Saturday, August 25, 2007
PUSHCART NOMINATIONS 2007 Ibbetson Street 2007
Robert K. Johnson submission editor and myself have made our selections for the Ibbetson Street Pushcart Nominations. ( 2007) Best--Doug Holder/Ibbetson Street Press
"How To Know A Prairie Poem." Ellaraine Lockie. Issue #21.
"Morning Trek." Michael Keshigian. Issue #22.
"Passages." Linda M. Fischer. Issue #22.
"Diving" Laura Rodley Issue # 22
"Rhaposdy in Blue" Patricia L. Hamilton Issue #22
"LOWERED EXPECTATIONS IN THE LOWER 48"
Jared Smith Issue#21
The Pushcart Prize - Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in the pages of our annual collections.
Writers who were first noticed here include:
Raymond Carver, Tim O’Brien, Jayne Anne Phillips, Charles Baxter, Andre Dubus, Susan Minot, Mona Simpson, John Irving, Philip Lopate, Philip Levine, and many more. Each year most of the writers and many of the presses are new to the series.
Our Pushcart Prize editions are found in most libraries and bookstores. Each volume contains an index of past selections, plus lists of outstanding presses.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Further Fenway Fiction. Edited by Adam Emerson Pachter ( Rounder Books. One Rounder Way. Burlington, Ma. 01803) $17. http://www.rounderbooks.com
Fenway Park would seem to be a natural setting to center works of fiction and poetry around. The stadium is a house of melodrama, history, bipolar highs and lows, all the right stuff for writers to mine. Former Somerville resident and author Adam Emerson Pachter edited an anthology of fiction aptly titled” “Fenway Fiction,” that came out in September 2005. In 2007 a second anthology: “Further Fenway Fiction,” edited by Pachter and released by the local imprint Rounder Books has hit the street, and features poetry and fiction focusing around the old town team. And as always Somerville or Somerville - connected writers are represented on these pages. Author Timothy Gager, cofounder of The Somerville News Writers Festival, Steve Almond author of “Candy Freak,” and Festival regular, as well as long-time Somerville resident and novelist Mitch Evich, all have found homes for their work.
Now mind you, I am no longer a real baseball fan, although truth-be-told I was a rabid 1969 “Miracle Mets” freak during my freshman year of high school. But over the years the passion for the game has dissipated with the weight of more wordly concerns…well you know the drill. But I still can remember a time when a Mets’ loss could bring me to tears, or when the crack of a bat could me salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
This collection brings some of that heightened awareness through humor, pathos and some right-on writing.
Tim Gager’s short satirical piece “Fantasy Camp;” appealed to the mired middle- aged man in me, as Gager sends up a group of over-the hill, never-have-beens at a baseball fantasy camp. Gager has these hapless campers practice fantasies of firing managers; has withdrawn, nerdish men trained to be bombastic,” buck-stops- here” umpires, and even has women “of a certain age” train to be baseball groupies.
In Steve Almond’s “The Tragedie of Theo” ( “Prince of the Red Sox Nation”) Almond uses Shakespeare’s ‘”Hamlet” as a conceit to capture the tortured “to be or not to be” dilemma of the young Dane, I mean… general manager of the Sox,
Mitch Evich’s “Johnny Boy,” examines a man who had a fleeting taste of success as a ballplayer, but now in his mid 30’s he is captured in a second rate city job and the banalities of a longtime marriage.
The poetry section has works from Jonathan P. Winickoff, Bob Francis, Al Basile, and Ron Skrabacz.
Adam Pachter, the editor, has a romantic piece “Cuttyhunk” that pulls at the heartstrings. Other contributors include: Rachel Solar, Henry Garfield, Bill Nowlin, Michelle Von Euw, Cecilia Tan, Jennifer Rapaport, Steven Bergman, Sarah Green David Kruh, Tracy Miller Geary, Elizabeth Pariseau, and David Desjardins.
Whether you are a fan of baseball, fiction, poetry, or all three, there is much to recommend in this anthology.
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Jared Smith reviews "Of All the Meals I Had Before" and "No One Dies At the Au Bon Pain" by Doug Holder
*This review appeared in the July/Aug 2007 issue of the Small Press Review
OF ALL THE MEALS I HAD BEFORE: Poems About Food and Eating
2007; 23 pp.; Cervena Barva Press, P.O. Box 440357, W. Somerville, MA
02144-3222; $7 http://www.cervenabarvapress.com and
NO ONE DIES AT THE AU BON PAIN; 2007; 28 pp.;
Sunnyoutside, P.O. Box 441429, Somerville, MA 02144; $8 http://www.sunnyoutside.com
Both books by Doug Holder
Reviewed by Jared Smith
These books have a big appetite, lean with both white breast and dark-meat
muscle, flavored with sad humor and regret, while reveling in all that goes
into a man. Doug Holder is perhaps the most family centered poet to emerge
in recent years, and yet he carries the literary heritage of the small press
proudly, with an awareness of and closeness to the chosen isolation from
which it evolves.
In Last Night At The Wursthaus, without apologies to Harvard or merchants
for his enjoyment of the pun, he observes: “…at the bar/scholars of the
academy/and everyday scholars of life/share the same expanse of polished
wood.” Yes. A whole urban culture dwells here, laid out for inspection and
ingestion. In Rotisserie Chickens, it is “Strange how they are displayed-/a
chorus line/propped on wire/chests out/breasts shimmering/melting flesh/legs
spread/wings/posturing/on their plump hips…Which one will I choose tonight?”
Which one indeed, where no one dies at the au bon pain? But, of course, we
are a marked and confused society. And Doug feels the pain and the pun, the
twist of the knife through bread and flesh. The Au Bon Pain is a chain of
cafes, and no one dies in cafes at leisure. But of course, they do…as every
moment and every bit of flesh taken in works its way down into the bone. In
I Am Not Afraid Of Bones, he writes “I trace them/through a façade of
flesh./ My tongue/is often crowned,/tipped with/marrow…Bones--/they are
what/make us/most human.” Nor are the bones only of the body; they are of
the institutions surrounding us as well. They have a beauty, and a purpose,
and a hollowness—and therein lies our beauty and fragile vulnerability.
These books are printed and produced in the finest tradition of the small
press: well laid-out and speaking to the mind rather than mass market.
Centers of artistic energy seem to move around the country periodically, and
it’s good to see rare meat on the finest tables again.
*Jared Smith received his BA cum laude and MA in English and American Literature from New York University, studying under poet/critic M.L. Rosenthal, former Library of Congress Adviser Robert Hazel, and New York Quarterly founder William Packard. He is the author of six collections of poetry, including Where Images Become Imbued With Time (Puddin'head Press, Chicago, 2007; Lake Michigan And Other Poems (Puddin'head Press, Chicago, 2005); Walking The Perimeters Of The Plate Glass Window Factory (Birch Brook Press, New York, 2001); Keeping The Outlaw Alive, (Erie Street Press, Chicago, 1988); Dark Wing (Charred Norton Publications, Camillus, NY, 1984); and Song Of The Blood (The Smith Press, New York, 1983). His poems, essays, and literary criticism have appeared hundreds of times in journals over the past 30 years. His poems have been adapted to modern dance at New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and to stage in Chicago. He is a member of The Advisory Board of The New York Quarterly, Poetry Editor of Trail & Timberline, past president of Poets & Patrons, and a member of The Academy of American Poets. He was the 2006 judge for the Jo-Anne Hirschfield Memorial Poetry Competition in Evanston. He currently is a frequent lecturer and reader at universities, colleges, libraries, and other venues across the country.
JACQUES FLEURY: INTERVIEW WITH THE “HAITIAN FIREFLY”
Jacques Fleury was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti but has lived in the Somerville/Cambridge axis for many of his 36 years. He is a poet, freelance writer, journalist and hosts the Cambridge Access TV show: “Dream Weavers.” His poetry and writings have been in The Boston Haitian Reporter, Spare Change News, The Somerville News, The Alewife, The Bridge, What’s Up, etc…He is currently working on a short fiction collection and his most recent book of poetry is the collection: “Sparks in the Dark…”
Doug Holder: You grew up in Haiti, a country known for its oppressive dictatorships. How is poetry viewed by the people and the powers that be?
Jacques Fleury: The government exiles poets who incite “subversive ideologies” in public. The government doesn’t want musicians and artists ‘educating” the public. In Haiti you are taught to recite in school; you are not taught to think. You are not taught to examine things and come up with your own original point of view. I didn’t even know what critical thinking was until I started college here in America.
DH: What can happen to an artist if he expresses his “opinion” in Haiti?
JF: You can disappear. Your own family member could be waiting to turn you in for a few bucks. You can be killed. My mother has horrific story in which she was almost killed for wearing a red dress. Red supposedly represented some subversive ideology. She had to be pardoned of that. Enjoy your individual rights here in America because in countries like Haiti people can slap you and walk away.
DH What would have your chances of becoming a writer been if you remained in Haiti?
JF: Not much. All the artists I knew as a kid who were evolving, and got to the point of influencing people, were exiled or killed. The government gave you the option. They didn’t want the public to think: “Hey maybe I got a raw deal, so these artists were dealt with.”
DH: Is it still like that in Haiti?
JF I think policies are a little less draconian than they were—but I haven’t really been looking. I have been too busy with my own life right now.
DH: You don’t ‘prune” your poetry. I have often compared it to a wild jungle of words.
JF: That was an accurate description. I do grow and write like a wild jungle. That’s just my personality and it is reflected in my writing. I never know how long or short a poem is going to be. I never intend to make it short or long.
DH: Do you revise at all?
JF: Sometimes when I am writing a poem I do revisions, but I never go back to it. I don’t think about editing. I think about getting it on paper. I’ve never took a formal class on poetry so everything you see is natural. I never had to control my energy. I am a diamond in the ruff.
DH: Are there any Haitian poets locally of that you admire.
JF: Patrick Sylvain, Danielle Legros Georges, to name just a couple.
DH: There is a strong sense of your ethnic identity in your poems. Do you expect your work will grow more “assimilated” as you go on?
JP: I plan to concentrate on more “spiritual themes” in the future. I don’t want to be stuck in a ghetto of my own ethnic themes. In the past I have been dealing with my multi-ethnic identity. But
in the end I am going to do what comes naturally to me. I want to concentrate more on fiction than poetry. And if it happens to be Haitian-themed so be it. If it is more mainstream than that’s fine too. I will not compromise my work to fit someone else’s category. I am not going to be a mouthpiece for my people; I am going to speak for myself.
we'll dock stones
In my america
the big flying eagle
birds well done abroad.
Two groups of people
the rich and the poor
the young and the old
the white and the black
and three tons of fat
all in procession
silent tales are blooming
flowers growing shells
climbing white house walls
two candles burning
shades of gray
I trust in god
holy bloody sunday comes
god bless those whose veins
twilight swallows the moon
soldiers gone awol
run like panthers
here and gone
they've staged a snare
running rivers very dry mouths
Dutiful soldiers beat their drums
paragons of strength and honor
dinky shoots smack and
the dumb blond flunks
fall down stand up
walk the line
will set you free
Monday, August 20, 2007
Alice. Louis E. Bourgeois. (Presa Press POBOX 792 Michigan 49341 www.presapress.com) $6.
Louise E. Bourgeois’ poetry seems to want to break with everything: convention, tradition, time, place, etc… The Bush administration would undoubtedly find him a dangerous live wire and tap him, and the rest of us would feel like our collective fly is perpetually down. Good. That’s some of the things a good bard does. Bourgeois wants to shed the old suit of universal authority and live by where his instincts take him. In “The Danger of Telling Someone What to Do”, the poet takes on the teacher or the master and gains purity or freedom from what he views as the tyranny of mind control:
“He couldn’t take orders; he considered them dangerous to his
freedom, his artistic freedom. Out of habit,
the example of others, he had attached himself to a Master
in order to write poetry and philosophy.
But after ten minutes
into his first lesson, the pupil wanted to kill the Master…
Every invective the Master exclaims takes
something away from me—a lesson is really a slaughter of consciousness…
The student stabbed the Master in the back with a switchblade
and the master hit the ground hard and died quickly. The pupil
immediately felt a surge of knowledge that would have taken a
lifetime to achieve had the Master lived.”
In “Mr. Homburg” Bourgeois takes a swipe at obsessive rationalization that can stifle an artist natural inclination:
“He kept a daily chronicle of himself without knowing why. Why
should I write about myself everyday,
not liking my life or even
the lives of others?
Why should I do anything I find to be
annoying and beneath me?
But every day he wrote and wrote, he is still writing, not
knowing why and no longer caring.”
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update