Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Doug Holder Interviews Prema Bangera (Director of Teen Voices Emerging) and Hadja Bangoura

Organization Mission Statement: 

Teen Voices Emerging (TVE) is an all-girls writing and mentorship program, which aims to empower young urban girls through the power of words and connection. Its philosophy is built on the premise that every young girl should have the opportunity to share her voice with her community to create a social movement that changes the skewed representation and images of women and girls in the media.

Organization Description:

Teen Voices Emerging provides a writing and mentorship after-school program, which serves Boston teen girls (ages 13-19) and focuses on exploring girls’ issues and developing teens’ writing skills. Teen girls learn writing, creative self-expression, research, and analytical skills by writing poetry, short stories, personal narratives, news articles, and other media content for publication. Girls also receive mentorship from strong female professionals and participate in events with a focus on social justice

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Interview with Somerville Poet Anna M. Warrock: A poet who speaks 'From the Other Room'

Anna M. Warrock's publications include the chapbooks From the Other Room, winner of the first Slate Roof Press Chapbook Contest; Horizon; and Smoke and Stone. Her work appears in the anthology Kiss Me Goodnight: Poems and Stories by Women Who Were Girls When Their Mothers Died, Minnesota Book Award Finalist, for which she also wrote the introduction. Besides appearing in a number of literary and multidisciplinary magazines, including Harvard Review, The Sun magazine, The Madison Review, Phoebe, and Poiesis, her poems have been set to music, performed at Boston's Hayden Planetarium, and permanently installed in a Boston-area subway station. She has taught poetry in classes for the elderly, high school students, and adult education, and held seminars on understanding grief and loss through poetry. She lives Somerville, MA. I talked with her on My Somerville Media Center TV show-- " Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."

Interview with Somerville Poet Anna M. Warrock: A Poet who speaks ' From the Other Room'

Interview with Doug Holder

Doug Holder: First off—you are a long time Somerville resident. Your husband Robert Smyth ran a bookstore here for awhile, and founded the Yellow Moon Press. How is it for a creative person to live here in the Paris of New England?

Anna M. Warrock: I have been here well-over two decades. It is a wonderful place to be because so much is happening here. I fully credit the Somerville Arts Council with the plethora of programs they run and produce. There is a very active writing community here—with a lot of good reading venues.

DH: Somerville has a great history of small presses—I can think of Aspect magazine, Dark Horse , Boston Literary Review and others.

AMW: Indeed. I know Aspect magazine folded—but the iconic Zephyr Press—once based in Somerville is still around—run by James Kates.

DH: Your poems mingle light and shadow—Frannie Lindsay opined that your poem have a calmness—that facilitates truth.

AMW: I have been to a number of poetry readings in the past year or so and I find that a good poem tells the truth. You recognize the truth in a poem that works. There is such disarray in the public discourse these days that I need to search for the right balance. Emotional calmness will help you find a grounding in truth.

DH: What do you say when you hear the “truth” in a poem?

AMW: I don't say anything to myself. I feel grounded.

DH: In your poem  "The Salmon go All the Way to Death" you deal with the salmon going up stream—to mate—to die—the cycle of life they are part of. There is a tragic aspect to their mating and death, as well as a beauty.

AMW: I am not sure it is a tragedy. We are all part of this cycle of life and death. There is a lot of discussions about what is a good death. We also discuss how under the circumstance of illness how do we treat dying. We are participants in the cycle of life and death—poetry can illustrate this for us.

DH: You are obviously aware how inanimate objects can have a powerful presence. In a poem in the collection you personified a set of glasses that marked the absence of your late mother. How did this come to you?

AMW: That poem began as a sense of absence. In writing the poem I was sort of stuck—so I returned to the glasses. In some way those glasses function to evoke that sense. I never force a poem—this poem came to me.

DH: Your new collection “ From the Other Room” from the Slate Roof Press has wonderful production values.

AMW: Yes, I am very lucky. My book won their chapbook contest. The press is a collective like Alice James. You become part of the press for three years. It is a great, collegial experience.

DH: You have done work with the elderly—high school students, as well as health professionals.

AMW: Yes...the most moving experience I had was at the Somerville Hospital where I worked with a group of health professional—people who worked in settings where death is commonplace. We had fifteen people—from different wards. We read from the anthology “ Kiss Me Goodnight”--that deals with women coming to terms with death—the early death of their mothers ( like my own). We used poetry to look at the grieving process. This group created valuable and insightful dialogue.


The Salmon Go All the Way to Death

They are fish. They live in the cold ocean,
breathe water, eat other fish.
They in turn are eaten. What do they know?
They know they are salmon and where
they were born. They live in the cold ocean,
but when it is their turn to die, when it is their turn
to return, they know what to do.
They remember where they were born,
exactly where they need to go.
And they go. The female salmon stop
roaming the ocean, eating other fish.
They leave the endless deep and turn
toward land to find the river mouth
that spit them forth. They enter the mouth, 
go upriver. The female salmon travel together.
The male salmon leave the cold ocean,
the eating of other fish. They seek
the mouth that spit them forth
from the land’s constriction, and enter.
They go back guided by the memory.
They go to make the memory
continue in their way. They go to make
the salmon continue in the old way.
They swim upriver, leap the falls.
The river narrows. Swimming is harder.
The salmon push between rocks, against water
to the shallows where they were born.
They go to the heart of the land. There they meet
and agree. The female waves her body
and lays her eggs and moves off. And the male
waves his body, sprays his seeds and moves off.
Then the female and male salmon die.
In the shallows, having given birth
to eggs and seeds, a promise to their memories,
they die. The salmon go all the way upstream.
The salmon go all the way to death.

.....From Warrock's Collection  From the Other Room

Monday, July 10, 2017

For "Last Night at the Wursthaus" by Doug Holder

Courtesy of the Cambridge Historical Society

 ***This is a small piece that  Nina Rubinstein Alonso wrote for my  new poetry collection "Last Night at the Wursthaus" due out Sept 1, 2017 from the Grey Sparrow Press.  Nina is the founder of Constellations magazine based in Cambridge, MA.

For "Last Night at the Wursthaus" by Doug Holder   

Introduction by  Nina R. Alonso

One of Doug Holder’s poems quotes Heraclitus, “No man steps in the same river twice,” but his writing generates double-vision, the feeling of past as present, existing in the flow of continual change.

We’re in Harvard Square’s Wursthaus (now replaced by a faceless bank) overhearing the flow of vintage chatter, then watching a man scratch losing lottery tickets one after the other, then in a too quiet Harvard library where “caged scholars/circle their wired cages like rats/gnawing on manuscripts.” In Filene’s Basement he’s shopping, as “it was a place to go when you’re happy or desperately hurt.”

 He shifts to the Bronx where ancient Jewish women sit on lawn chairs and his Uncle Dave called George Gershwin ‘a good kid.’  These people and places are familiar to me and to many of us who lived in the same space and island of time, understand eyes that see through our adult guise to what we were like in junior high: “You can’t/bullshit the blonde/ she knows.”

The book has integrity, cuts to heart center, but without a shred of excess. There’s no hype, no axe to grind, nothing being sold to us. We know his mother from our own, “At night/ the murmur of the dead/ hover around her bed.” I grew up in the neighborhood he rails against when he “screamed/ my screed/ against the suburbs/ the conspiracy of broad lawns/ and narrow minds.”

This world is under construction, bought and sold daily, repeatedly dug up, repaved, pieces erased, replaced and so full of invasive sales hype that we can’t even remember what was there before. We need this writer who sees and remembers to keep us centered, strengthen us, help us see what’s there, help us resist. Doug Holder’s writing has subtlety and substance, an authenticity that sustains.  

  ****Nina Rubinstein Alonso, editor of Constellations, has published in Ploughshares, The New Yorker, Sumac, Avatar, Women-Poems, U. Mass. Review, and New Boston Review, among other places, and her first book This Body was printed by Godine Press.

She taught English literature at Brandeis University and U. Mass., Boston, while continuing training in ballet and exploring modern dance.

Saturated with academia, she taught at Boston Ballet for eleven years, and performed in their
Nutcracker, until sidelined by injuries. She makes her living teaching at Fresh Pond Ballet in Cambridge, MA. She says, “Now is the time for fresh voices in poetry and fiction. I’m looking for a new constellation.”