Thursday, January 18, 2018


 Deborah Leipziger (Curator of the Jewish Poetry Festival)

Contact: Deborah Leipziger, Curator January 10, 2018
Phone: 617-997-2701

9th Annual Jewish Poetry Festival at Temple Sinai, Brookline, MA
Sunday, February 4, 2018 from 2:00 to 4:00 P.M.

Deborah Leipziger, curator of the 8th Annual Jewish Poetry Festival, announced the event will take place Sunday, March 5 from 2-4 p.m. at Temple Sinai’s Ehrenfried Hall, 50 Sewall Avenue, Brookline, MA.

Founded by Ms. Leipziger the Jewish Poetry Festival brings together Jewish poets as well as non-Jewish poets who write on Jewish subjects. Ms. Leipziger said, “Now in its ninth year the Jewish Poetry Festival has grown beyond Brookline’s borders and is a welcoming venue for not only our feature poets, but also for many people both Jewish and non-Jewish who have written poems on the central themes of family, community and Jewish life.

This year’s featured poet is Barbara Helfgott Hyett, a teacher and editor who has published five collections of poetry, most recently “Rift” from the University of Arkansas Press. The book won the Boston Foundation’s Father John Fellowship for Excellence in the Arts. Ms. Helfgott Hyett’s poems have appeared widely in journals and magazines including The New Republic, The Nation, Hudson Review, Agni and Ploughshares as well as in over fifty anthologies. Recipient of many grants, residencies, and fellowships, she works as a professor of English and is also the Director of PoemWorks, The Workshop for Publishing Poets, which was named “One of the Best Workshops in Boston” by the Boston Globe.

Master of Ceremonies for the festival will be Professor Larry Lowenthal.

An open mic will follow Ms. Helfgott Hyett’s reading and readers are asked to bring one original poem on one of the following themes: family, community or Jewish life. There will be a table at the entrance where those wishing to participate may sign up.

Refreshments will be served.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Boston Poet Walter Howard has passed....

Walter reading at Stone Soup---video from Chad Parenteau
Walter in the Somerville Times

Dear friends,

With her permission, I'm passing on a message from Joan Kimball, a good friend of Walter Howard. Please feel free to contact her at her email address below.

Dear Friend of Walter Howard,
                I am sad to tell you that we lost Walter today, Sunday, January 14, 2018. His brother Richard and Richard’s wife Pam called me this afternoon to let me know. After a private service, he will be buried in the family plot in Bridgewater, MA.
                I am glad that back in December he was able to enjoy the reading of his manuscript  by so many of his poetry friends.
                Also, just a week ago, Kay and I and some of Kay’s church choir sang to him while Verna held his hand and heard him sing a few notes along with us.
The book of 51 of his poems, “Walter Howard: Reflections in Moonlight,” edited by Debbie Martin and myself, to be published by Wilderness House, is almost ready to print. 
                From the book, here’s a piece toward the end of Walter's poem, “Apples of Immortality."
I am but an old harpsichord
With spine no longer steel.. 
I am but broken keys and spindly legs
A limp, faded old flag,
Father of uncertain notes. 
But I can still play
The old song
The earth sang in its youth.
    *     *     *
And we can flee! West!
West to the Garden of the Hesperides
West to the serpent-guarded gate!
West to the oasis where Christ stands!
Slay the serpent!
Storm the oasis!
Run with Christ!
Steal from the Tree of Paradise
Its apples gold!
In sorrow,

Artist Robert Goss: Recounts His Story and the Brickbottom Gallery's

Artist Robert Goss: Recounts His Story and the Brickbottom Gallery's

By Doug Holder

Robet Goss met me in the lobby of the Baker Building at the Brickbottom Gallery in Somerville, Ma. The Brickbottom is a noted artist residence, an exhibition space that has been in existence since the mid 1980s. Goss, is a 70ish man, with a full gray/white beard and a genial, folksy manner. He led me to his space, that on first impression looked a bit like a junkyard—but on closer inspection these throw away objects have come together to form Goss' art, and make a statement about his life. I walked around the space and saw disembodied plastic hands sprouting unexpectedly from the walls,  and contraptions like a record player, with a picture of a brain rotating on the turntable. There were old medical records on display, news clippings, heads of dummies staring at me with piercing eyes—all detritus that is essential to Goss' work. He walked around the space like some scholarly docent stooping and squinting at his creations.

Goss is not some isolated bohemian eccentric, but a founding member of the Brickbottom Gallery. He is an accomplished artist who has exhibited locally and nationally. He is the co-director of the Invisible Cities Group that creates large outdoor installations and performances.

Years ago Goss was living in the Fort Point Channel section of Boston—now a high end 'hood with the likes of Amazon and General Electric vying for space. In the 70s and 80s Goss was paying three dollars a foot for his space, but he and others in his community saw the writing on the wall—they knew they would be eventually displaced. So he and his band of artists, with the use of posters, regular mail, word of mouth, made a great grassroots effort to bring the Brickbottom to fruition. The building—in the hinterlands—just outside Union Square was a defunct A&P food plant—and a cold storage warehouse. There were a total of three buildings. After getting together a rather large group, this ragtag army of artists and others managed  to raise 7 million dollars from banks, donations, and the help of the Somerville Arts Council. Ross told me that the place did not look like some sleek Tribeca building. He said, “ It was a mess. Outside the building was a burnt out car, and a lot of discarded bric- a- brac. He, Lisa Bouchard (the office manager), and others worked out of a trailer.

Goss, who lives with his wife Susan, an accomplished artist who teaches at Wellesley, told me that the late Jack McLaughlin—the construction manager was an essential person, liaison, in the nascent process. Goss said, “He was able to deal with the mercurial artist and the bottom line real estate broker, equally well.”

Spaces at the Gallery were determined by a lottery, and of course people had to submit slides and a resume to show that they were serious artists. Predominately comprised of visual artist at first, the gallery now houses theater people and writers.

Goss' archival process is in the infant stages. But he hopes to have the original members of the association tell their stories. Like his collection in his space, he hopes to collect stories, photos and anecdotes, that will create a compelling narrative of this institution.

The list of artist who have lived here, and presently live here is impressive. Goss just listed a few prominent folks like Susan Schmidt, Pier Gustasson ( photography), Chris Enos( photography), but this only a grain of sand in the Sahara.

Goss has his own compelling story. He told me that he suffered a traumatic brain injury. As a result of this he suffered from a condition called, Anhedonia. This condition manifests itself with the loss of pleasure with things that usually brought you pleasure. In the case of Goss it was jazz. Goss was steeped in the jazz tradition and witnessed the “Loft” and club scene in New York in the 60s and 70s. He told me he saw Thelonius Monk play as well as Mile Davis and others. During his rehab he went through a MRI. Goss said, the rhythmic knocking, tapping, while he was in the machine, might have jump-started his brain. He remembers hearing a song by King Pleasure on the radio. And suddenly everything came back to him.

Goss is not a pretentious man. He works at his art out of his own passion and interest, and if it communicates something to people—then all the better. He alters photo images, he combines text—he brings back the archaic—and makes it contemporary. He says his art tells the story of his life. And hopefully his band of brothers and sisters will tell the fascinating history of the Brickbottom Gallery.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Tomas O'Leary

Poet Tomas O'Leary

Tomas O'Leary -- poet, translator, music-maker, singer, artist and expressive therapist -- has a volume of New & Selected Poems from Lynx House Press: "In the Wellspring of the Ear."  His previous books of poetry are "Fool at the Funeral,"  "The Devil Take a Crooked House,"  and "A Prayer for Everyone."  His poems have  been published in a wide variety of literary journals. 
    A teacher for many years — (college, high school, elementary, adult ed) — he has worked for the past couple decades with folks who have Alzheimer's, playing Irish accordion and eliciting cognitive and emotional responses through songs, stories, poems, & free-wheeling conversation.
    Tomas grew up in Somerville, a son of Irish immigrant parents, and went from there to South America in the mid-60’s as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia. He unearthed the gist of “Earthquake” from a journal that lay buried 50 years.

Earthquake (Colombia, '67)

Don Chucho loaned me a nice horse
that had no name, nor had the horse
a name for me.  We anonymities
ate breakfast and set out
early one morning from the pueblo
over the  hills and far away.
Magnificent, the air, the vista,
furry clouds that rested softly
on the mountain palms beneath us,
because where we were was high.
A scary-hairy gargantuan spider
gave us pause, but we sidled round it.
My mission was to find the house
of don Miguel, campesino-in-chief,
to drink aguardiente with him and his
cohort of tillers of very steep farms,
and talk of the small school we'd build,
and eat boiled chicken and drink
more aguardiente. It's not hard
to get lost in these hills when you're just
a green gringo from Somerville, Mass.
Unsure where I was, I finally spotted
a house on a distant rise.  It was dancing
crazily, pots and pans clanging
where they hung on the veranda.  Then
the ground beneath my horse
seemed anxious to abandon us.
All credit to the horse, who said
no way, and started back, and I went with it.
Upon return I found
the town had fallen down, at least by half.
The church was gone completely, the bank
and many houses.  My horse was glad
to be free of me, though I sensed
no egregious insult.  I walked
the ruins of the town, Roncesvalles
of Tolima in Colombia, sole gringo
in this pueblo of maybe a thousand,
Peace Corps ruminant looking for work.
Struck dumb by an earthquake, plunged smartly
into rubble with the rest.

                                      --Tomas O'Leary

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Portrait of a Market and a State of Mind: Market Basket, Somerville, Ma.

Portrait of a Market and a State of Mind: Market Basket, Somerville, Ma.

By Doug Holder

When I walk through the door, I see a line of seniors sitting on chairs...a Greek Chorus of sorts--- crooning commentary on the flash of patrons who continually come through the store. There is the heavily accented cacophony, “ Paper or plastic?” There are the coupon men and women who confusingly rifle through their list of bargains, as the people who stand on line have the zombie-like-- sort of posture that would make the filmmaker George Romero proud. The deli counter is a symphony of shouts-- a friendly argument or conversation with the customers-- “ What's it gonna be, hon,?” “ Do you want the Provolone thick or thin?,” “ Not an ounce of fat on it, chief—God be my witness.” The fish mongers come out from the back, hearty, red-faced from the freezers—staring down the poker -faced fish eyes of the Red Snapper, admiring the sleek texture of an upscale piece of swordfish, even giving the lowly chowder fish its due.

There is an art to maneuver your cart here. Like any busy city street—you have to be a skilled driver. You swing and swerve, your hips swivel like a modern dancer, you make a lightning turn for those Melba Toasts-another for the treasure chest of frozen vegetables—you snap your fingers at the snap peas.

The roast chickens—pleasingly plump—their breasts straining against the plastic wrap—like, well...this is a family newspaper.

Like a deviant you clandestinely feel up an avocado, the mounds of melons, the peach with its adolescent peach fuzz.

Down the aisle— while studying a can of chili, you see a long-lost friend—that you haven't seen in 20 years. You debate whether to start a conversation—to revisit what was long put to bed-- but you just leave instead.

You eye the purchases of the person in front of you on line. You are judgmental. “ How could they eat those slabs of fatty pork,” you say to yourself. You always snicker at the folks who read the National Enquirer—but you find yourself rifling through it yourself. You feel self-righteous because you brought your own canvas bag—you gallantly turn down the plastic.

Outside the parking lot is full. The cars, like produce are crammed in their  pre-ordained spots. You get in your car and drive—because it really gets busy at five.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Linda Larson

Poet Linda Larson
Linda Larson has been a journalist, poet, writing teacher, and a writing student in the course of her career. One thing she likes about the role of a poet is that she gets to write about what she loves. And it is evident in her body of work that she has a deep love for her subjects and the craft of writing.

Linda Larson was born and educated in the Midwest, and spent many a childhood summer in Mississippi. She graduated with an M.A. from the Writing Seminars at John Hopkins University in 1970. While in Mississippi she worked as a feature writer for the Capitol Reporterr and The Jackson Advocate. She relocated to the Boston area and for five years she served as an editor and contributor to Spare Change News-- a homeless paper based in Cambridge. In 2007, she published her first book of poetry Washing the Stones ( Ibbetson Street Press)

Postage Due

As a child...walking in the heat,
the light ripples like antique window glass.
Heat waves don't bother children.

Up the lane and then up the hill,
I travel daily to the white frame
post office to check the mail.

Almost every day there is a letter
from Mother to take back to the house
and read in silent comfort.


There is still a satisfaction
in retrieving the mail.
A modest joy but a joy nonetheless.

Letters and postcards first, but
then brochures about travel cruises,
charitable requests, notices from museums,

alumni magazines telling me
which of my classmates have died
and that I am alive.

There is that thrill, that flutter,
that hoped-for sweetness
as long as there is mail.