Left Poet/Performer Michael Mack, Right Series Director Doug Holder
Friday, February 24, 2012
Photos from the Ibbetson Street Press/Endicott College Visiting Author Series
*** Mack performed excerpts from " Conversation with my Molester." It had been premiered at the Boston Playwright Theatre at Boston University.
Left Poet/Performer Michael Mack, Right Series Director Doug Holder
( Click on pic to enlarge)
( click on pic to enlarge)
Thursday, February 23, 2012
A BagelBards Second Look Book Review
“Track Wreckard 1-14”
By Denis Sheehan
Bone Print Press, No price listed
Reviewed 2/13/12, Re-reviewed 2/20/12 by Paul Steven Stone
If it wasn’t a pun, I’d say here’s one for the books! How often does one write a book review one week, then come back the next week with an entirely different interpretation of what he read, and what the author achieved?
For me, this is the first time.
I felt pretty confident when I wrote my original review that the author had taken the easy way out in writing his book (novel, memoir?) by merely writing up 14 consecutive evenings spent in a local Rockland bar. His refusal to edit his writings, or even correct misspellings, made it seem like a labor of lassitude and, here’s the trap, a reflection of blue collar antipathy to the requirements of white collar literature. I’m afraid I wrote my review accordingly.
After all, if Denis Sheehan was going to force me to read about him sitting at a local bar night after night and get stinking drunk half the time, without even crafting his presentation, then I was going to call him out (always politely, of course) for his laziness, his lack of literary focus and, of course, for his obvious inattention to MY needs as an experienced reader with high literary standards.
It was only the next day after I submitted my review, when I was working on a new novel in which I play serious games with the reader’s status as a fly on the wall, that I realized what games Denis Sheehan had been attempting with his book, and that I had fallen into his trap.
If I can steal from my earlier review of Track Wreckard, I wrote…“Aside from developing a drinking problem, or feeling like I did, reading the book did an excellent job of replicating the boredom and pointlessness of a life spent without challenges or significant interests.”
I had hit a bullseye and didn’t even know it. For now I see that Track Wreckard is totally about conveying the blue collar grind of nightly visits to the Pub and daily penance paid at whatever form of grueling employment fueled the author’s need for nightly oblivion. Far from creating a novel that focused on sharing those short ups and deep downs in any literary sense, Denis Sheehan chose to dunk the reader almost bodily in the boredom, repetition, small glories and minor triumphs of his life. Unedited, uninterrupted by literary pretension or Spellcheck, unapologetically served out across 14 evenings of his life!
I apologize to Denis Sheehan for first reviewing his book from my point of view, which caused me to miss how well he had hit the mark from his point of view. By taking exception to the fact that most of the writing was done when the author was half- or wholly-in-the-bag, and not prettied up afterwards, I missed or misinterpreted the author’s ingenuousness in sharing himself and his world when they were at their most vulnerable and unattractive. Rather than accept my immersion in his world, I complained and wished for a world and a protagonist more attune to my tastes.
Whether you’re looking for a non-violent drinking companion or some insight into a world strangely close but ineffably distant, “Train Wreckard 1-14” might be just the cocktail for you.
Don’t be surprised if you find, as I did, that it merits a second sip.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Editor: RD Armstrong
Review by Dennis Daly
Here you will find shit jobs, mad women in miniskirts, junkies, cigar smoke, insomniacs, booze, broads, swollen testicles, and despair. Sound like the world of the late writer and poet Charles Bukowski. Well it’s not. But it is an anthology inspired by him and Bukowski remains the central reference point throughout.
RD Armstrong edited this ambitious book (apparently his second attempt to get it just right) hoping to lay out the legacy and influence of Bukowski for all to see. Like their mentor’s own work many of these pieces are angry and defiant in both style and subject matter. One of their repeated targets, and deservedly so, is academia.
Michael Ford’s poem, Not Celebrity Bowling: Cerebrally Bowling, goes right to the heart of it,
spare me the hypocrisy of the gutless rituals of
anthologized poetry; English Department ivory
tower cowards publishing what they have turned
the art of poetry into: bubbles on a fat vat full of
Mark Terrill puts it another way, but no less effective, in his poem Bukowski: 3/10/94,
..there are the
Great Living Poets
the Great Dead Poets
and then there’s me
another two-bit guttersnipe.
In an obscenity- laced poem, appropriate to the book, FN Wright’s Bukowski and Me makes the point that the underside of culture where Bukowski found his muses is not only alive and well but still a suitable setting for intense poetry,
I attract bad women
catholic girls gone bad
& Baptist minister’s
fond of me
I am not
a great poet
but I’m damn good…
My Comrades, a poem by Joe Speer with a provocative title, needles the literary establishment. Speer allies the underclass, non-elite writers with luminaries such as Sir Thomas Malory, a prisoner, Cervantes, impoverished, Thomas Hardy and Emile Proust, self-publishers, William Faulkner, a rum smuggler, and others. He details his points of comparison thusly:
this one teaches
that one lives with his mother and cat
another pencraft master takes drugs, non-prescription
and cleans house as his wife earns a living.
In other words, here are poets from the real world, not that rarified artificial world of artsy-fartsy elitism.
Poets, who emerge from this seamy world of damaged creative people, have advantages. In order to measure out the truth, they lie better than most. And that is only the beginning of it. Ellaraine Lockie in her clear-eyed telling poem, Poets at Any Price, says,
confessor, friend or family …
I tell you
Because I’ve been truth’s victim
Verbal accounts reiterated
verbatim in someone else’s poem
Secrets exposed as sonnets
Composites as transparent
as the silk panties I wore…
Plato was right: never trust poets.
The world of Bukowski and his acolytes is reduced to a piece of bruised fruit in an interesting piece by Doug holder entitled, It Is Late and the Fruit Is Bad. Beware there is a little bit of DH Lawrence’s poem Figs here. Holder’s persona chooses to eat in a way not acceptable in polite society. He says,
I take its flesh
deep into my mouth
digest the ferment
of its rotten skin
cut the lights
Cutting the lights seals the deal. We are among the vulgar. Not just everyman seeking satisfaction and a high, but an artist, who, even in miniature, meticulously records the truth of his appetites. If eating rotting fruit this way seems vaguely licentious, eating rotting fruit in the middle of the night in the dark seems downright obscene.
Another all-nighter was had by G. Murray Thomas. In his poem, To the Editor Whose Name Will Appear on my Next Rejection Slip, the poet says,
I sat up all night
and going over my
searching for one written
in the cheap…
The poet tries to match expectations of a Bukowski –like poem. He finally gives up, becomes himself again and writes this poem chronicling the process. I wonder if the rejection letter he expected was from this very anthology.
Breaking the mood, but not the context, the short story by RD Armstrong, Two Drink Minimum, grabs you with its great musically obscene refrain. The refrain breaks up the story of a construction job gone bad. Add the battle of the sexes and the result is a hilarious read.
Another one of the stories is an odd but serious piece by John Macker, called Not Too far From the Maverick Bar. The protagonist has packed his dead dog’s body in dry ice and trekked into the desert to bury him and seek redemption. The story takes a neat and satisfying turn at the end with Bukowski doing a cameo.
I found all the essays interesting, but one was especially memorable, A Buk Remembrance by Michael Meloan. Three quarters of the essay describes the legendary Bukowski alit with booze and on a rampage. The last quarter portrays a thoughtful, workaholic, with more than a touch of irony in his pronouncements.
That Charles Bukowski would really get a kick out of this book.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Review of “Are There Zombies in Heaven”, poetry by Eric “The Moebius Kid” Morlin, Wilder Publications, Inc., PO Box 10641, Blacksburg, VA 24063, 149 pages, 2011
Review by Barbara Bialick
There are some 101 poems with interesting titles listed in the table of contents of this book, 102 if you count the disclaimer as a prose poem. But the title poem boasts a great line in this tome about love and life as a street poet in Little Five Points in Atlanta, who’s currently working on a bachelor’s degree in the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Morlin, who lists scores of acknowledgments of people who have helped him, writes: “Are there zombies in heaven/are there undead angels waiting for me/when I die?”
Morlin will surely face down the zombies like he does the rest of his life.
He uses blunt, sometimes rough language in a lot of the poems, but in others, if he just edited some lines a bit differently, he can even murmur like a Shakespearian sonnet writer, as in “Anti-dotes and Sequels”: “Love doesn’t abandon when clarity/unravels, it weathers self-hate and intellect/baffles. They stymie detection, of where/the souls scarred in weals, but love is like/braille, where it touches it heals, Love/navigates us to learn to forgive, and in/learning the process, remembers to live...”
In contrast, consider the language in “Blessed Are the Weak,” where he pens, “for they shall go for the kill/every time and tell you/they love you./They shall offer soft words/And watch as you/Hemorrhage,/and they’re still too terrified/to tell you how they frakked/you over with intention…/What prize is there in/beating down someone/who loves you and/ won’t hit you back?”
In the Introduction by Warrine Lapine, the book’s publisher, it reads “”Moebius is a street poet. His work is uncompromising, raw, bold; it takes you to places that you’d probably rather not go. And Moebius is fine with that…truth is beauty” as Keats reminds us…
In his “Disclaimer” and/or prose poem at the end of the book, “Morlin declares “The world is an IQ test. We all fail some of the time. OBVIOUSLY, but that’s part of the point…”
Sunday, February 19, 2012
The Dream of the Black Topaze Chamber (Skylight Press, Great Britain, England)
By Hugh Fox
Review by Pam Rosenblatt
In 2011, the late Hugh Bernard Fox published The Dream of the Black Topaze Chamber (Skylight Press, Great Britain). Also, in 2011 – September 4, 2011 – Fox sadly passed away. This short 110 page book reflects Fox’s writing, poetic, and anthropological finesse.
Also, in 2011, Mr. Fox published three other books: e Lord Said Unto Satan (Post Mortem Press, Cincinnati, Spring), Reunion (Luminis Books, Summer),and The Year Book (Ravenna Press, Summer).
Mr. Fox was a writer, a poet, a reviewer, an anthropologist, and, perhaps most importantly, a friend to people. He had friends all over the place. And he often wrote about his friends under different names in his books.
Along with Paul Bowles, Ralph Ellison, Anaïs Nin, Joyce Carol Oates, Mr. Fox co-founded the Pushcart Prize for literature.
He was published in the Small Press arena prolifically. Even though he had been very ill for years, Fox kept up writing reviews and books. Over the years, his book reviews could be seen in the late Len Fulton’s Small Press Review. From time to time, Mr. Fox would visit with the Bagel Bards on Saturday mornings at Au Bon Pain, Somerville.
In 2006, Fox’s Way, Way Off the Road: The Memoirs of an Invisible Man was published by Ibbetson Street Press.
I personally didn’t know Mr. Fox very well. I did often read his reviews in Small Press Review. I became indirectly acquainted with Mr. Fox after he wrote a review of my first chapbook published on The Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene. His review showed his love of word economy. And then I actually met him at the Bagel Bards one Saturday morning shortly afterwards. But I had never read any of Mr. Fox’s books. So when Doug Holder asked me to review The Dream of the Black Topaze Chamber last Saturday, February 11, I said “Okay!” I didn’t know what to expect…
What I discovered is that Mr. Fox’s The Dream of the Black Topaze Chamber is a short book about three women – Magda, Nona, and Bernadette – who are in Brazil. They are lovers. Inseparable. Sometimes intellectual. Often times sexual. Often various serious political, health, and social issues are raised and challenged. Here are a few paragraphs from the book that explains the three women’s relationship:
Sonia took the message, scrawled on a pad on Magda’s desk:
Quero falar com voce urgentamente/I urgently want to talk to you.
It must be Boss Bernadette (who else?) so she calls her office.
“No, I didn’t leave any message, it must be Bernadette Lundardelli, she’s doing an article for Jornal da Semana about ‘foreigners’ in Santa Catarina…”
So maybe I oughta call her Magda thinks, but she doesn’t, the next evening this almost-middle-aged moonface appears at the door.
“I just took a chance you might be home …”
And in she comes, the other Bernadette, and Nona is on Magda’s bed reading (English lesson) Wuthering Heights, toasty (heater) warm, all three of them in black tights and ponchos as if they were a uniform, all these black-veiled thighs.
“How do you like it down here?” Bernadette reporter asks Bernadette and Nona.
“OK, except for the bichos/bugs,” answers Nona.
“We can talk in the living room,” says Magda slightly … the word in Portuguese is ‘exltada’/hysterical-happy.”
“You three live together?”
“Bernadette, the little one, she’s not really ‘living’ with us yet full-time, but she will be … after she leaves Medicine …”
“Oh, she’s a doctor going to leave Medicine? Another American?”
“No, Brazilian …”
“But you and the …”
“We’ve been together for more than ten years now …”
“Together?” She’s shamelessly (reportorially) curious.
“Off the record,” says Magda pointing to Bernadette’s notepad/pen, “I mean really off the record. I don’t want my job jeopardized.”
“Of course, of course,” she answers, her face all solicitously contorted with ‘secrecy’, ‘discretion.’ (p. 31)
A former professor at Michigan State University, Mr. Fox has taken on the job of educating his readers about a different lesbian lifestyle amidst the social and professional conventions of Brazil and the United States.
Mr. Fox has written a book that’s not a passive read. Some people may get uncomfortable with his honesty, his off-the-cuff humor, and his direct approach to relationships that don’t conform to social norms. But the book is well-written, descriptive, and has impact. His poetic muse is often apparent. A darker side is often spoke of by the characters, and Death is often a subject of conversation by these three intelligent woman whose female personas are so realistic that it’s hard to believe that a man could create them, as seen when Magda speaks to Bernadette near the conclusion of the book:
“I don’t want to die slowly. I mean when I do die, I don’t want to face it slowly like peeling an artichoke, becoming less and less inside the awareness that I’m really becoming nothing at all. I can’t stand the idea of consciously unraveling and dissolving. Or being like Hubert Humphrey, you hang on, become transparent, all tubes and sacks, and the bichos/bugs are still inside you like termites in an old house … you know, being gay, you’re outside, crazy … and you see it more fully … visão global/global vision … I mean I never for a moment think that exercise or diet or surgery are going to make any real difference … the only reality is the diss-olving ….” (p. 101)
The Dream of the Black Topaze Chamber is an unusual book, one that has an impact on the reader – positive or negative. And, by the way, Skylight Press has informed us that more books by the late Hugh Fox will soon follow!
Holder, Doug. “Hugh Fox: Way, Way Off On His Final Road”. Ibbetson Street #30, Ibbetson Street Press, June 2011. p. 22 – 23.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. “Hugh Fox”. http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Fox