Saturday, January 10, 2009




Wilderness House Literary Review Volume 1Wilderness House Literary Review Volume 1 (book)
Print: $24.95

The Wilderness House Literary Review was form out of the desires of a group of writers and poets to create an online journal for their works. As promised this is a print summary of the best of volume 1.

Bagels with the Bards No. 3Bagels with the Bards No. 3 (book)
Print: $15.95

Bagel Bard – noun. 1. A poet that is glazed and ring-shaped whose poetry has a tough, chewy texture usually made of leavened words and images dropped briefly into nearly boiling conversations on Saturday mornings— often baked to a golden brown. 2. –verb. To come together in writership over breakfast. To laugh so hard at an irreverent statement that the sesame seeds of the bagel you’ve just eaten explode from your mouth like grenade shrapnel. Welcome to the third Bagelbard Anthology. As some of you know (or can guess from the above definition) the Bagel Bards meet every Saturday morning at a designated spot. We breakfast in the original sense of eating, but also, because most of us are so busy working on our writing careers that we often find ourselves starved for great conversation. Well, the Bagel Bards breakfast hang is not only a place in which to do the aforementioned, but also to observe characters who themselves could be the subjects of poems and fiction.

Bagels with the Bards - No. 2Bagels with the Bards - No. 2 (book)
Print: $16.95

It all came to fruition the day we made our first bagel, after a few energetic drafts of the thing. It got up from the table, shook its rolling shoulders, yawned from the hollow core mouth of itself, and began to dance. At that precise moment, the miracle came as sure as the Matrix Oracle would have predicted from over her pan of cookies. Sunlight hit the bagel, and it became lines on the floor, long lines that would have been perfect for any chorus line, but instead filled themselves with words, words that made promises to all of us. These words spoke the premise. The poet is a baker although he may never have the dough. We looked at each other and knew this was our creation myth, this dance of language on some piece of paper, or in our hearts, or in the burrowed brow of the manager trying to wrap his head around the idea that poets gather in the corner of his place on Saturdays and spend a few hours living, living, living. O bard, a bagel has become a poem.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Human Derivatives in Doug Holder’s: The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel

Human Derivatives in Doug Holder’s: The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel (Cervena Barva Press)

article by Michael Todd Steffen

The man in the booth in the Midtown Tunnel, not the title of a poem but its subject, gives us, the passengers on the subway, a fleeting camera click of glimpse of a man defined in his function. He is confined to an extreme example of a human reduced from nearly all that makes him human, precisely because of how the world today is structured, encountered and processed. He is like a zoo animal. He paces the perimeter Of his cage, poet Doug Holder writes in lines reminiscent of Rainier Marie Rilke The Panther.

Holder typically takes these sorts of verbal photographs of people unusually overridden by probably what is not a definitive moment for the people as they really are, but by awkward vivid moments that would package them palatably for our quick-take-for-thrills media consciousness. People confined to monotonous jobs of function in a tunnel booth or at a post office machine, confined ridiculously for two years in a toilet, gotten up in colonial attire, apprehended at a maddened moment painting the statue of John Harvard red while tourists snap pictures.

The poet is snapping these photos partaking in the mania of his contemporary culture, and in doing so he is exercising a mimesis of the dynamics of 21st century perception, how data about ourselves is created and presented to others. As though our experience today consisted of a rapid succession of sudden images, spaced messages left, brief chats, sandwiches in wrappers on the go, news headlines, shifting windows, all with a hawks eye out for the next quirk or embarrassment to give cause to the perpetual laugh-track that must punctuate each moments joke, each segment of the day.

These are as serious implications as one would want to draw from a poet whose (can it be?) earnest intention is to humor us. Yet that Holder's perceptions are so keenly attuned to how the world works today gives an underlying substance to his seeming legerdemain, short poems of truncated lines, almost epigrammatic,laconic, tongue-in-cheek, yet at the same time oddly in the sympathetic spirit that Auden remembered in William Butler Yeats:

In a rapture of distress

Sing of human unsuccess.

And Doug Holder's disappointments succeed because, in partaking of the swift momentum of today's mediatized mindset, he stubbornly entertains his subjects as human in their dilemmas of being exposed. If the man in the booth of the Midtown Tunnel appears caged to us, how must we appear to him?

Faceless and a blur,

Behind thick plates

Of light-bleached glass.

Poignantly from so little, Holder produces a rather profound insight, articulated with lyrical simplicity:

And we will

All remain

Ignorant of

Each other.

A danger the poet risks in tailoring verse to popular contemporary expectations is that his or her work may be read with no more attention, say, than that ordinarily given to a cartoon strip or a note to the editor. Holders deft word-smithing, however, can halt us in the slaloms down the slopes, to want to mull over such coinings and scrivennings as blue uniform (Man in the Booth), It is only a hassle, (The Woman who Sat ), sea of manila (Postal Worker), the oxymoronic age's inertia (Two Old Women) and the metaphysical conceits of Bites of memory (The Last Hotdog) and of the final strophe in Postal Worker,

You feel

Ready to

Be returned to

Your sender

a dazzling compression of the momentary and mechanical with the ontological and transcendent.

In the recent year we have seen Doug Holder, a prolific and generous advocate of emerging poets in the Boston area, up in arms defending the worthiness of small press publications. Tirelessly he has organized readings and conducted interviews with local and national writers, giving them light of day on the Ibbetson Street website pages, in the Lyrical Somerville, and on the local Public Television program Author to Author. He has greatly helped give purpose to area intellectuals who meditate and labor to find expression in poetry and share as a community on Saturday mornings with the Bagels & Bards at the Davis Square Au Bon Pain. Cambridge/Somerville is a better place because of Doug Holder, and the small press made vital and serious because of the many publications he has been involved with, not least this latest collection of his own poetry that yields and yields enjoyment and meaning on reading after reading.

The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel by Doug Holder is available for $13.00 through Cervana Barva Press/P.O. Box 440357/W. Somerville, MA 02144-3222.

Check out also Bookstore: * HYPERLINK "" **.

Signs, Translations by John Hildebidle

Signs, Translations
John Hildebidle
Salmon Poetry
ISBN 978-1-903392-83-6
2008 $12.00

through out this collection of poems the poet John Hildebidle directs our senses, our translations of what family or how we are creatively influenced by our most intimate situations:

“as a child, like you I moved
never so vastly, of course,
but again and again and
until it became something
deeper than habit…”

each page is an adventure, a discovery of each object, each sign, each person or food encountered on any given day:

Specialty of the House

“it looked like nothing I’d ever eaten.
surely that word on the menu meant pork.
the waiter tried so hard to explain.
my wife smirked, visibly:
“how is it? (no innocent question.)”
“what is it, I’d like to know.”
“he told you. pig’s feet. didn’t you understand?”
we sipped some wine.
“you mean you knew what I was doing
and let me go right ahead?”
“you’re a big boy.” “and often a bigger dolt,
as you know well. I rely on you to rescue me.”
“a full-time job, and more besides.”
“all that was called for in this case was a subtle hint.”
“was it that bad?” “I won’t say, one way or another.
that’s your punishment.” “you ate it all, and it was
‘the specialty of the house.’ consider it an adventure.”

the next to the last section in the book compliments the readers expectations with ‘poems on the life of Henry David Thoreau.’

“dead summer, and the air sags from use.
his tramps persist. heavy with dust,
as if the earth rose to claim
anything fool enough to roam…”

before the reader completes the reading of these poems, you will be tempted to revisit the beginning, turning back the pages many times. Signs, Translations, will sit next to my morning coffee. I will sip both with the expectations of a pick me up

Irene Koronas
Poetry editor
Wilderness House Literary Review
Poetry editor
Ibbetson Street Press

The Light at the End by Lyn Lifshin

Light at the End
The Jesus Poems
Lyn Lifshin
Clevis Hook Press 2008
ISBN 978-9821718-0-6

Review by Irene Koronas

wow. this book of poems took me by surprise. I read through a few times before I let go of my own attitude of what was being written, once I let go did I found a sardonic collection of situations, a continual jab at the preverbal relationships women and men sometimes have. Lifshin cuts open all the wounds and images of how the sexes may act on occasion. there are, the younger than mary episodes, jesus running buck shot over innocence and innocence growing bitter. jesus represents some men:

“…some how there’d always been some
woman who found him divine
I did, for longer than many
marriages last. when opened
to him, the most ordinary
days seemed magical. blood
on our shin…”

there is enough irreverence between these sheets, pages, to feed all the readers who enjoy punk rock or hippie flowers. if the poems were set to music people might throw themselves into or onto the audience with reassurance of being caught, carried up and out:

“…me bareback, our lips and kisses reins
‘I’ve touched your perfect body,’ he sang better
than Leonard Cohen himself and in his passion,
yelped yippy I o and I squealed oh Jesus
and Christ and Lord until I was hoarse.”

it takes a few readings for me to place jesus as a Spanish lover or all the lovers or all the men the author can conjure but when I place the poems in perspective I start to laugh.

the poems are clever, interesting, and not charming. Lifshin ‘pulls off’ another book of difference. the reader will ride a stormy night or a bright blinding morning after…:

“I don’t care if it rains or freezes
as long as I’ve got my plastic Jesus”

he has risen to
walk-where the
hell has he been,
what’s happened,
our nation has turned
its back on Jesus
lost its way
sideshow suckers,
heathens killing
babies, presidents
with their pants
around their ankles
I’m on the road
that leads to Jesus
send 50 dollars to
my 800 number and
get yourself a
good road map

poet preacher Lifshin, like a sharp shooter who can hit a nickel dead center from 10 miles away, nails it

Irene Koronas/ Ibbetson Update/ Jan 2009

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Fearful Symmetries of Lo Galluccio’s Sarasota VII

The Fearful Symmetries of Lo Galluccio’s Sarasota VII

article by Michael T. Steffen

From the sepulchral artifacts of ancient Egypt to the horror films we watch in our cinemas, civilizations have attested again and again to the powerful creative articulation people find in the loss of loved ones. Far from any form of closure, grief resonates irresolutely within us, demanding response after response, a virtual wellspring of language, the poet’s torment and treasure. Formally approached, art provides a medium of exploration to channel and cultivate the enormous curiosity that loss bequeaths to us. Yet drawing expressions from these sources of our inspirations hardly depletes the well. So much happens simultaneously in our relationships: you as you are, you as I perceive or desire you, I as am and as am perceived/project myself. Factor in time and the complexity deepens: you as you are, you as you were and would want me to be this new year… Many writers feel some accomplishment in extracting an element or so from the complexity in a given piece of writing. More boldly, however, attempts now and then are made exposing the artist in a defiant embracing of as much elemental psychic transference as she or he can, resulting in some of the works we read in classes at the highest levels, The Odyssey, Hamlet, The Waste Land. I don’t mean to mince values by comparing Lo Galluccio’s Sarasota VII with the great masterpieces of world literature. (Irene Koronas in Sarasota VII sees traces of Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, to name a few.) Yet reading Sarasota VII gave me the impression of a poet drawing into that kind of perilous arena, a tamer in a cage surrounded by dangerous “symmetries.” While wary of falsely glorifying Sarasota VII, I think it important to acknowledge the work’s barest formal venture, the confrontational expectations proposed and that Galluccio was able to contain this material and shape it into one work. It attests to a great character of faith and resilience in it author.

The perceiving of multiple identities (I-thou, am, are, is, was…to become…) haunts Sarasota VII and also seeds the work with brilliant insights.

…those of us who lose a reflection of ourselves

in childhood have two lives. We know ourselves

against life and against death. As a tree knows

itself against a space of sky and against a density

of earth (I,3).

We know hot from cold, both of shared elements, water or air. So life from death, yet again of shared elements, memory and language, which make us human, the creature for whom so much of the present is composed of the past, memory, language.

And the life of the body is known from that of the mind.

The smell of barbecue rising through the open

window, caress of wind, a desire to lie on the

floor and feed kisses with kisses on some mouth,

even a woman’s, even her own. The sensation

makes her dizzy and enormous. Enormously earth-

bound and stupid. Smarter than words. The body

defies all ideas and projections of ideas. The body

wants only to move, to rest and to touch. It offers

ecstasy and expression. The mind dangles spiders,

spins cobwebs, and explanations that mummify

the rest. Split? (I,8).

This is wonderful poetry, naming—this from that, Adam in the garden, Joyce in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It is the beginning of a galaxy, analysis, the splitting or separation of matter, this from that, the poetry of the discovery (rediscovery) of each thing, consummately of the beloved, the so significant other, at whose meeting we begin to synthesize, to know and identify with and in part become one with.

We kissed. Again and again. For nine months.

I sent you home. I loved you. I loved the taste

of you. Knew the danger of you and you walked

home in my jacket. “I already expect to die,” you

said. Just like a survivor. I knew that better than

almost anyone else, you knew the art of survival

and how to feed yourself (I,15).

Anxiously in section 12 of Part I Galluccio asks, “Can one form a work of art without attention to form, without a basis in it?” In fact, Sarasota VII enacts a universally recognizable formation in its taking apart and synthesizing things, people, psyches, worlds. The form of human life synthesizes the fetus out of a series of meiosis or splitting of cells. That is nature’s task, initiating a life out of the initiation of two deaths, those of the lovers or sexual partners. The anxiety of that natural death ignites the intellect of the artist in defiance, whose spidery mind at some point refuses and steps back away from the completion of the natural sexual death.

you’d feed off me. Now you say, “You were lonely.”

Now you say, “You shouldn’t have let me steal your

power.” I say: “We were twins.” I say: “You shouldn’t

have needed to steal the power you admired and hated”


So the lost lover, the subject of Part I, failed to become the provider. Instead, “You offered heat. You breathe lies and drama… You became my theatre… (ibid).

Classically, in the Latin poet Horace’s terms, dramatic form was linear and consisted of a beginning, a middle and an end. It established the characters in the setting of a significant moment, troubled those characters with that moment, then (comedy) resolved that trouble or (tragedy) further unraveled the characters in the exaltation of their dilemmas. It’s not the lack of formative polarities that is missing in Sarasota VII. It is their linear playing out, a more obvious and logical sequence, which we are denied, perhaps which we today expect to be denied.

Galluccio owns this work, though, as a memoir, yet the notion of drama is frequently conjured so that a nifty sleight of the theatrical echoes over into the reader’s perceptions. I particularly liked the section that identified actors and criminals:

Both refuse a set place. A legitimate space. They ribbon

graffiti on the walls of worlds solid hands and straight

minds have constructed. They wear masks. What

distinguishes the outlaw, the actor? His long-term

cowardice or his continuously summoned, quickly

spurted courage? (I, 10).

Part II shifts its focus from lost lover to lost father, and also visits Galluccio’s experience with drama. Rather than being disappointed sexually, the child orphaned by the parent’s death deals with a larger, more cosmic sensation of abandonment, and the poet sings the plangent refrain, “Because I’m fatherless…”

Because I’m fatherless the director wants me to come

by his bungalow for a drink so he can confide in me

all the frustrations of his theatrical kingdom. Like

Viola in “Twelfth Night” I’m to become sympathetic

and marooned by this Duke’s forlorn appetite. I decline…

(II. I.)

Though it is refused the presentation of linear form, there is a story, a drama to Sarasota VII. Out of a similar refusal Vladimir Nabokov wrote his memoir-style novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. Formally the memoir is appropriate to the spirit of post-modernism in that its narration is topical rather than temporal, its narration simultaneous rather than linear, all things happening at once in the out-of-time moment of remembering and writing.

If Sarasota VII elicits comparison with great works, it is I think because Galluccio has dared to flutter around some very long-burning flames, love and death, the rules of the mind vs. the joys and pains of the body, the comforts of being accepted vs. the stings of rejection, deeply the daughter and the father.

It would be wrong simply to flatter and inflate the author unjustly. Sarasota VII is not a bad attempt at artistic surrender in amplitude. Whether it is enough for a young literary talent to rest upon, that is the author’s decision. It is a generous gift to us readers certainly.

About The Book of Nightmares Galway Kinnell was told that it was a great poem despite its many flaws.

Impressive in scope, continuity and sustained melody, Sarasota VII bears everything necessary, high and low, to be read with enthusiasm and consideration.

Sarasota VII is available for $12.00 from Cervana Barva Press/ P.O. Box 440357/

W. Somerville, MA 02144-3222/

See also, Bookstore:

Michael Todd Steffen Jan. 2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

"The Holy Fool" ( For Mike Amado 1974-2009)

THE HOLY FOOL (for Mike Amado, 1974 - 2009)

Tapping congas in a red shirt,
he brought music to all of us
from ordinary life
where magic does not rule.

Non-listeners did not challenge him
when he uttered his poems
directly from an open heart.
He was wiser than his years.

A transplant failed
and years in dialysis taught him
how to blur out time
when needed,
how to fly like an eagle
above his body.

He brought me back to youth
when animals and gypsies caught fire
and those who witnessed
became Holy Fools.

He was one, too,
turning ruin to beauty,
his mortal pain soaring
on careful wings.

--Carolyn Gregory, 1/3/09

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I Will Always Remember It Well: The Chelsea Hotel

I Will Always Remember It Well: The Chelsea Hotel

I have always heard and read about the Chelsea Hotel, in the Chelsea Section of New York City. Recently I visited, and resided for a short stay in this literary landmark. Of course I remember Leonard Cohen’s lament of a song “I Remember You Well At The Chelsea Hotel,” and Dylan Thomas’ daughter talked to me about her father’s last days at the Chelsea, (during the time he drank himself to death), in an interview I conducted with her. The composer Virgil Thompson was a long-term resident; Sid Vicious and Nancy were holed up in a room there, as well as the novelist Thomas Wolfe of “You Can’t Go Home Again” fame. I am told he wrote for days on end standing up, rather than sitting at a desk. Arthur C. Clarke wrote “2001: A Space Odyssey” while staying at the Hotel. The playwright Arthur Miller spent part of his honeymoon with Marilyn Monroe at the Chelsea; Bob Dylan stayed there and composed several songs (there was a failed attempt to renovate his room recently). A friend of mine Philip Segal, a professor of English in NYC, told me over dinner during my stay at the Hotel, that he attended several parties at the Chelsea. The rooms were so small and cramped that the parties spilled out into the generous halls that were and still are peppered with artwork of all stripes. He told me that the space in the hallways is so spacious that a ballet company practiced there regularly.

The Chelsea has a reputation of being a literary and artistic flophouse of sorts. A place where the famous, not so famous, the shut-in, the dreamer and the drifter coexisted. And since I was making a trek to New York to meet with some fellow poets, I decided to book a room for a few nights.

The Chelsea, a twelve story builiding with brick and wrought iron balcony balustrades, was the first building in NYC to be listed as a cultural preservation site and historic building of note. It opened in 1884 as one of the first private apartment cooperatives. Since 1946, the hotel had been managed by the Bard family, and since 1955 Stanley Bard ran the joint, until he was ousted by a management company in 2007. Bard was a much loved manager, presiding benevolently over the residents and the guests who lived there. Bard seemed to understand the concept of the starving artist, allowing some to pay rent by paintings, etc… However the new management is much more bottom line, and since Bard left there has been controversy, as residents have mounted a campaign of banners, pranks, and protests toward getting Bard back. Ed Hamilton a resident and author of “Legends of the Chelsea Hotel…” told me that “Unfortunately, the hotel is no longer accepting permanent residents and that is a shame. The permanent tenants are as important to the hotel as the tourists.”

Upon arriving at the Chelsea my wife and I noticed a guitar store adjacent to the hotel was having a “Bernie Madoff Clearance Sale.” Now the lobby ain’t your typical Holiday Inn affair. When we entered we saw a man staring intensely at us, looking for all the world like the resurrection of Samuel Beckett. He was sitting under a suspended paper mache scultpure of a fat lady on a swing. The lobby was full of artworks, murals, etc… There was a painting of an elongated, long-faced Fido, aptly named “Chelsea Dog” that captured my attention. The front desk looked like a prop from Eugene O’Neill’s play “Hughie.” I saw that play some years ago. It starred the actor Jason Robards, who played a down-at-the-heels snake oil salesman, living out his failed life, in a failed, gone-to seed hotel.

We took a squeaking elevator to our room on the third floor. A balding, distracted gentleman asked my wife if she knew where “The Shining” painting was (based on the Stephen King movie). We didn’t now but we ran across it later. The floor we stayed on, and in fact all the floors, are full of artwork, many from of the residents. Even the fire extinguishers were adorned with stickers and graffiti, that made them look like sites of art installation…I guess they are. There is an eclectic selection of paintings on the walls in the gothic halls, including prints of Roy Cohn (of all people), Eisenhower, Jimi Hendrix, Hunter S. Thompson, a beguiling “Horse On Oil Canvas” by Joe Andoe, a photo montage of Andy Warhol and Muhammad Ali, and a huge mural that depicts residents in dialogue: “Myra Resnick in 308 says the Chelsea rocks!” On the top floor you experience ethereal sky light, and series of suspended mobiles, wafting images on the ceilings.

Forty percent of the rooms are saved for residents, and there is a definite sense of community in the place. Ed Hamilton wrote that the Chelsea is the “Last Outpost of Bohemia.” I advise you to visit and make haste/ the way things are going /there is no time to waste!