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…


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




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…

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Doug Holder Interviews Prema Bangera (Director of Teen Voices Emerging) and Hadja Bangoura

Organization Mission Statement: 

Teen Voices Emerging (TVE) is an all-girls writing and mentorship program, which aims to empower young urban girls through the power of words and connection. Its philosophy is built on the premise that every young girl should have the opportunity to share her voice with her community to create a social movement that changes the skewed representation and images of women and girls in the media.

Organization Description:

Teen Voices Emerging provides a writing and mentorship after-school program, which serves Boston teen girls (ages 13-19) and focuses on exploring girls’ issues and developing teens’ writing skills. Teen girls learn writing, creative self-expression, research, and analytical skills by writing poetry, short stories, personal narratives, news articles, and other media content for publication. Girls also receive mentorship from strong female professionals and participate in events with a focus on social justice

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Interview with Somerville Poet Anna M. Warrock: A poet who speaks 'From the Other Room'

Anna M. Warrock's publications include the chapbooks From the Other Room, winner of the first Slate Roof Press Chapbook Contest; Horizon; and Smoke and Stone. Her work appears in the anthology Kiss Me Goodnight: Poems and Stories by Women Who Were Girls When Their Mothers Died, Minnesota Book Award Finalist, for which she also wrote the introduction. Besides appearing in a number of literary and multidisciplinary magazines, including Harvard Review, The Sun magazine, The Madison Review, Phoebe, and Poiesis, her poems have been set to music, performed at Boston's Hayden Planetarium, and permanently installed in a Boston-area subway station. She has taught poetry in classes for the elderly, high school students, and adult education, and held seminars on understanding grief and loss through poetry. She lives Somerville, MA. I talked with her on My Somerville Media Center TV show-- " Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."

Interview with Somerville Poet Anna M. Warrock: A Poet who speaks ' From the Other Room'

Interview with Doug Holder

Doug Holder: First off—you are a long time Somerville resident. Your husband Robert Smyth ran a bookstore here for awhile, and founded the Yellow Moon Press. How is it for a creative person to live here in the Paris of New England?

Anna M. Warrock: I have been here well-over two decades. It is a wonderful place to be because so much is happening here. I fully credit the Somerville Arts Council with the plethora of programs they run and produce. There is a very active writing community here—with a lot of good reading venues.

DH: Somerville has a great history of small presses—I can think of Aspect magazine, Dark Horse , Boston Literary Review and others.

AMW: Indeed. I know Aspect magazine folded—but the iconic Zephyr Press—once based in Somerville is still around—run by James Kates.

DH: Your poems mingle light and shadow—Frannie Lindsay opined that your poem have a calmness—that facilitates truth.

AMW: I have been to a number of poetry readings in the past year or so and I find that a good poem tells the truth. You recognize the truth in a poem that works. There is such disarray in the public discourse these days that I need to search for the right balance. Emotional calmness will help you find a grounding in truth.

DH: What do you say when you hear the “truth” in a poem?

AMW: I don't say anything to myself. I feel grounded.

DH: In your poem  "The Salmon go All the Way to Death" you deal with the salmon going up stream—to mate—to die—the cycle of life they are part of. There is a tragic aspect to their mating and death, as well as a beauty.

AMW: I am not sure it is a tragedy. We are all part of this cycle of life and death. There is a lot of discussions about what is a good death. We also discuss how under the circumstance of illness how do we treat dying. We are participants in the cycle of life and death—poetry can illustrate this for us.

DH: You are obviously aware how inanimate objects can have a powerful presence. In a poem in the collection you personified a set of glasses that marked the absence of your late mother. How did this come to you?

AMW: That poem began as a sense of absence. In writing the poem I was sort of stuck—so I returned to the glasses. In some way those glasses function to evoke that sense. I never force a poem—this poem came to me.

DH: Your new collection “ From the Other Room” from the Slate Roof Press has wonderful production values.

AMW: Yes, I am very lucky. My book won their chapbook contest. The press is a collective like Alice James. You become part of the press for three years. It is a great, collegial experience.

DH: You have done work with the elderly—high school students, as well as health professionals.

AMW: Yes...the most moving experience I had was at the Somerville Hospital where I worked with a group of health professional—people who worked in settings where death is commonplace. We had fifteen people—from different wards. We read from the anthology “ Kiss Me Goodnight”--that deals with women coming to terms with death—the early death of their mothers ( like my own). We used poetry to look at the grieving process. This group created valuable and insightful dialogue.


The Salmon Go All the Way to Death

They are fish. They live in the cold ocean,
breathe water, eat other fish.
They in turn are eaten. What do they know?
They know they are salmon and where
they were born. They live in the cold ocean,
but when it is their turn to die, when it is their turn
to return, they know what to do.
They remember where they were born,
exactly where they need to go.
And they go. The female salmon stop
roaming the ocean, eating other fish.
They leave the endless deep and turn
toward land to find the river mouth
that spit them forth. They enter the mouth, 
go upriver. The female salmon travel together.
The male salmon leave the cold ocean,
the eating of other fish. They seek
the mouth that spit them forth
from the land’s constriction, and enter.
They go back guided by the memory.
They go to make the memory
continue in their way. They go to make
the salmon continue in the old way.
They swim upriver, leap the falls.
The river narrows. Swimming is harder.
The salmon push between rocks, against water
to the shallows where they were born.
They go to the heart of the land. There they meet
and agree. The female waves her body
and lays her eggs and moves off. And the male
waves his body, sprays his seeds and moves off.
Then the female and male salmon die.
In the shallows, having given birth
to eggs and seeds, a promise to their memories,
they die. The salmon go all the way upstream.
The salmon go all the way to death.

.....From Warrock's Collection  From the Other Room

Monday, July 10, 2017

For "Last Night at the Wursthaus" by Doug Holder

Courtesy of the Cambridge Historical Society

 ***This is a small piece that  Nina Rubinstein Alonso wrote for my  new poetry collection "Last Night at the Wursthaus" due out Sept 1, 2017 from the Grey Sparrow Press.    https://greysparrowpress.sharepoint.com/Pages/default.aspx  Nina is the founder of Constellations magazine based in Cambridge, MA.

For "Last Night at the Wursthaus" by Doug Holder   

Introduction by  Nina R. Alonso

One of Doug Holder’s poems quotes Heraclitus, “No man steps in the same river twice,” but his writing generates double-vision, the feeling of past as present, existing in the flow of continual change.

We’re in Harvard Square’s Wursthaus (now replaced by a faceless bank) overhearing the flow of vintage chatter, then watching a man scratch losing lottery tickets one after the other, then in a too quiet Harvard library where “caged scholars/circle their wired cages like rats/gnawing on manuscripts.” In Filene’s Basement he’s shopping, as “it was a place to go when you’re happy or desperately hurt.”

 He shifts to the Bronx where ancient Jewish women sit on lawn chairs and his Uncle Dave called George Gershwin ‘a good kid.’  These people and places are familiar to me and to many of us who lived in the same space and island of time, understand eyes that see through our adult guise to what we were like in junior high: “You can’t/bullshit the blonde/ she knows.”

The book has integrity, cuts to heart center, but without a shred of excess. There’s no hype, no axe to grind, nothing being sold to us. We know his mother from our own, “At night/ the murmur of the dead/ hover around her bed.” I grew up in the neighborhood he rails against when he “screamed/ my screed/ against the suburbs/ the conspiracy of broad lawns/ and narrow minds.”

This world is under construction, bought and sold daily, repeatedly dug up, repaved, pieces erased, replaced and so full of invasive sales hype that we can’t even remember what was there before. We need this writer who sees and remembers to keep us centered, strengthen us, help us see what’s there, help us resist. Doug Holder’s writing has subtlety and substance, an authenticity that sustains.  

  ****Nina Rubinstein Alonso, editor of Constellations, has published in Ploughshares, The New Yorker, Sumac, Avatar, Women-Poems, U. Mass. Review, and New Boston Review, among other places, and her first book This Body was printed by Godine Press.

She taught English literature at Brandeis University and U. Mass., Boston, while continuing training in ballet and exploring modern dance.

Saturated with academia, she taught at Boston Ballet for eleven years, and performed in their
Nutcracker, until sidelined by injuries. She makes her living teaching at Fresh Pond Ballet in Cambridge, MA. She says, “Now is the time for fresh voices in poetry and fiction. I’m looking for a new constellation.”