Saturday, September 18, 2010

Somerville, Mass Independent Press Ibbetson Street Forms Partnership with Endicott College in Beverly, Mass.

A New Literary Partnership: Endicott College and the Ibbetson Street Press

(Beverly, Mass)

Endicott College of Beverly, Mass. and the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass. have announced a literary partnership the other day. The two organizations have agreed to establish an affiliation between the 12-year-old well-regarded independent literary press and the college. Doug Holder, publisher of the Ibbetson Street Press said in regards to his plans for this new partnership: “I hope to bring a number of prominent poets and writers to take part in a reading series we are going to launch. The first Poet Laureate of Boston Sam Cornish will lead off the proceedings, other features will be Gary Metras of the Adastra Press, Gloria Mindock of the Cervena Barva Press, Luke Salisbury, the author of “The Answer is Baseball,” poet Miriam Levin, Bert Stern and others. “I also want to play a mentor role to aspiring poets and writers.” Holder continued: “I want the literary community and the community at large to know about the vital literary and arts programming at Endicott." Holder has published a number of Endicott faculty members including the poetry collection “Bicycles, Canoes and Drums,” by English Professor Dan Sklar, as well as the poetry of Margaret Young, an instructor on the English faculty of the College. Holder also expects to have his brother Donald Holder, a two-time TONY AWARD winner (“Lion King,” South Pacific”), and Paul Stone, Creative Director of W.B. Mason and novelist to be guest speakers at the college.

This initiative will be on a trial basis for the Academic 2010 to 2011 school year. The school has a solid reputation for its business program, nursing, human services, and education, and the college wants to make sure the public knows Endicott as a destination to study the arts and literature. The student who graduates from Endicott College will be literate, well-informed and well-rounded, as well as being highly sought after. This affiliation will be just one component of the mission at Endicott. Doug Holder, who is an adjunct faculty member at Endicott and also the Arts Editor for The Somerville News as well as the Director of the Poetry Series at the Newton Free Library, said “This is a wonderful opportunity to be aligned with a rising academic institution. And with their new Arts Center and their commitment to the arts in general, I am hoping to be involved in the creation of the Hub for the Arts on the North Shore.”

Michael Knoblach: An Antiques Dealer Who "Drums" Up Business, Music, and Poetry.

(Knoblach--far right)

Michael Knoblach: An Antiques Dealer Who "Drums" Up Business, Music, and Poetry.

By Doug Holder

Michael Knoblach met me at my usual table at the Bloc 11 Cafe in the Union Square section of Somerville, Mass. He is a big man, with thinning shoulder length hair, and a deep but somewhat muted voice. He is what I would call a renaissance man, a man with an eclectic range of interests and sensibilities. A graduate of Tufts University, the former Somerville resident still conducts much of his business in the 'ville. Among other things Knoblach is an antiques dealer and used to do a lot of business with " Poor Little Rich Girl" when it was still in Somerville. He deals in a wide range of antiques, but it has turned out his specialty is drums. Vintage drums to be exact. Knoblach started pounding the kettles when he was a mere lad. Since then he has collected over 1,000 drums, from Arabic hand drums to Indian drums, all stored in his cramped Medford condo. I asked him why he is so enamored with this percussion instrument. He said: " I can walk down the street and find a piece of garbage to drum on and it would sound good." And indeed Kornblach has made drums out of things like old artillery shells ( let us pray they are not live!).

Although Knoblach has performed on drums with the group Mission of Burma years ago, to working with members of the Dresden Dolls, he now is basically into the recording of music. He is currently working with Eric Dahlman, a trumpeter, and other artists. Over the years, Knoblach has performed in venues like: Johnny D's, the defunct Club 3, the Paradise, and many others.

Knoblach, ever the renaissance man, also has an interest in poetry. He has a large book collection that is feed by his scouring of yard sales, estate sales, flea markets, all part of his daily routine as an antiques dealer.

Although not widely published, he is working on a poetry collection titled: "Mice Have Been Eating My Poems." The idea behind this was that when the drummer got back into poetry he went to the place he stored his dusty manuscripts. It seems the mice literally ate up his poetry!

During his undergraduate years Knoblach studied with the likes of Deborah Diggs, who tragically committed suicide several years ago. He counts his influences as Robert Bly, Antonio Machado, and Carl Sandburg. He describes his own poetry as dark and moody.

Knobloch said one of the reasons he left Somerville for Medford was that he could not afford to buy a condo in town. The other reason is the new parking regulations. He said many artists are leaving because it is a huge hassle to feed a meter every 15minutes, and when there are gatherings at studios it is next to impossible to park your car for any length of time due to the stringent laws.

Knoblach still hangs in Somerville, and pines for the days of the Someday Cafe. He is a loyal denizen of Davis Square, a customer of the coffee shops, and to use a cliche one of the many artists who contribute to the " Paris of New England."

Mice Have Been Eating My Old Poems

Mice have been eating my old poems.

Once cut crisp,

straight white edges

have tiny tears.

The smallest of holes in words.

What does a vowel taste like?

What part of my poems

were a paper crib

for a litter of mice?

Little millimeters of life

growing between sheetrock,

behind milk crates

crammed with books.


Mice eat all poets,

good and bad alike,

and their teeth are always growing.

So here’s a poem for a mouse

or mice (there are always more in hiding).

Poems keep being written

and time is always hungry.

All skittish creatures

seek shelter,

tiny comforts and distraction.

Every mouse dreams small dreams.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, edited by Ilan Stavans

*****Tino Villanueva, Boston University professor and one of Somerville's Bagel Bards is included in this new anthology of Latino Literature. Tino presented the book at a recent meeting of the Bards. I asked my old friend and retired University of Michigan professor Hugh Fox to review it. Here is the review of this important work:

The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, edited by Ilan Stavans, W.W. Norton and Company, 500 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY 10110, $59.95.

The perfect book for right now when most Americans are totally confused about the Latin presence in the U.S. What we have here is a gigantic two thousand, six hundred and sixty-six page volume that overviews the Latino presence in the Americas going back, back back to colonial (and then some) times. It begins by going back to the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries works of the Latino (Spanish) explorers themselves, people inside the whole colonization process, part of it, like Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Hernando de Sota, “El Inca” Garcilaso de la Vega...on and on, a real trip back into the exploratory colonial past seen through the eyes of the colonizers themselves. Then we move (“Annexations: 1811-1898) into Spanish America becoming independent, breaking with Spain, so it’s not colonial Spain any more but its own independent world. Stavans doesn’t really get into South America much here, but concentrates on the Caribbean, Texas and California. Then Stavans, just as you’re getting to feel you’re inside a totally scholarly-historical work, starts bringing in creative writers like Eusbesio Chacón from Santa Fe who turns it from objective history into personal experience. Lots of writers like that, like Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert who wrote a book called "We Fed Them Cactus" (1954), which present’s a Latina’s vision of how it was, history seen through a Latina’s eyes. Really bringing it all personally alive, alive, alive.So the book isn’t just libraryish history, but personal-artistic visionary too. And you get some idea of how the whole Latino-American problem looks through Latino eyes. As in José Dávila Semprit”s poem “The United States”: “A sublime document that proclaims/the rights of man,/a star-spangled banner,/history that begins/with roar rebelliousness/and ends up smelling of imperialism..../an ally of passions, prejudices,/and entrenched arrogance....” (p.516.) A ton of visionary creative work (like René Marqués’ play The Oxcart) that looks at the whole migrant problem through (in this case) Puerto Rican eyes.

For a while the book becomes an enormous anthology of Latin American creative work, bringing you from the colonial into present time. So you get to see the evolution of the Latino point-of-view from colonial to contemporary times. And Stavans’ commentaries are gems in themselves. Like his comments that preface the section of the book called “Into the Mainstream: 1980-Present”: “In the United States, the civil rights era generally led Anglos to display energetic good will toward both blacks and ethnic minorities...for Latinos, the racism, xenophobia, and anti-Hispanism widely evident in the United State since the mid-nineteenth century remained ingrained...Changes in Latino life were slow in coming.” (p.1461).The book eventually evolves into an anthology of Latin American writing itself, fiction, plays, poetry, contemporary writers like Abraham Rodriguez, Rafael Campo, Manuel Muõz, María Teresa “Mariposa” Fernández, bringing in Latino-American writers who see the whole thing not through “foreign” but Latino-Gringo eyes: “I am the / Meta-morpho-sized/The Reborn/The living phoenix/Rising up out of the ashes/With my conquered people/Not the lost Puerto Rican soul in search of identity/Not the tragic Nuyorican in search of the land of the palm tree/Not fragmented but whole/Not colonized/But free.” (p.2423).

Then at the very end, just so you don’t forget we’re dealing with Big History and not Hip Hop, Stavans brings in a chronology of the whole historical overscene,year by year,from colonial to contemporary times. And throws in some treaties, acts and propositions out of the history book, so the overall context remains serious history.Beautifully done, the single most impressive book I’ve ever read on one of my main interests. I can see it as volume one of a series that next moves more into South America, then back into pre-history and the invasion of the Spaniards. It’s a book that makes you cry out for infinitely more, more, more.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

From the Center by Robert J. Hope

From the Center
by Robert J. Hope
Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.
New York and London, England
Copyright © 2001 by Robert J. Hope
ISBN: 0-8264-1324-2
Softbound, 111 pages, $13.95

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Robert J. Hope is/was a Commissioned Presenter of Centering Prayer and a New England Coordinator for Contemplative Outreach. I write is/was because the book presented to me for review was published in 2001 and I was unable (after a quick search) to find if
Mr. Hope is still with the organization.

Interestingly as I write this review just after the Jewish Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah (New Year), I can hear the music of prayer books and bibles that bring comfort to millions. Some of the poetry-meditations remind me of the prayers in the Reform Judaism prayer books. But what I like about this book is not its connection to the Gospels, the King James Version or the Old Testament. It is distinct flavor of peace that reading these poems can bring to the reader.

Since none of the poem-meditations have titles I will cite them by page number.

Page 36 begins with: The power of the present pulls me in,/ Ever gripping, grabbing, drawing./There is a world within a world,/And you are there,...

Page 47:

A single sparrow –
You know when it falls.
And you know, though plentiful,
The hairs of my head,
The myriad isnesses that are one.
And You know each so well.
What fish swims no longer

As you can see, Mr. Hope has his pulse, his heart and his words with his God, and no matter what your religion – or no religion – these poem-meditations will bring some
peace to your heart and mind. They accept the sparrow on the same level as the human,God’s creations watched and cared in Hope’s perceptions of God.

In a number of these poem-meditations Hope refers to his God as You or Beloved and
reading his words one can understand his view and accept Hope’s views of the peacefulness he seeks to pass on through his belief.