Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Somerville Native Son Kevin Gallagher: From COMPOST to BOSTON UNIVERSITY






Somerville Native Son Kevin Gallagher: From COMPOST to BOSTON UNIVERSITY


Interview by Doug Holder




Back in 1995 I was published in a unique Boston-based literary magazine COMPOST, and read at an arts center in Jamaica Plain with Boston poets like Sam Cornish, Jack Powers, Joe DeRoche, and others. Kevin Gallagher was one of the founding editors, and some years later I had the privilege of publishing a poetry collection by him. Gallagher, who was born in 1968, is a native Somervillian and his mother taught at St. Joseph’s some 40 years ago.



He is the author of three books of poetry, "Gringo Guadalupe"
(Ibbetson Street, 2009), "Isolate Flecks" (Cervena Barva, 2008), and
"Looking for Lake Texcoco" (Cy Gist, 2008). Gallagher is a professor at Boston University and currently lives in Newton,MA. with his wife and newborn son. His poetry has been published in Harvard Review, Partisan Review, Green Mountains Review, LitVert, Jacket, and elsewhere. His recent books are: Putting Development First: The Importance of Policy Space in the WTO, and Free Trade and the Environment: Mexico, NAFTA, and Beyond.

I interviewed him on my Somervile Community Access TV show: “ Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”



Doug Holder: You were a founding member of COMPOST magazine based in Boston some years ago. How did it start, and how was it unique?



Kevin Gallagher: I was an editor, and I was an original member of the collective. We started in the early 90’s when MacIntosh and the computer were in style and you didn’t need a printing press to print something. It was before Blogs and other stuff. So we occupied this ten-year period in which out of our living room we could make a magazine. We were young, bohemian, and revolutionaries in Jamaica Plain in the early 90’s. Now we are over 40, mortgage-owning, adults with kids.



DH: But you still have your idealism, no?



KG: Absolutely. I live it every day. So as I said we started in the 90’s. A group of poets who were upset with the ingrained academic perspective that the publishing wing of Boston was all about at the time. You had to be involved with an academic quarterly-- that didn't look like fun--they didn't have any art and poetry. We wanted to include other genres of art. We wanted to be more inclusive. This was the late 80's and early 90's; the world was opening and Communism started to fade away. We had a global perspective. We also thought that American poetry, particularly in Boston, was very provincial. We focused a lot on the literature of other countries.



DH: You also had an all Boston issue.



KG: Yes. We focused on our own community, we focused on the country, and we focused around the globe. Each issue had a section that focused on Boston area poetry. We had people from all schools of poetry. We had national poets like Alan Dugan and Robert Pinsky. We had a 14-year-old girl from Roxbury. We were the first magazines that did an exclusive section of poetry from North Vietnam. Kevin Bowen was the guest editor--he is the director of the William Joiner Center at U/Mass Boston.



DH: How did it end?



KG: It was different things for different people. One person moved to Manhattan, one person gets married. We held together a little bit, but things changed.



DH: You edited an article for Jacket Magazine that concerned the one time Somerville poet Denise Levertov.




KG: I love to edit poetry. I edited an article for Jacket Magazine--I crafted a feature on her work. I asked her friends, academics, etc... to assess Denise Levertov in the 21st century. Mark Pawlak and others talked about her.




She was originally from England. She started out as a very formal poet. When Robert Creeley gave her a book by William Carlos Williams--it changed things for her. She fell in love with the American idiom. She transformed herself and became one of the core of new American poets. She had several books with New Directions. During the Vietnam War she became very political in her work. She read in front of huge crowds during demonstrations. Towards the end of her life she was an environmental poet.




DH: You are a professor at Boston University now. How does this fit in with the writing life?




KG: My day job is not about poetry. I'm glad--I do a lot of different things. I am an economist that looks at the world economy and tries to see ways to create a world economic system that can make everyone better off. I spend a lot of time in Latin America--my poetry is part of that.




DH: Can you talk about your latest collection with the Ibbetson Street Press:

"Gringo Guadalupe."


KG: To a certain extent my last two books "Gringo..." and "Looking for Lake Texcoco" ( Cy Gist 2008) are story sequences of poems written when I was in Mexico working on environmental issues. Lake Texcoco was a huge lake that was filled in, in Mexico City. A noted poet in the United States translated the collection. This book deals with the contrast between the indigenous people and global forces. There is something about soul and fate in it. The "Gringo Guadalupe" is a book that is a little sardonic. It deals with the birth of Christ. It is a series of sonnets about a husband and wife: Joe and Mary. Joe takes a job in Mexico. While he is in Mexico, an angel appears to his wife in the States, and tells her she is going to bear the Son of God. And she believes it.

DH: The last section of "Gringo..." is titled: "Frescos" These poems are short, tight, with crisp imagery. Some would say it is easier to write a short poem, that a wordy, more elaborate one. Your take?

KG: It is harder in my opinion. As a professor at Boston University--when I ask someone to do two-page paper, it is much harder than twenty. Each word counts more. So in this section, each poem is like a picture that tells its own story. Each poem has to have imagery--a strong lyrical quality--to get across the story.




Drive Bye
by Kevin Gallagher



I sat cross-legged swinging on my swing
feeling less alive than a marionette.
The neighbor’s children danced under the sunset
pulling each other’s hair while singing
songs that had a particular ring
that made them impossible to forget.
So I wasn’t surprised when the bullet
hit my head. I was too busy smiling.
I smiled when they put me in the casket.
I smiled when they lowered me under my stone.
It took my death to bury my hatchet,
the roots around me remind me of my bones.
They shot the living daylights out of me.
I can’t see. You can’t see me. But I be.
Copyright © 2002 by Kevin Gallagher

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

UpTown TurnAround by Don Alfieri

UpTown TurnAround
by Don Alfieri
blackautopress.blogspot.com
© Copyright Don Alfieri
12/25/09 Limited Edition
Softbound, 10 pages

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

When I was very young I saw Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Don Siegel’s masterpiece based on a Jack Finney (who co-wrote the script) novel. Both the book and the movie were social statements made during the McCarthy era: for individual thought and against communism, that Darth Vader-like force of evil. Pods were placed in a home, when the family slept, the pods took over their bodies and minds.

UpTownTurnAround, Don Alfieri’s very short opening poem brings back memories of
that movie:

HerCloseCall

BerriesShouldComeInPurple
OneOfTheseYears, ThoughtMaryLynn

“CallMeBackInFourHours.
HaveToGetSomeSleep,
JetLag, YouKnow.”

InvasionOfThe BodySnatchers
WasShowingOnTV.

But that’s just the opener. Each of the little poems in Alfieri’s chapbook is a commentary on society: drugs, a dismembered woman, and finally a hybrid poem-story of a relationship.

On first reading I admit I didn’t like this chapbook, probably because of the memories of Body Snatchers, one of the scariest movies I ever saw. It came out in 1956 and has remained embedded in my brain like a bad marriage. But, the more readings I gave these five poems, the more they grew on me. They each have their own truth, their own morality and their own impact. And if you spend time with them they will grow on you.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Review of UNDERLIFE, by January Gill O’Neil




Review of UNDERLIFE, by January Gill O’Neil of Massachusetts, CavanKerry Press LTD 2009, Fort Lee, New Jersey, 74 pages, $16

By Barbara Bialick

Underlife is a smart debut collection published on beautiful recycled paper. O'Neil has a fine, imagistic lyrical voice well worth reading for its many layers of meaning as hinted at by the title, Underlife. You can easily divide the title up into two lists: under, referring to the burial ground, sexuality, the child under the power of the parents, the man under the power of the woman, the woman under the power of the man, African-Americans’ historical anger being under the thumb of “white” society. The word, life, referring to the natural world, children, the steamy side of sexuality, and motherhood. The poet says “Protect your strange and beautiful/underlife…”

Starting with “early memories” O’Neil establishes her ethnic identity from the top: “I am from hush puppies & barbecue/from chitlins & fastbacks/…Salt & Pepper stand at attention.” In “Early Memory” the author admits to having thrown a fistful of sand into a boy’s eyes—this after being called names for so long. “There must have been such rage in me, to give such pain.” Those are old images. She really stuns in the poem, “True Story #2: Missing”—where she tells the story of a young woman “missing” at home:

“First a foot, then the whole body/found wedged upside down behind/a tall bookcase./a young woman missing in a home/she shared with her family/most of her life./Eleven days misplaced/…simply, as if she disappeared/to that land of lost socks and/missing keys…”

In the section called “Ripe Time” she dedicates her love poems to her sexy married relationship. She needed something to write about: “So I reach back to when/the writing came easy, when poems fell like tree branches…” (“Something I needed”)
The poem “Rough Country” is a testimony to the imagination: “Sweet Baby, I have imagined your death/since the day we met, a horrific tragedy…My senses begin again to commit you to memory/only to be reborn back into the same rough country/weighing inside my brain like an anvil.”

O’Neil works as a senior writer and editor at Babson College. She is also a fellow with the Cave Canem Poets, co-hosts a literary series in Arlington, Mass., and has a blog called “Poet Mom.”

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Loss. By Robert R. Reldan

Loss.
By Robert R. Reldan
2008; 56pp; Pa; Infinity Publishing.com,
1094 New DeHaven St., Suit 100,
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713.
$8.95.


Reldan doesn’t knock you down with big-bang language and emotions, but
as you read through Loss you slowly are filled with an overwhelming
sense of loss itself, missing the reality of the real world,
remembering the past, the dead, the realities that have departed from
you permanently. Ironically, it was only after I had finished reading
Loss that I discovered that Reldan himself is not only in prison but in
solitary confinement, and I think that this solitariness creates an
unexpected intensity of feeling in the poetry itself.


I don’t mean it’s frantic, burning, a conk on the head, but filled
with a sense of almost buddhistic “distancing” from the realities of
Reldan’s own feelings, and the “distancing” gives it a special sense of
loss: “Black night --quiet time/Memory tiptoes through dusty
corridors/of the mind.../not knowing what it’s looking for/but kjnowing
it will recognize it/if found//There’s a first bike--/gathering rust,
tire flat/There’s an early birthday --look at all the balloons/There’s
a school day -- a dance --a vacation//There are so many things,
Memory/doesn’t know which way to turn...” (“Lost, But Found,” p. 17).


While you’re still surrounded by some sense of stability /having, you
don’t step to the edge of despair, but once you’re totally removed from
The Present, the Past takes over. And that’s what we have here, an
exercise in total deprivation and distancing so that the reader,
entering into Reldan’s


world, is stimulated to look at his own past in a much more
horrifically terrifying way. No Present, all Memory/Past. Loss is a
kind of beginner’s book of multi-dimentionalizing having and losing.
You walk away from it with your own view of your own personal present
and past totally changed, feeling more than ever not merely the
preciousness of what you have, but the transience of having it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bloc 11: Café Society with an Open Mic.



Bloc 11: Café Society with an Open Mic.

Now, I am a regular of the cafes in my home turf of Union Square, Somerville. I try to alternate between the unpretentious home of the oatmeal scone at Sherman, and the sleek, hip environs of Bloc 11. For some reason I prefer to have my bagels at Bloc 11 (with my supplement of pickled herring) and keep to the baked goods at Sherman. Years ago I had a poetry reading at the Sherman Café, and now I noticed that Bloc 11 on Bow St. has an open mic every Thursday night from 6PM to 9PM for musicians, singers and even poets. On Wednesdays nights they have featured musicians play such as: Audrey Ryan, “Quill,” and Somerville resident Jennifer Greer. A press release states:

“This all ages, weekly series will provide a house guitar, keyboard and PA system, along with the chance to play 2 songs for peers and fans alike. This series will give back as much as it receives from performers. Never charging a cover, offering a free podcast of each performance, plus a video recording, steaming online and on Somerville Community Access Television (SCAT).

Sponsored by Rockin Bobs Guitars and Performer Magazine, those who shine at the Bloc 11's Open Mic can win free musical gear and an ad in Performer- a national music publication.

Hosted by local indie-rocker Kristen Ford, this Thursday night series is meant to foster community among musicians.

‘There is so much we can learn from each other, musically and professionally. With so few all ages venues in the city- it’s a shame to ostracize so many up and comers because of liquor sales. It’s not right to expect a starving artist to pay a cover, and buy drinks just for the opportunity to play. The open mic at Bloc 11 is open to all ages, all genders, all ability levels and all income brackets. We just ask that you come to play and listen. Those who join in have the opportunity to network, be considered for a full set on our Wednesday night acoustic series, plus the chance for national exposure with Performer Magazine.’

Kristen Ford's open mindedness has rubbed off in the first few weeks yielding memorable performances across genres, ages and genders. With initial open mics packed- one can only assume great things are to come for Bloc 11 Cafe's open mic night, and for the players who fill it.

The Bloc 11 Cafe Open Mic series will be every Thursday, starting January 7th 2010. Sign up is from 5-6pm with music 6-9pm. Open to all styles of music, spoken word and performance, Bloc 11's open mic night is only missing one thing- your performance.”


I had the chance to talk the founder of this spanking new enterprise Kristine Ford, who hails from Aldersey Street in Somerville. Ford is an employee of Bloc 11, an aspiring musician, and grew up in Western, Mass. She attended college in Chicago, and eventually moved to Somerville. Like any artist she needed a steady job to keep the income flowing, and allow her to follow her avocation. Bloc 11 has proven to be haven for her. She makes a living (and a pretty mean bagel with tomatoes, onions, and butter on the side) and works with other young artists with gigs outside of their job. Megan Brideau, for instance, is a smiling and welcoming presence behind the counter as well as the curator of art exhibits at Bloc 11. Presently her own provocative work is on display, but she has exhibited many other local artists.

Ford said he recently navigated the dangerous shoals of city government to get an entertainment license. I asked this vivacious guitarist where one could hear her play: She said:
"I’ve been around town: The Toad, Burren in Davis Square, the Lizard Lounge, and, well of course-- Bloc 11."


***Bloc 11 Café is located at 11 Bow Street, Union Square in Somerville, MA 02143
Ph: 617 623 0000
W: http://www.bloc11.com
Open 7 days, 7am-9pm Open Mic Thursdays sign up at 5, music 6-9pm.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chad Parenteau: A Poet Who Is About Much More Than Publishing Himself.



Chad Parenteau: A Poet Who Is About Much More Than Publishing Himself.

Interview with Doug Holder

Chad Parenteau is among the “holy fools” in the poetry world who spends much more time promoting the work of other poets than he spends on promoting himself. Parenteau, 36, the host for Stone Soup Poetry, a populist poetry venue founded by the legendary poet Jack Powers in 1971 in Boston, has brought the venue up to a new level. He has brought in a new crowd while keeping the old, he has booked poets both emerging and established from around the country, and has started an online poetry magazine for Stone Soup titled: “Spoonful.” Parenteau holds an MFA from Emerson College in Boston, Mass., where he studied with such poets as Bill Knott and Gail Mazur. He is the winner of a Cambridge Poetry Award for his collection “Self-Portrait in Fire.” I spoke to Parenteau on my Somerville Community Access TV show “ Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: Chad, you got your MFA at Emerson College. You studied with Gail Mazur, the founder of the famed Blacksmith House Poetry Series. How was she as a teacher, and a poet?

Chad Parenteau: Very interesting. She had quite a history -- she studied with Robert Lowell. That was her first year as a teacher—when I had her for poetry class. I had her class once more where I learned about Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. It was definitely a nice brush with history, as well as a crash course in poetry.

DH: Do you like her poetry?

CP: I don’t have any of her books, but I admire what she has tried to do in her work. You get a lot of people that say she has an academic style, but Mazur has her own voice.

DH: You have brought Stone Soup Poets to a new level. You have started an affiliated magazine: “Spoonful,” started a blog that highlights upcoming readers, you have videos of the readings online, etc… What brought you to Stone Soup? What is your vision for the series and organization?

CP: I came to Stone Soup to help it—in a response to a call for help. I was a friend with Lynne Sticklor, who was an Ibbetson Street Press editor, and Bill Perrault, who has produced the videos that document the series. They were looking for someone to do bookings, perhaps co-hosting, but due to Jack Power’s state of health, I stepped up to the post of host and Webmaster. What I wanted to do was make Stone Soup more open to the public. I didn’t want it to become an exclusive book club. I wanted to say if you have read at the open mic then you are a Stone Soup Poet. I changed “Stone Soup Poets” to “Stone Soup Poetry,” because I want to emphasize that we have a weekly event. It has been a long haul to get new poets and new voices in there. And it’s only been after 4 years that I feel like I have been successful. I have tried to include voices not necessarily in the Cambridge area—people might want to contribute sometime.

DH: Do you plan to come out with a print magazine for Stone Soup?

CP: The issue with a print magazine is money. And for everyone that says they want a print magazine—no one seems to have the money to buy it. I would rather do the magazine full force or not at all. I wouldn’t want to do some photocopy at work. The online journal Spoonful does reach a whole variety of people. It is going to be biannual as of 2010. I tried to do it quarterly. I have Lynne Sticklor who is a great editor.

DH: You were a newspaper reporter early in your career. Has that given you any tools for being a poet?

CP: I think it has helped to elevate and nurture my storytelling skills. I have never been much of a fiction writer—but I always tried to tell many stories. I did that with minimum success as a graduate student. I had better luck when I became more experienced. It was Bill Knott who said even if I didn’t succeed as a poet I could be a successful non-fiction writer. That—I took as a compliment. That was what I was doing at the end of my graduate study—telling a tale. I tried to write coherent poetry—not all over the place. I had a beginning and an end—I made sure there was a reason for both.

DH: You work at the VA with diabetics. How does this fit in with your writing?

CP: It was an accident. I was a waiter for many years. I answered an ad—and it was a good thing I did because I have very laid back and caring supervisors. It is also good because I am finally out of the starving artist mode—knock on wood. It has given me access to a world that I haven’t seen before.

DH: Which poets do you admire and influenced you?

CP: Philip Levine, Tony Hoagland,. I liked Levine’s working class poetry. That speaks to me more than the academic voice.

DH: Do you think that poetry can bridge the isolation and alienation we are feeling in this digital age?

CP: I think it can. I think that’s why I still do the reading series, and why I still believe in print.




The Convenience Store Girl

Don’t even risk a quick glance
at her much-too-mature breasts.
She knows your choice of poisons—
the canned insults to your mother—
you take home with you for comfort
because you can’t afford beer,
correctly guesses the days between
your visits on the way home,
could tamper with your purchase
before you know you’ll you buy it,
inject drops of revenge quicker
than you could at the restaurant—
those customers whose allergies
rhymed with all the unknown names
of every tree in their back yard.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"A Walker in the City"









A WALKER IN THE CITY


Recently I made my yearly winter pilgrimage to the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. I was invited to read at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village, on the weekend of a major snowstorm. But like any toughened Somervillian it takes a lot of snow to dissuade me from my God-given path. Things for me were a lot different from when I last visited. “The Recession” had settled in like an old piece of furniture, I was laid off from my job of 27 years at McLean Hospital, and I had started to teach at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. I was decidedly on a new road, and as a friend of mine said: (the novelist Paul Stone) “You are on a spiritual journey.” Well I hope I can use the journey as a tax write off.

The Chelsea Hotel has always been a great comfort to me. I always get a small, inexpensive room, a bathroom down the hall affair. It is like the Spartan furnished room I lived in the Back Bay of Boston in the 70’s. There is a lot of character to this hotel, but few amenities in comparison to other hotels in the Big Apple. At the check in desk I noticed a great whimsical painted portrait of Leonard Cohen, the poet, singer and one time resident of this hotel. When I got off the elevator to go to my room I encountered a bearded man dressed like a monk, talking animatedly on his cell phone like he was cutting a real estate deal or something. My friend, who I was visiting with, ran into an Englishman whose paintings grace the lobby of the hotel. He said he is from London, and decided to check in if for a year—15 years ago! I think if I checked in 15 years ago I might have had the same fate.

I was reading in The New York Times about a new documentary film about Patti Smith “Patti Smith: Dream of Life.” Smith was a denizen of the Chelsea in the 60s and 70s. According to the Times Smith has a new book out as well:

“Ms. Smith will visit bookstores around the country in support of “Just Kids” an autobiographical account of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, her close friend and fellow inhabitant of the Chelsea Hotel in the late 1960s and 70s.” Smith, a poet, and a singer, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 for her achievements, most notably for her classic debut album “Horses.”

Getting back to the title: “A Walker in the City,” walking through the streets of Somerville, Mass, as well as New York is a great way to clear your head, and since I was walking in the aftermath of the storm—the winds gave me a cold slap in the face—a freezing sucker punch—as if to say “Wake up, pal!...and take it all in.”


After checking out of the Chelsea and checking into my brother’s place down the block, I walked down to Cornelia Street in the Village for the reading. I passed a hair salon where a young guy was gesturing and swearing in Italian at a hairdresser, who had her hands on her ample hips, and was staring him down with an “I dare you” kind of expression. I went into a gourmet shop on Bleeker St. and a girl with a moose hat, requisite horns, and six rings planted in her collagen- infused lips, tried to sell me an overpriced container of nuts for a ten-spot She must of thought I was nuts.

I had a drink at a bar on in the village near the cafe and listened to a gaggle of NYU student’s chatter, while observing the shapely contours of the barmaid in her tight jeans. I saw a long-in-the-tooth rock band being photographed in front of Chelsea Guitars; their ruined, handsome faces spoke loudly in the late afternoon winter light of countless gigs, the road, the booze, and all-you-can-eat buffets of drugs.

A few hardy souls made it to the reading. The reading was for Larissa Shmailo's new collection of poetry, In Paran. Unfortunately she was ill and so we carried on. I ran into a poet friend of mine and City University professor Linda Lerner. The prolific Bronx poet Angelo Verga hosted the event, and the writer Iris Schwartz, Bob Viscusi, and others read from their work. There were a number of academic types from Brooklyn College and Hofstra University. They were amazed that I came down from Boston, in spite of the storm. I said their storm was a mere spritz in Somerville, and besides I needed the walk.


---Doug Holder

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Age of Aberrancy & the Poètes moignons by Tod Slone



(Click to enlarge)




This is taken from Tod Slone's American Dissident site: you know you are doing something right when Slone attacks you....



As part of an ongoing experiment to test the waters of democracy, especially in the academic and literary arenas, notice of this blog entry was sent to each of the persons depicted in the above watercolor (see below). Will any of them dare comment? Likely not. Their shame is that they do not cherish, but rather scorn, vigorous debate, democracy’s cornerstone. Their shame, at least those in the teaching profession (Pinsky, Marchant, Houlihan, Wright, and Espada), is that they do not seek to expose their students to all points of view and all possibilities for inspiration with regards writing, including and especially dissidence and purposeful conflict with power. Their shame is their contentment that dissidents like me and others are kept out of their festivals, kept from public funding, and kept from the eye of youth. Their shame is that my freedom of expression and that of other American dissidents is being crushed at every corner. Some of them have even become millionaire professor poets. Indeed, how can one possibly expect raw, visceral truth from such persons?

The idea for the above watercolor brewed over several weeks time and was likely sparked by the probable clique connection existing between Joan Houlihan, Director of the Concord Poetry Center, Karen Wulf, Director of Pen New England, Joan Bertin, Director of the National Coalition against Censorship, and Fred Marchant, Director of the Suffolk University Poetry Center. Both Wulf and Houlihan operate from Lesley University (Cambridge, MA). Both Wulf and Bertin refuse to address the freedom of expression and censorship issues I’d brought to their attention. Why?

The only concrete explanation I could come up with was the clique. Marchant often reads paired with Houlihan. Then Charles Coe of the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Massachusetts Poetry Festival refuses to address my request to be invited to the latter. To that concoction, I added Doug Holder of Ibbetson Press, who interviewed Coe and didn’t seem upset at all that I was not invited to the Festival. Then, to fill out the picture, I added Robert Pinsky who received an award from Holder, Martin Espada of the University of Massachusetts for diversity’s sake, and Franz Wright of Brandeis University, who was invited by Houlihan to read.

Of course, many others could have been added to the picture. Duke University professor Gary Hull, Director of the Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace, for example, could have been added. He refused to respond to my emails requesting he place my signature, as editor of The American Dissident, on a petition he created to decry Yale University’s decision to censor cartoons. Has it perhaps gotten that bad that petitions are only open to certain categories of citizens?

In America, perhaps we are indeed now in the Age of Aberrancy, where censorship has become rampant and censors extolled as moderators of pre-approved bourgeois aesthetics. George Orwell would have gone nuts with so much material to write about!

In essence, the rancid odor of cliquishness characterizes the established-order academic/literary scene. Offend the clique and risk ostracizing. It’s quite that simple. What really concerns the clique is not literature per se and certainly not democracy, but rather the marketing of clique members and their books.

As noted in the watercolor, its idea was also inspired by Brueghel’s painting, “The Cripples” (or “The Beggars”) and Léo Ferré’s 1956 preface to "Poète...vos papiers !" (see www.theamericandissident.org/Essays-Ferre.htm) In the quote, Ferré mentions that poets cut off their own wings, leaving just enough “moignon” (stump) so they may flutter about in the Literary Poultry Yard. He also mentions that we may expect little, if any, hope from poets of that sort

Poets in Residence in “The Somerville Home”

Poets in Residence in “The Somerville Home”

By Doug Holder

Now—you would expect to find poets in the new Arts Amory in Somerville, or amidst the din of the Bagel Bards in Davis Square, or at a high-toned literary retreat like Yaddo…or its ilk. But you might be surprised to find a couple of practicing bards at “The Somerville Home,” on Highland Ave—a five minute walks from the poet residency of my apartment on School St. According to a pamphlet I was given by the energetic Activity Director Lori Verrecchia, The Somerville Home is “… a private, non-profit corporation providing residential services for over 100 years. We are a 59 bed Level 4 Residential Care Facility incorporated in 1898, licensed by the Mass. Department of Public Health. The Home provides protective supervision in addition to the minimum basic care and services required for residents who do not routinely require nursing or medically related services…”

The Somerville Home is immaculate and the residents are evidently well taken care of, and seem to be content, and yes, (a rarity I know), happy. On a stormy, wind-swept morning in December I met the two poets in a private room, along with the officious and official house cat “Princess”

Poet Helene King told me she has been a resident of the home for 12 years, and a poet all her life. She originally hails from South Boston, and used to run a haberdashery shop in Boston. Elena Lowry, her fellow bard, hails from Arlington, Mass, and has been a resident for 6 years. She worked for 25 years at the Boston Stock Exchange. Both poets said they were influenced by Longfellow, and Emily Dickinson, but weren’t crazy about Robert Frost.

King told me her poetry has a very strong religious bent as evidenced by this poem:

CHRISTMAS-JESUS-OUR SAVIOR-DAY

Jesus is born on this day.
He is the rock of all nations.
Given to us by the Father,
He is for us the savior
For salvation.
And may his flock
Continue to serve Him,
With prayer and praise we
Will be saved and bring
Others to kneel before Him, With love and fervor,
We adore Him, bare our souls.
Praise Jesus, help us live
For you.
And keep the Christ in Christmas.

King told me, with her signature modest manner, that her poetry has been published in The Pilot, an influential Catholic paper. King writes poetry to celebrate nature, express her feelings, and hopefully to move people.

Lowry, like yours truly, has a fondness for the harsher elements of New England like: wind, rain and even snow (as long as she doesn’t have to shovel it). She has kept journals for many years, and is well-practiced at her craft. Here is a very germane poem for the season, titled: “Snow”

Snow
Swirls of mystical crystal
Falling everywhere
Essence of wonder,
Joy.
The children’s laughter
As they play,
Throwing snowballs at you.

It’s a release of pure enjoyment,
Fills the air mingled
With the sound
Of falling snow.

Gentle kisses on your brow
Silence!
Trickling droplets as
The snow descends,
A world of white & glisten,
Sparkles fill us with wonder
Permeates every care.

These two poets talked about their life at the Home, which consists of a lot more than Bingo on weekend nights. They have a writing group run by an accomplished wordsmith Cam Terwilliger; they make frequent field trips, and are given numerous “freebies” by many Somerville businesses. They said Somerville is a great place to be old. “ Everyone is supportive, and the City really takes care of their seniors,” they chimed in.

I was told that The Somerville home is open to community groups who want to use their space for events. They welcome the opportunity for residents and community members to interact. Before we left, both poets invited me to their annual Christmas Gala on Dec. 21. My mouth watered as they described the succulent scallops wrapped in bacon, and other epicurean delights that are served. It is good to know there is a place like this that treat people with dignity and respect—something our older citizens richly deserve.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

SOMERVILLE WRITER MO LOTMAN DOCUMENTS DAVIS SQUARE’S COUSIN: CAMBRIDGE’S HARVARD SQUARE.




SOMERVILLE WRITER MO LOTMAN DOCUMENTS DAVIS SQUARE’S COUSIN: CAMBRIDGE’S HARVARD SQUARE.

BY DOUG HOLDER

The first thing I noticed when I opened up Mo Lotman’s impressive illustrated history of Harvard Square was a picture of the Tasty Sandwich Shop. It closed a number of years ago, and it was right next to an equally defunct restaurant the “Wursthaus.” I used to frequent the “Wursthaus” for their marvelous selection of beers, the beauty of their Bratwurst, and to dodge the barbs from the ancient waitresses. The Tasty on the other hand was only a counter, but it served an excellent cup of coffee in an old fashioned mug, and there was always the comforting sight of hotdogs simmering on a grill in a sea of grease. The counterman used to call me “smiley” because of my own frequently pensive mug. Anyway, although I have lived in my beloved burg of Somerville for the past 15 years, Harvard Square has been an equally important part of my experience since I arrived on the shores of the Charles River in the 1970’s to attend college.

“Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950” is divided in sections (by the decade) from the 1950s to the 2000s. It is richly illustrated, with a plethora of interesting essays, etc… It starts out with a piece by the late, renowned writer and Harvard graduate John Updike, in which he writes about the drugstore he used to frequent in the Square, and well, then, he goes from there:


"On Sunday mornings I would give myself the treat of sleeping through the bells from Memorial Chapel and then walking in the opposite direction to the drugstore...I would dip into my modest allowance to the extent of a cup of coffee and a cinnamon doughnut at the counter...The helpful maps in Mo Lotman's priceless assemblage of photographs told me that this haven from Latin and calculus was called Daley's Pharmacy."


The photographs in this book are breathtaking--as alluring, at least for me, as any photos of nature's splendor. From the 1950s section I saw a spread of the Square that included the ghosts of James P. Brin Sportswear, Hazen's Lunch, and Philip’s Bookstore--that will certainly tweak the memories of folks a lot older than me.


And like any square that is worth its salt, it is full of characters. And Lotman doesn't leave them out. There are portraits of Frank Cardullo, the owner of the famed eatery the” Wursthaus,” who held court every afternoon at a long table, sucking on his signature cigar, and holding court with a gaggle of cops, and various stumble bums on the scene. Just to give you a taste of this feast of an illustrated history there are descriptions and pictures of Sheldon Cohen, the former owner of the Out of Town News, the late storyteller and bard of the streets of Harvard Square: Brother Blue, Louisa Solano, the former owner of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, to name a few.


This is a hands down impressive book and well worth the five ten spots you will slap down for it. The book will open the floodgates of your memory, and if you are a writer it is certain to jump start you from the stasis of your latest writer's block.

To Order:

stewart tabori & chang
115 West. 18th St.
New York, New York
1011
www.stebooks.com

Monday, December 07, 2009

Ibbetson Poet Molly Lynn Watt ("Shadow People" Ibbetson Street) has been named the Poet Laureate of the Harvard Institute of Learning in Retirement






Ibbetson Poet Molly Lynn Watt ("Shadow People" Ibbetson Street) has been named the Poet Laureate of the Harvard Institute of Learning in Retirement. I go this from Molly yesterday.....




On Wednesday at 3:15 I have been invited to read some of my new Civil Rights Movement Poems at Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement. My reading will be accompanied by Joan Green, a dancer and choreographer, dancing with my reading. We have joined in a similar collaboration earlier this fall and it was well received.

The event, about an hour long total, includes a wine and cheese reception and I will be honored by being installed as Poet Laureate of The Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement. This event honors me where I found my voice as a poet and the Civil Rights Movement was where I found my voice as an activist.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

An interview with the poet Richard Moore.








Poet Richard Moore is in the obits in the Boston Globe today.(Dec 2, 2009.) Here is an interview I conducted with him some years ago. He was on my show "Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer" on Somerville Community Access TV.


An interview with the poet Richard Moore.

Richard Moore: A Poet with Rhyme and Wit.





Richard Moore has published over 10 volumes of poetry; one was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and another was a T.S. Eliot Prize finalist. He is also the author of a novel: “The Investigator.” Moore’s more recent poetry books include: “The Mouse Whole: An Epic,” “Pygmies and Pyramids,” and “The Naked Scarecrow.” Moore is listed in “Who’s Who in America,” and articles about his work are in the “Dictionary of Literary Biography.” His fiction, essays and more than 500 poems have been published in a variety of magazines including “The New Yorker,” “Atlantic,” “Harper’s,” etc… Moore has taught at Boston University, the N.E. Conservatory of Music, Brandeis, and others. Poet Richard Wilbur said of Moore’s work: “The best and most serious poetry is full of gaiety, and it is only dreary poets and their too-earnest readers who consider light verse demeaning.” I talked with Moore on my Somerville Community Access TV Show: “Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer.”



Doug Holder: Your poetry often rhymes, and is often funny. Why do you think both qualities are not in vogue today?



Richard Moore: I don’t know. There is a kind of class distinction. There are folks like Ezra Pound who really make it in the academy. For a friend of mine in college, Ezra Pound was a life-long hero. I met my friend after many years and said: “You know Terry I think that Ogden Nash was a more interesting poet than Pound.” He was deeply shocked by this. It was if I said something that everybody knew was wrong. I think the problem is that America is made up of different societies. There is this group and that group. This is an example of what has happened in the poetry world. If you follow Ezra Pound you can’t follow Ogden Nash.



DH: You have attended Robert Lowell’s famed seminars. Can you talk about your experience?



RM: Well Lowell was a fascinating teacher. I’m not all that great a fan of Lowell either. I can see why a lot of people would admire his work.



The Lowell I got to know was before the “confessional” Lowell. He strongly rhymed—there was a metaphysical school that preceded that. I think in the 50’s. Then there was a big shock when he changed styles. I think he was playing the game of: “How will my reputation climb?” “What is going to have an affect?”



DH: Do you think he sold out?



RM: I don’t use the last phrase. To some extent everybody sells out. Everybody will sell out if the price is right. You have to sell out to get along in America. You have to eat. Lowell was about doing something for his reputation in the literary establishment.



There was a side of Lowell that was a brilliant critic. He had a real understanding of poetry.



DH: What makes a poem stand the test of time?



RM: I think if it makes a comment about something deep and lasting about the way we live. I hear a lot of things today that don’t seem to me will last. We live in a time where lots of little things are happening—ephemeral things. It’s that deep quality—you have to be an understander of human nature. A writer of strange, deeply, shocking things.

DH: Does a good poet discover things about himself?



RM: I think poetry is discovery. As part of the poetic experience the reader can ideally sense if the poet is surprised by his poem. The question is whether the poet is saying something he didn’t intend to. It is from a deeper level. This is what makes a poem last.



DH: You are an advocate for “wildness” in poetry. Do you think contemporary poetry is too tame?



RM: I don’t think you can make a formula for it. Once you make a formula for something it isn’t wild anymore. You have to find the truth. You have to do something that you deeply have to do.



DH: You used to run the Agape Poetry Series in Boston. Can you tell me about the series?



RM: It’s no longer around. It was in the Community Church of Boston in Copley Square. There were regulars who came for every event. I had the idea to raise the standards a bit, and get really good readers. The series has been over for about ten years now.



DH: I think the best selling American poet is the late Charles Bukowski. Would you describe this hard-drinking, womanizing, poet as a “wild” poet unconstrained by civilization?



RM: I don’t really know him that well. I don’t find him interesting. I remember Robert Lowell’s comment about Ginsberg’s “Howl.” “The only good thing about it is the title.” There is emptiness in his poetry. I wonder why he is doing this. I think people like him for shallow reasons.



--Doug Holder












An interview with the poet Richard Moore.

Richard Moore: A Poet with Rhyme and Wit.





Richard Moore has published over 10 volumes of poetry; one was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and another was a T.S. Eliot Prize finalist. He is also the author of a novel: “The Investigator.” Moore’s more recent poetry books include: “The Mouse Whole: An Epic,” “Pygmies and Pyramids,” and “The Naked Scarecrow.” Moore is listed in “Who’s Who in America,” and articles about his work are in the “Dictionary of Literary Biography.” His fiction, essays and more than 500 poems have been published in a variety of magazines including “The New Yorker,” “Atlantic,” “Harper’s,” etc… Moore has taught at Boston University, the N.E. Conservatory of Music, Brandeis, and others. Poet Richard Wilbur said of Moore’s work: “The best and most serious poetry is full of gaiety, and it is only dreary poets and their too-earnest readers who consider light verse demeaning.” I talked with Moore on my Somerville Community Access TV Show: “Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer.”



Doug Holder: Your poetry often rhymes, and is often funny. Why do you think both qualities are not in vogue today?



Richard Moore: I don’t know. There is a kind of class distinction. There are folks like Ezra Pound who really make it in the academy. For a friend of mine in college, Ezra Pound was a life-long hero. I met my friend after many years and said: “You know Terry I think that Ogden Nash was a more interesting poet than Pound.” He was deeply shocked by this. It was if I said something that everybody knew was wrong. I think the problem is that America is made up of different societies. There is this group and that group. This is an example of what has happened in the poetry world. If you follow Ezra Pound you can’t follow Ogden Nash.



DH: You have attended Robert Lowell’s famed seminars. Can you talk about your experience?



RM: Well Lowell was a fascinating teacher. I’m not all that great a fan of Lowell either. I can see why a lot of people would admire his work.



The Lowell I got to know was before the “confessional” Lowell. He strongly rhymed—there was a metaphysical school that preceded that. I think in the 50’s. Then there was a big shock when he changed styles. I think he was playing the game of: “How will my reputation climb?” “What is going to have an affect?”



DH: Do you think he sold out?



RM: I don’t use the last phrase. To some extent everybody sells out. Everybody will sell out if the price is right. You have to sell out to get along in America. You have to eat. Lowell was about doing something for his reputation in the literary establishment.



There was a side of Lowell that was a brilliant critic. He had a real understanding of poetry.



DH: What makes a poem stand the test of time?



RM: I think if it makes a comment about something deep and lasting about the way we live. I hear a lot of things today that don’t seem to me will last. We live in a time where lots of little things are happening—ephemeral things. It’s that deep quality—you have to be an understander of human nature. A writer of strange, deeply, shocking things.

DH: Does a good poet discover things about himself?



RM: I think poetry is discovery. As part of the poetic experience the reader can ideally sense if the poet is surprised by his poem. The question is whether the poet is saying something he didn’t intend to. It is from a deeper level. This is what makes a poem last.



DH: You are an advocate for “wildness” in poetry. Do you think contemporary poetry is too tame?



RM: I don’t think you can make a formula for it. Once you make a formula for something it isn’t wild anymore. You have to find the truth. You have to do something that you deeply have to do.



DH: You used to run the Agape Poetry Series in Boston. Can you tell me about the series?



RM: It’s no longer around. It was in the Community Church of Boston in Copley Square. There were regulars who came for every event. I had the idea to raise the standards a bit, and get really good readers. The series has been over for about ten years now.



DH: I think the best selling American poet is the late Charles Bukowski. Would you describe this hard-drinking, womanizing, poet as a “wild” poet unconstrained by civilization?



RM: I don’t really know him that well. I don’t find him interesting. I remember Robert Lowell’s comment about Ginsberg’s “Howl.” “The only good thing about it is the title.” There is emptiness in his poetry. I wonder why he is doing this. I think people like him for shallow reasons.



--Doug Holder

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

AGNI 70 (autumn 2009) Keeps us Reading




AGNI 70 (autumn 2009) Keeps us Reading


article by Michael T. Steffen



A good deal of imaginative literature, writing that nourishes not only the thoughts but also the imagery and sensations in our minds, consists of cataloguing items, belongings and surroundings, evoking sensuous experience, prior to being analyzed or intellectualized.

Here are excerpts from two prose pieces in the Fall 2009 issue of AGNI:

…The Imperial…a suite of marble and cherry wood, with Porthault linens, Ayurvedic bath oils, and a tranquil view of an Asian courtyard with a serene and shallow ornamental pool at its center…

She had begun with a white silk blouse, a navy cashmere pullover, designer
jeans, brown leather boots, and a burnt umber silk scarf…
(The Nine-Gated City by Melissa Pritchard, pp. 109-153)


Along the Mississippi River, scattered in weedy stretches of factory silos and warehouses, stood small brick sheds marinated in oily exhaust… Straw tufted from scabrous shed vents, tin chimneys, cracks in grime-curtained panes… Shuttered snack shacks. Conoco stations run dry and vaguer ruins angling from soil or cement, gnarly roots tethered to and somehow sustaining the disco present…
(from Time and Temperature, Ben Miller, pp. 86-89)

Juxtaposed, the radically different subject matter of the two writers gives us one hint at why AGNI is one of the best literary journals in America. It refuses superficial definition, denies readers’ expectation for a class or genre of writing. In doing so, the journal whets our curiosity and interest. Instead of turning the pages in a half-slumber for smooth transitions, we keep wondering, What’s next?


The common thread in both pieces is of a principle. They are well-written with specific vocabulary that gives us detailed pictures. When read through, each piece in its own way digests its visual, tactile and qualified spaces with idea: Pritchard’s story stalking a well-off naïve traveler-journalist encountering the intellectually challenging (and dangerous) squalor of Delhi as she investigates the sex trade for an article she is writing; Miller’s essay agilely transcending the idea of an order of idea to his child-explorer’s abandoned landscape on the Mississippi with a term of great insight and acceptance: non-frastrucure.

Both Pritchard and Miller affirm a viable force to chaos over against our society’s technical and personal explorations of, encroachments on and attempts to use and interact with nature, and human nature, on enterprising if not selfish and neglectful terms. It is a probing, urgent theme—a paradox and writer’s risk to portray, this inevitable objective unruliness of the world and of our minds, and trace it in the rule of writing itself.

In his lucid and wonderful memoir Here Were the Two of Us Exactly This Moment, Douglas Bauer demonstrates a similar courage and humanity of observation:

As ungenerous human beings, we are disgusted and frightened by deformity. But when we are children we’re better than that. There’s infatuation in our fear and our disgust is something sensual. As children we want goblins and witches in our worlds… So if I didn’t have a grandson’s easy love for my grandfather [eyes whitened by cataracts, my insert], there was something far more compelling in my feelings for him; he deliciously repulsed me (p. 91).

The French critic Paul de Man often referred to the master romancer Marcel Proust as“the poet.” AGNI 70 offers generous prose with more than occasional brilliance, moments of such careful perception equaled by expression. Yet it is a poet of lines, those meticulously exposed units of written speech, who takes the prize when Eric Rawson finds three words—

The flannel skin

—to describe—to incarnate his daring subject in “The Peach Will Forgive Me” (p. 108). And Nicholas Samaras’ solemnity and acceptance also justify the definition of ample margins for his lines:

…the whitened wind tells me that, with every
person’s death, the world is impoverished
and the earth is enriched (“Prologue/Afterworld” p. 104),

while formal patterns of modest resonance are displayed in Chloe Honum’s villanelle, “Come Back” (p. 169):

The moon has flown, though in its place a husk
clings to the sky. The horses figure-eight
in single file. Through rain-sown drapes of dusk

I try to count them, climb up on the fence.
Their foreheads shine with pearly stars, ghost-lit.
I can’t see all of any horse at once—
they multiply, and shiver in the dusk.

In a sense AGNI enjoys a reputation of distinction in the world of American literary publications—the sense that the pulse and verve of the writing and editing convey enjoyment in the “activity” of this journal. But AGNI really earns that recognition with the consistency (230+ page after page) of quality of the writers and poets it acquaints and reacquaints us with biannually. You trust one who looks for counterpoint will find enough to argue with here as well. Still today as worth weighs again in many buyers’ reluctant consideration, AGNI is easily recommendable for the venture of a subscription.

AGNI, edited by Sven Birkerts
Published at Boston University
is available for $14 at most major bookstores
1 year—$20, 2 years—$38
see agni@bu.edu and www.agnimagazine.org

Life: The Beautiful Struggle by John J. Deleo








Life: The Beautiful Struggle
John J. Deleo
Dade City, Florida
jjdeleo2003@yahoo.com


REVIEW BY Renee Schwiesow


“Life: The Beautiful Struggle,” in its third edition opens with sixteen pages of what Deleo refers to as “Reflections.” These aphorisms are printed as original adages that are meant to inspire us to contemplation. Deleo includes such sayings as:

Rome was not conquered, it committed suicide

or

Being clever is not a virtue but it can buy you time

As a lead-in to the poetry, Deleo ends with a somewhat witty final thought:

Man cannot live by one-liners alone

And with this he segues into his poetry and prose. What follows are Deleo’s contemplations on life, love, and relationships set into short snippets, one strophe wanderings along his journey. And, indeed, he has a poem entitled “The Journey”

The night is darker now,
the sun more my enemy than my friend.
Where did that young boy go?
Our blood ran hotter then. . .
an empty canvas, all the colors yet to come.

His language is basic, the words hung by wooden pins from a bare rope clothesline, rather than strung on silk, making his thoughts accessible to the reader looking for something straight forward, albeit borderline cliché. He speaks often about colors, and in lines here and there we see glimmers of the spectrum begin to emerge. And though he may not paint us a rainbow of imagery, we hear him tell us that he has seen the rainbow and the shooting star.

A fan of the Massachusetts born, Emily Dickinson, Deleo shares his wish for her talent, for her vision in “Emily,”

Emily, dear,
the ease by which you penned your poems
leaves me breathless and adoring.
For try as I might, the energy to write
even one good line makes me appreciate
the treasure of thought and expression you were!
And gives this restless poet pause
in search of rhyme without flaw.

Deleo’s contributing editor, Gary Wroblewski, shares his work in the last few pages of the book. Wroblewski’s poems are longer than Deleo’s one-strophe snippets, and while not written in strict form, he does employ rhyme. He writes of war, friends, and life’s evolution. Wroblewski’s work carries with it his own brand of “truisms” and wisdom he’s gleaned over his lifetime.

Deleo and his editor, Wroblewski, have compiled for the reader “food for thought,” in an honest and to-the-point manner.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Review of DEATH OF TEATICKET HARDWARE by Alice Kociemba




Review of DEATH OF TEATICKET HARDWARE by Alice Kociemba of Falmouth, Massachusetts, 44 pages, no price listed, produced by New Wave Printing and Design, Inc., 2009 (http://jamaicapondpoets.com $10)

By Barbara Bialick, author of “Time Leaves” (Ibbetson Street Press)

Alice Kociemba, who is a poet and a psychotherapist, has created a bittersweet memoir collection that has intriguing symbolism and good nature imagery the reader can enjoy deciphering. The title alone lends itself to scrutiny when you take apart the words—death, tea, ticket, hard and ware, wear, and where. The wear and where of the death are discovered in the cover poem by that name, which sadly reports that the old-fashioned, small-town hardware store that opened in 1918, and was run by “the kindest man in town” had its “soul…stolen by Wal-Mart in 2005.”

The notion of the troubled soul fits in with her poems about nuns, a priest, and mea culpas from her childhood in Jamaica Plain, Boston, but also of nature, especially in the wetlands of Cape Cod where she now lives.

Especially gripping is her poem “Birthday” where she reveals: “My mother told me every year/I was an inconvenient child./Born two days before Christmas/and a month too soon.” But “she was the one moved away/to the City, where there were/Criminals. And Catholics./And worse, she became one.” The family “wrapped” her in “holier than thou.”

“Inconvenient” gives her guilt and also a mixed message, for the day she was born was also to her mother, “the best Christmas I ever had--/thanks to you. I was waited on/
and didn’t have to lift a finger.”

Finally, the notion of life and death are stripped of religion and become draped in nature in poems such as “Wetlands in October: Ecstasy.” “The swamp earns its keep in autumn./Flame-tipped leaves spread/like thighs under a lover’s touch,/across a still body…/until the killing frost strips/trees grey as embers/to remind us of our dying…”

It’s not clear where you can get a copy, but her friends at the West Falmouth Library where she founded “Calliope”, a monthly poetry reading series can probably help. She also facilitates the Barnstable Unitarian Poetry Group and is a member of the Jamaica Pond Poets.

In her bio, it reads “When asked: ‘How did you get interested in poetry?’ Alice credits Emily Dickinson with saving her sanity following a severe head injury when she couldn’t read or drive or work for six months. She wrote her first poem ‘seizure’ shortly thereafter.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Poems from the Village of the Five Senses: Pentakomo Cyprus, by Irene Koronas



(Poet/Artist Irene Koronas)

Poems from the Village of the Five Senses:
Pentakomo Cyprus, by Irene Koronas

article by Michael Todd Steffen


On the central south coast of Cyprus, two and a half kms inland from the bay of Ayios Yeryios Alamanou lies the small village of Pendakomo, or Pentakomo, with a church, a tavern, sleeping villas. It’s not likely to attract droves of tourists, though those who visit the village come for particular reasons, even for pilgrimages, such as the one recorded by Irene Koronas in her new book of poetry, Pentakomo Cyprus.


Our parents go on ahead of us, curving time, sending us on a quest for them to their (and our) roots in the land and people they came from. This is the deep mystery that leads Koronas to Pendakomo, to observe, to take in the people and their customs and rites, to hear


relatives say my father’s face shined
like easter, the day he was conceived…

everyone loved grandmother erini.
when children need a place to call home,
she lets them sleep on their dirt floors.
well water inside. father left
this land where all his fathers died
where all the village girls loved him.
(“land where my fathers died,” p. 37)

Yet this stay in Cyprus, this pilgrimage of nostalgia, bizarrely presents Koronas with the company of a loveable albeit strange man. The poet doesn’t deliberately confuse her father with the villager, john, though the reader might. Has the father become, in death, a likeness to who he could have been confused for, standing before her there? Traditions help us place those who go on before us in the solemnity of churches, religious orders and literature and art, in our prayers with the angels. Yet is the new strange villager, john, who keeps animals and drinks and eats too much, a phenomenal argument for the other terrestrial embodiment that so partook of incarnation after incarnation of fathers on this earth?


Despite his earthiness, john (as with e.e. cummings, all names in Koronas book as well as the first personal pronoun i, are left in the minor case) has a numinous quality with a wounded leg that prophesies omens, weather. Even when he is not present in his home with her, his extended being as it were, in the house’s animals chaperone her:


john is not home. his pregnant dog follows me
when i try to leave. i come back. leave. cat
follows me, so i come back again.
(“thursday,” p. 12)

This passivity of being led by affectionate suggestions is recorded as instrumental to the patience of the poet’s work, allowing time and surroundings their hand in her composition.

taped onto painted cement, oil pastel drawings.
white wash wood, rusty nail, blue plastic rope,
and small stones, assemblage hangs over couch.
the couch works as a guest bed…
(“sunday,” p. 13)

There is pain in that couch. The rusty nail and blue plastic rope are survived only by waiting, as the poem proceeds with an intimation that reads like Psalm 22:

there are no answers that will
comfort my rage at having to be alone.
(idem)

For the process here is not alone art per se but grieving, in that impossibility, for its subtle fruition.

It is in this more ariel, introspective manner that the traveler defines herself as different from her host. With a filial inspiration and the expectant eyes of a visitor, Koronas SEES this world in her own new light. She sees with unusual simplicity that the rustic life of the village is self-sustaining, without the elaborate technology of the world we so depend on for all things, from food processing to life support.

We’re in April, Easter time, time not only of resurrection of the spirit from the death of the body, but resurrection of the spryness and grace of the surrounding animal and plant life, all splendidly catalogued:

pheasant hurries from one olive tree
to another. women prepare cheeses to stuff into kneaded
dough, wood beside ovens in every court yard. we broil
barley/… this wait for christ to rise.
this stroll through foothills, moving aside for tractors,
wild wheat, morning sun, bugs, birds, chickens,
dull yellow touches blue sky, blue powdered snails
cling under orange palm trees, bright pink queen anne’s lace,
purple thistle, wild geraniums… (4/13 monday)


From the first page, Koronas’ language is at once powerful and subtle, to be read like inches in a mine field, or you won’t see what she’s saying and nothing explodes. It is all again opened and closed and reopened, beautifully with that dread under-song of an old landscape welcoming you home:

fuchsia daisies, orange trumpet flowers, new birds coo
with distant dog barks. black and brown long hair goats
climb rocky hillside, their master wears black rubber boots,

navy sweater, his thick stick in hand…
(“avivos’s mountain garden,” p. 3)

Against the soft wisdom of what the poet affirms in this first pristine passage, there are wafts of a cross-draught underscoring the point of view with a self-criticism lending objectivity to the landscape:

…rain taps corrugated aluminum roof, the garden shed.
tall blond grasses dust branches like sheer white curtains

comb our room. black hose spouts water around new trees.
only new trees drink what older roots no longer need.
avivos tells me his mother loved noise…
(idem)

Once this first poem has yielded something of Koronas’ delicate character and signature, to the reader’s attention, the book holds itself away from and then back close to you page after page, in a haunting poetic voice that bridges the there and then of the pages of the book and the here and now intimately in the reader’s ear.


Pentakomo Cyprus by Irene Koronas
is available for $15.00 from
Cervena Barva Press
P.O. Box 440357
W. Somerville, MA 02144-3222
www.cervenabarvapress.com or visit www.thelostbookshelf.com

Life Happens While We Are Making Other Plans. Terry Romanoff








Life Happens While We Are Making Other Plans. Terry Romanoff (www.publishamerica.com)


Somerville author Terry Romanoff was born in Maine but moved to the Paris of New England: Somerville, Mass as a mere babe. She has lived in Somerville her whole life and has worked as a social worker, outreach worker, resource counselor, and as a director of a senior center.

This is a collection of stories that concerns the wide variety of people she worked with in her role as a social worker over the decades. Like Studs Terkel, (The late, acclaimed Oral Historian), in his book “Working”, Romanoff celebrates the common man and woman, their struggles, their joys, and their search for dignity. The book is simply written, there are no purple flourishes or any evidence of training at an MFA mill. But the stories are moving and genuine, and at times even spiritually uplifting.

In her story “Grampy and Grammy,” Romanoff recalls the time an African-American family moved onto her block in Somerville when she was a young kid. This was quite an experience for her because her exposure to blacks was limited. As it turns out, the grandparents were actual slaves on a plantation. The young Romanoff wondered why the Grandfather always walked with his head down and his shoulders bent when he greeted her. His wife explained to the young writer.

“She sat me down and explained to me that she and Grampy had been slaves in the South many years ago…. Since the slaves weren’t allowed to speak or interact with the white people on the farm without the master’s permission, Grampy learned the best thing to do so as not to get into trouble was to walk with his head bent and just touch the tip of his hat brim and say: “How do.”

Also included in the collection is the story of Gus, a down-at-the-heels alcoholic, who late in the game turns his life around. When he is on his deathbed he asks Romanoff what in his life made it worthwhile. Romanoff provides just the right answer and gives the man a chance to sing a peaceful swan song.

This book has accounts of Holocaust survivors, people struggling with the wounds of racism, etc…. This is a moving first collection, and I hope we here more from Terry Romanoff.

Recommended

Thursday, November 19, 2009

STEVE ALMOND WRITES: “This Won’t Take But a Minute”




STEVE ALMOND WRITES: “This Won’t Take But a Minute”
Interview with Doug Holder


I got this email recently from the noted author Steve Almond (My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow ,etc…) about a new project and subsequent event he is involved in. The event will be at the Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square Dec, 2, 2009 at 7PM. Almond writes:

“The book I'm reading from -- "This Won't Take But a Minute, Honey," isn't out yet. In fact, it's going to be printed ON THE NIGHT OF THE READING. In fact, DURING THE READING ITSELF. On HBS's new "Expresso Book Machine." Which can print a book (from a PDF) in about four minutes. You'll even be able to choose the cover design and trim size you want. All books cost $10 flat. Seriously.

I'll also be discussing how I chose to publish the book in this way, and what it says about the changing nature of the publishing industry, as the means of production become more accessible. Here's the official link:”

http://www.harvard.com/events/press_release.php?id=2420

Of course I had to shoot Almond some questions for OFF THE SHELF:

Doug Holder: First off--could you tell me a little about your new book, its theme, etc... How does it differ from your past collections?

Steve Almond: The book is pretty, uh, unconventional. It's 30 short short stories (500 words or less) and 30 short essays on the psychology and practice of writing. And it's literally two books, with two covers, that are read from either side and meet in the middle. I've been writing short shorts for years, many of them old, failed poems, and I love the dense emotions of the form. But it's hard to get them taken seriously by publishers. The essays are really just versions of what I tell my students, about what it really feels like to try to write, what you're up against. I've taken all the mistakes I've made, basically, and gathered them up, in the hopes others won't take as long as I did to get better. I think of the book as a kind of lovechild of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet and Strunk and White.


DH: It is self-published. Why would a noted author like you need to go this route? Would you have never considered this say five years ago?


SA: I've been thinking about this for years, actually. The publishing industry is doing its best to sell books, but the economic model doesn't make much sense. And what I really wanted was to create a book that felt like an artifact, rather than a commodity. Now that digital printing has come to the masses, there wasn't any excuse -- other than sloth or cowardice -- not to give this a try. So I am. I realize that my having published books before will be helpful, but my motive isn't to "move units" but to get a cool little book into the hands of folks who might dig it. Period.



DH: How has the literati responded to this? You probably will be reviewed in top shelf publications because of the body of your work. Does a less established writer have a shot?


SA: The book really isn't "out" officially. I only sell it at readings, or for use in classrooms. I'm not interested in piling up big sales numbers, or making a big splash. In fact, I kind of like that the book is not "available everywhere." I'm really tired of feeling, as an author, like I should be selling selling, selling all the time. It's the wrong attitude to have about art.


As for a less established writer, obviously it would be tougher for them. And there's still a lot of stigma around "self-publishing." But I think that's changing as the industry is changing. It's become more of a DIY, grassroots enterprise, rather than top down, which I dig.



DH: Could you give me the advantages and pitfalls of the self-published route?


SA: I'm not the right person to answer. This is really my first small step. But I can see, generally speaking, that you get total freedom to make the book you want -- but you also have to do everything yourself. There's no built-in printer or editor or publicity person, etc. So you have to figure out how to put this thing into the world. That takes time. But it's also exciting as hell.


DH: Do you think this will prove profitable?

SA: No idea. I mean, I make a little money on the books I sell. But I wanted to keep them at $10 flat, so it's not much money. Then again, that's not what it's about for me. It's about getting the work to the folks who are ready to feel it. If it makes money, in other words, it won't be because I had some business plan.


DH: Is this book Print-On-Demand?


SA: As I said, for now it's just available at readings, or for use in classes. If people wanted copies, I suppose they could get in touch. And I may, at some point, make it available on-line or in certain bookshops. But that's down the road. I'm really at the beginning of the process.


DH: Five years from now--or perhaps sooner--do you think this alternative way of publishing will enter the mainstream?


SA: They already are! I mean, Dave Eggers and Kelly Link -- two of our finest and most popular writers -- started their own presses! So it's not really "when" DIY publishing will enter the mainstream, but how quickly. That depends on how the big publishing companies adapt. But the big point for me is to get more people reading. That's the ultimate mission -- to get people to engage with their imaginations before it's too late for the species.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Treating A Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions. Timothy Gager.





Treating A Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions. Timothy Gager. (Cervena Barva Press PO BOX 44035 W. Somerville, Mass. 02144) $15. http://www.cervenabarvapress.com

The noted author Steve Almond once stated that Timothy Gager was one of his favorite local writers. I can see why. Gager shares Almond’s sense of irony, razor sharp wit, he deftly explores the ying and yang of relationships and this capricious thing we call “Love.”

This book titled, “Treating a Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions” published by Somerville’s Cervena Barva Press, is a collection of flash fiction; very short pieces, where like poetry every word counts. Gager is an accomplished poet and this serves him well in this genre. In his piece “Why couples have pets,” a cat provides a mirror to a relationship that has lost its flame:

“Today she’s late for work. Late too, with other things. Damn cat can’t be found. It’s nine o’clock and she has decided to get rid of it. That decision upsets me, but mistakes happen—that time we made love under a blanket at Ocean City, plush towel in her mouth so the beach couldn’t hear.

Now she is late and she runs for the cat.”

And in his lead story “How to Care for a Sick Animal” Gager uses the conceit of a man treated like a dog (literally) by his girlfriend and a rather clueless veterinarian. Here, the girlfriend wishes the hapless man a fond farewell before he is put to sleep; their relationship relegated to its final resting place…or it was great fun, but hey, it was just one of those things, just one of those fabulous flings:

“After Dr. Jones left, Gracie approaches the table. “So how are you doing boy? I’m sorry that it has to end this way. There’s nothing I can do for you. Awwww…don’t look at me with those sad eyes. It’ll be ok. I just want you to know that I'm not going to go out and get a new dog anytime soon,ok? Oh, Todd you were my best friend and I loved you, but can’t you see I need to do this?” Helen entered the room with various snout sized Halothane masks and Gracie gave Todd a hug goodbye.”

Don't expect Gager to get sentimental on you--he is too much of a realist for that. But behind the dark Bukowski bombast there is still a glimmer-- that light of the hopeful romantic.

Highly Recommended.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shmailo, King, Holder,Viscusi, Bozicevic to read Cornelia St. Cafe (NYC) Dec 20th.




Launch party for Larissa Shmailo's new collection of poetry: "In Paran"


6:00PM BOOK PARTY & READING The Cornelia Street Café 29 Cornelia Street, NYC 10014 212-989-9319



Hosted by Iris N. Schwartz Music by Brant Lyon



Elaine Equi ;Elaine Equi is the author of several books including Surface Tension and Decoy both from Coffee House Press. A new collection, Voice-Over, is forthcoming in February 1999. She lives in New York City where she teaches at The New School and CCNY.

Doug Holder: Doug Holder was born in New York City in 1955. A small press activist, he founded the Ibbetson Street Press in the winter of 1998 in Somerville, Mass. He has published over 60 books of poetry of local and national poets and 25 issues of the literary journal Ibbetson Street. Holder is the arts/editor for The Somerville News, a co-founder of "The Somerville News Writers Festival (founded in 2003)," and is the curator of the "Newton Free Library Poetry Series" in Newton, Mass. His recorderd interviews with contemporary poets are archived at the Harvard and the University of Buffalo libraries, as well as Poet's House in NYC. In Dec. of 2007 he was a guest of the Voices Israel Literary organization and lead workshops and gave readings in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. Holder's own articles and poetry have appeared in several anthologies including: Inside the Outside: An Anthology of Avant-Garde American Poets (Presa Press) Greatest Hits: twelve years of Compost Magazine (Zephyr Press),FRESH GRASS: 32 INDEPENDENT POETS and America's Favorite Poems edited by Robert Pinsky. His work has also appeared in such magazines as: Rattle, Reconfigurations: A Journal for Poetics and Poetry, The Home Planet News, Hazmat, The Boston Globe Magazine, Caesura, Sahara, Raintown Review, Poesy, Small Press Review, Artword Quarterly, Manifold (U.K.), Long Island Quarterly, Microbe ( Belguim),The Café Review, the new renaissance, Quercus Review, Northeast Corridor, and many others. His two recent poetry collections are: "Of All The Meals I Had Before..." ( Cervena Barva Press- 2007 ) and "No One Dies at the Au Bon Pain" ( sunyoutside-2007). His collection "THE MAN IN THE BOOTH IN THE MIDTOWN TUNNEL" was released in the summer of 2008 by the Cervena Barva Press. It was a pick of the month in the Small Press Review (July/August 2008). In 2009 he released a collection of interviews: " From the Paris of New England: Interviews with Poets and Writers." It was selected for a New and Noteworthy Book on NEW PAGES. His poetry and prose has been translated into French and Spanish. He holds an M.A. in Literature from Harvard University.

Bob Viscusi ; Robert Viscusi, the author of "The Three Rules of IAWA," has published the novel Astoria (Guernica Editions, American Book Award 1996) and the performance poem An Oration upon the Most Recent Death of Christopher Columbus (VIA Folios). He has published numerous essays in books and journals on Italian American literature and culture, among them "Breaking the Silence: Strategic Imperatives for Italian American Culture," which appeared in the first number of VIA: Voices in Italian Americana and became a manifesto for IAWA. Viscusi has been a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities and of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute. He is Claire and Leonard Tow Professor of English and executive officer of the Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities at Brooklyn College, as well as president of the Italian American Writers Association.

Amy King ;Amy King is the author of I’m the Man Who Loves You and Antidotes for an Alibi, and forthcoming, Slaves to Do These Things (Blazevox) and I Want to Make You Safe (Litmus Press). She teaches English and Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College. For information on the reading series Amy co-curates in Brooklyn, NY, please visit The Stain of Poetry: A Reading Series (http://stainofpoetry.com) and http://amyking.org for more. Doug Holder ;


Ana Bozicevic Ana Božičević was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1977. She emigrated to NYC in 1997. Stars of the Night Commute is her first book of poems. Her fifth chapbook, Depth Hoar, will be published by Cinematheque Press in 2010. With Amy King, Ana co-curates The Stain of Poetry reading series in Brooklyn, and is co-editing an anthology, The Urban Poetic, forthcoming from Factory School. She works at the Center for the Humanities of The Graduate Center, CUNY. For more, visit nightcommute.org.

Launch party for Larissa Shmailo's new collection of poetry, In Paran.
Cover $7 (includes one house drink)

IS POET KIM TRIEDMAN LOOKING FOR TROUBLE?




IS POET KIM TRIEDMAN LOOKING FOR TROUBLE?

BY DOUG HOLDER

Kim Triedman doesn't look like a poet who is looking for trouble. Triedman, a member of Somerville's Bagel Bards, doesn't seek trouble but does see trouble underneath the seemingly placid surface of things. Triedman has recently come to poetry after working in fiction for several years. In a short time she has racked up a number of impressive credits. She has been named the winner of the 2008 Main St. Rag Chapbook Competition, she was a finalist for the 2007 Philbrick Poetry Award, finalist for the 2008 Black River Chapbook Competition, and most recently, semifinalist for the 2008 Parthenon Prize for Fiction. Her poetry has appeared in Byline Magazine, The Aurorean, Poetry Salzburg Review, FRIGG Magazine and others. Her poems have been selected by John Ashbery for the Ashbery Resource Center's online catalogue and has also been included in the John Cage Trust archive at Bard College. She is a graduate of Brown University. I talked with Triedman on my Somerville Community Access TV show " Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."

Doug Holder: You have accomplished a lot with your poetry and fiction in a short time.

Kim Triedman: Yes in a very short time. Poetry is relatively new. I started writing fiction 10 years ago. I had been working as a medical writer for a number of years. I hadn't done anything in creative writing before that. These stories started to fall together and I started losing more and more sleep. I wound up leaving my day job and doing this novel fulltime. It took me four or five years to get me through the first draft.

Doug Holder: You have a recent poem selected for the John Ashbery Resource Center's online catalogue. Your poems don't impress me as being as abstract as Ashbery's. Tell me why you think it was selected?

Kim Triedman: What can I say. It is not so much like Ashbery but inspired by his process. He talks a lot about a thing called "chance operation" It is heavily influenced by the randomness of events. It is a method that allows yoy to let it work your way into your poetry. For instance: I am a very visual person and I never know going into a poem what I am going to write. I wait until I see something that sparks a first line. Once I have my first line I am off and running.

Doug Holder: Your book "bathe in it or sleep" was published by the Main St. Press--a well-regarded small press. How has your experience been with the small presses?

Kim Triedman: My experience has been very limited. I submitted a chapbook manuscript to a competition. By virtue of winning I had a book published. M. Scott Douglass put it out. he wears many hats--but it came out nicely. I was very happy with it.

Doug Holder: This was your first submission to a contest and you won. You did not have to go through the travails of a long-suffering poet waiting to get his book published.

Kim Triedman: For whatever reason my poetry seems to be well-recieved by many people.

Doug Holder: Have you been a member of a workshop?

Kim: When I finished my novel I started dabbling in poetry. I came across a brochure for the Lesley University Seminar Courses. I took three classes with one instructor and there was a core of five or six women. After the class we continued to meet. We are still going strong. So much of your own editing depends on hearing yourself.

Doug Holder: In your poem "Think of it this way":


Think of it this way:

Between the past and the future
stands a house. It’s tidy
and white, nearly ready

to explode. The terror, you see, the
weight of such a thing:
neither here nor there, like words

withheld, or the hand
that meant to stroke.
Even in a strong wind leaves

can double-back, and
seagulls hang, frozen in sky.
We sit,

burning in silence:
eyes forward -
remembering nothing.

I get a sense of terror behind the banal--the well-ordered surface of things of a suburban house. Are you a poet that is looking for trouble?

Kim Triedman: I wouldn't put it that way. I am not looking for it, but I do see it. I think there is a bittersweet quality to what I write. I try to see the dark underside of things. This time of year ( Autumn) brings it out in spades. I'm very affected by the silence, and the sadness underneath the visceral light.


Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/ Nov. 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lois Ames: Confidante to Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.”




Lois Ames: Confidante to Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.”

Interview by Doug Holder (2005)




Recently I was privileged to hear Lois Ames speak at the “Wilderness House Literary Retreat,” in Littleton, Mass. Lois Ames is a poet, biographer and psychotherapist. She was a confidante of the poet Anne Sexton, and has published many essays on both Sexton and Sylvia Plath including: “A Biographical Note,” in Plath’s “Bell Jar,” She also was the editor of “Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters.’ I talked with her on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”


Doug Holder: Is it a natural fit for “confessional” poets like Sexton and
Plath to have a trained social worker , and a literary historian, as a
confidante?




Lois Ames: I don’t think it is usual. I don’t think that’s why I was their
friend or confidante. I knew Sylvia from high school and Smith College. Anne I once met in high school, but I didn’t know her till much later. I was then a trained social worker, but I don’t think that’s why we became friends.


Anne certainly asked me to go to McLean Hospital when she first started
teaching poetry there. She wanted someone trained to help her when she reviewed the patient poems. She didn’t want to hurt these fragile patients’ feelings. She wanted me to monitor what she said. She turned out to be superb.




Doug Holder: You wrote the biographical note for the “Bell Jar.” Did you
ever want to do a complete biography of Plath and Sexton?




Lois Ames: I did. The book “Anne Sexton: Self-Portrait in Letters.” was my idea. It was done partly to get an understanding about what material was there. She had appointed me her official biographer. But it was also to help her children to understand aspects of their mother’s life they weren’t aware of. I thought if I was there for them we could go through the letters, and this would be very helpful.


I was the first one to be asked to do the biography of Sylvia Plath. I had
a contract with the family. Harper and Row was my publisher. It became
increasingly difficult for me to do this, as other biographers have found
out. And I finally decided for the sake of my own sanity and my family; that
it was better to pay back the advance to Harper’s. I always felt it was a
wise decision.


Doug Holder: Did Plath have any interest in teaching poetry at McLean
Hospital, like Sexton?


Lois Ames: Oh, no, I don’t think so. Sylvia was a junior in college when she was at McLean. In those days she wasn’t trained to do anything like that.


She went to England after she graduated Smith. There was no reason for her to even think of doing that. That was not Sylvia’s interest. Anne loved teaching. Sylvia found teaching very difficult. She taught one year at Smith College and felt that it drained her. I assume going to England with Ted Hughes and leaving Smith, was a wonderful opportunity for her.


Doug Holder: Anne was not formally educated beyond high school. If say, she was educated in the Liberal Arts at Harvard, would she be a different poet?


Lois Ames: She was very interested in form when she first started and she studied it very diligently. When she was in Robert Lowell’s workshop she studied it as well. She read a great deal. She tried to make up for the great gaps in her education. Her teachers in public school gave up on her very early. They told her parents that she was hopeless. She was sent to the “Garland School,” a finishing school for girls at the time. She said she learned to make perfect white sauce there, but that was it. But she was writing poetry when she was there and it was published in a magazine the school put out.


Doug Holder: Have you had any clients since Sexton and Plath who have
reached literary heights?




Lois Ames: I knew a lot of the people in the workshop Anne ran. I am sworn to confidentiality however. But a lot of people, who came out of the
workshop, have been or are published poets. They do very well in the poetry world.


Doug Holder: Is your own poetry influence by either poet?


Lois Ames: Anne certainly taught me a lot about reading. She taught me to get as many critiques as possible. Have I ever tried to follow the style of either of them? No. And no one has ever accused me of that.


Doug Holder: Do you think if Plath didn’t have this dramatic background of suicide, Smith, and marriage to Ted Hughes, etc...and was a working-stiff from Waltham, would she be as celebrated as she is today?


Lois Ames: I am wondering where Plath will stand in a hundred years. Ted Hughes was very good at marketing Plath. He kept her reputation growing by the astute publication of her work. I think the fact that she and Ted Hughes had a passionate romance, were from a tumultuous family, and the fact that Sylvia killed herself, all lead to the mystique. It contributes to her present fame. Some of Plath’s poems were superb and she knew a lot about poetic form.


Doug Holder: Where will Sexton’s work stand in a hundred years?


Lois Ames: I think it will fare well. I think Sexton was more daring than
Plath. The problem is that people don’t read Sexton today. I don’t think she is promoted. She hasn’t been marketed the way Plath is today.


Doug Holder: The poet Ted Hughes, Plath’s husband, has been much maligned.Both Plath and his other wife committed suicide. It has been said he drove Plath to suicide through his infidelity, etc... What’s your take?

Lois Ames: Ted had a lover during their marriage that he later had a child with. This was the source of Sylvia’s rage. Later she killed herself the same way Sylvia did. I felt extreme sympathy for Ted. There is nothing more rage full to do to other people than to kill yourself. I don’t think other people are responsible for other people’s suicides. With the medications we have now maybe Sylvia and Ann could have been saved.


Doug Holder: Did the limitations on women coming of age in the 50’s play a role in these untimely deaths?


Lois Ames: Each of us was a warrior trying to find herself. Every
achievement was huge. To get out from under the dish washing, the daycare, and to create anything took enormous courage, and strength. I am sure it took its toll.


Doug Holder: Did Sexton and Plath’s mental illness contribute positively to their poetry?


Lois Ames: Each wrote in spite of their illness. It took enormous courage to do this.