Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Washing the Stones, Linda Larson, Ibbetson Street Press, September 2007, Reviewed by Lauren Byrne

Washing the Stones, Linda Larson, Ibbetson Street Press, September 2007, Reviewed by Lauren Byrne $10.

This collection begins in the South, where “Cypresses take on the shapes of native women/Surrounding the black water like an extended family…” and where, after hard rains, “the red clay dirt turns into gumbo.” The American South is part of the geography of Linda Larson’s past that she mines to reveal a life lived with a poet’s intensity. Even when the subject is death, her words dance with life, as in “Sweet Chariot,” recounting the funeral of a 16-year-old cousin, where:

“A canopy of roses covered the casket/like the winning colt at the Derby,” or “Catfish Catch,” where a gutted catfish reveals “in the dull gray lining” of its belly, “ruby-colored, wet roe,/a handful of bright beads.”

Before I go any further let me divulge the fact that I’m a friend of Linda’s. She’s even been kind enough to mention my name in her book. I remember the day I read some of these poems for the first time when she was putting the collection together. The short poems, in particular, seemed like gunshots of clarity—little explosions of comprehension that lit up the beauty of so much in life that we take for granted.

One of her shortest poems, “Daily Bread,” is also one of my favorites, suggesting as it does that only by its absence is the luxury of the ordinary revealed:

“How glad Isolde/Would have been/To rise at six/And put the coffee on.”

Isolde of Ireland in the Arthurian legends was betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall, who sent his nephew Tristan to escort her to his kingdom. The pair fell in love, and as doomed lovers never knew those routine times couples often don’t recognize are contented until they end. Linda’s moving long poem, “Schizophrenia with Features of Unrequited Love,” allows us a glimpse into the mental illness that has claimed stretches of her life, but which has also contributed to her heightened appreciation of the ordinary and the everyday. Her experiences have helped her shape poetry that imparts a lasting sense of what a privilege it is to simply live simply.

-- Lauren Byrne/ Ibbetson Update/ Sept 2007

Lauren Byrne is a freelancer writer living in Arlington, Mass.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Lyn Lifshin on Jack Powers

I got this statement from the acclaimed small press poet Lyn Lifshin. There is a birthday party for Jack Powers Sat Sept 15 30 Gordon Street Allston 5PM Reading Potluck dinner more info:

From the time I met Jack Powers, I think in the mid seventies when he invited me to do one of several poetry readings to go along with the Boston Marathon, I never stopped being incredibly amazed at his generosity and gentleness. I had published a handful of chapbooks and books when we first met. Before that I had heard of Stone Soup and I think on my trip to Boston to Beacon Press, just as my first anthology, TANGLED VINES, was accepted, the writer I came to Boston with tried to find Jack but we couldn’t.

But from that first meeting and reading, I’ve rarely had so considerate and generous and supportive a host. He was so kind at all the readings. I know he paid me when he did not have the money and could not afford to. There was always a feeling of vibrancy and fun and excitement reading for Jack and talking with him. There was always an idealistic feeling that anything could be accomplished with poetry. I always felt he was a leader and in the little time I spent in Boston, always saw his gracious generosity and kindness with people from all backgrounds.

Not only did he pay me for reading when he couldn’t I’m sure afford to, at my last reading in Boston Jack refused to let me pay to ship my books back. I insisted and I’m sure it was not easy for him to box and mail the books I hadn’t sold but he simply would not take my check. I think I sent it and he tore it up.

Jack is unique. He has helped so many poets, been so sensitive. In a time when poetry has become so careerist, Jack’s passion, community concern and sweetness is very special. He towers over many poets, literally and metaphorically ...

Lyn Lifshin has written more than 100 books and edited 4 anthologies of women writers. Her poems have appeared in most poetry and literary magazines in the U.S.A., and her work has been included in virtually every major anthology of recent writing by women. She has given more than 700 readings across the U.S.A. and has appeared at Dartmouth and Skidmore colleges, Cornell University, the Shakespeare Library, Whitney Museum, and Huntington Library. Lyn Lifshin has also taught poetry and prose writing for many years at universities, colleges and high schools, and has been Poet in Residence at the University of Rochester, Antioch, and Colorado Mountain College. Winner of numerous awards including the Jack Kerouac Award for her book Kiss The Skin Off, Lyn is the subject of the documentary film Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass. For her absolute dedication to the small presses which first published her, and for managing to survive on her own apart from any major publishing house or academic institution, Lifshin has earned the distinction "Queen of the Small Presses." She has been praised by Robert Frost, Ken Kesey and Richard Eberhart, and Ed Sanders has seen her as "a modern Emily Dickinson."