Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Review of Manufacturing America: Poems from the Factory Floor by Lisa Beatman Review by: Pamela Annas

Review of Manufacturing America: Poems from the Factory Floor by Lisa Beatman
( Ibbetson Street Press-2008) $15.

Review by Pamela Annas

For the American working class, immigrant and native-born alike, factory America is fading like an old sepia photograph. Since the late 1980s, plants have been closing and factory jobs migrating to countries where workers struggle to feed their families on less than a dollar a day. Meanwhile, such workers and their families, trying to find a more economically secure situation, immigrate-- as those in search of a better life often have--to the U.S.A. The tide carries the workers in and the manufacturing jobs out. This is the reserve army of labor. This is globalism from a working-class perspective.

In Manufacturing America: Poems from the Factory Floor, Lisa Beatman offers vivid and individual portraits of workers whom she came to know while teaching basic language skills in a paper and printing company: women and men from El Salvador, Haiti, Brazil, Uganda, Cambodia, Russia, Albania, Somalia, Mexico, the Azores, Vietnam, Portugal.

Lisa Beatman’s collection contributes to a growing number of poems about working-class work and workers by poets such as Deborah Boe, Jim Daniels, Philip Levine, Gwen Houser, Todd Jailer (who also has a series of portraits of individual workers), Susan Eisenberg and others. Here are a few: “Citizen Delia” is “a samba-hipped woman/ who wants to be a hyphenated-American.” Chitra, in “Hand Operator,” applies her bookkeeping skills/ to her new job, creasing each folder/with mathematical precision,” while in “Rainbow”:

Juan is mute as a lake, but he knows
his colors; purple is A-F,
blue is G-K, yellow is L-P,
red is Q-T, green is U-Z.
His calloused hands, tattooed with paper cuts
sort the folders

I was particularly taken with the Latin rhythm and the persona of Nina in “First Shift,” who puts her face/ back on at 5:00 am . . . then stumbles out/ of her dancing heels”

onto the factory floor
She goes to her post
and holds out her hands
Fresh-glued folders fly off
the conveyor belt
Catch, inspect, stack and pack
Catch, inspect, stack and pack
Her face dips and sways
She hums under her breath
the machine flirts back
Cha cha cha cha cha
Manufacturing America takes us through the collective workday. In “Santa Benigna del Carmen de la Cubeta”

Saint Beni of the bucket
starts at six
her hair a twisted black rag
her arms round as roasts
her feet chucks of wood.

She swabs the chief’s toilet
till it gleams like a tooth

on into the dead of night in “Third Shift”, where

Atman, Martir, Fatima, Areik
the souls who work
the graveyard shift
bind books they cannot read
with fluent hands.

Lisa Beatman’s images are strong and accessible, with turns which are sometimes quite startling. In “Hack Job,” she images downsizing as a kind of cannibalistic butcher shop decapitating departments, cracking the bones of the body one by one. Or takes us from the factory into the service sector in what may well be the only poem extant on working at a Krispy Kreme donut shop; here the customers, the donuts, the boss, and the day are rising like yeast

and Julio was meant to sweep and polish and lunch
on fried dough rejects and send half his pay,
little as it was, home to Rosario and Mama.

The question arises of how we are supposed to see these immigrant workers. Certainly they are not threatening. And, though struggling, they are mostly not presented as victims but as solid and vital persons, each with a rich cultural background. They come without many possessions but vivid memories—their homeland as a hard rusk of bread, as a house near the Mekong River made of bamboo, as a rainbow lake where red breast tilapia swim into the net.

In addition to the montage of lively human voices and characters, scampering and creeping through Manufacturing America is a cluster of poems inhabited by mice. The first of these, the prologue to the whole collection, is “New World”, where a “raggedy” mouse jumps ship into a dark shivery world “where gaslights bared the bones

of looms pumping night and day
but there was food aplenty
dropped by the shadow figures
at their brief suppers,
crusts scented with the tall grass
of fields he’d almost put out of mind,
red rinds, sticky with Gouda,
and the new taste—
rich broth of knackered horses
boiled down into an irresistible paste.

and where, importantly, there was no ship’s cat. In the second of these poems, “Crumbs,” “mouse punches in./ He knows the building by heart” and makes his living on croissant crumbs from the bosses, salted rice from the Vietnamese temps, melba toast from the secretaries, tuna subs from the graveyard foreman. The third poem, “Serpent,” is an ominous history of smoke and fire in industrial plants. In the final poem in the collection, “Nursery,” the mouse is female and has moved outside the factory into the brush.

She rations out the hoarded seed
and fills her babes with tales
of monster mouse-holes, dust-mountains
and near-death encounters:
the spray, the traps, the kicking foot,
highways of heating ducts,
and, night and day,
the pounding concerto
of compressors and clanking belts.

Clearly, the mice are a metaphor, and a rather charming one, for the many generations of immigrants to the U.S.A. They allow Beatman to provide an outline of the history of immigration and manufacturing in this country, its rise and fall. Together these four poems add an extra dimension, a meta discourse, to the individual portraits of contemporary workers which form most of Manufacturing America. Finally, as a parent I couldn’t fail to be reminded as I read these poems of the famous literary mouse from Margaret Wise Brown’s classic picture book, Goodnight, Moon, and the game children love to play of finding the tiny mouse tucked away in each color plate, which tends to add an edgy texture to a deliberately placid bedtime story. Ironically, the mouse babes in “Nursery” are shivering to surreal tales of giants. Beatman’s immigrant mice are small unobtrusive survivors, enjoying the tastes of their new world, existing in the interstices of the system, trying to ride with the changes and survive.

One last point: I was glad to see the poet take up the ethics of writing about human subjects in her last poem, “Copyright.” One of her strong voiced women, Leyla Chang, invades the poet’s dream “like a page on fire” to ask: “What’s this she says/ about you writing my life?” It’s a question that always needs to be asked.

Lisa Beatman’s Manufacturing America: Poems from the Factory Floor is highly recommended. *

--Pamela Annas

*Pamela Annas teaches courses in Working-Class Literature, Modern and Contemporary Poetry, and Personal Narrative and is an Associate Dean at the University of Massachusetts/ Boston. She is a member of the editorial collective of The Radical Teacher journal, author of numerous articles and the book A Disturbance in Mirrors: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath, as well as co-editor of two textbook/ anthologies: Literature and Society and Against the Current. She has poems forthcoming in Northwoods Anthology and Ibbetson Street Journal.

Made in Hero-The War for Soap by Betty Hugh

Made in Hero ~ The War for Soap ($14.00 U.S.A.) (Clay Dog Books) by Betty Hugh

Review by Pam Rosenblatt

Betty Hugh’s Made in Hero ~ The War for Soap puts truth in the old favorite adage,

“You can’t tell a book by its cover.” Hugh has drawn a plain yet inviting cover with a pen or pencil drawing of a man and a mountainous scene on white background. Upon looking at the cover, the reader probably wonders who the man is, why he is on the cover, and where he and the mountain scene are located? These are pretty simple questions. Once the reader starts reading Hugh’s novel, he realizes this is no ordinary modern book. It’s a creative and imaginative story that is a challenge to complete. Made in Hero ~ The War for Soap is a really complicated read that is best understood if you have a background in Homer’s Iliad1 and Sophocles’ Antigone2 before you read the book. In fact, it’s such a different type of book that, at the end of its 178 pages, the narrator says, “And I am still unsure whether Hero is the crime mystery disguised as epic tragedy, or the epic tragedy masquerading as crime mystery.” (p. 178).

To help us get a handle on the book, I thought I’d use the narrator who is separate from the protagonist in the story but, at the same time, the same character and referred to as “I” or “J. R. Teheda”.3 The narrator is storyteller; the protagonist is the character of the storyteller; the narrator/protagonist is not the novel’s author, Betty Hugh. To prove this last point, perhaps, Hugh makes the narrator/protagonist a man, not a woman.

The narrator tells the reader stories about people found in “Hero” which “at the beginning, was a transient and mute idea” and is “Today…a nation within a city, a modern Troy under siege.” (p. 2) As protagonist, the narrator gives the reader the point of view of “Teheda”, a war journalist working in Hero at the request of his friend and mentor nicknamed “Pea Nut” who is the “Editor-in-Chief of the Heroaen bureau” of The Chronicle. (p. 7) Through the “I”, the first person pronoun, which begins the “Prologue” of Hugh’s Made in Hero ~ The War for Soap, Hugh has spun a story in journalistic style, not poetic style like that found in Homer’s The Iliad. Hugh begins her crime mystery with a down-to-earth, descriptive yet factual paragraph:

HILLSIDE, Hero ― I sit in my rented room with the lights out;

nothing running but the fans. They make the noise of electric

bellows, heaving in mechanical rhythm to no particular beat.

Three of them are pointed at my head from different angles,

their irate forces tangling in a whirlwind. But they offer no

relief. The heat, packing its sour sweet odor, throbs to its own

pulse, and drives me to wonder if was all an accident that my

writing of the war had turned into the story of a corpse. (p. 1)

Hugh has drawn the reader into the book with the simple, ordinary statement of “I sit in my rented room…” The reader can visualize the narrator, or “I”, inside a room sitting. But then Hugh twists the sentence a bit making it unusual, or unexpected. The narrator isn’t sitting in the room in light but “with the lights out”. Who would sit in a room rented or not “with the lights out” instead of on, unless the person is going to rest or perhaps wants to save money? The only electric things on are “the fans” that “make the noise of electric bellows, heaving in mechanical rhythm to no particular beat.” While the reader realizes the room is in darkness, he can almost hear the ruckus of “the fans”. Hugh has carried the reader into Made in Hero ~ The War for Soap through articulate description, though the images conjure up “irate forces tangling in a whirlwind.” The journey already is rather unpleasant like “The heat, packing its sour sweet odor” that “throbs to its own pulse”. This novel’s opening paragraph is loaded with images that are not pleasant. The narrator summarizes the situation saying, “my writing of the war had turned into the story of a corpse” Something large and broad gets minimized “into the story of a corpse”. The reader knows the words on the pages that follow aren’t your typical everyday newspaper readings. And the reader has already begun the wonder about the significance of the “corpse”.

Who is the corpse then, and why is he significant? The corpse was a man nicknamed “Commander”, and the unburied dead body turns out to be the real reason why Teheda returned to Hero:

FROM THE OUTSET, I understood that I’d come back

to investigate the death of the Commander, the circumstances

precipitating it, as well as the events which immediately followed

― increasingly referred to as GU-2 (rebellions here have a way

of recycling themselves). But I realized, and only after a period

of catastrophic reflection, that my real purpose was to tell the

story of his life. I did not foresee how much this purpose was to

become my obsession, until something odd happened one evening

while stepping over the city’s crumbling cobble pavements. Crunching

underfoot, they recalled to me that Heroaens have a saying “If the

stones could speak, what story would they be telling?” It occurred

to me that the Commander’s life was none other than the story of

the stones. (p. 11)

Through reputation, the Commander “was a martyr, a champion of the cause, defender of the people. From others, [Teheda] heard he was a victim of the system”. (p. 11) And for these reasons, the Commander’s death and situation caught Teheda’s interest.

Considered a hero, the Commander achieved his notoriety as a rebel militant active in The Great Uprising. What was The Great Uprising (GU)? The narrator explains:

….Over seven years in duration, GU would surge over the borders

of at least three nations, and rip through the economies of countless

others. It had magnificent range. In short, GU would destabilize

The Empire nearly to the point of collapse (some of its instigators

anointed themselves the “New Barbarians”). More remarkable,

however, was that GU had fomented in the seemingly insignificant

streets of Hero―a locale The Empire had largely considered a remote,

forsaken outpost. (p. 9)

The narrator has the protagonist “I”, or “Teheda”, think it was his mission to figure out the war in more minute terms:

Over time, too, I’d come to realize that my responsibility

was greater than it initially appeared. It involved no mere

examination of the current revolt, but rather the attempt to

it in terms of the larger war the reading public is all but

sick of. And there lies my dejection. Even for myself,

the war grows tiresome. I have been writing it too long

the recent violence strikes me simply as an echo of that

large interminable conflict. (p. 11)

Teheda takes on the heroic responsibility of making sure the Commander is buried:

Yet my job remained the sorting of the one: the burial of the

body if an outlaw. I understand now that this crime, in its

simplicity, was the true beginning, not the ending, to the

story. And yet, it was a beginning that hurled me nowhere

but into the past. That is the place where time becomes

inverted, and must be turned, like a bloodstained garment,

inside out…. (p. 13)

Through the use of creative imagination and description and imagery, Hugh

has begun to create a composite of Teheda, a war journalist who is searching

for the truth behind the death of a militant, the Commander. At the beginning of

the novel, the characters aren’t well developed. Hugh introduces Teheda and Pea Nut

and Dusty, the Chronicle’s Chief International Desk Editor. Unlike Pea Nut and

Dusty, Teheda is looking for change, not the same path a journalist takes where “[His]

sole purpose is to record the truth.” (p. 12) Teheda is looking for excitement. And his

request is filled while discovering that the body of the Commander has been stolen.

Upon discovering this fact, the protagonist “I”, or “Teheda”, begins a journey throughout

Hero to recover the body. Along the way, he meets several hero figures: Hektor, the rebel militant hero who has been captured and put in prison; Antigone, a complex character with whom the hero Teheda falls in love with; and Antigone’s sister, Sophi, the woman whom Teheda really loves, who is introduced to Teheda through Hektor and shows Teheda key sites on the journey to locating the Commander’s body.

The Commander, Hektor, Antigone, and Sophi all have heroic qualities, but it’s Teheda, the narrator and protagonist in the novel, with whom the reader can relate to most and achieves the status of a mythical hero by the novel’s conclusion.4

In Made In Hero ~ The War for Soap, Hugh makes many references to what a hero is. Teheda asks Hektor outright, “Do you consider yourself a hero?” when he first meets the militant for an interview in the Hero Prison. Hektor just gave the following response:

After thinking it over, [Hektor] replied in a mild scowl,

‘What do you think?’

‘You strike me as a man of quiet courage,’ I ventured,

‘and generally grumpy outlook.’

This, too, provoked a sputter of laughter.” (p. 26)

Through the use of wit and dialogue, Hugh has put humor into a tense situation. She has Hektor explain what being a hero is all about in a later chapter of the book. The

narrator tells the reader what a martyr is in Hero:

Men long for honor in places they can least find it. At the

gym, they carved a pocket where it was possible to shut out the war.

‘In there, what matters most is the contest,” Hektor explained. ‘Boxing

is all about grace―of heart, of mind, of body. In the fight, we give our

best, and afterwards, embrace. We forgive.” (p. 97)

Unlike Hektor, Teheda isn’t graceful but he did do the best journalistic job he could, by the end of Made In Hero ~ The War for Soap. He has all the qualities of a modern day hero: he finds a story with a mission; he has a love affair with Sophi5; he saves his former lover, Antigone, from possible death6; he has a traumatic experience that affects his outlook on life in Hero7; he keeps searching for his identity outside of being a war journalist8; and he searches for the truth.

Made in Hero ~ The War for Soap is based on Greek myths, especially Homer’s The Iliad, an epic filled with characters who are gods or human often with divine ancestors, are courageous and strong, and praised for their heroic endeavors and in good standing with the gods.9

Hugh’s Made In Hero ~ The War for Soap is a fine effort at creating modern day everyday martyrs for the literary world. Hugh has written a novel that makes the reader imagine and think about today’s society, its citizens, and its heroes. Made In Hero ~ The War for Soap is well worth your time spent reading.

Winter Journey (2008) by Tony Towle

Winter Journey (2008)
by Tony Towle $16.00

Hanging Loose Press
Brooklyn, New York
isbn 978-1-931236-93-5

Review by Irene Koronas

many of the poems are complete stories; his poem,
‘Ethnicity,’ is a succinct visit to the laundry, the
cleaners: “are you Jewish? asked /the elderly Chinese
lady at /the dry cleaners my girlfriend had
recommended…“ the poem ends with his telling his
girlfriend of the encounter. and in the poem
’Illuminations (Diverse Miniatures)’ 1. tableau.
“…into the sink of the Pennsylvanian present where she
washes the dishes to the violins of the rainswept
interstate.” Towle shows us a slice of contemporary
life, almost a photograph except for the some times
juxtaposition of an out of context jabber wacky.

some of the poems are simple scenes and require simple
form and words but Towle insists on couching his view
of the world and people within the rhetoric or
language of the language poets. “Anthropomorphic
Etiquette’ 6. “the female rooster should always follow
her instincts and then perhaps apologize for the
misunderstanding.” I quote the above because I’m not
sure what he is referring to. and why should I have to
guess at the meaning. yes, I know what anthropomorphic

Towle has one foot on past poetic forms, surreal and
lets say a villanelle, and another foot on a
dictionary. : 2. ‘Impertinence.’ “like the sun, I
endured a turbulent childhood and became allergic to
interstellar dust while contending with encircling
debris that would have made any entity dizzy, hot,
unstable and content to just float there and smolder
for eons in a grumpy and extended recovery period as
the center of a gratuitous and onerous “system” before
imploding into cosmic isolation.” indeed a grand way
of talking about death.

this book of poems is a picture book taken from his
momentary and perhaps his present journey through
life. the reader will find themselves engrossed and at
times repelled by his encounters. in his poem ‘The
investigation,’ we tour the great central library with
him. Towle is looking at himself and finding himself,
not who he wants to be but who he is and how he is
perceived. “…what I was tossing from the cup were
three-dimensional symbols that in my pose I could not
quite turn my head to comprehend.”

Irene Koronas
Ibbetson street press
poetry editor
wilderness house literary review

Poet Meg Kearney has accepted a slot in next year's Somerville News Writers Festival.

Poet Meg Kearney has accepted a slot in next year's Somerville News Writers Festival.

She will join poets Afaa Michael Weaver, Tino Villanueva, fiction writer Junot Diaz, and others to be announcedNov. 15, 2008.

See Bio below:

Meg Kearney (“car-nee”)

Meg Kearney’s first collection of poetry, An Unkindness of Ravens, was published by BOA Editions Ltd. in 2001. The Secret of Me, her novel in verse for teens, was released by Persea Books in 2005. A paperback edition of the novel will be published in tandem with a teacher’s guide in late 2007.

Her poetry has been featured on Poetry Daily and Garrison Keillor’s “A Writer’s Almanac,” and has been published in such publications as Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, The Gettysburg Review, Black Warrior Review, and the anthologies Where Icarus Falls (Santa Barbara Review Publications, 1998); Urban Nature (Milkweed Press, 2000), Poets Grimm (Storyline Press, 2003), Never Before: Poems About First Experiences (Four Way Books, 2005), Shade (Four Way Books, 2006), The Book of Irish American Poetry from the 18th Century to the Present (Notre Dame Press, 2006), and Conversation Pieces: Poems that Talk to Other Poems (Knopf, Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets series, 2007). She is also co-editor of Blues for Bill: a Tribute to William Matthews (Akron University Press 2005). Her nonfiction essay, “Hello, Mother, Goodbye,” will be appear in The Movable Nest: A Mother/Daughter Companion, edited by Marilyn Kallet and Kathryn Stripling Byer and forthcoming by Helicon Nine Press in fall 2007.

Meg is Director of the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, MA, as well as Director of Pine Manor’s Solstice Summer Writers Conference. For 11 years prior to joining Pine Manor, she was Associate Director of the National Book Foundation, sponsor of the National Book Awards, in New York City. She also taught poetry at the New School University. Early in her career, she organized educational programs and conducted power plant tours for a gas and electric company in upstate New York.

Recipient of an Artist’s Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2001, Meg also received a New York Times Fellowship and the Alice M. Sellers Academy of American Poets Award in 1998; the Geraldine Griffin Moore Award in Creative Writing from The City College of New York in 1997; and the Frances B. DeNagy Poetry Award from Marist College in 1985. She was a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 1999, 2000, and 2001. She is a former poetry editor of Echoes, a quarterly literary journal, and past president of the Hudson Valley Writers Association of upstate New York.

Meg was born in Manhattan and grew up in the Hudson Valley, 75 miles north of New York City. She received her MA in Poetry from The City College, City University of New York, in 1999. She resides in New Hampshire with her husband, writer Mike Fleming, and their three-legged black Lab, Trooper.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Manufacturing America: Poems From the Factory Floor by Lisa Beatman

Manufacturing America

Poems from the Factory Floor

by Lisa Beatman

Ibbetson Press, Somerville, MA

Copyright 2008

61 pages, $14.95

Review by Lo Galluccio

"We are not wholly bad or good, who live our lives under Milk Wood"

Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood

“Hands are tongues on the graveyard shift or are they wings?”

Lisa Beatmen, Manufacturing America

It’s not so much that Lisa Beatman’s soon-to-be American citizens laboring for factory wages and learning English in Manufacturing America, resemble those of Thomas’ small town in Wales; it’s just that I can hear the same kind of radio play rise from the vividly acute portraits of this book. While Thomas was despairing, ironic and a dreadful alcoholic from that lyrically poetic and estranged country, Beatman and her characters are for the most part, strong, cool and sober, give or take the indulgence of a Krispy Kreme donut. They are, however, more eccentric and varied in their struggle for survival. And that includes one industriously dreamy mouse who appears three times in the book, as a kind of shadow play from the very bottom rung. All creatures, afterall, must find their niche and scrap their way through the factory floors that once kept America in full industrial tilt. What’s amazing is the way Beatman captures the language and expressive nature of their day-to-day grind, each detail lacquered on to a beautiful mosaic of faces and voices and souls. Though their jobs may be outsourced, we are left with a sense of tenacity and high spirit from this community.

In the poem “Rainbow” Lisa presents Juan from Santiago, Chile in the beginning and beams him onto the paper factory-- from casting his net on a Rainbow Lake to another man, in another kind of state::

“Juan is mute as a lake, but he knows

his colors: purple is A-F

blue is G-K, yellow is L-P,

red is Q-T, green is U-Z.

His calloused hands, tattooed with paper cuts

sort the folders that will hold each child’s story.”

While Beatman may not be wholly optimistic about the conditions of the Factory Floor, she doesn’t cast her subjects as Marxist victims, bur rather as mostly their own inventions -- as efficiently creating what others will use. They are worker bees, but they can sting and bob and wear sexy clothes too.

In “Citizen Delia” Beatman writes about a Latina woman who determines to present her own image of womanhood in order to gain her citizenship:

“Delia is getting citizened up.

A samba-hipped woman

who wants to be a hyphenated-American.

She glues perma-clips on folders.

One by one. And grabs lunch on her feet.

Except for Tuesdays.

Pizza and Citizenship day.

Delia doesn’t like pizza

but what can you do?


Delia has another idea.

She already put her clothes on the bed.

A red blouse down to here.

A black mini-skirt, short-short.

The new push-up bra.

In the store Manuela the baby

said Mami your boobs are growing.


She hopes the immigration officer is a man.”

(While never faced with a citizenship wardrobe test, I can remember what it was like to go before a ladies man judge in NYC Housing Court four times in one year. A pretty skirt and well made up face never hurt my cause as a struggling apartment renter on the Lower East Side.)

In the second part of the book, labeled, “Second Shift” our mouse makes his second appearance. In a jolting metaphysical moment filled with “snakes of smoke” and “the tiny atom…yoked and whipped and branded,” our furry friend is found in a state of bewildered fear:

“Mouse sniffs all around.

This new trail of gauzy heat –

What lies at the other end?

Will it, charmed, wind lazily upwards

To weave into the grey pall overhead

Or snap its tail, rattling

The timbers and bricks down?

Mouse waits in a corner, trembling.”

And we hone in on a meaner side to this exhibit of workers and their dilemmas.

I In “Coffee Break,” “Scrap” and “Hack Job” the more brutal realities of factory life come to the fore.


one machine operator

on the dole,


two secretaries

shopping with food stamps

hack, hack, hack,

three departments decapitated.

How will the body live

with no framework

to hang its flesh on?”

And so, we come back to the perennial American question, brought to us in part by a 12-step program mandating those “stay positive” mantras. You know the question. “Is the glass half empty or half full?” What’s the better way, the survivalist way, to look at it?

In “Parking,” Lisa poses the same question from a backdrop of how a parking lot can determine who punches in on time and whose used car gets protected.

“Maria sat in the cafeteria

next to an empty chair.

She’d finally got a spot

where her “67 Chevy wouldn’t cook.”


The foreman is talking to Abner

whose brother is home with the want ads.

We only need happy people here.

How do you see it my friend –

is the parking lot half empty

or half full?

Well, if I had a quibble with this brilliant pink (pink like fingernail polish, pink like a rose tombstone, pink like Asian kitsch) expose of a paper plant and its workers it would be the lengthy addendum, “Firng Uncle Hillel” which seems to me a bit out of place, as a long prose piece in the collection. A minor point. Lisa well makes up for this lapse in her finale, “Copyright.”

“Like a page on fire,

elbows cocked into question marks,

Leyla Chang invades my dream

strips the white sheet

from my body

plucks the pen from

my twitching fingers

What’s this she says

About you writing my life?

Since when did I

Become a page number

In your table of contents?

Since when did I volunteer

to furnish your castle


who died and gave you

the right to copy me?

Many near perfect poems, an arc that sustains, and a subject that deserves much light, levity and attention paid to it. This book is a winner. As the daughter of an Italian immigrant who would have died to play baseball with the Red Sox and became a Labor Lawyer instead, I can fully appreciate Lisa Beatman’s grasp of these tough, savvy and wonderful people.

Doug Holder’s Ibbetson St. Press evolves yearly into an ever more fascinating literary enterprise.

NB: Lisa Beatman is now managing adult literacy programs at the Harriet Tubman House in Boston. She won Honorable Mention for the 2004 Miriam Lindberg International Poetry Peace Prize, and was awarded a Massachusettts Cultural Council Grant, as well as a fellowship to Sacatar Institute in Brazil. She may be reached at

Lo Galluccio

Author of “Hot Rain,” a poetry chap

on Singing Bone Press & two solo CDs,

“Being Visited” and “Spell on You.”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Trapeze Diaries. Marie Carter.

The Trapeze Diaries. Marie Carter. ( Hanging Loose Press Brooklyn, NY) $16.

Most of us in a time of need, when we seek the sap of succor, look to find the sympathetic ear of a psychotherapist, a clergyman, a guru, or even a local barkeep. But in your wildest imagination, would you seek wisdom, the answer to the myriad of ontological questions from a trapeze artist? Most definitely not. But Marie Carter in her evocative and engaging memoir released from the Hanging Loose Press:” The Trapeze Diaries,” an aerialist seems like a natural choice.

Have if you will, as Rod Serling would phrase it on “The Twilight Zone,” a one Miss Marie Carter. A young woman, quiet and overly cautious, with a literary bent, who finds herself newly transplanted from Scotland to the Naked City of New York, coming to terms with herself and the recent death of her father. Being a solipsist I was fascinated by what I could see of myself in the insecurities of Miss. Carter. Her fears and doubts have been and are very much my own, and may I dare say , perhaps yours?

But Carter doesn’t take a sedentary approach to matters. This intrinsically unathletic, bookish woman throws herself into the art of the aerialist. She takes regular lessons and stretches both her mind and body in a truly original fashion. Carter writes with strokes of clarity and simplicity and her prose is never weighed down with purple flourishes.

Carter emerges from her lessons transformed from a woman seriously out of touch with her mind and body to a woman in love with the human form:

“I am coming to fall deeply in love with the human body and its nuances; mine is more useful than I ever had imagined. I start reading anatomy books and then mouthing the words of the muscle groups in my body, my hands covering my forearms, elbows, triceps, shoulders, feeling the texture of my muscles, the hardness of each bone. I do this with my eyes closed, as though reading Braille.”

At each lesson Carter gleans bits of worldly wisdom from the aerialist’s instructions and she eventually is able to let go of the ghost of her deceased father, and the stranglehold of fears that corsets her life. In this passage the aerialist as sage is fully realized:

“ The Aerialist has more faith in me than I have in myself. I am trying to take my knee off the bar for One-Knee Hang. It is a trick that I believe to be beyond me; nonetheless when it is my turn, I can the Aerialist watching me out of the corner of her eye, hoping I will complete it….

The Aerialist has told me to imagine I am strong, and I as I do that, I actually feel myself becoming stronger.

“Sometimes you can change a person’s whole path of doing something with the tiniest adjustment of movement.”

I thought she was going to say: ‘ You can change a person’s whole life.’”

A wonderful read. Highly recommended.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Feb 2008/ Somerville, Mass.

Junot Diaz, Afaa Michael Weaver and Tino Villanueva to be featured at the Somerville News Writers Festival Nov. 15 2008

Well we are already booking for The Somerville News Writers Festival, which will be in its sixth year next November. We have secured Junot Diaz in Fiction, Afaa Michael Weaver and Tino Villanueva in Poetry. Weaver will be the recipient of the Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award. Previous winners have been Robert Pinsky, David Godine Jr, Robert K. Johnson, Louisa Solano, and Jack Powers.


Junot Diaz's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker magazine which listed him as one of the 20 top writers for the 21st century. He has also been published in Story, The Paris Review, and in the anthologies Best American Short Stories four times (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000), and African Voices. He is best known for his two major works: the short story collection Drown (1996) and the novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007). Both were published to critical acclaim..


Afaa Michael Weaver in 1985 received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. Immediately upon receiving the NEA fellowship he retired from factory life to enter Brown University's graduate creative writing program on a full university fellowship. In that same year his first book, Water Song, was published by Callaloo Press at the University of Virginia. He received his B.A. from Excelsior in 1986 and in 1987 he received his M.A. (M.F.A.) from Brown. At Brown he studied poetry with Keith Waldrop, C.D. Wright, and Michael S. Harper. His focus was in playwriting and theater, and for those concentrations he studied with the late George H. Bass and Paula Vogel.

In 1985 Weaver was commissioned to write a poem in honor of Roy DeCarava. The poem entitled "The Dancing Veil" was presented to DeCarava at the annual conference of the Society for Photographic Education on March 20-23, 1986 in Baltimore, Maryland. The poem was subsequently published in Hanging Loose.

He began his teaching career as an adjunct in 1987, teaching at New York University, the City University of New York, Seton Hall Law School, and Essex County College. In 1990, he began at Rutgers Camden and received tenure with distinction there as an early candidate. In 1998, he took a full time position at Simmons College as the Alumnae Professor of English.

In that same year he was named a Pew fellow in poetry.

Weaver was a member of the faculty of Cave Canem in 1997, and he was later given the honor of being the organization's Elder.

In the spring semester of 1997,he was named the sixteenth poet-in-residence at the Stadler Poetry Center of Bucknell University. He was the first poet of African descent to hold that position.

Between 1985 to 2005, he published nine collections of poetry, had two professional theater productions, published short fiction in journals and anthologies, and served as editor of Obsidian III, based at North Carolina State University. His short fiction appears in Gloria Naylor's Children of the Night, the sequel to Langston Hughes' anthology, Best Short Stories by Negro Writers. He has given several hundred readings in the U.S., Great Britain, France, China, and Taiwan.

Weaver is featured in the film A String of Pearls, a Camille Billops work which is part of the Hatch Billops Archives in New York City.

In 2002 he began studying Mandarin Chinese formally after teaching at National Taiwan University as a Fulbright scholar that spring. In 2004, he convened the Simmons International Chinese Poetry conference, the largest such gathering of contemporary Chinese poets held outside of China and Taiwan to date.

He was recently featured on the front cover of Poets and Writers Magazine and Poetry Magazine, and has new poetry collection “Plum Flower Dance.” ( Univ.of Pitt.)


Tino Villanueva is a Chicano writer who according to celebrated poet Martin Espada invented (along with Gary Soto), a new genre of poetry. Espada opines that Villanueva conceived: “…serious literature about farm workers. That in itself guarantees Tino a place in literary history.” Villanueva, who earned a PhD in Spanish Literature, and is a professor at Boston University, does not however live in a literary ghetto of Latino literature. Reginald Gibbons, former editor of Tri- Quarterly magazine wrote that Villanueva has: “… found a way, to write of both worlds (Chicano and Anglo) that makes sense, I believe to all readers, even those who might be interested in one of those worlds or the other.”

Villanueva has received a 1994 American Book Award for “Scene for the Movie Giant,” and has penned a number of books, including: “Primera Causa/ First Cause,’ “Shaking off the Dark,” and others. He also edited the literary magazine: “Imagine: International Chicano Poetry Journal.”