Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Set in Motion
The Wildflower Press
REVIEW BY: Renee Schwiesow
Chance meetings are not always chance. Nor does time and distance sever the connection made during brief encounters that we may brush aside as trivial. For Karen McKinnon and Pastor Ian (Murdo) MacKenzie, even an absence that covered the span of forty-one years did not diminish the connection these two soul-others had together.
While in her twenties, Karen shared a mere forty minutes with Ian on a train ride from Edinburgh to Newcastle, Scotland. They held a forty-minute conversation that lived on for Karen and a pointed question Ian asked stuck with her: what is writing for? After Karen returned to the states where she planned on marrying her fiancé, Ian wrote to her. In the fifties women who were about to be married did not carry on as pen pals with other men. Karen did not write Ian back. But she never forgot him and with the understanding of her second husband, set out to find Ian on a trip to Scotland. She would find him on that trip, through another chance encounter with an Elder at St. Giles Cathedral, but it would be little over a year before the two actually met again on a second trip Karen and her husband took to Scotland. During the interim, their relationship blossomed through letters.
Karen’s memoir shared with us through journal entries, poetry, and letters relates love through Spirit in a way far too many of us discount. Not only are we allowed into the inner circle of the relation between Karen and Ian; but also we are drawn into the understanding, the openness, the love that is shared between Karen and her husband, Richard, and Ian and his wife of 40 years, Elizabeth. Ian and Karen write of their connection, which Karen addresses in this way:
“I am not trying to reclaim what never was; just participate in what is, here and now. This is all we’ve got.”
And, Karen and Ian’s exchanges poignantly offer that the present is a gift and true connection, is something not to be taken lightly or for granted.
Karen McKinnon is a poet. And the introduction offered by Robert Creeley in her last book of poetry, “Coming True,” is well deserved. The poems she offers in “Set in Motion,” were all shared over the years with Ian. He often requested that she send more, never tired of her work. In reading “On an Island,” I realized that I secluded myself on a metaphorical island in the reading of “Set in Motion.” I sat curled in my green, corduroy wingback chair and the water of the words shared between Karen and Ian, the emotion of her poetry flowed around me:
A tapestry of words
my narrowed awareness
tugs my sleeve
The hibiscus blooms
fuschia, orange, pink
bows before us
under its breath like every-
thing else that breathes
I finished the book with a sigh, knew that I was unraveled and was happy to have been undone by the threading of Karen’s tapestry of words.
An Adventure of Economy in Gringo Guadalupe, poems by Kevin Gallagher: Article by Michael T. Steffen
An Adventure of Economy in Gringo Guadalupe,
poems by Kevin Gallagher
article by Michael T. Steffen
A nifty, true to the term “pocket” book (from the French “livre de poche”), a 7”x 4” paperback distributed by Ibbetson Street Press, Kevin Gallagher’s Gringo Guadalupe is handily organized into two sections that immediately solicit comparison.
The first section, consisting of eleven formal poems, seven sonnets and four villanelles, evokes the tradition of the sonnet sequence that recounts a narrative. Gallagher’s story in this first sequence of poems combines contemporary secular elements with traditional mystical ones. It is of a North American who moves his family (his wife…daughter…) to Mexico, to Guadalupe, to take a job in a factory. Set in lyrics, the narrative is cursory, suggestive, leaving us to make connections and put the story together. From the first line of the book we gather the narrator’s reasons for pulling up and moving across the border have somewhat to do with our current economic
Everything is too expensive to be poor.
We have heard of those with five-digit bank accounts who go to South America to live like millionaires, though it’s not easy from Gallagher’s narrative to guess that we are just so well off in Gringo Guadalupe. One curiously infers a geographical fiction here telling of the hard times we face, cutting back to more modest standards, such as, ironically, the
…one town where the employees live.
It has a school where teachers speak English.
The shopping mall is fully equipped with
TV’s and burgers—whatever you wish.
(“At the Company Orientation…, p. 6)
Yet the geographical setting also proves pivotal to the unexpected turn of events in the narrative which deepens Gallagher’s boldly spiritual reckoning, on the bridge of public language in poetry, from a deeply private experience and revelation. We won’t give the details of the story away. I’ll venture to say I appreciated Kevin Gallagher’s idea that imaginative possibilities have a different intensity and grandeur when set among a people with different beliefs and values than ours.
Back to the comparison between the two sections of the book: If the opening sequence lends itself to our reading comprehension through clarity of language and buoyancy of temperament, the second part, “Frescoes,” consisting of twenty untitled sections, reads as shorthand, symbolic-imagistic, around a less determined, more cryptic challenge to the poet’s meditation.
These “enigmas” share with the poems from Gallagher’s first section a knack for juxtaposing older and newer language and imagery, as Anastasios Kozaitis has pointed out, referring to an idea from Pound and Eliot, of shaping poetic language “in perpetual pursuit to make it new.”
Gringo Guadalupe offers the reader a unique clarity of contrasts in ways to approach sustained poetic forms, while both sections remain cordial in their selective concision. We do not get the sense that Gallagher is rambling on and on.
True to its theme, economical stylistically as well as physically, this little book, aptly designed by Steven Glines at ISCS Press, in our age of pocket communication gadgets, makes for a handy companion to take along with us and read conveniently here and there wherever we have a few minutes to direct our attention to all that is urgent and persistent with us.
Gringo Guadalupe by Kevin Gallagher
is available for $10
from Ibbetson Street Press
25 School Street
Somerville MA 02143
Monday, October 05, 2009
Susan Tepper, Doug Holder, Gloria Mindock, Pam Laskin, Martin Golan to read in NYC at KGB BAR OCT 9,2009 7PM
CERVENA BARVA PRESS READING
KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street New York City, NY
October 09, 2009
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson St. Press. His poetry and prose have appeared in The Boston Globe, Rattle, Cafe Review, The New Renaissance, Home Planet News, Boog City, Poetry Bay, Word Riot and many others. He holds an M.A. in Literature from Harvard University, and recently released: “From the Paris of New England: Interviews with Poets and Writers.”
Pamela L. Laskin is a lecturer in the English Department at The City College, as well as director of The Poetry Outreach Center. She is a published author of five picture books and four volumes of poetry, most recently, SECRETS OF SHEETS (Plain View Press) and GHOSTS, GOBLINS, GODS AND GEODES. (World Audience Press.) LIFE ON THE MOON: MY BEST FRIEND’S SECRETS, a textbook of teen fiction that she edited, will be published in the fall.
Susan Tepper’s collection DEER & Other Stories has just been published by Wilderness House Press. A five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she’s had fiction and poetry in American Letters & Commentary, Green Mountains Review, Salt Hill, New Millennium Writings, Crannog and elsewhere. Cervena Barva Press published her chapbook Blue Edge (2006). Susan is assistant editor of Istanbul Literary Review. www.susantepper.com
Martin Golan’s latest book is Where Things Are When You Lose Them, a collection of stories. It follows his novel, My Wife’s Last Lover, which was No. 1 on Amazon’s best-seller list for Montclair for over a year. You can read about him at http://martingolan.com
HOST: Gloria Mindock is the author of three full-length poetry collections, Blood Soaked Dresses (Ibbetson Street, 2007), Nothing Divine Here (U Soku Stampa, Montenegro, 2009), and At the Heaven’s Gates, (Cogito Press, Romania, 2009). She is editor of Cervena Barva Press, and the Istanbul Literary Review. Her work has been widely published in the US and abroad.
Interview with Fiction Writer Susan Tepper: Author of “Deer and Other Stories”
Susan Tepper has been described as a “dear” person by many people I have talked with. She also likes to use “Deer” and other animals in her work. Tepper is the author of the newly released “Deer and Other Stories” (Wilderness House Press). Tepper has a book of poetry published by the Cervana Barva Press “Blue Edge,” she has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, and her writings have appeared in such journals as: Salt Hill, American Letters& Commentary, Ibbetson Street and others. She has worn many hats; a hat of the actor, singer, TV producer, etc… I talked with her on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.
Doug Holder: Susan in an interview you said that your early influences were playwright Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams. What do you bring to your own writing from these men?
Susan Tepper: I think playwrights are all about dialogue. I think playwrights capture how people speak naturally. I love to write dialogue. I love the dialogue of Pinter and Mamet for instance.
DH: So you write down snippets of conversations that you overhear in cafes for instance?
ST: No. I never write down anything. I write spontaneously. I think my years of acting on the stage, makes me multi-dimensional as a writer. I write a lot about male protagonists, Gay guys, and straight guys. I think I am trying to struggle to solve the enigma of men. They are very confusing! I just write whatever comes into my mind, in the end.
DH: You have described "loss" as one of the main themes of your writing. Did life events spur you on to explore this theme?
ST: It is interesting. I was teaching last night in Boston at Grub St., and I told my students that I started a story that read, “It should have been the start of a perfect morning on one of the worst days in my life." Something was happening that was terrible in my life, so my story began that way. But what happened was the story took on a life of its own, and became a very black story in a funny way. I was also laughing over my computer about this story on a very, very dramatic day in my life. Writing kept me going at this time in my life. I wrote two novels over a period of ten years where there was nothing but family crisis.
DH: What can an actor bring to writing? What can a writer bring to acting?
ST: Personally I don't know anyone who has gone to writing to acting. I know a lot of actors who are writing. I think what happens with acting is you are using other people's words. There is a time when you get tired of the New York acting thing. It is a very hard life. As you get older you start getting tired of doing auditions. You don't want to go on tour, etc...
DH: In your new collection "Deer..." a deer rears its pretty head in every story. What is it about these animals that compelled you to make it a focal point in each story?
ST: I didn't know I was doing it. These are stories that I have written over the past twelve years. I think deer are very beautiful and gentle creatures. There is so much controversy around them. People are shooting them, electrocuting them...so when I see deer hit by a car I feel pained. So it is sort of a mystical thing. Over the course of time when I wrote my stories the deer would appear as a live deer, or a plastic lawn deer, or a wire deer. The Deer… they just kept on coming! When I put this collection together I realized it was a common theme. The deer is a mirror image for the human being. We, like the deer can be beautiful, fearful and dangerous.
DH: You write a lot about estrangement in relationships. Is the deer's visage a sort of wakeup call to couples who are blind about the machinations of their relationships?
ST: I don't really analyze the work. I write the story, either it works or it doesn't. I think the deer is just some mystical force that keeps coming across for me.
DH: Do you know another writer who uses animals like you do in their work?
ST: I personally don't, but I am sure people have. I was a Method actor. We used to do animal exercises to work on certain characters. I remember hearing that Marlin Brando aped an ape, when he was working on "Streetcar Named Desire." When I was in "Cat on the Hot Tin Roof," I worked on the cat. I would crawl on the stage. It has worked for me as an actor, maybe that's how it worked its way into my writing.
DH: How is the Small Press valuable for the writer? How has it been valuable for you?
ST: The Small Press is so huge for the literary writer. Commercial presses are in it to make money, and they purchase books on the basis of what sells. And it is usually not a great work of literature because our culture is moving away from that. People have to publish in the Small Press. The literary community depends on the Small Press to keep their work out there.
DH:Is there a future for the physical book?
ST: I hope so. I like the idea of holding a book and turning the pages. People like to hold and look at the cover. I can't imagine reading a book on the computer--it doesn't appeal to me at all.