Sunday, January 19, 2020

From the Bloc 11 Cafe: Ajda the Turkish Queen

Ajda: The Turkish Queen at the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square

By Doug Holder

Ajda Snyder is a talented singer/songwriter, who met with me at my usual spot at the Bloc 11 Cafe in Somerville, MA. She told me that she has lived in these environs since 2012. Snyder said of our city,  " I love it here. I would like to buy a place, but it is just too expensive."

Snyder describes her music as a confluence between the East and the West. She reports, " My music has been described as roots mixed with the ethereal." Snyder, a graduate of the Berklee School of Music in Boston, said as a kid she was inspired by Judy Garland.. She started performing in the Houston, Texas Public School System when she was growing up.

Snyder told me she recorded at the famed BC35 Studio in Brooklyn, NY. This studio was founded by Martin Bisi , and has recorded members of the Sonic Youth, Swans, White Hills, JG Thirlwell, Cop Shoot Cop, Live Skull reunion, Pop 1280, The Dresden Dolls, Alice Donut, Lubricated Goat, Sxip Shirey, Parlor Walls and many more....

Ajda plays a number of instruments including: the mandolin, guitar, melodica, organ, piano and the banjo.

I listened to one of her songs, "Bobby's Car." It takes place in one of the more carnal places--none-other than a car. The tune is evocative, a sad/sweet homage, to a long lost love. Her voice is hypnotic--it seems to float through the air like an early morning mist.

Ajda is a voice teacher as well. She teaches privately at a shared-studio in Boston, and at Somerville's " Union Lesson Studios," right above the Bloc 11.

Ajda has played in many Somerville venues, such as the defunct Johnny D's, the Arts Armory, and elsewhere.

Snyder credits a former roommate, and  a one-time drummer for the Dresden Dolls-- Brian Viglione, as helping her get started--with his extensive contacts and his collaboration on any number of projects.

Snyder who founded the band "Black Fortress of Opium," as well as others" is focusing on " Ajda: The Turkish" band for now.

To find out more about Ajda  go to:

Wednesday, January 15, 2020


(Somerville, MA.)

  The Ibbetson Street Press  ( which was founded in Somerville in 1998 by Doug Holder, Richard Wilhelm, and Dianne Robitaille, announces a release party for the 46th issue of  Ibbetson Street magazine. The reading will be held at the "Remnant," a brewery located in the Bow St.Market in Somerville.  A potluck dinner will start the festivities off  from 6PM to 7PM and the reading will be from 7PM to around 9PM. Some of the contributors to this issue are: Ed Meek, Ted Kooser, Linda Conte, Marge Piercy, Tomas O'Leary, DeWitt Henry and others. There is also an interview with the late owner of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop Ifeanyi Menkiti with Doug Holder.

***Ibbetson Street is affiliated with Endicott College in Beverly, MA.

Remnant Brewery      Admission is free. Open to Public.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Review of Marc D. Goldfinger’s Heroin’s Harbour

Review of Marc D. Goldfinger’s Heroin’s Harbour ( Ibbetson Streeet Press) by Gregory J. Wolos

The Split Man

            Heroin’s harbor is the addict, as Marc D. Goldfinger’s collection of poems and stories, Heroin’s Harbour makes harrowingly clear. Heroin is the body of the addict that craves the drug, and it’s the mind of the addict that cooperates with the insistent body, paradoxically rationalizing any action that might provide safe harbor for a poison. Human beings are frail things, ultimately, Goldfinger’s poems and stories illustrate, too weak to commit to our resolutions or to stave off gratifications that have become needs. Goldfinger’s work does more than merely describe the habits, lifestyle, and thoughts of a junkie; he takes his reader hostage, straps us to the back of his motorcycle so that we do more than simply observe—we participate. Goldfinger’s craft enables us, along with him, to feel the needle and the need.

            In “A Junkie’s Prayer,” one of the first poems in the first section of Heroin’s Harbour, “An Epistle to Opium,” the reader is told what the junkie prays for: not redemption, not relief, not freedom from addiction. The narrator of this poem is so embedded in his world of dependency—the “harbor” of the drug—that what is prayed for are his most immediate needs: “please keep our needles disease free”; “keep us safe from those who would poison our dope”; “keep the police the police from our door”; “keep us free from abscess.” What is prayed for is not an escape, but that “heroin’s sweet sleep” will “ease the pain that lives within our hearts.” The junkie does not beg for a way out and doesn’t seem to want one, asking only that God “keep watch over the farmers and the fields of poppies they tend.”

            A poem like “What Would You Do for a Fix?” lacks a religious core, but uses liturgical “call and response” and repetition to emphasize the all-encompassing nature of a junkie’s need. In this poem, there are sins against the family: “For a fix/ I would steel my mother’s purse; For a fix/ I would take my sister’s coin collection; For a fix/ I would desert my children.” There are sins against the purity of his own body: “For a fix/ I would risk hepatitis; For a fix/ I would shoot toilet water.” There are sins against society: “For a fix/ I would take the money out of the pocket of an unconscious man on the street, For a fix / I would sell dangerous drugs to novices.” Later in the poem, further biblical allusion occurs in another repeated construction: “In the beginning, I got high because I liked it./ In the end I got high because it was all I had left . . . In the beginning I got high because I was searching for the way./ In the end I got high because I was searching for the way out.” As the narrator concludes in “I Have Trouble with Names”: “Some of us name the Gods. / I have trouble with names.”

            Love itself for the junkie isn’t to be found through religion, as Goldfinger testifies in “Drug Store Christ (Heist): “They tell me to turn to Jesus Christ/ Just wait till I do this drug store heist/ . . . ‘Well, we found God/Just sittin’ in the safe of that drug store.’” And True Love for one’s significant other, as described in “Junkie Love” means “giving her the biggest hit,” or when you’re strung out and broke and don’t ask her to hit the streets.”

            Again and again, Goldfinger repeats the message stated in “Death Trippin,” one of the poems written in hard driving couplets that he suggests are “songs” but are all the more frightening in that they come off more as feverish rants: “One thing I know, Heroin’s the best/ For nullifying the pain that’s in my chest.” The shift from reading Goldfinger’s poems to reading his short stories is like a shift from listening to songs to watching a movie that uses those songs as background music. The refrain stated in the poem “Getting Fixed in South Carolina”: “addiction only remembers what it needs” throbs through the prose of stories that describe in detail the underworld of junkies. There are stories about dealing with crooked pharmacists and hard-ass police (“A Controlled Dangerous Substance Act”); stories about navigating life with various women who shared the narrator’s addictions (“Femme Fatale”); stories about obtaining prescriptions from doctors (“Running on Empty in Vermont”); stories about living in filth and failing to care for those innocents for whom you’re responsible (“Two Dogs and a Kitten”). The long poem “Getting Fixed in South Carolina” is itself expanded into a short story that depicts the life-threatening hazards a junkie will undertake to satisfy his habit. These stories powerfully convey the life of addicts whose focus is reduced to remembering “what it needs.” But even detailed stories are insufficiently descriptive, Goldfinger asserts in “The Rocking Chair,” which shows a recovering junkie’s return home to aged and ailing parents: “The imagination is limited when it comes to the real. Things get left out.”

            Recovery for the junkie seems a struggle doomed to Sisyphean failure. In his second section of poems, “The Fight to Stay Clean,” Goldfinger presents several portraits of those lost to drugs (“Medusa with Fire,” “One of the Tough Guys,” “Significant Other,” “Open Casket,” “The Way She Shakes”), or those who will be (“A Couple of Kids”). But there is a whisper of hope in the sisterhood of “The Angels of Gloucester,” who “walk an ancient path now, join hands at signs of trouble, hug each other’s children, knit their families into hot strong blankets with threads of prayer.” Ultimately, Goldfinger points to the necessity of the recovering junkie never losing sight of the fact that he is “The Split Man”: two alternate realities, this poem illustrates, are perpetually present, contending for the junkie’s heart: “I am the happy married man/ the junkie in the street begging/ the house-owner sitting  sitting at my computer/ in the bathroom sticking a needle in my arm . . . / I am a split man, this half of me dances with joy/ I am a split man, this half of me is dying day by day/ I can choose, I can stand by a lake holding the hand of my wife/ or my choices are gone, I probe my arm looking for a vein.”
            With devastating honesty and heartbreaking detail, Marc D. Goldfinger offers in his poems and stories glimpses into the lives of tortured souls who have abandoned themselves to an all-consuming, unsafe harbor. “A junkie’s body never forgets,” he concludes in the poem “All of Me”: “If it was just physical, I would never use dope/ again. It is not my body, it is me, all of me, my body, my soul, my mind/ interlocked in heroin hypnosis, even/ free, I will never be free again.” Goldfinger’s words seem less buoys warning of an unsafe passage than a testament to the hope of a single split man’s survival.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Worcester County Annual Poetry Contest: Frank 0'Hara Prize: Judge Doug Holder

Click on Picture to Enlarge
                      ****                  Just a reminder that folks need to have a connection to Worcester County, or be WCPA members, to have their submission qualify for the contest.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sarah Kramer: The Artisan's Asylum's Dinosaur Lady.


                                                                   By Doug Holder

I met crafter Sarah Kramer at the Artisan's Asylum right outside Union Square in Somerville. This is where Kramer works amidst all the high tech gadgetry, and cutting-edge art the other members are involved with. She talked with me about her craft-- creating what she calls semi-saurs which in a nutshell is taking small plastic dinosaur figurines, cutting them in half, add a magnet, and let the consumer mix and match body parts of many types of dinosaurs. She also makes gift magnets, with intriguing images under glass. She places them in gift boxes with colorful Japanese Washi paper.

Kramer lived in Somerville for three years. She now lives in Somerville with her husband. Kramer laughed and said, " I made a big sacrifice moving to Somerville--giving up a rent-stabilized apartment in New York City for love."

Kramer has quite the eclectic background. She studied theatre at New York University, as well as the Lee Strasberg's "Actors Studio". She has worked on the technical side of theatre.  She had a stint  on  the play "Heidwig and the Angry Inch," as well as working on the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.

The she found another calling. That was-- tutoring students for the Law School Admission Standardized Test. She told me, " I love to use logic in my teaching. This was a great fit for me. I helped students prepare for the test, and even more importantly I helped with deciding if the law was the right fit for them."

Unfortunately, the black dogs of depression found her, and she was unable to teach this demanding material. She went through a number of clinical trials. She was in a major study at Mass. General Hospital about the use of the drug Ketamene. With Ketamine her depression lifted, but there was still cognitive impairment from the many treatments of  ECT, and the other drugs she has taken over the years.

Kramer told me that she buys mini plastic dinosaurs on Amazon.She uses a drill press to secure a space for the magnets inside of the inanimate creatures. They have been quite popular, according to Kramer, and  she is starting to make a small profit.
Kramer hopes to get back to teaching, but for now her little creatures, magnets occupy her time, and keeps her creative juices flowing here--in the-Paris of New England.

For more information about Kramer and her work:  go to

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Jacob Kramer: A children's writer who brings noodles and critters to life.

Jacob Kramer: A children's writer who brings noodles and critters to life.

By Doug Holder

Jacob Kramer met me at my perch in the backroom of the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square, Somerville. The fireplace was on full blast—to foil the frigid winter winds just outside the window. Kramer, is a youngish man with a scruffy beard, and wears his long hair in a ponytail. I noticed something wide and child-like in his eyes—undoubtedly some seminal flame that still burns with a kid's wonder.

Kramer is a graduate of Harvard University, and has lived in our burg for six years. Originally from Providence, Rhode Island, he lives in what I consider a well-appointed spot in Union Square—close to that U.N. of  supermarkets, Market Basket. Kramer told me,“ I love Somerville—I have a number of friends here. The Somerville Arts Council has been very supportive of my work, not to mention the Somerville Public Library, Porter Square Books, and the Somerville Museum.”

Kramer revealed to me that a person has to have a good sense of humor to be a children's writer. He elaborated, “ You have to try to understand what you care about, and why you care about it on the most basic level. Then you have to deliver to your audience. And for children that means delivering it in the most straightforward way.

I asked Kramer if his study of film at Harvard informed his work as children' writer. He replied, “ With film making you have to think in scenes, cuts and edits. This is in some ways like my genre of writing. You always have to have a page turner to keep the kid's attention. You have to have one scene, then cut to the next surprise on the following page.”

Kramer's beautifully illustrated book “Noodlephant” is about a bunch of despotic kangaroos, who take over the production and distribution of noodles, much to the chagrin of noodle-loving elephants and other critters. It is a story which has a social message—and Kramer, as an activist, is very much into this kind of narrative. Kramer opined, "Kids have a natural interest in what's fair, and what is not. So this kind of theme will appeal to them."

Kramer also wrote a light verse book that he calls “Critterverse.” He feels light verse is sometimes looked down on as too shallow or trite, but he finds that it can be a teaching tool for kids, as it mixes easier and harder words. Kramer feels the kids will understand the harder words through the context of the story. He believes that kids are intuitive, so they don't always need a parent next to them to explain things."

The illustrator Kramer often works with is K-Fai Steele. Her vivid and colorful work goes well with the inventive text.

Kramer is a man with many interests. He was a founding member of the Union Square Neighborhood Council, and has worked to make sure that the community's interests are met by the developers of Union Square.

Kramer told me he is writing a sequel to “ Noodlephant, "Okapi Tale," and if I were you, I would secure an advance copy as soon as they are available.

To find out more about Kramer go to: