Friday, October 10, 2008
A Clock With No Hands. Poems By Tom Sexton. (Adastra Press 16 Reservation Rd. Easthampton, Ma. 01027) $16.
As a small press publisher, I have always looked up to the likes of David Godine, Jr, and Gary Metras, (publisher of the Adastra Press). Mr. Metras has been publishing poetry books since 1979, and if you examine his title list you will see such small press favorites as: Alan Catlin, Leonard Cirino, Michael Casey, not to mention the likes of Thomas Lux, Jack Gilbert. and the list goes on. Metras, who was recently profiled in Poets and Writers magazine, publishes wonderfully crafted books, in which production values, as well as poetry, are very important.
That being said, I have been in contact with Metras (a well-respected poet in his own right), and he will appear on my Somerville Cable Access TV Show ‘Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer’ this fall (2008) The latest poetry collection he sent me is “A Clock With No Hands,” by Tom Sexton. I have to say hands down that this is great stuff.
Sexton was born in Lowell in 1940. He went on to be one of the two professors who began the English Dept. at the newly established Anchorage campus of the University of Alaska. He taught there for twenty-four years.
The poems in the collection deal with Sexton’s hometown of Lowell, Mass, as he experienced it in the 40’s and 50’s. Thornton Wilder would be an admirer of this collection. Sexton acts like the narrator of Wilder’s “Our Town”, bringing out the flavor, the workers, the old factories, the canals, of this down-at-the-heels, old mill city.
I think readers who live in Lowell, as well as readers who never been near the banks of the Merrimack River could appreciate the poetry. Like all quality work it has that ‘universal” sensibility.
Being Jewish, I found the poem: “Rag Man” particularly touching. The man in this poem is sort of the “Merchant of Venice’ of Lowell. And the boy observing him finds out that yes, a Jew does indeed bleed like the rest of us:
“… Pray for the conversion of
the Jews,” the priest in the pulpit said.
“They killed Christ and have the devil’s
tail beneath their coats.” Mulligan said
he heard someone say that to his father.
I watch the rag man, scarecrow-thin,
below me on the street. No horns. No tail.
He gets down and takes something from
his pocket for his horse and then goes on,
the wet cobbles like skulls in his wake.”
Food for me has always been very evocative. A simple kosher hot dog can be more powerful than say, a Rembrandt or a Mapplethorpe. The poem “Hoare’s Fish Market” brings me back to a time when I visited the market with my late Dad. I can remember that first waft of the ocean when you entered the store, and the dead stare of the fish on their deathbed of ice.
“I walked to the market with my father
on Fridays to buy four pieces of cod
wrapped in paper soaked with grease
by the time we got back to our kitchen
where my mother and sister were waiting.
If times were good, my father bought
a piece for a neighbor who always called
it hake, or skate if he just wanted to talk.
Mr. Hoare, our Neptune in tall boots,
watched over it all: haddock and cod,
halibut, tuna, swordfish and salmon
all laid out on an endless bed of ice.
When he spoke, you heard the distant sea
with its vast multitudes that would always be.
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update
Thursday, October 09, 2008
"For All These Wretched, Beautiful & Insignificant Things So Uselessly & Carelessly Destroyed." (Poems) by Hosho McCreesh
"For All These Wretched, Beautiful
& Insignificant Things So Uselessly
& Carelessly Destroyed." (Poems) by Hosho McCreesh
P.O. Box 911
Buffalo, NY 14207
Hosho McCreesh © 2008
Review by Mike Amado
If Morrissey, back in the days of his former band The Smiths,
were to inspire poets to explore the beauty of long titles, and
then grade them, "For All These. . ." by Hosho McCreesh
would receive an A-plus. But McCreesh ups the volume with
these terse, yet full and rich verses of "For All These Wretched,
Beautiful& Insignificant Things So Uselessly & Carelessly Destroyed."
It great to have a title that's a part of and is one with the poem.
It's refreshing to read a collection that has a long title itself,
(as opposed to having a title consisting of only one word,
which is a current thing to do). These first line-ish / titles provide an
expansive foyer to a familiar structure.
"What We Want Is a Nice Bottle,
A Little Music & Some Humble Place
To Host Little Celebrations of Living -
...maybe a decent potato soup &
a few bucks left over
after covering our nut.
But there's nothing for it,
not in this kind of world . . ."
Embedded within the images and simpleness of the everyday is
a longing and a search to reclaim, remember and birthe these
celebrations and beauties once again. A sort of repairing of that
which was dismantled. These are words of loss, sadness and
In the same vein, "Full Moon, Half Sun . . ." dwells with a
"Long Shadows Draped
Over Dusty Backroads -
A Train Whistle Cries Out
Across the Rio Grande Valley -
for some place
that cannot be
Poet, artist and prose writer Hosho McCreesh was first introduced to
the word through music. And a music gently flows in the voice of this
chapbook, singing standards of a new age.
On the covers and festooning the inside pages of "For All These. . ."
are the illustrations of Kevin Charles Kline. Basic drawings of skeletons,
body parts and all sorts of anatomy scatted about so "Carelessly",
driving home the books premise.
McCreesh performs some dismantling of his own in the poem "It Was Paris . . ."
Leveling Paris' legendary assumptions into ordinary truths, that, Paris is
after all like "anywhere" and "everywhere" else.
Describing the fabled city as, "Vibrating With some Kind of Romantic,
Sad Song . . .", the speaker desperately walking the streets,
"Lonely as a weeping trumpet," only to find at that moment,
"a flash of angry movement" - an empty dog food can thrown in the Seine.
"Suddenly the day went cold,
went painfully, typically
McCreesh also pays a lament to Vincent Van Gogh in
"This Dizzying, Senseless Place . . ." asking:
what if his beloved would have, "just/ taken/ the/ ear"
and accepted it as:
"a gesture, an offering,
a talisman of something
deep & honest & true."
"For All These . . ." takes the reader from Paris to the American
south west and down to the lonely depths of the human condition.
A world where " . . . we ask too much of life.", and rue how even
the insignificant can be taken for granted and lost even to itself.
*Mike Amado is a reviewer for the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
and the author of "stunted Inner Child Shot the TV" ( Cervena Barva Press).
Francis d’Assisi 2008
Finishing Line Press
today’s need for ecological awareness on a minute level - an awareness of being who we are and who we were and who we are becoming; this poem preaches in the same way any poem imparts its subject - the message is in clear and forthright verses. Gary Metras is not embarrassed to relate the life of a Saint. “whatever house they enter, they are first to say, “Peace to this house.”
‘A poem’ expounds on, “and still they come.” yes. this small book speaks to me as a Christian but it is so much more if the reader is willing to go beyond the obvious. the first few pages question; questions I did not think lent to the reading or the poem. Metras’ writing shines by the third page. from then on, whether the reader knows the story or not, there is a push to recognize phrases as ones’ own. the poem begins again and again, without ending.
“the brothers and the people tore down the folksy
that cradled the simple chapel,
quarried whole hillsides for marble,
in the name of Francis,
mined clay banks from rivers to bake into bricks,
taller and wider for the bronze and marble,
in the name of Francis.
St. Francis poem encompasses all the proverbs and metaphors for our present generation. metaphors we place our knowledge on.’ a poem’ is a telling, not a reinvention of what was; it is what is.
for me a good poem takes me to my deepest self. I may cry, get angry or sometimes feel nothing. all the above takes place in the 25 pages.
“and in the great age of global leisure,
tourists came, more and more each year,
and with them hotels, restaurants, laundries
came coca cola, levis jeans. came iPod.
and somewhere in this story of faith
the hills of hell was made heaven
in the name of Francis”
one of my complaints is that St. Francis ‘ life story says it all and he makes no judgments for us, (“silent teaching.”) we are allowed the luxury of making our own judgments. by the end of this, ‘a poem,’ I think Metras leaves the story for a modern day tale of woe that may not be conducive to the epic faith of St. Francis. I think the reader already knows the message and can connect the dots themselves. negatives aside, there is a communion of chapters, a natural love of story telling and a grace beyond words.
Ibbetson Street Press
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth
Cervena Barva Press
Investigations is a celebration of Nancy Drew novels (50 years) during the late 1950’s. she led a way for young women who wanted more than what they, may of perceived, as domestic boredom. Nancy did not have the proverbial mother to relate too. she also had an absentee father, a lawyer. this left the young investigator on her won to rife out her suspicions. unlike superman who needed superpowers to accomplish his task of riding the world of evil doers, Nancy worked closely with her friends for what seemed a more human story.
“I understand, the mysteries of the scoured pot,
clogged toilet, tolling dinner bell,
hold no appeal. but chances are you’re not
going to marry Carson Drew,
conveniently absent when the action starts,
never demanding you halt mid-case to listen
to his tale of triumph at the office…”
Nancy Drew’s tale has been placed into the capable hands or words of Kathleen Aguero. Aguero translates, reinvents and looks for clues that relate to her present situations as in, ‘the case of the suicidal friend,’ “you didn’t leave a note, just your own body on the stairs.” and again in ‘jewel box,’ which I had the privilege of hearing the poet read Aguero shows us her mother’s delusional clarity, her mother’s love, the perception of honesty in leaving, of placing value in memory, connecting, collecting personal items, identifying their significance, “we have to do this now…” her poems are full of references, clues; the password:
“she was clever.
she found the wooden gate where they put the garbage out.
she pulled, but it was locked.
she waited, but no one came
so she joined the walkers, round and round the halls
out one door, in the other…
this is a clear case. this chapbook will leave you wanting more
of Kathleen Aguero’s writing.
Ibbetson Street Press