Saturday, November 15, 2008

Memories of a Love Song A La Kerouac: MassPoetryFestival

Memories of a Love Song
A La Kerouac
at the

By Portia Brockway

It all began with my visit to see Julian Agyeman, to talk about Just Sustainability, Social Justice and Environmental Sustainability joining forces, at The Diesel, in Davis. Upon entering, my first hopeful encounter of the morning was with two fellow writers, we who necessarily swim upstream through layers and swells of emotional portent. Well, Timothy Gager was looking fresh and youthful, sitting tall in his stiff parlor chair by the freebie bar, sheet on sheets of piled papers, purposefully organized.

As I stood by with the poets, Julian reared his black plaits at the crowd-out. I touched base before entering my queue in to the Nexus for Sencha with lemon, joked how coming to The Diesel fulfills my dyke tendencies; he mentioned the wonderful cappuccino folds he finds here.

Timothy was going to read that night at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival out in Lowell, MA, that wide-slung, bug-shuttered photogenic art capital of a canal city. Hinged water flats made of governors’ wishes and men’s hard work slow the rush of glitter through pools, reflecting up into the serene factory windows. The black waters creep the brick bank of moody bars; trot cat-hot down the steaming alley ways; dodge the industry and eateries on the cobbled Market Street. The stray poet slips back inside the soft bowl’s incline.

Timothy feared desolation, that no one would show, and that he would be reading to his beer. Instead the house brewed, bristled, snapped, e-hawed as Tom blunders through life’s knots.????

Alice and I that night enjoyed the untamed emotionality of Victoria in Barcelona (name?) at the Kendall, where Woody, tastefully for once, engages us in the heart art of the guffaw, weeping craws’ uttered roars, seizing at our funny thoughts.

Lit up, we descended, numerous-countenanced, into the royal-velvet-canopied Sedan, our sturdy heave ho, JJ the Grey Spirit, 5728, Dodge, held us as I invited her to the Saturday anti-regimen, the MassPoetryOrgasm. We both wanted to hear Martin Espada and Robert Pinsky speak the truth.

I told Alice that later on at the “Evening of Poetry” we might be (fearfully) engaged to “Write (and Read It Out Loud) with Robert”, the 3x Poet Laureate, hero and local Red Sox fan, and we wanted to hear our friend Charles Coe.

The next evening, after a day of street theater at the Peace March spiraling the Boston Commons, Ben, Alice and I engaged JJ, with Markus Surrealius along at the helm, his head foaming with ideas, then, just as quickly, it dropped to the side, silent, in the passenger seat.

We emerged onto a bobbling studio center, a tilted egg hollowing the Earth, under a net of paths. We followed a sign pointing in toward the yolk, for the Poetry Art Galleries, ending at 5 pm.We found a kiosk with a glossy flyer pasted inside. There were no addresses listed for the noted Feature events. So we meandered around, searching on foot for directions, or a full program.

We enjoyed crossing the wide boulevards and peopled plazas, conferring as to which residents might actually know about the missing Massachusetts Poetry Festival. A Program Guide was procured at a restaurant/bar where they looked at us as though we were strangers in town - we quickly found the reading at the High School where we finally arrived 1-hour-and-40 minutes late.

Robert Pinsky was delivering his last Feature poem “Canto de Paradiso”: truth, complete, and curious.

So, we stayed on, found ourselves out over at the joint consuming smooth sounds from the Jeff Robinson Trio. I especially enjoyed the visiting bass player from Lowell, Rakalam Bob Moses; they sound gustatory, something satisfying.

Poetry encounters came up with the souls of two young women on view, h’ordeuvres, pearl oysters opening, two Venuses, each smoothly beautiful women.

One’s urban, urbane, mild in countenance and accoutrements’ words went up without a trace; perhaps I was overly concerned with her neat prettiness and did not pay attention to what was inside.

The second affair up there had a tribal air to her long neck. She slinked purposefully yet elastically in her indigenous wear; she spoke of mis-placed powers as though the Queen of Sheeba. There was substance in her telling performance.

Charles Coe deserves his own paragraph. As I listen to him my brain halves bond as ether in a warm dark cloud chamber, void at the beginning of the Universe, Now. Charles is never so graphic that we have to leave our own bodies out of the fear of the artist’s moment, that acute, astute, lucid observation that confronts and affronts audience sensibilities. I am not for that, no matter how much I would not argue the point.

Yet, even small mishaps jolt us sometimes, just as Charles’ echo chamber sounded his own cantos, now off, the Organizer spins, hands leading into the crowd, to be congratulated, to congratulate, to find one lost eye turned inward and slightly to the side, I, Portia, the hypnogog, awe shocked.

The rat-a-tat-tat of the next act clattered tight across my bones; I chose to retreat from my prized seat cross-legged under the window, with People’s leather pouch and Tahitian bamboo cape moving largely unprovoked at the back of the large, lovely wooden room ready to revive my senses; perhaps Regie would enjoy a few Yoga classes somewhere safe.

I spoke with the also-waiting Robert Pinsky and wondered if he would laugh at my telling of our “Writing (and Reading It Aloud) with Robert” fear dilemma. I didn’t dare tell the poetry guru, originator of the “Favorite Poems” anthology (project?), friend to all, my story, for fear it would flop.

So, now it is our turn to wait for Pinsky to give forth the voice he has gained, waiting for Pinsky, we grew very tired of still waiting for Pinsky so that we could Ride with Robert’s fertile crest of an imagination for a while. Was it worth it? We began to wonder. We found ourselves returning to the car to find that Ben had lost the ignition key.

With Pinsky finally free to leave we four again arrived at the Hall, just in time for Robert to bid “Portia and Ben Good Night”, in itself a poetic expression coming from his personal power and grace. Charles Coe, a 2008 Massachusetts Poetry Festival Master Mind, with his habitual Metta (kindness), charioteered us back to Cambridge, slung up snug in his silver sedan to dream deep that night.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lawrence Kessenich: Behind the Scenes at Houghton Mifflin.

Lawrence Kessenich: Behind the Scenes at Houghton Mifflin.

With Doug Holder

Lawrence Kessenich was an editor at the prestigious Boston publishing house Houghton Mifflin. Kessenich, 58, attended the MFA program at U/Mass Amherst, lived near Emily Dickinson’s house, and encountered such poets as: Joe Langland, Donald Junkins, and James Tate. When he didn’t secure a teaching assistant position he was forced to drop out and applied to the Radcliff Publishing Seminar, attending in the summer of 1978. During his time at Houghton Mifflin, Kessenich recruited W. P. Kinsella author of “Shoeless Joe,” Rick Boyer’s “Billingsgate Shoal”, a mystery that won an Edgar Award for best mystery novel of the year, “Confessions of Taoist on Wall Street,”by David Payne, and “Selected Poems of Anne Sexton,” edited by Diane Middlebrook,. Kessenich was the editor for Terry McMillan’s first book “Mama,” as well. I spoke with him on my Somerville Community Access TV Show: “ Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: After you graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1974, you told me you “meandered” throughout your twenties. What did you do? Is meandering a good thing?

Lawrence Kessenich: It was good for me. At the end of college I was interested in the theatre. I started doing amateur theatre. I basically spent my twenties applying to graduate schools. I was accepted into a theatre program, but at the last minute decided it wasn’t for me. I was starting to write a lot at that point. I put together some short stories that I had written, and applied to 5 or 6 programs. I didn’t get into any of them. At that time I started writing more poetry and so the next time I applied, I applied in poetry. I got into three different programs and chose the one at U/Mass Amherst. I have always been attracted to Massachusetts. They had a very good program at U/Mass. Donald Junkins, was the head of the writing program at that time. But I ran out of money, and I didn’t get a teaching assistantship. So I had to leave.

DH: How did you support yourself in your twenties?

LK: I had all sorts of odd jobs. I worked in a hospital and assisted in autopsies—that was an interesting experience. I worked at an art supply store, a U Haul dealership, etc…

DH: You attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course in the 70’s. Was it sort of like a boot camp for getting into the publishing industry?

LK: That’s a pretty good description. It’s six weeks and it is very intense. I went 25 years ago, I think it has been around for sixty years now. They bring in a lot of people from the publishing business, it is just not theoretical. You hear from people who do it on a day-to-day basis. They do some recruiting. It does give you contacts in the publishing industry. I almost got a job in New York but I decided I couldn’t live in New York on the salary they offered. I eventually got the job at Houghton Mifflin from someone I met at the course.

DH: But you originally wanted to be a writer and now you found yourself on the road to being an editor.

LK: I sort of had an epiphany when I left U/Mass. I thought maybe I was more suited to be the helper than the person who actually creates the stuff. I thought maybe I was more suited to be in the background. It turned out I was pretty good at it…it was a good role for me. But eventually I did want to become a writer myself. I did a little, but it is hard when you are an editor. There are only a handful of people who do it.

DH: William Maxwell of The New Yorker did it.

LK: Yeah and Toni Morrison, Michael Korda.

DH: Did the famous editor of Hemingway and Thomas Wolff, Maxwell Perkins, write?

LK: Absolutely not. He was a pure editor. He was sort of my idol.

DH: Your first job at Houghton Mifflin was editorial assistant to Robie Macauley, a well-known name in the literary world. He was the first serious fiction editor at Playboy. He must have had a few stories from the Mansion, right?

LK: He was there in the 60’s and was able to pay writers $2,000 a short story. In that era you could live on $6,000 a year. He literally supported, sometimes well-known writers, by publishing two or three of their stories in Playboy. So it was a tremendously powerful position, and he got to know a lot of writers very well.

At one time he decided to take a trip to Europe with his wife. The boss asked: “ Well, what are you going to do?” He replied: “Well we are going here and there. While I am there I am going to visit Nabokov, etc…” He knew all these writers abroad. His boss said” Oh, well, we will pay for that.” They wanted him to maintain contacts with these writers.

DH: You say you had to “acquire” novels in order to get ahead. How does one go about doing that?

LK: Well, for novels or nonfiction—you basically read articles. When you are starting out agents won’t talk to you. So you talk to other people, read literary magazines, the smaller magazines, where the authors aren’t necessarily well known. There is a magazine in the publishing trade called: “Publisher’s Weekly.” I discovered the author W.P. Kinsella who wrote “Shoeless Joe” there. The reviews appear in PW before the book is even out. So I happened to read this review of a Canadian anthology of short stories. There was a one sentence description of Kinsella’s story: “ An Iowa farmer builds a playing field in his cornfield in order to invoke his baseball hero Shoeless Joe Jackson.” It sounded wonderful. I’m from the Midwest, and I like sports. I was young and naïve and I didn’t know much about publishing. I figured that fourteen editors would write to him as soon as they saw it. So I decided I was going to write him right away. I asked him if he ever had written a novel. Nobody wants to start with short stories. It happens once in a while but it’s rare.

The Canadian anthology was going to be in the store. And this will give you an idea how little money you make in publishing: I was so poor I didn’t feel I could buy the book, so I went into a bookstore in Harvard Square and read the story. I was just thrilled. He wrote back and said: “ I’d love to write a novel. I tried several times but I didn’t have any luck. I told him to send me everything he had ever written, which at that time were two books of short stories, a beginning novel, etc… I read all of it, but I pretty much came back to the original short story. This was the story that became “Shoeless Joe,” and the subsequent movie “Field of Dreams.” He had an idea about baseball stories. I said that it was great, but that he should start with the first short story and go from there. He responded: “ No, I don’t want to do that.” He had another way he wanted to write it. So about three months later I get about ninety pages of the novel. And honestly, it was terrible. It felt like it wasn’t even the same writer. I worked up my courage and said: “ Look, I don’t think it is working this way. I think you should start with that short story and go from there.” And once he did that it took off. I never told him I was just an assistant editor.

DH: Nan Talese promoted you to editor. She had the misfortune to publish James Frey’s ill-fated memoir. How can an editor guard against phony memoirs, etc…?

LK: What can you do? You’d have to know the person’s life. People usually have some form of credentials…so there is an element of trust.

DH: You were Terry McMillan’s editor for her first book “Mama.” It was chose from the slush pile. Are slush piles extinct today?

LK: Yeah. Pretty much. It has to come through an editor or an agent. It’s a matter of time an expense. It was a fulltime job. I think publishers want to use interns for other things. Publishing houses run on a pretty small margin, so when they do get interns they use them on things that have to be done. The slush pile is a problem because it is huge; anything can get in there. If you get it through an editor or an agent the file is much smaller.

I think it is now shifted to the agents. They now get the slush pile.

DH: Do agents seek quality work or just work that will sell?

LK: They have the same problems as publishing houses. They can’t invest a lot of time in things that won’t sell. I think there are a lot more agents out there that are more idealistic than people realize. If there is something they love, but are not sure if people are going to buy it, they probably will go to bat for it.

DH: You worked with Diane Middlebrook on the “Selected Poems of Anne Sexton.” What role did you plav—did you select any of the poems?

LK: No. I wish I could of because she was one of my favorite poets. I was there as a representative in the publishing house. I made sure that when the manuscript was turned in they did the right things with it: like cover design, inside design, and I was the intermediary between anyone else they had to deal with.

DH: In an interview with Lois Ames, Sexton’s and Sylvia Plath’s social worker, and author of the intro to Plath’s “Bell Jar,” Ames told me she tried to do a biography of Plath but ran into a lot of trouble with the family. Did this happen to Middlebrook?

LK: It took years for Diane to write “Anne Sexton: A Biography.” But during that time she called me up and said: “You are never going to believe what I have--- the tapes of Sexton’s sessions with her therapist.” “Well” I said. “This will guarantee that the book will be controversial if nothing else." And it certainly was and the family was very upset. This fact didn’t come out until the book was published.

--- Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Digging Dinosaur Dignity in Ardortown by Lynn Savitt

(Lynn Savitt)

Digging Dinosaur Dignity in Ardortown Lynn Savitt (Myshkin Press, Long Island, NY)

“Kvetchmeister” is the term that continually came to mind as I read the seamless knit of jubilation and kvetching, self-mockery and celebration which is the fabric of Lynn Savitt’s ruefully lyrical poems.

It’s a complex knit, struck in her first poem – “The 5,298th Poet’s Poem For A 60th Birthday” - which never flags through all her stanzas, and, surprisingly, never tires the reader. At least not that special reader who commits to standing beside the poet and spading up the layers of irony which cover the dignified strata of a hard-lived life, the life we all inherit by doing what comes naturally and abiding with the results.

“My children settled with spouses/houses near the ocean what/more could a mother want/surf sounds of contentment” is the way the second stanza of Lynn’s above-titled poem sounds the ambivalent contentment which comes to the mother whose brood is all settled and settled well enough, thank you.

In the penultimate stanza we hear the succinctly worded regret which comes with the territory of breeding and raising a new generation by and through the expense our own limited, human vitality: “wake up & smell melting/decades of lovers lost/to cancer & cross country/moves younger pussy/memory burns me to/them & them to me”.

The language is that informal, rushed argot we might pin to our refrigerator door with a magnet as we hurry out to shop or pick up the kids from sports and school. It’s the language of daily life, crowded with details of the next task to accomplish, but also with that poignant longing for relationships and sentiments never quite finished no matter how long our day or our life stretches.

The winning note in Lynn’s triumphs and kvetching is that her longing for the ultimate , which she embraces so ardently in her crowded, enjambed lines, is also experienced complexly, as if she is at once the lone human being experiencing her brief, naïve ardors and also the distanced eye of the poet stretching the ego’s perspective to include both the long leveling hallway of time as well as a crowd of “others”.

In “Gloomy Sunday” this complex perspective is illustrated in the first two stanzas: “a couple celebrates a wedding/anniversary in the rain at beach/gingham tablecloth damp with/wine & love limp as linguine”

This ramble of unpunctuated, but crisply detailed longing, could well be the poet’s own, as she celebrates yet another anniversary in a mature career of anniversaries, this one in not ideal weather and with a possible double-entendre in the “love limp as linguine” . The implicit suggestion of maybe an umbrella and a dose of Viagra hangs comically over this “damp” scene.

But just as her regret could soup into the maudlin, the poet’s eye takes a bitter, bracing turn to the war-torn “gaza strip” and a housewife prodded by war into “packing/hope and photos in pale gray boxes”. Then, in the third stanza a couple who could be the poet’s or anyone’s parents experience the rigors of age together: “an elderly husband & wife try/tying shoelaces together arthritic/fingers can’t lace sneakers loose/ memory trips them up like ropes”.

In both her individual poems as well as in this collection, the poet doesn’t move away from her own hardships to those of others in order to forget, but to enrich her own perspective and return to the personal with a deeper and more humane stance – a Kvetchmeister who holds her “bouquet” close to her heart while giving away single blooms to every passing stranger, including the reader, in need.

J. C. Foritano

Review of Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD)

Review of Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD)
Issue 3, Autumn 2008
Editors: Julia Bernd
Sal Coraccio
Kaolin Fire
Sue Miller
Debbie Moorhouse
Pages = 204

by Lo Galluccio

If I had to sum up a theme or idea running through this issue, I’d say, “clockwork” or “clockwork gone awry.” What does the word really mean? Clockwork (from the Dictionary) s a mechanism with wheels and springs, like that of a clock. Or, “like clockwork” – with perfect regularity and precision. The other strong association we have to the word derives from the 1971 Sci-Fi film, A Clockwork Orange.” The very name juxtaposes two totally different things – we have precision and timing colliding with a color that is in-between, brash and rather rare. Orange is not primary. Orange is rather like an emergency flare or a scream. So it is that this word, and this idea of strange and telling juxtapositions, crop up in Issue 3 of GUD magazine, Autumn 2008.

From a magazine that began several issues ago with brilliant fictional stories that ran the gamut from surreal to supernatural to Sci-fi, this avant-garde journal has now created a collection that leans more toward something whose work is abstract, mystical and very futuristic. But there is also a strong through-line in format and tone, a variety of moods and styles, which makes the journal a very engaging, albeit, challenging read. There is also a good deal of wry humor. As per the usual formula, Issue 3, interlaces fascinating fiction, with other-worldly graphics and beautiful poems.

In “Poetry’s Yellow Warbler,” a poem by Beverly Jackson, in which she holds a “downy chick” in her palm and detects its “tiny clockwork tick,” we find an alternating progression of natural and mechanistic images and ideas. In combining these elements, Jackson introduces a volume that both deconstructs and re-constructs things, people, places. In the end of the poem she invokes “Yeats, God” and writes “and you may ponder toys while I gape that pigs, bird and planes lift off the ground at all.” p. 1

The first story, “A Song, A Prayer, an Empty Space.” By Darja Malcolm-Clarke is an epic tale of a pseudo-Arabic kingdom whose God machine – a euphomifier – has been corrupted by a “many tongued daemon.” Its maker and guru returns from exile to slay the daemon and restore the source for prayer and contact with God, only to find himself doubting that the euchoi, or coins that are fed the machine as prayer, can really transmit divinity. In fact it is a girl in the village who he finds playing an odd stringed instrument and singing like an angel who arrests his mind. In the end, he decides that singing is actually the better way to pray. “Teach me to sing,” he pleads at the end, to his female colleague and fellow priestess. One still marvels at the economic and religious concept of the euphomifier, how it unified the kingdom with a system of prayer currency. One also realizes the kind of effect a beautiful voice can have. Will he learn to sing? Will he go back to his machine? Will the daemons be outmaneuvered? Well, it’s his epiphany about song that turns the tale.

There is later in the volume, a magical illustration called, “Clockwork Wings” where an angel is bound to the gears of a clock. Her wings are immobile and down-flatten Ned. Her face has seemingly become the clock’s face, which is absent. It seems the martyrdom of the divine to technology.

As always, dark outlandish humor runs through GUD. For example, the fable-like story “Hunt of the I-Don’t-Knows” in which Bryce the Scribe and a penguin-like man are hunted down by creatures that only respond to questions with “I don’t know.” Like a dark Dr. Seuss battalion, these creatures, called, “Low Heads”: begin to suspect that this duo they’ve encountered do have the knowledge they lack:

“Now there are twenty. Now there are thirty. They begin quick-filtering out of the darkness. Their pale faces come ghost-like into moonlight. All in nervous panic-huddle, “I don’t know!” “Do you know?” “I don’t know!” “I don’t know!” p. 54

Bryce the Scribe and his strange partner are targeted for possibly “knowing something” by the Low Heads and they are pursued in a staccato intensity race of short punch sentences and compound words. It’s a battle of coveted, imagined knowledge, of what, in a very existential way, we don’t know.

And as the two scramble through the mud of the forest, the Low Heads upon them the story ends:

“Drowsy. Slow-enchantment distant stretching shout, “You know. You know.” P 56

This, the final almost pitiful recriminating accusation.

Instead of anthropomorphy – the attribution of human form or personality to a god or animal or object. – many texts and images in this issue attribute the human or animal to machines. It’s a post-modern twist.

In the photo “Mustang,” by Jon Radlett, a cadet-like man in jumpsuit fidgets with an old model helicopter in an open field. The silver sheen of the copter is set against the grey tones of a big sky. Its wings are the dark angular propeller which the human is trying to engage and make whirr. By title, the photographer compares a wild horse to a flying machine.

There are some remarkable other poems in this volume. One is “American History” by Jean Paul Ferro, an elegant and still modern ode to beauty and love. In it 5th Avenue in New York City is juxtaposed with the depths of the turquoise ocean; the former a place to float above, the latter,
“a love in a renaissance in the middle of life.” The opening line is stunning:
“You and I – we were made of glass.”

In a poem dedicated to the women and children of Darfur, “How to Fetch Firewood” by Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau, the writer instructs a child to survive the war in an almost psalm-like series of five stanzas. She writes:

“So we look, Abidseum. Because crows feed on those who want, and mouths, in asking, end up dry.”

She admonishes him then to be patient, to bide time even when answers are not present, when a path has not formed. Then,

“Abidseum. That is the time to close your eyes.”

And she promises to be there for him, “breath sharp as memory, praying for history to forget itself.” P. 103

There is far too much good stuff to review thoroughly in this volume but it is a must read. GUD continues to live up to its name and provide readers with work that is far above the base line of modern (or post-modern) literature.

Sunday, November 09, 2008



On Nov, 22 at 6:30PM at the Somerville News Writers Festival, author A.C.Kemp will bring her bag of barbs to the stage. A. C. Kemp is a Lecturer in English Language Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her book "The Perfect Insult for Every Occasion" came out in March, 2008. I caught up to her recently for an interview. I am happy to report that she didn’t insult me.

Who, in your opinion, are the great insulters of the literati, be it authors or their characters? I can think of Dorothy Parker offhand...probably a lot of the guys and gals at the Roundtable for instance....

Most definitely Dorothy Parker! People get excited about Shakespearian insults, but they make you sound more pretentious than funny. In Hamlet, you’ve got lines like “it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters” about bad actors. Parker’s critique of Katherine Hepburn--“She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B”--has more punch. Plus, Parker shared many of Lady Snark’s favorite hobbies, like drinking and sleeping with married men.

Miss Snark, seen on the front cover of your book, your alter ego, seems like the perfect purveyor of your perspective. I wonder -- is "snark" a slang word? Is she a sort of a cold roast Brahmin, who is having a bad hair day?

Definitely not a Brahmin. Lady Snark was born in Gackle, North Dakota. She ran away from home as a teenager, worked as an exotic dancer, then moved to Paris to start the long, slow process of marrying up. As for snark, it’s not slang. It seems like a newish word, but it’s well over a hundred years old and was even used before Lewis Carroll’s “Hunting of the Snark” poem. It comes from the even better word snork, meaning to grunt or snort. I think we should reintroduce that one, because I’d love to say, “stop being so snorky!”

How is the quality of insults in Somerville, Mass?

Average, but of course, I’m limited to the sample of people who have insulted me. There may be very creative insulters outside my circle of enemies.

Do you think McCain and Obama are good at this art of mudslinging?

Not really. “Palling around with terrorists” is pretty lame. I was kind of hoping for some snaps in the debates, like “Your mama is so dumb she flunked out of the Electoral College”—that sort of thing.

You are a scholar of slang and you founded the website This developed from a course you taught ESL students. Do you think when we are taught foreign languages in school; slang should be an important component as well? I remember only being taught in language labs stuff like: "In the evening we dress in our colorful native costumes and dance and sing with other idealistic youth." Real people don't talk that away...

I definitely think language students need more slang if they plan to spend any time in a country where the language is spoken. That’s why I started teaching the slang class. If you don’t know slang or even idioms, it’s very hard to fit in, and you can get yourself in trouble by not understanding that you’re being propositioned, threatened or invited to do something illegal. I had a straight student once who didn’t realize, because of language and culture differences, that he was being hit on by a guy until he was at the guy’s house.

You teach at MIT. Across the hall is Junot Diaz. He is our featured reader in The Somerville News Writers Festival that you are a part of. What slang verbiage might you use to congratulate him on his Pulitzer?

Actually, Junot is upstairs from me, but I’d just say “Congratulations!” I’m much more creative at being mean than nice.

Ibbetson 24 Reading: Nov. 8, 2008 Out of the Blue Art Gallery Cambridge, Mass.

( Group Shot)

( Back Gloria Mindock, Irene Koronas)

( Jack Scully)

(Larwrence Kessenich L Doug Holder R

( Lo Galluccio)

( Mike Amado)