Friday, February 27, 2009
Streets. Poem Book by Mel King. ( Sensations Publishing A Division of Sweetie’s Books Silver Spring, Maryland http://sweetiesbooks.com/sensations.aspx
Mel King has been a presence on the Boston political scene for more years than most of us have been alive. I remember his unsuccessful run for mayor—this tall, dignified Blackman, sporting a dashiki, amidst a sea of Brooks Brothers suits. King was born in Boston in 1928, and grew up in the “New York Streets” neighborhood of Boston, named after the towns served by the New York Central Railroad. For years he pounded the pavement, or the streets as a political activist, a gadfly in the status quo’s eye. When I lived in the North End of Boston in the 1980’s I used to see King walking down the winding, fragrant streets, sampling the colorful array of produce that decked the bins in the markets. Like the title of Alfred Kazin’s famous memoir, King is a “Walker in the City.”
King realizes the value of the “street”, thus this poetry collection’s titled “Streets.” With wonderful illustrations by Allan Crite, B.Z. Nunez, and other local artists, King tells the reader that streets have long been symbols of political action:” take it to the streets,” or “take the high road,” for instance, are common enough call to action phrases. King reflects:
“Streets are a major player in all aspects of our lives. Just look at the many ways they shape our songs, poems and stories. There are over 50 songs and thousands of stories and poems inspired by roads and streets. Streets are part of our social rhetoric, as in “street smart” or “hit the road, Jack.”
The poems here fit beautifully with Allan Crite’s paintings. Crite was noted for his painting of street scenes in Boston in the 1930’s and beyond. He portrayed a plethora of street activity, and included in this book is a picture of a parade on Hammond St. in the South End by the artist. King dedicates this book to Crite, who King describes as a “chronicler of life on the streets of Lower Roxbury.’”
And of course being a lover of everything that has to do with food, I loved King’s description of the fare of the thoroughfare. Here are some mouthwatering descriptions:
“streets are a venue for prostitutes and hustlers/ hawkers and peddlers for rags and bottles/ fresh fish get your Porgies today/matzos and ‘ranges as the words faded away/some came with goodies like roasted chestnuts/and popcorn waffles melted butter lemon slush/ and snow cones…. matzos kielbasa feta cheese rolled apricot sheets/delis with pickles and pastrami/pistachio and frozen pudding ice cream…/eel for the holiday wine whiskey beer…”
My word—what a tasteful riff!
There are many stories of the street in this book. On Seneca Street King gets a lesson from a homeless man about life, he remembers organ grinders with their monkeys (I remember a guy on the Commons in the 70’s, the monkey tipped his hat and you put change in it—now that’s what I call monkey business), the bastions of break dancers on the hot, cracked pavement and much more…
King has had a long, and varied life. He was a State Rep in Mass. for a number of years, taught at MIT, and to cap his career, what better way than a book of verse, a love letter to the streets of Boston, his home, the beginning and end of his journey.
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update
Behind Our Memories
By Michael Hettich
16 Reservation Road
Easthampton MA 01027
Review by Steve Glines
It’s the Strathmore laid paper, 80 lbs. at least that catches your eye. The paper is hand folded into a single hand sewn signature binding a beautiful little volume of Garamond letterpress type titled “Behind Our Memories,” by Michael Hettich. It catches your eye. The cover is also done in letterpress but in 5, yes, 5 subtle colors. The book, the binding, and the colophon all say old time, even Victorian quality and it is.
The book carries a simple dedication, “for Colleen” and after reading the first, second, … poem you know Colleen must be his wife. This simple volume is a love story, not sappy, not sentimental but almost mater of fact images we can feel of two young lovers being in love. We see this from the perspective of newlyweds, as well as a father of a young butterfly-chasing daughter. It’s refreshing and not in the least bit cynical but rather fits the almost classical image promised by the letterpress cover. It’s old-fashioned love and it’s pleasing without being “pretty,” its worm without being hot and it’s loving without being “feminine.” Yet in spite of its Victorian promise it’s very much 21st century.
Christmas in the Woods
Our twelve year old daughter walks around the cabin
wearing a red velvet sweater with fake zebra
collar and silky underpants, singing.
Her toenails are bright red. Outside small birds
flit through the trees in the gray light, and beyond
down the bluff, the river pulls.
The radio in the bedroom is tuned to a discussion
of refugee repatriation in various
unfamiliar countries. In the kitchen my wife washes
dishes and sings Christmas carols with out daughter.
I pour us more coffee. Yesterday, a friend explained
the coming extinction. He shared all the details:
Squirrels and weeds, he said, and pigeons
will be our wildlife. Since then I’ve been making
lists of what I need to see. My son has started videotaping
everything we do and say, as though he might save us that way.
And so I’ll sing with my wife and daughter –
smiling at the camera, in this cabin in the woods –
to celebrate the season, and to remind us
someday, how happy we were.
This is the kind of book anyone will enjoy reading and when you’re done give it to someone you love … it’s worth at least 20 points … but who’s counting.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Self-Portrait with Severed Head.
By C.D. Collins
2009; 56pp; Pa; Ibbetson Street
Press, 25 School St., Somerville,
MA 02143. $15.00.
To order: http://lulu.com/ibbetsonpress
REVIEW BY HUGH FOX
There’s a tremendously strong, aesthetically erotic and impressionistic sense of the Here and Now here, but always contextualized by time and death so you feel you’re walking through a kind of ephemeral Louvre that is vanishing as you walk through it: “Beyond the jobs,/the traffic, the wind,/beyond aqua stars/I’ll let you spin/Like a cosmonaut into ether,/released without a sound...// When I finish you,/asking nothing of you. When I finish you,/at last loving you.// Beyond the jobs,/the traffic, the wind,/beyond aqua stars/I’ll let you spin/like falling/like falling.” (“Blood Orange,” pp.33-34).
The poetry here is powerfully evocative and Collins turns the page into a reality that never really leaves you: “Along the Champs-Elysées,/the homeless men lie in the middle of the sidewalk.../They lie on their sides or they crouch on their knees./Each has drawn a chalk balloon above his head./Inside is written his story.../I am without a home in Paris./I have no job./I am a poor Frenchman./I am Jamaican./ They all end, Merci.” (“Champs-Elysés,” p.49).
The French touch helps, the low-key eroticism, the socio-economic/historial overview, all very impressionistic and almost fin de siecle, very much in the twenty-first century but with strong immersions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century capture-all-you-can mystique, giving her work a remarkable overviewing sense of running-down (and-out) time. Listening to her read with the Rockabetty band in the background on her CD Carousel Lounge you see just what a major word-/world-view magician we have here.
* Hugh Fox is a founding editor of the Pushcart Prize and the author of "Way, Way Off the Road: Memoirs of the Invisible Man" ( Ibbetson Street Press)
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Nadine S. St. Louis
Marsh River Editions
Copyright © 2008 by Nadine S. St. Louis
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
When Israeli poet Abba Kovner was dying of cancer he wrote a book of poems entitled Sloan-Kettering named after the hospital in New York where he was being treated. Kovner was a resistance fighter in the Vilna Ghetto in World War II. In Israel he had to live through a series of wars.
His last battle was the one he couldn’t win. Yet he left a memorable book of poems with section titles such as “The Corridor,” “Rooms, Half-Drugged,” “Honored Visitors,” etc. and a final poem “An ending unfinished.”
In a book of poems entitled Zebra, Nadine St. Louis, who is a cancer survivor, writes to tell about her emotions, her treatment and her reactions. Her poem titles also reveal much about her experiences with names such as “Diagnostic,” “Magnetic Resonance,” “On Cutting Ladies in Two,” “Post-Op” and others.
However, it is “Scar” that sums up her book because it is not only about the physical scar,
it is about the mental anguish of having to look at the result of the operation, having others see it and dealing internally with the knowledge of being a survivor – for how long? Take the opening paragraph:
“I’m thinking of getting a tattoo.
The nearly half-yard sine wave
across my waistline fairly cries out
Or let the final stanza sink in:
“Let these sharp lines sign a return
to innocence, fruit of a new earth, color
of sky, the undreamed place we come
when we have confronted the beast in the field,
In the final and title poem, “Zebra” St. Louis provides the attributes of zebras to life. It may take more than one reading of this poem to associate zebras with surviving cancer
which is unlike the rest of poems which are clear and to the point.
Reading this volume, one is happy Nadine St. Louis has survived and grateful she has been able to put her thoughts into this chapbook.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
All My Eggs Are Broken
Blaze Vox [Books]
Buffalo New York
2007 ISBN: 1-934289-31-0
REVIEW BY IRENE KORONAS
“The poem and poems arise from my reading of the Medical Museum’s section on: thee Heart and Stomach. Once upon a time, Medical Doctors discovered what they thought were stones in the hearts of the deceased. They did not know what they were. A heart full of stones seemed like a grand place for poetry….” Michael Basinski
The first rush of pages, the display of dots and self indulgent glyphs; one might wonder who wants or cares to read this solid book of poems…
geese goose chicken of Fall
supreme as whim she eaters tuna salad
tuna ye olde refrigeratur mermaid
rattle Rubbermaid Rimbaud
cutting cottage cheese dress…”
it is I, the reviewer who deems, possibility, the experimental poetry with all references, external intellectuality, and therein the problem of critique, review, and summation of what may at first appear unapproachable. “I suggest you are no longer here inspiring beginning sing wem wen Wed Wenday and neither of 1.” for this audacious reviewer it is a joy to skim the cream off the top, to find playful glee between the pages, the shiny covers. I slip seduced by all the word games and I get off on dots and a sense of scribbling an inner consciousness, an inner incision of discovery.
“ow ho 59
io ools ov
dow or ho so
ro rue oto io
yo to ato ato lor
of vous no of
no ow of insect
to co ou
ooo if only I could explain the zero the circle the Oooo made in u s, a, anthology of drawing the reader in and an understanding of being an egg…already cracked open; what is being said is not as unusual as one might expect and academia has surrounded itself with the explainable, reasoning references. at last writing breaks barriers; abstracts, minimalizes, non-objectionalizes, catches up with other art forms.
spyder hangs on spyder’s silk
milkin puppet memory
closing an empty door
absent saucer and cup
I am not here
out of his finger
he hears her
getting into the bathtub
breathing the engine
Basinski, I am a member of your fan club, your motto, “practice the aside of poetry,” your book inspires, multiplies and ascribes
I recommend this book to all poets and recommend the reader who is interested in serious operations of this sort to view www.ubu.com. you will find historic renditions, creative writing and contemporary papers on what one might term, 'experimental' poetry. you will also be able to access more of Michael Basinski’s creative work. there are scholarly papers to help the reader understand the understandable questions one might ask, that I am incapable of answering.
Irene Koronas is the poetry editor of the Ibbetson Street Press.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Nothing Unrequited Here by Heather Bell (verve bath press), 2-29-09
*Review by Barbara Bialick, author of Time Leaves (Ibbetson Street Press
) In her doily-covered brown-paper chapbook, Heather Bell takes us through her experiences in building a strong relationship with a man she does not name.From what I gathered, she is a relatively young woman, both in poetry and love—but she has a strong, striking collection full of unusual imagery, which I hope will grow to be more deep in future offerings.
She has a developing poetic wisdom and voice worth checking out. “What are weddings made of,” she asks: “I found my ring hidden/in a gun case/…peace is not/our eventual search anymore. Someday/we will be just like/how we are today…” A wedding, she continues in “Wedding Vows By a Woman Who Self-Destructs”, is a time about promises, but “It’s time to arrive like a mourner/It is time to arrive like a Japanese fan/…like a boat…Everyone thinks we were always like this, midair, dancing, but that would also be impossible…”/
The wedding is not, however, the center of the book. The relationship is. “He leaves kayaks in your/ living room…the way he carved your/name into his kitchen table, misses his shotgun…could be an advertisement for Rayban sunglasses…reminds you of Kafka…” And of course he is her lover…
She drew an intriguing poem title in “The Last Three Poems Left After the World Disappeared”. But she gives some undeveloped ideas that even so speak to her poetic imagination: “It must be my fault, not taking/your advice: always walk/backwards from the rattlesnakes./Bees can hear you breathe.” But she adds “You will find /your heart only because I/left hats hanging from branches…” Despite long streams of imagery in these poems, she ironically declares “etcetera is the closest you/will ever get to the meaning of your love…”
Heather Bell graduated in 2005 from Oswego State University in Oswego, New York.Keep your eyes open for her name, which I’m guessing will be heard again.
Barbara Bialick is the author of TIME LEAVES (Ibbetson Street Press).
Sunday, February 22, 2009
POIESIS NO.2 ( Alternating Current POBOX 398058 Cambridge, Mass. 02139 alt-current.com ) $4. http://alt-current.com
Local poet Leah Angstman is at it again. This prolific, small press holy fool ( I mean it in the best sense of the word) has released a new pocket book of poetry that she has named “Poiesis.” There is a captivating painting of a tearful, blue-eyed, blonde woman on the front, a creation of Angstman herself. Inside are some of the finest contemporary small press poets plying their trade in the little magazine scene today, including: Pamela Annas, Alan Catlin, Jeff Fleming, Tim Gager, Ed Galing, Rebecca Schumejda, Jessica Harman, Mignon Ariel King, B.Z. Niditch, Charles Ries, Joseph Verilli, Simon Perchik and others. So many poems, and too little time to mention them all. But I will let you sample a taste of the rich lyrical fare. Charles Ries, known for his reviews, fiction, as well as his poetry, has a zinger and a winner of a poem that tracks a writer’s retreat from the literary circus to well, the real one:
Why I Gave Up Writing and Joined the Circus
I left it all; the paper and pens, publishers
and agents who could not love my inner
fantasy and joined the circus.
The make-up, big nose and fancy pants
helped me overcome my feelings of
obscurity. I created an identity grander
than my literary art. I now have something
worth writing about.
I married the fat lady, she gave birth to
a midget; I learned to swallow swords,
made friends with a contortionist who
told me to turn my pens into pretzels,
and live like a real man.
The featured poet is J. J. Campbell. In his poem “damage” the poet quickly fleshes out the sudden and raw face of damage in its different forms:
a tornado ripped
through a town
in the south and
fuck came on the
news and said it’s
kind of scary how
much damage can
be done in just a
i started to laugh
and thought the
same can be said
when one doesn’t
pull out fast enough.
Angstman, the founder of the Propaganda Press that publishes this fine zine, has a good eye for good poetry, and has compiled an excellent collection of work.
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update