Saturday, May 17, 2008



Almost every time I see Gloria Mindock at our Bagel Bards literary group in Davis Square, Somerville, Mass., she lays yet another published collection from her prolific Cervena Barva Press on me. And more often than not the collections are first rate and make for compelling reads. Her latest two releases are by local poet Chad Parenteau and
NYC poet Larissa Shmailo, who also happens to be the public coordinator for the acclaimed poetry journal “Fulcrum,” based in Cambridge, Mass.

Parenteau is the founder of the online journal “Spoonful,” and the host for the venerable “Stone Soup Poets” reading series in Cambridge, Mass. Parenteau has written an engaging and quirky collection “Discarded: Poems For My Apartment.” This book speaks to all of us denizens, past or present, of inner city apartments. Parenteau, a long-time resident of South Boston and now Jamaica Plain, has been there and done that. You will recognize yourself in these ironic and humorous poems. In “Rat Poem,” the poet wonders if an unwanted roommate, a Norway rat, abruptly left his Southie apartment for an abode in the tony Back Bay environs of the city:

“Maybe the rat left before that,
had saved enough for a flower bed
outside the Prudential Center
where, after nights of waiting tables,
I’d see other rats lounge openly,
Stare at them until they stared back
Like I was another tourist.”

Parenteau is the Bard of the cold water flat, the one-room walkup, the gone-to-seed or always seedy neighborhoods in our neck of the ‘hood.

In a “Cure for Suicide” by Larissa Shmailo, Shmailo writes (as the founder of Fulcrum Magazine Philip Nikolayev points out in his introduction) as if she is …” constitutionally predestined to sing out her lines…her eyes filled with life and love, pain and death, freedom and coercion, the real of the mind and the imagined of the heart.” In the poem “Dancing with the Devil,” the poet sings about the need to throw caution to the wind and trip the light fantastic with the Devil:

“They say if you flirt with death,
you’re going to get a date;
But I don’t mind—the music’s fine,
And I love dancing with someone who can really lead.”

Shmailo put herself in the deceptive calmness of the eye of a hurricane, asks us to tell her what makes us tic, and takes us on the Harlem River Line, like the “Duke” took us on the “A” train. In a sea of mimics this poet is an original voice.

To order go to

Or send $7 to Gloria Mindock Cervena Barva Press POBOX 440357 W. Somerville, Ma. 02144

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ May 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Way Opens: A Spiritual Journey. Patricia Wild.

Way Opens: A Spiritual Journey. Patricia Wild. (Warwick House Publishers 72 Court St. Lynchburg, Virginia 24504) $15.

Some people live with blinders on. They are afflicted with tunnel vision. They block out the light of the plight of others and are members of the cult of “me” or their immediate circle of friends and family. Now these are not necessarily bad people. It is hard enough to keep one’s own head above water in these troubled times. And, if one is living in the envious environs of middleclass White America, then it is easy to be blinded to what’s happening behind their sheltered gates.

Well, Somerville journalist, novelist and playwright Patricia Wild to some extent, counted herself among these people. But for years something bothered her, nagged her, and goaded her. She wondered what happened to two African American who desegregated her high school in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1962. Wild, spurred on by her questioning nature and the activism of her Quaker faith found these two people: Dr. Lynda Woodruff (a college professor) and the Rev. Owen Cardwell, a Baptist preacher. Wild takes a good hard look at not only these people, their trials and travails, but also takes an unflinching critical look at herself.

Wild starts the book off with a posh family vacation in the isle of Jamaica. This effectively sets the tone of the book; lighting up the large divide between Black and White. Here Wild thinks about the inequity while being served a gourmet meal by ironically “white”-uniformed Jamaicans bustling in the kitchen:

“ I remembered that White men and women eat and laugh, lit by soft candlelight, while dark-skinned people cook White people’s food and serve them wine. …I remembered that every day, faceless and nameless dark-skinned people labor for me and my family, as dark-skinned people have been doing for generations.”

Wild did the hard work of research, tracking people down, the flights back and forth from Lynchburg to Boston, and the endless interviews. She examines the incredible pressure on these two young people in 1962, who were labeled with the kudos;” You’re a credit to your race.” Imagine, if you will, Woodruff and Cardwell, as two young, green sapling, adolescents integrating an all White high school. Woodruff tells Wild:

“ “My whole race was being judged by my success or failure. That’s too much of a burden for anybody.”

Wild explores the grating texture of life for these kids: the taunts from their White peers, the angry indifference of their teachers, and throws a metaphorical Molotov Cocktail at the notion of Southern gentility.

What really surprised me was the resentment that Woodruff and others felt towards certain aspects of Martin Luther King. In some respects they felt manipulated by King, and coerced to be less than honest about the difficulties they endured. Woodruff says:

“We were trained, we were dictated to. “We were told, “ You will not respond, if the media asks you anything, it’s ‘No comment or everything is fine,’ and we did exactly that. Whenever we were asked by anybody how things went, the answer according to Martin Luther King was: ‘Everything went well. It is fine.’”

Years later the approach had its repercussions. Woodruff explains:

“That was published in the media. And twenty years later, the idiots who are now leaders instead of asking either one of us, as if we were dead, for the truth, they read the paper and were known to take national stands, and be on television, discussing civil rights and the desegregation of the schools, and how wonderful and nonviolent it was. They didn’t ask me if it was nonviolent.”

In the process of her research and travels, Wild had to confront herself. She had to put the breaks on her own ego, her impatience, her need to insert herself in the story to the detriment of the true story she was after. In this book Wild is not afraid to expose her own warts, which gives this accomplished memoir an air of authenticity. In this passage of enlightened self-criticism Wild questions the hunger of her own agenda when she encounters unexpected resistance from Woodruff around an interview:

“Did I try to understand why this handsome woman was so incredibly busy? Did I wonder what kind of experiences Lynda Woodruff might have had in the past with writers and journalists?

Wild, to use a cliché, comes away from all of this as a “better person” She realized she had to confront the complacency of her past, and her comfortable and privileged background that excluded African Americans. This whole process spurred Wild on to new heights of activism back home, and perhaps, and I am sure this is her hope, that it will lead you, dear reader, down a new road.

Monday, May 12, 2008



( Somerville, Mass.)

Somerville poet, Simmons College English Professor (Boston), Afaa Michael Weaver has won the prestigious small press literary award the “Pushcart Prize” for his poem “American Income,” which was included in his collection “The Plum Flower Dance,” ( University of Pittsburgh Press.) and also has appeared in POETRY magazine. Weaver has several collections under his belt, and has been widely published in such magazines as HANGING LOOSE, AMERICAN POETRY REVIEW, etc… Weaver is also a member of the Somerville-based literary organization “The Bagel Bards,” and was recently published in the independent Somerville literary journal “Ibbetson Street.” He was the featured poet in a recent issue of POETS AND WRITERS magazine, and was declared the Poet Laureate in his native Baltimore, among his many accomplishments. Weaver will be awarded the "Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award" on Nov, 22 2008 at The Somerville News Writers Festival.

*The Pushcart Prize is a prestigious American literary prize by Pushcart Press that honors the best "poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot" published in the small presses over the previous year. Magazine and small book press editors are invited to nominate up to 6 works they have featured. Anthologies of the selected works have been published annually since 1976.
Among the writers who received early recognition in Pushcart Prize Anthologies were: Raymond Carver, Tim O'Brien, Rick Bass, Charles Baxter, Andre Dubus, Mona Simpson, Seán Mac Falls, Joshua Clover, Paul Muldoon, Bruce Boston, Kathy Acker, William Monahan, and Peter Orner

Collins, Stern and Holder to be on U/Mass Small Press Panel

Martha Collins,( Field Magazine) Doug Holder (Ibbetson Street Press), Bert Stern (Off the Grid Press) TO BE ON SMALL PRESS PANEL / U/MASS BOSTON. June 23, 2008.

For the second year in a row I have been asked to be on the Small Press Panel workshop at the University of Mass. William Joiner Writers' Workshop this summer. I was a student from 2000 to 2001 and enjoyed every minute of it. For more information about the workshop go to:

Contact: T. Michael Sullivan May, 2008

Phone: 617-287-5850


21st Writers’ Workshop planned for UMass Boston

The 21st annual Summer Writers’ Workshop at the University of Massachusetts Boston will be held June 16-27. Sponsored by the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences with the university’s Creative Writing Program, the workshop offers instruction in poetry, fiction and prose non-fiction over the course of two weeks. A section on memoir writing will also be offered in 2008.

In addition to the writing sessions, a series of panels, master classes, symposia and special workshops complement the program. Two-week and one-week sessions are offered to participants. Writing on all topics is welcome, although themes of war and its consequences and issues of political violence and social justice permeate the program. This year special tribute is being paid to Grace Paley.

The faculty is diverse and notable. This year’s faculty includes: poets Afaa Michael Weaver, Fred Marchant, and Bruce Weigl; novelists Larry Heinemann and Demetria Martinez; and Lady Borton instructing prose nonfiction. Doug Anderson will offer a memoir section. Among the visiting writers are Martin Espada and Carolyn Forche. For more information e-mail Michael Sullivan at or call 617-287-5850.

Tuition for the workshop is $400 for two weeks and $220 for the one-week track. To apply, interested writers should send a letter of interest, current and appropriate writing samples and a $25 deposit payable to the William Joiner Center to: Michael Sullivan, William Joiner Center, UMass Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston MA 02125. Apply on-line at