Saturday, May 01, 2010

Doug Holder, Paul Steven Stone, Steve Glines and Andrey Gritsman to read at KGB Literary Bar in NYC June 9, 2010

The Event is "Boston Small Press Poetry Scene"

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th StreetNew York City, NY
June 09, 2010
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. His poetry and prose have appeared in Rattle, Long Island Quarterly, Endicott Review, Main St. Rag and others. Doug is the author of many books and chapbooks. He teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, and Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. He holds an M.A. in Lit. from Harvard University.

Paul Steven Stone’s writings have appeared in a boatload of newspapers and magazines. His comic masterpiece, Or So It Seems has been called “A rollicking spiritual page-turner!” His story collection, How To Train a Rock, was culled from 25 years of genre- and mind-bending columns. Stone lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and works as Director of Advertising for W.B. Mason.

Andrey Gritsman is a poet, essayist and translator, born in Russia. He writes in two languages. His works have appeared in multiple magazines and anthologies. Andrey is the author of several collections and recipient of an honorable mention in the Pushcart Prize Anthology, and his current book of poems Live Landscape has just been released by Cervena Barva Press.

Steve Glines is the founder and Editor of Wilderness House Press and WHLReview. He is the author of Seven Days in Fiji a literary travelogue and the poetry chapbook Opuscula (Cervena Barva Press). His works have appeared in Ibbetson Street Press, four Bagel Bard Anthologies and elsewhere. Steve is also editor-in-chief at ISCS Press.

Host: Susan Tepper

Friday, April 30, 2010

Hanging Loose 96

Hanging Loose 96
Hanging Loose Press
ISSN #0440-2316

Review by Irene Kornas

What is happening in poetry being written presently? There seems, (to me) to be a blunt force; words mean exactly what is intended. There does not seem to be an under belly, metaphor, or a play with words. The writing feels like reality television. The spectator thinks, what is being shown as immediacy, an on the spot reaction to a situation; in reality the shows are scripted, similar to the poems being presented, presently, to the reading audience. This says to me, "any one can write poetry." Right? I'm making judgments about poetry today and I'm sorry for using this wonderful magazine as the scapegoat, but, here are some of the first lines from poems in this journal, that substantiate my premise, a scripted immediacy that perpetrates itself as poetic reality, but then again, it is a reality, story telling:

1. A woman sells expensive lotion
2. My mother does this thing
3. She stood between blacktop
4. I woke in my own bed
5. lowered myself into the small bluish

Here are five last lines from other poems:

1. and Jesus answering, "Everybody pays"
2. Blistering line drive
3. My father was a hard act to follow
4. Eager to fulfill a consumer need
5. Where the resolution seemed a good deal less than clear

In supposing these lines are poetry, when taken out of context, I might read them as an opening and closing of a newspaper article, and with this need to present reality as real, like a reporter reporting what happen yesterday, and what's wrong with that? now, that, newspapers are switching to computers, one will be able to take a manageable paper book and read while on the way to work.

The challenge for me is to stay realistic while reading prose, poetry and essays, by trying not to think for myself, but to read what is written as the Gospel truth of what is being told.

There are twenty four men and thirteen women represented in this magazine and I applaud the diversity of cultures and gender. This alone keeps my interest even when those differences, 'blur' in sameness:

"Man is a verb
Meaning to staff
Or people

Woman is not a verb
You cannot woman
Nobody knows
What will happen
If you try" Mac Barret

I understand there is an over all theme, a purpose to the sameness in this issue, yet/still, I am reminded of the sameness in poetry, 'out-there' and Hanging Loose 96 offers me an opportunity to express my distaste for such ness:

"Render, oh render, render me asunder with your scarlet blooms. Startle me awake and wide to be gifted in purposeful ways. Why am I so fascinated by you? This is all I know about, to come to grips profoundly within the drama of family and raw feelings. Do I really want to call you up from within and inherit what is so hard to dislodge? One reason I try to figure these things out, I hear you whispering to me, is so as not to figure myself out. One image after another in this ultimate writing, stems from that dream image, and the message it leaves you to wander through, you devoutest of pilgrims. To say the word love, out loud". Pansy Maurer-Alverez

This magazine is worth the read and reads like quick fiction; each page tells a story. Don't pass over this issue or you'll miss the telling.

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor:
Wilderness House Literary Review
Ibbetson Street Press

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Family Photo: My brother Donald Holder and family at the opening of " Promises, Promises."

(Click on picture to enlarge)

This is a picture of Donald Holder, his wife Evan Yionoulis (A prominent director and on the Yale Drama Faculty), and my niece Sarah and nephew Josh--future Oscar winners and acclaimed artists.

They are at the opening of "Promises, Promises" on Broadway, where Don is the lighting designer. Don has won the Tony for lighting for the Lion King and South Pacific, among many other accolades.

---Doug Holder/ Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene

Bringing Poetic Vision to the Blind

Bringing Poetic Vision to the Blind

By Doug Holder

A friend of mine the novelist Paul Steven Stone, submitted a poetry collection I wrote “The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel” ( Cervena Barva Press) to Robert Pierson, the director of the Olive W. Lacy Recording Studio at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass. On a late April day, I drove out to the school, a sprawling and bucolic campus in the middle of a congested semi-urban area.

Pierson met me at the studio that is housed with the entire Braille and Talking Book Library on the school grounds.. The building includes a large warehouse for audio books that are shipped across the state and to the National Library Service for the Blind, which is under the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. According to information that was sent to me the studio and the library were founded:

“on the belief that people who are visually impaired or print disabled must have access to as many materials that are available in the public libraries as possible. Therefore the studio produces recreational and informational readings to augment the Perkins Braille collection. The books range from novels, biographies and poetry, to children’s books and poetry.”

Because the library basically services Massachusetts residents, they look for local authors. The books submitted are viewed by a committee or panel, and if the members feel the book is worthy both for its general interest and the quality of its writing—they will record them on digital flash drives. Usually trained narrators read the books, but on rarer occasions the actual author does.

Before my seminal session I was handed a packet by Pierson that explained some of the finer points of reading. There was a discussion of the use of well-appointed pauses, how to animate your voice so you won’t talk in a dry monotone, how to take on a female voice if you are a male and vice-a-versa.

The narrator sits in a sound proof booth and reads from his work, while the monitor is outside the booth, working a computer, and watching for errors in speech, background noise, etc….

Pierson has worked as studio director for the past 14 years, and evidently has a passion for his work. He said the program is funded by the state, and in spite of the dire financial straits of late, their funding has not been cut.

Some of the titles that have or will be recorded are: Bunker Hill Community College professor Luke Salisbury’s novel “The Cleveland Indian,” “Shock” by Kitty Dukakis, “The Sins of the Father” by Ronald Kessler, “How to Train a Rock” by Paul Steven Stone, and many others.

The library and studio is presided over by Director Kim Charlson. Charlson, a nationally and internatinally recognized library director for the blind, told me that the library has over 110,000 titles in audio,and Braille. She proudly reported that the library was voted best library in the nation for the blind in 2008. I asked her how many Somerville residents use the library, and she told me that she has a list of 175.

Charlson lost her vision at 11, and has been living a full and active life ever since. She said one of the biggest challenges for her is to get people to take advantage of the services they offer. " For every one person we serve, eight to ten are not served." I asked her if any Somerville authors have been recorded for the library, and she came up with former Somerville resident Steve Almond, author of "Candyfreak" as well as other titles.

Charlson said audio books are more popular than Braille, and that like any library she has to be on top of the latest cutting edge technology.

After speaking with Charlson I went back to the recording studio. I heard my voice on a playback on a practice audio. I noted its clean and pristine quality—so unlike recordings of my work in the past. I left feeling good about my work and the chance for it to do some good in this world.

***Perkins School for the Blind‎175 North Beacon Street, Watertown, MA 02472(617) 924-3434‎ – (617) 972-7285‎ Perkins accepts charitable donations.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Last Night at the Wursthaus by Doug Holder

(Photo by Rachel Cunningham)

(Click on picture to enlarge)

(This is a picture of my poem " Last Night at the Wursthaus" on the window of the Grolier Poetry Bookshop in Harvard Square ( Cambridge, Mass.) The Wursthaus is a now defunct eatery, much loved by locals and others.


EAT NOT THY MIND by CHARLES PLYMELL (Glass Eye Books/Ecstatic Peace Library


Just as it takes a certain sensibility to, for example, dig New Orleans jazz a hundred years later, so it takes a certain frame of mind to relate to poetry harkening heavily back to a bygone era. Does that mean it takes a particular, even peculiar, mindset to respond wholeheartedly to Keats or Wordsworth or Shelley? Perhaps. But perhaps not. After all, are they not assigned to every schoolchild as examples to be appreciated, esteemed and emulated? Still and all, not every contemporary poet or consumer of poetry is at ease with strict rhyme and meter: to many it is a confining and distorting formal straitjacket which hinders and diminishes. We have evolved, they say, the past provides stepping stones not prescriptions.

So one can argue that it is inappropriate to criticize the styles of bygone times Рit is what people did then: they made the most of the clay of the day. After all, Bach was not rendered pass̩ by Beethoven and Beethoven is not the worse for having antedated Schoenberg or Stravinsky or Copeland. Chaucer and Raymond Carver were different writers for different times.

So what are we to do about writers who continue to write today in what is by now a bygone style? If it was valid then, spoke to people then, why not continue to produce in that vein? If it once was hot, why not? What’s wrong with composing a new St Louis Blues? Nothing, I suppose, if people today want to hear it, or read it. (And, of course, if it is good.)

We may not write like Keats any more – (hopefully) no one would think to try to produce another La Belle Dame Sans Merci -- but his truth and beauty are still relevant. So what about beat poetry? Are there still folks out there who can groove on the kaleidoscopic imagery of a bygone era? Well, why not? Allen Ginsberg, for example, is part of the accepted canon. His stuff happened in its context and we can appreciate it as an earnest expression of that context.

So here we have Charles Plymell – loose hanging far out tripper buddy of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Cassady et al -- writing beat poetry in 2009. As if to confirm his point of view, the frontispiece (as it used to be called) of his book comes fully equipped with a peace symbol and a psychedelic eyeball. Any child of the 60’s can understand where he is coming from, but is that enough?

And so, the First Question: who out there today will appreciate Charles Plymell’s new volume of beat poetry? What contemporary reader will trip along with lines such as these:

In the paradise of what was once the basin of angels

Sappho found without her cell phone popping a pill

under the olive tree and palm leaves swaying in L.A.

- or to the opening lines of the first poem in the book:

Stone locked savant harmony turn to wounded dust

near us the Monument Rocks in Grove County Kansas

where we heard the voice leveling the wind howling

from ancient shrieking calendars of fiery tent rituals

form violent hoof beats into the plains of autistically

unplugged grumpy Osage where the dominant Sioux

many Navaho came north before Black Kettle’s band

perished in tragic psychic fire of final transformation

cyanic voices gray faces beneath melancholy brown.

Is this poetry which can speak to universal human experience or solipsistic self-absorption? Will today’s readers dig it, or will they dismiss it as anachronistic drug-induced word salad, freely-associated disassociated half-images generated by an unfocused, overly distracted, mind? Is it creative improvisation or a soloist gone off on a random riff playing his own private non-harmonies? Far out is fine, but who’s driving?

Not all the pieces are free association enjambed poetry, however; some of them are essentially prose:

Stardust trapped at the bang became dehydrated, gave off methane gases in the deep

waters gradually through microbial flesh selves, reaching oxygen. Under high

pressure, methane insinuates itself into water around ancient microbes such as

archaea that do not have a nucleus and lack bacteria.

- or –

When anchored, yelled the captain to keep the ship from dragging or waggling at the

same angle from the sun the flower flicker after the waggle dance stops. Hmm said

old Nils about the natives. Their God seems good and true, so I guess we’ll have to kill them.

-- and so on.

And so, the Second Question: Is the poem-like beat stuff really poetry or an acid flashback – or both? Are the prosey pieces actually prose poems or just prosaic? In other words, even if you can dig it, does it really groove, is it any good?

Beats me.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

“The Habit of Art” by Alan Bennett

“The Habit of Art” by Alan Bennett

Reviewed by Lawrence Kessenich

The Coolidge Corner Theatre has hosted four NT Live productions from Britain’s National Theatre this year—not live theatre on stage, but the next best thing: high-definition presentations of currently running plays, which are often sold out in London. The most recent is “The Habit of Art” by British playwright Alan Bennett, author of “The Madness of King George,” “The History Boys,” and a dozen other plays.

Poet W.H. Auden and composer Benjamin Britten, who were good friends, once collaborated on a choral piece that was staged in New York. It failed miserably, and Britten blamed Auden’s libretto for the failure. He apparently blamed Auden in a very personal way, because he also ended his friendship with Auden and, as far as anyone knows, they never saw each another again. Using the time-honored “what if?” fictional device, Bennett imagines what would have transpired if the two had met once more.

But this is only the core story of “The Habit of Art.” Bennett puts the play about Auden and Britten within a play about actors at London’s National Theatre rehearsing a play about Auden and Britten. The set is a reproduction of a rehearsal space at the National Theatre, and the actors are suitably “dressed down,” both in their clothing and their attitudes—particularly so at this rehearsal, where the director has been called away and the stage manager (marvelously played by Frances de la Tour) is running the show. They frequently stop in the middle of the action to question what their characters are doing, often addressing the playwright, who (to the dismay of some cast members, and often to his own dismay) is in attendance at this rehearsal.

We’re meant to feel that we’re getting an inside look at a playwright and actors at work. Mostly it is quite successful and entertaining, though, once in a while, what the actors say about their roles, or question the playwright about, seems a bit forced (witness the play-within-the-play’s narrator, who, fearing his character won’t make a strong enough impression on the audience, “tries out” cross-dressing and a blowing on a tuba). But for anyone who has never acted or seen actors at work—and perhaps even more so for someone who has—it’s fascinating to hear their concerns as they try to figure who the people they’re playing really are.

One also gets the sense of how personally involved actors become with their characters. This reviewer, having acted himself, has experienced the enmeshment with one’s personal life that inevitably seems to happen when playing a role. The actors in “The Habit of Art” convey this convincingly. We also see actors picking instantly picking up the roles of other actors who couldn’t make the rehearsal, displaying their versatility (Jennings and de la Tour are particularly good at this).

There are some entertaining “naughty bits,” too, as the English like to call them, when Auden and Britten interact with a “rent boy” (read male prostitute) who Auden has hired to come to his home.

But the stand-out portion of the performance for this reviewer was the play-within-the-play itself—especially when Auden and Britten finally confront one another. Richard Griffiths is, of course, not in make-up for his role as Auden during this putative rehearsal of the play, and he’s also a much more obese man than Auden was, but one feels that he’s captured Auden’s physical presence, mannerisms, and vaunted eloquence. One never doubts that one is hearing the voice of a poet when he speaks, whether he’s being profound and insightful or playful and sarcastic—though he’s never overbearing, either.

Alex Jennings as Britten is the perfect foil for Auden—much more circumspect, though no less self-centered and egotistical. Britten has come to Auden seeking support for his latest project, an opera based on Thomas Mann’s novel “Death in Venice.” Besides the project itself, the two discuss their respective lovers and respective views on how they handle being famous and homosexual—a much dicier prospect in their day. They discuss their respective arts, music and poetry, and make the occasional dig at one another. Jennings and Griffiths truly convey the comfort/discomfort of old friends who’ve quarreled getting back together after a long hiatus. It’s sad, moving, frustrating, and amusing.

Anyone interested in theatre, music, or art in general, and anyone who simply enjoys being entertained by superb actors, will find “The Habit of Art” well worth seeing. There is just one more screening of the play, on Saturday, May 8, 2010 @ 1:00pm. Tickets are available at the Coolidge Theatre box office or online at:

The Coolidge Theatre will also be hosting an additional NT Live play, which has recently been added to the series: “London Assurance,” set in Victorian England, which is also sold out in for its entire run in London. Watch the Coolidge Theatre website for information on when the play will be shown.