Saturday, May 16, 2009

FRESH GRASS: 32 Independent Poets

I just got the latest anthology from the PRESA PRESS. PRESA has been described as a "Who's Who of small press poets with substantial reputations." ( Phil Wagner, Iconoclast) Eric Greinke founded this press. From the introduction:

"This anthology presents generous selections from the works of the most frequently published contributers to issue 1-8 of PRESA. During the first four years of Presa, a canon of poets emerged. They rose like cream to the top of our cups, not only through their contributions to PRESA, but in their participation in the independent literary scene. These are poets with established reputations whose work has been published primarily in the best indie literary journals as Bogg, Chiron Review, Gargoyle,Hazmat Review,Home Planet News, Iconoclast, The New York Quarterly, Poesy and Rattle, as well as in numerous smaller magazines of equal quality such as Barbaric Yawp, Big Scream, Free Verse,& Ibbetson Street. Webzines such as Napalm Health Spa, The Pedestal and Wilderness House Literary Review spread their seeds to fertilize around the globe."


John Amen
Guy Beining
Alan Catlin
David Chorlton
Kirby Congdon
David Cope
John Elsberg
Jean Esteve
Michael Flannagan
Hugh Fox
Eric Greinke John Grey
Carol Hamilton
Doug Holder
Robert K. Johnson
Arthur W. Knight
Ronnie M. Lane
Donald Lev
Lyn Lifshin
Ellaraine Lockie
Gerald Locklin
B.Z. Niditch
Simon Perchik
Charles P. Ries
Lynne Savitt
Harry Smith
Jared Smith
Joseph Verrilli
Nathan Whitting
AD Winans

To order go to

The Incurable Sensibility of David Huerta: Before Saying Any of the Great Words, David Huerta, Selected Poems, translated by Mark Schafer.

The Incurable Sensibility of David Huerta: Before Saying Any of the Great Words, David Huerta, Selected Poems, translated by Mark Schafer.

article by Michael Todd Steffen

Alive with play, bold, crazy, surprising yet lacking much correlation with common experience, smacking somewhat of the improbable, the language of David Huerta’s poetry as rendered by Mark Schafer makes you want to say, “amazing… incurable.” It is a poetry primarily interested in linguistic exposition, and it dazzles us with oxymoronic expressions like “intolerant composure” and juxtapositions of the concrete with the abstract—

But he knew how
to drag her into a swoon, into the grim
daybreaks of stupefaction.

These instances come from the poem “Pathological Beings,” the title itself betraying another characteristic of Huerta’s poetry, a defiance and boldness with deference and silence, which has a stunning, snappy effect. There is some (comic) relief in poking intelligent fun at people’s misery, if not for a lack of solemnity and sympathy. But then what poet makes herself entirely herself without defining lacks? It is what the poet gives us that is important, and Huerta has published nineteen books of poetry and won all of Mexico’s major literary awards. Shake a finger at that.
Huerta’s early poetry heralds him, the son of the acclaimed Mexican poet Efrain Huerta, as “a smart young poet whose work revealed a voracious reading of poetic traditions across many centuries and several languages” (Translator’s Note). That unresolved arpeggio of a vast reader’s culture is sounded in the first poem, “Fumbling through the heart of music,” with the embellished image of the drowned sailor:

I remembered Phlebas
—ears besieged by mounds of seaweed,
open eyes drifting weightless
toward the rock tattooed with reflections,
fish like rats around his body…

Shafer gives us eight samples of Huerta’s early poetry, leading to sections of the monumental poem bespeaking the impossibility of finality or definition inherent in Huerta’s sensibility, entitled Incurable, “the longest poem in Mexican history,” which the Translator’s Note goes on to describe as having “confounded many readers and astonished all. Some read it as a poem, others as a novel, and still others as a kind of fractured self-portrait.” The translator might have mentioned among the influences to this poem the most obvious one, Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. While Huerta’s language sparks with post-modern fireworks, ideas and terminology, the main of it, its trunk of subject and syntax, the expressiveness in long lines, is essentially Whitmanesque.

The stuff of the self, an Orphic descent into desire,
a touch of what spills over, neither center nor handle,
a well bounded by the north of words and the hellish or Egyptian south
of the repressed, deferred, postponed, abandoned in the horrific
gardens of the past (from Chapter I).

And again,

The heavenly bodies
above and this body I know because it is my own, the drops
that trickle from me, the spilled virtues I mention to no one,
the evolutions of my body in an abandoned bed, my fingers
in the urgent darkness… (Chapter VII).

If with the shadows of anguish, irony, doubt and argument, Shafer’s selections of Incurable read as a celebration of Huerta’s self extended (transcended) to the cosmos about him, that is also himself, the mind merged or collided with all it has experienced.
Mark Shafer has done brilliant work in bringing this major Mexican poet into English. The organization of the book has a simple coherence for readers at their first encounter with what is, should you dig deeper, a dauntingly labyrinthine and copious body of writing. More than just the words, Shafer has translated the poetry of Huerta into smooth English—

But she knew what untoward
and tenacious manner would confound him (“Pathological Beings”).

Before Saying Any of the Great Words is well worth the feather in your hat and the read, a mind-hunt of zaniness and intelligence that makes you want to keep turning the pages.

Before Saying Any of the Great Words/David Huerta/Selected Poems
translated by Mark Schafer
Copper Canyon Press
P.O. Box 271
Port Townsend, WA 98368

Friday, May 15, 2009

How To Train A Rock. Paul Steven Stone.

How To Train A Rock. Paul Steven Stone. (Blind Elephant Press) (Cambridge, Mass.) $15.

Paul Steven Stone, the author of the novel “ Or So It Seems,” has just released a collection of columns he wrote for the Scituate Mariner, a local costal Massachusetts paper. The columns deal with Stone’s recurrent theme in his work: what is and how do we handle this thing called life? Now this isn’t a self-help or self-important collection. Stone is too much the Bronx kibitzer for that. The column has a style that can only be described as a comic, Twilight Zone-like showcase of Stone’s views on the world and the players on its stage.

In these Bernie Madoff days I was interested to read “ In-Transit Report of Henry J. Worthmore, Jr. Here Stone writes about a Madoff-like clone:

“ Born to money, child of privilege and class, member of the bar, Henry J. Worthmore, Jr. unfortunately squandered all opportunities for growth, brotherhood and the pursuit of truth offered to him in a lifetime. Ill-disposed to use his considerable assets or high social standing for the good of others, he became a human sucking-and-eating machine, amassing a great fortune, expensive holdings, and a life devoid of friends or congeniality. His funeral drew a large crowd, though relief and celebration were more in evidence than mourning.

And Stone is equally adept at waxing poetic in his evocative little piece “ Pretty White Gloves.” Here the frostbitten hands of a homeless man become a frozen metaphor for white gloves and a happier place and time:

“Just like the marine office he once was, just like the sweet innocent daughter he once knew, just like the young man grown suddenly old on a frozen sidewalk, his hands are beautiful and special in a way these strangers will never understand.

“White gloves,” he insists proudly.
“Pretty White Gloves.”

Ah, an O’Henry taste of irony…I like that flavor.

Stone, the Director of Advertising at W. B. Mason in Boston, riffs on the advantages of adversity, the murder of a temp worker, and of all things how to train a rock. This is a book that has a light style, and can be read in the course of an evening, or in tasty snippets over a few weeks. Keep it on your bed table…read it when you are able!

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A New Imprint of the Wilderness House Literary Review releases new book "Deer" by Susan Tepper

Steve Glines announces the debut of the Wilderness House Press, the book publishing arm of the Wilderness Literary Review . Their first title is a collection of short fiction "Deer" by Susan Tepper ( to be available this month)

Nothing is off-limits in Susan Tepper’s stories, yet not a single sentence feels gratuitous. Each of the tales that make up DEER exists as its own world, endowed with so potent a presence that one feels one has witnessed a truth unfold in the reading. Gladly our minds stretch wide to catch her fictions and weave them into our new reality.
Eric Darton, Free City

In her debut story collection DEER, Susan Tepper takes us into the forest of her imagination, shining a light on a pack of off-kilter characters caught in unusual and compelling circumstances. Tepper is one of the most original voices in fiction I've heard in quite a while. While reading her loopy-beautiful dark narratives, I was reminded of the first time I read Denis Johnson. Yes, she's that good. This is a writer to watch!
Jamie Cat Callan, The Writer’s Toolbox & French Women Don’t Sleep Alone

Susan Tepper creates brilliant, quirky, unpredictable worlds in her story collection DEER. Whether set in the Italian countryside, a post-modern house in the Hamptons, or backstage at a community theatre, they teeter between the familiar and the extreme, the peculiar and the poignant, and her characters, brimming as they are with eccentricities, never let us forget how deeply human they are at their core.
Ellen Litman, The Last Chicken in America

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

BRIDGET GALWAY: From the Bohemian digs of Provincetown: To The Paris of New England: Somerville, Mass.

(Joyce S. Galway-- at Tennessee Williams apartment)

Provincetown Banner File Photo

BRIDGET GALWAY: From the Bohemian digs of Provincetown: To The Paris of New England: Somerville, Mass.

By Doug Holder

An artist friend of mine Bridget Galway lives in my neck of the woods in the Union Sq. vicinity of Somerville, Mass. Well we got to talking, and as it is my habit, I asked her about her background. She directed me to her website: and her accomplished portfolio of paintings, one of which is a portrait of the Beat Generation writer William Borroughs. (I plan to use it on the front cover of the next Ibbetson Street, my literary journal). Bridget told me she moved from Provincetown to Somerville a few years ago and she wanted to connect with the arts community here, so I invited her to the literary group the Bagel Bards in Davis Square. Galway told me she was caring for her late mother, a long-time resident of P-Town, and dyed-in-the-wool Boheme. Joyce Galway (Galway's late mother) moved to Provincetown in 1953, and took part in that fecund artistic milieu that once existed there until gentrification and massive influxes of tourists changed its character.

I included a note from Bridget Galway about her interesting background, and a short piece by her late mother Joyce. (Edited for space considerations)


For 3 years since I have moved here from Provincetown, I have thought about responding to your email postings. I am an unpublished poet, never ventured to try. I am a visual artist as well. Some of my art is feature on the Island of Ibiza's web site which is My father was the writer Stephen Seley; mainly published in the 40's and 50's, at that time he was written up in the New York Times for two books “Baxter Bernstein ", published by Scibner's, and “The Cradle Will Fall", published by Hartcourt, Brace and Company. My Uncle Jason Seley, a sculptor, became the Dean of Cornell after heading the art department for many years, my cousin Kate Seley who lives in Madrid, premiered the Spanish presentation of " The Vagina Monologues." I continue to correspond with Peter Kinsley, an English writer, whose most recent book is" Bogged Down In the County Lyric." He was a good friend of my Father's, who is a character in that book. You can also find him on the Ibiza web site, as well as other writers. If nothing else is derived from this correspondence, I know you will find that web site interesting. I have a rich history of being surrounded by writers and artist all my life. Tennessee Williams was best man at my Mother's and Stepfather's Wedding. Harry Kemp (Provincetown Vagabond Poet) was a good friend of my Father's. He dedicated his book the "Cradle Will Fall," to him. My life has evolved from my early years in Greenwich Village, to Provincetown. I have read my poetry on WOMR radio Poets Corner in Provincetown.


I arrived in Provincetown with my five month-old son Dennis and his father, Fritz Memorial Day, 1953. Fitz drove a truck full of several families' summer possessions and was paid for delivery of same. He then deposited me and the child at our shop (Custom Made Sandals by Fitzgerald) cum living quarters, corner of Pleasant and Commercial, across the street from Cookie's Tap, which is at present Galarani's. It was a very different time. A real sense of community existed although the world itself wasn't overworked as it is today…

The natives, Portuguese to you, the summer people, and the groups of renegades of every description known as artists coexisted wonderfully. Oh those beach parties with great buckets of muscles etc. contributed by John Gaspe!

The artist Ghandi Brody had a studio behind some storefront on Commercial ... I spent the days I did not work drawing peoples' feet on stiff white paper, on the beach in front of Flyers' Boat Yard with Steve Seeley, a writer from the city and of course the baby. Steve eventually took off for Ibiza but not before he became the father of my daughter, Bridget, who fortunately or unfortunately follows the bohemian strains of her parents and is now a Provincetown artist. Some afternoons I modeled for Hans Hoffman. (Noted Abstract Expressionist). Life was amusing with moments of enlightened brilliance as the various characters came and went throughout the season.

...there were days in the sun... a town of sexual freedoms, exchanging of ideas, music, and if one was lucky enough to know someone as Manny Zorro, early morning fishing trips on his boat, going out in pre-dawn fog. One mixed with such a diversity of was possible to meet idols of literature, struggling artists, and famous persons such as Harry Kemp. Life in Provincetown was easy, fluid as the beauty that surrounds it, and after living here 31 years never lost its pull on my senses.

... I relish the gorgeous days of spring, summer, and autumn, and the soft orange full moon nights.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Somerville Printer Shelley Barandes Makes You Read the “Fine” Print.

( Left Becca Wasilewsai. Right Shelley Barandes)
Photo by Dianne Robitaille

Somerville Printer Shelley Barandes Makes You Read the “Fine” Print.

By Doug Holder

It was a stormy afternoon when my wife Dianne Robitaille and I made a trip to an off the beaten path factory building on Windsor St. in Somerville, Mass. We slowly walked up a winding staircase, smelling the faint hint of chocolate from Taza Stone-Ground Chocolate, a business housed in the factory. Our destination? Albertine Press. As you might know I am a publisher, and I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with printing, etc… A few years back I interviewed Gary Metras of the Adastra Press, who has a small but well-respected poetry press that prints books and chapbooks with Letterpress printing. Letterpress is basically an “antique” printing method which became obsolete a few decades ago with the arrival of desktop publishing. Unlike the stuff you get from Kinko’s or their ilk the old fashioned Letterpress method is elegant and fairly expensive. It leaves an impression in the paper ( and on the customer hopefully!), and according to Shelley Barandes, the owner of this enterprise, it is very much in demand, especially for the young Somerville couple looking for finely printed wedding invitations and related stationary.

Barandes, who is a graduate of Columbia University, studied Letterpress at the Printing Center in Book Arts in New York City. The Albertine Press was birthed in 2005 in the city of Lynn, Mass. Later Barandes moved her press to Somerville and has no regrets. Barandes, a resident of the Republic of Cambridge, loves our city and is actively involved with the arts community. She told me that the rent at the factory is reasonable, and she sells her greeting cards, etc…at a number of local venues like the Magpie Gallery. Although her bread and butter are marriage-related printing she does a brisk business in business cards, and designer greeting cards. The greeting cards are noted for their minimalist splashes of words and phrases on their fronts. Barandes said: “ I like to keep it simple.’

Barandes said that Letterpress printing has been taken up by a new breed of young women and this is evidenced by the eager students who take classes in the art she offers.

Barandes once entertained the idea of a career in architecture, but found the work institutional and banal. Her press allows her to be more creative.

In this climate of recession Barandes said: “Business is there. People have a great awareness of where things come from. They love things produced locally, rather than massed produced in China.”
Later, this young printer introduced me to her print room manager Becca Wasilewsai. She presides over a Sturbridge Village-like group of antique presses. Wasilewsai, a talented printmaker, described the Letterpress process to this clueless layman. Barandes and Wasilewsai are not total Luddites however. They do use the computer in the fine tuning of their artistic printing.

Generally Albertine does small press runs of a few hundred, but it is not unusual to do runs over 500 as well. The machines like the Vandercook Proof Press are not being made anymore so they are handled with the utmost care. Parts are very difficult if not impossible to replace, Brandes said.

In the background Barandes’ husband, a PhD candidate at Harvard University tended to the couple’s new baby. It seems that Barandes’ life is full of creations: both biological and artistic. She invites you to drop by the studio. For information go to