Friday, May 05, 2006

Dead Stars Have No Graves: A Poem. Joseph Kerschbaum. ( $6.

“Dead Stars Have No Graves… ” is a long-poem that dives deep in the black hole of a dying or dead relationship. There is a touching mix of fragile, dashed hope and resignation, to this work. Here is a heated riff that explores the road from infatuation to the morning-after reality in a long relationship with the perquisite could-of, would-of, speculation:

“She could have been
anything. She could have been
a philanthropist who works with disabled children.
The way she talked, her slow drawl, sharp wit, could have
sustained conversations for hours. I could have
talked with her for days in those months when I was talking
with no one. Her smile could have been
the most alluring I’ve ever seen. Her walk could have
led me to cliffs ready to leap from upon command. Her perfume
could have fogged my mind till her eyes became color-less.
She could have been all this. Her mouth dispelled
all the myths I constructed.
I woke to find her smile simply composed
of teeth, not diamonds. Roses were not planted
in her mattress, just sweat.”

Kerschbaum, an award-winning poet from Bloomington, Indiana, rages against the dying of the light in a relationship, and does it with style and deeply layered use of language.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lee Briccetti: The Woman Behind “Poets House.”

I met Lee Briccetti executive director of “Poets House” during the “Poets House Showcase” this April (2006). “Poets House” is located in the SOHO section of New York City, and offers classes, lectures, readings, a library with thousands of poetry books, chaps, broadsides, etc… for the benefit of poets, writers, publishers, editors, and the general public to study and enjoy. Briccetti graciously agreed to be interviewed via the internet .

Doug Holder: “Poets House” was started in 1985 by Stanley Kunitz and Elizabeth Kray. Their vision was to create a “Place of Poetry.” They felt this was lacking in American cultural life. Do you think things have changed in the last twenty years?

Lee Briccetti: My work as executive director of “Poets House” convinces me that the whole culture of reading is in evolution. Desktop publishing has democratized the means of production, giving many more Americans, and a wider range of voices, access to print.

There is much poetry in this nation, and in many ways that poetry is being experienced—as text in books and magazines; on the internet and the radio; and in reading series in libraries, bars and bookstores, which continue to provide a social context for the exchange.

Finally, I would like to say that I do believe Poets House has made a contribution by creating a more visible presence for poetry in our culture. Initiatives like our poetry installation at the Central Park Zoo, a permanent addition to the Zoo’s signage near the dazzling animals, surprise audiences with a discovery of the pleasure of poetry in unexpected places. Also our “Poetry in the Branches,” program has become a national model for librarians who learn how to make their sites centers of poetry. My real point here is that for love of the art to thrive, first there must be exposure. And many more organizations and presses are working together to create these points of public contact.

DH: Poets House has over 45,000 items including books of poetry, chaps, biography, criticism and anthologies. You say you are the most comprehensive archive. How do you define “most comprehensive”? Are you more comprehensive than say the poetry collections at Buffalo and Brown Universities?

LB: Our Poets House Showcase gather’s the entire year’s harvest of poetry books—nearly 2,100 this year. Through this program we have become one of the most comprehensive collections in open stacks, open to the public. We need and love many university collections—but Poets House exists to reach out to the unmatriculated and unaffiliated—to poets and readers at every level of learning.

DH: You have a “Password Series.” It invites poets to read and discuss the work of other poets. How do you pick your guests? Why do you have them discuss other poets, instead, say, their own work?

LB: The “Password Series” celebrates poetry through the enthusiasms of contemporary poets who focus their presentation on the oeuvre of some other writer. One of the great interests for me is the match: watching two literary imaginations engage with and inform each other, in the dialogue of reading.

Most frequently we determine the match through long conversations with poets to learn of their literary loves.

The beauty of this kind of programming is that it communicates, here in our magnificent library, that readers and listeners are in a continuing conversation with all the poets who have ever lived. Indeed, I think that opening this conversation that crosses barriers of place and time for everyone, makes for a lively experience of the art.

DH: You have created an “Online Directory of American Poetry Books.” Can you tell me a bit about this?

LB: The Directory is a compilation of records documenting each book that has appeared in the Showcase since its inception nearly fifteen years ago. The Showcase is open annually to all publishers with new books of poetry who submit their books to us. There are forms on our website:

DH: You are a poet with a new collection out: “Day Mark.” Are you part of any “school,” of poetry? How do you define yourself as a poet?

LB: Temperamentally, I am well suited to the democratic embrace of the Poets House. I love getting the overview of what is out there each year; and there are many poets whose books I look for and whose “projects’ I want to keep up with. I think of myself as interested in experimental writing but I am foremost a devotee of Shakespeare, Keats and Dickinson. These are the poets I memorize devoutly so that I can carry their words with me.

DH: How do you find time to write? Any major influences?

LB: Discipline is my only hope in terms of getting writing time. I dream of whole days alone to read ten books at a time and think and enter a writing trance. But for now it is the local Café and a few mornings a week before work.

The whole idea of influence is tricky, no? Since as artists we are always making and articulating new connections between everything in our experience; but okay, oh well… the writers I hope I am most influenced by this year are Borges, Calvino, and Mandelstam.

DH: Poets House will move from the SOHO to Battery Park City. You will have a rent free space for many years. What other advantages will there be?

LB: As we move to the new permanent home, we aim to find ways to keep the intimacy of our current space while professionalizing the library and its services. The new home will give us room to grow our programs and services:

--comfortable reading and writing places where one will be able to lounge with books of poems or listen in the Multimedia room;

--exhibition space

--an expanded Children’s Room where school classes can visit in the morning and families can visit in the afternoon.

--expanded classrooms spaces for writing workshops or reading seminars

--Doug Holder

For more info. On Poets House go to

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Write a bio about yourself.

I was born July 5 1955 in Manhattan. I graduated the State College at Buffalo in 1977 with a B.A. in History. Later, in 1997, I got an M.A. in American Literature and Language from Harvard University. I have worked at McLean Hospital since 1982, and for many of those years I have lead poetry workshops for inpatient psychiatric patients. I have been an editorial assistant for the Boston Review, assistant to the poetry editor at Spare Change News, and former president of Stone Soup Poets. I am currently the arts/editor for The Somerville News, director of the Newton Free Library Poetry Series, and host of the Somerville Community Access TV Show: "Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer." I founded the small independent poetry press "Ibbetson Street," in 1998. My poetry and articles have been widely published in the small press, and my books and taped interview with contemporary poets are archived at Buffalo, Brown, and Harvard University libraries.

Describe the room you write in.

I do a lot of my writing at the Sherman Cafe in Union Square, Somerville. I've written poems in many settings: from the comfort of my toilet seat to the back of a cab. Whenever the spirit moves me, as the saying goes.

What are you working on now?

I am working on promoting "Wrestling With My Father," a collection of my poetry, and "Inside the Outside," an anthology of American Avant-Garde poets released by the Presa Press that I am included in.

Your chapbook, Wrestling With My Father, was just published by Yellow Pepper Press. It is a beautifully written chapbook and tribute to your Father. Please talk about this chapbook.

"Wrestling With My Father,"was compiled after my father's death in April 2003 at age 86. Before his death I had written a number of poems about our relationship. I also wrote a few after his death. I completed this collection first for myself. I wanted a sense of closure. I wanted to be honest ...I wanted to deal with the ying and yang of our relationship. I hope other fathers and sons can relate to this collection. I feel its themes of conflict and love are universal. Of course I wanted to pass this book on to my family in memory of my Dad.

I read that one of your biggest influences was Henry Roth. Explain why?

I wrote my graduate thesis at Harvard on Roth. It was titled: "Food in the Fiction of Henry Roth..."You can find it at Harvard's Gutman Library. Roth wrote a classic novel: "Call It Sleep," that dealt with a Jewish boy, David Schearl's, assimilation into the New World of the Lower East Side of NYC in the early part of the 20th century. First off I have always loved writing about food. Food is very evocative, and I include it in a lot of my poetry. Second, Roth wrote about a milieu that my older relatives were part of, and would always talk about when I was a boy, often in Yiddish. I was always fascinated about what went on back then: the smells, the taste, the textures...

What writers do you read over and over?

I have so much new reading to do: poetry, books for reviews, etc...that I have very little time to read the same book over and over.

You founded Ibbetson Street Press in what year? Talk about your vision for the press. Have the other editors Diane Robitaille and Richard Wilhelm been involved from the beginning?

I founded the press in 1998, with Richard Wilhelm and my wife Dianne Robitaille. Richard and Dianne have been involved in one degree or the other since its inception. Richard and I are fond of saying we found the Press over "bagels." We had been discussing starting the press at our usual breakfast meeting at Breuger's Bagels in Porter Square, Cambridge.
What type of work do you look for as editor?

Any thing that hits me on an emotional or gut level.

You have done so much for the community of Somerville and the surrounding areas. I would like to start out this section of the interview asking you to talk about the Somerville Writer's Festival you founded.

I founded the festival with Tim Gager, a local writer and literary activist. We have put on three festivals so far. When The Somerville News was taken over by the Norton and Tauro families they wanted to improve the image of the paper.Tim and I thought holding a writers' festival would do just that. So for the past few years we have put on a festival held at Jimmy Tingle's Off- Broadway Theatre or The Somerville Theatre. We have had such readers as Franz Wright, Afaa Michael Weaver, and novelist Robert Olen Butler, to name a few.

For "The Somerville News", you are the Arts Editor. How long have you been writing for them? Every week you interview a writer, this must be so rewarding and interesting. Talk about your experience so far. Adding to this also mention your Poet To Poet/Writer To Writer Program on the Somerville Community Access Program.

I have been writing for The Somerville news for about 5 years now. I love interviewing people. It gives me the opportunity to talk to people I normally wouldn't have the opportunity to. I have always loved interview shows. I grew up listening to Barry Farber, Long John Nebble, and other radio personalities on WOR radio in NYC. On TV I watched David Susskind, Dick Cavett, and Alan Berk. Now I have a chance to do what they did, granted, on a much smaller scale. I love to explore the creative process, and I love to be surrounded by interesting people who have something to say.

Every Saturday in Davis Square, Somerville, at the "Au Bon Pain" cafe, a group of writers from all over meet at 9:00AM, hence the name "Bagel Bards. Since I have been attending this, I have met so many wonderful people. I look forward to going every week. Please talk about how you and Harris Gardner came up with this idea. Attendance Saturday morning has been growing and more people are becoming involved. This must be so exciting for you and Harris to see. What is this like for you?

My idea for "Bagels with the Bards" came from comedians. I was reading that for many years a group of comedians met informally at the "Stage Deli," in NYC for years. People would come and go, just shoot the breeze, talk shop, whatever. I thought this would be great for poets. A poet, Doug Worth, had written me about how cliquish he found the poetry scene in Boston and Cambridge. So I approached my friend Harris Gardner, and we came up with the name, and launched it in the basement of "Finagle-A-Bagel" in Harvard square, where we met for breakfast for awhile. I love it...its like having a secret club or something.

There are other magazines you are involved with. Discuss your role. You are also on the Board for The Wilderness Retreat in Littleton, MA. Discuss this.

I am the Boston editor for Poesy Magazine, a regular contributor to the Small Press Review, on the advisory board of 'the new renaissance " literary magazine, , a fairly regular contributor to "Spare Change News," and the book review editor for the online journal: The Wilderness House Literary Review

The Wilderness House Literary Retreat was started by Steve Glines on a nature reserve in Littleton, Mass....a short drive from Boston. Steve asked me to helpout with publicity and literary guests. We have had the late poet Robert Creeley, Atlantic fiction editor C. Michael Curtis, Hallie Ephron, Afaa Michael Weaver, Suzanne Berger, Lois name a few.

I am amazed at all your energy. You have heard me say that a zillion times now. You have given so much to the writers and community. Would you like to mention anything else here.

I am blessed with an abundance of energy. I also don't have kids, so I have a lot more time to devote to this. I find by giving to the community you reap rewards too.

Thank you so much for the interview Doug.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Buying A Suit on Essex Street. Ed Galing. ( Iniquity Press./Vendetta Books POBOX 54 Manasquam, N.J. 08736) No Price.

Ed Galing writes of lost worlds. Approaching 90, he recalls The Lower East Side of NYC, the great Jazz players sensuously dancing with their axes, the joys and bountiful flavors of Moishe's Café, the memories of the great and obscure men and women he knew, the prize of a shiny new suit from an Essex St. shop, a boy looking at the riotous streets from a tenement fire escape, and all these images are rendered simply and evocatively. In "Jazz Man," Galing recalls a musician in a cold underground subway station in NY, who transforms the rather unforgiving environs:

eyes closed
his sax intruded
on the din and noise
of a cold subway
station where the
only music one
heard was the
screeching of a

and suddenly the
bland, cruel world
of unseeing non-
caring people became
a paradise where the
only thing that counted
was the beautiful music
he was making,
a solo on sax
both sweet and caressing
in such contrast
to the shrill cacophony
around him.

And here we have Galing as a young kid in The Lower East Side viewing the world from the confines of his tenement building . From: "Fire Escape":

Mine was on the
fifth floor

A small iron

Down below I
could see pushcarts:

Crowded streets
people pushing and

Screams and mutterings:
shouts of despair.

Up here, when I sat
outside the window
in my fire escape

I was six years old:
and already I knew
what if felt like

To be caged in
some wild animal.

Ed Galing and I have been friends for awhile; keeping in touch on the phone and in letters. Ed does not do email! Long ago I told Ed I would publish a poem of his in Ibbetson Street for as long as he is around. To this day Ed Galing goes to "Jack's Deli," in Philadelphia, plays his harmonica, and regales folks with stories of the "old days." The letters he writes me are full of the fears of old age and mortality. And I can tell you this: I love Ed Galing ,and so do many others in our small press community.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update