Saturday, March 22, 2008

This is where you go when you are gone. Tim Gager

This is where you go when you are gone. Tim Gager ( Cervena Barva Press POBOX 440357 West Somerville, Mass. 02144) $7.

Tim Gager’s poems are poems of the regular guy, and in his own way Gager’s work is as American as apple pie. He is a man who is confused by and craves women, retains a childlike enthusiasm for Baseball into his middle age , downs the burger and brews, and pines for something that always seems just out of his reach. There is nothing rarefied about the poet’s work; his poetry speaks as plainly as a stick or bone.

In the poem “2A.M.” Gager writes evocatively about the concessions of carnality:

“ On me
you push down
the weight on each bent leg,
cures my evils…
no more bile
to hold down
no more skeletons
to settle for
when it’s dark…”

And Gager really hits his stride with “ stuck, with my old school ways.” I must admit in this age of the wireless I remain a Luddite , and view the pay phone, and the phone booth with a certain romantic reverence. Gager infuses this one pedestrian booth simmering in the Arizona heat with a plume of sad/sweet nostalgia and longing:

“ got green in my pocket
not plastic—nor have I
ever brought a cell
to make his call like this
with poles and wires
endless from where I stand
to you

i’ve driven miles in dust
to find this pay phone
to whisper in your ear
i love you baby
and how are the kids

on the side of the road,
my loneliness
is this booth where
i hear you smile
and I picture
the way your hips thrust
forward, every time you laugh…
this surge of you
bursts, hits me
like the heat in Arizona
at ten

This is another fine collection from Cervena Barva. And hats off to the front cover artist Andrea Libertini.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Presa Number 7 Spring 2008

PRESA Number 7 Spring 2008 (Presa S Press POBOX 792 Rockford, MI 49341) $8.50

Well, I have, and my minions of crack reviewers have reviewed many books that have come through the portals of Eric Greinke’s PRESA PRESS. I foreworn you I was the featured poet in this issue so I am deliriously biased. But I do have to say PRESA magazine is in the best tradition of small press journals. Eric Greinke has a thoughtful essay titled “ Toward A New Eclecticism” where he examines the gaping divide between the academy poets, and the small and independent presses. Greinke, although a dyed-in-the-wool small press doyen, pleads his case for more tolerance between the groups for other poetic forms. He tries to bring down “purists” of both camps. Greinke writes:

“The main problem we face in American poetry is narrow-minded intolerance of various forms taken by poetry itself. The obvious division along social class lines is a symptom of elitism and mutual intolerance, rather than being based in legitimate, fundamental, aesthetic differences.”

There is an extensive review section of chapbooks. Greinke recognizes that chaps are the currency of the small press: “ Literature owes a great deal to the chapbook. Historically, the first bound books were single signature chapbooks. They are nearly indestructible. They are non-commercial. Every poet first sees his work collected in a chapbook. They are the perfect medium for poetry, the quintessential “slim volume.” But it can be difficult to get them reviewed.” Well Presa addresses this problem with reviews of chaps by Harris Gardner, Mary Bonina, Ellaraine Lockie, Gerald Locklin, Michael Graves and others…

Also in this edition is an essay on Etheridge Knight by Ronnie M. Lane, as well as poetry by small press notables as Lyn Lifshin, Robert K. Johnson, Alan Catlin, Michael Estabrook,, Hugh Fox, Donald Lev, John Amen and others.

Highly Recommended.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Philip Ramp
Shoestring Press 2008
$15.00 ISBN 978 1 904886 66 3

Philip Ramp's poems slip in and out of my thoughts
like water lapping on shore, not the coastal wave's
hard crash, but the gentle lapping of a calm sea
against a boat or a floating tree trunk. each time I
read one of Ramp's poems I am able to see right to
the bottom of his ocean, the fish darting, riding the
ebb and flow, "a shadow ran like a path." Ramp's ideas
are solitary in nature, but never random. he chooses
his words, phrases, metaphors, he ponders each line,
"so it was nature, not me, erased the intrusive
hills." the actuality of his reality becomes our
vision of his visit with his natural surroundings, he
places us before the sunset, "its not us death wants
but our memories, what we think we're sneaking out."
the poems become a landscape of thought. Ramp brings
us a sense of wonder, as if for the first time after a
long time, "I saw the stars as if caught unaware,
exposed, as big and luscious as fresh fruit. how could
it be I'd never seen that sky before." his vast space
contained within a depiction of trees, birds, breeze,
and, "the plastic flowers drooping."


of all the seasons
this is the one
gets nearest to complete,
the day scrubbed down
to its fundamental browns
put in a box
smooth to the eyes
rough to the touch
spilling over with leaves.
the wind rattles the last
useful music from the trees
shakes the mist
from the grass
gives the sky
a lick and a promise
and tells the birds; scat.
cleaned of their abstract shadows
things are so outward
they're as impervious as a hum.
all the distance
this one space can hold.
then brown's removed.
the going is gone.
the box is empty
and there's nothing
on the ground.

Irene Koronas
Reveiwer Ibbetson Street Press
Poetry Editor
Wilderness House Literary Review

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Anne Elizabeth Tom: A Bagel Bard is the New Head of the Cape Cod Writers Center

Anne Elizabeth Tom: Bagel Bard New Head of the Cape Cod Writers Center

Anne Elizabeth Tom, among other things, is a member of the “Bagel Bards,” a writers group that meets every Saturday at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square, Somerville. Late in 2007 Tom was appointed the new executive director of the Cape Cod Writers Center. Anne who lives on the Cape with her husband Steve grew up in Boston but remembers her summers on the Cape with great affection. Tom got an MFA from Tufts University, worked as a writer/editor for the MITRE Corp., started a family, lived around the country, but wound up back on the Cape.

For several seasons she produced the Grange Hall Poetry Series, the Cape Cod Winter Poetry Series, and produced original plays of Cape Cod playwrights. She is no stranger to the small press, and has published in such literary journals as the Aurorean, Ibbetson Street, Poesy, Out of the Blue Writers Unite (anthology), and Bagel with the Bards ll. Tom also established Cape Cod Cultural Tours which specialized in custom excursions focused on local history, and architecture. I spoke with Tom on my Somerville Community Access TV show “ Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: Anne you have lived a number of places and traveled the world. Why have you chosen the Cape to hang your hat?

Anne Elizabeth Tom: The Cape got under my skin at a very young age. To me it is a nostalgic place. Once you go over the Sagamore Bridge it is all Cape Cod and you don’t have to leave it to get from town to town. Especially in the off-season.

D H: That divide--- does it cut you off from the Boston poetry community?

AT: Unfortunately I don’t get up to Boston as much I would like to. But I try to get together with Boston poets also.

DH: There have always been a lot of writers residing on the Cape from Norman Mailer, on…

AT: I know. It is just amazing. The poet May Oliver lived there. Marge Piercy, and the list goes on. We have a lot of great theatre too. We have a new theatre the: Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre. There is a tremendous amount of talent. So there is plenty to do. I could be out a few nights a week.

DH: Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Cape Cod Writers’ Center, and your mission statement, etc…

AT: The Cape Cod Writers Center is almost fifty years old. It was started by a small group of writers to support one another. And that’s really still the mission to support one another. We have an annual conference that really is the core work of the center. One of the ways we expanded our mission statement is to include more readers, and that includes poets. We also have a breakfast with the authors series at the Hyannis Golf Club. We have hosted such writers as Jan Shapiro, Shelia Connolly, Scott Withiam, and others. So many people come around from the Cape. It helps to have things happening on a regular basis.

We have an annual conference in August. It’s held in a wonderful retreat, overlooking, the Nantucket Sound. It’s right next to a charming, little Victorian town.

DH: You have published in such small press magazines and anthologies as: Poesy , Ibbetson Street, Out of the Blue Writers Unite, and Bagel Bards ll to name a few. What’s your view of the small press?

AT: I feel it is very important. It is important to publish. After I left my position as a museum director and moved to the Cape, I said I didn’t care if I ever published anything. I just wanted to write. But it didn’t take long before I wanted to share, and be taken seriously. It was the Aurorean and Ibbetson Street that published me for the first time. It was in the fall of 2002-I think. It was such an affirmation of my work. The small press brings poets together. I don’t think it is a good idea for poets just to write about by themselves, and never show their work. The small press is a wonderful way to meet other poets and get your work out there. Fred Marchant, one of our poets-in-residence at the Center, encouraged us to send our work to the small press.

DH: Who were your other poets-in-residence

AT: Afaa Michael Weaver, Wes McNair, to name a couple.

DH: What is the young writers workshop you offer about?

AT: We have a lot of summer people from other cities and other states that send their kids here. This year it’s going to be taught by David Surette. It is for talented writers between the ages of 12 to 16. It is held from Aug. 18 to Aug. 22 during our summer conference.

DH: You have done different types of writing. Why is poetry your favored genre?

AT: I’ve done business writing, and public relations writing. My favorite non-poetry writing is research and writing about history. I feel things very deeply, and I find poetry as the best way to express this.

for more information go to

--Doug Holder

Monday, March 17, 2008

Barnes and Noble and The Small Press.

Barnes and Noble and The Small Press.

Ok. I can understand why Barnes and Noble can’t stock the many titles that are produced in the Small Press. But for crying out loud, when you have a well-known local poet, whose book has received good coverage in the local media, will be making appearances at local colleges, and reading around town, don’t you think you could be a bit more community minded? Barnes and Noble at Harvard University refused to grant any shelf space for Lisa Beatman’s book of poetry “Manufacturing America” a book of poetry about immigrant workers at the Ames Safety Envelope Factory in Somerville, Mass. They also refused to give her a reading at the store. Lisa is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and the publisher has a graduate degree from the University as well. And what’s funny this is the University’s bookstore! Most colleges I have dealt with have no problem doing this for their former students. It would be great if a poet who writes about the unsung workers in a local factory could read at a venue like this, along with the other authors who get recognition from the store. Thank god for indies like Porter Square Books, McIntyre and Moore, the Grolier---where would we be without them!

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Street Press

Here are the exchanges between Beatman and the store.


Thanks for your email. I do understand about market forces. However, your
decision to exclude considering small press publications, particularly in
the case of a Harvard alumna, is an unfortunate one. It perpetuates the
public perception that when a large national chain takes over a venerable
local institution, it loses its character and responsiveness to the



Thank you for letting us know about your book. When it comes to stocking
books on the shelves of our store and choosing authors for our events, we
have to make choices. More than 150,000 new titles annually are submitted to
our store by traditional publishers. With more than 1.5 million books in
print via traditional publishers & distributors, our store does not have
room to stock the tens of thousands of small press titles that are produced
Nancie Scheirer
The Harvard Coop
Trade Book Manager

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Somerville artist Heather Bonin helps bring “sub-zero” on stage.

Somerville artist Heather Bonin helps bring “sub-zero” on stage.

Powder House Square resident Heather Bonin is a 25-year-old Regis College graduate, who works as an asst. stage manager for the critically acclaimed play “sub-zero” written by Anastasia Townsend, playing at the Factory Theatre in the South End of Boston. Bonin who graduated with B.A. in Theatre, has worked with the Speak Easy Theatre, and had had roles in the production of plays by Tom Stoppard and others, in regional theatres in the area. Bonin cheerfully describes herself as a “starving artist” and has a hard time keeping up with the payments on her cell phone. She said as a stage manager she is a “Jane of all trades.” She helps with the props, feeds lines to the actors, monitors the audition process, gets the company takeout grub, you name it. Although an MFA is not in her immediate future she seems destined to have a career working in the theatre.

After graduating from Regis in 2005, she moved to Somerville when an apartment in Dorchester fell through. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. She finds Somerville the ideal place to live. It is accessible to Boston, and Somerville’s artist-friendly environment is a perfect fit for her Boheme sensibility.

The Factory Theatre is in the basement of a large artists residence the “Piano Factory” on Tremont Street in the South End. Jim Resnick, my companion for the evening and I found the theatre to be decidedly intimate (50 seats), with exposed brick, (well, you know the drill,) the whole Off-Off Broadway digs, kind of affair. The play opens in a city in the shadow of Somerville, Cambridge, Mass. It is at the end of a long winter of discontent for a manic depressive artist/professor Fenton, played by Chuck Schwager, his wife Lois played by Jean Sheikh, their son Sean played by Joe Orrigo, and the young object of desire of the two men, Claire, played by Lisa Caron Driscoll.

It seems that Lois, wants her son to keep tabs on Fenton, as he is quickly hitting the skids in a manic freefall. But, ah what a tangled web we weave! Both father and son become involved with Claire, an artist model/ coffee server, who is as unfocused as they are. The mother, Lois, seems to be the most stable of the characters. But until the end she is rendered affected and ineffectual in a suited armor of academic jargon and posturing.

The dialogue is sharp, bantering, witty, and at times a bit over the top. And make sure you bring your pocket Janus as there are many references to the “arts”, “artists,” not to mention the many intellectual barbs that are thrown about like poisonous darts. Both father and son are prone to purple flourishes, and the audience is made to wonder where the artistic temperament ends, and where the mental illness begins.

Having worked at McLean Hospital for the past twenty-five years, I can attest to the fact that Townsend does capture the wild highs and lows, the verbal barrage, that a full-blown manic episode can bring. The father, a middle-aged, cherub-faced hysteric rages against his fate like Harpo Marx as King Lear. The playwright sticks a pin in the balloon that romanticizes the mad artist. Townsend has written a thought provoking piece that dramatically examines identity, the familial ties that bind and break, and the toll of mental illness.

For more information go to: 978-460-3294

--Doug Holder