Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Journalist, Poet, Wendell Smith: From the Cambridge Phoenix, Spiro Agnew, Wounded Knee, Kent State and all points beyond…

Wendell Smith

 Journalist, Poet, Wendell Smith: From the Cambridge Phoenix, Spiro Agnew, Wounded Knee, Kent State and all points beyond…

By Doug Holder

 Recently I had the pleasure to speak to Wendell Smith, a Somerville Bagel Bard, poet, retired physician,  and one of the first reporters for the old Cambridge Phoenix (a predecessor to the now defunct Boston Phoenix) on my Somerville Community Access TV Show, Poet to Poet : Writer to Writer.

Doug Holder: So tell me how you got your first writing gig?

Wendell Smith: Shortly after I arrived in Boston I was unemployed; so I went down to this unemployment agency and they gave me this card—it was about a job to write a book with the founder of the Academy of Applied Sciences, Houston Branch. He was a Hollywood screenwriter who said he made millions of dollars and then lost it all. He told me he wanted to write biographies of inventors, so these inventors would fund the Academy of Applied Sciences. Branch had an interesting background; he was a roommate of John Reed (the famed journalist who covered the Russian Revolution) at Harvard. Our first book concerned the man who invented power steering. So this was my first real gig when I arrived in Boston.

DH: You wrote for the Cambridge Phoenix at its inception, in the fall of 1969.

WS: Yes it started in the late fall of 1969; the other alternative newspaper at the time was Boston After Dark.  Boston After Dark was mainly concerned with entertainment and dating ads. The Phoenix was funded by Jeff Tartar, who claimed he had a rich uncle who was going to provide for it. He wanted something similar to the Village Voice. It was conceived as a weekly newspaper that essentially covered the Anti-War Movement. Eventually Steve Mindich bought it out, and it became the Boston Phoenix. When Mindich took over—we formed the “Real Paper” collective. The Real Paper was in the black from the start. It lasted for about five or six years. Eventually I was fired, and I would have fired my younger self. I was too stoned and manic.

DH:  Who did you work with—what was the setting like?

WS: It was very freewheeling.  Peter Simon was our photography editor. I shared a front page with Joe Klein (he later wrote for Rolling Stone and The New York Times) in 1973. My piece was about the 1973 Indian rebellion known as “Wounded Knee”, and his was about a school for the disabled in Western Mass.

DH: You wrote a piece about the student protests and shooting at Kent State. You told me the reports of students throwing rocks were largely fabricated.

WS: Yes.  There was a little pile of rocks near where the event happened. And the rocks were flat, split limestone, too big and awkward to be thrown. These were not fist-sized stones. There was evidence that a local newspaper reporter was a F.B. I. operative, and he instigated the student shooting by firing the first shot.

DH:  Tell me about your coverage of the Indian insurrection, Wounded Knee.

WS: The liberation of Wounded Knee was in 1973. The American Indian Movement was run by Russell Means. The Indians occupied Wounded Knee, and stood down federal marshals who were sent to quell the rebellion. I was in San Francisco at the time. I had been hitchhiking and riding freight trains across the country and writing about my experience in the Real Paper. I went to Wounded Knee, and saw a lot of energetic and, and dedicated people  who were part of the movement. The Indians mostly had small arms, hunting rifles, etc… In the end the Indian Movement reclaimed Wounded Knee.

DH: You were covering an event in Boston, where Spiro Agnew, vice-president to Nixon spoke. You were arrested at that event. Can you tell me about this?

WS: This was at a Lincoln Day dinner. It was hosted by the Middlesex Republican Club—the oldest Republican club in the nation. It was being held at the Sheraton in Boston in the Prudential Center. Agnew addressed the dinner. There were a lot of protestors and police outside on Boylston Street. I was covering all this. The dinner got started, and I walked to the floor of the banquet and got a seat. I had long hair, a Ho Chi Min beard and denim bell bottoms.  Al Cap got up and said: “You know, I think they ought to chew up all those protestors on the street.” And Agnew said: “The problem here is the press.” At that moment I stood up in protest and two guys who looked like football linebackers caught me by the elbow, and escorted me out. As I was led out I heard some Republican women, like a Greek Chorus, pipe up and say: “ Kill him; they ought to kill them all.” I was herded into a Boston Police and the cops said that they wished they could put my feet in cement and take care of me properly.

DH: You are a champion of the late poet Ramon Guthrie, author of “Maximum Security Ward.”

WS:  The book’s setting was in a hospital ward where the poet was dying from bladder cancer. He always wanted to write a major piece. So when he had a drug-related delirium after he came out from anesthesia, he began to write this poem while he was in the intensive care ward. I came to know him when I was at Dartmouth, and he was part of a group called the “Thursday Poets.” He and the group were great, supportive, and they had none of that academic affectation.  He was definitely an influence on me and he should have more recognition, and I am working on that.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Endicott Review Spring 2015

The Endicott Review
Volume 32, Issue 1
Spring 2015
Copyright © 2015 by The Endicott Review
Softbound, 60 pages, no price provided

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

The first thing you notice about The Endicott Review (Endicott College in Beverly, MA.) is a cover photo of a bleak broken pier, snow and cold water, a bleak reminder of what is behind us and ahead  of us as well. The next thing is the quality of the writing.

So let us begin with Emily Pineau whose work I always enjoy, enough so that I once nominated her for a Pushcart Prize for a poem she published in my online journal, Muddy River Poetry Review. Ms. Pineau has an easy going style, a degree of truth mixed with insight and a story to tell that is often intriguing, and sometimes a bit mysterious.  Her offering in the ER  is “Tone it Down”

Sleepovers used to be dance music,
movie popcorn,
small sips of
Oh-My-God-I just-tried-beer
and trying to forget
what it tastes like.
Sleepovers used to smell like
makeup and body sprays, and
feel like leather purses
we would wear to the mall
at night.
Sleeps had 2AM secrets, and
“Pleas tone it down, girls” laughter.
Sleeping bags were rolled up
with “I think I might love him,”
and braided hair.

Now sleepovers are nights
we sleep in the
same bed, watch a bad
TV movie, and coax the cat
to sit between.
We turn the lights out at
11, and turn on our sides.
Back to back, body to body.
The feeling of your own outline
being colored in by
your best friend sleeping
next to you.
In the morning there is the
good morning yawn
that is more like
“Nice to see you again.”
We lay there and stretch –
the cat is on me.
“I actually like that movie,”
she says to me
“Ya know, I did too.”

Jacqueline Llerena’s ADD is not about mathematics, and again there is an inner truth being presented to the outside world. It would be nice if people who are not familiar with ADD read this poem and then did some research into it to get a better understanding of it.


Attention Deficit Disorder
Everything is worth having a thought about.
Anything will grab your attention,
But only something better does.
Distraction everywhere,
A truly hidden gift.
Multiple thoughts a once.
A mind that never stops thinking.
Full of wonder and curiosity.
The best excuse for procrastination.
Creativity in its finest.
If only it could all be put to use.

There are a number of excellent poems in the this semi-annual magazine, Katey O’Hara’s “Squeeze” is one, so is Cristine A. Gruber’s “Listening to a 92-Year-Old Woman Discuss the Process of Pain.” “Football Players” by Julia Cirignano is an interesting take on boy-girl relations, sex and love. Also take note of “Sunday Evening” by Kendra Czernicki, “Our View” by Andrea Mountford and Jane Dutcher’s “Crime TV,” which pretty much summarizes more than 50 years of detective stories and murder mysteries in their various forms.

Of course my selections may not  be your choices, which is why you should get a copy of The Endicott Review’s 2015 Spring Issue and discover poetry and poets you like.
And while you are at it, look at the many very fine photographs in this issue.

Finally, kudos to the editorial board: Kimberly Pavlovich, Editor-in-Chief, Victoria Pulvidente, Alex Munteanu, Ariana Mackey, Brenna Shanahan and Quinn Waddell.
Also to the Faculty Advisory, Daniel Sklar, Faculty Editor, Doug Holder, Photography Editor, Michael Miller and Cover Art, Kelsey Drought.

Zvi A. Sesling

Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle (Ibbetson St., 2010) and Across Stones of Bad Dreams
(Cervena Barva, 2011)
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7& 8

Book Launch: Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur: 1974 to 1983 By Doug Holder July 9, 2015 7PM

 Doug Holder will read from his lyrical memoir of Boston in the 1970s and early 1980s, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur ( Big Table Publishing) The reading will take place at the Newton Writing and Publishing Center in Newton, Mass at 7PM. Sam Cornish, first Poet Laureate of Boston wrote of Holder:


  “Doug Holder is a poet of the old city, the city of our fathers, of the 1950s and later. Mr. Holder writes poems like notes in a diary. I found myself struck by their economy, wit, and urban melancholy... He has a voice unlike that of any of his contemporaries. Holder is a poet of the street and coffeehouses, an observer of the everyday. He writes of old Marxists, security guards and his relationship to his deceased father—themes of the common life. I am drawn to these poems as I am to the poetry of Philip Levine and the prose of James T. Farrell. But Holder’s poetry is deeper than that. He sees the world not for what it is, but on his own terms. He is living in the poem rather than in poetry.”

Hear Doug Holder read at his old rooming house at 271 Newbury Street in Boston:

To order the book go to

Newton Writing and Publishing Center
289 Elliot Street Newton Upper Falls MA 02464 

Newton Writing and Publishing Center ( Click on)