Friday, November 16, 2012


I  rode out with poet Afaa Michael Weaver to the Gloucester Writers Center, to hear Martha Collins, Sam Cornish, and Afaa read. Also I wanted to touch base with Maxwell Snelling, an intern from Endicott College where I teach Creative Writing and other writing courses. Snelling, I am glad to report is doing a great job out there. I met the staff--a very passionate and dedicated group of folks.  We had a lovely fish chowder prepared by the Center at their shack on the Gloucester Harbor. Then we went to a reading presented by the Writers Center at the Gloucester Cultural Center in the Rocky Point section of the city. Great reading, atmosphere, not to mention crowd.  I included a flier for the event, and I encourage folks to visit the Center for future events...donations wouldn't hurt either...

                                   The Gloucester Writer's Center
                                                 126 East Main Street, Gloucester MA. 01930                                                    

                                    GLOUCESTER WRITERS CENTER  NO 14, 2012

                                                  ( The gang at the Gloucester Writers Dinner)
                                                   CLICK ON PICTURES TO ENLARGE    


( Left to Right)  Doug Holder,  Afaa Michael Weaver, Sam Cornish.



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Go to the Pine: By Mark Pawlak

Go to the Pine:

Quoddy Journals 2005-2010

By Mark Pawlak

Bootstrap Press

Lowell, MA

ISBN 13: 978-0-9821600-5-3

47 Pages


Review by Dennis Daly

Mark Pawlek charts the spectacular shoreline and headlands of Maine’s Passamaquoddy Bay in this book of adept poetic notations. Between 2005 and 2010 Pawlec and his family rented a house overlooking the bay in Lubec, the easternmost town in the United States. According to Pawlek, who I listened to recently giving a poetry reading at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge Massachusetts, he, as an early riser, literally witnessed many sun risings before any of his countrymen. In fact images of an Atlantic dawn figure prominently throughout his journals. How appropriate! The American Indian word Passamaquoddy means people of the dawn.

One of Pawlek’s influences is seventeenth century Japanese haiku master Matsuo Basho, himself a keeper of a famous journal published posthumously. Pawlek’s title comes from Basho, whom he quotes to begin his journal,

Go to the pine if you want to learn about pine.

Although Pawlek sets up his book in a very visual way, many of his pieces are wonderfully lyrical. Take his very first piece entitled “Bold Coast” Partita: Chaconne. The image presented, reminiscent of Pound’s In the Station of the Metro, also exhibits nice subtleties of whispered song. Here’s most of it:


pendent blossoms


on tall stalks

to foghorn tune,

a single droplet

at each tip,


In a little poem headed by the line 5 AM Sacramental Landscape Pawlak outdoes himself. His imagery sets up a rite of pantheistic adoration that is both visually elaborate and musically well-toned. He says,

Now dawn arrives,

startling as the risen Christ

in Grunewald’s painting, “The Resurrection.”

A shimmering golden platter

rests on white muslin

spread across the bay,

reflection of the dazzling

eucharistic orb now suspended

an arm’s- length above the horizon.

Pawlak returns to the theme of morning light over and over. In another section he records this neat observation,

Notice that even pebbles

cast long shadows

in slant morning light.

Observe the bent figures

in waders, raking

the muck for clams

under the supervision

of blue heron.

The poet then notes that these observations have the power to utterly change a person. I believe it. It can be life altering to reach a point of understanding, a curious understanding in which a blue heron runs everything. I see them every day and often consider this. Strange birds!

I must say here that I am not the biggest fan of collage poems, but… when they are done well, which means balanced well, they surprise with insight and convert me to their structural cause. The balance that Pawlak achieves in his journals rival what William Carlos Williams achieved in Patterson. Pawlak’s structure is less dense I think—but that is a good thing. For instance he sandwiches a nicely drawn imagistic poem between two seemingly unrelated newspaper clippings. The poem begins this way,

Dull pewter morning sky;

oilcloth spread over harbor,

tucked in at shoreline,

set with and peppershaker buoys

beside toy boats painted primary colors;

humped-backed island at harbor’s mouth

in the shape of an overturned ladle.

The lead- in clipping from the Bangor Daily News reports,

“The Brady Gang came to Maine in the fall of 1937 for the same reason 21st century criminals venture north of Boston—seafood, foliage, and guns.”

The other bookend clipping details a list of District Court cases from the same newspaper. It goes like this,

…violation of scallop rule, $250.00

…hand fishing sea urchin without license, $500.00

…negotiating worthless instrument, $150.00

… violation of marine worm rule, $250.00

…failing to kindle in a prudent manner, $100.00

The resulting atmospherics work terrifically well.

Another successful balancing act provided by this poet/journalist juxtaposes the stark beauty of the rugged terrain with the funkiness of the permanent inhabitants—the townies.

The 2007 portion of the journal begins with a striking poem entitled Six Acts. This is a good part of it,

Distant headland


in first light.

Mist peels away

slowly in bands

to reveal the crown

bristling with firs.

Fog thins

while sun climbs,

hand over hand, up

a ladder of branches.


the jagged shoreline…

On the very next page the poet supplies a bit of humor with a prose description of a collection of beer mugs and steins with slogans including REENLIST, FIT TO FIGHT, BE ALL YOU CAN BE. Of course this cottage which provides such scenic beauty is rented from a Colonel in the National Guard. There may be a lesson here.

Later on in the journal, in a 2010 entry Pawlak seems to combine the funkiness with the profound starkness of the landscape. The poem ironically (perhaps doubly so) named Paradise begins this way,

Rusted tractor, lobster boat up on blocks,

tall weeds grown up around them,

parked on either side of the garage

at the corner of this gravel lane leading to the marsh.

The lobster boat badly in need of paint…

At Pawlak’s poetry reading he mentioned that the book ended when he finished saying everything he had to say for the purposes of the book. He also stressed that he would continue to write journal entries. Good for him. Great for us.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Aurorean, Fall/Winter 2012-2013



By Barbara Bialick

The Aurorean, Fall/Winter 2012-2013, Volume XVII, Issue 2, ISSN 1521-2013, $11, Publisher/Editor: Cynthia Brackett-Vincent, Encircle Publications, LLC, P.O. Box 187,
Farmington, ME 04938, USA.

Statement of Purpose: the Aurorean “seeks to publish inspirational, meditational, and/or poetry reflective of the Northeast. Do not submit by e-mail. Address is above. Website: Note: The Aurorean is also made available to Bookshare, an on-line library of digital books for people with disabilities.

The new Aurorean is dedicated to snow on a country road, as the cover photo implies. The two feature poets are Shelley Girdner and Steve Ausherman—who won $30 for Best-Poem-of-Last-Issue, called “Breaking Upon the Anvil.”

Shelley Girdner’s poem “A Snowstorm Every Week for a Month”, has original snow imagery such as “It’s sky that’s fallen at my feet…the blankness around me/like all the chalk ever erased from boards…”  In “The Dinner Party”, the poet luxuriates in fine images as “to be at the end/of the night, luxuriating in goodbye./Each detail gathers a little sadness to it:/the lemon rind at the bottom of a glass,/a cherry stem tied and left…”

Featured poet Steve Ausherman also writes beautiful imagery, line upon line in “The Weight of Returning Winter”:

Abiquiu Lake lies low upon the land/
With skin reflecting the dull sheen of an iron skillet./

Sleet mixing with snow/
Breaks the skin of the land like mosquitoes on pink skin./

Surrounding mountains hide from sight/
As storm clouds drape a veil over their granite faces./

The windshield wipers play a washtub bass/
Over the tenor chords of sideways-blowing wind/…

Robert K. Johnson, a local Boston-area poet is also included in this issue with the poem “Man’s Best Friend.”

Widely published poet Lyn Lifshin has a poem called “Before the First Red Comes Into the Maples”:

“the young girl’s dreams/are of him. On the line,/wet bathing suits hang/like wild birds, their/cotton wings camoaflage/her leap from sheets/she hasn’t touched…”

If you love finely crafted nature poetry, you might enjoy reading and submitting to the Aurorean. It has “published over a thousand poets world-wide since 1995. Several times it has been named a “Pick” by Small Press Review.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Somerville’s Lynn Liccardo: All the Dope about Soaps.

Lynn Liccardo

Somerville’s Lynn Liccardo: All the Dope about Soaps.
By Doug Holder

  Lynn Liccardo is a woman who is never at a loss for words. This New Jersey native, and resident of the Winter Hill section of Somerville, talks passionately of  something many of us have not thought deeply about, namely Soap Operas.

   Liccardo has written extensively for the now defunct Soap Opera Weekly, and her blog on the Red Room website. Her blog was selected as one of the 10 best for soap opera fans. Her essay The Ironic and Convoluted Relationship between Daytime and Primetime Soap Operas was published in Transformation for a New Media Era (University Press of Mississipi-2010). She has a new e- book out through the Red Room titled: As The World Stops Turning which deals with her favorite soap: As the World Turns.

  I asked this doyenne of soap operas if they are worthy of scholarly exegesis. Liccardo opined: “Soap Operas have been part of our culture for 80 years... Popular culture permeates every aspect of life—not always for the better.  But it has a very important impact. And soap operas are very much Pop Culture—so it does have an impact and makes a statement about society.”

 Liccardo has more ambitions around her work with soap operas. She is planning to gather words and images of the late Irna Philips, the creator of soap operas. She plans a film documentary, as well as a book about Philips titled: As Irna’s World Turned: The Life and Legacy of Irna Phillips.

 Liccardo is also an accomplished playwright. She has had her plays performed at the Boston Playwright’s Theatre, and other venues. Her one act play Settling In was performed at Somerville Community Access TV, and her other plays have been performed as far away as Los Angeles.

 I asked her if a critic compared her plays to a soap opera would she be insulted. The answer of course was NO. Liccardo said her plays are small. They usually consist of a conversation between two people. Soaps according to Liccardo, at their best, are conversations between two people. She smiled: “I hope the best I see in soaps operas the audience sees in my plays.

excerpt from as the world stopped turning...

However, thinking back over what the students had seen over the preceding month, I could find but one example of "naturalistic acting quietly project(ing) deep emotions" - a tiny scene with Lucinda (Elizabeth Hubbard), Bob (Don Hastings) and Kim (Kathryn Hays). The scene was really nothing - no plot - just a brief mention of Bob's recent stay in the hospital and a reference to Bob and Lucinda's visit during her first breast cancer occurrence in 2005. Sam had that video, and included scenes from a second, related episode.

In the second episode, Lucinda's granddaughter, Faith, is brushing her grandmother's hair and asks why Lucinda's hair is coming out in the brush. There are so many ways that scene could have been written and played. The "soapiest" would have been for Lucinda to have a total emotional meltdown in front of Faith, followed by the requisite, and heart-rending, explanation and apology between grandmother and granddaughter.

But that's not how it happened. Not even close. The drama of that scene was all in Elizabeth Hubbard's face as Lucinda struggled mightily not to let Faith see the pain and terror she was feeling, willing herself not to let go of her emotions until her granddaughter was safely out of the room. It was a powerful moment, and as the students watched, all I could hear was their breathing, punctuated by the occasional sniffle. Nothing illustrates the sorry state of daytime soap opera these days more than the fact that one must be of a certain age to remember when these kinds of moments were not so few and far between.

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