Friday, December 14, 2007

Inside the Outside: An Anthology of American Avant-Garde Poets.

Inside the Outside: An Anthology of American Avant-Garde Poets. Reviewed by Laurel Johnson- Midwest Book Review

To order:

By Laurel Johnson

According to the Farlex Free Dictionary online, avant-garde is a term describing an innovative group applying new techniques to produce fresh and unusual work. The last group of poets to earn the avant-garde label was the Beat poets of the 1950s. This book represents a subsequent generation of poets who craft their work in experimental formats and unusual patterns, or simply give voice to women, downtrodden city dwellers, or social dysfunction.

Most, if not all, of the thirteen poets featured in this book are well-known both inside and outside the world of poetry. Individually and collectively they represent an amazing body of award winning work that encompasses decades. All have been active in the small press, breaking established rules of vision and perception in poetry: Stanley Nelson; Hugh Fox; Kirby Congdon; Richard Kostelanetz; Lyn Lifshin; Harry Smith; Eric Greinke; John Keene; Lynne Savitt; A.D. Winans; Doug Holder; Mark Sonnenfeld; and Richard Morris.

This book represents is a stirring exploration of words and meanings. Some poems flow like word pictures with soft whispers, while others stand out like mysterious petroglyphs hacked into stone. Some celebrate rhythm and cadence; still others perform a visual dance with letters and words. The infinite amorality of our times is represented in poems about politicians and 9/11. The schizophrenic ecstasy of modern society comes to life behind surreal masks. Raw nerve endings and harsh truths are revealed in thought and word through dissassociative fugue states and word salads. The experience is often dizzying and exhilarating.

With only a few exceptions I can think of, Inside the Outside features work of the best avant-garde poets of the last fifty years. Whether you appreciate experimental poetry or not, this book is invaluable for the history recorded in it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New Allston, Mass. Press releases poetry and prose anthology "HOME" edited by Anne Brudevold

(Eden Waters Staff --Anne Brudevold second from left.)

The Eden Waters Press of Allston, Mass. has just released their first anthology: “HOME,” edited by Anne Brudevold.

Luke Salisbury, Professor of English at Bunker Hill Community College and author of “Hollywood and Sunset,” writes of this book of poetry and prose:

The Eden Waters Press HOME Anthology is an excellent display of mature but diverse talent. These poets know what they are doing. Whether it’s Doug Holder and Harris Gardner demonstrating that humor and precision may be the most effective weapons for dissecting the world, a fresh voice like Eleanor Goodman plumbing the mysteries of paternity, Barbara Bialick evoking soil and soul in her mother’s Detroit past, or Judith Barrington’s terrific poem “The Questionnaire” putting a brutal but human spin on the old questions: “Where is home?” and “Do you know how to get there?’—this collection is a winner.

The prose selections should not be overlooked. Abbott Ikeler is eloquent about his English grandmother. Barbara Beckwith writes deliciously about walking to Harvard Square, and Lo Galluccio searches for home in all the wrong places. Katherine Adam’s memoir about her parents’ eight-foot statue of a naked woman planted in their 1958 North Carolina backyard is a classic. The poetry, photography and too-few Martha Boss drawings make this fine little book a must.”

Eden Waters Press
14 Farrington Ave.
Allston, Mass.

The Art of Writing and Others by George Held

The Art of Writing and Others by George Held
Finishing Line Press, 2007, 26 pages, $12.
ISBN 978-1-59924-185-2

Review by Eleanor Goodman

In his tenth book of poems, The Art of Writing and Others, George Held’s erudition is evident on every page. Melville, Van Gogh, John Donne, Bishop, Spenser – his topics range widely, yet his language and angle of approach is always intelligent and sensitive.

When Held writes about other poets, his work often not only comments on but also imitates his subject. These imitations range from the serious to the humorous. One of the most successful of these is a villanelle patterned after Elizabeth Bishop’s famous poem “One Art.” Where Bishop’s tone is mournful, Mr. Held’s poem, “The Art of Writing,” is an amusing take on the frustrations of teaching.

The art of writing isn’t hard to teach:
Tell your students to welcome the blank page,
To pick a subject well within their reach.

“Put your words in the best order,” you beseech;
“Be clear as glass and cogent as a sage.”
The art of writing isn’t hard to teach.

“Moreover, make each sentence seem to reach
From one to another as you engage
With a subject that’s well within your reach....”

The rhymes here are simple, but nicely unforced. Mr. Held succeeds were many poets fail, managing to use the form to his advantage, instead of finding it to be a straightjacket.

Mr. Held’s sense of humor is apparent elsewhere in the book, as in “Love Without Sex,” “Brand Name,” and the three line “Poets”:

Poets are gardeners –
Planters, pruners, gleaners –
Till they are mulch.

But there is more to this collection than light verse. The ekphrastic poems, for example, are for the most part serious explorations of the import and effect of art. In “30.12.2006: At the Guggenheim’s Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History,” Mr. Held views an important political event through the prism of a Goya painting.

The tyrant is dead, long live the martyr,
His defiance with noose round neck
Recorded via cell phone
And broadcast round the world
With the taunts of his Shiite lynchers.

Seeing Goya’s Cannibals Preparing Their Victims
The same day that Saddam hangs,
I marvel at the artist’s audacious depiction
Of naked cannibals in a cave
Carrying out their rites....

The political implications of this comparison are left for the reader to intuit, which is one of the hallmarks of a confident writer. The reader has both the pleasure and responsibility of drawing her own conclusions.

Although the endings of some of the poems may leave the reader wanting, Mr. Held’s work is full of liveliness and observation. He more than deserves the beautiful typesetting and careful editing that the well respected Finishing Line Press offers.

--Eleanor Goodman *Eleanor Goodman lives in Boston, where she writes poetry and is working on a second novel manuscript. Her work can be found in New Delta Review, The Pedestal Magazine, The Amherst Review, and Ibbetson Street, among other literary magazines. A collection of her translations of the Tang dynasty poet Wang Wei (王维) were published in Seneca Review.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Poetry, Community and The Small Press

This is the speech I will be giving in Israel to the "Voices Israel" Literary Organization this month.

Poetry, Community and The Small Press

By Doug Holder

I am not an academic poet. I am not a part of a faculty of a major university, nor on the board of a prestigious literary organization. I always have been a part of that great eclectic sea of the small press. In fact my activities have mostly been outside of the gated communities of the Academy. I started the Ibbetson Street Press with my wife Dianne Robitaille and my good friend Richard Wilhelm in 1998. For years I had been published in small presses, and I came to realize without a vibrant small press community talented poets would not see the light of day. A student of literary history will realize that many of our great poets from: Whitman, Frost, Ginsberg, etc… got their start in little magazines and small presses.

In the immediate Boston area we have over 100 colleges. And in Somerville, my hometown, there are more writers per-capita than the isle of Manhattan. Many writers in the area have told me how cliquish and exclusive they feel the community can be here and that there were few outlets for their work.

So Richard, Dianne and I decided to start a small literary magazine the “Ibbetson Street Press” that eventually morphed into “Ibbetson Street.” ‘Ibbetson Street” was named after 33 Ibbetson Street in Somerville where I lived for 7 years, before moving down the block to 25 School St. in 2001.

We started slowly, with just a few local poets in our first editions. But over the years the production values improved and we started to get submissions nationally and internationally. The Press has been included in the highly selective “Index of Periodical Verse.” We have published such accomplished poets as the late Sarah Hannah, Danielle Legros Georges, Diana Der Hovanessian, Jared Smith, Robert K. Johnson, and Afaa Michael Weaver, whose face graced the cover of a recent “Poets and Writers” magazine.

As we got more confident we started publishing poetry collections, and now have a list of over 40 books and chapbooks. One of the first books we published under our imprint “Singing Bone” was “City of Poets: 18 Boston Voices.” (2000) We also have published books by Israeli poet Helen Bar Lev and John Michael Simon, members of the “Voices Israel” organization.

To increase the sense of community, about 3 years ago Harris Gardner (a well-known poet and poetry activist in Boston) and I started a writers’ group “ Breaking Bagels with the Bards.” It started in the basement of a local bagel shop in Harvard Square and eventually moved on a rotating basis to two Au Bon Cafes in Somerville, Mass. and Cambridge, Mass. Every Saturday we have up to 25 poets and writers of all stripes chatting, networking, and making new friends.

And even more publishing opportunities have opened for our folks. One of our members, Steve Glines, started the Wilderness House Literary Retreat” in Littleton, Mass, that featured such poets as: Robert Creeley, Lois Ames and Afaa Michael Weaver. Later Glines founded the “Wilderness House Literary Review” Many of our bards are on staff and many more have been published in the magazine.

Another member Gloria Mindock is a small press publisher. Her press the “Cervena Barva Press” has published chapbooks and poetry collections of many of our members as well as national and overseas poets. And of course the Ibbetson Street Press has tapped the talent pool for talented bards.

And since the Internet now offers unique possibilities in writing and publishing I established the “Ibbetson Update” that has reviewed hundreds of books from the world of the small press. Many of our writers got their first experience in writing reviews and more than a few have gone one to more lucrative writing gigs. We have reviewed chapbooks, and books from major university presses to mom and pop small presses. We treat every book be it perfect bound or saddle-stitched with the same respect. The book is a sacred object in our view. The “Update” has been been cited in an award presentation for the “Connecticut Book Award,” has been cited on many websites and resumes and has been praised by New England Pen, as well as award-winning small press poets to university professors.

I also host a TV show on our local TV station “Somerville Community Access TV” Here I present to the community the rich mother lode of poets and writers we have in the Boston-area. Over the years I have interviewed local poets, well-published novelists, and sent many of these tapes to be archived at major university libraries. In fact at one point the curator of the Harvard Poetry Room expressed an interest in buying the tapes, but I donated them; knowing they would have a good home.

I have always believed that poets need to have space on the page as well as the stage. So I have hosted a number of poetry venues over the years. The longest running one is the Newton Free Library Poetry Series in Newton, Mass. This has proved an important venue to introduce new and established poets into the community. I also have an open mic for “emerging talents” to strut their poetic stuff.

I am also the local arts/editor for our city newspaper “The Somerville News.” In that capacity I feature mostly local poets in my column ”Lyrical Somerville.” But I had even greater ambitions for my grassroots efforts. Writer and Bagel Bard member Timothy Gager and myself started the “Somerville News Writers Festival” that has featured local writers and poets as well as nationally and internationally known heavyweights like Robert Pinsky, Robert Olen Butler, Franz Wright, Afaa Michael Weaver, Lan Samantha Chang, and many more.

What I hope I have achieved, along with the many folks who have helped me along the way, is a “community of poets.” We are open to everyone. Just make yourself known, and eventually you will be participating, reading, and may even be publishing.

I am not getting rich on this. In fact I lose money on my publishing efforts, etc… But though I am poor in currency, my life is rich because I am immersed with what I love.

I encourage everyone to build a poetry community wherever you may reside…you won’t regret it.