Saturday, July 18, 2009


THE FUTURE THAT BROUGHT HER HERE:A MEMOIR OF A CALL TO AWAKEN.By Deborah DeNicola.2009; 360 pp; Ibis Press, Nicolas-Hays, Inc.,POB 540206, Lake Worth, Florida 33454-0206,$16.95.

OK, so the core of the book is a call for women to feminize themselves by going back to the theology of the Magna Mater/Great Mother, before God was macho-ized, and learn how to face the world using their dreams, intuitions, their whole inner mental-spiritual powers. Which is a stirring and masterful thesis....but the real fun in the book is when DeNicola goes back to the places where the churches devoted to this feminism still exists, and doesn’t just theorize about traditional Catholicism versus the Cathars and Albigensians, heretics versus orthodoxy, or even goes back to the ancient pre-Christian, pre-Judaic times when the center of theology wasn’t God the Father but God the Mother, and actually goes into the places where the images of the ancient woman-centered theology still exist.

In Marseille, for example, she first goes to see the giant golden Madonna that stands over the city over Notre Dame de la Garde, and then she and her friend, Deborah Rose go to the shrine that tells the real, ancient, authentic story about what the Madonna is all about: "We had come to see the old city and to visit the Abbey Saint Victor to commune with an important Black Madonna known as Notre Dame de la Confession...." This Madonna does not resemble the one that presides over the city from the hilltop at all. Far from glamorous or soft, she is plain and authoratative. Deborah told us that, in earlier times, a Demeter/Persephone ritual took place on this spot. Begg tells of the Candlemas procession that has replaced the Demeter/Persephone ritual in Marsaille since the year 600 A.D. On February 2nd...the point between the winter solstice and spring equinox....this Black Madonna, Notre Dame de Confession, is dressed in a greencape and lifted from her crypt to parade throughtown followed by a crowd carrying green candles. The celebration is one of cyclic renewal. The color green, also the color sacred to the Egyptian goddess Isis, is a representation of the coming spring.....I was overwhelmed by Deborah’s statement that the Anatolian Mother Goddess lineage was probablythe oldest known -- reaching back to 6800 B.C.E....In Deborah’s words, "Mary is the most recent in thelong succession of mother goddesses from Anatolia." There is a connection between Ephesus and Marseille,since Marseille was discovered by Greeks who held the Anatolian Artemis sacred... (pp.=20274-275)

You don’t want to stop reading, do you? And that’s the way the whole book is, an inspired examination into the ancient female-goddess centered world that highly influenced early Christianity but eventually was censored out of existence, putting both Mary Magdalen and the Virgin Mary in minor roles overshadowed by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But the pre-Christian goddess-centrism is still amazingly visible in the ancient churches of France. Like in Arles in the Eglise Saint Trophime where the doorway is in the shape of a mandorla, an ancient symbol of 3the vulva, where Christ seated right in the middle, symbolizing his subordination to female power: as we enter the church, we enter the body of the sacred. The Black Madonnas, whose postures are straight and empowered, hold the child Jesus on their laps with a strong and stiff authority, like that of Isis’ throne holding Pharaoh. Compared to the late medieval and Renaissance Marys, whose bodies curve, whose skin is lightened, and whose figures show soft vulnerability, the Black Mdonnas are formidable in their appearance of strength...The early Christians took these older goddess forms and images of Isis and Horus and their pagan past to keep the fertility of Christ and the Magdalen’s marriage alive,despite its having been erased by the Patriarchs. (p.262)

And what really saves the authenticity of DeNicola’s contentions, is the total depth of her research. There’s a staggering bibliography at the end.At the same time, though, the book is filled with Denicola’s magnifique poetry, her dreams, her intuitions, her own personal life, her distrust of men, so that what you have here is a profound theological study of the influence of the Power Goddess in the ancient and beginning-Christian world plus a personal confessional account that turns it all into something able to be related to.One of the few-few books I’ve seen in the last twenty years that I couldn’t, couldn’t put down.

---Hugh Fox/Ibbetson Press

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Buffalo Expatriates Poetry Tour Kickoff: Elizabeth Swados - Bert Stern - Mark Pawlak

****I will be interviewing Tony-nominated playwright Elizabeth Swados, and Hanging Loose Publisher Mark Pawlak on Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer July 21 5PM

The Buffalo Expatriates Poetry Tour kickoff
Elizabeth Swados - Bert Stern - Mark Pawlak

Tuesday, July 21st
7:00 PM
Pierre Menard Gallery
10 Arrow Street, Harvard Square

These three distinguished poets were born and grew up in or near Buffalo, New York, but have pursued lives and careers elsewhere for many decades. Now they have teamed up for the Buffalo Expatriates Poetry Tour. Pierre Menard Gallery will host their kickoff for the reading tour that will culminate in Buffalo later this year.

Elizabeth Swados has just published her first poetry book, The One and Only Human Galaxy, a collection of poems about the life of Harry Houdini, with Hanging Loose Press. Perhaps best known for her Broadway and international smash hit Runaways, she has composed, written, and directed theater, music, and dance for over 30 years. Some of her works include the Obie Award-winning Trilogy at La Mama; Alice at the Palace, with Meryl Streep, at the New York Shakespeare Theater Festival; and Groundhog, which was optioned for a film by Milos Forman. Her work has been performed on Broadway, off Broadway, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Carnegie Hall, and venues all over the world. She has also composed highly acclaimed dance scores for well-known choreographers in the U.S., Europe and South America. Ms. Swados has published novels, non-fiction books, and children’s books to great acclaim, and has received the Ken Award as well as a New York Public Library Award for her book My Depression. Other distinctions include five Tony nominations, three Obie Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Ford Grant, the Helen Hayes Award, the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Foundation Writer’s Award, a PEN Citation and others. She lives in Manhattan.

Bert Stern’s chapbook, Silk/The Ragpicker’s Grandson, was published by Red Dust, and his new, full-length collection, Steerage, has just been published by the Ibbetson Press. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including New Letters, Beloit Poetry Review, Hungry Mind, Poetry, and the American Poetry Review, and also in half a dozen anthologies. Presently, he teaches men on probation in a national program called Changing Lives Through Literature, and he and his wife co-edit a small press dedicated to the work of poets over 60. He lives in Somerville.

Mark Pawlak is the author of five poetry collections, of which Official Versions is his most recent. Another collection, Jefferson’s New Age Salon, will be published in fall 2009 by Cervena Barva Press. His poetry and prose have appeared in The Best American Poetry, New American Writing, Mother Jones, Pemmican, and The Saint Ann’s Review, among other places. Pawlak supports his poetry habit by teaching mathematics at UMass Boston. He is coeditor/publisher of the Brooklyn-based literary press and magazine Hanging Loose. He lives in Cambridge.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review of Coping With Madness by Philip Fletcher

review, Review of Coping With Madness (self published, 2009,, single-spaced, 84 pages) by Philip Fletcher of unknown location

by Barbara Bialick

Coping With Madness is a blog-like set of streams of consciousness from the 1990s when the author was lonely and sex-starved and in his 50s. I think there’s lots of people who could relate to that, but don’t look for high art or poetry. Even saying that, I’ll throw in some quotes that have an interesting twang such as: (from Seemingly Nothing, Bloke on the Dole aged 48)—“Another night’s soulless sleep and one more barren day to come. I live in a social vacuum…I sit on my favourite park bench in the early morning light, watching my dog relieve himself…an overweight middle-aged woman comes shuffling towards me, led by a squat Scottie dog…the hopeless case stares straight ahead, telling someone off who only she can see. Even the birds are in a bad mood, scrapping in the trees…I might as well go home and back to bed for a few hours.” There are many other lonely, moody, sardonic entries but they are often too obscene to recount here…

Many of his fellow writers could, however, relate to “Dear BLOODAXE BOOKS”:
“I’m nearly 51 years old, I’ve been visually handicapped all my life and now I have Arthritis…I don’t know what I’ll do if you turn me down, I’ve set my heart on being published by you, I like your name and you’re not as far away as London…I’ll probably get clinically depressed again. Yours, etc. (How could they have refused me after a letter like that? I ask you?)”

An enty at the end from 2007, sums up his book, “Aged 60, I’m now concentrating on my personal paradise. My version of the afterlife might differ greatly from yours. It’ll be me, aged 23, and a whole harem of beautiful women Living miles apart in an idyllic green and lush setting, letting me Play Lord and Master whenever I deigned to pay them a visit…And that’s it, please let that be it; if I ever get the urge to write again you can shoot me and speed me on my way to my happy ever after, where the sounds of sex and laughter are all I’ll hear.”