Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Hugh Fox on Cameron Mount's Evening Watch
By Cameron Mount
2009; 27pp;Pa; Ibbetson
Street Press, 25 School Street,
Somerville, MA 02143.$10.00.
Review by Hugh Fox
Cameron Mount is Mr. Sea/Seaside. That’s the real center of his whole world-view: “A wall of solid noise is headed my way/visually and aurally moving ashore,// Waves build crescendo as timpani drums/puntuated by strikes and crackles of light/and thunderous cymbal clashes that echo/across the building surf.//Thirty-knot winds tear through sea grass/perched atop protective dunes, whistling like
flutes...” (“Surfside Orchesta,” p.22).
He’s refreshingly unpretentious and classroomish, although he does have an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Of course Emerson College specializes in communication, not pretentiousness and that’s what Mount specializes in too, getting it across, so you walk away from his work not turned into a golliwog of confusion, but a satisfied partcipant in the variations of Mount’s sea-visions. Not that he’s Mr.
Super-Simplicity either, but has just enough artfulness to smack it to you effectively: “The cyan sky houses/a yellow sun and cotton clouds/as it arches over azure seas/and the foam-flecked northeast wind.//Zephyrs carry sea gulls, terns,/turk’s heads hung from mast heads...” (“Evening
Watch in the North Atlantic,” p.3).
His six years in the Navy didn’t hurt either, and although he’s very New England centered, a member of the Bagel Bards, Somerville’s top-drawer poets-getting-together society, there’s a lot of historical-
international geographical overseeing in his work too: “moss growing in the sidewalk cracks of Istanbul/counterfeit Malese casino dollars/tracer rounds bouncing off the Sargasso Sea...Diamond Botanical Gardens on the island of St. Lucia/Sonoma cacti in the American desert southwest/wild bamboo in a village near Shanghai.” (“Green,” p. 20).
A fascinating combination of Mr. New Englander and World Viewer, but no matter where in the world he goes, he’s always sea-oriented, the ancient past, the present moment, whatever future may come along, it’s always refreshingly sea-centered: “Heralds of the western Med,/they greet us at the Gibraltar gates/the Pillars of Hercules, harbingers/of
our approaching task......” (“Flying Fish,” p. 10).
***** Hugh Fox was the founder and Board of Directors member of COSMEP, the International Organization of Independent Publishers, from 1968 until its death in 1996. Editor of Ghost Dance: The International Quarterly of Experimental Poetry from 1968-1995. Latin American editor of Western World Review & North American Review, during the 60's. Former contributing reviewer on Smith/ Pulpsmith, Choice etc. currently contributing reviewer to SPR and SMR. Listed in Who's Who: The Two Thousand Most Important Writers in the Last Millenium, Dictionary of Middlewestern Writers, and The International Who's Who. He has 85 books published and has another 30 (mainly the novels and plays and one archaeology book) still unpublished on the shelves.
of Flesh Brooding
The poet Spiel
March Street Press. com
2008 ISBN 1596610891
This book presents itself as short stories in poetic form like so many of the classical poets, Virgil, or Homer, we glean understandings from others lives. The comparison is only in that it is a telling, characters who garnish our attention, with a total American slat, the words congeal, leaving scabs to pick at until the crust lay on a surface and the flesh turns red. The poet Spiel spins tales, catches lives or creates the illusion of actuality.
“…If ever I have imagined
the voice of a muse,
this is it.
I extend my hand
to shake hers,
then notice that she grasps
four bantam chicken eggs
and two juicy sprigs of fresh-picked parsley.
With no further words,
but a forward nod of her head,
she directs me to follow her…”
The poet devours his own life in images so vivid he connects us to each one, forcing the reader to follow all the threads until the end, then we realize how powerful the stories are, how they could impact our own knowing.
“…just as she told my father in years before he passed
she wished to die she tried to die she pressed knives
against her throat and practiced in a mirror practiced
out the act and showed her wish and told you doc and
told us all so many times her wish her pain-filled life
would end so why not pull the plug…”
The book is worth having and reading many times.
Ibbetson Street Press
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Review of The Collected Poetry of Hugh Fox 1966-2007, A World Audience Book, New York; Newcastle Australia, 2008
By Luke Salisbury
Hugh Fox’s Collected Poetry runs 543 pages. This is a daunting volume and a most interesting one. Many of the poems are short, and the lines are almost always short, so despite sometimes archaic, very personal or scatological subjects, they are remarkably accessible, and frequently, remarkably good.
Twenty-eight different collections are collected here ranging across forty-one years. SOUL CATCHER SONGS from 1967 begins:
Fog opaques the screams
And invisible snakes and ravens
I paint snakes on my eye wall
And worship them.
And the time-fugue precipitates out the
Colloids of pollution.
A reader might ask, are we on the edge of the abyss, or in the abyss? This poet is not going to shy away from anything—internal or external. The next poem begins:
White air and black water,
Cunts and garbage. The hard edge.”
Cutty Sark -------
Straight as a yard stick.
Plane wreck, off the
Beaten path, three dead,
Only the bones of one
circling the place in the
Pray to the Spirit of the Bears.
The poems go on speaking of UFOs, “time-flow compartments split op,” and “anoxic space-warp spirits.”
Confirms the validity of
The SOUL CATCHER SONGS end:
I am Coyote, Bear,
And all the metamorphoses of
One reads on and is blasted with anthropology (“ALL THERE EVER WAS WAS/THE GHOST DANCE/SPRING-BURN PLANTING/SUMMER HARVEST/AND THE/COMING OF/THE GODS/THE GODS/THE GODS”), science (“Three gods in one bomb--/Sun/Ex-/pan-/ding./Trinity, Zero +”), ancient religion(“Corn-Mother out of the cleft of/Cliffs Corn/Mother of the spread open/Legs Mother of Moisture/Mother of Rain Sea”), eastern religion (“Having become Buddha,/I want to un-numb my legs and jolly my prick”), dirty words (“Mrs. Genghis Cunt,”) dirty notions (“’I’ll suck you off’”), amusing (Verses to “Mrs. Coffinlid”), poignant (“My personal entropy of wrinkles and sags”), mocking (“Sistine chap last judgment/stern,/Thou Shalt Have Children”), visionary (“The Great Goddess/spreads her/rain-cunt/legs”), surreal (“I believe in Christ the Candy Bar/ and the resurrection of the bowels,/eternal life on the conveyor belt/in the cracker factory,/surrounded by the whiskey and streetcorner/cunt saints.”) and wide, wide erudition. One is sometimes tempted to ask, is the poet serious? I would answer, yes, I think he’s deadly serious. He’s even serious when he’s not serious.
I don’t always understand what Fox is saying but I like it. I like the energy, concision, rhythm, the anger. I like being shown territory I don’t understand. That’s what I mean when I say it’s accessible. Something in almost every one of these poems pulls me in, holds me, spits language I can’t deny in my face.
Yes, I like it.
Later in FOR RICHARD (DICK) THOMAS’ FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY, Zerx Press, 1991, the subject becomes personal. The poet seems to be writing about friends, ex-wives, his children, family patterns functional and dysfunctional. Me and You, Kid is elegiac:
Everyone else gone,
Just me and the kid in the
Big old house,
For a while it’s going to
Be a pain,
You’d think 24 hours a
Day would be heavy for
No baby sitters,
But what it does is
Show the bones of
The bond between
A few weeks and
He’ll be gone
As if anyone ever went without
Leaving a ghost behind.
Or Enough from the collection TIME: The Plowmen, Whitby, 1992:
… there’s a picture on
The wall of the boy when he was
Two, light years ago, chunky,
Squat, fat-faced, not Bojangles
Loose-limbed basketball playerish
The way he is now, it’s four months
before the next visit, and you lament
not just the absence and emptiness,
but for the illustration it all provides
of the infinite hunger of
Fox’s poetry is not all garbage and cunts, astrophysics, Mayan mythology and borrowing as eclectic as Ezra Pound, it’s about loss, sadness, how everything goes away. Some is quite beautiful. If you’ve got the ear, stomach, and intellect, I recommend Hugh Fox. You won’t be bored. And, like me, you may like it.
Luke Salisbury/Ibbetson Update/Somerville, Mass. June 2009.
** Luke Salisbury is a Professor of English at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston and teaches English and Film. He is the author of The Answer Is Baseball (Times Books, 1989; Vintage, 1990) which The Chicago Tribune called the best baseball book of 1989, (A Common Reader said, “Salisbury reveals the heart of the sport better than writer I’ve read,” No. 47, April, 1991), and a novel, The Cleveland Indian (The Smith, 1992; paperback, 1996) which was nominated for the Casey Award in 1992 as best baseball book of the year, and was studied at Indiana State University in an American literature course. Blue Eden, a novel in three stories, (The Smith; hardback and paper, 1996). Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine said, “The middle tale, ‘The Number of the Beast,’ is a gem.” Hollywood and Sunset, a novel will be published by Shambling Gate Press, fall 2005. Mr. Salisbury contributed to Red Sox Century: One Hundred Years of Red Sox Baseball, Baseball & The Game of Life, Ted Williams: A Portrait in Words and Pictures, DiMaggio: An Illustrated Life, Jackie Robinson: Between the Baselines, Fall Classics: The Best Writing About The World Series’ First Hundred Years and wrote Chapter 9 of a Treasury of Baseball, published by Publications International Ltd. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Ploughshares, Stories Magazine, Pulpsmith, Fan, Elysian Fields, Spitball, Nine, SABR Review of Books, Cooperstown Review, and (in translation) AERA, the Japanese equivalent of Time. He is a past vice president and national secretary of the Society For American Baseball Research (SABR). Mr. Salisbury was the first keynote speaker at Nine Magazine’s Annual Spring Training Conference (1994), and was a frequent guest on Channel 2 Boston’s “Ten O’clock News,” “The Group,” and “Greater Boston,” New England Cable News Network, Comcast’s Sports Pulse, and WBUR’s “Connection.” He was featured in AMC’s “Diamonds On the Silver Screen,” HBO’s Curse of the Bambino and wrote the Krank column for Boston Baseball from 1996 to 1999.
Mr. Salisbury attended The Hun School, New College, and received an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. He once taught third grade in the Bronx, and now lives with his wife Barbara and son Ace in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Something to Exchange. Celia Gilbert. (Blaze Vox Books Buffalo, NY http://blazevox.org)
Celia Gilbert’s new book of poetry “Something To Exchange” speaks to those who have been around the block once, twice and thrice. And for younger folks, take note: these poems will be sure to sucker punch you along this roller coaster ride we call “life’
Gilbert is a printmaker and painter as well as a poet and maintains a studio in Somerville, Mass. An accomplished poet, she has published three collections, and is the winner of an Emily Dickinson Award and a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Southwest Review, and many other prestigious journals.
In the poem “You Ask: Are You My Daughter?” a grown daughter confronts the sight of her elderly and infirm mother strapped to a chair, which brings on an accomplished meditation on mutual love and disappointment, with an unflinching eye to the ravages of time:
The lips pout as the skin sags—a look of disapproval
I never saw in my childhood. Hard not to shrink back
and think you don’t love me but you do,
or did. The one tied into your chair
doesn’t know me now, your precious only daughter
who grew up fearful of all physical danger lest in hurting myself
I wound you. This disappointed face
Seems to say you’re not what I wanted, not what I meant.
Now I am a memory, and you are a memory too.
“Father in His Summer Suit” brings me back to my own, late father, resplendent in his summer Seersucker, off the train from the canyons of Madison Ave, a New York Post under his arm, and his requisite cocktail hour breath. Gilbert’s memory of her dad is decidedly more pastoral, but searing none-the-less:
“ Home from work, Father, in his summer suit, / comes down the country lane.
Honeysuckle spills over the hedges. /He takes a blossom and nips the foot/
of its open-mouthed trumpet, /Letting me taste one translucent drop…. /All summer I tippled, drunk /on the connection to people long ago/who foraged in the wild—
A\and to my wild father—/So newly discovered.”
---- Highly Recommended
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Somerville, Mass./ June 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
TIM HORVATH: The tome sets the tone in his novella ‘ Circulation’
Tim Horvath is a youngish, scholarly looking man, with a new novella out from the former Somerville-based press sunnyoutside. His book “Circulation” concerns a librarian, his love of books, and his relationship with a decidedly eccentric father. Through books he connects with his father, as well as a love interest.
Tim Horvath received his MFA from the University of New Hampshire where he won the Thomas Williams Memorial Prize. His story “The Under Story” won the 2006 Raymond Carver Short Story Award. His work has appeared in Alimentum, Puerto De Sol, and other journals. He was the recipent of a 2008 Yaddo Fellowship. I talked with Horvath on my Somerville Community Access TV Show “ Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer”
Doug Holder: Books in general are the real protagonists in Circulation; from the father’s never realized work: “The Atlas of the Voyage of Things,” to the numerous other titles you mention. Do books make good heroes?
Tim Horvath: I think so. The impetus for the story itself… the first image that came to me was the book itself. The book circulating around. The worlds it would go into—the lives it would intersect. This was inspired by Primo Levi’s book the “ Periodic Table” He was a chemist in addition to being a Holocaust survivor. In “The Periodic Table” he takes 20 chemical agents and builds stories around them. Each one is a sort of incorporation of the elements. The last one was carbon…it really was a beautiful essay. It traces a single molecule of carbon throughout. For instance, at one point it in winds up in a bottle of wine. It has a marvelous ending. So I had this idea swimming in my head. I assigned the idea to books.
DH: Are you a bookish person?
TH: I grew up surrounded by books. I did eventually move away from the book being the only character in “Circulation.”
DH: Have books been heroes in your own life and others? Can they save people?
TH: I think so. I was surrounded with books as a kid. I can remember sort of sleeping with a bunch of books. My own daughter, who will be 4, does the same thing. It is almost like she is genetically programmed. Books have a power beyond their physical status.
DH: Your novella is not big on plot It seems more like a meditation. No sex and violence either. Any comment?
TH: Yeah, but the sequel we’ll have it. (Laugh) The novel I am working on “Goodbye Many Languages” will have three plots from the opening page. It is not my natural tendency. Obviously in “Circulation” it wasn’t a priority.
DH: Give me a description of the book and your influences?
TH: Borges was a big influence on the main character and me. The main character is a librarian. Borges has a story called “The Library of Babel” which is basically about
the universe as a library. The protagonist in my book is mindful of that library. The idea haunts him a little bit. It is almost like a Platonic idea of a library. Although Borges is a big influence on my work, he is almost purely concerned with metaphysical issues. He is not writing about sex, love and relationships. He is not writing about fathers and sons, which my book clearly does. I’d like to think that my book does both, the metaphysical and the ontological.
DH: The title character connects with a love interest through his father’s obscure book about caves. Is this part of your concept of the strange circulation of books, and the strange circulation of the world?
TH: Yeah. Global patterns or connections. There is an element of Chaos Theory there.
DH: In the many interviews with writers I have conducted I have noticed that they held many unusual jobs to make ends meet. Your work at a psychiatric hospital in New Hampshire. How does this fit in with your writing life?
TH: In a lot of ways it doesn’t. It pays the bills. It opens up time for me. Some of my obsessions with human character and personality come through in that job. I spend a lot of time working with autistic patients and patients with developmental disabilities. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to connect to them as individuals. I try to figure out what drives them, what makes them tick. What are they trying to communicate with minimal language? It’s certainly an opportunity to use what I glean in my work.
DH: Do you get much fodder for characters in your books?
TH: More of a composite thing. In the novel I am working on there is a troubled teenager whose character was derived from experiences I had. But also a lot was derived from teaching high school.
DH: I have been reading the new biography of John Cheever. He wrote a lot about his experiences at Yaddo, a famed writers’ residence. You went there. Can you tell us about
TH: Yaddo is a wonderful work environment. It is an old mansion, that is filled with 2nd or 3rd rate art, which is good because it might have become a museum rather than a writer’s retreat. It’s located in the woods in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York.
DH: Who was there when you were there?
TH: David Means, a great short storywriter, Jackie Lydon (NPR), and others… It was dreamlike being there. We had a salon-like environment. It felt convivial.
DH: Was writing a novella a first step to writing a novel? Is there a definition of a novella?
TH: A novella is from 10,000 to 50,000 words. I don’t know anyone who has a theory of the novella. This wasn’t a first step for me. It is a pretty typical length for my work.