Monday, January 15, 2018

Boston Poet Walter Howard has passed....

Walter reading at Stone Soup---video from Chad Parenteau
Walter in the Somerville Times

Dear friends,

With her permission, I'm passing on a message from Joan Kimball, a good friend of Walter Howard. Please feel free to contact her at her email address below.

Dear Friend of Walter Howard,
                I am sad to tell you that we lost Walter today, Sunday, January 14, 2018. His brother Richard and Richard’s wife Pam called me this afternoon to let me know. After a private service, he will be buried in the family plot in Bridgewater, MA.
                I am glad that back in December he was able to enjoy the reading of his manuscript  by so many of his poetry friends.
                Also, just a week ago, Kay and I and some of Kay’s church choir sang to him while Verna held his hand and heard him sing a few notes along with us.
The book of 51 of his poems, “Walter Howard: Reflections in Moonlight,” edited by Debbie Martin and myself, to be published by Wilderness House, is almost ready to print. 
                From the book, here’s a piece toward the end of Walter's poem, “Apples of Immortality."
I am but an old harpsichord
With spine no longer steel.. 
I am but broken keys and spindly legs
A limp, faded old flag,
Father of uncertain notes. 
But I can still play
The old song
The earth sang in its youth.
    *     *     *
And we can flee! West!
West to the Garden of the Hesperides
West to the serpent-guarded gate!
West to the oasis where Christ stands!
Slay the serpent!
Storm the oasis!
Run with Christ!
Steal from the Tree of Paradise
Its apples gold!
In sorrow,

Artist Robert Goss: Recounts His Story and the Brickbottom Gallery's

Artist Robert Goss: Recounts His Story and the Brickbottom Gallery's

By Doug Holder

Robet Goss met me in the lobby of the Baker Building at the Brickbottom Gallery in Somerville, Ma. The Brickbottom is a noted artist residence, an exhibition space that has been in existence since the mid 1980s. Goss, is a 70ish man, with a full gray/white beard and a genial, folksy manner. He led me to his space, that on first impression looked a bit like a junkyard—but on closer inspection these throw away objects have come together to form Goss' art, and make a statement about his life. I walked around the space and saw disembodied plastic hands sprouting unexpectedly from the walls,  and contraptions like a record player, with a picture of a brain rotating on the turntable. There were old medical records on display, news clippings, heads of dummies staring at me with piercing eyes—all detritus that is essential to Goss' work. He walked around the space like some scholarly docent stooping and squinting at his creations.

Goss is not some isolated bohemian eccentric, but a founding member of the Brickbottom Gallery. He is an accomplished artist who has exhibited locally and nationally. He is the co-director of the Invisible Cities Group that creates large outdoor installations and performances.

Years ago Goss was living in the Fort Point Channel section of Boston—now a high end 'hood with the likes of Amazon and General Electric vying for space. In the 70s and 80s Goss was paying three dollars a foot for his space, but he and others in his community saw the writing on the wall—they knew they would be eventually displaced. So he and his band of artists, with the use of posters, regular mail, word of mouth, made a great grassroots effort to bring the Brickbottom to fruition. The building—in the hinterlands—just outside Union Square was a defunct A&P food plant—and a cold storage warehouse. There were a total of three buildings. After getting together a rather large group, this ragtag army of artists and others managed  to raise 7 million dollars from banks, donations, and the help of the Somerville Arts Council. Ross told me that the place did not look like some sleek Tribeca building. He said, “ It was a mess. Outside the building was a burnt out car, and a lot of discarded bric- a- brac. He, Lisa Bouchard (the office manager), and others worked out of a trailer.

Goss, who lives with his wife Susan, an accomplished artist who teaches at Wellesley, told me that the late Jack McLaughlin—the construction manager was an essential person, liaison, in the nascent process. Goss said, “He was able to deal with the mercurial artist and the bottom line real estate broker, equally well.”

Spaces at the Gallery were determined by a lottery, and of course people had to submit slides and a resume to show that they were serious artists. Predominately comprised of visual artist at first, the gallery now houses theater people and writers.

Goss' archival process is in the infant stages. But he hopes to have the original members of the association tell their stories. Like his collection in his space, he hopes to collect stories, photos and anecdotes, that will create a compelling narrative of this institution.

The list of artist who have lived here, and presently live here is impressive. Goss just listed a few prominent folks like Susan Schmidt, Pier Gustasson ( photography), Chris Enos( photography), but this only a grain of sand in the Sahara.

Goss has his own compelling story. He told me that he suffered a traumatic brain injury. As a result of this he suffered from a condition called, Anhedonia. This condition manifests itself with the loss of pleasure with things that usually brought you pleasure. In the case of Goss it was jazz. Goss was steeped in the jazz tradition and witnessed the “Loft” and club scene in New York in the 60s and 70s. He told me he saw Thelonius Monk play as well as Mile Davis and others. During his rehab he went through a MRI. Goss said, the rhythmic knocking, tapping, while he was in the machine, might have jump-started his brain. He remembers hearing a song by King Pleasure on the radio. And suddenly everything came back to him.

Goss is not a pretentious man. He works at his art out of his own passion and interest, and if it communicates something to people—then all the better. He alters photo images, he combines text—he brings back the archaic—and makes it contemporary. He says his art tells the story of his life. And hopefully his band of brothers and sisters will tell the fascinating history of the Brickbottom Gallery.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Tomas O'Leary

Poet Tomas O'Leary

Tomas O'Leary -- poet, translator, music-maker, singer, artist and expressive therapist -- has a volume of New & Selected Poems from Lynx House Press: "In the Wellspring of the Ear."  His previous books of poetry are "Fool at the Funeral,"  "The Devil Take a Crooked House,"  and "A Prayer for Everyone."  His poems have  been published in a wide variety of literary journals. 
    A teacher for many years — (college, high school, elementary, adult ed) — he has worked for the past couple decades with folks who have Alzheimer's, playing Irish accordion and eliciting cognitive and emotional responses through songs, stories, poems, & free-wheeling conversation.
    Tomas grew up in Somerville, a son of Irish immigrant parents, and went from there to South America in the mid-60’s as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia. He unearthed the gist of “Earthquake” from a journal that lay buried 50 years.

Earthquake (Colombia, '67)

Don Chucho loaned me a nice horse
that had no name, nor had the horse
a name for me.  We anonymities
ate breakfast and set out
early one morning from the pueblo
over the  hills and far away.
Magnificent, the air, the vista,
furry clouds that rested softly
on the mountain palms beneath us,
because where we were was high.
A scary-hairy gargantuan spider
gave us pause, but we sidled round it.
My mission was to find the house
of don Miguel, campesino-in-chief,
to drink aguardiente with him and his
cohort of tillers of very steep farms,
and talk of the small school we'd build,
and eat boiled chicken and drink
more aguardiente. It's not hard
to get lost in these hills when you're just
a green gringo from Somerville, Mass.
Unsure where I was, I finally spotted
a house on a distant rise.  It was dancing
crazily, pots and pans clanging
where they hung on the veranda.  Then
the ground beneath my horse
seemed anxious to abandon us.
All credit to the horse, who said
no way, and started back, and I went with it.
Upon return I found
the town had fallen down, at least by half.
The church was gone completely, the bank
and many houses.  My horse was glad
to be free of me, though I sensed
no egregious insult.  I walked
the ruins of the town, Roncesvalles
of Tolima in Colombia, sole gringo
in this pueblo of maybe a thousand,
Peace Corps ruminant looking for work.
Struck dumb by an earthquake, plunged smartly
into rubble with the rest.

                                      --Tomas O'Leary