Thursday, March 26, 2015


Danielle Legros Georges ( Boston Poet Laureate)

                   Boston National Poetry Month Festival, 2015
                        Boston Public Library, Central Library in Copley Square
                        and  Fisher College, 116 Beacon Street 

     April 9th-12th. FREE ADMISSION to all events.
            An Evening of Poetry, Music & Dance.  Dozens of Established Poets.
         High School Poetry Slam Competition.  Emerging Poets and an Open Mic.

Thursday evening, the Festival begins at Fisher College, with a program of Poetry set to Music & Dance.
        This event is produced by Lucy Holstedt, professor at Berklee College of Music.

Friday afternoon, the Festival continues at Fisher College with 13 "Keynote Poets." They include winners of
        the National Book Award. the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize.

Friday night at Fisher College, we're pleased to host the festival's first high school poetry slam competition.
Saturday and Sunday at Boston Public Library, you can enjoy 50 established and emerging poets, incuding         Boston's new Poet Laureate, Danielle Legros George, National Poetry Slam winner Regie O. Gibson, 
         Rep. Denise Provost and professors at area colleges. Saturday features winners of the slam poetry
         competition, and a panel on "Craft and Publishing." Sunday includes an Open Mic.

Fisher College (116 Beacon St.), Alumni Hall (accessible)  all events are FREE
Thursday, April 9th, 7:30pm Poetry, Dance and Music
Friday, April 10th, 12:00 noon-4:45pm,13 Keynote poets
Friday, April 10th, 7:30pm, High school slam competition 

BPL (700 Boylston St.),Commonwealth Salon (accessible) all events are FREE
Saturday, April 11th, 10:15am-4:50pm, 30 published poets, including the former Boston Poet Laureate,
     Sam Cornish, slam poetry finalists, book table/signing, and panel on "Craft and Publishing"

Sunday, April 12th, 1:00-4:00pm, 17 published poets, including the new Boston Poet Laureate, Danielle
      Legros George, Open mic (sign-up starts 1:00), Poetry slide show, and book table/signing.

Boston National Poetry Month Festival is co-sponsored by Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with Fisher College and in collaboration with Boston Public Library.      
FOR INFORMATION: Tapestry of Voices: 617-306-9484. Library: 617-536-5400.

The Hastings Room Celebrating a Centenary in Print: T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock With Lloyd Schwartz & Jennifer Formichelli

The Hastings Room

Celebrating a Centenary in Print

T.S. Eliot’s

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


Lloyd Schwartz & Jennifer Formichelli

 Wednesday, April 15th, 7:00 pm
First Church Congregationalist
11 Garden Street
near Harvard Square
co-sponsored by The Grolier Poetry Book Shop

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Lloyd Schwartz

Lloyd Schwartz is Frederick S. Troy Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston and a Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator on music and the arts. He is the author of three books of poetry and his poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The Best American Poetry, and The Best of the Best American Poetry.

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Jennifer Formichelli

Jennifer Formichelli received a BA in Literary History from Boston University, and a PhD in English Literature from the University of Cambridge, where she wrote a doctoral thesis on the epigraphs to the poems of T.S. Eliot. She has written on literary history, epigraphs, Shakespeare, Elizabethan theatre history, William Empson, and T.S. Eliot’s poetry and prose. She currently teaches Humanities and Rhetoric at Boston University, and is a co-editor of The Collected Prose of T.S. Eliot.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Where The Meadowlark Sings by Ellaraine Lockie

Where The Meadowlark Sings
Encircle Publications
Farmington, MA
© Copyright 2015, Ellaraine Lockie
ISBN-13: 978-1-893035-23-2
Softbound, $12.95, 26 pages

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Last I reviewed Ms. Lockie she was sitting mostly in a Starbucks observing people and writing about them.  Many of those poems had a subtle humor and were quite enjoyable. This time we find her in home backyard of Montana Big Sky country.  These poems are more serious, more enjoyable and just as worthy of being read.

These poems can be hard, gritty, excruciatingly honest and that is what makes them so compelling.  For those of us who live in the east, or have never been to Montana where Custer made his last stand  and Glacier National Park is a top tourist attraction, there is much to learn and Ms. Lockie provides a somewhat different, if not personal, education.

In “Godot Goes to Montana” readers learn the basics of farm life:

My farmer father waited to
if crops would hail out or dry up
If coyotes would tunnel the chicken coops
If the price of grain could keep
me out of used clothes
If the bank would waive foreclosure
for another year

After hay bailing and breech delivering
from sunrise to body’s fall
He slept in front of the evening news
Too worn out to watch the world squirm
Too weary to hear warning from ghost brothers
who were slain by bee, bacon and stress
Too spent to move into the next day

when couldn’t afford to forget
how Brew Wilcox lost his left arm to an auger
How the mayor’s son suffocated in a silo
Too responsible to remember the bleak option
my grandfather chose for the rope
hanging over the barn rafters

never too lonely every farmer
had a neighbor to bullshit with
To share an early A.M. pot of Folger’s
To eat fresh sourdough doughnuts
To chew the fat of their existence

Whether Lockie is telling you “How To Know A Prairie Poem”  or about “Witches of the West” or what it is like “On the road After a Record Rain” you will gain insight not only into her psyche, but learn about the west without didactic preaching. For example take the following poem:


The one-room schoolhouse
is weathered by a hundred years
on the prairie
Emptied of my mother, aunts, uncles
and the bell in the tower that tolled
their welcome to the middle of nowhere

I bring my daughter here
for an optical history lesson
Me to summon ancestor stories
that have been silenced by the din
of decades in cities

She forges in front of me
ever anxious to embrace anything abandoned
And I’m struck dumb by the assault
of some instinct as old and tongue-tied
as those stories

At the doorframe she hears the hiss
before the rattle that roots her
to the cactus-covered earth
As the snake slithers away
And elementary education continues
two generations after it began
in the one-room schoolhouse

It is easy to see why Where The Meadowlark Sings was the winner of the 2014 Encircle Publications Chapbook Contest.  It is an accessible and enjoyable read.
Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle (Ibbetson St.) and  Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva)
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies #7 & #8

Friday, March 20, 2015


289 Elliot Street, Newton Upper Falls, MA  02459


Welcome to the Newton Writing and Publishing Center – a meeting place for writers who are serious about working hard and getting published. The NWPC provides direction, feedback, support, and inspiration to a dedicated community of writers and poets with intense workshops, lively open mic nights, special literary events, award ceremonies, author appearances, and catered book launching parties. Our affiliation with Big Table Publishing Company, Boston Literary Magazine, and Mockingbird Square Press gives writers easy access to exciting publishing opportunities. We also have a lot of fun!

Please visit us on the web at for all the details, and follow us on Facebook!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dead Lions by A.D. Winans

( Left to Right: A.D. Winans, Jack Micheline)

Dead Lions by A.D. Winans (Punk Hostage Press)  $16.95
Review by Doug Holder

A.D. Winans, founder of the ground-breaking San Francisco-based Second Coming Press and doyen of the San Francisco poetry scene for the past 40 or 50 years, has a new book of essays out titled: Dead Lions. Winans throws his focus on four writers: screenwriter Alvah Bessie (Bessie was one of the Hollywood Ten, who appeared in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s), Jack Micheline, the poet and Whitmanesque wanderer, Charles Bukowski, the dirty old man of poetry, and Bob Kaufman, one of the great Beat poets to come out of the North Beach scene in San Francisco.

Since I am primarily a poet, I am most interested in Winans’ accounts of Micheline, Bukowski, and Kaufman. Winans aptly starts with Micheline’s death on a San Francisco subway.  A Poetic death in transit, like Lowell’s in the back of the cab— unlike most of men who die undignified deaths from straining on the toilet, or drowning in cancer and heart disease. Winans recounts Micheline’s wanderlust, his prolific trips across the country, and his outrageous behavior fueled by booze. .Micheline, although he published 20 books, was spurned by the City Lights Press,  Black Sparrow and other notable publishers because of his “offensive” behavior. But Micheline never changed his ways. Winans writes:

“He refused to bow to anyone, choosing to write for the people, hookers, drug addicts, blue collar workers and the dispossessed, and he did it from deep inside the heart.”

 Micheline was befriended by Bukowski, but Bukowski did not share the religious fervor he brought to his poetry. Yet Bukowki  respected the man. Winans quotes from a letter Bukowski sent to him:

“ Micheline is all right—he’s one third bull shit, but he’s got a special divinity and special strength. He’s got  perhaps a little too much of a POET sign pasted to his forehead, but more often than not he says good things—in speech and poem—power-flame, laughing things. I like the way his poems flow and roll. His poems are total feelings beating their heads on barroom floors.”

Much has been written about Charles Bukowski, and in fact Winans has written a memoir published by Dustbooks: The Holy Grail: Charles Bukowski and The Second Coming that I reviewed years ago for the Small Press Review. Still--it is interesting to hear Winans’ take on things, even though we might have heard it before. Winans met Bukowski when he was publishing his Second Coming magazine in San Francisco. He even had an issue dedicated to Bukowski. Winans sees many admirable qualities in the BUK—but—he gives us the full view of this man with the pockmarked face:

 “Hank was a man of many virtues, but to see him (as many do) as a man whose motive and actions were in the best interests of the down and out, simply ignores the fact he betrayed and tore apart many former friends, both in short stories, and in vindictive poems, frequently breaking off friendships whenever someone got to close to him, and often on brutal terms.”

Winans points out that besides his poetic acumen Bukowski was a great entertainer. Here,Winans describes Bukowski on stage, before his reading:

“Once on stage, he wasted no time in opening the refrigerator door and popping open a can of beer to the sound of wild cheers. I watched him survey the crowd for several seconds before tilting his head back and drinking half the contents from the beer can. Again this simple act was met with rousing cheers.”

The North Beach section of San Francisco is now more of a tourist destination, as gentrification of the city has forced out many of the poets and writers with astronomical rents. I recently saw some footage from a documentary with Lawrence Ferlinghetti  (Founder of City Lights Book), who talked about the high tech sector coming in and gutting the city—to where he barely recognizes it. But in the 50s and 60s this was a hotbed of creative energy. North Beach is a six block area from lower Grant Ave. to upper Grant Ave. in the city. Poet Bob Kaufman, known as the “American Rimbaud” was a prime player here. He co-edited the well-known lit mag Beatitude with William Margolis. Kaufman was the son of an Orthodox Jew and an African-American mother, brought up in New Orleans. His best known book was published by the noted Avant-Garde Press, New Directions. The book titled: Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness created quite a stir in the local literary community. Winans hung out with Kaufman in the Co-Existence Bagel Shop, a happening spot at the time and he recalls a very dramatic poet:

“Kaufman entered the establishment, climbing on top of the tables, and reciting a newly written poem…The audience hung on his every word.” Later Kaufman got into difficulty with the police and was often hauled to the city prison after he wrote on its walls of the bagel shop: “Adolf Hitler, growing tired of Eva Braun, and burning Jews, moved to San Francisco and became a cop.”

The book is chock full of Winans’fly on the wall accounts of these renegade poets and writers. This is not a scholarly book, there is no real intensive analysis of their work, but it is a lively introduction to these men—and well-worth the read. The book should whet the readers' interest and hopefully they will want to explore these men further.  I also wonder about the women poets of this era— but perhaps that is meant for another book.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

To the Dark Angels by Jared Smith

To the Dark Angels by Jared Smith (NYQ Books)

Jared Smith

Review by Doug Holder

Jared Smith is a poet who has an intimate knowledge of the failure of language; yet he still writes, and writes powerfully. In his lead poem, “Shivering Between Beings,”   in his accomplished new collection: To the Dark Angels, he acknowledges this with poetic resignation and appreciation:  “What we build endures/from the fleet-footed animals/grained grasses/spaces between stars/endures beyond understanding/white within darkness/in the primeval without words.” This is a theme that reappears throughout the book. Smith, who has a great affinity for the working stiff, the “Hey, Joe what do you know?” everyday guy trying to make the daily nut, performs his work with words despite all its limitations. He punches in for the countless eight hour shifts, and puts in the hard work needed to convey beauty and truth.

Although many of the poems here are focused on nature (Smith now lives in the hills outside Denver), Smith was a resident of New York City when he first really cut his teeth in the literary world, and knows how to capture the ethereal beauty of the cityscape. In his poem “Back Briefly to the City” he conveys the allure, the endless possibility platter, and the dream New York offers.  Here you have a picture of the poet pining for a drink, and meditating on a vision of a cab as it disappears into the mystery of the night:That’s why I've come here now, it seems, but I’d like a drink first/ and to choose among the many sleek women in their furs with/all the secrets of taxi cabs run out into the city night on sequined feet.”        

Smith rails against the buzz, the byte, the incessant demands of the cell phone, the quick fix, and the fragments of conversation that transpire over a wireless world. To this poet, to create art is a slow and contemplative process:

       “... It takes raw youth
       and time to work the patterns, shape clay
       with colors carrying the patina of meaning
       a time that lingers between the workings
       of grandfather clocks and cell phones,
       accumulating in the dust of empty rooms.
       No instant messages, no quick network
       comes from this where time stands, still,
       just a slow communication that enfolds.”

Smith wants to impart a message to the reader, and he wants he or she to take notice—before  they send his or her next  text, or email, before they don their headphones-- before they shut themselves off to the world.

Highly Recommended.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review Of Transoceanic Lights by Sui Li

Review Of Transoceanic Lights by Sui Li, Harvard Square Editions, New York, 2015
By Luke Salisbury 

                                    Transoceanic Lights is a first novel about a Chinese immigrant family's first four years in America, but labels do not adequately describe the high quality of writing, subtlety of construction, or fresh look at the subject.  The story is largely told by the oldest son, who was five at the time of arrival, and sometimes in his mother's voice.  The child is enormously intelligent, and his narration is seasoned by comments from years after the action, but these, rather than intruding, or lessening the story, broaden and deepen it. 

                                    The novel opens: "The clouds below drifted in the wind and swelled into rain-laden anvils the size of mountains before dispersing into wisps of cobweb."

                                    Much of the tale is contained and foreshadowed in that opening sentence.  This is late twentieth century immigration.  The family is on a jetliner.  One world can be left for another in a matter of hours, and the transoceanic lights—the dreams, hopes, illusions that pull and uproot the family (The word will only be used once in the text and beautifully: in the last line)—are literally and figuratively, in the clouds.  The reality awaiting them will indeed be "rain-laden" and the crushing reality of immigrant labor will be an "anvil."  

                                    A sense of "dispersing" pervades the novel.  The essence of this story is change.  The first day of school will become third grade and fifth grade.  The difficult marriage between the narrator's parents will get worse.  Work will not get easier.  Work will always be work.  The horrid relatives—and there is doozy of an aunt and a hilarious awful cut-up cousin—remain horrid, but time is moving.  America does not stand still, no matter how difficult life is.  Everyone is in transition—on the move—toward the transoceanic lights.  This seamless novel beautifully shows the passage of time, mixing familiar worlds of childhood and the very trying world of immigrant adults.

                                    The author, like his main character, was born in China and came to America at an early age.  He himself is "transoceanic."  Chinese?  American?  Chinese-American?  His child narrator is a fascinating mixture of all three—as newcomers to America have always been, as we amalgamate, cling, and change, into that shape-shifting phenomenon we happily call an American.  "Cobweb" strikes me as especially, Asian.  Think of the Cobweb Forest in Kurosawa's great Macbeth adaptation, Throne of Blood, where Washizu and Miki are lost in the violent, stormy Cobweb Forest, inhabited by demons and the Witch who makes the fatal prophecy.  One feels another sensibility in this novel.  It's exact and appropriate. 

                                    The word is used again: "The clarity of those days is long gone.  All the memories have vanished, replaced by figments, cobwebs, and ghosts."  This is more than a story of immigrant hardship; it is a story of and about memory.  Ma, the mother, remembers China and her loving father, who can not help her now, not with work, or mean treatment by her husband's family.  Ma remembers China but "all the strands that wove the fabric of those memories together belonged to a time never again to become present."

                                    The writing is remarkable for its lack of self-pity.  Coming to America means work in an older brother's fast-food Chinese-American restaurant for Ba, the father; in restaurants for Ma, where she labors equally hard, but doesn't have the security of family.  Ba returns at night "to collapse from merciless exhaustion and wake up the next morning to resume the perpetual cycle."  That cycle includes nightly arguments over money, which he hides from Ma.  Ma says of working in America: "'s all backwards, if I work hard someone thinks I'm a threat and tries to get me fired, if I slack off, out the door I go, and if I work just right, then it all depends on the whim of the boss."

                                    It's not that the characters don't complain.  They do nothing but complain, and have reason to, but the novel doesn't complain.  The novel moves from one grade to the next for the narrator (A terrific evocation of childhood with its fears, bullies, accidents, friendships and lost friendships), the years of hard work for the parents, the birth of another child (A powerful scene.  The author is a doctor and the reader is the beneficiary), and finally Ma's return to China to visit her dying father, which is terrific.  The depiction of the Chinese hospital is amazing.  The reader may recall the phrase 'don’t get sick in another country.'  Transoceanic Lights does not ask for pity or resort to nostalgia.  This is life where no one has the option of quitting.  It's not the America I know.

                                    The heart of the book is the ferocious love Ma has for her children.  She will work any job, call home any number of times a day when the narrator takes care of his sister, put up with a man she can not stand, not move back to China—for the sake of her children.  Education is everything.  The narrator can no more not be the best in school than Ba or Ma can quit their jobs.  Ma is literally sacrificing her life and happiness for her children.  Her son is her ticket to a better life and he's known that since he was five years old.

                                    Transoceanic Lights is very well written.  The style is fluent.  It surprises, in the way a reader likes to be surprised, takes chances, and fits the story the way a seasoned novelist suits the word to the action.  Ma's angry phone calls to China become repetitive, but they are, of course, conversation, and conversation can be repetitive, especially if you hate someone, as Ma comes to hate Ba.  The shifting points of view move the story effectively.  Several times I was confused, but rereading solved the problem.  The use of detail wonderful.  Whether it be the nuanced smells of Asian food, a new city, the family's American apartment which has "an odor... occupying the corridor like a poltergeist," the filthy city streets of an American Chinatown (The city is never named), or massive litter by the Pearl River, the sense of place is marvelous.  This is a fine novel.

                                    I doubt there will be many better published this year.  Let me be the first to welcome a serious new talent to the room.

**** Luke Salisbury is a professor of English at Bunker Hill Community College