Saturday, March 25, 2006

Charles Ries Reviews books by "Young" Poets

WORDS
By: Nancy Gauquier
12 Poems / 29 Pages / $5
Weird City Publishers
P.O. Box 8245
Santa Cruz, CA 95061

Words by Nancy Gauquier is mind blowingly clever, fast, nimble, insightful and fun. As I read Words, I thought how such new talent could write with this great range and agility? But then I found out this emerging talent was sixty years old and learned she, “flirted with theatre, tried stand-up comedy for a year or two on the gay circuit in San Francisco. They had the best comedy! And they actually let me on the stage!”

She has not been published much in the small press. “I have been published in several mostly local, now defunct, very small circulation literary magazines that very few people have ever heard of. And three publications that are still alive and functioning.” I than asked her how long she’s been writing, “I've written poetry off and on since adolescence, but only in the last few years have I decided to take it "seriously" (only I don't know if that's the right word). To commit to it. To trust myself to just keep writing. To not lose heart.” I asked her how she developed poems in this collection, “Words, Men, and Worried were all developed when I was doing comedy; Get Used To It and Angry Old Women were developed as spoken word at the New College Experimental Performance Institute. Aging Dysgracefully was the first poem I ever read at a slam (The Berkeley Slam, which is totally gung-ho and can be incredibly intense) and it was the first slam I had ever attended (out of curiosity) and I went way overtime, but it was still voted the best poem of the night. So I got reeled right in, and How Are You, The Fence Sitters Ball, My Muse, and Blues for Paul were all performed at slams (along with the other funny stuff, which the slammers love). The thing I love about the slams is -- it is so great to see so many young people caring so passionately about poetry. Any kind of poetry. Or spoken word or humor. It feels so vital and important. I think it has injected some energy into my work.”

Here is one example of her work from Words, it is titled, “Men”: “I just could never understand men! / But then I moved to the Castro, / and I discovered gay men! / Gay men are way easier to understand. / Most gay men actually want their partners / to have equal rights. / Most straight men say, “Oh, I’m all for women’s rights, I just don’t like feminists.” / That’s like saying it’s okay / if you want equal rights, / as long as you don’t think of any way / you might possibly get them.” And further along in the same poem, “I did crazier things than that / when I was young. / I used to wear this black fake-fur mini-dress / with these tight brocade bell-bottoms / and purple high-tops. / And hair down to my ass. / It was so thick, when I wore my glasses, / I looked like It! / I took acid every week! I danced naked in a graveyard in Bolinas. / I lived with a musician. / I fucked a perfect stranger / under the psychedelic puppet stage / at the Avalon Ballroom. / That’s what youth is for! / I should have said, “Yeah, I’m gonna die my pubic hair purple. Why not? No one’s gonna see it. ‘Cept me, and I could use a change.”

Not bad for a young, emerging talent with only a few publication credits

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THE SEEDY UNDERBELLY OF THE HIGH-FALUTIN’ OVERSOUL
By: Steve Henn
15 Poems / 15 Pages (30 Page Book) / $4
THE LAST REDCOAT
By: Oren Wagner
21 Poems / 15 Pages (30 Page Book) / $4
Platonic 3 Way Press
P.O. Box 844
Warsaw, IN 46581

Oren Wagner and Steve Henn are close friends. They are also co-editors along with well known Small Press poet, Don Winter of the new Platonic 3 Way Press. They are 28 and 30 years old respectively. They have been submitting work for about three years and have an average of eight publication credits between them. This is their first book of poetry. They divide the space between the covers; half the book entitled, The Last Redcoat is devoted to Oren Wager’s work and the other half entitled, The Seedy Underbelly of the High-falutin’ Oversoul is devoted to Steve Henn’s work.

I asked Henn about his background, “I don't know that I've started writing in earnest yet. I've been writing a lot more these past three years than ever before, but really I started in high school. There were several years of awful stuff, tho, and then after that several more years of mediocrity. For quite a bit of the last three years I've been thinking of myself as a prose writer who is too busy teaching and schooling to get at the novel I've got about 4/5ths of a complete rough draft of, but lately I've been thinking of myself more as a poet, intentionally trying to expand my abilities and come up with creative subject matter in verse. I don't buy that "find truth and beauty in the mundane" crap. I've always written to entertain, and primarily to entertain myself. Novel subject matter, taking risks with what I write about are what I find stimulating.”

Henn’s poems are direct, narrative, and clear. They are warm hearted and good natured. Here is an example of one of his poems entitled, “Church League Softball”: “Oren and I love softball but we don’t / believe in God, so we decided to collect / a team of atheists to join the church league. / We filed for entry, marking “other” / in the spot for affiliation. Our fake name / was The Church of One, as in one life, / one chance, no soul, nothing to pray / to or for but today and tomorrow until we’re dead. / The rumor spread that we were eastern mystics, / that our experience of Him bordered on the sexual. / Janice, our token woman, got a lot of attention / from opposing men. She’d wave her tight ass / back and forth in the batter’s box, and they / served ‘em up with a slight arc, aiming / for her sweet spot.”

Oren Wagner’s work in The Last Redcoat is equally well written, but has more edge and bite to it then does Henn’s. Wagner writes impressionistically. This may be a bi-product of his years as a musician where song lyrics by their nature are often not linear in structure. I asked Wagner when did he begin writing poetry in earnest? “I've been writing for about twelve years, I was 15 or 16 when I started, you know, sad teenage poetry kind of shit. I was about 21 when I started writing stuff that doesn't make me recoil in shame (retrospectively speaking.)” I asked about his education, “An honor roll student in the school of hard knocks. After high school I was in a couple of touring punk bands. I've lived in Detroit MI, Warsaw IN, Seattle WA, South Bend IN, North Manchester IN, Colorado Springs CO, Zionsville IN and now Indianapolis IN, six of those cities have been in the past eight years, so moving around has been very formative or educational...I spent a year in college in Colorado, and have spent the last three years at a university in Indianapolis. Since I can't go to school full time, I am on the eight year program.”

Here is an example of one of Wagner’s poems entitled, “icons of the virgin”: “icons of the virgin are painted in the etceteras on the wall / surface, texture, erosion. / you don’t know that I can hear assembly line / efforts in your voice. / midnight sky of Braille and Arabic numerals / counting, falling. dot dot dot dash, / immaculate Morse code for V,/not for victory or for varsity / or for virtue. /latitude lines on an uncreated earth / still have their degrees and intervene with longitude / baby born into a cartilage cage / a metaphor for the unspoken / benedictions for the perishing apostle / zodiac, monkey pox , increased rations / assembly line icons of the virgin / etcetera etcetera written on her face.”

This is a very fine set of poetry. Well crafted, clever, mature, visual, surprising – from the minds of two friends, editors and emerging poets.
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JUST ANOHTER ADOLESCENT BRAGGART
By: Mark Gaudet
28 Poems / 41 Pages / $6.43
Order by going to: www.lulu.com

Just Another Adolescent Braggart is Mark Gaudet’s first print poetry collection. He is 36 and started actively submitting work to small press publications about a year ago. He has a degree in fine art, but no formal training in writing. In his bio he notes his major influences to be Charles Bukowski and William Carlos Williams. His poems are word light and earth bound. I was curious about his use of light-up words such as fuck, sex, cigarettes, booze, blow job, vomit. He told me, “I try not to use a lot of symbolism; usually what you see is what you get. I like it simple, to the point. I want my poetry to stand up, grab a hold of someone and slap them across the face. I like it hard and with an edge, but I also like to mix in some humor.” He went on to tell me, “But my first love is Bukowski. He told it like it was. For some reason his words hold my attention. I'm not reading something and saying to myself what does that mean? Or trying to understand the hidden meaning behind him screwing some woman while watching cockroaches scattering across the floor.”

I asked Gaudet if he could determine a writer’s age by their writing style or themes. I wondered if there was such a thing as young poetry and old poetry. Here is what he told me, “Its hard sometimes; I don't try to make judgments on someone's age. Hell there are kids in High School who write wonderful poetry, and people who've been writing poetry for 40 years, and their stuff is just plain shit. At least that's my opinion. Poetry's a funny thing you could write something half assed in the bathroom stall, and someone can think it's the next Jack Kerouac.” Maybe so, but good or bad writing does not seem to be a function of age.

Here is an example of Gaudet’s writing a poem entitled, “Replacement”: “We met / I found another / cute, na├»ve, innocent // happy? // Let me peel / her face back / probing through / bone / tissue / bloody pulp // Are you hiding in her?” And here is another example, “Killing Degas”: “Paint / on my pallet // Pretty / yellows / cyan /burnt / sienna // Mash together / biting the brush / not knowing / waiting // Horses over steeple chase / pretty ballerinas glide / across / his paintings // Bourbon and pills / hues / of vomit / green / and yellow / spew / across my / canvas // Voluptuous / women / bathing / in a tub // Slit / wrists / grasp / the shower tiles // French / Impressionist / American / Depressionist “

Gaudet writes in a non-narrative, impressionistic style that is more difficult to master. Some of the poems work and some nearly do. His best work are those poems that don’t push so hard and where he backs off the adverbs and elevator words, allowing his curious world to unfold before us – just as it is. All in all, a solid first book of poetry.

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Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over one hundred and twenty 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. Ries is also the author of five books of poetry — the most recent entitled, The Last Time which was released by The Moon Press in Tucson, Arizona. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot (www.wordriot.org) and on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most recently he has been appointed to the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. You may find additional samples of his work by going to: http://www.literarti.net/Ries/ .

Monday, March 20, 2006


Simmons College hosts a gathering forthe new renaissance (tnr) celebrating the local literary magazine'snew issuetnr #37

Simmons College hosts a gathering for the new renaissance (tnr) : celebrating the local literary magazine's new issue, tnr #37: a reading with reception following. Wednesday, April 5, 7-9 pm, in the Trustman Art Gallery, 300 The Fenway, 4th floor, Boston. Free and open to all. For more information, contact Rachel Ruggles, Rachel.Ruggles@simmons.edu, 617-521-2220. Featured Readers: Marc Widershien, Doug Holder, Dan Tobin, Doc. Mal Hammond, and Afaa Michael Weaver.

Against all odds, the new renaissance (tnr) insists on upholding its over 37-year tradition of excellence by publishing tnr #37. Full of literary and visually artistic gems that provoke, titillate, satisfy, and/or haunt the senses, tnr #37 vibrates with contributions from the present and the past, pulled from the international, national, and local scene. Where else can Russian poet, Marina Tsvetayeva (1892-1941), Paris-born painter, Zevi Blum, Boston-based poet, Daniel Tobin, East German short story writer, Barbara Honigmann, traditional Chinese poets, Liu Yung and Su Shih (11th century), and an article on “Reigning in on Rainforest Destruction” by the UN’s Indian environmentalist, Ashindu Singh and Virginia-based international forester, Gyde Lund, co-exist?

tnr, established in 1968, has always been grounded in the real world. Each issue contains a lead article that deals with a hot socio-political topic. This is a rare approach in the literary magazine world in the 1960s and still is. tnr also differs from most litmags in its high emphasis on the visual arts. In tnr #37, artist Zevi Blum has eight fantasy-laden etchings and the talented but unpredictable Kai Althoff has nine “paintings” (his preferred term: drawings on canvas). The translations of non-English literary work are also visually engaging: the Chinese calligraphy and Tsvetayeva’s Cyrillic are displayed right alongside their English translations. In 1969, tnr was the first non-scholarly magazine to feature bilingual poetry (which, in 1980, became a tnr standard) and, in 1989, the magazine introduced bilingual fiction.

Some of tnr #37’s other highlights:--“Reigning in on Rainforest Destruction” cautions that “…if deforestation continues at its current rate, the world’s tropical rainforests will be wiped out within 40 years.” The authors conclude their article by suggesting the steps that governments, corporations, and individuals must take to prevent further destruction.--Russian poet Marina Tsvetayeva, who along with her more famous contemporary, Anna Akhmatova, is now considered to be the “other” great Russian woman poet of the last century. Like many Russian writers and artists of the early 20th century, Tsvetayeva led a life of suffering and sorrow – in 1941, she committed suicide.

--Many fine poems from American writers, including Daniel Tobin, a professor at Emerson College in Boston, and winner of many awards including the “Discovery/The Nation Award”; the Robert Penn Warren Award; the Greensboro Review Poetry Prize; and a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.--A satirical essay “The Swoon of the Unknown Soulmate” by Norman Ball, a widely published Glaswegian native, who lives in Virginia.--A review, “Blissful Dreams of Long Ago” by Ruth Moose of Helen Masson Copeland’s memoir “Pill Hill: Growing Up With The Mayo Clinic”. Moose teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill and is the recipient of many awards, including five PEN Awards for Syndicated Fiction, a Robert Ruark Award for Short Story, and a MacDowell Fellowship.--Other contributors: fiction by M.E. McMullen, newcomer, Kenneth Rapoza, Germany’s Barbara Honigmann, and Bruce Reeves; poetry by Karen Braucher, Miriam Vermilya, Lynn Veach Sadler, Thomas Robert Barnes, Myrna Stone, Karl Patten, Thomas Kretz, Alice Jay, Jay Baron Nicorvo, Judy Rowley, Ann Struther, and Marvin Solomon; and color photographs by H. Gyde Lund and Ashbindu Singh. Without a doubt, this tradition of mixing various artistic disciplines makes tnr unique in the litmag world. No matter the medium or the message, tnr “has only one criterion: excellence.” (Library Journal) Other acclaim for tnr’s unusual approach: Magazines for Libraries states that tnr’s writers “…write with a skill and objectivity rarely associated with the traditional little mag genre” and the Christian Science Monitor has proclaimed that tnr “…offers the originality one demands from a small press, without the annoying quirks ….

”An independent, unsponsored literary magazine (itself amazing in an audio/visual age), tnr is the brainchild of Louise T. Reynolds and her teacher at Columbia University, the award-winning short-story writer, Sylvia Shirley. While they were still collecting material for the first issue, Shirley collapsed at The New School and died. More than a year later, Reynolds returned to her home in Arlington, MA, to launch tnr#1 in October 1968. The dream had become real -- and its loyal subscribers have come to expect the unexpected.From the beginning, tnr took a somewhat different turn from traditional litmags. Reynolds and Shirley wanted tnr to be part of the real world, a literary canary as it were, in a universe that is sometimes as dark as coal. Their seeking in-depth lead articles on political/social issues alienated them at once from the world of belles letters, the traditional litmag approach, and it didn’t endear them to the world of the alternative press either. Their insistence on publishing pieces which they might not agree with or support, and on eschewing fashions, fads, and coteries by accepting work only on merit, made them an outsider even among the world of litmag outsiders.But with more than 175 of their writers/artists having received international, national and local awards after being published in tnr and with at least 70 having received such honors and awards before ever submitting to tnr, Reynolds and her talented staff believe they’re doing something right.

The Boston National Poetry Festival: Going on Six Years and Reaching Poetic Heights!

For the last 5 years, in April, (Poetry Month) I have participated in probably the most ambitious poetry event in the area: “The Boston National Poetry Festival.” This brainchild of Boston impresario, and “Tapestry of Voices,” founder Harris Gardner, will take place this year, as it has the last five years, at the Boston Public Library, Copley Square Branch, April8 and 9, 2006. Over fifty established and emerging poets will be reading as well as 15 1st and 2nd Grade students from the “Blessed Mother Theresa School,” of Dorchester, as well as students from the “Boston Latin High School.”

Each year Gardner, a man with a graying Einstein fro, and a generous amount of creative and nervous energy, manages to raise the funds and organize this Herculean effort, much to the admiration of the poetry community.

Gardner told me in a recent conversation we had that he will have several new poets in the lineup such as: James R. Whitley, Simmons College Literature Professor Afaa Michael Weaver, Endicott English Professor Dan Sklar, Stone Soup Poetry Coordinator Chad Parenteau, and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jorie Graham. Somerville will be represented with C. D. Collins, Lesley University lecturer Suzanne E. Berger and yours truly.

Gardner told me that he got a late start this year, but was able to raise the funds to keep the festival alive. He plans to include an open mic, and he is excited about student readings he has planned. As always there will be a book table. Gardner told me that it does a brisk business and people often get the featured poets to sign their books.

Although Gardner is better known as a poetry activist; he is an accomplished poet as well. He was a featured reader at the “Somerville News Writers Festival,” and has a number of collections and magazine publication to his credit such as: The Harvard Review, Ibbetson Street, Vallum, Aurorean, to name just a few… As Gardner told me: “I consider myself a poet first and foremost.”
The Boston National Poetry Festival starts on Saturday at 10A.M. (BPL-Copley sq. Branch) Sunday at 1PM. For more info go to: http://tapestryofvoices.com/

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Official Versions. Mark Pawlak. (Hanging Loose Press 231 Wyckoff St. Brooklyn, NY 11217-2208) http://hangingloosepress.com

Mark Pawlak, long-time editor at the “Hanging Loose Press,” reminds me of a lyrical “junk,” man—and I mean this in the best sense of the word. He collects phrases, archaic songs, ephemera from the past, and makes a strong poetic statement. In his poem: “A Boy’s Life, 1960” he pretty much lists things in a way that captures the unique texture of an animated, intellectually curious boy:

Painted candy-red stripe
on model ’56 Mustang; added decals.
Bowled three strings, made 5 strikes.
The Day The Earth Stood Still-scary!
Ice breaking up on Niagara River.

Easter. Bopschu’s sauerkraut pierogies
and duck’s blood soup!
Played charades with cousins.
Learning Latin to be altar boy (ugh.)
30 situps, 16 pushups.”

And how about this well-rendered picture of the owner of a cottage “resort,” on the coast of Maine in: “Hart’s Neck Haibun, Book 1 2000?” I think we all have encountered the type:

The “man of the house,” arrives later—the others, now gone were
relatives down for the weekend. In contrast to his wife’s girth, he
is skinny as a rail, has a nervous tic, and is weighted down by an
enormous ring of keys, dangling on a chain from his belt. (Mary:
Are you sure he is not a speed freak?”)

But anyone who is familiar with Pawlak’s work realizes there is a very strong political component to it. In: “All the News: Sept 23, 2001,” Pawlak has a deliciously ironic poke at the war in Afghanistan:


According to the Times,
Air Force bombers are heading
toward distant airfields
to fight a shadowy foe
flitting through mountains
in a deeply hostile land
already so poor and so ruined
by two decades of war that it is
virtually bereft of targets.

“FORGET THE PAST,”
the headline instructs
“IT’S A WAR UNLIKE ANY OTHER.”

I review a lot of poetry books, and I can say Pawlak has a very quirky, engaging and unique style. Recommended.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ March 2006/ Somerville, Mass.
PRESS RELEASE: BOSTON NATIONAL POETRY FESTIVAL APRIL 8 to 9 2006.

THE BOSTON NATIONAL POETRY MONTH FESTIVAL !!
Now in its SUCCESSFUL 6th !!! Year
CO-SPONSORS:
Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with
The Boston Public Library. Starts Saturday, April 8, 2006 10:00 A.M.
To 5:00 P.M. and Sunday, April 9, 2006, from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. OPEN MIKE
Sunday: 2:00 to 3:30 P.M. The Festival will be held both days at the library’s main branch in Copley Square.

52 Major and emerging poets will each do a twenty minute reading; also
Featuring 15 elementary school students from Blessed Mother Theresa School (Dorchester). These first and second graders will open the festival with memorized poems by Langston Hughes, Ogden Nash, Carl Sandburg, Shel Silverstein, other poets and their own original poetry. They will be followed by prize winning poets: Alden DiIanni-Morton, a junior at Boston Latin High School and Shari Caplan, a sophomore at Boston Latin Academy. The 53 major and emerging poets will follow with A POETRY MARATHON.
Some of the many luminaries include Jorie Graham, Diana Der Hovanessian, Rhina P. Espaillat, Afaa M. Weaver, Frannie Lindsay, Fred Marchant, Barbara Helfgott-Hyett, Dan Tobin, Charles Coe, Jean Monahan, Regie Gibson, Marc Widershien, Tino Villanueva, and Doug Holder.

In light of the very recent passing of the internationally revered and acclaimed artist/ poet/ opera singer and humanitarian, Kaji Aso, there will be a forty minute tribute during the festival. A number of poets closely affiliated with the Kaji Aso Studio will read Mr. Aso's poetry, both in his scheduled spot
in the Rabb Lecture Hall (Auditorium) and simultaneously in room 5-6 next to the Rabb.

This Festival has it all. A plethora of Professional poets, celebrities, a Pulitzer Prize winner; numerous award winners, student participation. Even more, it is about community, neighborhoods, diversity, BOSTON, and MASSACHUSETTS. This fast-growing tradition is one of the largest events in Boston to kick off National Poetry Month. FREE ADMISSION!!
For Information: Tapestry of Voices: (617)- 306-9484 or
617-723-3716 Library: (617)- 536-5400
Wheelchair accessible. Assistive listening devices available. To request a sign language interpreter or for other special needs, call (617) 536-7055 (TTY) at least two weeks before the program date.

For a complete list and schedule of Festival participants, please go to tapestryofvoices.com. Thank you.
Harris Gardner