Friday, December 23, 2005

Longing Distance. Sarah Hannah. ( Tupelo Press PO BOX 539 Dorset Vermont 05251) $17.

I came with my set of prejudices when I started to read “Longing Distance,’ by Cambridge poet Sarah Hannah. From my experience reviewing a truck load of poetry books from people from the “academy,” I thought this would be another arcane, dry, and dead-on-arrival collection. I was dead wrong. Sarah Hannah has written a book of poetry that the populist poet from the small press and the mandarins from the Ivy Tower can admire. Hannah has a unique voice. Her work sucker punches you just when you think you got her down pat; and is alive with love, lust, regret, the whole ball of wax. In the poem: “Quarries, Quincy, Mass,” Hannah dives into this infamous quarry in which many a young lover has met his or her untimely end. Hannah captures the frenzied abandon of sex, and life literally on the edge. The poet describes herself and a “reckless beau,” as they grope each other on the edge of the abyss of treacherous waters in the quarry below:

And as you fumble underneath his faded baseball shirt that same
Delicious smell obliterates the outside air of stain:
His clothes, always surprisingly clean—a bright
Scent, almost orange, with a trace, just beyond
The cotton weave, of morning reefer. He springs

Your bra free, really a redundancy.
You reckon—“Gone missing,” that is, like saying
They have gone gone, unloosed, loosed, gone lost,
Tumbled down—like locals falling in, one after
Another, friends of friends, the same way, although

They knew how it could happen, and then he says
Your name, helplessly, and photograph and sign
Are jettisoned from mind, gone, gone, and he says
Your name again, relentless as the cadence sprayed in red
Across the northernmost rock face:

Fuck Beth. Jane Gives Good Head. (12)

The collection is full of wonderfully honed images and attention to detail. Here in “Manhattan, 5A.M.,” Hannah uses of all things a rooster in the maw of Manhattan that calls, much like the poet, to a wider world beyond the confines of the metropolis:

From night to day and bypassed dawn;
The neighborhood rooster calls,

Always late. Somewhere else it was decried
By birds, so loudly I couldn’t wander

Past it; windows rattled, sun razored
Through wet grass, and clover shook,

Anticipating bees. Somewhere else I had
To notice; there was fanfare and brigade, a litany

Of fowl, and not this lonely cock,
Twitching and strutting by a gated pane,

Spending himself for an alley. (32-33)

Sarah Hannah is an exciting new voice to watch on the literary landscape.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Somerville, Mass.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Presa PressPO Box 792Rockford, MI
Upcoming Titles in 2006

Inside The Outside - An Anthology of Avant-Garde American PoetsThis volume brings together 13 major poets of the American small press scene, each representing an important branch of the avant-garde as it has developed over the past forty years. Each of the poets is presented in a large selection, in most cases chosen by the poets themselves. They range in age from 41 to 81, their poetics range from visual/conceptual poetry to surrealism, from personal/observation poetry to cut-up & collage poetry. Powerful, touching, innovative & humorous, these poems illuminate the underground poetry scene to give the reader a view of the real new American poetry.

Kirby Congdon, Hugh Fox, Stanley Nelson, Harry Smith, Richard Kostelanetz, A.D. Winans, Lyn Lifshin, Eric Greinke, Lynne Savitt, Doug Holder, John Keene, Mark Sonnenfeld & Richard Morris

Monday, December 19, 2005

Interview with Doug Holder

Charles Ries

The poems in Wrestling With My Father are unadorned and highly descriptive/observational. Even your line and stanza structure is without much adornment; tell me about this? Tell me about your style?

Well ...I am not about "adornment" I believe in an economy of words. Too many adjectives, flowery and arcane words take away from a poem's potency. I like to tell it straight, with no chaser.

Over what period of time did you write this collection?

This collection was brought together after my Dad died two years ago. The poems were written over twenty years, and for the most part when he was alive. I had the idea for the collection after his death.
Your poems are in the observed moment; often unadorned, you don’t often offer an ending that resolves or lets the reader know what these moments meant or how they affected the reader. Would you talk to me about this?

Do poems have to "resolve" themselves? I think not. And it is certainly not the job of the poet to tell "how they affected the reader!"

Is this your second book of poetry? Why so few? How long have you been writing poetry? Do you have formal training / education in writing?

I have an M.A. in Literature from Harvard University. I also at the William Joiners Writers workshop for two years at U/Mass/Boston.

I have had four chaps of poetry other than this. I also have been in several anthologies, and I am included in a major anthology of avant/garde poets "Inside the Outside" ( Presa Press) 2006.

What kind of poet are you?
A good one I hope.

When did you found Ibbetson Street Press? What did you hope to accomplish? What sort of writers appeal to you?

I founded it with Dianne Robitallle (my wife) and Richard Wilhelm in 1998. Writers like A.D. Winans, Hugh Fox, Donald Hall. Basically my approach to poets and poetry is that if I read it, and as Auden said it makes me cut myself while I am shaving, then I am sold.

Why Ibbetson Street?
It was the street in Somerville, Mass. where I lived at the time the press was started.

What is your greatest pet peeve about the small press? You’re greatest wonder?

Pet Peeve...well the small press has been a great thing for me, and has provided me with a venue for my work, and a place where I have met wonderful writers and fascinating people. Most people use their own money to publish these little mags, work long hours, lose money...but it is a labor real pet peeves I guess.

What did you / do you do for a living?

I work at a few things. I teach poetry at an adult ed. center, I am the arts/editor for a community newspaper, and work as a counselor at a psychiatric hospital. It's actually McLean Hospital, which has quite a tradition of poets/patients like Robert Lowell, Slyvia Plath, and Anne Sexton. I used to run poetry groups for inpatients there for years

Do you think you are a better publisher/editor or writer?
Can a person excel at both?
I am not a good editor. I am a good PR man...I have a knack for promotion. I think I am a good writer, and I am constantly learning... For me wearing many hats is a necessity..everything feeds each other.

Are there any questions you’d like to ask yourself? Please do.

So many questions...too few answers.

Outside of literary pastimes – what do you for fun?
Movies, cooking... and an ongoing conversation with the world.

Charles Ries--Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories and poetry reviews have appeared in over one hundred print and electronic publications. He has received three Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing, and most recently read his poetry on National Public Radio’s Theme and Variations, a program that is broadcast over seventy NPR affiliates. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory from which excerpts have appeared in over fifteen print and electronic publications. Ries is also the author of five books of poetry, the most recent titled: The Last Time, which was published by Moon Publications in Tucson, Arizona. He is a member of the board at the Woodland Pattern Bookstore in Milwaukee, Wisconsin ( and poetry editor for the Word Riot (