Friday, July 16, 2010

The Somerville News Writers Festival-2010--Announces its lineup!

(McCourt will be the featured for the festival Nov. 13, 2010)

( Somerville, Mass.)
Timothy Gager and Doug Holder founders of the Somerville News Writers Festival announced the lineup yesterday for the November 13, 2010 event to be held at the Arts Armory on Highland Ave. in Somerville. Gager, the founder of the acclaimed Dire reading series as well as a well-published author in many genres, and Doug Holder the arts editor of The Somerville News, and a member of the faculty of Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. and Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, are: “Very excited about another literary extravaganza,” according to Gager. This year the Festival will feature such writers and poets as Malachy McCourt, Rusty Barnes, Michelle Hoover, Ethan Gilsdorf, Sam Cornish, David Ferry, Ethan Gilsdorf, Steve Almond, Matha Collins, and others. Holder and Gager proposed the festival to the board of The Somerville News in the summer of 2003 and since then the festival has established itself regionally and to some extent nationally. Over the years poets and writers like Robert Olen Butler, Sam Cornish, Tom Perrotta, Robert Pinsky, Robert Olen Butler, Franz Wright, Lan Samantha Chang, Nick Flynn, David Godine, Sue Miller and many others have read for the Festival. Below is the lineup of poets and writers:


MALACHY McCOURT-- As well as being the co-author of the play A Couple of Blaguards with his brother Frank, Malachy has written his own New York Times bestseller memoir, A Monk Swimming, published by Hyperion Press. His memoir, Singing My Him Song, now out in paperback is published by Harper Collins. Running Press recently published four of Malachy’s books: the history of the song Danny Boy, a history of The Claddagh Ring, Voices of Ireland, an anthology, and Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland. Recent books, Harold Be Thy Name and Bush Lies in State, are published by Welcome Rain. In the works is I Never Drink When I’m Sober for Harper Collins. Malachy writes a column, Sez I to Myself, that appears in the Manhattan Spirit, The Westsider and Our Town in NYC. (Read his latest article).

STEVE ALMOND--Steve Almond is the author of the short story collections My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow, the novel Which Brings Me to You (with Julianna Baggott), and the non-fiction books Candyfreak and (Not That You Asked). His most recent book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, which comes with a ‘Bitchin soundtrack’

RUSTY BARNES --Rusty Barnes grew up in rural northern Appalachia. He received his B.A. from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania and his M.F.A. from Emerson College. His fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in over a hundred fifty journals and anthologies. After editing fiction for the Beacon Street Review (now Redivider) and Zoetrope All-Story Extra, he co-founded Night Train, a literary journal which has been featured in the Boston Globe, The New York Times, and on National Public Radio. Sunnyoutside Press published a collection of his flash fiction, Breaking it Down, in November 2007. He is a nationally recognized and oft-solicited authority on flash fiction under all its various names and permutations, and serves on writing conference faculties and panels throughout the country, including recently with Associated Writing Programs, Somerville News Writers Festival, Writers@Work, The Parlor, Grub Street Writers and their annual Muse & Marketplace conference. He taught composition, fiction writing, and literature for over ten years in New England universities such as Emerson College and Northeastern University. His stories have been translated into Finnish, French, Polish, and Russian. His collection of traditional fiction, The Ground Always Gives Way, will be published by Sunnyoutside Press in early 2011. His recently completed novel, tentatively titled “Three of a Kind,” is about northern Appalachia, family and community dynamics, sex, drugs, and not so much rock ‘n’ roll.

MICHELLE HOOVER---Michelle Hoover teaches writing at Boston University and Grub Street.

She has published fiction in Confrontation, The Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Best New American Voices, among others. She has been a Bread Loaf Writer's Conference scholar, the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University, a MacDowell fellow, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and in 2005 the winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award for Fiction.
She was born in Ames, Iowa, the granddaughter of four longtime farming families.

ETHAN GILSDORF--Ethan Gilsdorf is an American writer, poet, editor, critic, teacher and journalist. He was born in Dover, New Hampshire, and raised in the nearby town of Lee. He has lived in Northampton and Amherst, Massachusetts; Brattleboro, Vermont; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Paris, France; and currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. He attended Oyster River High School in Durham, New Hampshire, and received his B.A. from Hampshire College and his MFA from Louisiana State University.

Gilsdorf is the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms (The Lyons Press)

A regular contributor of travel, arts, food, movies, books, and pop culture stories in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Improper Bostonian, Gilsdorf has also written for National Geographic Traveler, Psychology Today, Fodor's travel guides, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Poets & Writers, and The Christian Science Monitor. He is a book and movie critic for The Boston Globe, and his blog "Geek Pride" is seen regularly on He also blogs for and[2]

As a poet, he is the winner of the Hobblestock Peace Poetry Competition and the Esmé Bradberry Contemporary Poets Prize, and has published poems in Poetry, The Southern Review, the North American Review and several national and international anthologies. He is co-founder of Grub Street's Young Adult Writers Program (YAWP), volunteers as a guest speaker in the Boston public schools and leads journalism, feature writing, travel writing and creative writing workshops at Grub Street, Emerson College, Media Bistro and, for younger students, in schools and community centers.

JENNIFER HAIGH-- Jennifer Haigh (born 1968) is an American novelist and short story writer.

She was born Jennifer Wasilko to a Ukrainian Catholic family in Barnesboro, a Western Pennsylvania coal town 85 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in Cambria County. She attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 2002. Her fiction has been published in Granta, Ploughshares, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Good Housekeeping, and many other publications.

Her debut novel Mrs. Kimble -- telling the story of a mysterious con man named Ken Kimble through the eyes of his three wives -- (2003) won the PEN/Hemingway Award for outstanding debut fiction.

Her second novel, Baker Towers (2005), depicts the rise and fall of a western Pennsylvania coal town in the years following World War II. It was a New York Times bestseller and won the 2006 PEN/L.L. Winship award for best book by a New England writer.

Her third novel, The Condition, was published by HarperCollins in July, 2008. It traces the dissolution of a proper New England family when their only daughter is diagnosed with Turner's Syndrome, a chromosomal abnormality that keeps her from going through puberty.

She now lives in the Boston area.


SAM CORNISH--Cornish, Sam (b. 1935), First Boston Poet Laureate, poet, essayist, editor of children's literature, photographer, educator, and figure in the Black Arts movement. Born into urban poverty in Baltimore, Maryland, on 22 December 1935, Samuel James Cornish was the youngest of the two sons of Herman and Sarah Cornish. From his older brother Herman he learned early the lessons of the street, which he later would incorporate into a street-tough observancy in his poetry.

Cornish served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps (1958–1960), then returned to Baltimore, where he published two poetry collections—In This Corner: Sam Cornish and Verses (1961) and People Beneath the Window (1964). While working at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, he became part of Baltimore's political and literary underground, self-publishing a sixteen-page pamphlet entitled Generations and Other Poems (1964). A subsequent edition of Generations (1966) appeared when Cornish was editing Chicory, a literary magazine by children and young adults in the Community Action Target Area of Baltimore. Lucian W. Dixon and Cornish edited a selection from the magazine entitled Chicory: Young Voices from the Black Ghetto (1969). In 1968 Cornish won the Humanities Institute of Coppin State College Poetry Prize for his “influence on the Coppin poets” and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Soon poets as diverse as Maxine Kumin, Clarence Major, and Eugene Redmond would acknowledge Cornish's significance.

By 1970 Cornish was represented in the LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and Larry Neal anthology Black Fire (1968) as well as in the Clarence Major collection New Black Poetry (1969). He reconsidered his early poems of black historicized kinship, restructuring them into the Beacon Press's Generations (1971). After a brief stay in Boston, Cornish returned to Baltimore to work in secondary school and college writing programs. While there, Cornish published Sometimes (1973) with Cambridge's Pym-Randall Press. Teaching poetry in the schools led to several children's books: Your Hand in Mine (1970), Grandmother's Pictures (1974), and My Daddy's People (1976).

Returning to Boston in the mid-1970s, Cornish worked with the Educational Development Corporation and attended Goddard College in Vermont. He appeared in a host of new anthologies, from George Plimpton and Peter Ardery's American Literary Anthology (1970) and Harry Smith's Smith Poets (1971), to Ted Wilentz and Tom Weatherly's Natural Process (1972) and Arnold Adoff's One Hundred Years of Black Poetry (1972). Sam's World (1978) continued the historical and genealogical project of Generations.

Since the 1980s Cornish has divided his time between bookselling and teaching creative writing and literature at Emerson College in Boston. Songs of Jubilee: New and Selected Poems, 1969–1983 (1986) recasts earlier work into sequences of a historical and biographical nature. His autobiographical narrative, 1935: A Memoir (1990), blends poetry and prose into a montage of twentieth-century history. The poems of Folks Like Me (1993) offer political and cultural portraits of African Americans from the depression to the early 1960s. Current projects include the next volume of his autobiography, 1955, and a critical study of Langston Hughes.

DAVID FERRY--Ferry was born in Orange, New Jersey, and grew up and attended Columbia High School amid the “wild hills” of suburban Maplewood, New Jersey. His undergraduate education at Amherst College was interrupted by his service in the United States Army Air Force during World War II. He ultimately received his B.A. from Amherst in 1946. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and it was during his graduate studies that he published his first poems in The Kenyon Review.

From 1952 until his retirement in 1989, Ferry taught at Wellesley College where he was, for many years, the chairman of the English Department. He now holds the title Sophie Chantal Hart Professor Emeritus of English at Wellesley. He has also taught writing at Boston University. Ferry was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998, and he is a fellow of the Academy of American Poets.

In 1958 Ferry married the literary critic Anne Ferry (died 2006), who later became the first full-time woman member of the Harvard University English faculty; they had two children, Elizabeth, an anthrophologist, and Stephen, a photojournalist.Before moving to his current home in Brookline MA, Ferry lived across the Charles River in Cambridge, in the house where 19th century journalist and women's rights advocate Margaret Fuller lived before she joined the Brook Farm community.

In 2000, Ferry’s book of new and selected poems and translations, entitled Of No Country I Know, received the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress (for the best work of poetry for the previous two years). He is the author of a critically praised verse rendering of the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. The poet W. S. Merwin has described Ferry's work as having an "assured quiet tone" that communicates "complexities of feeling with unfailing proportion and grace."

Ferry is also a recipient of the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award.

MARTHA COLLINS--Martha Collins is the author of Blue Front, a book-length poem based on a lynching her father witnessed when he was five years old. Blue Front won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was chosen as one of "25 Books to Remember from 2006" by the New York Public Library.

Collins' chapbook Sheer (Barnwood, 2008) is her most recent publication.

She has also published four collections of poems, two books of co-translations from the Vietnamese, and an earlier chapbook of poems.

Her other awards include fellowships from the NEA, the Bunting Institute, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Witter Bynner Foundation, as well as three Pushcart Prizes, the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award, and a Lannan residency grant.

A selection of poems from Blue Front won the Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize in 2005; other selections from the book appeared in Kenyon Review and Ploughshares.

Collins founded the Creative Writing Program at UMass-Boston, and for ten years was Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College. She is currently editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press.

In spring 2010, she is serving as Distinguished Visiting Writer at Cornell University

DIANA DER-HOVANESSIAN--Diana Der-Hovanessian, New England born poet, was twice a Fulbright professor of American Poetry and is the author of more than 23 books of poetry and translations. She has awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Society of America, PEN/Columbia Translation Center, National Writers Union, Armenian Writers Union, Paterson Poetry Center, Prairie Schooner, American Scholar, and the Armenian Ministry of Culture. Her poems have appeared in Agni, American Poetry Review, Ararat, CSM, Poetry, Partisan, Prairie Schooner, Nation, etc., and in anthologies such as Against Forgetting, Women on War, On Prejudice, Finding Home, Leading Contemporary Poets, Orpheus and Company, Identity Lessons, Voices of Conscience, Two Worlds Walking, etc. Among the several plays written by DDH, two (The Secret of Survival and Growing Up Armenian) were produced and in 1984 and 1985 traveled to many college campuses in the 80s telling the Armenian story with poetry and music. After 1989, The Secret of Survival with Michael Kermoyan and later with Vahan Khanzadian was performed for earthquake relief benefits. She works as a visiting poet and guest lecturer on American poetry, Armenian poetry in translation, and the literature of human rights at various universities here and abroad. She serves as president of the New England Poetry Club.

FRED MARCHANT--Fred Marchant is the author of Tipping Point, winner of the 1993 Washington Prize in poetry. His second book of poems, Full Moon Boat, came out from Graywolf Press in 2000, and House on Water, House in Air: New and Selected Poems came out from Dedalus Press, Dublin, Ireland, in 2002. He is also the co-translator (with Nguyen Ba Chung) of From a Corner of My Yard, poetry by the Vietnamese poet Tran Dang Khoa. This book was published in 2006 by the Education Publishing House and the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

He is a Professor of English and the Director of the Creative Writing Program, and Co-director (with Robert Dugan) of The Poetry Center at Suffolk University in Boston. A graduate of Brown University, he earned a Ph.D. from The University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought. He is also a longtime teaching affiliate of The William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. He has taught creative writing workshops at sites around the country, ranging from the Robert Frost Place in Franconia, NH to the Veterans Writing Group, organized by Maxine Hong Kingston, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In 1970 Marchant became one of the first officers ever to be honorably discharged as a conscientious objector from the United States Marine Corps. Recently he has edited Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford, 1937-1947. This collection of poems, to be published by Graywolf Press in April 2008, focuses on Stafford's time as a conscientious objector in Civilian Public Service camps during World War II. Fred Marchant's new collection of his own poetry, The Looking House, was published in June 2009, also from Graywolf Press.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Doug Holder Profiled in July 16, 2010 "The Jewish Advocate

Holder hosts Jewish bards of Boston

By Zvi A. Sesling Special to the Advocate

Doug Holder has earned the nickname “Johnny Appleseed of Poetry” for his many years of writing, encouraging and promoting verse in Greater Boston. He is a Jewish poet, but while his faith infuses his work, his themes are too wide ranging to be pigeon-holed.

Go to to access the full article.

****The Jewish Advocate

The Jewish Advocate, founded in 1902, is the oldest continually-circulated English-language Jewish newspaper in the United States.

Based in downtown Boston, in the former Boston Post daily newspaper building (which, in its cellars four stories underground, still contains the century-old pulleys-and-lifts system equipment for the publishing presses of those days) overlooking what was known in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as “newspaper row”, The Jewish Advocate has published weekly every week since its founding over one hundred years ago. The paper is the primary Jewish newspaper for the Greater Boston and Eastern Massachusetts metropolitan area, and for much of New England, with subscribers in all 50 states and 14 foreign countries.

Go to: to access the full article.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Poet Laureate of Portland Maine comes to "laureate-less" Somerville, Mass.

Poet Laureate of Portland Maine comes to "laureate-less" Somerville, Mass.

Interview with Doug Holder

Poet Steve Luttrell is the newly appointed Poet/Laureate of Portland Maine. He is also the founder of the well-respected,and much lauded small press literary journal "The Cafe Review." I was glad to speak to Luttrell so I could ask him how it's been being a Laureate, and pick his brain about his fine literary journal. It is always good to have a poet laureate on my show on Somerville Community Access TV "Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer," especially when there is no official Somerville Laureate selected by the city to interview.

Doug Holder: Steve you started the Cafe Review in 1989. Most small press journals fold after a year or two. What is the secret to your success?

Steve Luttrell: I think the big part is how fortunate I have been to work to work with the people I have. It has not been a solo effort. Over the years there have been a dozen people that have worked with me. They are currently working with me, and they are poets, artists and writers. They are people who volunteer their time. We are a volunteer staff so everybody gets along well. We have our differences of opinions--there is a lot of give and take.

DH: And you have no problem in delegating authority?

ST: Oh- absolutely not. There are obviously different schools of thought. You know--one strong editor having his her own voice. But I think three or four poets, readily exchanging ideas works better. There are poets that I might not have published that people have said: " I really liked seeing that poet."

DH: Can you tell us about the interview you conducted with the poet Robert Creeley 15 years ago or so?

ST: He was at his summer residence on the Maine coast. He told me to meet me at a well-known diner "Moody's." I walked in and he said, "Could I get you a cup of tea or coffee?" I was in the presence of this man I read and admired for years and he was asking me if I'd like a cup of coffee. The point being was that he was a real down to earth--feet on the ground--type of guy. He had a lot of interest in different things. So I conducted the interview in his summer home, and put it on tape. I transcribed the tape and sent it to him. We kept going back and forth. We finally came up with a product we both liked and we published it.

DH: I am told that The Cafe Review was sort of birthed in a cafe.

ST: Well, there is a small cafe in Portland , Maine, where a bunch of us used to read poems in the backroom. This was in the mid 1980s. The owner was happy to see us because we bought stuff. That went on for a number of years. At one point someone suggested that we had a lot of great poetry being read, and said we should save some of the stuff. I started going around after our readings and gathered the poems up and put them in a little stapled 20-25 page chapbook.

In those days we were a monthly. I must of been insane to think that I could keep up with that. In 1992 we switched to a quarterly, which is a much more doable format. We started dealing with more than local poets and brought in visual artists. The Review sort of evolved on its own.

DH: I know Plougshares Magazine got its start at the Plough & Stars bar in Cambridge, Mass., Somerville's own Ibbetson Street Press got its start at a bagel shop, and many others started in coffee shops and such. What is it about these place that strikes the literary imagination and ambition?

ST: They are places people like to meet. I think historically coffee shops and bars are where many poets and writers gathered. In Paris they had salons, and coffee shop gatherings. They were places people came together and discussed ideas. I think it is a relatively old tradition. I don't think it is anything new. I think it is a place where poets feel comfortable getting together in social situations.

DH: You are the newly appointed Poet Laureate of Portland, Maine. I know Robert Pinsky, was a very active poet laureate--bringing poetry to the people so to speak. Do you have the same style?

ST: I don't know much about the man's poetry. I do agree with you that he was a real man of the people. I admire that. I am a huge fan of the new poet laureate W.S. Merwin. We will have to see what he does. I just like his work. I think he done some wonderful translations. But Pinsky was a wonderful laureate. You have to give back to the community that honors you in that way.

DH: What would you say to the City of Somerville to encourage them to appoint a poet laureate?

ST: If you are honored by a city and you return the honor it can only be a good thing. I think Mayor Curatone should consider it. The Poet Laureate positon in Portland, Maine has brought attention to the fact that there are some very creative people in the city and that the city has a rich literary history.

DH: You have been quoted that "you know what you like" when it comes to poetry. Well-- what do you like?

ST: I'm pretty eclectic. For me it is a poem that I can read a certain amount of times and still think I get something out of it. It is like a good home movie. The title of one of my poetry books is " Home Movies." I view poems that way. They are like home movies. They are tracks in the snow. I can see where I have been. I consider it a good poem if it places me back when I wrote the poem, where I was, when I "found" the poem.

DH: Did you study with any memorable poets?

ST: James Lewisohn. He lead a sad life, but he was a wonderful poet. I met him when I was 16. He introduced me to Allen Ginsberg, William Everson, etc... At the time most of my contemporaries were reading Robert Frost, etc... And I was grateful that I began with the Beats because they spoke to me where as poets like Frost---well, you really needed more life experience to really understand. Ginsberg had that great sense of street language. He was very influential for me.

DH: What can we expect in the newly released Cafe Review?

ST: Poets featured include Alice Bolstridge, Larry Dyhrberg, Bill Edmondson, David Filer, Erica Goss, Megan Grumbling, Jeff Hardin (AZ), Jeff Hardin (TN), Leonore Hildebrandt, Preston Hood, Susanna Lang, Lynn Levin, David Moreau, Renée Olander, Henry Rappaport, Marija Sanderlin, Christopher Seid, J.B. Sisson, and James K. Zimmerman-- interesting cover by photographer Fred Field, and much more.

DH: I always joke with Gloria Mindock of Somerville's Cervena Press that we are "holy fools" because we spend a lot of time publishing and make little or no money from it. Why do you do it?

ST: It feeds my spirit. It puts me in a position where I am reading and interacting with a wide variety of poets in a more direct way--much more than I normally would.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

3/03 by Chuck Wachtel

3/03 by Chuck Wachtel (Copyright© 2010 Hanging Loose Press. All rights reserved. 231 Wyckoff Street Brooklyn, New York 11217 Phone: 212-206-8465 Fax : 212-243-7499) $18.

Review by Shannon O’Connor

In Chuck Wachtel's 3/03, the protagonist, Tom, wanders the streets of New York during the first month of the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003, trying to find meaning in chaos and grasping at the questions he longs to answer. His daughter, Hettie, is the reason he wants to war to end quickly. Everyone on television, the politicians, the newscasters and the generals say the war will be over within six months. The novel feels very New York in its texture: the sights, the smells, and the energy of the city pulse through the story as Tom goes about his life. The New York angle brings to mind Grace Paley’s stories, and the humane but tragic aspect of war evokes Graham Greene’s The Quiet American.

The novel circles around Tom. He and his wife Joan are both creative writing professors. They share the care of their daughter Hettie; when she teaches, he takes Hettie and vice versa. A cast of character comes in and out of the picture: Hannie, a neighbor; Jimi, and old friend of Tom’s from high school who Tom realizes immediately that he does not like anymore; Victoria, a vocal lesbian and a mother of a child in the play Tom goes to see; Tom’s students Ayo, Clara and Nick. Tom tries to find stories in strangers he sees on the streets. He writes in his notebook what he imagines about their lives. He has not written that much since his daughter was born, because he is distracted by her, “He told people that rather than do anything else, even write, he preferred to spend his time in a rocking chair with his daughter in his lap, staring out the window and smelling her hair.” Tom wants nothing more than to protect his daughter. He will do anything for her, and in the end, he will be tested.

The style of 3/03 is very soft and unobtrusive. The reader realizes the horrible things that are about to happen to the world, and since they are based on real events, everyone who reads this knows that seven years later, there has not been an outcome. The foreboding is like a truck stuck in the sand on a beach, with the tide coming, and owners of the truck believe it will get out before the water comes. The reader knows that the end has not come, it keeps getting worse and worse, but in 3/03 the people demonstrating against the war think what they are doing counts. Time only ticks away and the war to civilians in America continues to seem unreal.

It is difficult to write about a political event which does not have an outcome in the present day. Reading this, people can remember that month, in March of 2003, when the war was starting, and everyone believed it would be over soon. People did not understand then, and do not now, what was the purpose. But looking back to the beginning, at the anger, and now apathy of what is still costing lives and money, the reader pleads, “Where did we go wrong?” There is still no answer. But the question must continually be asked.

* Shannon O'Connor is working on her MFA at Bennington College.