Thursday, February 02, 2006

Ralph Hasselmann,Jr. the founder of passed away. Ralph's "Lucid Moon Magazine," was one of the first magazines I published my poetry in. If you can belive it, he put out a montly magazine at his own expense that was 330 + pages. Later he went online. About 3 years ago Ralph was in a horrible car accident that left him a quadriplegic. Ralph was a classic small press character. He was constantly writing reviews, poetry, and kibbitzing with all the players in our literary subculture. Many a poet was introduced to the likes of Ed Galing,Joyce Metzger, Lyn Lifshin, Hugh Fox and a host of others through his magazine and website. He had a large network of friends in the small press, and published many a poet for the first time. His spirit, his childlike enthusiasm, will be sorely missed...

Here is a letter from his parents:

It is with sadness that Kathy and I inform you that Ralph Jr. passed away today at age 40. preliminary indications are cardiac arrest. His funeral service is Friday 2/3 from 7 to 9 pm at St.Stephens Orthodox Church, 609 Lane Ave, South Plainfield, NJ 07080. An Orthodox church service will be held Saturday, at the same location at 9:30AM. A burial will follow at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery, Stuyvesant Avenue, Union, NJ at about 11:30 AM.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Inside The Outside: An Anthology of Avant-Garde American Poets. ( Presa Press PO BOX 792 Rockford, MI 49341) Editor: Roseanne Ritzema. Contributing Editors: Hugh Fox, Eric Greinke, and Harry Smith. $29.95

I just received my contributor’s copy of “Inside the Outside…” from the folks at the Presa Press. Roseanne Ritzema, the editor of this collection of avant-garde poets writes in her introduction:

“Every years or so, an anthology is produced which marks an epoch. “The New American Poetry,” (ed. Donald Allen) appeared in 1960. The poets gathered in this volume represent the major schools of the American literary avant-garde as it has developed over the past 50 years…

If a poetry reader seeks the avant-garde, he will have difficulty finding it on bookstore shelves, which are filled with the old boys of the upper class New England literary mafia, imitators of their parents’ generation of post-war poets... The establishment turns a cold shoulder toward the children of Whitman, Dickinson, and Poe, but the joke is on them….

This 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 50 years. In most cases, the poems were selected by the poets themselves.”

I am thrilled to be included in this anthology of poets I’ve heard about and read for many years. The book includes many legendary small press poets, many of whom founded their own small presses, and magazines. On these pages you will find the poetry of Richard Morris, Lyn Lifshin, A.D. Winans, Lynne Savitt, Richard Kostelantz, Hugh Fox, and others…

Each poet has a section, and each section has a sort of description of their work. For instance in the Hugh Fox section it reads: “It achieves universality through the representation of personal experiences combined with public/cultural images to present the poet as an everyman…” And in the poem “from Eternity,” this description is very apt:

….the pigeons/sailing off the top of/ the red brick warehouse/ in the oblique almost-winter/ late afternoon sun, white/ ceramic tile, green-painted/ steel copper cornices and/
balustrades, one apartment/ house with the west side/ curved all the way down,/probably living rooms, Margaret 25, Rebecca 3/months, Bernadette 49. Chris/
16, me 66, the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first/ centuries closing in/ around me.”

With Harry Smith the description reads: “…He believes that poets have the primary responsibility for the description of history.” And in “Me, the People,” Smith tackles the starving masses yearning to breathe free:

“Me the people had enough. Out of the gorge of city
This glittering Bicentennial I come,
Fat&discontent after my feasty Christmastide,
down to dark, stilled docks trimmed with Yule electric glit
at grayday unseen sundown and watch the steel
dusk deepening across my home harbor
most fabulous and most dreamed—

My lady of liberty
Seen everywhere, beckoning…

And Lynne Savitt: “Uses a stream-of-consciousness approach combined with run-on lines to evoke innerpersonal &interpersonal relationships. And here is a signature Savitt piece, hot and to the point like a red poker:


my friend Leo says
it’s okay to get
old & fat
to be remembered
as a blonde
dream carrying a rose
a pink velvet
ass bent over
a car fender
a warm mouth
wet as the tropics
all you need
to write, he says,
is the memory
he continues through
the phone wire
as you put yr
fingers under
the elastic of my
mauve lace panties
memory blazes
poems poems poems

Go to for this and many other fine books.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Monday, January 30, 2006

Re Verse: Essays On Poetry and Poets. David R. Slavitt (Northwestern University Press Evanston, Illinois 60208-4170) $25

I am a sucker for anecdotes. And poet, translator, educator, David Slavitt knows how to tell a story. I met him when he was running for state representative against Tim Toomey. Of course Slavitt was trounced, but I found him a brilliant, charming, and a loquacious character.And since I am an old English major I was glad to get this collection of essays by Slavitt, “Re Verse: Essays on Poetry and Poets.” From looking at the title I was afraid the book would be dry as a spinster on Saturday night, but I was proven wrong. Slavitt offers up a very amusing and colorful memoir of poets he knew during his undergraduate years at Yale (in the 1950’s), and during his long career as a writer. In his essay: “Harold Bloom and the Decline of Civility,” Slavitt recounts the time when as a student at Yale, he met the caustic, young critic Harold Bloom, when Bloom was a mere teaching assistant. Slavitt remembers that Bloom was wearing “a deplorable tie,” and he asked Bloom what he was working on:

“Shelley.” he barked.

Slavitt informs the reader: “I behaved badly, I’m afraid. He was the most un-Shelleyan looking guy I had ever seen in my life. Curly Howard would have been a likelier enthusiast of the “Epipsychidion.” I laughed aloud, I am ashamed to say. Bloom looked hurt—he had the soulful eyes of a basset hound and they still have a baleful look to them.”

Slavitt was also a student of Robert Penn Warren. Even in those days Slavitt had a vast amount of chutzpah. He greatly admired Warren, but he panned his book, “Band of Angels,”
in the Yale student newspaper. He then had the temerity to ask Warren for his inscription in Slavitt’s copy of the book! And by George…he got it!

There are also some delicious accounts of a frosty Robert Frost, especially the time he trashed the poet Stephen Spender who was in the audience during Frost’s reading at Yale.

Slavitt is an engaging writer, and the book will be of interest to scholars and the less- studied of us, like your humble reviewer.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Jan 2006