Tuesday, July 04, 2006

WAY WAY OFF THE ROAD ($18) (Ibbetson St. Press 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143)
also order from lulu.com
By Hugh Fox
Reviewed by Lo Galluccio http://www.logalluccio.com

There’s something genuinely and lovingly kooky about Hugh Fox’s world….a little Antonioni mixed up with the Adams Family on TV. And he is a rare –as my good friend Doug Holder put it—"collector of people" as well as being a damn good abstract thinker, concrete poet, zen metaphysician and reviewer himself. You understand his soul accepts the gray zones, the inevitable march to death that we all face, but there’s so much color, and I mean color to burn, in his vivacious portraits of his fellow travelers that it’s a well, kooky contradiction sometimes. He has strange eyes that see the full tilt-a-whirl of sexuality, style, spirit in one felt swoop. This memoir is littered with portraits of his encounters with his contemporary writer-lover friends and COSMEP organizers. But there are also beauteous nuggets of poetry and reflection amidst the rather comical despair and debris of broken lives….lives captured by sex and religion and corporate jobs and disease. Fox holds nothing back in his portrayals. A story’s a story and that’s where most of his heart lies. Oh, he’s by no means a Leonard Cohen type lyricist and closer to Henry Miller in his broad American (especially Chicago and New York tastes), but rather than contemplate what it all could mean, he tells it like it is.

In some ways the book pivots on Bukowski…opens with Hugh discovering Charles’ work after being an academic and already writing a book on Henry James and his dissertation on COSMOLOGY IN POE’S EUREKA. Then in the Kazoo, a bookstore in North Hollywood he finds a copy of Bukowski’s "Crucifix in Deathhand" and arranges to meet him. He tells CB that he’s the first writer he’s found who uses words like they used to in Chicago days, meaning I guess like sort of tough lyrical conversation, and Bukowski agrees to give him his manuscripts so Hugh can write a book on him. The book gets published but an advance or comp copy never gets into Bukowski’s hands through the shenanigans of the small press world. It’s a good warm up story for all the mishaps and mine-traps of the world he’s in….determined to do what he wants, follow his instincts and not worry about the dough too much. And maybe those were the times. But they were certainly Hugh Fox.

Now I’m a child of 1964, and my father was a labor lawyer and politician of sorts….he and my mother even attended the Kennedy inauguration for their honeymoon. I’m not from a freewheeling artist family at all. My mom liked to keep her house neat and orderly and we rarely had adult guests over, just one nut case I can think of who was the youngest of the Grace brothers with whom my father went to Harvard. He said it was a Communist school. Anyway, what astounds me is the sheer people power of Hugh Fox, while he’s dressing up as Connie Fox in black latex and doing archeological digs in Peru and checking in on his friend Harry Smith and dropping in all over the place to visit wacky artist friends. It’s astounding to me….I feel like a f_____g puritan compared with this tribe of people.

As he puts in on page 21, "I had this wanderlust, vagabond, hobo thing in me that wanted to just rush to meet LIFE, EXPERIENCE, WHATEVER WAS NEW, ORIGINAL, CHALLENGING AND GRASP IT TO ME."
There’s a longish section in the book about Harry Smith, a COSMEP cohort who becomes its Chairman of the Board, who is married to a woman named Marion who deteriorates from brain cancer. It starts with her feeling, "goofy" and progresses to the point where the tumor has to be operated on, but has spread. She winds up in a nursing home and Harry takes up with a kind of ball-busting nymphomaniac bohemian woman who is rather disliked. Hughes writes,
"Back in the Fall of 1986 OTHER VOICES (Chicago) published a short story that really isn’t a short story at all but the condensed novel that in turn is condensed LIFE. The decline and fall of Marion Smith. " But see, there’s one sentence devoted to the work, and pages and pages describing the actual people relationships, Harry’s reaction, the almost soap-opera drama of it all. Stuck in this section is a poem called "Deciphering the Brooklyn Hieroglyphic:

"The faces talking
The poverty for the pain,
Koreans in the delis,
Hindus in charge of the porn,
Ghosts of Yorubas, los
Caribes, this is where
I belong… p45

Hugh’s revelation that he’s Jewish and not Czech Catholic as he was raised to be, is another turning point in the book. And when Marion Smith is dying, his Jewish friend Menke comes into her room and they both pray over a long meditation involving Archangels and birds and God and Gabriel….an extensive prayer to prolong her life.
Hugh also gets involved in a three-way marriage down in Brazil with his wife Nona and Bernadette.


But there are so many angles, happenings, people to cover in reviewing this book, I will try to stick to some essential things. We learn that Hugh –aside from wanting to know a "soul of decadence through cross-dressing and living with two women at once – is not himself a whore to the establishment. He is the quintessential outsider, contrary to that as a writer. He writes that in 1970-71 he tried to publish a LIVINIG UNDERGROUND anthology that later served as his pilot-idea for THE LIVING UNDERGROUND: A CRITICAL OVERVIEW,THE LIVING UNDERGROUND: THE POETRY ANTHOLOGLY AND THE LIVNG UNDERGROUND: THE PROSE ANTHOLOGY. And he’s still writing on mimeo paper and old Olivetti typewriters which is fairly incredible looking back. He is attacking the kind of east coast snobbery poetry in favor of a broader renaissance in other parts of the U.S….the real poetic center being San Francisco rather than Boston-New York.

And Hugh includes poems by some of his favorite "underground" poets; most of him were friends:
Cornish’s poem about Malcolm X is particularly striking:


I remember exactly
What I was doing
The day
The prince died
He was somebody
Else’s royalty
But I dug his
And looked
At the streets
Of poor whites
Behind windows
Drugs and wine
Saw all the trash
The pick-up men
Knew as there and never
Took away
And went to work
In my neighborhood
Trying to organize the poor" p 89

Or his relationship to poet Lyn Lifshin who he says feels "very close to." He describes her obsession with ballet dancing, her perception to others as a somewhat aloof and anorexic blonde, always stylish, but it is her poetry that Fox admires and winds up also doing a study of… With his huge appetite for words and people’s visions, he takes in her whole opus describing at one point her book, OLD HOUSE POEMS, about colonial American or filled with a sense of "The Dead Brought Back to Life"

:women in silk
placing shells
under glass with
the pressed
flowers hardly
hearing the sea
the rumors more like
something gone
before be
longing to another
time some
thing written on
snow with snow. P 104

He acknowledges that most people only know her for her "Barby Poems" and that when she decides to write about the Holocaust, it is for some, like Harry Smith, "too much." Fox notes that it was easier via sexism to keep her in the "Dumb-Numb Blonde’ box.

Triteness is to Fox the worse sin of poetry, the only true sin a poem can commit. For this reason he sides with the poetry existential awareness, of being on the outside, even to go so far as to say "schizophrenia, drugs, birth defects, everything that jars the writer out of The Trite, is refreshing." P. 110. It may be refreshing but there is a huge human cost to these ailments, as Fox well knows that poetry can’t touch and can’t cure. It is really an objectification of the fragile and mercurial states of mind these situations bring about.

Incidentally the book’s title comes from a poem by Eigner, who Fox compares with Ashbery without the studied stance of Ashbery’s poems…

"Way Way Off the Road
shadows dispelled
a leaning house
Grass pressed in the wind
Across the room the big pots
No track
The light falls."

I barely have the stamina to contend with Hugh Fox’s prolific energy, his desire to be close to people he loves, to get inside their "warts and all" (not to be trite, forgive me.) There are some rare nuggets of transcendence and wisdom in this book which makes it worth reading. It is not a carefully edited book and there’s some repetition, passages you might want to graze over, but when you find the heart of Hugh Fox it is astonishing what he has done in his lifetime, which is thankfully not over yet. Beginning with his study of Bukowski, Fox ends with the melancholy beauty of Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose style could not be further from Fox’s own, but whose sprit and elegy to self Fox knows well…

"Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
It is the blight man was born for
It is Margaret you mourn for."

Well, it is something Fox and I have in common then, a respect and love for Hopkins. For that is one of the first poems I remember hearing in high school and truly understanding after my father’s death.

LO GALLUCCIO is the poetry editor of the "The Alewife" in Cambridge, Mass. Her work has appeared in Lungful, Ibbetson Street, The Somerville News, Out of the Blue Writers Unite, Heat City Review and others. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University.

Way, Way Off the Road, The Memoirs of the Invisible Man by Hugh Fox is available through the Ibbetson Street Press http://www.ibbetsonpress.com and http://www.lulu.com/content/303269

Monday, July 03, 2006

Ibbetson Street Press Announces the publication of "Louisa Solano: The Grolier Bookstore."

The acclaimed poet Donald Hall said of The Grolier Poetry Bookshop: "It is the greatest poetry place in the universe." And this may not be hyperbole. Founded in 1927 by Gordon Cairnie, and Adrian Gambet, it was the first bookstore in the Cambridge area to sell James Joyce's Ulysses. In its salad days the likes of T.S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, Marianne Moore, and countless other poets patronized this store. Louisa Solano, the current owner, has been connected with the store for over forty years, first as a worker, and later as an owner. Solano changed the original Grolier, to an all-poetry bookstore, probably the most prominent in the country and perhaps the world. Solano told an interviewer that the bookstore was much more than a seller of books. In its prime Solano said the place was "packed with people, reading books and discussing poetry." Due to escalating rents, the Internet, and the difficulty with competing chain bookstores, Solano has been forced to sell this haven for poets on Plympton St., in the heart of Harvard Square, Cambridge.

In this book there are anecdotes from poets and writers about their experience at this famed all-poetry bookshop. Contributors: Doug Holder, Marc Widershien, Deborah M. Priestly, John Hildebidle, Linda Haviland Conte, Richard Kostelanz, Lyn Lifshin, Michael Cunnigham, Afaa Michael Weaver, Ruth Epson, Alexander Levering Kern, Barbara Helfgott Hyett, Steve Glines, and Andrew Jantz.

To order:

$1o to Ibbetson St. Press
25 School St.
Somerville, Mass.
or go to http://www.lulu.com and look under "Louisa Solano & The Grolier Poetry Bookstore"

" Close the goddamn doors!: An Afternoon with Louisa Solano: Memories of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop"At the Wilderness House Literary Retreat http://www.wildernesshouse.org/

Louisa Solano, former owner of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop held court for a few hours of casual conversation concerning her experiences running the famed Harvard Square book shop for over 30 years. It seems that almost every major contemporary poet passed through these doors at one time. Here is a sampler of what Solano had to say about the times and poets she knew:Gordon Cairnie: (the founder of the store) “These goddamn browsers, close the goddamn, door!” This was a declaration often heard by Solano. Cairnie was “quirky,” and did have a temper according to Solano. Solano said, “After I bought the store I had a whole line of people who told me that Gordon ruined them emotionally. It was the way he talked to them.” Cairnie in part was reacting to the browsers who never bought a book, and the ones who shoplifted. Obviously keeping people out of the store was not good business sense. But Solano felt there was a prevailing attitude at the time that poets were abused by society, so poetry and commerce were viewed as totally separate entities.After he died Solano recalled that many folks thought it was a “sin” that she took over the store.

Solano on shoplifting: “According to a study 98% of people steal. People steal because it is an adventure, a high. It’s like shooting up; you have to do more and more. You become an expert on justification.” Solano said that studies indicate that shoplifting is highest among people in religious orders. She recalled that a monk with a flowing robe ripped her off. She said, “His robe was a little less flowing when he went out.’Solano on Harvard Square: Whatever part of the country people come from, the suburbs or little working communities, they come to the square and reality diminishes. She said:”People are walking in a state of grandeur. I remember being accompanied down the street by someone who said he was going to kill me because I was a Harvard capitalist!”

Solano on Robert Lowell: “I met him twice. I thought he was homeless. He was carrying two bags full of newspapers, and he was disheveled. The first time he said to me: “Young lady. I want you to know that Gordon talked too much, and you should never do that.” He walked out of the store. A week later he came and said, “Young lady. You are not following Gordon. You don’t talk to customers.” I found out later that this was Robert Lowell.”“I went to Lowell’s memorial service. Not one person mentioned his poetry. They all talked about his family. His family felt he should not have been a writer. It was not a proper occupation for his class.’

Solano’s favorite poet: “Philip Levine. He has always been my favorite. I think his approach to poetry is wide open. He loved an audience. He was a great standup comic. I loved the love he had for the Jewish community. I really love him.”

Solano on the small press; “I always thought the small press was the most interesting part of poetry. When I took over the store there was a big small press movement going on. This was the 70’s. Some magazines were printed on colored tissue papers, different sizes, etc… Most of the bigger presses were publishing Lowell, Sexton and Plath. They were not particularly democratic. Diana Di Prima was first published by a small press and then started her own, and it is still going strong. She has done translations, and poetry publishing. The University of Texas/Austin was wild about the small press. They probably now (besides the University of Buffalo) have the best small press collection.’

“Black Sparrow Press’ started out selling books with three or four poems for a dollar. Most of the bookstores today would not accept these.”“Even if you were published just in the small press; the fact is you are in a book on a public shelf. Then if things went well you would do another small press book. If things continued to go well, you would get known.Solano on Charles Bukowski: ‘He sent his poems out virtually everyday to every small press magazine out there. This totally admonished the myth of him as a disorganized drunk. He wouldn’t be able to do this if he was.’

Solano on Ed Hogan of “Aspect” magazine and “Zephyr Press”; “Ed was brilliant. He had a lot of energy. He talked endlessly and rapidly. He got a great group of local poets together, and got the magazine out.”

Solano on Allen Ginsberg. “I loved Allen. When he died I thought the world would cave in. He visited the store when he was quite ill. He looked yellowish and diminished. I was shocked. I thought of him as immortal. He brought poetry in the open from a very closed 1950’s America.’

Jack Kerouac: “When I first met him he was sitting down at Lowell House. (Harvard University.) He was wearing a checkered shirt, and sloppy chinos, partly because he was so fat. The audience loved him because he was what they expected. He was the crazy writer. At the end of the reading, Desmond O’Grady, a wild Irish poet (I was madly in love with him), and I escorted him to a bar in Cambridge. There was a young woman who announced to Kerouac and all the guys around him that she wanted a “multiple lay.” Kerouac didn’t do anything and just waddled off to the bar. We got him back to where he was staying and he passed out.“The next day we met him at the Oxford Grill on Church St. in Harvard Square. The news came out that Plath committed suicide. Desmond threw his arms around Jack and very dramatically said “We are the only ones left.” Jack said,” Stay away from me.” He was homophobic. The last we saw of him he was walking down Church St. with two Harvard undergraduates looking for the perfect “Gold,” marijuana.

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

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Rose Gardina: An Unbowed Visionary.

by Doug Holder

Rose Gardina does not just walk into a room—she bursts into it. For a small woman she is a powder keg of creative energy. Gardina, a guest at the Friday morning editorial meeting at The Somerville News office in Davis Square, talked about her fascinating life as a writer, poet, photographer, activist, and founder of an independent record label “Thundamoon”, not to mention
being the brains behind the magazine the “Boston Girl Guide.”

In 2000, at the age of 38, after working in retail management for a number of years, Gardina started a print magazine for women in the creative arts, “The Boston Girl Guide.” Gardina over the years had worked with many female artists in many mediums, and decided she wanted to create a forum for independent women artists of all stripes. She felt and feels that women have a tougher time of it than men in the art world, and are often subjected to a double standard. In spite of working a 40 hour a week job, Gardina used her precious spare time to launch her magazine. The magazine, now online (http://www.bostongirlguide.com/ ) has music reviews, promotes independent artists both female and male, publishes poetry, and has an extensive listing section. Gardina told the News that the “Girl Guide” website gets between 60,000 and 100,000 hits a month. Gardina, in her role as a journalist has interviewed such singer/songwriters as: Joan Osborne, Sarah Lee, Sophia B. Hawkins and others.

Gardina’s ambitions have not just been with publishing. Since she was a child she has been in love with music. A favored uncle introduced her to the music of Janice Joplin, Neil Young, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Ian Hunter, and Arlo Guthrie, to name a few. Once stricken with this body of work, Gardina was like a dog on a meat truck, and never looked back. She started an independent record label “Thundamoon,” that has signed the well-regarded singer/songwriter Jennifer Matthews.

Matthews has performed at two of the three Somerville News Writers Festivals and has performed extensively at venues in Somerville including the Jimmy Tingle Off Broadway Theatre, Burren, Toast Lounge, O’Brien’s, Tir-Na-Nog, Johnny D’s, and The Somerville Theatre. She was brought to the attention of Gardina initially by Deborah M. Priestly, the co-owner of the Out of the Blue Art Gallery in Cambridge. After Gardina’s music editor insisted she listen to Matthew’s CD of beguiling original music, she was hooked. She first saw Matthews in person as she emerged from a cloud of cigar smoke in an Italian men’s bar in the hinterlands of East Boston, where she regularly performed. Gardenia was impressed by Matthew’s ethereal and sensual voice and her expert and inspired guitar playing. Matthew was as adept at acoustic playing as she was at hard rock. Matthews, who is an accomplished poet, and whose book “Fairytales and Misdemeanors” is archived at the Harvard, Buffalo, and Brown University libraries, also caught Gardina’s attention with the accomplished lyricism of her songwriting.

Since their meeting “Thundamoon” has released her critically acclaimed CD “The Wheel,” and just released an acoustic CD by Matthews, “Sunroom Sessions.” Matthews and Gardina have toured Europe and just finished a successful tour of Alaska. They plan a formal CD release in the late summer or early fall.

Gardina, who is gay, has a long history of activism. She said that even at the age of 6 she knew she was “different.” When she was 14 or 15 she frequented gay bars in Boston. She experienced the pain of prejudice against people with alternative lifestyles. She was once involved in an incident where a group of men tried to attack a group of gay women in a bar with lead pipes. Since these early awakenings Gardina has worked with gay youth, AIDS committees, and a host of socially conscious programs.

Gardina feels that musicians and artists in this country are treated like lesser beings. She said in the 60’s and in Europe today, bands are fed, housed, and treated like respected people, who are devoted to their craft. Now she feels its all about money and the “biz.” She finds the music and the style of musicians rather uniform as opposed to years back.

In spite of not making any money of note in her many projects, Gardina remains unbowed. Gardina continues, and will continue. She said: “Even if I don’t ever make a dime, I will still do what I love. You have to have a purpose in this life, and you have to follow it.”

Doug Holder

For more info on Gardina go to http://www.bostongirlguide.com/

Tomas O’Leary is a poet, translator, musician, singer, artist and expressive therapist. His published books of poetry are “Fool at the Funeral,” and “The Devil Take A Crooked House.” both from the Lynx House Press. O’Leary’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Midwest Quarterly, Ibbetson Street, Poiesis, The Worcester Review, and others. For the past 15 years he has worked in nursing homes, leading circles of the elderly in song and spirited exchange, and entertains with his accordion at pubs and private parties. He has an M.F.A. in poetry from the writer’s workshop, U/Mass/Amherst, and M.A. in expressive therapies from Lesley University. O’Leary was brought up in Somerville, Mass. by Irish immigrant parents and now resides in Cambridge, Mass. with his wife and two sons. I talked with O’Leary on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: You have this highly developed character of the old country, wisecracking troubadour poet. Is the real O’Leary, or do we all just invent ourselves?

Tomas O’Leary: To one extent or the other. I certainly suspect that we invent ourselves. To what extent I have invented myself I don’t know. I don’t deny I do have a game. I do it to the degree that I can milk it out or raise it up. Otherwise I would just lie down and die. I don’t want to do that.

DH: You got your MFA in poetry from the writers’ workshop U/MASS/Amherst. What was the experience like . Any mentors?

TO: That goes back to the late 60’s. A great bunch of people there. Everything in the poetry world was happening spontaneously. There were readings at a drop of the hat. There were gathering in houses, in bars, etc… As to mentors I have to mention Joseph Langland. He had a way of embracing what appealed to people. He wasn’t restricted to his own style. He was a high song pastoral poet. He was much given to the lyrical. There were people among us who emulated the minimalism of Robert Creeley. I didn’t. I travel among many modes.

DH: Do you do a lot of revisions of your poems?

TO: It varies among poems. Sometimes it takes me a few years to write a poem.

DH: You have had several poetry collections published, and you say you have completed a novel: “Portrait of the Artist as a Black Hole.” Can you tell us a bit about the novel?

TO: Its conceit is that it is written in one day. It has a Joyce-like element to it. The protagonist in the novel is tripping on Acid.

DH: Is this based on personal experience?

TO: Of course. But since this is a family show I deny it.

DH: Can drugs enhance creativity?

TO: I won’t deny that they can. But I wouldn’t advocate people take it for that purpose. Haven’t you done a little dipping in your day?

DH: Well Tom, it is a family show.

TO: In your workshops you stress “intentionality” in writing. Explain?

DH: I don’t think I can. (laughs) I can talk about it for an hour. It is something to throw in the face of writer’s block. I direct people to write about something that they actually want to be writing about. That’s harder for some folks than you may think.

For more info on Tomas O’Leary go to: http://tomoltime.com/
Newton Free Library Poetry Series Fall 2006
Director: Doug Holder

All readings are held at the Newton Free Library Second Tuesday of each month 7PM Drucker Auditorium 330 Homer St. Newton Centre 617-796-1360 http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net Open Mic after the features.

Sept 12 2006
Ifeanyi Menkiti
Mark Pawlak http://hangingloosepress.com
Jennifer Matthews http://jennifermatthews.com

Oct 10
Jean Monahan
Lo Galluccio http://www.logalluccio.com
Richard Cambridge

Nov. 14

Marc Widershien http://www.marccreate.com
Wendy Mnookin
Sarah Getty



Nicole DiCello
A reader from "the new renaissance magazine" http://tnrlitmag.net
Gouri Data

Grey Held
Richard Wollman
Carol Hobbs

April ( Poetry Festival)

Martha Collins
Louisa Solano
to be announced...

Doug Holderhttp://www.ibbetsonpress.comhttp://dougholder.blogspot.comhttp://authorsden.com/douglasholderhttp://somervillenewswritersfestival.comhttp://yahoogroups.com/group/ibbetsonstreetpressupdate

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