Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Emily Pineau

Poet Emily Pineau

Emily Pineau is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College, where she is working on her young adult novel, Except For You. Pineau is an Editorial Assistant at UpToDate, and is on the editorial team of AGNI Magazine and Wilderness House Literary Review. Pineau’s chapbook No Need to Speak (Ibbetson Street Press, 2013) was chosen for The Aurorean’s Chap Book Choice in 2013. She has been featured on New Mexico’s National Public Radio, and has won Salamander Magazine’s Poetry-On-the-Spot contest. Pineau’s poems have appeared in The Broken PlateFreshwaterMuddy River Poetry Review (which nominated her poem “I Would For You” for a Pushcart Prize), Oddball MagazineIbbetson Street, and elsewhere. Pineau lives in the suburbs of Boston with her domesticated lion-cat Symba Bartholomew.

First time in a used bookstore

We kiss in front of horror
books and people without faces
we could make out—
we had a car but books drive
us to face each other
before the papers are signed
before my heart’s stitches dissolve
before we know how it feels
to start over with the sun
fresh on our starved skin.
We breathe hard, but not because
we feel fire and stars,
but because it is the first time
we kissed in a used bookstore.

--Emily Pineau

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Sentinel for our Times... Poems by Dennis Daly

Poet and Noted Critic Dennis Daly

  Sentinel By Dennis Daly   Sentinel Red Dashboard Press, 107 pages. $16.99.    Review by Ed Meek 

A Sentinel for our Times

A lot of poetry that falls under the heading of experimental today isn’t poetry at all but prose written in lines of varying lengths. Nor is it very experimental. In fact, true invention in poetry is hard to come by and much of what fills our literary magazines sounds and looks the same, written in coffin like blocks with long sentences missing punctuation.

Dennis Daly, on the other hand, in his collection Sentinel, writes poems that are obviously poetry and good poetry at that. Daly’s poems are usually metered and rhymed with varying patterns in quatrains. He revels in forms from sonnets to villanelles. He also loves old and rarely used words like flimflams and scallywag, bald-faced cahoots. And although he writes in conventional poetic forms, he brings new life to them with his content and language. Sentinel traffics in the events of our times. Daly like a character from a novel by John le Carre is, in a sense, spying on the spies. He’s a double agent of poetry. Fortunately, he’s working for us.

His concerns are many and the trouble lies deep. There are poems about drones, dead drops, sleepers, black boxes, moles, defectors, snipers, cowboys and curriers. Daly is out to decode this new world we live in under the eyes of the NSA and hackers from Russia and China, counterfeiters from North Korea, surveillance cameras wherever we go and, by the way, the guy on the train beside you may be taking a video of you now with his phone.

“Confession” a poem based on an interview with a former CIA Director, starts off like this: “Believe me it’s all here on the surface/No geopolitical strategy/Just mirrors blooming in the wilderness.” Daly is outing these torturers and government agents who in our name and with our tax dollars commit atrocious acts.

One of Daly’s Drone poems begins: “We never heard the drone’s dreadful hum.”
And ends: “In God we trust.” There is a clear moral center in Daly’s poems--something that hasn’t always been a factor in our foreign policy or our post-modern poetry.

These poems then often concern themselves with issues we seldom see poetry take on and they do so in poems that are well-structured, exhibiting a conventional mastery, and using contemporary language and metaphor. Sentinel is stocked with weighty issues that beg our attention, housed in an aesthetic rarely evident today.

By Dennis Daly   Sentinel Red Dashboard Press, 107 pages. $16.99.    Review by Ed Meek  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Podcast: Doug Holder Interviews Joelle Renstrom

Doug Holder interviews Joelle Renstrom author of  Closing the Book: Travels in Life, Loss and Literature. Renstrom's book explores the intersection of literature and life with personal essays about traveling, teaching and dying. Renstrom teaches writing at Boston University. The interview was conducted at the Somerville Community Access TV studios. Holder hosts the program   Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.

To listen to the podcast go to

Monday, October 17, 2016

Review of Memorial at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre

Review of Memorial at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre

by Debbie Wiess

Boston Playwrights' Theatre (BPT) kicks off its 2016/2017 season with the play Memorial by Livian Yeh.  This historically-based play is about the recognition and push-back that Maya Lin received after it was announced that her unconventional design was selected for the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial planned to be added to the National Mall in Washington, DC in 1981.  I remember that controversy which was often quite bitter and heated, and looked forward to seeing this play about it.  I happen to particularly enjoy historical pieces.  I was not disappointed.  Whether one has any knowledge of that time and the events or has a particular bent for historical pieces, there is nevertheless much to appreciate in the play.

There were many reasons for people to take exception to Maya Lin's being awarded the project.  Her design was unlike any memorial that had been built previously.  It was very modern, stark, consisting of slabs of black marble that would list every US service man and woman who lost their life in the Vietnam War, and was to be set in a great cut in the ground. Lin is also Chinese-American and at that time was a 21 year old student at Yale's School of Architecture.  Her young age, lack of experience or what would be considered "street cred" today, gender and Asian roots were all made into issues as well. 

Although the events depicted are from 35 years ago the play still felt very current and relevant.  That is due to the strong writing and smart language, as well as fine direction by Kelly Galvin and acting.  Everything comes together very nicely to tell the story in a lively intriguing way. 

The set is dominated by a modern open metal structure used as a backdrop.  There is a minimalism in the decor and props that help to evoke the feeling of the memorial.  The metal structure is fixed and formidable, however it also has curves and a transparency that seems to offer the hope of resolution.  It provides interesting pathways through and around itself for the actors to enter and exit.  The action is a constant ebb and flow on stage as the actors move on and off from one scene to the next.  The whole thing has a very modern stylized feel. Occasionally a couple of the characters come on stage for a brief moment without dialogue; this was confusing and was one of the rare missteps.

The project is clearly well-researched, but this is not a documentary.  Much has been simplified for the ease of the recounting and for dramatic purpose.  What we see is an encapsulation and it is a very effective and affecting short-hand of what played out.  The story is told in 90 minutes and there is no intermission.

The various sides of the controversy are expressed, but to facilitate things (and keep the cast to a tight group of five) they are represented in a single character Colonel Becker.  This military officer who has the role of being the big naysayer could have been a cliche and easily demonized.  But he retains his humanity and we can understand his side of things.  The play maintains a nice balance in fact as the differences between the parties are expressed and Lin tries to overcome the issues that are brought up against her. 

In the end, all is resolved as we know since Lin's beautiful, innovative design can be seen today on the Mall. What may be extremely controversial at first, like Paris' Eiffel Tower, later become iconic symbols and beloved national treasures. The effect of Lin's striking monument is profound and moving, and so is Yeh's play. 

This is the first in a rich season of six plays put on by the BPT.  Five of them are new plays written by Boston University MFA Playwrighting Program class of 2017 students.  The focus on new plays is part of BU's College of Fine Arts commitment the the School of Theatre's effort to cultivate and develop new work.  Next up is Faithless by Andrew Joseph Clarke.  But before that be sure to see Memorial!