Sunday, June 22, 2008

DALE PATTERSON: A Somerville Poet with many hats.

DALE PATTERSON: A Somerville, Mass. Poet with many hats.

Doug Holder

Long-term Somerville resident Dale Patterson is a soft- spoken and modest man, but don’t be fooled by that. He is a well-respected grant writer, a Manager of Development Communications for the Boston Public Library Foundation, a former president of the board of Somerville Community Access TV, a lecturer at Simmons College in Boston, and a runner-up for the 2007 Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Award. I interviewed Patterson on my Somerville Community Access TV Show: “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: You are the Manager of Development Communications for the Boston Library Foundation. Describe the function of the board and your position?

Dale Patterson: The foundation was formed in 1992 to do one thing: to raise money for the Boston Public Library for special projects that are insufficiently supported by taxes through the city of Boston, or the people of Massachusetts. It was originally formed to restore the McKim Building; the old wing. Since then it has been polished and spruced up, and that was basically by a public/private partnership. We are still working on the renovations of the third floor. The third floor houses the Fine Art Dept., the Print Dept, etc…. On this floor you will find the Sargent Gallery and John Singer Sargent’s famous work: “The Triumph of Religion.” (1919)

DH: There was a lot of controversy around that work

DP: What got people really angry was the mural that portrayed the Virgin Mary above that collapsed figure that represented Judaism. Not very subtle. Sargent argued that this was very European, and traditional, and that he didn’t mean anything by it at all. There was a national debate that surprised Sargent.

DH: Tell us a bit about the rare book collection?

DP: We have a first folio of Shakespeare out on display, as well as Whitman’s “Two Locomotives,” the hand-written manuscript. Our rare books collection is accessible to the public, but people don’t always know it is up there. It is not always accessible through the electronic catalogue, so you may not find a rare manuscript on Google.

DH: You came back to poetry after a hiatus for many years.

DP: I wrote poetry when I was younger. I was very interested in it in college. I put it away, but always kept it in my thoughts. 9/11 got me started again. I tried to make sense

of the event. I tried to feel better through poetry. Poetry lets me be outside myself…it’s a good thing. People put themselves in all sorts of states to transcend the everyday.

DH: You were president of the board of Somerville Community Access TV. What changes and improvement did you bring during your tenure?

DP: SCAT’S mission now was developed when I was president. We served the community with community-related content. We wanted SCAT as a media center, not just a cable access TV station. This continues to be the case. SCAT has evolved rapidly. We hired the current director Wendy Blom.

DH: You also teach at Simmons College in Boston?

DP: I teach Grant Writing. I enjoy working with social workers. It keeps me up to snuff.

DH: You are a long-time Somerville, Mass. resident. Is this city a good fit for you?

DP: I have lived here since 1996. I lived in Brookline and before that Cambridge. I lived in a house that William Dean Howells resided in, perhaps this inspired my writing. But I really like Somerville.

DH: The poetry I have seen from you recently has been concerned with the environment. Are you a Green Poet?

DP: (Laughs.) I try not to use toxic chemicals. I am very concerned about the environment. How can I walk around pretending everything is all right? We are in the middle of the biggest extinction of the species since the dinosaurs. Hopefully we will have more solar power, and cut down on our abuses.

--Doug Holder


Announcements commanding vigilance
spit from gritty loudspeakers hanging over
today’s news-stained subway platform.

Report suspicious activity do NOT leave packages unattended
and thank you for riding the green line.

A roar of white light
bright windows decelerate
passed me
and stop
green doors folding open
with a rush.

Tracking indistinctly within the tunnel
beneath the breathing city I am
with a hundred others reading

about the war the game the crash the rain celebrities
the big deal prophecies posted on the moving car’s wall.

An electric guitar swirls
around amber earbuds
nicely next to me.
She sees
I can hear.
That’s big treble.

Now’s our chance to start singing something together but no
we won’t while we
stall out in this gonging long long tunnel.

You and me, baby, baby! Squeezed against each other
in the tunnel of love love love get this goddam car moving!

Can’t call it crazy—
crowded, trapped
but cursed at
the train moves out
like a maniac
lurching toward a girl.

Opposite where I sat once
a young woman squatted on the subway car floor.
Black beetles crawled in her greasy hair.

You dirty loser staring at me want me to flash my tits?
Stop looking stop like you’re after what’s up with my mind—

She yanked up her tee shirt
and I saw.
My idea of perfect.
Now I am charged
with all
of her mad

I am the refocused light approaching
the platform. I am the suspicious activity
now I must report.

See that hair see that nose see that chin that is me
my glassy reflection collapsing as the green door folds open.

I denounce myself perversely
while stepping down
as yesterday’s bad news.
In transit
lies truth.

-- Dale Patterson

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