Thursday, December 28, 2006

Molly Lynn Watt

Popular Cambridge, Mass. Poet and Fireside Reading Host at the Cambridge Co-Housing residence, Molly Lynn Watt, has a released a poetry collection with the scrappy Somerville independent press: "Ibbetson Street" Fred Marchant ( Author of "Full Moon" and Director of the Poetry Center at Suffolk University in Boston) writes of Molly's book: ""Shadow people begins far away and takes us on a journey home. We move from the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska to the Redline in Boston....We begin as observers but by the end of the book we have joined with Molly Watt in the dance of her life, and our own." Copies can be purchased at or through the Ibbetson Street Press 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143 in the coming weeks

Sunday, December 24, 2006

These books are available at "The Lost Book Shelf" Cervena Barva Press or from the Ibbetson Street Press 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143

Robert Olen Butler ( Pulitzer Prize Winner) on Doug Holder's Poetry:

" have a major league talent man."

Dreams at the Au Bon Pain by Doug HolderIbbetson Street Press, 2000

"a delightful chapbook of poetry." Diana Der-Hoveanessian, NEPC President

Doug Holders newest chapbook, "Wrestling With My Father," was Nov-Dec 2005 SPR *pick of the month $5.00 16 Pages In Stock: 3

Poems of Boston and Just Beyond: The Back Bay to The Back Ward by Doug Holder1998
*Pick of the Month, Small Press Review

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Body Language: Poems of the Medical Training Experience. Edited by Neeta Jain, Dagan Coppock, Stephanie Brown Clark. (BOA Anthology Series No. 2)
Rochester, NY 2006 $22

In the introduction to: “Body Language,” Poems of the Medical Training Experience,” Jack Coulehan writes: “In ‘Body Language’, the editors have chosen poems that evoke the entire spectrum of medical education, beginning with medical school and residency training, and ending with full medical citizenship, as an attending physician…The book’s medical education framework provides the reader with an in-depth history of the conflict( and ultimately dynamic tension) between tenderness and steadiness in medical practice.”

This is poetry with a bedside manner. We are so often confronted with overworked doctors with huge caseloads that we find there is very little time for human contact, much less clinical. But if these doctors are any indication of the crop out there; then the medical profession still has a healthy population of sensitive and feeling beings.

There is a lot of excellent poetry to recommend this anthology. Kelly Jean White, a major presence on the small press poetry scene for years and an internet acquaintance of mine, has a number of fine pieces between the covers.
In her poem “Pandora” the poet deals with the Pandora’s Box of a hidden cancer in a 56 year old man she encountered while training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. White, true to form, laces her work with striking imagery:

“I bring him a coloring book picture
that shows him this thing, this unfamiliar
organ that melted beneath our hands
at dissection:

Leaving his room, crying,
avoiding classmates,
I take the back stairs.
I find myself locked,
coatless in the courtyard outside.”

My wife, the poet Dianne Robitaille, is also a Registered Nurse (who worked at MGH years ago) loved the poem “Foley,” by Mindy Shah. I had to concur; probably for different reasons. Shah follows of all things—a man’s penis—from its salad days to its undignified decline:

“As a kid you pissed
your name in the snow; at sixteen
you showed it to a girl
for the first time, face damp
and flushed. Now wires
thread your body.
I pull your old penis
from the fat seat of your thigh
and hold tight
as the catheter slides in to let
the blood and urine out,
tubing taped to your leg.
your glorious moment passed—
my first one.

Highly Recommended.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/Somerville, Mass/Dec 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

" Did I mention that Mr. Slavitt is also a pornographer?" Alex Beam on David Slavitt.

In today's Alex Beam column in the Boston Globe Beam writes about Slavitt's many literary accomplishments. Now, you remember Slavitt( the gentleman) who read a poem about how much he dislikes the poet Robert Lowell at the Somerville News Writers Festival, and was trounced by Tim Toomey in an election for state rep. He also has a book out "Blue State Blues" about his campaign against Toomey. Now it seems that Slavitt has had a great career in another genre: Porn, according to Beam:

"Writing as "Henry Sutton" Slavitt grabbed the brass ring with his 1967 soft-porn bestseller "The Exhibitionist." which sold 4 million copies. "It's every English majors dream...I put my children through college and continue to write poems and translate Ausonius, whom nobody has ever heard of." Slavitt said. Beam writes " During his campaign against Toomey, Slavitt worried that his other works might come to light...his 1987 work "The-Book: A Child's First Book of Pornography." which he calls "my fist porn version of Dr. Seuss's "One Fish, Two Fish."

On Slavitt's hometown Cambridge, Mass: He asked his son Evan ( a lawyer) how he should handle any questions regarding his alternative literary history during his campaign against Toomey. His son, evidently a chip off the old block, replied:

"In Cambridge? There are no community standards."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Living In Dangerous Times. Linda Lerner. ( PO BOX 792 Rockford, MI 49341 $6.

Linda Lerner is a Brooklyn-based poet who is passionate about poetry’s potency in our increasingly frightening and alienating age. Having interviewed her, published her, and reviewed several of her books I can say she shoots from the hip, is politically engaged, and at times very erotic. Like Lifshin, she is a popular poet, and although she teaches at Brooklyn College, her poetry remains outside the gates of the academy. In the poem “Who Dares Invoke The Bard?” Lerner is full of righteous indignation about the reporter who described Howard Dean’s primal scream as a “mad howl.” Surely not a “howl” worthy of Allen Ginsberg:

“ What “mad howl”
Allen would have fumed…

his ashes stir in its urn
at the very mention…

eminds us who rammed past
Columbia’s hollowed gates
more than fifty years ago
freed poetry a whole decade
marching in robot lockstep
nation: to breathe in
our own rhythm.

the sound that still reverberates
loud as all hell.” (9)

Linda Lerner is a fine addition to Presa Press’s “Contemporary Poetry Series.”

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Friday, December 15, 2006

"BIRDMAN: A MEMOIR" by Lo Galluccio

Lo Galluccio
2 Clinton Street, Apt. 8
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 876-4534

Lo Galluccio is a poet/vocalist and the poetry editor for "The Alewife" a monthly newspaper in Camridge, Mass. Her most recent poetry collection is titled "Hot Rain" ( Ibbetson Street Press)

BIRDMAN: A memoir

“You were an emperor with a sword who looked wounded
like a birdman after a storm. Your tongue like a garter snake enchants me…”
Lo song lyric

I wore an army jacket with brass buttons, double-breasted and green and walked around the night in sunglasses. Gloss on night: darkness over darkness to see the night, to be alone. Taking the A train, I went up to Harlem one day to find Jean Michel Basquiat’s paintings. I’d run into blonde-haired and waifish Billy Martin (of Martin, Medeski and Wood) at the MoMA and for some reason, he also loved Basquiat. I guess part of that was Basquiat’s association with John Lurie, Bandleader of the Lounge Lizards, which Martin was a drummer for. John ran with Basquiat in their dope days, dope days that killed poor Jean Michel, that Lurie and others recovered from.

In a small Harlem museum, there was a ring of Crown King paintings, black with silver and gold and colored chalk. Basquiat invented his cartoon icons of America as an outsider. And I was feeling this in myself. I remember the exercise of taking the subway up there and staring for hours at the paintings to memorize them. To switch my right brain on and open up my imagination synapses. My soul trembled with delight and said yes to the inverse narcissism, the codes, the blackness and the bones of the paintings.

He became my favorite post-modern painter. He began to open up my eyes. Why were they shut tight? And why did I feel blinded? This I will come to.

Maybe the reason I called Tronzo Birdman, was the look he had on the Queen of all Ears CD, the Lounge Lizards record. You see him --bald with squint bright eyes – wise bright eyes and his funny bird nose at the camera. And that was the creature of a man who had mesmerized me with his anger and his guitar’s heavenly blues oratorios. He was my former lover and boyfriend, Tronzo. Most people downtown then in New York knew the Lounge Lizards was the hip white Duke Ellington orchestra of our day. Or Count Basie to the Jazz Passengers’ Duke. Still Birdman and Lurie were rivals of a kind. Tronzo was happy for the gig but he always found Lurie to be egotistical and too much a showman. I loved them both, though Tronzo would later say I was more like John because I had stage-presence, was the singer.

The reason I needed to re-configure my mind’s eye was because I’d been pink-slipped and put in a psychiatric ward by a man named Dr. Dollar a month or so before that. Dr. Dollar (real name) was a Southern psychiatrist to whom I’d been referred by several friends who thought I needed medication for my “depression.” After the Birdman cast me out I was punished for a suicide attempt in a way that forever changed my life. And this is a story about that, and about how grief will run it’s course. Larry explained to me that “pathology” means, in Greek, “the logic of grief,” not mental illness. Larry Joseph was my mentor back then; a brilliant law school professor who wrote a book called, “Shouting at No One.” Here in America we still pathologize our imbalances and emotions. I learned a harsh lesson that by trying to take my own life, it became the property of others who could lock me up. Lock me up away from the source of my suffering, but not heal it with deeper understanding or joy. No, it was yoga and the piano and winter and mysticism and love that do that…or almost do.

My father, Tony Galluccio, died when I was 15. A child of grief and unclear about real world machineries, psychiatries, confineries – after refusing pain medication for my busted neck, I took those same pain pills to kill me. And I fell asleep like a dream of dying, not a massive overdose or bloodletting like the Godfather’s failed lieutenant. The kitchen window in my small studio was covered up. And after swallowing 6-7 Naprocyns, I turned on the oven and fell asleep. I woke up an hour or so later, feeling queasy. And I knew I wanted to live, that it had been a childish attempt to erase my life, under the shame of losing his love, which had been so great. The Birdman, that is.

Let me tell you something more about the Birdman. He could play his guitar like a laser beam of violet blues light. He’d internalized the blues of the early 1900’s like John Lee Hooker or Blind Lemon. He had the ego of Santana or Hendrix. But he’d boozed when he first came to New York City and blown up at bandleaders and got into mighty trouble despite his mighty talent. The first night we made love together…it was a slow fade into dawn with him sitting behind me like a birch tree, his arms coming around me as we walked ceremoniously to the bed. Like a rocking horse he took me. He hadn’t been with a woman for awhile. It hurt me a little and I also loved his taking possession of me physically with ecstasy. The next morning we sat in his little kitchen in the E. Village and he wept. He wept and I knelt down before him. He said to me it was because of all the guys he’d lost to booze in Times Square. He couldn’t believe he was still alive and they were all gone. I was amazed at this display of sorrow, the intensity of the grief.
Already, I’d played my song, “Queen of Mars” for him, in rough form, and I’d already gone to dinner on India Row with him on Thanksgiving, both of us apart from our families. I felt like he was my guide, in love and in art. There I was in a cream-colored trenchcoat, looking like a French movie actress, working as a secretary when we first met on the Upper East Side. We were both staying with friends until we found places downtown, within a few blocks of each other. So when he cried and I thought to myself, “Oh, no, Oh, yes,” What do I do about this man? I either run now and keep going…or I say, I’m here for you and we’re together. Later I would write a poem about the little fisherman who would come into his head and ride the ocean of the tears he cried. It was called, “The color of January.” That day, I walked away, down 6th Street, knowing love, and knowing too, that even more than our damage and desire was the music. The music was what I wanted.

“Your eye a scar, slants bird toward me winging in.
And the corner of your eye…became a bird.
And the corner of your eye…became a bird.” Birthday, a song, Galluccio/Tronzo

It was at a Lounge Lizards’s concert. It was John Lurie, the actor and sax-man who always reminded me of an outfielder, with his stance and Roman God’s profile. It was my dream of a bomb going off – the color orange. It was another dream. Later I would look back and say, “Why didn’t I follow the message of the dream?” The only orange in my apartment was Tronzo’s amplifier, and the bomb exploding was him. That was what my psyche was warning me about. So, why not avert catastrophe?

I saw Lurie on stage and Tronzo was playing in the band. We’d been together for a year and collaborated on many songs. Our band, “FishPistol” delighted audiences in downtown clubs. I was Lucy to his Ricky. I was also just myself. When the Birdman took me home that night, angry I’d shown up at the wrong show time, and on his way to Europe with his trio, he snared me. In that apartment on 6th Street that reminded me of Amsterdam, where we’d written “Creamsplit” and “Birthday” together and I’d woken up early and gotten to Arrow Shirts to earn my living, Tronzo threatened to strangle me to death. See-- when you say Tronzo, it could be a Japanese gangster also. But it was also the Birdman who exiled me at 3:00 a.m. into a dark New York night. His plane to Europe cut through the sky and my stomach turned the next day when I felt my heart leave the planet Earth.

About a month later, after that suicide attempt, I woke up and threw up and felt okay. I was not okay about losing the love of my life. I was okay about death not eclipsing me. I was okay that fate had kept me alive. What really happened was this:

Instead of showing up for an appointment with a shrink at St. Vincent’s I called and told Dr. Dollar the truth. The hospital scared me. He called the police and five of them showed up at my door to take me to the psychiatric emergency room. It was a two-week incarceration in a locked psychiatric unit with idiot doctors and a bunch of poor trapped inner-city adolescents. The guard, when I’d signed in under coercion, said to me, actually said to me, “It’s like walking onto the moon, huh?” Too hurt and terrorized to speak, I didn’t say, “No kind of moon, I’ve ever seen.” My roommate was a girl named Cecilia. She talked and talked about her adoration for Barbara Streisand. The first night inside, I stuck my fingers in my ears to block her out. I didn’t sleep for 48 hours because I was afraid of what it would do to my mind’s eye. A tall man with white hair arrived on the ward who smelled of books and patchouli. I trusted him. He said to me that his wife had been an ex-model who couldn’t take aging so took 60 seconals and turned purple on her side of the bed. He was so depressed, he was having shock treatments. Cecilia had had them since she was younger. She painted. I grew to like her. It was a wild wild ride, a grim story. However, what finally turned things around was a fifteen-year old Latin girl named Danae. She had been walking around silently with her hands pinned to her thighs. She has been there for months. One night I watched Danae pick up a framed print off the main corridor –and there really was only a long one and a shortish one in an L-shaped ward—and smashed it on the ground. And she started screaming. “I’m too young to be in here. Let me outta here. I’m an artist and this just messes me up.” That’s what she yelled over and over to the nurse’s very uncomfortable astonishment. This statue of a girl, had completely flipped over into rage and a voice. It was revolutionary music to my ears. The next day she was released to her parents. Soon after, so was I. Not before I watched Cecilia straightjacketed; not before I was threatened with brain scans because they thought I wasn’t thinking “clearly” when I questioned their methods.

Then I wrote “Bright Star/Shot Horse”

"You take me down a corridor where dreams turn into television.
The color of your potions won’t replace the color of my visions.
You ask me do I hear voices. I hear voices like the sea.
You want me to take my trilophon, I drink my asylum tea.
The color’s red in my museum, it won’t fade in your cure for me…”

I didn’t want the Birdman to know I was in there. He found out anyway.
When I got out, the first night out on the town, I caught a cab with John Lurie. Think I had on the blue-striped shirt Tronzo had given me and some purple bell-bottoms with sneakers. When I told Lurie what happened, he said, “Sweetheart, you’re much braver than I am, trying to kill yourself.” “I could never do that.” I told him all the kids in the unit said, “mad this” and “mad that.” This was the same Lurie who plays it cool in the movie, Stranger than Paradise. He’s an immigrant who knew how to gamble and travel and bide his time til something better happened, free in America. That was the John Lurie with the penetrating eyes and the off-hand remarks and the temper flares just shy of real violence. Once I looked for work in stores in Soho with giraffes in them because he also reminded me of a giraffe.

So Lurie might have “killed” the Birdman for me. He carried me upstairs to his loft and I had on a 1950’s dress from a tour of Greece. He said he did that with all the girls. I laughed. And then that night, another dream, interrupted the action. Before we made love, I dreamt of Tronzo, my Birdman. It was a simple dream but we were together in bed holding hands. I was startled and guilt-ridden and knew he still had a spell over my soul. And I lost Lurie too for awhile. I lost Lurie forever until something very strange happened when I made my own first record. It had a queen in it too. And she was my double. The CD was called, Being Visited and on the front cover I was Queen of Mars, a song that almost healed me for good. Because the song was written in code about my father also. And Queen of Mars was the tarot card on the wall, maybe Queen of all Ears, and she was me. Long pink hair, and sharp teeth. She used men and was tricked by them, “my twin, my nemesis, Queen of Mars.” And there it was, the music given by those slide-guitar hands, come back to me. Like Ikkyu’s bird. A bird of paradise. Stranger, New York, than paradise. Birdman, John Lurie. -- you go to my head like champagne. Danae -- your bravery kept my heart from shattering. I was changed, but my soul remained.

Lo Galluccio

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Not To: New and Selected Poems. Elaine Terranova. (The Sheep Meadow Press. Riverdale-On-Hudson, NY 10471) $14.95

This is the second book of poetry from the “Sheep Meadow Press” that I have read and reviewed. The other collection was Richard Wollman’s “Evidence of Things Seen.” Both books were excellent reads and were handsomely presented. Elaine Terranova’s collection “Not To: New and Selected Poems” is poetry at its best: lean, cuts to the chase, striking imagery, and masterful metaphor. In the poem “A Story,” Terranova uses a woman’s “beautiful, impervious face,” as a jumping off point to examine our search for transcendence-- for the answer to the unanswerable:

“I spot on the street a woman’s
beautiful, impervious face
like a China plate. She is
talking to air. “That’s

the end,” she says.
“That’s all there is, that’s
my story.” I’m sorry
to have missed the good part,
hovering over us like vapor.

What drops at her feet?—
a bird, a leaf, a candywrapper,
something from the world.
I know that even without that
encouragement, she would go on...

Think of those people who call
middle of the night from
the impossibly far reaches of an old
friendship, new acquaintance…

It isn’t you they want,
voice thinning out to ether,
only access to the entrails
of the divine animal.” (68-9)

In the poem “In the Home,” Terranova uses the props of a small chair, a heavy rain, and a fleeting memory of braided hair with heartbreaking effect to describe her mother in her terminal dotage:

“My mother sits in the small chair
that is now enough for her.

Her fingers find the edge
and tap, tap
as if there is something
she is trying to remember:

the way she liked to braid
her long thick hair

in the terrible rain
that shut us off
from all the other houses.” (171)

Highly Recommended.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Dec. 2006/ Somerville, Mass.
A Few Words I Live By. Diamond Riley. ( $10.

Awhile ago a 16 year old Harvard Summer School student Diamond Riley sent me some poems, and told me she was going to publish a collection of her writings. I published one of her poems in my “Lyrical Somerville” column in The Somerville News, and several months later I got her book in the mail. Riley, whose poetry is conversational, writes in the first section of her book: “Ok, so you’re probably wondering what the purpose of this book is. Well, in a nutshell I basically want to help young people….teenagers like myself…see things before they happen.” Riley’s poetry concerns the pleasures and perils of the dating scene, the trial and tribulations of being a young African-American, and of forging an identity in a conformist youth culture. In this perceptive piece “Still Growing” the poet writes about the difficulties of growing from girl to woman:

“Damn, how hard is it to act like a woman/Everybody be killing me, complaining about not receiving the proper respect they deserve/…Did you ever think about why, you were treated this way?/No we want the cake and to eat it too/ We want to act like hoes and still be treated like ladies…/ Hell, I am not ready for the STD/ or to be, a mother of three/I am not ready to drop out of the school/ and later struggle for my GED/ I am not ready so…I choose to GROW UP.”

Riley is a spirited and proud of whom she is; as displayed in her poem “Who is Diamond Riley”

“ A Diva/with a name/to live up to/A realist/ who’s not afraid to tell it like it is/ A friend/ who doesn’t like to betray or be betrayed/ A girl with dreams/ who will conquer them all..”

This book will certainly be an inspiration to adolescents, as it talks the talk and walks the walk. It is also an inspiration because Riley did the hard work of compiling a collection and publishing it at the tender age of 16.
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Monday, December 11, 2006

Poet Richard Wollman Searches for “Evidence of Things Seen.”

Poet Richard Wollman is the author of a new collection of Poetry “Evidence of Things Seen.’ (The Sheep Meadow Press). Poet Samuel Menashe writes of his work: “What Wollman speaks of, ‘the plain grandeur of the ordinary evening,’ is true of many of his poems.”

Wollman is a native New Yorker living in Newburyport, Mass. He was educated at Brandeis University and got his doctorate from Columbia University. He is an associate professor of English at Simmons College in Boston and co-director of the “Zora Neale Hurston Literary Center” at the college. I talked with Wollman on my Somerville Community Access TV show: “Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: Stanley Moss wrote that you are not afraid to “dirty your face and hands with the truth.” What do you feel he was getting at, and do you feel your poetry is “dirty” so to speak?

Richard Wollman: When Stanley Moss wrote that about me I didn’t know what to think at first. I think he means to look at things--“evidence of things seen,” might mean looking at things that on the surface might not look beautiful… it might be “the dirty feet of common people.” I think it defines the question I have: “What would God have us see?”

Doug Holder: In the poem “Interior Monologue of a Person,” you write of the thoughts of a corpse—a victim of the Nazi death camps: “The day they uncovered me, /I rested against a banker from Lodz. /A young girl’s cheekbone/ received my hand for eternity. / You can still see where the officer-physician/ took a scalpel to the light/ camouflage of the skin / to find what was impure in me.”

Where did this poem arise from? You seem to drape a scrim of beauty over this grim scene.

Richard Wollman: If there are any of my poems that haunts me it is this one. This was the hardest one to decide whether to include it in the book. This is a tough one to accept because of its grimness. I want the poem to be acceptable to me, the reader, and also the community I have in mind. They are a very particular group—survivors of the Holocaust. There has always been this sensibility since the Holucast, that poetry after the fact would be barbaric. Poets have stayed off the subject for many years. But now we are coming to a certain point of time where the survivors are dying off. There aren’t many left. I wonder who will sing for them. I happened to be a speaker at a rather large gathering for a Holocaust remembrance day. I thought if I could read some of my poems on stage I might have answer in regards to its acceptability. I got a partial answer. There were no objections, and a Rabbi who was with me said” You said good things.”

You do have to dirty your hands with the truth. Poets have to define and redefine what is meaningful. This is just the nature of change in the world. The poem we discussed is a way to get back to “singing.”

Doug Holder: How much does your Jewish background play a role in your poetry?

Richard Wollman: A large portion of the poems in this book are on Jewish themes. It is a home base. I begin there and move outward. I am from a Reformed Jewish background. I have always been intrigued with the fact that on my mother’s side (before they came to America) my relatives were all poets and Rabbis.

I started to write poetry late in life at age 40. It was spurred on by an anti-Semitic incident at my home on the North Shore of Massachusetts.

So my first poem was from a very real incident. Some of our neighbors took their discarded Christmas trees and barricaded our front door with them. This rattled me so, and caused me so much pain, that I responded by writing a poem. The poem was the only way to alleviate the pain.

Doug Holder: Your poem “Self-Portrait” is a fascinating piece, where you view yourself as a work-in-progress, unfinished: “in my unpainted chair.” Do you view the artist, as well as the art, a work of art as well?

Richard Wollman: If not a work of art, certainly a work-in-progress. There is an art to living the poetic life.

Doug Holder: What is the poetic life?


Richard Wollman: For me it means you don’t write your poems for entertainment or merely for esthetic purposes. It is a way of living. Poetry is not even the poetry on the page. I think the poem on the page is the last or best attempt to record some record of the poetic life.

Doug Holder; Where do you write?

Richard Wollman: I write in a third floor room in my home. It is a pretty dreadful place. It has a tiny, little window…it’s bare. Nobody wants to go up there. You have to restrict yourself in order to capture a piece of the world in your poem. I need poverty and solitude. I write better if I can feel the presence of my wife and son two floors down.

Doug Holder: You are the co-director of the Zora Neale Hurston Center at Simmons College in Boston. Can you tell me about that?

Richard Wollman: It is a brainchild of my colleague Afaa Michael Weaver. Afaa created a wonderful reading series of minority voices at Simmons College. We extend out to the community to reach the young students. Afaa also hosted the first “International Chinese Poetry Conference” at Simmons. We are gearing up to have a second in Oct. 2007.

Doug Holder: You are a member of the Pow Wow River poets, no?

Richard Wollman: Yes. We meet in Newburyport, Mass. Rhina Espalliat is the founder. It is a group of two dozen poets. We have a workshop once-a-month. We also have a reading series. Anyone can come to the workshop. It is amazing that in Newburyport you have so many accomplished poets. We push each other.

Doug Holder

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Helen Vendler: I seldom review poets under 50."

I don't know this sounds patronizing. I am a poet, 51, so my 40's are right behind me..I don't remember writing about TV shows and comics... This was in today's New York Times Book Review. It is an interview with Helen Vendler,noted critic and Harvard professor:

"Vendler seldom reviews poets under 50. 'They're writing about the television cartoons they saw when they were growing up. And that's fine. It's as good a resource of imagery as orchards... I didn't watch these cartoons. So I don't feel I'm the best reader for most of the young ones.'

As a major reviewer I think she should be better informed about poets under50. This seems very dismissive to me. I mean she writes about poets in the1700's,etc.. She must of studied the milieu back then. Then why not pay some attention to the younger poets. Ah! The academy.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Newton Free Library Poetry Reading Series 330 Homer St. Newton Centre, Mass. Resumes Feb 13 7PM Open mic and features.

Director: Doug Holder


Beatriz Alba del Rio is a bilingual poet and lawyer. She has lived inCambridge since 1982, a city she adores. She was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Beatriz won the 1st Prize of the 2002 Octavio Paz Internationalpoetry Contest (Poem: "Ser" = "To be"), the 3rd Prize of the 2003 Pablo Neruda International poetry Contest ( Poem "Tristeza de Abril"= "Aprilblues" and the 2004 Cambridge Poetry award with the poem MASKS OVER MASKS in the category "female erotic poem" and her poem "Black Crows" was nominated in the category "female love poem." Her poetry has appeared in severalanthologies and literary magazines, inclluding "the new renaissance." As alawyer, Beatriz represents abused and neglected children and parents, mediates conflicts between families, and does some international work. Beatriz' languages: Spanish, English, French. She understands Portuguese andItalian. Beatriz' mission as a lawyer is to help people to create better lives. Her poetry speaks of longings. Some of her poems are songs to lovea nd to the unity of us all.

Nicole DiCello has received honorable mentions for her poetry, and wonfirst place in the Ithaca College poetry contest in 1996. She has been asked to read at festivals in Ithaca, NY, and for the Feminist Women'sWriting Workshop in New York state. She currently attends Barbara Helfgott Hyett's Writing Workshop for Publishing Poets in Brookline, MA. She lives in Leominster, MA and is working on her first book of poems, Red Shift,based upon astronomical phenomenon.

Gouri Datta Born in India, she started writing poetry around age 10.,both in English and mother tongue , Bengali. She has published severalworks: Book of Bengali poems , "Sukh, Dukho, Ittadi " ( "Pleasures, Sorrows, ETc. ") published in 1973. Book of Eng. poems published in '78, "Amaranths andElse " In addition, 2 books of Bengali short stories: "Maitry"( Friendship), and"Vaidehi "( Daughter of Videha ). She is currently, in a Bengali writers' group, "Lekhoni" (The Pen ) based in Newton, and Wingate Writers' Group ,based in Haverhill. She wrote while in College , Medical school and while working as a psychiatrist in various hospitals near Boston, including McLean Hospital inBelmont( which has inspired many writers. ) At McLean , Datta writes: "I met Doug Holder , whose vast love of the art form has spawned magazines , journals, publications, groups, rallies and a place for writers and poets to meet and move the world. Our talks turned to common interests, poetry in patient care and enhancement of the underprivileged, a cause espoused by Doug and and inspiration for me.'

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Poesy 34 will be the "Outlaw" poet issue. I am proud to say I will have an interview with Marc Goldfinger in that issue. Marc is a respected poet, Spare Change News Poetry Editor, recovering drug addict, political activist, etc... He's been in prison, and organized poetry readings on Death Row...he is a real "Outlaw" poet indeed!

POESY 34 OUTLAW POETS SPECIAL EDITION will be released December 15, 2006.We expect to have the printed issue distributed by Chrstmas.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A new poetry collection from Poesy Magazine founder Brian Morrisey.

Love Poems for the Wicked: poems by Brian Morrisey

Published by Zeitgeist Press available now through Poesy for$5.95 + $1.00 postage. Make checks payable to: Brian MorriseyP.O. Box 7823Santa Cruz, CA 95061

Monday, December 04, 2006

(Gordon Cairnie and Louisa Solano)

Louisa Solano: The Grolier Poetry Bookshop

by Doug Holder/Steve Glines

to purchase go to:

or send a check for $12 to Ibbetson Street Press 25 School St. Somerville, Ma. 02143

The Grolier Poetry Book Shop is the "oldest continuous bookshop" devoted solely to the sale of poetry and poetry criticism. It was founded by Adrian Gambet and Gordon Cairnie (in picture) in 1927, and Louisa Solano took over operations in 1974 after Cairnie's death. Solano turned the store into a self-sustaining business, has sponsored an annual national poetry contest and a reading series of national reputation at Adams House at Harvard.

Many of the great poets of the 20th century have passed through the portals of the store. In the book is an exclusive interview with Solano as she recounts her experiences with Jack Kerouac, Donald Hall, Robert Lowell, Elsa Dorfman, Octavio Paz, and many more...

In this new editon just released from Ibbetson Street Press there is new poetry by poet/patrons of the store. The book is bursting with ripe anecdotes by Boston-area writers about their experiences in the shop. A true collector's item...not to be missed!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bagel Bards: (Left to Right) Philip Burnham, Irene Koronas and Mike Adamo.

The Bagel Bards meet every Saturday 9AM at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square, Somerville and the Au Bon Pain Central Square, Cambridge. Davis Square 2nd and 4th Saturday Central Square 1st and 4th.

All poets and writers invited...come and go as you please!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Somerville News Writers Festival.

Nov. 12 2006.

Front (center) Elizabeth Doran

Back (right) Dianne Robitaille

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Here is a fine letter by poet Afaa Michael Weaver regarding the Somerville News Writers Festival held Nov. 12 2006... a festival not without controversy...

Hi Doug, Tam, and everyone else here,

I did stay for the second half, and it was fine. David Godine
was visibly pleased.
Overall, I would say the festival was a success, having
organized a few such things in the past. It is impossible to please
everyone. There are things that could be improved, but one of the
major factors for success as I see it was the venue. Jimmy Tingle's
is the perfect place.
If you think it was a wild time, we should reflect on some
wilder times the poetry scene historically has had, and I must
admit that lately I have been a little concerned about a growing
sense of what I call "Wall Street Careerism in Poetry". It is nice
to see a little of what some think is unevenness...or perhaps
the "great growl of a roughened poetry." Call it whatever...
Baltimore's poetry renaissance of the early eighties made the
Somerville festival look tame. & don't forget Ginsberg's unveiling
of his metaphor in San Francisco where Phyllis Diller (sp) was one
of the poets in black.
I am glad there is so much energy, and although I live
on one of the hills here in the town, it is not because I think there
is a place for looking down or looking up.....just looking out over
the landscape of things. I like to curb the Poet Ego whenever
I can....need it as we do...let us not let it bite us in the caesura.
So I say look forward to next year. Give much thanks
to Jimmy Tingle...give much thanks to Doug.
& thanks to Tam and everyone else who wants to add to
all of the "great growling."
--Afaa the Cave Canem Elder Who Lives in a Cave

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Somerville News Writers Festival Nov 12 2006 ( All photos courtesy of Steve Glines)

Poet Walter Howard and friend.

Scroll all the way down for more pictures...

The Somerville News Writers Frestival Nov. 12 2006 ( all pictures courtesy of Steve Glines)

Center: Sharon Shaloo ( Executive Director of the Mass. Center for the Book), and Ifeanyi Menkiti ( Poet and current owner of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop)

Pictures from The Somerville News Writers Festival Nov. 12 2006

Louisa Solano ( former owner of the Grolier Poetry Book Store-Cambridge, Mass. )

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Other Investigations. ( Vol. 1, Issue 1) Nov. 2006 $5 investigations

Local writer Ilya Zaychik, and former editor of the defunct magazine “Stationaery,” magazine, has produced with Dave McNamara, Bonnie Rubrecht, and Lauren Macleod, a chapbook ‘zine of poetry: “Other Investigations.” McNamara’s,( the founder of, hand in this enterprise is evident, as the production speaks first rate production values. There is also fine art by LauraLee Gulledge , and Michelle Ramirez.

There are a number of essays and some poetry in this first edition. J.D. Smith has an interesting article on that publishing enigma-- the chapbook, titled: “Chapbooks, Why?” Smith does see the value of these little gems—although he admits they are almost always a commercial failure. Tom O’Hare has a very clever poem “ Baby Steps,” that compares getting the right words together to a row of dominoes falling or not falling into place. “Other Investigations” is another interesting addition to the small press scene.

* the editor is looking for submits

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Somerville News Writers Festival

Left: Cambridge Poet: Beatriz Alba-Del Rio

Right: Poet, Critic: Hugh Fox

The Somerville News Writers Festival

Right Front: Nick Flynn ( author of "Another Bull Shit Night In Suck City.")

The Somerville News Writers Festival

Back right-looking worried- Doug Holder ( Ibbetson Street Press)

Back Left- Harris Gardner/ Tapestry of Voices

Right Front: Jennifer Matthews author of " Fairytales and Misdemeanors"

The Somerville News Writers Festival

Far Back : Susie Davidson ("I Refused to Die") Puple Beret: Poet/Mime Ian Thal Tim Gager--red-shirt-- ( co-founder of the festival) far right-gray jacket- Rita Holder ( my mom.) Neil McCabe (far left)
Editor /Cambridge Alewife.

The Somerville News Writers Festival

Marc Goldfinger ( Spare Change News Poetry Editor and Joanna Nealon author of "Living It")

Ifeanyi Menkiti ( Grolier Poetry Book Store
Owner) Jennifer Matthews (Vocalist and Poet)

Picture From The Somerville News Writers Festival

Left: Lo Galluccio ( Vocalist/ author of "Hot Rain"/ Cambridge Alewife Poetry Editor)

Hugh Fox author of ( "Way, Way Off the Road...")

Monday, November 13, 2006

I want to thank all who attended the festival. It was very touching to see so many of my friends and fellow writers there cheering me on. That applauseI got when I first came on--really meant a lot to me. I want to thank The Somerville News, Grub Street, Porter Square Books, , Steve Glines, Harris Gardner, Tim Gager, Emily Singer, Jimmy Tingle, and others, as well as all the readers for their participation.

The winner of the Ibbetson Street Poetry Award is : Michael Cantor for his poem "Lament"

And the runner up is : Jacob A. Bennett for "Zeffirelli's Lovers"

Saturday, November 11, 2006

By Corey Mesler
Edition 87 of 410 copies
$9 softbound
Wood Works Press

Review by Lo Galluccio

There is much to commend about this little elegantly made poetry book called, "The Hole in Sleep." In its gray softbound pages lie shortish but deeply felt lyrical elegies to night and its strange ecstasies.
"Being asleep is easy. Being awake is too. But the transitions between the two are ghastly.
--John Bishop
This uneasy declaration of emotional wisdom is inscribed in the opening page. It makes one consider the in between time -- that idea of something missing or absent in the transition into sleep and the subconscious mind from wakefulness.
The packaging includes two finely wood-cut postcards, one the opening poem of Mesler’s called "Night of Desolation," which ends with:
"Electricity recoils. I love you.
‘Who did you say you used to be?"
The other bizarrely enough is a quote from Richard M. Nixon, that deranged and derided President of ours who is known as much for Watergate and impeachment as for "Nixon in China" a post-modern musical.
Nixon declaring the importance of freedom of speech seems to harbor deep irony, but perhaps it is also a token of the good nature of the press.
There is a poem about the Zen Buddhist Ikkyu’s bird. The bird he had killed which he lays at his teacher’s feet. "In the morning the bird was next to Ikkyu’s mat, that morning and many more after. Ikkyu’s bird." So the bird is once again alive, bucking the transition or a ghost who Ikkyu must sleep with.
There are erotic numbers like, "Cock-a-Hoop":
"Your mouth on me like a poem.
Your slim backside bent over
me like a poem. Your sweet vaginal
lips in my mouth like a poem.
And afterwards the holycow feeling
of just being human and
satisfied like a goddamn poem."
I suppose what I like about Corey’s diction is that it’s natural, even corny to him. And for that reason these poems are treats – like slivers of chiffon cake or soda bread; whatever, they are satisfying and mostly very well crafted. I like the modesty of them and the architecture.
He even opens a poem called "Nightwork" with a Tom Waits lyric from his CD Bone Machine, "We’re innocent when we dream." This aligns with the whole hole in the sleep theme of this book. The poem is about a therapist’s transference onto Corey as a patient while he sleeps:
"I feel reprimanded. I want so to please him, don’t you know, he’s that father figure. I go to bed at night trying to dream myself a cure, a way out, a dream that will --- O sing! It’s all I can do to keep from waking."
Most of the poems presented were published previously in different journals and magazines. I think this book, so handsomely put together, and zen-like in its beauty, has been hard earned. I recommend that you read it.
Lo Galluccio
Ibbetson St. Press

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sweet Curdle. Cathryn Cofell. (Marsh River Editions M233 Marsh Rd. Marshfield, WI. 54449) $10.

Cathryn Cofell has written a beautiful and bloody collection of poetry about being a woman, mother and lover. The poems here scream authenticity; the language is evocative, and at times arresting. In the poem “Wrappers” Cofell traces her carnal life with men through the very blood she sheds. In these passages we see a portrait of a young girl’s sexual awakening, and an old woman’s sad/sweet resignation:

“You’re twelve and in love with the boy next door,
only you don’t quite know it yet.
That tingle between your legs
is something you fumble for while your sister sleeps,
while you are awake and dreaming.
You play married, practice that first boy kiss
against your pillow, hide pennies under
your tongue to imagine his taste.

The next day you’re doing laps in the pool
and suddenly blood is everywhere.
You check the water for sharks.
You dead man’s float but no one comes
to save you. This is how you learn
you are a woman: a pool of blood,
underwear packed with toilet paper,
a grocery bag handed over without words,
filled with pads and belts, too many loose ends…

You will bleed through two weddings, one divorce
twelve intrauterine inseminations,
twenty-five pregnant friends,
half a dozen bloated tirades on the way to the movies,
the gas station, through the lipstick aisle at Sears,
a thousand reasons to reject science or God or both
until your done,
done in,
chewed up like a piece of sugarless gum,
bled out like an old brake line,
scooped out like a pumpkin,
all your insides dumped, bagged, tied with a twist,
taken to the curb,
your outside shell washed clean
and grinning.”

In “Expectant Mother” the poet compares her poetry to her life as a doting mother:

“This is my life’s work
a conductor, open and waiting. Limp
from the weight of midnight arias,
afternoon rehearsals. Manic as sheet music,
holding notes like babies. Some will grow
to become riffs, songs, symphonies.
some will not; I will be so full
of the blues I will bang
their small backs until they are still.
None will be what I imagined. At best,
an anthem whistled in gauze, a myth of spittle."

Highly recommended.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Grace. John Hodgen. (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pa. 15260 ) $14.

I had the pleasure to hear John Hodgen read at the “Out of the Blue Art Gallery” in Cambridge, Mass., as part of the locally popular “Open Bark” music and poetry series hosted by Deborah M. Priestly. Hodgen impressed me as a humble man with a great talent. Hodgen, is a man who I presume, has experienced a lot of the shit out on the street, and has the good fortune and talent to report back to us. Being a middle-aged man I would have to say I was greatly affected by Hodgen’s poetry. I think behind many of my ilk’s dour and doughy countenances, a visceral battlefield of broken dreams and unrealized ambitions still fester. And Hodgen acts like a spokesperson for our “quiet desperation.”
This brings me to the poem “ Men Lying in Fields.” I remember when I was in my late teens, lying down in the midst of a cornfield in upstate New York, and seeing each stalk wave in a fragrant summer breeze; a sort of pastoral symphony of movement. (I was stoned of course!) In this passage Hodgen wonders if in fact his long-gone grandfather ever took the plunge in a field before life chained him in with so much baggage:

“ And I wonder if in his twenties he ever wished to lie in a field,
simply that, the way Thoreau did, before wandering off to Walden,
if he plucked at sweet grass, whistled through it, wondered what to do with his life,
before giving it over to Allis Chalmers and God,
the promise and swath of eight sons in a row.
I wonder in the arc of his arable dreams if he ever envisioned me,
the way I think of him now, the way Noah thought of places
the sons of his flung birds might find, leafy with dreams and silt.” (5)

And in the poem “Proof,” Hodgen looks at the corpse of his father and imagines it as a work of art:

“ When they brought us to see him one last time,
sheet drawn, draped over his chest like chalice cloth,
da Vinci’s Last Supper, his body swollen, sweet tableau,
his torso, head, like Easter Island, Jobson’s Bay,
the turtle shell that holds the restless world.
Remember the blood vessels that had burst into burgundy,
into hieroglyphs, the blotches like brushstrokes,
like the scrawls of a graffitist stuck in a wrong century,
some tagger spray painting his zodiac sign
on the scrolls of the Houses of the Dead.” (28)

Hodgen has penned a masterful work that has left me deeply moved. Highly Recommended.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Nov. 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I first encountered the work of Somerville writer Patrick Smith through a small press publication he put out. I came across it in a Laundromat on Oxford St. in Cambridge, Mass. during my “rent control” days. Patrick Smith is an erstwhile airline pilot, and author of a popular weekly column on “Ask The Pilot.” An adaptation of his columns was recently published by Riverhead Books, “Ask the Pilot.”

Doug Holder: Patrick can you talk about the small press ‘zine you put out in the early 90’s?

Patrick Smith: It was called “Stargreen.” It was a name I made up. It sounded good. It was an indulgent literary ‘zine for lack of a better term. Most of the contributors were “me.” I had an occasional poem and travel essay. It had an airplane story now and then. Some of the same stories I used in that zine back in the early 90’s, the skeleton of them, were used in the book: “Ask The Pilot.” They actually come up in some of articles in

DH: Pagan Kennedy, another Somerville writer, started of by self-publishing her own ’zine. Is this a good way to break into writing—get your feet wet— can it lead to other things?

PS: It’s good practice. For some people it is a compulsion, and it is a release. I always have had a latent interest in writing. It wasn’t anything I necessarily thought that I could use vocationally. So my ‘zine was a way of getting my stuff out there; even though very few people actually saw it. I don’t know if it is a way to get a start. More importantly, being good at what you do, is the main thing. Having a niche you can exploit is important. Writing about air travel was nothing that anybody was doing—at least in the way I was doing it. Being lucky; and knowing a few well-placed people, is good to have too.

DH: What was the first writing gig you were ever paid for?

PS: The first thing I ever was paid for was a music review. It was a review of a long-forgotten jazz band “The Jazz Butcher.” It was for the “Utne Reader.” A friend of mine was an associate editor and he got me the assignment. Once you have one article under your belt…it is easier to get the second and so on.

DH: Do you have any formal education as a writer?

PS: Does going to high school count? I went through flight training school. No formal training in writing.

DH: Are most pilots trained in the military?

PS: About half of overall pilots are from the service. On the major airline level it’s about 70 to 30. This is not true at the smaller, regional carriers.

DH: What is the first question people usually ask the pilot? What is the first question they should ask?

PS: The majority of questions pertain to safety. Most questions I am asked are not about flying. Mostly I am asked about the airlines and their safety records. The airline travel is what excites me. The book is not bogged down with stuff about physics, wing flaps, etc...It’s about the industry. A meditation about air travel to me is a meditation about culture. It is not so much on the plane, but where the plane is going. If I hadn’t hooked up with the airlines I would never have gone to the more than 60 countries that I visited. People today don’t see the airplane as romantic like I do. I try to encourage people to see the airplane as more than just a means to an end. It is not just a way to travel, but part of travel itself.

DH: When I fly I feel that I am in the air held up by tons of metal…a very unnatural act.

PS: Fear of flying is a tricky thing. It comes in two forms. There is a tangible aspect to it like “What if this happens?,” A questions like that is something someone like me can answer. There is the other visceral fear that people have that they can’t even put into words. That is something a psychiatrist should deal with and not a pilot.

People always ask me how a plane gets in the air and stays there. If you supply anything with enough lift and power you can make it fly. A 747 weighs almost a million pounds. It flies pretty effortlessly because it has so much power, and because it is so big it creates a lot of lift.

DH: How safe is it to fly?

PS: Recently they found that flying in 2006 was six times safer than it was 25 years ago. This is with twice as many planes now carrying twice as many passengers. We have better technology, better training—those are the two main things. As a percentage—fewer and fewer flights are crashing. Everyday, around the world, about 5 million people fly a commercial plane. There hasn’t been a catastrophic accident since 2001. These numbers speak for themselves.

DH: When is the most dangerous part of the flight?

PS: If you have to be neurotic and worry—it is the takeoff. That’s when you make the big transition from ground to flight.

DH: How have airlines received your book?

PS: Airlines are strange and paranoid animals. There is a mentality around airlines that goes “When something happens, we’d rather not say anything at all.” This creates a climate of mistrust.

When they do talk they have a habit of talking down to people. It makes the operation seem unprofessional. They don’t talk about safety, or use safety as a marketing tool. Why stir the pot?

DH: Any new projects in the works?

Nothing radically different. There is a second book in the works about air flight, but from a very personal view. It will consist of anecdotes about trips I took around the world, cockpit tales, etc….

DH: The movie “Flight 93,” about the ill-fated flight during the 9/11 fiasco—how accurate was it?

PS: It was very accurate. There was an actual pilot, an actual stewardess in the movie. Technical aspects were true to life. It didn’t portray the passengers as heroes. They were portrayed as a group of people in a horrible situation, and how they did the best they could with it.

Doug Holder

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

McIntyre & Moore Booksellers hosts a reading of Ibbetson Street Press:20th Issue followed by an open micSunday, November 26, 5:00 pm

(Ibbetson Poets at the original 33 Ibbetson Street Location, in Somerville, Mass.) left to right: (front row) Linda Haviland Conte, Askia Toure, Richard Wilhelm, Marc Goldfinger, (2nd row) Rufus Goodwin,, Gloria-Deo Agbasi, Robert K. Johnson, Sue Sullivan (back row) Don DiVecchio, Doug Holder, Aldo Tambellini, Dorian Brooks, Joanne Holdridge, Jack Powers.

(Somerville, MA) McIntyre & Moore Booksellers hosts a reading of Ibbetson Street Press: 20th Issue, followed by an open mic. (open to all)Sunday, November 26, 5:00 pm at McIntyre & Moore Booksellers, 255 Elm St. in Davis Square,
Somerville, near the Red Line. Free and open to all; wheelchair accessible. 15% book discount* for all those attending [*discount available for day of event only]. For information call McIntyre & Moore Booksellers (617) 629-4840 or log onto Street Press, an independent press based in Somerville, not only celebrates the release of its 20th issue, but also the fact that it has been a champion of the local literary community since 1998. The magazine has received several picks of the month in The Small Press Review and is included in "The Index of American Periodical Verse." Contributors to this issue are Sarah Hannah, Gloria Mindock, Affa Michael Weaver, Harris Gardner, and many others. The reading will be hosted by Ibbetson’s founder Doug Holder. All past and present contributors are invited to read. For more information on Ibbetson Street Press, log onto

McIntyre & Moore Booksellerswww.mcintyreandmoore.comOn the Red Line, in the heart of Davis SquareGreater Boston's best source for scholarly used booksOpen for browsing 7 days a week until 11 pm

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Confidence Man. Poems by Michael R. Brown. (Ragged Sky Press 270 Griggs Drive Princeton, NJ 08540) $10.

Michael Brown, the resident graybeard of the Boston-area poetry scene has a new collection of verse out: “The Confidence Man.” Brown’s poetry is an interesting mix of jaded wit, irony, and world-weariness. The last poem in the collection: “Jon Shea and Teaching,” made me pause because Shea was the founder of the “South Boston Literary Review,”, and the short-lived “Journal of Modern Literature.” Shea died a couple of years ago at the still fairly tender age of 48. Brown resurrects Shea so he can reflect on his own years of teaching, which he reveals is even more important to him than his writing. In the answer to a question from the always offbeat and colorful Shea, Brown riffs on the classroom, and takes a poetic poke at some posturing colleagues:

“It’s like I told him when he asked earlier about teaching and
writing. If I had to give up one, I’d give up writing. Just like
today, I got some student evaluations for my classes last
semester. They have about thirty questions like,” Is prepared for class” and they score one to five. In each set I get one four and all the rest are all fives.

I thank my supervisor for taking all the bad ones before
he gives them to me, and he thinks he’s a good teacher and I’m a wise-ass. I go to the teacher’s lounge and say it’s time to write
my thank-you note to the registrar. Some of those teachers
have been there 25 years and never get good students. I get
them all the time. (85)’

In an excellent poem “BJ’s Poetry Store” Brown takes a swing at the use of prepackaged or clichéd language in the poetry world. He imagines a discount store, where the merchandise is second hand language for bards:

“ …But this BJ shit has me worried.
Big white sheets of paper announce in blue block letters—
rural American figures of speech/
$5 a dozen/6 dozen minimum,
tough urban images/ 2 for a dollar/ boxes of 10.
Inside, the aisles are littered with case-sized lots
of canned poetry pieces; frozen iambic pentameters
are stacked high in Styrofoam trays;
and anyone can afford them.
Soon open readings will be endless,
and the only real poetry will be the conversations
of those who won’t buy language,
and say nothing while everyone else reads.” (200

Brown’s range is wide and he takes in everything from the sculptor Alexander Calder, to the image of the actor Johnny Weissmuller (“Tarzan”) at the pool at a very pedestrian Motel 6.
Brown offers a thoughtful and engaging read. Recommended.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Somerville, Mass. /Oct. 2006

LUMMOX JOURNAL: An Interview with Raindog: The Final Issues.

with Doug Holder

The "Lummox Journal" founded by R.D. Armstrong ( "Raindog") has been a respected, controversial, and quality literary journal for the past 11 years. I have had the pleasure to be published in it a couple of times, and have subscribed to it in the past. "Lummox" has had a great series of interviews with artists and poets, as well as some memorable all-poetry issues. Most small press magazines fold after a year, but like most of us holy fools in the alternative press R.D. kept plugging away at his labor of love. R.D. has published the next to last issue, and so I decided to interview him about his winning literary enterprise.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update

Doug Holder: Why are calling it quits?

Raindog: When I started doing this (publishing the Lummox Journal), it was an interesting hobby, but it quickly grew to become a second job. At one point I had nearly two hundred paying subscribers; but after 9/11 (about a year later) the income began to dwindle. So it became a low-paying second job, and now it's a no-paying second job. Basically, I'm ceasing publication of a hard-copy version because it takes more energy to put each issue out, than I seem to have these days. Plus the cost of production and mailing just keeps going up and up, but not the revenue.

DH: What did you set out to accomplish? Did you?

R: Early on I thought that with luck I'd make some money to buy stamps with and send my own writing out. Eventually it became (so I've been told) a forum for literary expression and an outlet for poetry, above and beyond my own (which kind of fell to the wayside). I never imagined it would end up like this.

DH: Most memorable issue?

R: Almost all the issues are great, but some of the All Poetry issues are pretty damn fine. It's hard to say because I'm looking at over 120 issues between Oct. '95 - Oct. '06. It's like trying to decide which of your kids you love the best...

DH: Can you talk about some of the interviews you have conducted and were printed in the magazine?

R: I think I've interviewed nearly a hundred poets, painters, musicians and even a dancer in the LJ. Of course I haven't been able to get the really big poet cats like you guys over at Poesy, but I've done all right. Here are some of the poets and artists that I have interviewed: Linda Albertano, Steve Abee, Gerald Locklin, Mark Weber, Todd Moore (this is how I got to know Todd), Bill Shields, Paul Krasner, Laurel Ann Bogen, Frank Moore, Lyn Lifshin, Scott Wannberg, S. A. Griffin, Michael Ventura, Errol Miller, Charles Plymell, A. D. Winans, Linda Lerner, Tomata Du Plenty, B. Z. Niditch, Kell Robertson, Tony Moffeit, Donna Cartelli, John Thomas, Holly Prado, Harry Northup, Jazz Morgan, Jack Grapes, Larry Jaffe, Philomene Long, Larry Welsh, Claudio Parentela, Dan Fante, Leonard J. Cirino, John Dorsey, Glenn Cooper and Neeli Cherkovski. I don't know how many of these names your readers will know, but I've highlighted the one's that I liked more. Mostly, I picked interviewees based on people I knew, or thought were interesting (some were recommended by other people I knew). A lot of the poets are from the Western US, 'cause that's where I live. Most were answering a generic set of questions that I had come up with over the years, because most interviews were done via Email/letters.

DH:Do you still plan to publish books?

R: Yes, the Little Red Book series (LRB) continues. I just published Outrun Your Fate by Australian poet Glenn Cooper; Digging my own Grave and Enjoying the Work by Ed Jamieson, Jr. (Lummox Journal's poetry editor for the last few years); and The Painter by Marie Lecrivain with drawings by Aurora Antonovic. I'll also publish other collections when I can raise the funds.

DH: And your own plans?

R: It's time for me to get back to being a poet and going thru the grind of getting my poetry published or not. I hope to publish, or get published, a collection of my own poetry (in an ideal world it would be a collection of my long road poems, some of my fiction and selections of my poesy -- but that's not likely because it would be a 250 to 300 page book and nobody would take that risk on a relatively unknown poet such as myself -- I know I wouldn't). Maybe I'll become egotistical and publish a whole string of Little Red Books of my own work. Lord knows I've certainly served the poetry community by presenting their thoughts and work in the LJ and in the LRB series (over 50 titles thus far). I'd also like to put out a CD of some of my songs and poems.

for more info:

Doug Holder

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Poets offer trio of unique voices at Chapter and Verse
Jamaica Plain Gazette

By DOROTHY DERIFIELD October 20, 2006

Chapter and Verse presents its second program of the season on Nov. 1 in its new home, the Loring-Greenough House. Readers that evening will be bilingual poet and JP resident Alan Smith Soto, Lisa Beatman of Roslindale and Doug Holder, a Somerville resident who really needs no introduction in the local poetry scene.

Soto, who writes in both Spanish and English, was born in San Jose, Costa Rica. His work has received international attention, appearing in journals ranging from “Anthropos” in Barcelona and “Cambio” in Lima to the “International Poetry Review” out of the University of North Carolina. In 1998 his book “Fragmentos de Alancia” was published by Asaltoalcielo editors (Cambridge), and in 2000 he published a Spanish translation of Robert Creeley’s “Life and Death” (“Vida y muerte,” Madrid).

Recently, he was the translator and guest editor of the issue “Spain’s Poetry of Conscience” of the “International Poetry Review,” spring, 2006. This is Soto’s first appearance at Chapter and Verse, where he will present a program in English.

Beatman is no stranger to the local poetry community. Author of the prize-winning “Ladies Night at the Blue Hill Spa,” Beatman is an adult education specialist who spent several years teaching factory workers who were mainly Hispanic immigrants. Her forthcoming work, “Songs from the Factory Floor,” grew out of that experience and out of her concern about the loss of manufacturing jobs, historically the economic gateway for immigrants.

Last year Beatman received a fellowship to an artists’ colony in Brazil, where she had the good fortune to be invited to join a local women’s sewing circle, and their creativity in turn nourished her own. Now she will share the results with us.

Everyone in the Boston poetry world knows Holder—poet, editor, impressario—a man who always has time to encourage both beginners and veterans alike. Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press in Somerville, which publishes poetry books and the journal “Ibbetson Street,” (

He hosts a number of venues from Somerville to Newton, and his poetry has been published in countless journals. He recently released a collection of poems dedicated to the memory of his father entitled, “Wrestling With My Father” (Yellow Paper Press). Holder’s poems are sharp, funny and profound; definitely not to be missed.

Chapter and Verse takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Wed., Nov. 1, at the historic Loring-Greenough House, 12 South St., just across from the Monument in JP Center. The reading is free, open to all, and refreshments will be served. For more information call 325-8388 or e-mail or
The writer is the director of Chapter and Verse.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Porter Square Books: A Success Story.

Since its inception two years ago “Porter Square Books,” in Porter Square, right on the border of Somerville, Mass. and Cambridge, Mass., has become an integral part of the literary community and the community in general. It has become a hub for readings, events, meetings, and even great coffee from its café, presided over by the ever cheerful Rachel, the manager.

The staff, Dale Szczeblowski, managing director, Carol Stoltz ( Children’s Department Manager), Jane Dawson ( Personnel Manager), told me that they view their enterprise as a success—their criteria?—sales of course! The dynamic trio feels that people are still discovering the store—and when they do they realize it is a top shelf organization. All three are far from wet-behind-the-ears; with extensive experience in the book biz. So the store isn’t a “gee-whiz let’s put on a show”

Ellen Jarrett, the event planner, has attracted local, as well as nationally known talent to read at the store. Some of the readers who have graced the bookstore’s stage are Claire Messud, ( “The Emperor’s Children), Ed Viestries, ( a Mt. Everest mountain climber), poet Richard Hoffman, Ellen Kushner, to name just a few.

The store has community outreach. They often bring authors out to local schools, they host parties ( notably the reception for the Somerville News Writers Festival—5:30PM Nov. 12), the editorial meetings of the local Cambridge newspaper “The Alewife,” and schedule book signings for local presses like: “Ebb Tide,” “sunnyoutside,” and others. In the poetry section the shelves stacked with local poets such as: Patricia Brodie, Martha Collins, Marc Widershien, Steven Cramer, John Hildebidle, and many others.

Dale Szczeblowski, a onetime jazz musician, has started a Pop Culture section, as well as a service that rents cds and tapes.

All three folks agreed that the physical book is far from dead. They have been surprised that many of the under 30 crowd are still hungrily devouring tomes. And be reminded…Porter Square can order and deliver books the goods at least as fast as Porter Square Books is a very nice alternative to the increasingly impersonal world of commerce.

For more info go to:

--Doug Holder

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Night in November. Play by Marie Jones. Starring: Marty Maguire. Directed by Tim Byron Owen. (Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theatre
255 Elm St. Davis Square, Somerville

If I had to describe “A Night in November” in a few words; I would say it is about a man in a cage. He is trapped by his past, by his petty bureaucratic job, by the entrenched divide between Protestant and Catholic Ireland.

“A Night In November,” written by Marie Jones, is a one man show. The one man, who plays 26 characters, including the protagonist Kenneth McAllister, is the actor Marty Maguire. McAllister is a low level welfare officer living in the Protestant section of Belfast. For his 40 years he has been towing the line. He moves through his carefully choreographed life like a drugged out cipher. He outwardly accepts the racist, bigoted, and hateful doggerel that is dished out by members of his “tribe,” against the Catholics living on the wrong side of the tracks.

McAllister however is starting to crack under the strain. Maguire brilliantly portrays the breakdown of this corseted man, who eventually bursts through the stranglehold of a preordained life. The sweat pours down the character’s face, he screams in rage, as he rails against the stifling bonds of family, friends and job. Maguire's portrayal of McAllister can only be described as a portrait of a raging force of nature. It is a performance of Shakespearian proportions.

Maguire fleshes out the 26 characters expertly, capturing the tics and textures of each and every one. From a wizened old sod of a father-in-law, to an in-your-face New York cop, Maguire is on the money.

In the second act McAllister embarks on a trip to New York City to witness the “World Cup,” and gains a new perspective on life. The director, Tim Byron Owen, told me during intermission that he strived to bring a universal sensibility to the production. He wanted it to be more than an “Irish” play. And indeed, Kenneth McAllister is an everyman. He is an everyman who has a mind. He is an everyman who stops to question his own existence during his all too brief time on this stage.

Doug Holder

Monday, October 16, 2006

Another Bullshit Night In Suck City. Nick Flynn. ( W.W. Norton, N.Y., N.Y.) $24.

Memories of the past haunt us. Sometimes we try to drown them with booze, drugs, or we leave to get a pack of “Camels” and never return. Nick Flynn, acclaimed poet and writer (and our featured reader at the “Somerville News Writers Festival”, was not able to escape his past, or in a word…his father. In Nick Flynn’s visceral and evocative memoir “Another Bullshit Night In Suck City,” Flynn can’t only escape the memory of his ner-do-well, booze-soaked father, but his flesh and blood father haunts the streets of Boston where Flynn lives, and at times the downtrodden dad is a denizen of the “Pine St. Inn,” a homeless shelter that Flynn was employed by. His father fancied himself a writer, and may indeed have had latent talent, but it rarely saw the light of day. Flynn, a poet first, has infused a wonderful sense of lyricism in many of the passages written about his father. He conveys the love, and hate, for a man who was a stranger to himself, and his son.

One of Flynn’s primal fears was that he would end up like his father—a man with a rapidly fading fantasy of the writing life, holed up in a cheap furnished room in a Beacon Hill rooming house—or worse yet sleeping on the grates in front of the Boston Public Library. In this passage, Flynn writes about seeing his homeless father walking the streets:

“Sometimes I’d see my father walking past my building on his way to nowhere. I could have given him a key, offered a piece of my floor. A futon. A bed. But I never did. If I let him inside I would become him, the line between would speed up. The slogan on the side of a moving company truck read: “Together we are going Places—modified by a vandal or disgruntled employee to read: “Together we are going Down.” If I went to the drowning man the drowning man would pull me under. I couldn’t be his life raft.” (11)

Flynn was well aware that he was traveling the same perilous road as his father. For years, like his father, he fancied himself a writer, but he was starting to succumb to his own demons: drugs, drink and the cage of a worthy but dead end job at the shelter. Flynn writes:

“I’m fast becoming the one who leaves things behind, who blows a rod and pulls into the breakdown lane and unscrews the plate and walks. Who puts his stuff in your basement and never returns. Who steps out onto a sidewalk in a small city, into the stifling car, without his shoes, without remembering he was even wearing shoes; or even wore shoes.” (118)

With the help of a therapist, Fynn managed to get out of the hole he was fast sinking in, and was able to get enough insight into himself, and the burden of his fallen father to move on. In a letter from his father’s friend, Flynn gains insight into his father’s futile charade, which eventually leads Flynn to get his own act together.

“I always felt your father didn’t like himself a lot, that he had a self-destructive side wider than most. That he carried around a sense of failure. You kids were an important part of his life, he would read to me the letters he wrote you, yet it always seemed like he was punishing himself for his failures as a father. Eventually he made a business of being a failure—if he was close to success he would sabotage it. The one role he held on to was that of being a great undiscovered writer—it allowed him to lash out in anger, it became his job to straighten the world out, to point to exactly how he’d been mistreated. The art world allowed him to get away with extravagant and excessive behavior, it encouraged it. His life became a raging performance, piece scripted by Jonathan Flynn. This allowed him to stay in control of something in his life. It became all presentation.”

Not all of us would have the strength to pull out of this maw of despair. Flynn did—and in a way realized his father’s dreams.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pushcart Nomination for Ibbetson Street 2006

Ibbetson Street Press 2006 Pushcart Prize Nominations.

Tomas O'Leary- "Consolation Breakfast At The IHOP" Issue. 19

Ruth Sabath Rosenthal-- "on yet another birthday." Issue 19.

Richard Wilhelm-- "Ciborium" Issue 19.

Sarah Hannah. "The Haunted Suburb." Issue 20.

Lo Galluccio. "Millennium" Issue 20.

Marc Goldinger. "Jumping Billie from Cambridge. Issue 20.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Doug Holder Invited to Judge Poetry Competiton In Israel.

Dear Doug Holder,

We are delighted by your positive response to our invitation on behalf of Voices. Hopefully you will judge our 18th international contest at the end of the year 2007. Tradition has it that the judge joins us in a week of poetry festivities generally at the end of December or in January. I will forward by snail mail a copy of our latest anthology and more info about our organization. We see ourselves as a cultural bridgehead between Israeli/Anglo writers and the world at large. The week's festivities will include two workshops, (a weekend and a day long affair) a public reading in Tel Aviv of our contest winners which can also be a forum for you to read also and perhaps give a dissertation relating to poetry. I hope also to organize a reading or lecture at Tel Aviv and Bar Ilan universities and also a public reading at a well known coffee bar cum cultural meeting place in Jerusalem. There will probably be a private meeting relating to Voices members. We meet on a monthly basis in three of the country's main centers. Last year we hosted Prof. Jascha Kessler from UCLA and this year our judge is Vera Rich of Manifold Mag. in the U.K. Have you been to Israel before? It is a small country about the size of New Jersey but rich in contrasts. Is there anyone in Israel with whom you would like me to make contact? I will be sending your impressive resume to the American Library requesting some sponsorship but they don't seem to be functioning very well in recent months; since and during the recent war. As a non profit organization we are usually strapped for funds but as the largest poetry organization in Israel we set a high standard. I'm sure your visit will be memorable. Best wishes, Mike Scheidemann D.Litt. (President and coordinator of Voices; The Israel English Poetry Assoc.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Poet in the 70's -in Greenwich Village- in love with life... a letter from poet Jared Smith.

Dear Doug,

You sank me into memories. I don’t know how one could write an essay of what life was like in The Village in the 70s…or what my life was like. I was riding a drunken comet…a young man who was making it into the big leagues almost and was able to hang out with and be tolerated by the big boys. And they were billboard big, and I worshipped them and wanted to be able to think like they did and speak as they did, but at the same time I had to figure out how to start to make a living and how to get as many girls as I could into bed and do as many other crazy things as I could.

My writing took off while I was still in graduate school at NYU…30 poems published in literary magazines, some good and some bad in my first year…as many as 120 publications in 12 months only four years later. William Packard invited me to join the screening committee of The New York Quarterly, and later the Board of Directors. Don Lev invited me to be a Guest Columnist on Home Planet News. Harry Smith pegged me as the next big thing, and Walter James Miller had me on his NPR author-interview show twice. I drank and cried with Gregory Corso, watched Allen Ginsberg wander around The Eighth Street Book Shop (“Where Wise Men Shop”), a hulking heavy man bent over with a canvas bag draped over his shoulder, in which he carried an American Express Card machine and copies of his books so people could buy them from him on credit, and I mused about how he looked like a cave man, but he really could howl. I thought nothing of taking multi-hour bus trips to hear poets like Robert Bly read when they blew into New Jersey or wherever else—he reading to my girl and me and three others with his bright serape flailing across his shoulders until he kissed my girl and she fainted dead away at his feet. We wrote back and forth for years afterwards about dragon smoke and other things. And Albert Goldbarth, who like me as years went by, turned into science and technology as well as poetry. Harry Smith, my first publisher, with Lloyd van Brunt and Sydney Bernard and Tom Tolnay, equaling the mighty Smith Press. Talking with Bill Packard in his apartment surrounded by enormous plastic garbage cans—industrial size—which filled his living room and served as waste paper baskets, thinking up personal notices to run in the end pages of NYQ—nasty digs at the lady poets he loved to publish and really didn’t want to feel close to. Writing story-boards for almost-produced PBS films on the works of Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, Charles Bukowski, and Packard’s Ty Cobb Poem…and how I lost that contract because they decided they’d only do those if I could deliver Kurt Vonnegut as well, and I didn’t know how to get to him. A woman from the suburbs who ate my soul because I couldn’t burn it bright enough, and another who saved it by throwing water in my face until I choked. Coordinating readings at The Basement Coffee Shop and The Café Feenjon. Having Jerome Rothenberg attend three of my readings in a row and being too stunned to ever talk to him because his Banging On The Pumpkin had just come out, and I was still a kid and wouldn’t know what to say to him. And Menke Katz—no man who knew Menke or his writing could ever forget the man, nor could any woman, for other reasons which the women could tell you of. His Burning Village remains an incredible epic, and all of his work haunts me. The names come back in different contexts too…Don Lev was my best friend’s roommate, and a good friend of mine as well. I remember him starting up with Enid Dame when they first met each other. Galway Kinnell…well, we’re going to 1963 for this…but him reading from What A Kingdom It Was when that first came out, long before Body Rags and The Book of Nightmares. He had always wanted to spend time on Cape Cod when he was younger, and couldn’t afford to…so one winter when the vacation homes were all boarded up, he dug up through the floor of one. He was a fighter then too: he marched for civil rights in the south and had to be busted out of jail by calling the Dean’s office at NYU’s School of Continuing Education. He never told me this, but it was true. It was just a time to live. I resided for a year at the top of Judson Church, in the room Edwin Arlington Robinson lived in, and above a myriad of tunnels that connected the New York underground and its radicals so that they could slip from building to building without coming up. And I lived at the corner of West 12th Street and West 4th—where parallel lines come together in infinity. An essay could not be written of infinity…of the open doorways between apartments where film-makers from Paris and poets from Canada and artists from wherever came through and stayed a week and left and were replaced by others without the apartments ever changing hands…a building that had first opened in the 1800s as a hotel for whaling men in for a few days from sea. Never enough to eat, but never hungry because you could always find someone with something and it was an endless circle of energy.

And then I had to leave for awhile, and was relocated to the Midwest where I kept writing, but more and more had to devote my creative hours to technology research and business education while raising a family. Would you believe, I—with only my two degrees in literature--ended up assisting in the development of international energy policy, consulted with most of the Fortune 500 and with McGraw-Hill and The New York Merc and several universities, worked with various government agencies, finally advising several White House Commissions on security and emergency response under Clinton, and then landing a major Defense Department research contract and working on that with a team of scientists, before serving as a Special Appointee to Argonne National Laboratory and assisting in various critical infrastructure studies relating to energy and telecommunications. Literature must be a way of thinking in unique ways about a lot of things that are worth a lot of money to other people, I guess. Too bad more people don’t read.
Broke free again in 2000 at the age of 49, and I’ve been writing fulltime ever since. But you can’t put all that into an essay, and it doesn’t scan, and people don’t see how the one set of life experiences fit with the other anyway. I think that too much of what is published today in literary magazines is merely a matter of lay-out and putting down what sells. Poetry is living. You know that, but I don’t know how many others really understand. It doesn’t really matter. You do what you can with the words when they come while you’re riding the cattle car. They never last very long, but sometimes I think they’ll help me and a few friends get through life in better shape than we might otherwise.