Saturday, March 03, 2012

What the Quiet Accomplishes By Marshall D. Dury

By Marshall D. Dury

20 Pages

                                                          ( Marshall D. Dury)

Reviewed by Dennis Daly

This modest chapbook by Marshall Dury chronicles breaths, and whispers, and wordlessness. These are quiet poems, and at their best—haunting. There is a lot of soul-searching going on here in a very literal sense. In Cicatrix (Prelude) the poet considers the nature of memories,

tender the memories,

tender the changes.

a new softness rising in you,

the suppleness of skin, gone.

The body of his lover loses its suppleness as our memories of the past soften and lose their essential tension. As the strength of a mountain can erode, so can our past, which in this poet’s words is a “delicate vessel.” As the poet seems to imply, the past changes with time, becomes set as a story or series of stories, and then changes yet again. Then with time the past collapses into itself losing substance and eventually vanishing.

The poem Being Gift Enough celebrates the sweet breath of life. It seems to argue that life alone is blessing enough and that all of us should stop and take it in. This pantheistic vision is exhilarating with the breath of life literally dancing in one’s heart,

if you breathe it truly.

let it dance in the beautiful mess

of veins and heart

that the night is quiet, is still:

your dog’s soft chirps of dreaming,

your wife’s skin soft love, warm breath of joy,

that these, most any night,

be gift enough to truly know

what a blessing is.

By the way, dogs do really chirp in their sleep, while dreaming. At least my dog does. Good observation.

In Reverie, not only do we dream our life in nearby houses, but as we listen carefully the two realities merge, and the poet and his lover merge,

Where dreams show us what beauty our lives are now,

If we be willing to listen

If we be willing to live the reverie of this life together

Until there is no difference.

Sharing dreams do cement lovers together (even in other people’s houses) like nothing else.

In an unusual poem, entitled For Sylvia Plath’s Audience—The Ones Who Repeatedly Tried To Carve Out The Last Name ‘Hughes’ From Her Headstone, Dury attempts to explain the unexplainable with, I believe, mixed results. The poem is clearly aimed at Plath’s infamous husband, the well- known and accomplished poet, Ted Hughes. Dury mulls the complicated human desire for correcting great mistakes and wonders what a life would be if, by some magic, a destructive flaw could be chiseled out of the story of one’s life, in this case, Plath’s unhappy marriage. These lines show insight and are memorable,

Peeling away cold days

Like we can forget them

By choice. The motionless

Fissure where your chisel

May strip from stone

All that misunderstanding…

The poem entitled Plain upon Plain meditates on the mystery and artistry of writing. An internal geography emerges from the tip of the poet's ball point pen,

… words falling through the funnel of your pen—this ballpoint,

received as a wedding gift. You see:

dewed, silent hills. tall grass,

small twists of morning light..


life held up, hoisted over your heart.

the inner country of your soul unfolds,

plain upon plain…

I think the best poem in the book is the last: On the Failing of Words. A fourteen year old boy seeks communication with his very sick brother. The poet details the limits of art. Sometimes words fall short. It’s one of the flaws in humanity,

because sometimes,

that is all you want.

for your words

simply to be


And sometimes they just aren’t. Dury nails this poem and a good many others in this surprising chapbook.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strong as Silk The story of the Gold Hill Wakamatsu Tea & Silk Colony by Brigit Truex

Strong as Silk
The story of the Gold Hill
Wakamatsu Tea & Silk Colony
Prose & Poems
Brigit Truex
Lummox Press 2012

Review by Irene Koronas
Truex juxtaposes her small poems next to journal entries by Lady Jou, 1869-71:

"One last leaf remains,
turning, spinning east, then west.
Wind carries it off"

And from the journals of two other residents of the colony. Truex weaves, steeps the leaves then presses the stories between the pages. The settlers form a tea colony in California after coming from Japan. The history of the colony is in the back of the book and is as interesting as the prose and poetry. The people within the book migrate to California to make a profit from silk and tea trade. The book poetically informs all our senses; each journal page reveals the expectations and the loss felt by the settlers:

"...Last night, as we settled into our rooms, I found a book. Whoever
lived here before - the Graners, perhaps - must have dropped it.
Inside, a tiny lotus - until it fluttered away! The petals were splayed
wings of a small green moth. Surely it whispered blessings as it
circled overhead. I send prayers for us and our venture in this new place."

It is the story of beginnings and separations. It is how the poet relates to the journal entries:

"Hanging upside - down,
small bird robed in black scholar's cap -
our worlds are reversed"

The writing is magnificent, a blend of the past and present. We readers are able to discern
the subtle differences between the then and the now, the land and purpose of being, all
from the journal, 1874 and the recent poems:

"The moon was so full of itself, it echoed like
a bronze cymbal. It drowned out all other sounds.
Even the owl was silenced, still as the mouse
he pursues. He too was in awe of the night.

Far away, I heard the miners' music. It is difficult
to enjoy. I do not understand it. There are too many
sounds at once.

The light drew two moths as well. They danced in the darkness,
performing for the empress-moon. Mirroring each other, spiraling,
separating, only to return again. I am reminded of cherry
blossoms, released from the branch, drifting down when
no one is there to watch them fall."

The above journal entry takes my breath away and I can feel the longing for and the love of being where she is. She is nineteen years old and does not live much longer. Truex writes her poem next to the entry:

"Etched on still-black lake of sky,
porcelain petals
flutter to the moon."

Wow. Don't miss this book. Buy it and keep it and pass it to your children.
Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor:
Wilderness House Literary Review 
Ibbetson Street Press

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review of The Georgia Review

Review of The Georgia Review:

“We Are All of Us Passing Through”

Review by Ralph Pennel

In his introduction to volume 65, issue 4 of The Georgia Review, editor Stephen Corey, seemingly offhandedly, draws the reader through a brief history of time as illimitable as our collective imagination and as succinct as the word “time” is in instructing our understanding of the concept of time. Corey, when he asks, “Whether the words old and new having the same number of letters could be a sign of similar meanings” (667), reminds us, by demanding we consider their relativity and flexibility, and the expansion and contraction of language itself, that words—and all narratives given breath by them—can be simultaneously culled from their etymologies into new histories and back again in a single postulation. Before we even begin to read this collection of writings, the boundaries of time have collapsed. And, with each new piece, both individually and collectively, these boundaries are refashioned into the spaces between the boundaries, linking us all to the dark matter between all points of light, the very spaces where we construct the meaning of our lives, the spaces where, “We Are All of Us Passing Through.”

Each piece housed in this issue of The Georgia Review is a reminiscence—ruminative in content and context from each piece’s own beginning and end, through the entire collection’s beginning and end, and ruminative in the way that most purposeful, personal resolve is emotional acceptance of the unresolved flesh.

Fittingly, the opening essay, titled “In the Flesh,” by Martha G. Wiseman, begins here, with acceptance of all she has gained from all she has lost. Wiseman finds herself, at the onset, “back among the dancers” (669), a lifestyle she inherited from her namesake and godmother, Martha Graham, and a lifestyle she extracted herself from years later before she caved entirely into herself. In reflection, she recalls her “futile striving for a perfect dancer’s body” (676) though what she was actually striving for was, “a clear attempt to defeat [her] shame” (676).  She is at no time kind or forgiving, recalling each failed attempt to reconcile with her own body that resulted in a loss of her own sense of self, until the recalling is a kind of a mantra. A prayer of sorts.

This idea of paying homage to the letting down of our wills, of honoring the dark matter, is carried throughout the review, and pulls the works together the way time pulls together the dissonant trajectories of our lives into a cohesive narrative. This homage, this accounting for our failings as evidence of grace, is further explored in Carol Edelstein’s poem, “Close as I Can Get to Prayer.” Edelstein’s poem, with all its elegiac weight, like Wiseman’s essay, begins at the end:

Slowly the amaryllis unpacks its massive blooms.
At the end you were a fighting bird, all sinew and
will.  (689)

However, it is an end both seasoned with stoic resolve and almost unpalatable longing:

            But I’ll take anything—world in a stupor
            after the night shift, emptying its pockets
            of coins, bills, whatever can be cast down
onto the square of light. Anything—any creature
peeking forth, root or leaf, smudge, crease—
I’ll take. (689)

We can’t help but feel from Edelstien’s poem that the size and shape of personal accountability, or remorse and repentance, is contingent upon our sense of relatedness to the world around us, to the interior landscapes of our lives, and to the land itself.

Eugenie Torgerson’s works carry with them the same sense of longing. Charting and plotting the earth’s surface in her work, she reveals the intimacies of the lives of the land she photographs, as if time itself were capable of longing. Torgerson’s works inhabit the page, render the page as history, trajectory, stasis, and breadth.  They are at once cartography and the land they map. Each landscape has two histories. Histories with us. Histories without us.  Contiguous. Confluent.

Torgerson says of her own work that, “My own images are not of a specific site but are generalized and universal representations of the weight of the land and the energy and allure of the horizon . . . of what makes people decide to leave, what causes them to stay, how they endure with grace” (712). It is hard not to assume that in each of her images, when Torgerson says people, she is speaking of the land instead, the land a dancer, too, a body from which those who inhabited it have attempted to render perfection.

            It is in the writings of Henry Crews where, at nearly the center of journal, the ideas explored throughout the works of the review culminate, edify, and expand, the way light is drawn to and then bends around a celestial body. Crews is not spare in his ideas or language, stating directly what each Wiseman and Edelstein (and even Corey) have already asked us to consider in their own way. Crews, in his essay, “We Are All of Us Passing Through,” pleads with epistemological conviction, “Deliver me from men who are without doubt. Doubt makes a man decent. My most steadfast conviction is that every man ought to doubt everything he holds dearest” (723). And, once again in The Gospel Singer, that, “Suffering is God’s greatest gift to man” (739). It is through the pain that we gain greater vision, that we achieve higher levels of consciousness, where the self is born with acceptance of the body’s death, where beginnings are endings, where old and new concord.

            That this is the final issue of the 65th year is not unremarkable against the backdrop of its content. It could be no other way.  Though this issue marks the end of the season, it serves to also lead us forward into the next with unquestionable elegiac eloquence.

 ***Ralph Pennel is the Fiction Editor, and one of four founding editors, of Midway Journal, an online journal published out of St. Paul, Minnesota. He teaches Creative Writing, Composition, and literature online for Globe University in Minnesota and currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review, Poetica Magazine, Contemporary Jewish Writing, Holocaust Edition,

Review, Poetica Magazine, Contemporary Jewish Writing, Holocaust Edition Spring 2012, PO Box 11014, Norfolk, Virginia 23517,, Michal Mahgerefteh, Editor-in Chief, 64 pages.

Review by Barbara Bialick, author of TIME LEAVES

At my age, the word “holocaust” reminds me of when I read about all of the horrors, as a child in Hebrew School, of the slaughter by the Germans of 6 million Jews during World War II from 1939 to 1945. That was in the 1960s. But I never forgot… On looking at this special issue of the fine journal Poetica, my thought was Oh no, I can’t read all this again! Yet in well-written poetry by 40 fine poets, is chronicled different views of the nightmare stories of the killing, incarceration, burning and starving, as well as thoughts and memories by and about the survivors.

But I realized who this important collection is really for—the younger generation, who need to hear about it also, or everything that happened will be forgotten. Jews continue to need to be reminded how we have been hated throughout history, even as Israel is often hated today by certain Jews as well as the Palestinians, indeed the whole Middle East.

In the poem, “Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2012”, Helen Bar-Lev writes “the oven warms; a cake bakes/a siren wrenches the heart/the radio plays somber songs/and people retell of the holocaust…of the loss”.

“Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awaken, do not/reject us forever,” writes Bernard Otterman in “Psalm 44 at Auschwitz.”

Another moving poem is “Budapest Shoes” by Jena Smith: “Sixty shoes line Pest bank, cast iron shoes…/shoes of the Jews, Hungarian Jews.”

I really like the poem “I Would Have Called You ‘Oma’” by Joanne Jagoda, about the grandmother she never met: “They shipped you on the train to Auschwitz/and you walked to the showers of gas/your precious light extinguished forever/And when I hold my own sweet grandchild/I think about you…”

This book exists like a holy encyclopedia, written and ready to read, too awful to be quoted so haphazardly. Just buy it and give it to someone of the young generation and let them get sick, too, before the old generations of witnesses and their children disappear, leaving no one to remember what really happened…

Women’s History Month Event: Hilary Tann Premiere Featured at Concert Celebrating 400th Anniversary of Anne Bradstreet’s Birth


Women’s History Month Event:
Hilary Tann Premiere Featured at Concert Celebrating
400th Anniversary of Anne Bradstreet’s Birth 

By Beth Purcell

Cappella Clausura presents Mistress: A Celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the Birth of America’s First Poet, Mistress Anne BradstreetThe commissioned Contemplations (8, 9) by composer Hilary Tann will receive its premiere, joined on this Women’s History Month program by her Contemplations (21, 22), written earlier for the Radcliffe Choral Society.  Dorothy Crawford’s A Portrait of Anne Bradstreet, based on the poet’s letters and poems, and Naushon will also be featured.  Madrigals and motets by Barbara Strozzi and Isabella Leonarda, Bradstreet’s contemporaries, will complete the concert. 

Tenors and basses will be added to the female chorus for the Strozzi and Leonarda works, along with harpsichord, violin and recorder for some of the pieces. A festive reception with birthday cake will be held at the concert on March 17, when Hilary Tann will be in attendance for the premiere. 

Known as America's first poet, Anne Bradstreet was born in England, then moved to the greater Boston area with other Puritan emigrants in 1630.  A freethinker and intellect, she wrote poetry on religious and domestic subjects with at least one collection published in her time in both England and the New World.  Both her father and her husband served as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; both were also prominently involved in the founding of Harvard College (where a gate now bears an excerpt from one of Bradstreet’s works). 

In Contemplations, the poet stands in awe of God’s universe.  This long work was written for her family and published posthumously.  Tann’s musical setting of the 8th and 9th sections of the poem is adventurous and rhythmically vibrant, with hints of a Japanese aesthetic.  Clausura has sung other works of Tann’s in the past.

Tann’s music is influenced by the love of her native Wales, the natural world and traditional music of Japan. 
Ensembles that have commissioned and performed her works include the American Guild of Organists, Louisville Symphony Orchestra, European Women’s Orchestra, Tenebrae, Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Thai Philharmonic and KBS Philharmonic in Seoul.  She lives in the Adirondacks and serves on the faculty of Union College.  For more information, visit:

Crawford’s works have been performed by many ensembles including the Longy Chamber Singers, the Unicorn Singers, which she founded with her husband, composer/pianist John Crawford, and at the Bloch Festival where she was a participating composer.  She is the recipient of a Composers’ Guild Award for Choral Composition and lives in Cambridge.

Concert Dates/Locations:
Saturday, March 17, 8PM,  Parish of the Messiah, 1900 Commonwealth Av., Newton
Saturday, March 24, at 8PM,  University Lutheran, 66 Winthrop St., Cambridge
Sunday, March 25, 4PM,  First Church in Jamaica Plain, 6 Eliot St., Jamaica Plain

Contact:          Director Amelia LeClair  617-964-6609  or
Tickets:           $15 - $25.  Purchase online  at  or at the door

Cappella Clausura brings to light works written by women from the 8th century to the present day:  twelve  centuries of “new” music.   While this ensemble of sopranos, altos, and period instruments performs music solely by  women composers, and champions living composers, it concentrates on repertoire by women in the
cloister – clausura – during the Italian baroque period.  During this extraordinary time, women were allowed to
express themselves spiritually and artistically, and to publish their own music.  Clausura’s intention is to dispel the notion that there are not now nor have there ever been gifted women composers.  History has been blind and deaf to these remarkable works; Cappella Clausura  brings vision and voice to them.

About Amelia LeClair and the context of Cappella Clausura:
LeClair received her Bachelor's in Music Theory and Composition from UMass Boston in 1975.  Having noticed throughout her education the dearth of female composers in the historical canon, she lost faith in her own ability to compose and moved on to raising a family and owning a business.  
Musical scholars in the 70's unearthed the works of female composers which had for too long moldered in libraries:  scholars such as Robert Kendrick, Craig Monson, Candace Smith, Judith Tick, Jane Bernstein, and many more.  Then the Norton Grove Dictionary of Women Composers appeared on university shelves.  The work of these scholars became the impetus for Cappella Clausura.  In 2001 LeClair entered the masters program at New England Conservatory, studying with Simon Carrington in choral conducting. She made her conducting debut in Jordan Hall in March of 2002.
Shortly after gaining her masters, she founded Cappella Clausura, an ensemble of voices and period instruments specializing in music written by women from the 8th century to the present day.   She has presented and premiered the music of Hilary Tann, Patricia Van Ness, Abbie Betinis, Emma Lou Diemer, and many more. Now in its seventh year, Cappella Clausura has to date received annual local cultural council grants from the city of Newton, three grants from Choral Arts New England, and a grant from the PatsyLu fund of Open Meadows Foundation.
LeClair greatly enjoys the discovery and presentation of music not in the standard repertoire, such as women's early music and works that expand on Euro-centric strictures.  She is director of choirs at the Church of St Andrew in Marblehead and Director of Schola Nocturna, a compline choir at the Episcopal Parish of the Messiah in Newton.  She directed Coro Stella Maris, a renaissance a cappella choir in Gloucester, for five years. She has directed children's choirs for First Unitarian Society in Newton, and Revels. She lives in Newton with her husband.

What the press is saying

"...eavesdrop on paradise... personal and inviting, extravagant and intimate."
- Matthew Guerreri, BOSTON GLOBE
"...riveting...pure, rich.." - The Boston Phoenix
"...the cadences of each phrase and each piece were nothing short of exquisite. There were many divine moments of perfect sonority..."   - Boston Musical Intelligencer     


*Photos and full artist bios are available at