Friday, January 16, 2009

Lo Galluccio" A Writer Who Struggles With Passion and Intellect

LO GALLUCCIO: A Writer Who Struggles With Passion and Intellect.

With Doug Holder

Poet, memoirist, and vocalist Lo Galluccio grew up in Cambridge, Mass, the daughter of a prominent labor attorney. She graduated Harvard College and then attended acting school in Chicago. She was an understudy at the famed Steppenwolf Theater Company, and toured Greece with a theater troupe. She worked as a poetry columnist with The Cambridge Alewife, published a poetry collection with the Ibbetson Street Press: “Hot Rain”, and has a new memoir out with the Cervena Barva Press: “Sarasota Vll.”

Galluccio was very much part of the New York City Lower East Side arts scene in the 90’s, releasing a CD with the famed Knitting Factory label. She currently works as an ESL teacher in the Allston section of Boston, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry. I talked with her on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: You said in your interview with the Cervena Barva Press that men/mentors have taken your head off. How hard is it in the arts scene for a woman?

Lo Galluccio: I recently discovered Leonard Cohen and we did a tribute to him at the Squawk Coffeehouse in Cambridge. I read an interview with him in which he said he learned everything he knows from the opposite sex. In a song of his “Tower of Song” he writes, “They don’t let a woman kill you.” It made me reflect how many times I was metaphorically killed by male mentors. I feel I got as much as I could from the people I followed. If you are in a place like New York, especially, and you are precocious, ambitious, and temperamental and a woman, sometimes men will twist that around and have a hard time with it. I remember when I was working as a waitress, a man I admired a great deal told me “We’re done.” He was a poet I adored. I could have burned all his books. It was a matter of marital infidelity. I didn’t want to do it, so I told him no. I didn’t think this person would turn on me but he did. I was devastated, but two years later I sent him white roses—that’s how loyal I am. I have had my life threatened. I don’t think I come across as a very combative person. I have a side of me to me where I can be like a dog with a bone.

DH: Do you think things have changed for women on the arts scene from the time when you were cutting your teeth?

LG: Oh yes. It’s funny I opened up “Anne Sexton’s: Collected Works” recently, and she is someone who has had a huge influence on me. She has one poem that ends like this: “ I am sexless like Christ, beyond being a man or a woman.” And that’s Anne Sexton in the 60’s! I think people like her, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, paved the way for me.

DH: You cut your teeth in the East Village of NYC in the 90’s. This wasn’t the Village of the 60’s—what was the milieu like?

LG: It was in the 90’s but you had people around who dropped out of places like olumbia, like my friend Roy Nathan son (Leader of The Jazz Passengers), who told me: “You get a million chances.” I don’t really think that’s true, but I think it is a good thing to think.

DH: What was the scene like then?

LG: The milieu was experimental, it was diverse, it was pretty warm, open and communicative. A novice singer like me got to play with some top-notch people. I was told the East Village was where the “Weed trees grow,” I thought of myself as a weed tree. At this time I decided to give up an acting career that wasn’t booming. Although I was a stage actress and I did get some work.

DH: You have been an actress, vocalist, poet, journalist, educator, etc…. What hat fits you best?

LG: if I had to do it all over again I would have wanted to be a fabulous actress. I studied at the Goodman School in Chicago.. And I was very much encouraged to stay in school. But I dropped out. My Dad died when I was fifteen, so I just didn’t have enough of a foundation to stay with it. I had a wound that needed to heal in a lot of different ways, with a lot of different experience. It’s sad because I loved the craft of acting. I was an actress who was cerebral.

DH:What is your new memoir "Sarasota VII" about?

LG: The book is about how love can be warped by the memory of significant losses -- especially family deaths -- and it's a feminine statement about how desire is necessary and also how it can corrupt. It's in two parts and numbered and lettered paragraphs. Intertwined in the prose-poem narrative are scientific descriptions of Saturn's rings and the vortex of black holes....

DH: In your new memoir you write of the men in your life, the conflict of passion and intellect. Can you define that conflict? Can they coexist?

LG: You know, the brilliant reviewer Michael Todd Steffen, found a psycholinguistic dimension to the memoir. I really appreciated this, because I hope its there. Sometimes I think this book is just on long distorted rant. It is not a straight memoir.

My lover, John in the memoir, was a tremendous actor. We were both drawn to each other. When I conceptualized this book I thought of John as a black hole. Black holes are incredible vortexes of energy that have the ability to suck stars into them.

Basically the book is about the darker aspects of passion. How it can be dangerous and depleting. To live totally in a realm of sexual and visceral energy you need a place of sobriety. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I could handle it, I don’t think I could now.

DH: Was there a writer who influenced when you wrote the memoir?

LG: Marguerite Dumas. Her memoir “The Lover” was a seminal work for me. It has a wonderful obsessive quality about it.

DH: Did your grief for you Dad’s death spur you on to become an artist?

LG: Oh yes. Grief for my Dad most definitely drove me to be an artist. The world just turned upside down for me. I confronted the concept of finality. How many unresolved things remained between us. How my father’s Italian spirit lives in me.

DH: If your father hadn’t died when you were so young how would your relationship be?

LG: I think we would have had a tremendous power struggle. That’s partly why some of my relationships have been marked by that power struggle.

DH: So you might have a better relationship to your dead father?

LG: Death opens up something. That dark tunnel—different forms of light. The first work of art that I made, that I am really proud of, is “Being Visited” on the now defunct Knitting Factory label. One of the songs was an elegy for my Dad.

Thankfully as I grow older I am able to let go of the narrative of my life. Other people pulled me outside of my grief over my father.

DH: Can you tell us about your time at the Knitting Factory in NYC? It was a hotbed of the avant-garde, no?

LG: It was thrilling to be at a club like that. I worked with John Zorn,the avant-garde saxophonist. I was green, so it had it scary moments for me.

* To purchase Galluccio's memoir "Sarasota Vll" go to

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Jan. 2009/Somerville,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

To the Life of the Silver Harbor: Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy on Cape Cod

To the Life of the Silver Harbor: Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy on Cape Cod Reuel K. Wilson. (University Press of New England One Court St. Lebanon, NH 03766)

The marriage of writers Mary McCarthy and Edmund Wilson was not an ordinary coupling. Their creative life spans more than half a century. Their collective literary opus consisted of criticism, fiction, autobiography, political journalism, travelogues, and to a lesser degree (in Wilson’s case) poetry.

In his memoir: “ To the Life of Silver Harbor: Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy on Cape Cod ,”Reuel K. Wilson, ( now well into his 70’s) the son of Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy focuses on his parents’ life on Cape Cod in the late 1930’s to the mid 1940’s, when their marriage ended after a tumultuous seven years. Reuel Wilson writes:

“They married in Feb. of 1938. Unfortunately, neither partner could peacefully coexist with the other under the same roof…Suffice it to say that Wilson, goaded by inner demons, was capable of boorish, cruel and even violent behavior. McCarthy, who carried the stigma of childhood trauma—as a young orphan she was cruelly used by her guardians—reacted emotionally to her husband’s frequent needling and criticism…”

McCarthy, author of the novel “The Group” among others, and Edmund Wilson, well-known for his “Memoirs of Hecate County,” decided to anchor their new married life in the environs of the Cape. Reuel Wilson writes that the Cape was a good fit for the couple:

“ Because of its great natural beauty and its odd mixture of locals and self-exiled, or vacationing writers and artists, the newly married couple decided to cast anchor in Wellfleet, just fourteen miles south of Provincetown at Cape’s end.”
Their life together was one of creative output, mixed with a great deal of boozing, idle flirting, infidelities, and violent arguments, all well-documented in this memoir. So whether you are a literary purist, or a gossip-monger, you will find much of interest here.

Although according to Reuel Wilson, the Cape was not Wilson’s high literary priority, he did write a lot about it as evidenced by his copious journal jottings. Here is a passage by Edmund Wilson concerning a favorite spot on the Cape, “Gull Pond”

"—pale dullish blue, as if unawakened yet with summer—smooth as metal with only a few glistenings of light, few but intensely bright and far out a loon… a float, silhouetting its neck and its long bill…”

Much of Wilson’s serious poetry was published in a volume “Night Thoughts” (1953), and a number of poems deal with the Cape. He writes in the poem “Provincetown”

“Here never in this place I knew/such beauty by your side, such peace--/These skies that brightening imbue/with dawn’s delight the day’s release.”

McCarthy wrote a novel “A Charmed Life,” that in some ways reflected the residents of Wellfleet. Reuel Wilson writes that the characters were “marked by weird idiosyncrasies that reflect inner distortions, willing slaves to their own weaknesses…” Overall the seacoast bohemia depicted in this novel lived contented lives. The novel got only a luke warm critical reception, and because of some unflattering descriptions of the townsfolk, it made McCarthy few new friends. McCarthy left the Cape behind for good shortly after the novel was released in 1955.

Although “To the Life of the Silver Harbor…” narrowly focuses on the couples life on the Cape, a much broader perception of these literary figure can be gleaned from this arcane scope.

Two Somerville Small Presses to be on Publishing Panel at Harvard University ( New England Poetry Club) April 6 2009

( Valerie Lawson--Off the Coast)

( Gloria Mindock-- Cervena Barva Press)

Doug Holder ( Ibbetson Street Press)

The Cervena Barva Press of Somerville, Mass, and the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville Mass, as well as the well-regarded Maine-based literary journal "Off the Coast Magazine" will be represented on a small press panel at Harvard University sponsored by the New England Poetry Club. Publishers Valerie Lawson ( Off the Coast), Gloria Mindock ( Cervena Barva) and Doug Holder ( Ibbetson Street) will participate...


Location: the Common Room of the Yenching Library Harvard University
2 Divinity Ave (off Kirkland near Memorial Hall)

Time: 7pm to 8.30pm

Free and open to the public

April 6th Panel on Publishing with Valerie Lawson (Off the
Coast), Doug Holder (Ibbetson Street Press), and Gloria Mindock
(Cervana Barva Press)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Little Things by Harry Smith

Little Things
Harry Smith
Presa :S: Press
2009 $13.95
ISBN 978-0-9800081-3-5

the opening poem is a killer story, it reads like a thriller with plot, tension and sympathy, as do all seven poems in the first section, Modern Ballads:

“…He started in on me.
I blocked his first three punches. A sideways bear
swipe knocked me down.
-’Please, Mister, lay off me. I won’t take no more.’
-I’ll break your neck.
He launched himself straight down on me and he
landed on my knife…”

my only criticism is I think the first section might work better as the last section because it feels so complete. it becomes an effort to get into the next set of poems after reading the intensity of those first ones. ending with the ballads seems a better evolution. Smith continues in a biographical vein:

“when Beethoven intoned, “must it be?”
the words inscribed above his quartet notes,
he meant that resoundingly
abysmal, simple question. smitten motes
of dancing dust…”

Smith freely plays with form in most of the poems and he lets us know in his poem, ‘a farewell to Ammons’:

“…style, you know, arbitrary one line spaces inserted, as
above, irregular uncontained couplets, line

breaks like this, floated jot jot jottings, his typical
stuff: this one about urine, his creatinine test…”

with a full range of forms, Smith gives us haiku-like glimpses through the nature of his experiences and often reminiscent of Nurada’s questions:

“is it a bad thing
to see everything as if
for the last time”

He is a story teller poet with an emphasis on small personal truths. the lives some people live effect our need to tell. “a measure of merit, your friends will find they keep the ideal climate of you mind.”

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

An Alien Here by Leah Angstman

An Alien Here
Leah Angstman
Copyright 2008
Propaganda Press
Alternating Current
PO Box 398058
Cambridge, MA 02139

A little bigger than a matchbook in size, this collection lives up to its title – Leah as an alien – as female, poet, visionary – and rivets us with maniacal, often shot-gun style almost cut and pasted language. I wouldn’t call the associations completely free, but they’re often jagged, lunar, with repeating edges and expressive frames. There is a lack of clear punctuation, so more like a zine in format the little poems run in tiny type-written texts through the book, coming to full-stops with others lunging ahead.

“stale in the air you
humanize public breathing waste”

Her radiant goes way out in some cases and then contracts to a very real, visceral moment. There’s great word-play, like good avant-pop, punk and goth lyrics. The line breaks are precise and do much to craft the startling effects she achieves.

“light light-source sabertooth
interpret this jungle it is
nicotine wasteland like the air I am

Leah likes to go to the edge of inventing language patterns that disrupt our normal constructions.

But there is a also a thread of quite elegant lyricism running throughout the often dark, post-modern, or beat, forest of brute trees. In “Afternoons like This” we have:

“there are afternoons like these
when you learn you are not in love
and when you learn you are”

Still it includes the “alien” aspect as well:

“hollow tubes inside me
draining out color”

and then a series of the artificial manipulations we use to sexually attract:

“we are dyed hair
we are boob-adjustments right before
we catch his eye….”

These poems take wild, unexpected turns in the middle or the end; you can ride them like a riddle or an absinthe high.

“your touch though is so
heavy so many bricks so
cautious but courageous
isn’t that screen story a bit like us
don’t i have her attitude
and don’t you have peter’s excuses.”

And for a moment peter is the character in the film, a peter she knows – some acquaintance-- or he could be the famous Saint.

She’s packed a lot of voltage in a miniature book you keep fingering on the train from its home in your coat pocket. From the epic poem about her ancestry, “1926,” to a poem blatantly about a sexual encounter, “Riding Bareback,” she lassos a lot of material for us to imbibe. (Caution: if you prefer less to more, you won’t like the sometimes “piled on” and finger-paint-like instinctual use of language. If you think free verse should be unbridled and slightly crazed, you will.) The latter poem, while not a totally original metaphor for sex, is fine with me, recognizable and the verse unrolls like a movie:

“he is warm
so fucking warm
and wet
covered in necessity”

And there is the awkward moment when cowboy (or horse, as it may be) wants to know if she has climaxed. And she hesitates to give him a true account so as not to offend his ego—almost a cliché by now but real enough. His bravado and subsequent baby’s sleep is the amusing habit of the human male:

“I’ll make you cum
next time he says”

And there is her simple reticence to jabber:

“I have nothing to say

A thumbalina rocking collection.

Leah Angstam is a poet/writer, editor, publisher, musician, actor, and visual artist raised in a small town outside Lansing, MI. Her poetry blog can be found at

Lo Galluccio
Ibbetson St. Press

Lo’s new prose-poem memoir “Sarasota VII’ is out on Cervena Barva Press. Her fictional text, “Denebola” will soon appear in Heide Hatry’s collection on Charta Books, “Heads and Tales.” Readings in February.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Base Metals by Jessica Harman

Jessica Harman
Cloudkeeper Press
2009 $7.00

‘Base Metals’ is a love story, an intimate story of loss; not just the loss of a lover but sometimes the loss of cognition, perceived reality, touch, and balance, yet balance is always present in memory:


you are the sound of the train passing
through the city at night, that soothing rattle sewing
the distance to streetlights.

the sound tastes like moonlight and smoke.
the sickle moon’s base metal sets behind a maple tree
then the stars die out, one by one.

you are memory itself…”

Harmon doesn’t rush the reader, instead she lets us feel all the details, the voice often profound with succinct truths and the voice is always clear in its presence, never pretending otherwise. these poems open, or pull aside the curtains we sometimes close against what we don‘t want to know about ourselves:

…”but to you, sunlight was a pop song,
and pop songs were great - and light hearted - you liked
to walk on the sunny side of the street -

but sunshine to me was what
dried out the dust

and lifted your bed
when the wind scattered leaves and paper cups -”

the writing of love pulses through the dim halls of writing, and are reinvented generation after generation. here the poet tells us of anther kind of love of self and love of the past as a line to the present, even when the poet traces back, traces on dust on windows closed for winter. she constantly reaffirms her presence:

“even here in this place, where the sidewalks
buzz with filaments of snow. I am a body, a template
for your needles and blood pressure gauges. I am a magnet
for your pills, their sweet and salty. I am here in this city”

the directness: Harmon writes to the reader, there are no separations; all boundaries surround the reader with an emphasis of being all the characters at play. all treated with gentle respect even the face of tragedy become universal. we are left with an insight merged by the love of being a poet:

“the poem has meandered its way through
being. a poem’s pulse
is like night
in the naked wrist - “

Harman ends the chapbook with another endearment that twists and strongly suggests, question the next move, which I will not repeat here. it is up to you to buy the chapbook and find the ending:

“…the soft - boiled waves, to let my wings be quenched by salt.
and how often does the boat need to leak for us to learn to swim?

or am I talking only to myself? we’re out there,
looking for a place to plant our feet, walk…”

once you’re delved into the works presented, you will realize the importance of such a writer. Harman deserves a wide audience.

Cloudkeeper Press has once again offered a chapbook unlike any other. I’m convinced all great poets and writings from our present day culture, are being published, only, by small presses.

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