Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pop Art edited by Jessica Harman

Popt Art
Jessican Harman, editor
Available on

Review by Rene Schwiesow

Jessica Harman, the editor of the new literary mag “Popt Art” was born in Montreal, spent some time in Maryland and has currently chosen to reside in Brookline, Massachusetts near the poetic mecca of the Boston/Cambridge/Somerville area. And indeed, her inaugural issue pops with notables such as Marge Piercy, Doug Holder, Irene Koronas, Chad Parenteau, Mike Amado, Zvi Seisling, Bridget Galway, Sean Theall, Michael Kei Stewart, Jessica herself and many more.

This first issue of “Popt Art,” centers on the theme of portraits or self-portraits and includes prose that leans heavily upon the inner exploration of self. From the prose blog “What It’s like to be Schizophrenic,” to “My Mother’s Fat,” the writing in these two contributions not only offers a glimpse into the issues of mental and eating disorders but draws us into the center of the thought processes of a person dealing with a psychosis or obesity.

And though “Popt Art” showcases a number of worthy Massachusetts’ talents, contributors from around the world make their mark in this first issue as well. From Canada, to Malaysia, to Alaska, Tennessee, Minnesota, Maryland, and New York, each contributor offers us insight into another, into the human condition.

But wait; in addition to the poetic/prosaic musings of the writers, visual art bursts with flavor, interspersed between the words. Fine work by Paloma Radcliffe, Adam Ottavi, and Joshua Abelow appear as well as a stunning portfolio by Alisha Naomi Fisher. My only criticism is that the intense black of the black and white prints muddies the visuals.

As an inaugural issue “Popt Art” gives us plenty of opportunities to relish the talent of those published, though the issue does suffer from a few first-time gaffes. For example, the table of contents lists author and title, but omits page numbers making it difficult to go back and find a particular contributor with ease. And this reviewer would prefer to see the name of the author up front, rather than at the end of the work. The issue is also fraught with typos and general layout errors. Growing pains, one would hope, that will be cleared up in the next issue of “Popt Art.”

“Popt Art,” will be holding a premiere party at Out of the Blue Gallery, 109 Prospect Street, in Cambridge, MA on March 19th at 8:00 pm. Contributors will be reading their work published in this inaugural issue. Visual art will be on display. Each successive issue of “Popt Art,” will be themed. You may follow along on the website at:

“Popt Art” can also be found on facebook.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ibbetson Street Press/Boston Area Small Press Scene Exhibit at the Halle Library/ Endicott College/Beverly, Mass.

Since Ibbetson Street and Endicott College said they would start archiving books as part of the Small Press Poetry and Literary Collection at the Halle Library we have received books from around the country from poets and writers of all genres. Here is an exhibit at the library that library director Brian Courtemanche and his great staff put together.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Hampshire's Poet Laureate Visits Somerville, Mass.

New Hampshire's Poet Laureate Visits Somerville, Mass.

By Doug Holder

Since there is not a Poet Laureate in Somerville I must admit I stray and look for greener pastures. And in one of these green pastures I found New Hampshire Poet Laureate Walter E. Butts. I met Butts at a poetry reading at the Piano Factory Art Gallery in Boston. A friend of mine, the poet and artist James de Crescentis runs the gallery and he organized a reading for Butts. Butts is an unpretentious man but his talent is not modest. After work long years in the Human Services he made the switch to teaching writing, and perfecting his craft. I made a point of contacting him so I could interview him on my Somerville Community Access TV show " Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."

Doug Holder: You have been quoted as saying that in times of great turmoil poetry is more crucial than ever.

Walter E. Butts: I believe the essence of poetry--which to me--is an engagement with discovery of the self and the world around you. It extends beyond the singular effort. It speaks to much larger issues. What does it mean to be human? Even a Confessional poet like Robert Lowell--who wrote personal poems--went beyond the self because he is in the larger human family.

DH: So even when we navel gaze we are speaking beyond the personal?

WEB: It depends on how self-indulgent and how inward it is. That can be limiting--surely. Getting back to your question--I think when you look at the political questions on a national/world level--when you look at other threats on our individuality--it seems to me in order to transcend these terrible things---well, the personal poem is a way to engage that.

DH: You told me you were part of the Stone Soup Poetry scene on Beacon Hill in the 70's founded by the late Jack Powers. What was it like in the day?

WEB: I had been active in other communities prior to Stone Soup and Boston. What Jack did--this was in the old days when he was on Cambridge Street on Beacon Hill ( 1978)--well, he opened things up a lot. He created a grassroots organization not just about poetry and literature, but around the idea of a community of artists and others. He provided them a space. A bunch of us would go to his space on Monday nights. Every Monday we would go in this room and sit around and read and talk. It had a Renaissance feel.

DH: What has the Poet Laureate position done for you? What is your role as Laureate?

WEB: My own poetry takes care of itself. I continue to write and I continue to engage. The Poet Laureate position--in terms of what it has done for me me as a poet is great recognition. I see my role as an ambassador for poetry in the state. One of the things I do every two weeks through the New Hampshire Council of the Arts' website is a feature titled "Poet's Showcase ." And every two weeks I post a poet from New Hampshire with a poem and a bio. That's one way of getting a lot of the poets in the state out there. We have had Donald Hall, Alice Fogel, Marie Harris, and Ed name a few. This gives you a sense of the vitality of the state.

DH: I am a small press publisher, and I have been published in the small press for years. Is the small press valuable for the poet?

WEB: It is critical. I believe it has been proven that small press remains on the cutting edge of literary movements. Significant issues both political and cultural have been profoundly addressed there.

DH: Were you part of the "Mimeograph Revolution" in the 60's?

WEB: For a year I lived in NYC. I hung out at St. Mark's--the home of The Poetry Project--and took wonderful free writing workshops with a poet named Maureen Owen. At the end of this workshop, in the basement of St. Mark's, we put this mimeo anthology together. I can remember the paper strewn all over the chairs in the room. A mimeo, by the way, is sort of a poor man's xerox.

DH: You have taught poetry writing at Hesser College in New Hampshire and Goddard College in Vermont. i will go back to the old question can poetry writing be taught? Can you be anyone be taught to write " competent" verse?

WEB: No. I don't think so. It is not just a matter of talent; it's a matter of passion. Collectively, as poets, we seem to have this antenna out all the time--we seem to have a facility to pay attention to small details. We pay attention to what goes on internally and externally at the same time. I think creative writing as an educational exercise is wonderful.

DH: What grabs you about a poem when you first read it?

WEB: For two years my wife and I ran a small press magazine " Crying Sky.' It was a print journal, so I have read a lot of poems. I have no interest in poetry wars or styles. When a poem seduces me--that's what counts. I have to be seduced by something: wordplay, metaphor or by a shift in the sense of things. The poem is showing me something that I haven't seen before. For some reason when I read a W.S. Merwin poem I feel inspired. There is a vast difference between his poetry and mine. But for whatever reason he takes me to places I look for.


We were happy those afternoons,

with our boxes of Dots,

watered-down sodas, and bags

spilling over with popcorn,

even as the sudden dark

and slow slide of curtains

silenced our laughter and screams, while we waited

for a Saturday matinee serial to begin:

Black Arrow and Captain Marvel,

Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon,

The Green Hornet and Dick Tracy,

Red Ryder and The Lone Ranger,

or any one of a dozen others

our saved quarters let us follow for twenty minutes each week

into new episodes of heroes, villains,

kidnappings and impossible escapes, and always a beautiful woman

who had to be rescued.

But sometimes it was hard to figure

who the criminal mastermind really was.

And despite how many times we saw

a chapter end with the hero

trapped and certainly doomed,

we argued his fate until we returned

to be captured again

by those metaphors of good and evil

that rose up like truth, like faith,

before our cheers and applause,

our eternal and communal praise.

The Tower Journal, Nov. 2010

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review of TODAY THEN TOMORROW by Andy Levine

Review of TODAY THEN TOMORROW by Andy Levine, Vizion Books, 2010, 69 pages, no bio included.

Review by Barbara Bialick

Getting one’s precious poems published in a book is a joy that shouldn’t be denied.
On the other hand, it’s important to know who your audience is…Andy Levine’s friends and family should enjoy his book Today Then Tomorrow. If he wants a wider audience, he needs to re-edit almost everything, I am sorry to say. Even in the friendlier realm of the small press, the readers are looking for one’s best effort. He probably has profound ideas that I skimmed over because there was little metaphor, imagery, alliteration and too much prose to be found. He also writes most of these poems in singy song rhyme. Near the third and fourth section I woke up to realize he does have a repeating rhythm throughout this too-lengthy work. I began to sound it out as a sort of rap style, only without the colorful language. He should keep rapping and writing because as Levine says himself, “a genuine effort/is needed/to mend a world/devastated.”

Here’s an example of his apparent rap rhythm in a poem whose title I don’t get,

“Press Control, Alternative Deletion”:

How often
do you question
what you believe,
as doubt
dawns scrutiny
of information received...

…The new pollution
is promotion
staining streets
and our eyes,
conditioning our mind
even more
than we realize…

As he titles his first section, I will conclude this review: “Live with others, think on your own.”

Monday, February 14, 2011

Review of “Stellar Telegram,” poetry by Kasandra Larsen

Review of “Stellar Telegram,” poetry by Kasandra Larsen

Sheltering Pines Press


Review by Samantha Milowsky

Kasandra Larsen, originally from Massachusetts, currently lives in New Orleans.

Larsen’s sensual poems deftly employ classic forms such as the sonnet. There is a musicality and richness of language to her work. Beginning her creative life as a classical pianist, she hears music in poetry.

She pays attention to life around her. The details whirl in “Waiting, Lee Circle” where a Mardi Gras scene includes “vendors on cellphones,” “uniformed megaphone warnings,” and “insistent fresh hot dog rhythms…”

There are a few poems where Hurricane Katrina is used to reflect on the past and to relate to other’s suffering. In “On a Senior Picture Not Seen Since Katrina,” the speaker reminisces over an old high-school photo, the unexpected kindness from a pretty cheerleader towards an awkward poet. These poems frequently delve past common surface biases. Such reminiscing comforts the speaker: “Maybe only my imagination took that picture, lifted it above the toxic waves, gave a little cheer when it made it to the Gulf Coast, swirled in a fresh eddy headed out of here.”

“A Stand-in For the Body, A Refuge, Identity” reflects on the fragility of home, “the haunted one where dishes flew off the dining table,” as well as sympathizing with “Bill” who also experienced loss of home, spending “two years in a FEMA trailer after Hurricane Isabel.” Here, the speaker is reaching out beyond her own historical experience with Katrina, reminding us that many people experience tragedy. We are all connected in our mutual vulnerability.

Larsen has an inquisitive side to her poetry. “The Purposes of Sleep Are Only Partly Clear” is resplendent with imagery about insomnia: “Pillows fluffed with insomnia/spread around her hair like a net./Her bright bones lie awake inside,” and end humorously with “…of her outburst, whispers/have become the only movement/the moon makes all night, peering in/just to criticize the linens.”

Larsen’s poems have a rich synthesis between language as a subject for contemplation alongside relationships, family, and religion.

The opening sonnet “Some Things are Better Left” weaves the ideas of the power a poet could wield, even in what’s unspoken, such as the title proves; however, is the poet being constrained by a “churches claim that thoughts are as culpable as deeds?”

There is the rhetorical contemplation of a poet taking their job seriously, considering both what’s said and unsaid: “a poet tries to choose, hopes what’s unheard/prevents her lips from being liable.” The poem moves into the intimate ramifications of what’s unspoken between “us” - “This purgatory of unspoken lines/hangs still between us now.”

“Stellar Telegram” continues the contemplation “overwhelmed by the richness of language," and the movement into encompassing relationships between a man and woman as “the world’s bodies of wounded water/dripped, rippled in unison at the sky.”

I recommend Stellar Telegram to poetry lovers and readers wishing to immerse in the sensual language, imagery, and experiences Larsen weaves.