone who studied authoritarian regimes, Kendzior appreciates the fact that we in the United States have the ability to complain and to resist. She is hopeful that Trump will function as a cautionary tale we can tell our children about. She is concerned that the damage he is doing to the environment, the courts, our standing in the world, will take years to undo.

The View From Flyover Country is well worth reading. I would also encourage you to follow her on Twitter @sarahkendzior. Here’s a recent tweet: “I’m sick of rapists and liars and traitors and kleptocrats and warmongers and white supremacists and the fact that all the descriptors in this tweet can apply to one person and runs the USA.” If you want to understand what is going on in the United States today, Sarah Kendzior is a good resource.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Dorothy Shubow Nelson

Dorothy Shubow Nelson

Dorothy Shubow Nelson’s poems have appeared in: Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace, 2017; We Are The Port: Stories of Place, Perseverance and Pride in the Port/Area 4(Cambridge); Polis IV, 2014; Human Architecture VII, 2009; Consequence Vol. I, 2009; Atelier; Café Review; The Bridge; North Shore North; Rhythm Music Magazine; Sojourner; and various community newspapers. Her review of Viet Nam Veteran, Bruce Weigl’s collection, The Abundance of Nothing, was published in Consequence Magazine, Vol. V, 2013. Formerly a teacher of writing and literature for many years and Senior Lecturer in English at UMass/Boston, she has published The Dream of the Sea, Early Poems, 2008 and a chapbook, Something Near. She is the editor of The Inner Voice and The Outer World, Writings by Veterans and their Families, published in 2017. She has led the Cape Ann Veterans Writing Workshop since the fall of 2013. For this work she  received a Commendation Medal from Cape Ann Veterans Services. One of the early founding board members of the Gloucester Writers Center, she presently serves on the advisory board. 

Starting Over

I am broken
but to remember
how life is wrested
from each suffered child
each indignity borne
   by years of labor
each scraping of the
   iron skillet
each sharing of food
left over, thinned by
each worker’s  thirst
   and migrant’s
each desire for life stolen
   for everything stolen
each soul abandoned

praise the food of others 
each home with heat
each family well, free
   of disease
praise those who clean
house, discard, fix, persist

                        Dorothy Shubow Nelson
                        June, 2018

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Black Clown Adapted from the poem by Langston Hughes By Davóne Tines and Michael Schachter

The Black Clown
Adapted from the poem by Langston Hughes
By Davóne Tines and Michael Schachter
Music by Michael Schachter
Directed by Zack Winokur
At the American Repertory Theater
Loeb Drama Center
Harvard University
August 31 to September 23

Review by Wendell Smith 

The first thing you should do with this review is put it down and get online to see if you can get tickets to The Black Clown at the A.R.T. before it sells out. Ironically, given its subject, it is an entertainment not to be missed.

Ironic, because this entertainment grows from a poem that says a black man must overcome his culturally imposed role to be a clown and entertain us. Published by Langston Hughes in 1931, it can be read in less than the three minutes allotted at most open mikes. At the A.R.T. it has been turned into 70 minutes of absorbing theatre. 70 minutes where we are captured by the Muses through word, music and dance and led to a prospect where we are forced to look back at truths about our collective selves (the awful truths of our history) to seek to be healed and find hope for redemption through tears and shared community.

With one agonist, The Clown, exquisitely sung by Davóne Tines, and a chorus of equally accomplished singers and dancers, The Black Clown is rooted in the 6th century BCE Greek origins of our theater, fulfilling the Aristotelian purpose for poetry: it evokes our pity and fear to cause the purgation of those emotions.

The poem, as published in 1931 and provided in the program, has this stage direction for an epigraph, "A dramatic monologue to be spoken by pure-blooded Negro in the white suit and hat of a clown, to the music of the piano or an orchestra." A line runs down the left-hand margin of the poem to separate it from an outline for the music and the actions of the chorus called, “The Mood.” Here is a short sample from the beginning of the poem, which demonstrates that Hughes’ knew the potential for his poem, knew it would flourish, if it were ever to find the right soil, water and nurturing attention, would bloom as it has at the A.R.T.:

THE MOOD                 THE POEM

A gay and                     You laugh
low-down blues.           Because I'm poor and black and funny –
Comic entrance            Not the same as you –
like the clowns             Because my mind is dull
in the circus.                 And dice instead of books will do
Humorous                     For me to play with
defiance.                       When the day is through.

The program identifies 17 musical numbers by name but they flow into each other so that, with two exceptions they do not stand as separate songs. Those exceptions are, as Hughes calls for their use in “The Mood:” “Nobody Knows [the trouble I've seen],” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Chile.” In their adaptation Tine and Schachter do not use these songs in their entirety but impress them upon us by repeating their iconic phrases.

“Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, nobody knows my sorrow,” in their rendition becomes a refrain without the solace of, “Nobody knows but Jesus.” and is presented, as Hughes suggested it should be, when the performance has progressed through his poem to this section:

Three hundred years
In the cotton and the cane,
Plowing and reaping
With no gain –

Until, at last, through the staging of that repetition we come to see and feel those “troubles” and “sorrows” as the chorus turns them from an abstract lyric sung by a Gospel choir into the visual substance of dance, and, in doing so, connects them with their source, slavery; a source, which we haven’t experienced but, until now, only observed. Here we cannot avert our gaze from this foundation of our culture but must see what whiteness does.

Hughes wants the second of those traditional songs to follow these lines:

Abe Lincoln done set me free –
One little moment
To dance with glee.

Then said this again –
No land, no house, no job,
No place to go.
Black – in a white world
Where cold winds blow.

Here Tine and Schachter have the chorus begin a funeral procession while singing “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child;” repeating it again and again as a dirge and carrying a chair above their heads as a symbolic casket they flow off the stage through the audience and back on the stage where the procession concludes the dirge as a member of the chorus lies down on the stage and a banner printed with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is used for a shroud while they sings these lines by Hughes:

Not wanted here; not needed
Black—you can die
nobody will care.

With that The Clown reaches his nadir, and we are halfway through the poem; now the performance pivots and begins to swing up. Initially this is through the resistance of Jim Crow illustrated with piece of magical stagecraft. The Clown sings

Yet clinging to the ladder,
Round by round.
Trying to climb up,
Forever pushed down.

as a ladder made of light comes down from the scenery loft; The Clown tries to climb it, he get one rung off the floor but can’t climb any higher because, as he pulls this endless ladder of light past him, it disappears into the floor. The production has that kind of theatrical flair from its opening through the triumph its conclusion:

Cry to the world
That all might understand:
I was once a black clown
But now –
I'm a man!

The Black Clown is the culmination of collaboration between Davóne Tines and Michael Schachter that began 2010, a year after their graduation from Harvard. The A.R.T. became involved in 2015. The result is a complete piece of absorbing theater directed by Zack Winokur with choreography by Chanel DaSilva, music direction by Jaret Landon, sets and costumes by Carlos Soto, lighting by John Torres, and sound by Kai Harada, tickets on line at, at the Loeb Theater through September 23.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

War Zones Zvi A. Sesling

War Zones

 Zvi A. Sesling

 Nixes Mate Books, Allston Mass. 2018

 Reviewer: Ari Appel

            With its tragic accounts of war and its human toll, War Zones by Zvi A. Sesling is an outstanding addition to any bookshelf, especially that of someone interested in war. It is consistent in portraying the uselessness and waste of war, each poem building off of the effect of the last as reading the book leaves one with a progressively darker and darker image of what war means. From loss of life to loss of dignity to loss of limb, Sesling covers a lot of ground for a short book. Some of my favorite lines are “Memories flash back like / an M-16 in the dark jungle,” “Bones in pieces and minds shattered,” and “War is the future,” the last of which is an interesting proposition—the book touches on the theme of war as ongoing several times.

            A poem that really stuck with me describes the tragedy of a fallen soldier who is given a 10-second memorial on a television station but Sesling describes him as follows: “Remembered or not he is already / forgotten by the nation / his moment of glory / he will not hear the cheers / for the returned living.” The idea that a fallen soldier can be so easily forgotten is compelling as we have forgotten so many fallen soldiers. A 10-second memorial on TV does nothing more than pay lip service to an issue that goes on and on in the background of most of our daily lives. The toll of war is real, and Sesling wants his readers to know this in all of its vivid detail.

            What I like about Sesling's book above any of its individual components, which I do admire, is his ability to piece together a work that is so homogeneous in subject matter without ever leaving a feeling of repetitiousness. Every page is a new story with the same underlying theme (war) but constantly builds on rather than repeats what came before. I read poem after poem without ever feeling like I had ever read the same thing twice. Sesling's War Zones is a laudable and well-put-together poetry volume that deserves to be read by all, and should absolutely be read by anyone who has any role in the decision-making process that leads to war.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Diane Smith

Poet Diane Smith

Diane Smith  writes about global issues that haunt us all—the diminishing middle class, the poor, refugees, healthcare; those who have little visibility or power in society.  Smith has garnered awards for her writing in Canada, England, and the United States.  She is a graduate of Harvard University with a Master of Liberal Arts in Journalism through the School of Continuing Education.


The long, slow haunting whistle of the train 
Announces the arrival of the midnight special 
Midgets, bearded ladies, tigers and clowns 
Descend the conductor’s short, portable steps

Carny people sparkle with magic, 
Trinkets and trash and games of chance 
Swirling, whirling dervishes of dance 
Big Top with flying, sequined acrobats

Air thick with grease and deep-fried pronto pups,
Wispy cotton candy, peanuts, colas, 
Babies, sticky fingers, messy faces, 
Hot humid days, too swiftly passing by 

To the next town—the carny never stops
Bringing ferris wheels, tilt-a-whirls 
Thoughts of wonder, expectations rising: 
The ring toss and the endless broken ride

Days ebb as the carnival packs its bags,
Boxcars pulling up, loading animals 
Teens misting long goodbyes, as lights
Fade down the tracks, last refuge of summer

-Diane Smith

Friday, September 07, 2018

Every Day There Is Something about Elephants by Timothy Gager

Every Day There Is Something About Elephants   (Big Table Publishing)

Review by   Leah Brundige 

Timothy Gager’s engaging new collection of flash fiction, Every Day There Is Something about Elephants, shows a novelist’s interest in human interactions and vivid details coupled with a poet’s gifts for compression and figurative language. The book’s 107 stories vary in tone, scope, and length, but none is longer than four pages. Some—such as “The Lottery Winner,” a tour de force at just a page in a half—deploy and develop an extraordinary number of characters relative to their size, while others navigate the constraints on their length by more poetic means, turning on a single pun (“Chiller”) or extended metaphor (“How penguins break”). The reader is carried along by their expert pacing and, in many cases, by their sheer shock value—Gager is a master of the twist ending.

The subject matter of these short-shorts is often harrowing, and the author is unafraid to write with sympathy, if not approval, of the seedier sides of human nature and society. Abused or addicted, homicidal or lecherous, his characters command our attention as they grope through their flawed lives toward connection or transcendence. Gager is frugal with his imagery, but he knows how to illuminate a character’s plight with a painful, well-chosen detail when the story calls for it:

You burned your lips on a crack pipe, without the warning: The glass on this pipe reaches extreme temperatures. Handle with care. You didn’t care. The blisters popped and fused your lips together.

            The gritty realism of that terrible last sentence might seem at first glance to be at odds with another strain that runs through Gager’s work: a domestic surrealism that at times borders on whimsy. The elephant-haunted narrator of the collection’s title story recounts details that at first seem merely absurd (“How did I know an elephant had been in the refrigerator? He left his footprint in the cheesecake”) but become more disquieting as the narrative progresses, until we realize that the “elephants” are manifestations of the character’s mental disturbance. The conclusion brings the elephant metaphor to chilling culmination and unsettles the reader with all that it leaves unsaid. The story recalls Ernest Hemingway’s famous “Hills like White Elephants,” another piece of short fiction animated by its pachydermal symbolism, though the judicious silences in Gager’s narrative threaten to make Hemingway’s measured withholding of information look like a parlor trick.

            If the familiar concerns of Gager’s fiction—domestic violence, firearms, and drinking among them—recur frequently in these stories, they never feel repetitive; Gager’s imaginative resources are considerable, and imbue each piece with its own freshness of character or circumstance. They are stories that, however grim on the surface, rejoice in their own brevity and technique. This immensely readable book affirms the prolific Gager’s literary gifts, and showcases a kind of short story that seems, by the collection’s end, entirely his own.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Eliot Cardinaux

Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1984 to a musical family, Eliot Cardinaux studied jazz piano at the Manhattan School of Music from 2003-2006. After sustaining a career in New York as an improvising musician, Cardinaux took an interest in the art of poetry, and moved to Western Massachusetts in 2008, where he read and wrote diligently for just over 6 years. Cardinaux then decided to return to school, and attained a bachelor's in Contemporary Improvisation as a pianist at the New England Conservatory in Boston. He is still active as both a pianist and poet along the East Coast and in parts of Europe, and has gone on to produce material in other mediums as well, including voice and film, as well as graphic design. 

In 2016, he founded The Bodily Press, a small chapbook publication and record label through which he has released the works of other poets, as well as several of his own albums and chapbooks, including, most recently, Sweet Beyond Witness, and By the Hand


This suffocation,
year of yesterday’s breezes
playing in my hair

the pines will answer:
I’ve seen its edges, but I
haven’t found it yet

on the walk at dusk
tomorrow will be — as dead,
as animal as

you, familiar
species, formless as the wounds
inflicted, witness.

Haiku on Leaving the City


To someone with hands:
pinhole, landscape; hand and strings,
while you have no land.


Clocks tick like always.
I gave the cat ice water.
Things are packed away.


Rather than writing,
the billboard needs changing, but
tonight I can’t reach.


This bar is so loud;
I’d like to stop talking now,
so you can go on.