Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Fair --- Haverhill Public Library-- Aug 26, 2010


Christopher & Nancy Obert, owners of Pear Tree Publishing and authors of “The Next Harvest, Vineyards & Wineries of New England.” (Event Organizer)

Coralie Hughes Jensen, author of the novels “Passup Point,” “Lety’s Gift” & “Winter Harvest.” (Event Organizer)

Christopher Golden, nationally famous author of many comic books, plays, horror & fantasy novels, including “Wildwood Road,” Straight on Til Morning” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels.

Allan Hunter, author of “The Six Archetypes of Love” and “Stories We Need To Know.”

Bruce Valley, author of “Seahawk: Confessions of an Old Hockey Goalie, “Flying Frenchmen: The Story of the Berlin Maroons and the REAL Hockeytown USA” and “Rye Harbor, Poems of the New Hampshire Seacoast.”

Claire Gibeau, author of 2 novels and 8 children’s books.

Elena Dorothy Bowman, author of “The Sarah’s Landing” Series.

Jean Foley Doyle, author of “Life in Newburyport, 1900 – 1950” and “Life in Newburyport, 1950 – 1985”

K. D. Mason, author of “Ice Harbor” and “Changing Tides.”

Lucinda Marcoux, author of “King of the Forest.”

Nate Kenyon, author of many horror books and short stories including “Prime” and “The Bone Factory.”

Tracy Carbone, short story author with stories in the “Traps” anthology and many other publications.

Scott Goudsward, author of horror novel “Trailer Trash,” editor of “Traps” and author of the non-fiction horror guidebook “Shadows over New England.”

Paul Stone, author of “Or So It Seems” and “How to Train a Rock.”

Monique & Alexa Peters, authors and illustrators of “Cooper and Me.”

Michael LaFosse & Richard Alexander, owners of Origamido Studio and authors of numerous books on origami.

Ashlyn Chase, author of “Strange Neighbors” and other Romantic Comedy.

Anna Soria, editor of “Voices of Haverhill” poetry by Greater Haverhill Poets.

Jeanine Malarsky, author of “Black Raspberries.”

Anne Ipsen, author of “Karen from the Mill”, a novel from the golden age of sail; as well as other novels.

Christina James, Author of “Naughty and Wicked Romance...With No Strings Attached” and other novels.

Cindy Davis, author of the novel “Voice from the Ashes.”

Dave Daniel, author of “Murder at the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

Ed Marshall, author and creator of the hand made poetry books “Sandalwood,” “Lilacs” and “Ripples.”

John Katsaros, author of the World War II memoir “Code Burgundy, the Long Escape.”

Kevin Conley, comic book illustrator for comics such as “Kid Houdini and The Silver-Dollar Misfits.”

Michael Bisceglia, author of the novel “Room 600.”

Michael Kilday, author of numerous Spiritual books.

Michaeline Della Fera, author of “Women at the Table.”

Nikki Andrews, author of “Chicken Bones” and “A Windswept Star.”

Pat Emiro, author of the memoir “Finger of God” and the poetry book “Expressions from His Heart.”

Roxanne Dent, author of supernatural Romance novels.

Doug Holder, founder and editor at Ibbetson Street Press – which publishes the best of the small press poetry.

William Bond, author of many business books.

The Greater Haverhill Poets, a group of poets and writers based in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Authors of the poetry compilation books “Pen & Brush,” “Voices of Haverhill” and “Poetic Fairy Tales.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lip by Cathryn Cofell


Cathryn Cofell
Abella Audio Productions

In the early part of the 20th century poet Basil Bunting was among the first poets to drive home the point that poetry should be spoken, that like a musical score it was not intelligible until it was heard aloud. And so performance poetry began to take shape. Yet it took until the 70’s and the arrival of slam poetry for spoken word and performance poetry to really begin to find their zenith. Today, the marriage of poetry and music continues to expand into libraries, coffee houses, pubs, art galleries and sometimes spills its lyrical beauty in gardens or on street corners. Cathryn Cofell’s CD “Lip” (music by Obvious Dog) combines her love for the written word with her love for music and her talent for public speaking into a journey syncopated with words jazzed up with musical interludes.

Ms. Cofell’s list of credits runs long. In addition to “Lip,” she has published numerous books of poetry, won 40 plus awards, and was nominated not once, but twice, for a Pushcart. Her full-time gig is in the non-profit arena and this Wisconsin girl also finds time to support the Arts, as a self-proclaimed “sucker for a good cause.” While her credits also include speaking engagements and voice-over work, I have to say that this reviewer was somewhat disappointed in the delivery of the work on “Lip.” The poetry is intense, touching on women’s themes from the get-go. The first work deals with puberty, menses, coming of age, and the evolution through the phases of a woman’s moon – yet, the performance barely skims the surface of the emotional sworls and upheavals of women’s cycles of life.

With titles like “Ms. Conception” and “Covered in Hicky’s” we continue to follow Ms. Cofell’s emphasis on women’s themes, sexuality, and fertility or lack thereof. By half way through the CD I found myself humming the old tune, “I am Woman!” (hear me roar)

The musical interludes of Obvious Dog are sound enough in the beginning and the music is allowed further showcase as the CD progresses, but is never the breath of a soundtrack beneath the lyrical spoken words.

This is a CD that addresses the evolution of women; the writing and imagery is solid and I enjoyed listening to it multiple times in my car, even as I longed for a more evocative presentation of the spoken word.

*****Rene Schwiesow is a co-host of Poetry: The Art of Words in Plymouth, MA. She co-owns an online poetry forum (, has been published in various anthologies including “City Lights” and is a regular at open mic’s on the greater Boston poetry circuit.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010



(Hanging Loose Press, 2010)

REVIEWER: Manson Solomon

Michael Cirelli’s work is Good Stuff. With an agenda.

His seriousness of purpose is made clear in the epigraph: “Why hasn’t racial anxiety, shame and hatred . . . been more a theme in poetry by Caucasian-Americans? . . . To speak in a voice equal to reality . . . will mean admitting that one is not on the sidelines of our racial realities, but actually in the tangled middle of them, in very personal ways.” (Hoagland, Tony, “Negative Capability” The American Poetry Review Mar/Apr 2003: Vol 32, No.2. )

Cirelli dives right into the “tangled middle” of hip-hop culture, complete with his own personal Brown Skin Lady (well, ladies actually, since there are no less than five poems with that title, some of whom are, not insignificantly, Middle-Eastern and South Asian rather than African-American), and proceeds to

. . . surround myself with black

people, black people that

had space jive, had cosmic

language wrapped

around their fingers,

and I homaged those words

and deconstructed that swagger . . .

as I boarded

every new rocket ship

and from that vantage point he comes at us with his authentic poetry.

So far so cool. But why is this white boy speaking poetry on behalf of blacks? Can’t they speak for themselves? Well, he isn’t – he is actually speaking for himself. The hip-hoppers and rappers are speaking for themselves in the rap and hip-hop itself – it’s their authentic voice, but it ain’t poetry. Cirelli has been called a “hip-hop” poet, and if by that it is meant that hip-hop is often the subject of his poetry, fair enough. On the other hand, if it is meant to suggest that his poems are actually hip-hop themselves, then nuh-uh: he is no more a mere hip-hopper or rapper than Wordsworth was a daffodil or a waterfall. Though he often immerses himself in the rhythms of hip-hop, and many of his poems allude directly to specific hip-hop songs, his work is way too good, too sophisticated, to be mere hip-hop lyrics.

What Cirelli does is to personally enter into the hip-hop scene and write about it from within – or as within as a white boy can get -- giving us real poetry about it rather than merely mimicking it. So, for example, imbedded amongst all the hip-hoppy, rappy, yo’s in “Yo Yeah” -- including ribald footnotes containing scores of them, and even some deleted yo’s and yeah’s -- are real gems, such as: “Yo multiple literacies / Come wrap / Your mouth around / My ear so I can listen / to the ocean in there.”

Or, as in “Tawk”:

When T-Pain . . .

. . . named his album

Rappa Ternt Sanga, he wasn’t being

Ignorant, or ignant at that, wasn’t bad

at spelling . . .

. . . but he was

accounting for the texture of the dirt

in his teef . . .

. . . This makes sense to me.

Cirelli is an interpreter, a translater, a poet with hip-hop as subject who, the better to convey his message, often employs its rhythms and language. In “I Am Hip-Hop”, he says:

I claim nothing but hip-hop

I’m the white Eminem . . .

That makes me part gangsta. You know what time is it ---

When I win the Pulitzer prize, for Realness, the Nobel

for my translation of Hip-Hop.

In the first Brown Skin Lady he becomes an “extra black white boy” who “surrounded myself with all this darkness, packed my mouth / full of Shea butter & AAVE [African-American Vernacular English] until I felt black in sheep’s clothing, / which isn’t black at all, but it comforted me to be so god damn down, / so schooled in hip-hop like hip-hop was a hall pass to blackness” only to learn “that I wasn’t nearly as black as I thought.”

And in “Birthplace”:

wanting to be their “dawg” ---

but feeling like a mailman

another Elvis

So why has he taken this path? Is it only to respond to Hoagland’s injunction, or is it also something more personal?

In “Definition” he speaks eloquently of his childhood, of eating breakfast with his sister in his family’s American dream diner, staring out/ the window/ at the orange leaves / dancing on the hard edges / of the wind, before going off to Catholic school.

And in “Ars Poetica””:

I am herringbone gold chain

hanging from the neck of a Tony Soprano

devotee with dried marinara

flaking from the hairs of his perfected goatee.

Italy laughs at this version of Italian, of us,

but I embrace it because it is something

I can call my own.

On the other hand, as he tells us in RE:DEFinition, he is ambivalent about contemporary Italian-American identity, absorbed as it has become into the general culture: “My People: noun No longer Italiano not even / Wop no longer Irish / Polack”. Or again, in the My People section of “Twice Inna Lifetime”:

. . . My cousins live in Providence

where every wanna-be-thug-gangsta

goomba hangs a lynched Jesus from his neck,

and the wardrobe of African-America

off his ass. I don’t know who’s worse off.

In Brooklyn, my friends with privilege

have the privilege of understanding

privilege. We pay off student loans

from our Adventures in Ethnography.

We read culturally relevant books

from other cultures and swathe our tongues

in hip logic . . .

(In his use of ‘logic’, Cirelli, with his Catholic school education, is surely alluding to ‘logos’, the Word, a concept with a long philosophical history embodying the idea of Truth being made manifest through language.)

In RE: RE:DEFinition we get the college-age kid rolling around the world trying on different scenes. “I could surround myself / with poems in San Francisco / where the Beats have pacemakers . . .”, ending up in “Brooklyn where hip-hop is jacked electricity and beats broken and samples stolen so hip-hop (in a way) is white like me.”

Thanks to MTV et al, and booming bass technology, hip-hop is now a persistent presence in the lives of young people; as Cirelli puts it in “Anecdote of 16 Bars”:

It was the sound of black troubadors.

The projects rose up around it and were

no longer wilderness to those who hadn’t

lived there. Teenagers across the heartland

romanticized the bravado of Bronx, wanted

a lick of the red tongue, to fit into its baggy jeans.

this is the age when the word became fresh

and it took dominion everywhere.

(Perhaps, one might add, not unlike the absorption, after huge initial resistance, of jazz and swing into the mainstream, played as it is today without a second thought by totally white bands.)

And, significantly, interwoven into all this is another powerful strand, the impact of the election of Obama.:

In 2008, the poster on my wall

has a 4-letter word and a black face,

who is not an athlete, not a rapper.

I put black on a pedestal. Pray to black

five times a day. I make black the new

white . . . (“Black President”)

-- and--

I’m afraid this new intergalactic

President of ours absolves my people

. . . like it offered us stripes, like it made us

The Voyeurs of Inequity, like it added

to our bios. (Twice Inna Lifetime”)

But what about the word “Vacation” in the title? That suggests not mere “Voyeurs of Inequity” or privileged “Adventures in Ethnography”, but a sojourn: “When I vacation / on the moon, I don’t want to look like / a tourist . . . When I look into the eyes / of the aliens, I know the pain they’ve seen.”

So are AAVE and hip-hop the inside now and are Caucasian-Americans on the outside, merely vacationing on the Black Star Line (a reference to a hip-hop album which is itself a reference to African nationalist Marcus Garvey’s shipping line)? To a young man questioning the vitality of his own domesticated culture, such a vacation offers an opportunity to engage with a vibrant new energy. Cirelli injects himself into that world, and, being a poet, sings of it – to his great credit in a voice more melodic and harmonious, and of exponentially greater sensitivity, than the music it alludes to, a voice that invites us to enter into a world.

There simply isn’t room in this review to do justice to all the many excellent poems in this collection, the delightful turns of phrase, allusions and insights, or to engage with the accompanying downloadable MP3 or the non-hip-hop-related pieces . Though eminently accessible on the first reading, like all good poetry, carefully crafted and real, it warrants reading and re-reading, as new meanings arise with each sojourn.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review of EAST OF THE MOON by Ruth Kramer Baden

Review of EAST OF THE MOON by Ruth Kramer Baden, Ibbetson Street Press, 25 School Street, Somerville, MA 02143, 2010. Book design by Steve Glines (

By Barbara Bialick

The poetry collection, East of the Moon, is at once mythic, narrative, story telling and bursting with flavor beads of some great stand-alone poems. As she takes the reader through the lifecycles of a mature woman, age 70, we see the span of a full first collection, which has obviously been writing itself in the back of her mind for a long time. It may be a first book, but not a first-time writer. The work echoes with the awful meanings behind fairy tales, the things that the original tellers didn’t dare to say but to imply. It also seems influenced by William Blake’s voices of innocence and experience.

The cover design and inside black and white ink drawings add a lot to the fairy tale theme. But the royal blue cover and its own painting quoting “Schoen ve de le vune”—you are lovely like the moon.—makes its own stamp on the collection as it literally feels like nubuck leather boots, which mimic the boots of the Cossacks and others roaring through history, using and abusing women and everyone else.

Some examples from the book:

“She was the clever one,/Hansel had always been slow./She knew they could not go back/their stepmother would break them/their father would betray them…”
(“Gretel Ever After”).

“She told the prince, If I married you/I would become a frostbitter woman/who could not hear my children/sing or cry/…Touch me and I will kill you…He ran… /She made her lonely way over roots and rocks…(to where) a rosewood piano stood/Her hands spanned octaves./She played a Bach prelude.” (“The Sleeping Princess”)

Compare this narrative style to poetry later into the life cycle—a grandmother’s poetry:
In “Consider the Trees,” she writes sheer lyric poetry: “how I have grown like the cypress/crouched on a cliff/sentinel searching/the inhospitable sea/…all that grows/…must find a way to live.” Or “Rachel’s Birthday Poem”: “You sail into your second year/wobbling and yawing in front/I in your wake/You are the music language makes,/you are the golden heart of the plum.”

Ruth Kramer Baden has been a 1950s married mother, a creator of a local chapter of the National Organization of Women, a journalist, a consultant on children for Wellesley College, and at age 50, she graduated law school! (She practiced elder law). She’s currently working on her retirement dream of becoming a poet. Give her book a try.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Their Tranquil Lives" by Kathleen Spivack

The following is an excerpt from Kathleen Spivack's poem "Their Tranquil Lives" that won the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award. Kathleen also won the Sow's Ear Poetry Award and has a new book out "A History of Yearning" ( Sow's Ear Poetry Review) that can be purchased at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square. The prize-winning poem appears in "A History of Yearning" collection as well.

Their Tranquil Lives

***(First Prize, Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award 2010.)

"Oh lost world of Gustav Klimt,
the jeweled and doe-eyed women
swam the walls and ceilings
of pre-Holocaust Vienna’s
ornate opera. Women’s compliance
did not need to be stated,
was pink and white
and not hidden by drapes.

World War I had not yet happened.
The city was a beaker spilling over
with bits of gold applied
which one could drink
or pour into, carefully
lavish and lucky.

Outside the window apples
shone in their dappled garden.
The women had proud
names, and pregnancies.
They rose like mermaids through
their tranquil lives,
upward and passionate.
The insides of their wrists
were white and still unmarked,
smoothed with kisses:..."

– Kathleen Spivack- ( Excerpt from "A History of Yearning" )