Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Voting Booth After Dark by Vanessa Libertad Garcia

The Voting Booth After Dark
Vanessa Libertad Garcia
Fiat Libertad CO.
Huntington Park, CA
$10.95 list price

Vanessa Garcia is a Cuban-American writer and filmmaker living in LA who is committed to relating the Latina culture and its subcultures to a cross-cultural audience. She focuses on people that may not typically be represented in film or print and has no fear of utilizing language that will drive her point home. Beware; this collection of narratives in prose and poetics is not PG-13.

“The Voting Booth After Dark,” is subtitled: “Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive.” The subtitle aptly describes the way her characters may label themselves. Some readers may also feel that the subtitle is an appropriate label for the actions and words of the characters. This can be a disturbing read. Garcia’s work tells the tale of young, California Latina gay and lesbian individuals struggling to pull their lives together during the 2008 elections. Habitually drunk, on the prowl for sexual exploit and seeking highs that allow repression, Garcia’s characters have their political moments.

The book opens around July of 2008 and ends in November with the election of Barack Obama and the passing of California’s Proposition 8. Considering Garcia’s characters are gay and lesbian, there is little discussion in the narratives about Proposition 8. Her characters, drowning in their own traumas, seem to be more interested in evening hook-ups and one night stands than marriage.

In “Lament,” a suicidal young person connects with a homeless Viet Nam vet suffering from PTSD. Just having finished a second forty of malt liquor, Garcia’s character calls the homeless man over and conversation ensues:

“We’re both liberal. Eugene is a lot more hopeful than I. I ask him why he’s homeless, of course. He responds and then I reply with a monologue about why I want to die.”

The piece poignantly addresses the longing for relationship yet the inability to sustain relationship. “Suicidal drunks, even if they aren’t homeless, don’t make for very good or stable friends.”

You can watch a trailer for “The Voting Booth After Dark” on You Tube. In the trailer Garcia intro’s the book with a short explanation of the parallel to the 2008 election. Those who buy the book off the shelf without the video introduction or the benefit of having read a review, may find themselves confused for a few pages as even the back of the book is an excerpt and not an intro or overview.

The language is candid, the characters developed to show their need for love, understanding and, perhaps, intervention or counseling, but through the compilation of narratives there appears to be a sliver of growth, maybe.
“Try your best at peace.
Try your best at truth.

Forgive your crumbling selves
and try
just try
if you can
not to take the world down

with you.”

Rene Schwiesow is a South Shore writer. She is co-host of the popular monthly venue in Plymouth – The Mike Amado Memorial Series: Poetry the Art of Words.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Insane in the quatrain by Bradley Lastname

Insane in the quatrain

bradley Lastname

the press of the 3rd mind

Chicago, Illinois

2011 $10.00

Bradley Lastname enjoys defication words:

"I said to shy Nola

don't I know you from somewhere?

when she told me I don't know shit from shinola,

shy nola wasn't so shy any more.

she asked me where the rest room was,

and I pointed it out to her.

I may not know shit from shy nola,

but i know where shy nola shits"

In saying the above, i'm reminded of the surrealists; especially Salvatore Dali

who thought defication was the ultimate symbol of surrealism: the surrealist

banned him from their circle, society or from their water closet. the title of this book

is aptly named, an ambiguous refrain:

"I went out last saturday night,

and placed a bet on a cock fight.

on the left was hackle,

on the right was jackle,

now they're both in need of poultry spackle."

The 189 pages of this book, jammed full of play, satire, poetry, prose and latrines:

"i can't say i ever caught his name,

but i don't give a fuck, so it's all the same

i just scratch my head as he runs his game,

he's the dude who tapes everything,

but he never taped me..."

One might be inclined to think of bukowski but let me reasure you these are not

bukowski lines but maybe considered surreal in tyhat he juctaposes different

elements, quatrains? if you want to dispute my review, I suggest you buy the

book and read for yourself



irene koronas
poetry editor:
Wilderness House Literary Review


Ibbetson Street Press

Monday, March 14, 2011

Poets Mike Ansara and January O’Neil Bring on the Massachusetts Poetry Festival This May.

Poets Mike Ansara and January O’Neil Bring on the Massachusetts Poetry Festival This May.

Interview with Doug Holder

Come May 13th and 14th, 2011 the Mass. Poetry Festival will arrive at its new home in Salem, Mass. This should be of great interest to Somerville poets, and all others, as there will be a plethora of readings, workshops, musical events, book fairs, etc… to satiate the hungriest Somerville Bard. I talked with the founder of the festival Mike Ansara, and his right hand woman, the accomplished poet and organizer January O’Neil on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: So where did the germ of the idea for the poetry festival come from?

Mike Ansara: About six years ago I wanted to see if I could write decent poetry. Along the way I went to these readings of these incredibly talented poets. As you know Doug—a great turn out is 30, and everybody says “Wow!” I began to say to myself: “This is a shame.” I was having lunch with a good friend of mine former congressman Chet Atkins. He just retired and got off the board of the Mass. Humanities Council. I was talking to him about the state of poetry. He reminded me that I was once an organizer, and that I really needed to do something about it. With a little bit of support from Charles Coe and the Mass. Cultural Council, we had a series of roundtables around the state with poets. We had about 7 meetings. We ran a bunch of ideas by poets about what they would like to see happen to help provide more opportunies, and to create new audiences. And out of that came a series of projects that we were implementing now. The poetry festival is just one of them. We are also going to the schools. We have a poetry program in the Citizen Schools. These schools are after school programs that work with low performing Middle Schools. We have poets in Roxbury, and Revere. We hope to improve literacy skills.

DH: January—You say you want to connect “Poetry” with the mainstream. Where is it connected with now?

January O’Neil: Well… I think that poetry is an art that has not been widely publicized. It used to be before the internet, and TV. But now it has taken a back seat to other things. People use poetry for weddings and funerals—they find it for big and small moments. We are out now having conversations in the community—and the interest in the art is out there. I think RAP music has played a role in reviving it.

DH: You guys are going to have a Small Press Book Fair as part of the Festival. What is the importance of the small press to the poetry community?

MA: We know how important the small press is in the life of a poet. Small presses struggle, go under—yet, they have enormous creativity. They are responsible for most of the poetry that is published today. And they don’t get the recognition or support that they should get. Even people who are writing poetry don’t understand the world of the small press. Our attempt will be to create a venue on Saturday ( The festival is held Friday May 13—and Saturday—May 14)—where 30 or 40 small presses from Mass. and elsewhere can come meet each other—and sell their books and broadsides. We are going to have presses like “Off the Grid” from Somerville, Mass., Tupelo Press, to everything in between.

DH: There is a lot of collaboration with other groups in your efforts to bring the fruit to your labors?

MA: The festival itself is going to be a grand experiment. We have 60 organizations that are poetry partners. And most of our ideas come from them. We hope they spread. We don’t have a big budget. We are always looking for donations, however large or small.

JO: A portion of the money that we raise goes to pay the poets. Usually no one thinks twice about asking poets to read for free. This is our core principle. Their creativity should be valued. Unless you teach there is no way for a poet to make a living in any way connected to poetry.

DH: What will be happening on Friday at the Festival?

MA: Friday, during the day, 700 high school students from around the state will read in our program. Friday evening we are going to have some amazing poets and music. Brian Turner, a soldier poet will be reading, on Saturday there will be panels, a small book fair, celebrities—things for kids.

DH: So it is going to be fun?


JO: May is a tricky month for weather. But if it goes as we hope there will be events inside as well as outside. We will have panel discussions forums about Anne Bradstreet to Hip Hop.

DH: Any big name poets?

MA: Steve Almond will be running a Bad Poetry Contest—bring your own worst poem. Steve does this because it is funny—he demystifies writing— you have to have bad poems to get good poems. Other poets like Richard Hoffman, and hopefully Major Jackson will read. We have established and emerging poets. We are also going to have a reading for poets 35 and under.

We are also going to have a Somerville Bagel Bards reading organized by Poet Lawrence Kessenich, as well as readings by Boston’s Carpenter Poets, the African-American poets of Cave Canem; we have an Asian American poetry organization that are going to write poems about the history of and the objects in the Peabody/Essex Museum.

DH: The question I pose to both to you—when do you sleep?

MA: Thank God we have this collective of volunteers: retired people, students, teachers, etc… who help.

JO: And you couldn’t have a better ring leader than Mike Ansara.

DH: Does all this work detract from your own?

JO: This is a labor of love. My writing will take a back seat. And that’s OK. It’s giving back. In order to get the word out about my work, I have to keep telling what’s going on in the poetry world at large.

** For more information about the Mass. Poetry Festival go to

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review of TOPLESS, poems by Eileen McClusky, Deborah Mead, and Kara Provost

Review of TOPLESS, poems by Eileen McClusky, Deborah Mead, and Kara Provost, Main Street Rag’s Editor’s Choice Chapbook Series, Main Street Rag Publishing Company, PO Box 690100, Charlotte, North Carolina 28227,, 47 pages, March 2011, $10

Review by Barbara Bialick

The chapbook TOPLESS has a bottom-less selection of well-written, somewhat erotic poems for and by three women who love their men and children. While they use a
number of sexy allusions, the book isn’t so much about sex, but how their sexuality is couched in the workings of Mother Nature. Since there are three distinct poets
represented, I kept thinking this one or that one is the better writer. By the last page, I realized that each of them turned out to be the best. So I got a good impression of Main Street Rag’s Editor’s Choice Chapbook Series. Main Street Rag is a popular
small-press journal.

In “Transformations,” Kara Provost fantasizes about “what it would have been like to have a boy-child/…but we gave birth to girls like ripe poppies, pearlized bulbs opening into brilliant black-eyed scarlet…”

“Before Loving” by Deborah Mead reads, “First I would want to know/the salt of
things;/the sweat of palm/or the air when it comes/off the flat of the sea…”

In “Your Pink Bra,” Eileen McCluskey speaks of her daughter: “Your pink bra
brings me/back to my own girlhood;/the way those wings/opened my wonderment,/cradled promise…”

The poem “Nipple” by Deborah Mead is a funny if not surrealistic description of a woman breast-feeding her baby in front of a subway car full of 5 p.m. rush hour commuters: “…We are turned on/and hosed down like a riotous mob/flushed to the far end of the car./The warm thin milk washes over us, carrying away our coffee cups, our market analyses,/our MP3s and Oprah novels…/”

Eileen McCluskey is a poet and freelance writer who has had work in MIT News, WPI Transformations, Main Street Rag, Ibbetson Street, and others.

Deborah Mead is a freelance writer and poet, and has published articles and essays in
The Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Main Street Rag, Iodine Poetry Journal and Haz Mat Review.

Kara Provost’s chapbook Nests was published by Finishing Line Press in 2006 and recently, a micro-chapbook, Figures of Speech, with the Origami Poems project. She has published poetry in Main Street Rag, Hurricane Alice, The Newport News, Tar Wolf Review, The Aurorean, and others.