Friday, October 05, 2007

Tapes of Boston-Area Poets Available

Since 2003 I have interviewed poets and writers on my show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer” and for my arts column: “Off the Shelf” in The Somerville News.

Video Tapes $16 (includes postage and handling)

Partial list of tapes below. For archive of interviews go to the site listed above.

John Hodgen: author of “Grace”

Luke Salisbury: author of “Hollywood and Sunset”

Sidewalk Sam: “Sidewalk Picasso”

Tino Villanueva: acclaimed Chicano poet

Harris Gardner: founder of “Tapestry of Voices.”

Martha Collins: author of “Blue Front”

Sarah Hannah: author of “Longing Distance”

Richard Moore

Michael Brown : founder of the “Cantab Poetry Slam”

Jim Kates: Zephyr Press

Lois Ames: social worker to Anne Sexton and Slyvia Plath

Charles Coe: Mass. Cultural Council

Louisa Solano: former owner of Grolier Poetry Bookshop

Danielle Legros Georges author of “Maroon”

Afaa Michael Weaver: “Plum Flower Dance’

Hallie Ephron : Boston Globe Mystery Book Columnist and author.

David Slavitt: “Blue State Blues"

Gary Duehr: Poet, photographer, director

Robert K. Johnson “ From Mist to Shadow”

Lo Galluccio “Hot Rain”

To order:

Send check to:

Doug Holder

25 School St.

Somerville, Mass. 02143


Thursday, October 04, 2007

SARAH HANNAH (1967-2007) – A LONGING DISTANCE by Lo Galluccio

By Lo Galluccio

Yes, right now there is a longing distance between myself and this brilliant dead poet – Sarah Hannah -- for whom I will read and honor the upcoming Writer’s Festival in Somerville this November 11th. That is her book, her first published poetry book – Longing Distance -- which Doug Holder sent me to review months ago. It is a beautifully cosmically colored lush pink book, a semi-finalist for the Yale Younger Poet’s Prize and one which I was, frankly, afraid to review. How strange looking back on it now. Why was I afraid to review this particular book after reviewing so many other works of PhDs and accomplished academic poets for Ibbetson St. Press?

What a mistake I made not to review her work then. How much I might have learned and gained in inspiration. On the subject of pink, that girl color, that deep vortex of cosmos color with stars embedded on the cover, she writes in the poem:

“The Colors are Off This Season”

I don’t want any more of this mumble—
Orange fireside hues,
Fading sun, autumnal tumble,
Stricken, inimitable – Rose.

I want Pink, unthinking, true.
Foam pink, cream and coddle,
Miniskirt, Lolita, pompom, tutu,
P 14,

Yes, there I see my namesake, Lolita, and there I see that wonderful cascading Hopkinesque and Plath-like brocade of images, the colors come alive with emotion, motion and vibrant association. That’s a poet. She wants something that’s not there, something of her own invention. She’s a girl imposing her vision on the landscape. It’s her whim and this rather painful, playful division between what’s there and what she wants to be there. Funny, because that’s why I’m Lo. I’m Lo because I took the name when my first solo CD, Being Visited, came out on the Knitting Factory label in New York. I had secretly wanted to be a sexy tough singer maybe with heart-shaped sunglasses through which to view the world. I had been called that by first boyfriend at Harvard College. I wanted to be something other than my former self. I wanted that after my father died and when I became a poet and singer in New York. Different from Sarah, who was systematically called and systematically brilliant in her studies. Sarah, I think, always had her head on straight, more or less. Wesleyan College, A student, Columbia University PhD in Poetry and then Emerson College Professor of Literature and Writing. According to the Boston Globe story, she also wrote on ‘sheaves of pink paper.”

I met and read alongside her at a reading at McIntyre and Moore bookstore later that year – what season now I can’t remember-- and I was struck by how fine boned and how forthright she was. Again, we did not have much contact but I was very impressed by her. I failed to comprehend again that though this brilliant blonde from Newton, MA was more of an academic poet than myself, we had both traversed similar orbits and held similar passions: New York City, rock music/music in general, and strangely some, well carry-over NYC hip ness and scars. Here was actually someone who, like me, had been favored with intelligence and creativity and drive, but who had also seen it all fall apart. And then, from there, I have to get to the fact that I’m here, after three suicide attempts and brave Sarah, in one swift stroke, is gone. In May of 2007, after moving to Brookline, following a recent divorce from her husband, she committed suicide at 40.

In the SCAT TV interview with Doug Holder, she says that Longing Distance was named after watching her husband scale some rocks and that it came from the idea of messed up love affairs and “absence making the heart grow fonder.” So there is the idea of the unreachable or unattainable love in the very title of the book. Despite her upbeat and nourishing and sometimes humorous aura, Sarah, like Plath, knew tragedy was near. This book is a masterpiece of word play and an amazing amalgam of a kind of urban princess who could also peer into the high-blown intricacies of nature:

“A storm swathes the Atlantic coast:
Heavey Snow, Blowing Snow; Ceiling Low; Dewpoint Twenty.
The Capes, those lonely outposts,
Are summoned like deities: May, Cod, Hatteras,
Waters green and roiling….”

Colette Inez, one of several rave reviewers, commented:
“Astronomy, Renaissance literature, mythology, music, a love of wit and verbal play combined with a passion for form and scholarship resonate in this lively collection of poems that marks Sarah Hannah’s exciting debut…”

Sarah had a full-blooded teaching career at Emerson College, where she was adored by her writing students and played guitar in a rock bands, an avocation and passion she’s begun in New York City where she’d spent 17 years paying dues to develop an original poetic voice in this country. She returned to Boston, which was her home, because she wanted to be in the “underdog” City as she put it.

Her second work is forthcoming on Tupelo Press and it deals with her mother’s mental illness. She finished it before she died, “Inflorescence” and this work shows that Sarah had a passion for people as well as for metaphysical language; that she was also wrestling with a depression in the family, maybe in her mother only or also in herself. The cover features a gorgeous gold burst of flower enveloping both of them. Readings from it by poets and friends will take place at the Poet’s House at 72 Spring St. in New York City on October 25th from 7-9 pm. I go there on a mission to learn more about Sarah, to hear more of her work and to revisit the City which made me an artist, the City I still like to think of as the badlands, as Oz, as home. Really, it is another chance to pay homage to Sarah before I read in November from her work.

Oh that Sarah and I had had a chance to talk over a green tea latte at 1369 in late April. Oh that I might have told her that my break up with a world-famous guitarist nearly killed me, and so did the psych ward aftermath of my own suicide attempt. Maybe she would have realized something still very good about her own situation. Because the problem with poets is that they get very dark and have a tendency to think they can figure it all out themselves, or have to. Without someone shining a fine light or turning the right key in their minds they can miss the fact that against all that agony, they still have important cards to play. That’s the real tragedy of the suicide of an artist. However, Sarah’s work lives on and so does her memory. May she spin on in another dimension….

Lo Galluccio
Ibbetson St. Press
Author of “Hot Rain” and numerous publications
For more information on Sarah Hannah Google her or visit Tupelo Press’s site

Monday, October 01, 2007

Inside Light by Deborah DeNicola

Eleanor Goodman is a new reviewer for the Ibbetson Update. She has an M.F.A. from Boston University. She is also a member of the "Bagel Bards," and teacher at Grub Street in Boston.

Inside Light
by Deborah DeNicola
Finishing Line Press

Art and religion are inextricably intertwined. Poets as diverse as Czeslaw Milosz, Wang Wei, and the Sufi poet Jelaluddin Rumi have attempted to express the inexpressible in their work. In her short collection of poems titled “Inside Light”, Deborah DeNicola makes a lively foray into this tradition.

The poems, twenty-seven in all, are unified by the common themes of Christianity, family, ekphrasis, and ecstatic experience. DeNicola retells some of the familiar biblical stories from new perspectives, and manages to enliven this well-trodden territory. In “John Baptizing Jesus”, the tone is of feverish discovery: “They say he lived on wild honey and the long torsos / of locusts, that he dressed in fetid camel pelts / and rags, and that he ranted / as if he had a finger in a messianic / socket”.

This intensity of language serves DeNicola well throughout the book, as does her ability to combine the ancient with the modern – bathtubs with higher beings, molecules with “notes of Gregorian chant”. This grounding in the everyday saves the poems from being overly esoteric, although fortunately DeNicola also allows herself moments of true revelation. In “Last Judgment”, she writes of “those reliquaries deep in the solar plexus, / dousing the fiery fields where fear is eaten whole by risk.” Religious experience speaks to fear, and to fire, and to the sense that the physical body is both intrinsic and vulnerable to the heat. It is an impressive feat that this sense of peril is captured in nearly every poem in the collection.
Vivid detail and creative juxtaposition are also among many DeNicola’s strengths. In “Magdalen”, she writes of “The Sorceress of Magdala, I knew / the patterns of imbalance / which horn beam cured. / Tranquility induced by larch and beech. / Stirring palliatives of aspen and clematis / in a slow boil of weeds, I mixed elixirs for dropsy / and warts.” The consonances running through these lines demonstrate a fine ear for the music of language.

Some of the most touching poems deal with family. In “Mother Incarnate”, DeNicola explores the issues involved in coping with an aging parent with unusual sensitivity and depth. “Proud mother who says outloud nonetheless, / she’s aware of her mind’s decay.” It takes a poet – such a painful profession! – to see in one’s mother “the visible skull behind her smile”.

The lesson to take out of this collection, aside from simply admiring the talent and effort of honesty it took to write it, is expressed in the very first poem, “The Bath Tub Is Optional”. DeNicola writes: “The busyness of quietude, / the eventually banished will, / waftage of oxygen / pouring through pores, new atoms magnetized / till your chanting stills, though the spooks / warbling through your throat rewire you / completely, so you’ll cry at nothing at all / because everything matters.”

Eleanor Goodman

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Somerville News Writers Festival Nov. 11 2007

The Somerville News Writers Festival: Five Years and Still Growing Strong

By Doug Holder

This is the fifth season of The Somerville News Writer’s Festival. When Tim Gager and I started the festival in November of 2003 we thought it would probably be a one shot affair. But much to our surprise it has become an annual tradition. With the support of The Somerville News and the Norton and Tauro families, we have presented an impressive roster of local and national poets and writers to the folks of Somerville and beyond. Over the years we hosted such readers as: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Franz Wright, Lan Samantha Chang (head of the Iowa Writers' Workshop), Alex Beam (Boston Globe Columnist and author of “Gracefully Insane”), Andre Dubus lll (author of “ House of Sand and Fog), Sue Miller (“The Good Mother”), Hallie Ephron, Pulitzer Prize- winning novelist Robert Olen Butler, poet Afaa Michael Weaver (author of “ Plum Flower Dance.”), and many others.

We have also founded an Ibbetson Street Press Poetry award. The first winner last year was Newburyport poet Michael Alpert. We have had quite a few submissions this year, and are pleased with the interest that has been stirred up.

At each festival we award an “Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award”. “Ibbetson Street” is a Somerville- based small literary journal and press, that gives the prize out to people who have played significant roles in the small press and or the poetry community. Previous winners have been Jack Powers (founder of “Stone Soup Poets”), Louisa Solano (former owner of the “Grolier Poetry Book Shop”), Robert K. Johnson (retired Suffolk University professor and author of “From Mist to Shadows.” (Ibbetson 2007)), David Godine, (founder of David Godine, Inc.), and this year the winner will be Robert Pinsky, former Poet/Laureate of the United States and founder of “Americans’ Favorite Poems Project”). I am proud to say I was in Pinsky’s first “Americans’ Favorite Poems” anthology with my introduction to Robert Lowell’s poem “Waking in the Blue” The poem was set at McLean Hospital where I have worked and run poetry groups for over 20 years.

Our fifth festival (Nov. 11, 2007 at 7PM) at the Jimmy Tingle Off Broadway Theatre will of course be hosted by the comedian Jimmy Tingle. There will be a number of featured readers in the poetry and fiction categories. Tom Perrotta (author of “Little Children,” and nominee for an Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts) will head a line up that includes: Steve Almond, (author of “Candyfreak”), Stephanie Gayle, Errol Uys, Joe Ann Hart, and Timothy Gager (cofounder of the Festival)

In the poetry category we will have Somerville poet and publisher Gloria Mindock author of “Blood Soaked Dresses (Ibbetson 2007) ), Danielle Legros Georges ( Lesley Professor and author of “ Maroon”), Irene Koronas, ( Wilderness House Literary Review poetry editor), Lo Galluccio ( author of “Hot Rain”) and yours truly Doug Holder.

In the past we have had such talented singer/songwriters as Jennifer Matthews, and Meg Hutchinson perform as part of the festival. This year the literature will be complimented by the music of the “Swaggering Growlers.”

Of special note poet Lo Galluccio will read from the work of the late Boston poet Sarah Hannah. Hannah, a lecturer at Emerson College and a brilliant poet, tragically took her own life at the tender age of 40. The Tupelo Press is releasing a collection of her work this fall, ( “Iridescence”) her previous poetry collection with Tupelo was “Longing Distance.”

As always we thank Porter Square Books, and Grub Street for sponsoring this event. We hope you will join us this year. Go to: for more information.