Friday, March 26, 2010

Phil Hasouris: A Poet whose balm is the written word.

Phil Hasouris: A Poet whose balm is the written word.

Like many people Phil Hasouris was a closet poet. Literally, stacks of his notebooks were packed in closets, draws, in the recesses of his fertile imagination. But Hasouris took it one step beyond. He started reading his poetry in public. And God darn it…people really started to listen! Since then he has been featured at many local and national venues. He was the founder of the performance group’ Spirituous”, which combined poetry, music and movement. He is also the founder of the Brockton Poetry Series, among other accomplishments. In 2007 his wife Linda suffered an anoxic brain injury which lead to his acclaimed book of poetry “Blow Out the Moon.” I talked with Hasoruis on my Somerville Community Access TV show “ Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: Phil it is evident you like to have poetry programs that are more than a poet getting up there and reading from his work.

Phil Hasouris: Poetry is expression. If you look at poets—no matter what language—their body language is very telling. Cambridge Populist Poet Jean-Dany-Joachim’s native language is not English. When he reads in English his body language is still; but when he reads in his native tongue his body rises and there is a smile on his face. Poetry to me is more than standing behind a podium, or just reading poetry.

DH: You are the founder of the Brockton Poetry Series. How did it start?

PH: I had been to many venues. Brockton was getting a pretty bad name. People would ask me: “Anybody killed lately? I would reply: “Not today.” So I wanted Brockton to get some recognition…positive recognition that is. I went to the Director of the Brockton Public Library and told her that I wanted to start a series. I wanted a poetry venue that paid the poets, and would not charge admission. I wanted it to provide refreshments and conversation. This was all done through the library. Eventually the series went into non-profit status—and they do their own thing now. I started it and it was my conception.

DH: Your poetry collection “Blow Out the Moon” deals with your wife’s catastrophic brain injury and subsequent death. Was the book a catharsis for you? Does pain bring out the best poetry?

PH: I don’t know if it is pain but whatever you hold in becomes toxic. One of the statistics I found through the Brain Injury Association—was that 40% of people caring for a loved one become sick themselves. This is through sleep deprivation, not taking care of themselves, etc… To me the book was a way of getting the toxicity out. I could express it through poetry. Right now I am in the process of running some workshops for the Brain Injury Association. What I tell people that attend is that you have to express yourself. Whether through writing or painting…it has to come out some way. I call writing poetry a “gift”

DH: When did you come out of the closet as a poet?

PH: I started reading in the 90’s. I was writing way before that. When I started I mumbled and fumbled—went through that stage. I became a slam poet on the Brockton Slam Team. I went to the nationals in Austin, Texas. My wife became ill, so I dropped out for a while.

DH: What poets are your influences?

PH: Charles Bukowski, Shel Silverstien, and songwriters like: Warren Zevon, Paul Simon. Never studied poetry in school—came to it on my own.

DH: In your poem “ Life Expectancy” you talk with your dead wife—in your mind. Will this be a recurrent theme in your work—of a dialogues with a ghost so to speak.

PH: Absolutely. Right now I am writing a series of poems titled” Poems from the Aftermath.” “Life Expectancy” was written before my wife became ill.

DH: Was your wife a poet?
PH: No but she had an interest in me, and so had an interest in my poetry.

DH: You are running workshops for the Brain Injury Association, right?

PH: Yes. I have nee invited to speak at the Brain Injury Association on the Cape. I have run caretaker workshops, and survivor support groups. I would like to expand on this.

For more info:

Life expectancy

Why did you call.
I needed to hear your sound.

In this moment of my existence
I sought familiarity
in this mind maze
ebb and flow of past, future
I desired your presence.

If you blow into the trunk of an elephant
it will never forget your scent,
in this intimate interaction
karma is forever joined,
and when one passes the other will grieve
trumpeting sorrow.

Life expectancy of an elephant, 70 years.

How long has it been since I’ve told you…
A few weeks, couple of months.

A blank stare, our lives splinter,
melt, spill into cracks
listen to voices inside
discard them at the push, pull of time
we hesitate, our true falling,
our words strain against empty air
and I’ve been meaning to tell you
I remember, our eyes
holding secrets,
we rush off
brush against each other
our lips flat
these predictable kisses
these monotone promises
“I love you”
“Love you too”
now we dance like ghosts,
In our separate ways
we came together
in our time together
we went our separate ways
push against empty air.

Pygmy goby fish are born,
struggle to survive, mature, mate,
lay their eggs defend their young, die,
full life
life fulfilled.

Life expectancy of pygmy goby fish,
a few weeks, couple of months.

What are you thinking.
That’s not true,
why do candy bars always look bigger in vending machines.

Behind the glass we anticipate
eyes magnified
we pursue, stop at each slotted prize
consider, yank on lever
wait for tumble
wrap hands around.

j.g.h. moore wrote “Our walls were up and we knew it”
David R Surette wrote “Never miss anything, ever”
so where are we in between these lines
these walls and never miss
these pencil scratches that score our human frailty,
life expectancy of human frailty

Are you there.
Yes, I was just thinking.

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