Thursday, December 06, 2007

Some Natural Things. Glenn W. Cooper.

Some Natural Things. Glenn W. Cooper. ( Kamini Press Ringvagen 8, 4th floor SE-117 26 Stockholm, Sweden)

Gerald Locklin writes of Glenn Cooper’s work: “ I have thought very highly of Glenn Cooper’s work for many years, he’s a throwback to the glory days of the Wormwood Review. A first-rate poet in the debut of a very attractive series.”

This mini-chap “Some Natural Things,” by Glenn W. Cooper that is published and illustrated by Henry Denander, has poetry that is flooded with evocative images. “Flooded” is the key word here because many of the poems deal with rain and water in general. And since we are all made up of 70% or more of water, these poems should provide us with a heightened “stream” of consciousness.

In the poem: “Small Room” rain settles, paints and haunts:

“ A little bit of rain settles,
the summer dust, fills

the night time with memories
of people long gone,

as lightning paints
the walls
of this small room

with images I don’t want
to interpret.”

And in “No Contest” the poet bows to a superior bard:

every time
it’s raining I go

inside to write
a poem

about the rain
but nothing

measures up.

the rain always

I go
back outside.

Highly Recommended.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update

Selected Poetry of Susie D by Susie Davidson

Selected Poetry of Susie D
By Susie Davidson
40 page chapbook at $5
Ibbetson Street Press
25 School Street
Somerville MA 02143

Review by Laurel Johnson

Susie Davidson is an award winning poet, writer, journalist, and social activist. Her credentials are impressive. Between the glossy covers of this chapbook, readers will find the meat and marrow of her life and work. Whether free verse, prose style, or iambic pentameter, this poetry shines. Consider, for example, this excerpt from “For Sorrow or Verse:”

to rewind the pastures of billowing sunsets
to frame the experience tearing through stone
we walk ever bent upon burnishing sadness
toward the cool daybreak, the pain echoes low

“Six Million Souls” is an exercise in rhyming verse. Few poets can rhyme and communicate their message in effective, focused style. Ms. Davidson accomplishes both with apparent ease:

Six million souls are the soul of us all,
the darkest of ages, humanity’s fall.
Children and innocents tortured and killed,
Six million visions and dreams unfulfilled.
Herded like cattle, stripped of all worth,
hungry and sick in the dregs of the earth,
parents and siblings shot down in full sight,
boxcars of bodies transported at night.

“Barred in Bosnia” recalls the attempts of Croatian women to block U.N. convoys providing aide to Muslim infants. Why would any woman anywhere deny food and health care to a child, regardless of creed or nationality? The answer is ages old -- hatred and consuming grief:

How could such horror exist in this day
Where countrymen feud in eternal dissent,
With dry milk and baby food weapons and ploys,
Where conflicts unveil genocidal intent?

Ms. Davidson has traveled to places most of us will never see. These travels are documented by a skilled wordsmith in the “Travel Poems.” I quote “Jerusalem” which was the first of sixteen exceptional poems:

repentance lines this path, desert wind tugs tired
heartstrings and o! such a blip in eternity is life
in this holy ground in this time in time
like so many grains of this sacred sand
are we and always will be here now here always
in a word shalom.

The poems in this not-for-profit chapbook are from It’s Only Life: Rhythmic Forays into Life and Human Nature (1992); After Gary (1994); and a new work. If you aren’t familiar with Susie Davidson’s work, this chapbook would be an ideal introduction. If you enjoy rich poetry, fertile with meaning, Ms. Davidson will not disappoint.

Review by Laurel Johnson Laurel Johnson is a book reviewer for the Midwest Book Review.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New Executive Director at Cape Cod Writers’ Center, starting in January, 2008

Anne Elizabeth Tom, who is in the current Issue of Ibbetson, has been appointed director of the Cape Cod Writing Center.

New Executive Director at Cape Cod Writers’ Center, starting in January, 2008

Anne Elizabeth Tom, who will become the new executive director of the Cape Cod Writers’ Center on January 1, grew up in Boston, spent summers on Cape Cod, and received a Master of Arts in Fine Arts from Tufts University. She has had a long career as a writer, cultural educator, and executive director. For several years she was corporate writer/editor for the MITRE Corporation, producing publications, exhibits and conferences; next assistant director of a professional extension program at the University of California, Los Angeles, designing curriculum, selecting faculty, and marketing and implementing over 400 professional courses and public programs annually. Later, as executive director at The Lee-Fendall House Museum in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, she created and brought educational programs to the Greater Washington, DC community.

A former grant writer for Pratt Institute in NY, and instructor for New England Literary History at the Academy for Lifelong Learning at Cape Cod Community College, Anne Elizabeth also has a background researching and writing for museum exhibits, and for feature articles on architectural history and art published in numerous magazines and newspapers, most recently as contributing writer for Summerguide magazine. A published poet, she produced the Grange Hall Summer Poetry Series, the Cape Cod Winter Poetry Series, and original plays of Cape playwrights, for several seasons. Her poetry is published in small literary magazines (such as the Aurorean, Poesy, Ibbetson, and many others), and is anthologized in Out of the Blue Writers Unite, 2003 (ed., Gager and Priestly), Summer Home Review, II, 2004 (ed., Loring), and Bagels with the Bards, II, 2007 (ed., Weaver and Watt). She has featured at many New England poetry venues, including the National Poetry Festival, Boston Public Library, 2004 to 2006.

Upon returning from living in Hawaii, where she earned a certificate in Intercultural Leadership, Anne Elizabeth took on an entrepreneurial endeavor: establishing Cape Cod Cultural Tours, LLC, specializing in small group and custom excursions focused on the history, architecture, art, and literary history of Cape Cod and the Islands, for domestic and international visitors to Massachusetts. She says her research on Cape culture has given her much new writing material.

President of the Cape Cod Writers Center, Sheila Whitehouse, explains that the Board of Directors selected Anne Elizabeth as the Center’s new executive director for her broad professional experience and commitment to Cape Cod’s cultural presence. She says that the new director’s goal is “to take the legacy of the Cape Cod Writers’ Center to the next level, making it an even more effective, nationally and internationally renowned, mecca for writers.”

Anne Elizabeth and her husband Steve reside in Sandwich.

The Cape Cod Writers’ Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to nurturing and promoting emerging and established writers. The office is located in Osterville, and the annual conference, in its 47th year, has long been held at the Craigville Conference Center during the third week of August. For further information about CCWC Breakfasts with Authors, Books and the World TV show, Pathways to Publications Workshops, and more, see:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Somerville Writers Ethan Gilsdorf and Ted Weesner Jr.: From Paris, Prague to Somerville.

Top: Ted Weesner Jr.

Bottom: Ethan Gilsdorf.

Somerville writers Ethan Gilsdorf and Ted Weesner Jr. have a lot in common. They both grew up in Durham, New Hampshire, both their mothers were teachers, their fathers were both professors, and both writers lived abroad; Gilsdorf in Paris and Weesner in Prague. And both of these writers with serious cases of wanderlust will read from their works-in-progress at the Willoughby and Baltic art space at 195 G Elm St. Somerville on Dec. 14 at 7PM.

Gilsdorf, 41, and Weesner, 43, told me over coffee at the Sherman Café located in my stomping grounds of Union Square, that both are working on books they hope to complete later next year. Weesner will be reading an excerpt from the novel he presently is working on: “ Left Prague for Good” and Gilsdorf will read from his memoir/ travelogue: “ Escape Artists: One Man’s Quest To Find Reality Among Role Players, Freaks, Online Gaming Geeks, Fandom Addicts, World- Builders, and other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms.”

Both Gilsdorf and Weesner moved from their respective romantic European cities to Somerville for a number of reasons. Gilsdorf, who lived on the Right Bank of Paris for five years was a freelance marketing writer and a European correspondent for The Boston Globe, felt a need to come back to the States after his extended stay in the “City of Light.” Somerville is a city near his familial roots. One day he was in Davis Square, browsing in the now defunct store “Planet Pluto,” when he asked the store manager if Somerville would be a good fit for him. She answered in the affirmative and Gilsdorf was in like flint. He now lives in the Davis Square section of the city, and makes his living freelancing for The Boston Globe and other publications, as well as teaching at Grub Street.

Gilsdorf, like Weesner, said that he finds the Somerville community committed to the arts, ideas and dreams. Both men traverse our burg on their bikes. Weesner who teaches Creative Writing at Tufts said he loves the diversity of the city, and the accessibility to the museums and other cultural institutions the area offers.

Gilsdorf’s work-in-progress “Escape Artists…” is based on a series of articles on “Fantasy Geeks” that he has written about over the years. Like Steve Almond in his book “Candyfreaks,” that explores the subculture of candy fanatics, Gilsdorf submerges himself in the strange world of video games, online gaming, and the otherworldly denizens of these fringe societies.

Weesner, who moved back to Boston to attend Emerson College for his MFA is working on a fictional book that examines a young man’s flight to Prague from the U.S. to escape personal conflicts at home. Prague, in the 1990’s, when the novel takes place, was a cultural Mecca for disaffected young artists and writers.

The choice of the venue of the art gallery Willoughby and Baltic seemed a natural one. Gilsdorf said: “ It’s like an arts center and they are very open to all mediums and activities. I tracked the place down and chose it for a venue for the reading.”

Gilsdorf, now a resident of the “Paris of New England,” said he has no regrets about his move to Somerville. “ In Somerville there is nothing fancy. But inside these three- decker homes there is some creative energy happening.’ Hopefully this font of creative energy will be present at the Willoughby and Baltic Gallery Dec 14.

French Memory Stick

by Ethan Gilsdorf.

She replaced my memory.
I was running slow. Thinking too much, to boot.
Those five years had to go.

First, replace the keyboard,
aka, clavier, harpsichord,
everything you ever touched.

Sure, I had to abandon old habits,
teach myself fresh strokes, techniques.
The bed no longer the Seine, but the Charles.

Adieu cedilla, accents grave and circumflex,
bonjour QWERTY, Caps Lock, Shift.
Home and Escape remain the same.

Meanwhile, battering with my new RAM
I attacked the crumbling castle. My speed increased.
I resisted looking back not even for old files
said to have been circuitously misplaced,
still linked to a landmark not far from my desktop.

You might want to keep that French memory stick,
she said. Shtick. Could be worth something, some day,
snapping shut the gunmetal panel
and tightening the screws.

I’m moving on now. I’ve already
lost my shortcut to the saved emails, the bowling party,
some French-sounding place like Monet-sur-Quelque Chose.

My keys, they don’t stick.
Memory, she is cheap.

From "Left Prague for Good"

By Ted Weesner, Jr.

One full decade earlier a black limousine pulled up in
front of my empty apartment. I lived on the top-floor
of a triple-decker on a street lined with them. The
limo driver, I could see from a window above, was
examining the statue of Mary Magdalene in the front
yard. Though faded to seafoam green and flecked with
soot, she was shielded from rain by a half-buried
clawfoot tub, a custom of the local Portuguese
immigrants. The driver draped a pink newspaper across
his steering wheel, then pulled something shiny from
the glovebox. He held it inches from the pink paper.
A magnifying glass! How very appropriate. This was
just the sort of scrutiny I needed to escape. To get
out from under. Thus the limousine, even if it cost
more than I had.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Intimations of Survival in the poems of Richard Wilhelm

Intimations of Survival in the poems of Richard Wilhelm

Review by Michael Todd Steffen

A thread of tradition in the cycle of the calendar year weaves the sequence of Richard Wilhelm’s book of poems, Awakenings (October 2007, Ibbetson Street Press), beginning with death in dull winter, proceeding to rebirth and awakening in spring, maturity and confidence in summer, ripening to harvest in autumn with premonitions of death again, still with the poet’s affirmation in the final line of the final poem,
A PASSENGER, “seeking yet another rebirth.”
Yet Wilhelm’s year is incomplete, denoting a sense of loss that resonates throughout the book. If William Carlos Williams tells us to invent “not in ideas but in things,” Wilhelm’s opening poems argue persuasively that intuitive invention is not so much in things, but in the resonance of things after their moment,

tree after Christmas tree,
put out with the trash,
some still decked in tinsel,
still fragrant with all that is over. (WHEN TOMORROW’S TRUCKS COME)

Perusing the first five poems the reader of the mainstream American poetic confidence has to ask: Where is the song of himself? By WINTER (p. 4) it is Wilhelm’s absence that has become most present. It is the world around him, the poems softly protest, in this early 21st century of aerodynamics subtly suggested in the book of nature by the creatures of the air:

An array of starlings
settles down on the Norway
maple’s snow-dusted branches.
Several birds,
as if by script,
change positions.
then a few more birds
flit to other branches.

Down from the same atmosphere of maneuvered flight, snowflakes are described as “sputtering,” as though from a mechanical sky, a sky that has overextended its patrol and interest:

copper leaves
cling on well
past death.

This intense awareness of things present in their denotation of “all that is over” (over, also “above”) conveys a sense of oppression, typified and announced in CRUMBLED BRICKS AND BROKEN GLASS, where Wilhelm feels “bored to a muted nausea,” more or less bound to follow his father around on a Saturday in an overheated Studebaker, fidgeting in a hardware store, riding along out past an abandoned railroad, places where his father’s memories are stirred, but the child’s are not. The visions are described point blank as seen, ominous in their state of dilapidation:

Rusted rails led past stands of sumac,
a chain link fence devoured by vines,
to an empty factory, its painted logos all but faded
from brick walls.

As if we lived in a super-constructed world already, the poet’s great fear is that demolition and deterioration are all that remain for the future, a ghetto-ization of housing and industrial parks that were erected and used up too fast:

this is all there is, this is all
there will ever be. Crumbled bricks
and broken glass…

The poet is unique in his subtlety of communicating things present, yet liberation of consciousness from the determined Now begins in the imagination, finding its first avenue to something possibly different, some change, in memory, the source of the shift in voice in AWAKENINGS where,

My senses soon whisk me
to my rural boyhood—

and in the rejuvenation of his mind, Wilhelm plays again:

We were soldiers or
Indians or desert island-
survivors. We’d crouch
in bushes, sneak up a hill
then hurl our spears into
a gully of soft wet earth…

The spears the boys hurl into the wet earth, the poet’s primary sense of manhood, only in the prior poem, NONES OF FEBRUARY, Wilhelm had discovered, “a fallen branch, dead but strong,” from which with his penknife he begins to carve out his poems, “smaller branches and knots” and a staff to sustain him walking “like a wandering monk.”
In the space allowed in this article I have touched on only a few poems, to make a point about Wilhelm’s sensibility: it is subtle, careful in the placement of word and line for connotation, and powerful when given a patient appreciation. The death of Christmas and rebirth and awakening to spring is so critical and vital to human survival, and Wilhelm has not failed to acknowledge this wondrous operation, however great the struggle against these birth pangs, however great the obstacle posed by civilization in our day which demonstrates its reliance on aggressive technology rather than on our curious communion with the earth and its plants and creatures, the suggestion of its cycles, so carefully heeded and portrayed in these poems.

We are given Wilhelm’s wide range of acceptance, from the beautiful and hopeful WE’LL GROW NEW FACES, where

If the dream comes again—
Sweet May will scent the air,

to the foreboding visions, in NIGHT OF THE BLOOD RED MOON, of an equilateral moon rising through sunset red, with the poet’s senses overcome by an equally unusual

from somewhere deep in the blood,
yearned for one I had not yet met.

Well worth reading and rereading, Richard Wilhelm’s Awakenings does the work of piercing through our superficial civilization, relating us to the cycle of our source and mother, the earth and her bearings, using familiar settings and images, set out in simple yet striking language.

Ibbetson Update/ Michael Todd Steffen/ Dec. 2007

* Michael Todd Steffen is the winner of the Ibbetson Street Poetry Award (2007)

Confessions: Selected and Edited by Lynn Clague

Confessions: Selected and Edited
By Lynn Clague
ISBN 978-097953133-0
41 pages at $10 paperback
Ibbetson Street Press
25 School Street
Somerville MA 02143

Clague’s Confessions is a delicious six-course feast. As a poet, he’s approachable; readers can relate to Clague and the life experience he shares. As a man, he’s vulnerable, humorous, and self-effacing. As a reader and reviewer who enjoys poetry, I found the combination of humor and vulnerability to be delightful.

Clague admits in the introduction to being “distant, cool, thinkerish” at times, but in the section titled “Love” he shares this telling self-description:

My most endearing quality is sincerity.
I am tender as a baby’s bottom,
lyrical as a loon.

This excerpt from “Growing Up” describes a typical extended happy hour at home. In this section, Clague details life with his parents and their quest for gracious living, their careers and foibles, and hints at the facades we create to survive:

Occasional contretemps
(pardon my French)
drifted into the post-hour hours
if maybe Dad had one too many
or Mom, tacking like a schooner
in a gale, nagged him ragged,
but the disaster behind the façade
occurred only decades later.

In the early years of his “Career” he becomes the master of camouflaged compromise and games of pretend. Such games drained him, but he played them nonetheless:

As the years accumulated
and the paths to profits proliferated,
I tempered my grin
like a blade of steel
into measured smiles.

Harsh tolls have been taken from a lifetime of pretense and denial. In “Recovery” comes the sudden insight that changes his life:

Unstruck by lightning,
unvisited by a vision of a burning bush,
I had been changed.

Clague and his Confessions deserve high praise. I cannot do justice to this fine book and Clague’s skill with words in a few excerpts. His poetry must be savored, read and reread, celebrated. This book is highly recommended.

Review by Laurel Johnson---- Laurel Johnson is a reviewer for the Midwest Book Review