Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Reviewer Charles P. Ries

Wrestling With My Father By: Doug Holder 25 Poems / 42 Pages / $6Yellow Pepper Press P.O. Box 27010
Pittsburg, PA 15235
ISBN: 0-9762450-1-9 Review By: Charles P. Ries

Not surprisingly the words of a seasoned poet are a mirror of his or her nature. The structure of lines, the choice and placement of words, the use of or lack of punctuation, their application of metaphor, simile and alliteration, and of course the themes of their writing are all deliberate choices intended to lead the reader, not only to an experience of the poem, but of the writer as well. In this sense, a book of poetry is a doorway to a writer’s soul.

In Wrestling With My Father, Doug Holder allows each of us to not only meet his late father, Lawrence J. Holder (to whom the book is dedicated), but to meet the author as well. Such as in this excerpt from Holder’s poem, “A Thought On Father’s Day”: “Like him /I am drawn to the sea / to the sound of breaking waves / on the shore. / To the eternal ebb and flow / to the primal smell / of death and life. / To the gulls / mounted on the weathered rocks / to the purple death of the sun / each evening, / its bright rebirth / from the portals of the sea’s horizon. / Who is this man I see / it is my father / and it is me.”

Holder’s poems are straight-forward and without adornment. I asked him about his economy of word, “Well ...I am not about adornment, I believe in an economy of words. Too many adjectives, flowery and arcane words take away from a poem's potency. I like to tell it straight, with no chaser.” Indeed, this collection, with its lean verse has the immediacy I find in many A.D.Winans and Don Winter poems. I wondered if Holder had done extensive rewriting as these poems felt so organic. Holder told me, “For the most part no. Most of the poems have been revised to some extent, but not extensively.”

Even Holder’s replies to my questions were to the point and without baggage. Here is another example of his ability to just say it. This is titled, “To Make Time Stand Still”: “Such a desperate fetishism -- / The racks that hold / a beaten band of Fedoras. / The wing-tipped shoes / weighted, in their dark, / appointed corner -- / A dust-ridden chorus line / tapping into a parade / that has long passed. / And what light dares to intrude / meanders to a predestined / dead end. // And we rush out / to be under the sun, / and clearly see the / leather of our skin, / we breathe / deeply and begin.”

I asked Holder over what period of time he had written this collection and he told me, “This collection was brought together after my dad died two years ago. The poems were written over twenty years, and for the most part when he was alive. I had the idea for the collection after his death.”

Holder has also published four other chapbooks of poetry, he is widely published in the small press and his work has appeared in several anthologies. In the immediate future his work will be included in a major anthology of avant-garde poets, "Inside the Outside"
(Presa Press) 2006. He is also the co-founder of Ibbetson Street Press. I asked him about Ibbetson Street Press and what sort of writers appeal to him, “I founded it with Dianne Robitallle (my wife) and Richard Wilhelm in 1998. I like writers like A.D. Winans, Hugh Fox, Donald Hall. Basically my approach to poets and poetry is that if I read it, and as Auden said, it makes me cut myself while I am shaving, then I am sold.”

I have had the privilege of interviewing and reviewing many excellent small press poets. I find reviewing a specific publication such as Wrestling With My Father while interviewing the writer gives me a three dimensional sense of that writer and his work. I smiled when I got such economic replies to my questions, and I smiled again when I asked Holder, what sort of poet he thought he was. His reply was true to form, “A good one I hope.”

In Wrestling With My Father Holder uses language and technique to bring the reader face to face with a theme that is ancient, glorious, and troubled. We experience with him the emotional roller coaster of familial love with words that hide nothing. His book is an excellent demonstration of how beautiful form and function can be when perfectly matched.

Note: If you would like to learn more about Doug Holder and his work, please check out the following web locations:
____________________________________________Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over one hundred and twenty print and electronic publications. He has received three Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing and most recently he read his poetry on National Public Radio’s Theme and Variations, a program that is broadcast over seventy NPR affiliates. Ries is also the author of five books of poetry the most recent entitled, The Last Time. He was recently appointed to the Poet Laureate Commission for the State of Wisconsin and he is the poetry editor for Word Riot ( He is also on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You may find additional samples of his work by going to: and you may write him at

Monday, December 26, 2005

Tam Lin Neville: Changing Lives Through Literature.

Tam Lin Neville is a Somerville, Mass.poet, who like many Somerville poets, lives a stone’s throw away from me. Born in NYC, she got her B.A. from Temple University and an MFA in Poetry from Vermont College. She spent 1985 in Beijing, China where she taught Conversation, studied Chinese, and wrote poetry. Her poems have been published in “Mademoiselle,” “APR,” “Ironwood,” “The Massachusetts Review,”, and other publications of note. She has two poetry collections: “Dreaming in Chinese,” and “Journey Cake,” and has taught creative writing at Butler University, Emerson College in Boston, as well as other institutions. Neville currently works for a project that helps clients on parole: “Changing Lives Through Literature.” I talked with her on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: Your work for a program titled: “Changing Lives through Literature.” Can you tell us a bit about the program and the unique population you deal with?

Tam Lin Neville: It was started in 1991 by a judge and a college professor. They were friends, and the judge was lamenting ‘turnstile’ justice, where you see the same people coming through the court system over and over again. They thought there must be a way to reduce the recidivism rate. They thought if they threw literature at these repeaters it just might change them. It might give them a chance to see other peoples’ lives and in doing that they could reflect on their own life. The people who are in the program are on probation. Some have been in jail and some have not.

I teach a women’s’ class in Dorchester. These programs are run through the courts. You need to get a judge who is sympathetic. Not all judges are sympathetic; some people call the program “Books for Crooks.” They feel these people shouldn’t have any perks like this. With my classes, I wouldn’t have known that my students have done anything wrong. They didn’t strike me as particularly dangerous or tough.

It’s a voluntary class. They are asked by their probation officers if they want to participate. By taking the course and completing it they get six months off their probationary period. When they first come in they say they are there to knock six months from their probation, but at the end of the class they wind up saying what a wonderful experience it was. I like teaching because you don’t have to grade. We do a lot of reading, writing, and we talk.

DH: You have taught on the college level. How does this differ?

TLN: I prefer this. There are fewer strictures, and you don’t have to give grades. It is very surprising. You get very bright students and you don’t know what they are going to say. You don’t know how they are going to respond to the literature. In the college classroom they are mostly middle class white kids. I guess I am intrigued by people who come from walks of life different from my own. They are not trained in literature, or school. Often it is a purer or more pristine response.
DH: In a brochure you gave me about the program it says you have “carefully selected” works of literature that you use as teaching fodder. Can you explain how you select appropriate material?

TLN: It’s up to the instructor to pick what they want to teach. I try to teach good literature. For instance I teach “The House on Mango Street,” and other works by folks like Zora Neale Hurston. I am always looking for good things to teach.

DH: Norman Mailer sponsored the prison writer Jack Henry Abbot with disastrous consequences. Do you find working with this population exciting? Do you find prison literature challenging?

TLN: I haven’t read that much prison literature. People who are in prison who have that frame of mind are a captive audience. They have libraries available to them and time on their hands. Someone like Etheridge Knight was a great influence on me. A lot of these prison writers come out with good stuff. They have time to focus.

DH: Perhaps we should lock up all writers?

TLN: (Laughs.) Good idea.

DH: You penned a couple of poetry collections about your time in China. Somerville poet Afaa Michael Weaver told me that he is attracted to Chinese poetry because of its humble sensibility. How about you?

TLN: That’s fair to say. It’s hard to articulate the quality. I found it in Japan as well.

DH: In a poem you wrote “Appetites,” you write of an imagined experience in Haiti where you see kids eating pies made of mud, and other unsavory ingredients, for lack of anything else. Later in the poem, back in the states, you express disgust with yourself and to a degree with our society. Explain.

TLN: I am sure you have heard a lot about the impoverished people who are forced to eat dirt, if they are really hungry. I heard this on the radio about people eating mud pies. The gap between my life and there is so huge. We really live in a decadent society in comparison.

Doug Holder

Friday, December 23, 2005

Longing Distance. Sarah Hannah. ( Tupelo Press PO BOX 539 Dorset Vermont 05251) $17.

I came with my set of prejudices when I started to read “Longing Distance,’ by Cambridge poet Sarah Hannah. From my experience reviewing a truck load of poetry books from people from the “academy,” I thought this would be another arcane, dry, and dead-on-arrival collection. I was dead wrong. Sarah Hannah has written a book of poetry that the populist poet from the small press and the mandarins from the Ivy Tower can admire. Hannah has a unique voice. Her work sucker punches you just when you think you got her down pat; and is alive with love, lust, regret, the whole ball of wax. In the poem: “Quarries, Quincy, Mass,” Hannah dives into this infamous quarry in which many a young lover has met his or her untimely end. Hannah captures the frenzied abandon of sex, and life literally on the edge. The poet describes herself and a “reckless beau,” as they grope each other on the edge of the abyss of treacherous waters in the quarry below:

And as you fumble underneath his faded baseball shirt that same
Delicious smell obliterates the outside air of stain:
His clothes, always surprisingly clean—a bright
Scent, almost orange, with a trace, just beyond
The cotton weave, of morning reefer. He springs

Your bra free, really a redundancy.
You reckon—“Gone missing,” that is, like saying
They have gone gone, unloosed, loosed, gone lost,
Tumbled down—like locals falling in, one after
Another, friends of friends, the same way, although

They knew how it could happen, and then he says
Your name, helplessly, and photograph and sign
Are jettisoned from mind, gone, gone, and he says
Your name again, relentless as the cadence sprayed in red
Across the northernmost rock face:

Fuck Beth. Jane Gives Good Head. (12)

The collection is full of wonderfully honed images and attention to detail. Here in “Manhattan, 5A.M.,” Hannah uses of all things a rooster in the maw of Manhattan that calls, much like the poet, to a wider world beyond the confines of the metropolis:

From night to day and bypassed dawn;
The neighborhood rooster calls,

Always late. Somewhere else it was decried
By birds, so loudly I couldn’t wander

Past it; windows rattled, sun razored
Through wet grass, and clover shook,

Anticipating bees. Somewhere else I had
To notice; there was fanfare and brigade, a litany

Of fowl, and not this lonely cock,
Twitching and strutting by a gated pane,

Spending himself for an alley. (32-33)

Sarah Hannah is an exciting new voice to watch on the literary landscape.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Somerville, Mass.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Presa PressPO Box 792Rockford, MI
Upcoming Titles in 2006

Inside The Outside - An Anthology of Avant-Garde American PoetsThis volume brings together 13 major poets of the American small press scene, each representing an important branch of the avant-garde as it has developed over the past forty years. Each of the poets is presented in a large selection, in most cases chosen by the poets themselves. They range in age from 41 to 81, their poetics range from visual/conceptual poetry to surrealism, from personal/observation poetry to cut-up & collage poetry. Powerful, touching, innovative & humorous, these poems illuminate the underground poetry scene to give the reader a view of the real new American poetry.

Kirby Congdon, Hugh Fox, Stanley Nelson, Harry Smith, Richard Kostelanetz, A.D. Winans, Lyn Lifshin, Eric Greinke, Lynne Savitt, Doug Holder, John Keene, Mark Sonnenfeld & Richard Morris

Monday, December 19, 2005

Interview with Doug Holder

Charles Ries

The poems in Wrestling With My Father are unadorned and highly descriptive/observational. Even your line and stanza structure is without much adornment; tell me about this? Tell me about your style?

Well ...I am not about "adornment" I believe in an economy of words. Too many adjectives, flowery and arcane words take away from a poem's potency. I like to tell it straight, with no chaser.

Over what period of time did you write this collection?

This collection was brought together after my Dad died two years ago. The poems were written over twenty years, and for the most part when he was alive. I had the idea for the collection after his death.
Your poems are in the observed moment; often unadorned, you don’t often offer an ending that resolves or lets the reader know what these moments meant or how they affected the reader. Would you talk to me about this?

Do poems have to "resolve" themselves? I think not. And it is certainly not the job of the poet to tell "how they affected the reader!"

Is this your second book of poetry? Why so few? How long have you been writing poetry? Do you have formal training / education in writing?

I have an M.A. in Literature from Harvard University. I also at the William Joiners Writers workshop for two years at U/Mass/Boston.

I have had four chaps of poetry other than this. I also have been in several anthologies, and I am included in a major anthology of avant/garde poets "Inside the Outside" ( Presa Press) 2006.

What kind of poet are you?
A good one I hope.

When did you found Ibbetson Street Press? What did you hope to accomplish? What sort of writers appeal to you?

I founded it with Dianne Robitallle (my wife) and Richard Wilhelm in 1998. Writers like A.D. Winans, Hugh Fox, Donald Hall. Basically my approach to poets and poetry is that if I read it, and as Auden said it makes me cut myself while I am shaving, then I am sold.

Why Ibbetson Street?
It was the street in Somerville, Mass. where I lived at the time the press was started.

What is your greatest pet peeve about the small press? You’re greatest wonder?

Pet Peeve...well the small press has been a great thing for me, and has provided me with a venue for my work, and a place where I have met wonderful writers and fascinating people. Most people use their own money to publish these little mags, work long hours, lose money...but it is a labor real pet peeves I guess.

What did you / do you do for a living?

I work at a few things. I teach poetry at an adult ed. center, I am the arts/editor for a community newspaper, and work as a counselor at a psychiatric hospital. It's actually McLean Hospital, which has quite a tradition of poets/patients like Robert Lowell, Slyvia Plath, and Anne Sexton. I used to run poetry groups for inpatients there for years

Do you think you are a better publisher/editor or writer?
Can a person excel at both?
I am not a good editor. I am a good PR man...I have a knack for promotion. I think I am a good writer, and I am constantly learning... For me wearing many hats is a necessity..everything feeds each other.

Are there any questions you’d like to ask yourself? Please do.

So many questions...too few answers.

Outside of literary pastimes – what do you for fun?
Movies, cooking... and an ongoing conversation with the world.

Charles Ries--Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories and poetry reviews have appeared in over one hundred print and electronic publications. He has received three Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing, and most recently read his poetry on National Public Radio’s Theme and Variations, a program that is broadcast over seventy NPR affiliates. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory from which excerpts have appeared in over fifteen print and electronic publications. Ries is also the author of five books of poetry, the most recent titled: The Last Time, which was published by Moon Publications in Tucson, Arizona. He is a member of the board at the Woodland Pattern Bookstore in Milwaukee, Wisconsin ( and poetry editor for the Word Riot (

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Seeing Annie Sullivan: Poems Based On Her Early Life. (Cedar Hill Books. San Diego, Ca. 92104)

Boston-area poet Denise Bergman has penned a poetry collection about the early years of Annie Sullivan, best known as the teacher of Helen Keller. This most certainly is an original idea, and I bet my bottom dollar that a poetry book like this one has never been done. Bergman writes in her preface:” In her time, and over time, Annie Sullivan has been recognized as an innovative and inspired teacher. But the immensity of her contributions to education is, like so much of her life, obscured by Helen Keller’s fame, or miniaturized into simple vignettes…”

Bergman concentrates on the deprivations of Sullivan’s early life, and in light of this, it is truly amazing that this nearly blind teacher achieved what she did. When Sullivan, as a child, was exiled to the “Tewksbury Almshouse,” in Mass., her milieu was decidedly bleak, and Bergman wonders about the stunting effect all this had on a child’s natural
imagination: “Isn’t pretending/ what a child’s suppose to do? / A box becomes a castle, / a queen’s high crown? / Here the talking animals/ have been trampled, / the fairies lost in wards packed/with one thousand inmates/where is the room for dreaming? / What can a little girl imagine/ except tomorrow?”

In the poem “Teaching the Family to Sign,” Bergman captures in charged, lyrical language Sullivan’s desire to bring metaphorical sight to a blind Keller; “ carve/ an untethered river/ into a wild girl’s mind. Open/ her tight fist/ to a feather bed of stars/ to the leer of a blue jay/ the whistling rain under the eaves/ the snap of a green bean/the clank of a metal pot…”

This is an intriguing collection by poet Denise Bergman.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Dec. 2005/Somerville, Mass.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Somerville Poetry Series @ Toast 12/11/05: Featuring its Founder …
By Chiemi

With all the snow to start off the weekend, it was nice to convene at 3pm for the Somerville Poetry Series at Toast Lounge, 70 Union Square this Sunday. Featured this month was Doug Holder ("Ibbetson Street Press" founder, author of "Wrestling With My Father," (Yellow Pepper Press) -chapbook described as "push[ing] all the real-world buttons ..." and Timothy Gager
(From left to right: Doug Holder/Tim Gager Photo: Dianne Robitaille)

("Heat City Review" co-founder, "We Need A Night Out" (Cyberwit).
Holder is also the founder of the Toast Series in 2004. Since he invited me to play some of my lyrical music as part of these events, I have been privileged to hear many themes and thoughts in this venue and also have had illuminating discussions with Holder about writing and the bardic tradition. Holder has covered this event many times for the News, graciously promoting others over himself. Thus, I feel honored to be able to write about Holder and his readings from his newly published material.
I warmed up the setting with a few tunes, and Gager introduced Holder. According to Gager, Holder’s Ibbettson Press published Gager’s "first poem ever" –a piece called "Insect." In a moving manner, Gager, described how he had stopped writing poetry for 20 years due to some callous comments of a college professor. Holder brought him back. Since then, Holder and Gager have both continued their writing and ended up co-founding the Somerville Writers’ Festival, which took place last month.
Holder describes his feelings on completing his newest chapbook as--"closure," "something for the family" and with "universal themes." In the book, he describes what he calls the "yin and yang" of his relationship with his father –"flavored with idioms," "the knowledge that we are flawed…" Holder says he counts himself "lucky" be able to know his father and have "lots to write about" and hone on the many facets of this complicated subject.
The original title of Holder’s book was "Wrestling with my father in the nude." The origin was a dream Holder had. The nudeness of the dream, as described by Holder, was supposed to refer to openness of expression—free emotion showing—not anything of a homoerotic nature. However, the publisher thought that the title might cast aspersion on the work –that the title could be twisted …Holder says that a main part of what he wrote was connected with the lack of affect that was believed appropriate by some conventions, to be shown by men and to their sons, and the journey towards bridging that gap caused by a lack of practice in showing emotion, to make a connection.

The poems in "Wrestling With My Father" span 10 years –"Wallace Ave., Bronx, 1965" is the oldest piece and "Father Knows Best, Mother Does the Rest," the newest (the latter written about a year ago). Holder has published 4 other chapbooks: "Poems of Boston and Beyond" (1998); "Dreams at the Au Bon Pain" (2001); "Waking in a Cold Sweat" (1999) and "On Either Side of the Charles" (2003).

Throughout the afternoon, Holder and Gager passed the mic off to each other while sitting cozily in their high-backed chairs. According to Gager, his latest is an "anthology that spans two years." He said he "picked 90 poems out of 500." In his book, they are divided into sections, including, "…and the living is easy," "Barstools," and "Loss". Gager relates that he does not "like to get pigeonholed...

Chiemi will be taking over the series starting in Feb. 2006. There will be a music segment as well as a poetry segment.

Richard Cambridge: Interview with a poet in the theatre of politics.

I first met Richard Cambridge when we were contributors to an anthology I co-edited with Don DiVecchio and Richard Wilhelm,
“City of Poets: 18 Boston Voices.” Richard Cambridge is the co-founder of “Singing With The Enemy,” a poetry theatre group of artists and activists that addresses controversial themes on the American political landscape. His poetry has been published in such journals as the: “Paterson Literary Review,” “Heartland Journal,” and the “Asheville Poetry Review.” He has won the “Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize,” and he curates the “Poet’s Theatre” at Club Passim in Harvard Square. I interviewed him on my program “Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer,” on Somerville Community Access TV.

Doug Holder: You are very much a political poet. How do you respond to critics who say political poetry is often no more than polemic dressed up as poetry?

Richard Cambridge: I always come from the point of view of esthetics. It’s got to be a work of art. I use the tools of poets to fashion something that addresses something that bothers me in society. I really use poetry as a tool to serve something that’s bothering me politically. I pull poetry out of the tool box. But a lot of things pop up for me that have nothing to do with politics.

DH: Can you talk about the “Poet’s Theatre” at the “Club Passim” in Harvard Square, Cambridge, that you revived?

RC: When Club Passim went into receivership and had to be reformulated; Tim Mason, a friend and a booking agent for the Club, called and asked me if I wanted to do a ‘Poet’s Theatre” there. I had been doing poetry theatre before then on the local scene. So I jumped at the chance. I really enjoyed doing it. Back when “Passim” was “Club 47” they has a “Poets’ Theatre,” and it was very political. They were really enmeshed with the issues of the day: Civil Rights, Vietnam, etc… It faded out. I started it up again in 1995.

I always looked at poets as something other than someone doing a feature or poem. I came from the performance-poet tradition. But I wanted to move towards something larger. I tried to find people in the community who were folk singers, dancers, and comedians to help me put together poetry theatre. Our first feature was the poet Sebastian Lockwood.

DH; In a poem you wrote “The Life of a Man,” you deal with your struggle with the significance of poetry in a world that needs a litany of injustices addressed. Have you resolved this conflict?

RC: I don’t know if it is resolvable. It became a life-long struggle. Hey…you might not achieve what you want in your generation. In fact… Thomas Merton said you may make things worse by your activism, but you really have to focus on the goodness of what you are trying to do or else you will become bitter.

DH: How are you different now at age 56, then say at 30?

RC: Things still spark me. I feel I’ve done my part. If something bothers me, I will spend some time working through it. I still get angry, but I am more measured how I deal with things.

DH: How do you reconcile your left-of-center politics with your work as a real estate broker?

RC: It is a real contradiction. There is a real temptation to make all that money that there is out there to be made. But it is difficult. Something always comes up that does test who you are. I had to evict 4 or 5 people in 25 years. I try to help people to find jobs to pay their rent. I have employed people myself to help them. I have worked to keep rent control; even though other brokers thought I was crazy. My poetry is supported by my work.

Doug Holder

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Well ... the Ibbetson Street 18 Reading at McIntyre and Moore Books ( 12/10/2005) in Davis Square, Somerville was packed as usual. Here is a picture of some of the folks who showed up:

Left to right:
Ibbetson Submissions Editor: Robert K. Johnson
Founder of the Ibbetson Street Press: Doug Holder
Author of "Poem for the Little Book" ( Ibbetson 2005) : Tomas O'Leary
Spare Change News poetry editor: Marc Goldfinger

"Tapestry of Voices" founder: Harris Gardner.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Interview with Poet Michael Brown: The man is about much more than the Cantab Lounge Poetry Slam.

With Doug Holder

Michael Brown is well known as the doyen of the poetry slam, but Brown is much more than a poetry slam master. Brown is a professor of Communication at Mt. Ida College in Newton, Mass, and he holds a PhD in English from the University of Michigan where he studied with the acclaimed Afro-American poet Robert Hayden. He has several poetry collections under his literary belt, including : “Falling Wallendas,’ and “The Man Who Makes Amusement Rides.” Brown also co- founded and hosted the “Boston Poetry Slam” at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, Mass., has read his poetry internationally, and has produced a number of theatrical - poetical presentations including: ‘Poetry- Off-Broadway.” He has won several “Cambridge Poetry Awards,” and has been a mentor to scores of emerging poets. I talked with Brown on my Somerville Community Access TV show: “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: You did your dissertation on Afro-American poets during the Harlem Renaissance. What was your interest with this period, and how is it reflected in your work?

Michael Brown: My interest didn’t start in the “period.” My interest started with Afro-American poets broadly. This was after I taught in an all- Black inner city school in Philadelphia. I owe a little bit back to the students who helped me learn. Later I went to graduate school and wrote a dissertation. I had a dual major for my PhD; English and Education. So I wrote a dissertation of Afro-American poets for teachers. The idea was to make a history of Afro-American poetry for teachers. It would make this information available to them in a way that it wasn’t. Other than Langston Hughes, many teachers had no knowledge of Harlem Renaissance poets.

Doug Holder: You were a founding member of the “Cambridge Poetry Awards,” a ceremony and festival that seems to have gone in hibernation temporarily. Can you talk about your involvement?

Michael Brown: Like with many things I got involved in poet Richard Cambridge was responsible. He’s great for knowing so many people. So Richard, Jeff Robinson, Cathy Salmons, and I formed the poet committee. James Smith of the “Cambridge Center of Adult Education,”
wanted to put up events that would raise the visibility of the Cambridge Center. The poetry awards and festival would be one of these events. We put together what I thought was a damn fine festival. We had nationally known Afro-American performance poets, and a bunch of other poets like: Ed Sanders, and Diana De-Prima. The award ceremony was hosted by Jimmy Tingle. We had a panel on community poetry with “Stone Soup Poetry” founder Jack Powers, and others. After the big “flash,” of the first festival, I got out of it. I got out because I felt there wasn’t a dedication to the program, not the award, but the program. The poets I brought in went to the workshops and panels, and participated somewhat. The poets that the committee brought in did their own thing. After that they went their own way and hung out with their friends in Cambridge. They did not enrich the festival. This seemed to be fine with everyone else. I didn’t like that. So I said to myself that I wasn’t going to do this any longer under these circumstances.

Doug Holder: You and Patricia Smith founded the poetry slam at the Cantab Lounge in Central Square, Cambridge. What is your definition of “Slam” poetry, a sub-genre in the larger “Spoken Word” scene?

Michael Brown: Slam poetry most narrowly defined is a contest where poets are judged by people selected by the audience. It is fundamentally a competition. It’s performance and poetry. Both should be equally represented. You hope with a national slam you get the best poets and the best performances.

At the Cantab we stress the poetry side. Slam is a gimmick to get people out there to hear poetry. If that gimmick falls out of style tomorrow we will still be doing poetry.

I got tired of the competition after 12 years. So I handed it over to other folks. I was never that competitive to begin with. I didn’t join in right away when the Slam started in Chicago. I am now concentrating on Poetry/Theatre because that is more collaborative rather than competitive.

Doug Holder: What do you say to critics who say Slam poetry doesn’t translate well to the page?

Michael Brown: Page poetry sometimes doesn’t translate to the voice sometimes. It works both ways. So what.

Doug Holder: You have been a teacher for 43 years. Is poetry and teaching a good fit?

Michael Brown: It’s the other way around. My teaching is me. I am so glad that I found teaching when I was young. It did great things for me. If I had to give up one thing I would give up being a poet. There are a number of things about teaching that are good for my soul. I’ve been very, very successful at it. Teaching helps my poetry in the sense I work with words and language. It helps me see more things in my own writing.

Doug Holder: Any poets in the area that excite you?

Michael Brown: Derek Walcott. In my opinion he is the greatest poet writing in English. I also like Afaa Michael Weaver, who is a great craftsman.

Doug Holder: In your collection: “The Man who Makes Amusement Rides,” you write in the poem: “In The Bag,” “Like so many of my generation/ surprised by life past fifty/ I want/whatever is left laid out/where I can see it.” How have you changed from your younger years/

Michael Brown: I don’t take chances quite the way I used to. I’ve had enough failed marriages. I have leaped first and looked later. I am much less likely to that now.

Doug Holder: You wrote a poem “Dorothy Parker,” which reads: “My lips curl at sweetness/ and seek the sour like wine. / If I could reach out, give in, I might be happy for awhile. But I am afraid of losing my edge / even if it cuts everyone I live.” Do you identify with Parker at all?

Michael Brown: There are some who say I have a caustic wit. But I would say that it is overrated. In the poem I was trying to understand what motivated Parker to be the way she was basically for her whole life: “Holding out against giving in.”

Doug Holder; Do you think you would be like a part of the Algonquin Table group of writers that Parker was a notable part of?

Michael Brown: As a young man I would have been great there. I’ve changed my life since then. I think that group of people produced an uncaring feel around that table.

I raged against the world as a young man. It was a big part of my life to be political in the 60’s. I raged against the beast… the machine. I was an “angry young man,” even when I didn’t have anything to be angry about. Now I am a sweet, mellow old man. (laughs.) I haven’t been angry with anyone… today…yet.

Doug Holder

Thursday, December 01, 2005

This is Louisa Solano of the "Grolier Poetry Book Shop" receiving the "Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award," from Doug Holder at the "Somerville News Writers Festival," Nov. 13, 2005 at "The Somerville Theatre.

Photo Courtesy: Susie Davidson

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Rebel: Poems by Charles Baudelaire. Translated by Leslie H. Whitten Jr. ( Presa S Press Rockford, MI. 49341 PO BOX 792) $7

Leslie H. Whitten has translated a collection of poetry by Charles Baudelaire. Baudelaire who was born in Paris in 1821; seemed to have a bone to pick with society-at-large, and most importantly with complacency.
He seemed to be deathly afraid of conformity, and had a terminal fear of “boredom.” Called by some: “a bored Satanist,” his poetry is laced with invectives against the status quo. In his poem: “To The Reader,” the most fearsome of the devil’s spawn, is quite a banal thing:

One is more ugly, cruel, the filthiest of the spawn!
He never gestures, shouts, his manner is not rash,
Yet he would make of earth a heaping bin of trash
Or gobble up the world with one enormous yawn.

His name is Boredom! In his eyes a tear or two.
He smokes a hookah, dreams of gallows tree.
You know him, reader, this effete monstrosity.
Hypocrite reader, you, my image—brother—You!

I have been introduced to Rimbaud as well as Baudelaire by Eric Greinke and the Presa Press, the publisher of this collection. I don’t pretend to be a judge of translations, but the poet laureate of France opined of Whitten’s work: “…you will find here a poet-translator who steers between the dangers of expansive ego and slavish transcription. Whitten… has found the rare and fragile metric devices to orchestrate and give nuance…”

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/ Nov. 2005

Saturday, November 26, 2005

To order make check out to Mike James $6. Yellow Pepper Press POBOX 27010 Pittsburgh, PA 15235--

"" A.D. Winans

Wrestling With My Father, Doug Holder. 42 pages. Yellow Pepper Press, PO Box 27010, Pittsburgh, Pa 15235. $6

Most family poetry books more often than not focus on unhappy recollections of the author’s childhood, and the authors perspective of how the parents failed to live up to the poets expectations, so it was a welcome surprise to see Doug Holder present the other side of family upbringing.
In this small chapbook of poems Holder explores the roots and bond between a father and son. From Benson’s Deli With Dad:
Dad’s loving adornment
of his hotdog
a true work of abstract art–
a colorful phallus
of juice and savory meat.
From here we move on to the son observing an aging father at three in the morning:
he walks like the lonely
sentry he was
during the "War"
between bedroom and bathroom.
I no longer hear
a youthful stream
pierce the water
all is tentative
and a struggle,
and I barely
can contain my tears
when I see
his shrunken frame
hunched over
pressing out
what is left of
so late
in the
There is no bitterness in these poems, no disappointment, just a quiet reflection, which leaves the reader feeling like he were sitting in an old time country store in rural America listening to a wise elder spin tales of the old days.
No fancy, dressed-up academic imagery, just laying down the words on paper with a warm heart felt feeling.
Writing in a narrative voice Holder speaks with conviction about his family experiences from his first recollections of childhood to the present day. We almost feel as if we are there with him as we take a train ride that like all train rides must ultimately come to the end of the line.
in its lurid light
my gestures
are warped,
Each word
I write
engulfed, consumed.
The love
I feel
comically ephemeral.
But still in
this frightening
endless expanse,
I dance
It’s a waltz, not a fast dance. Embrace it, and you’ll hear the beat of the heart,
and the rhythm of the soul.
---- A. D. Winans

A. D. Winans was born in San Francisco and graduated from San Francisco State College (now University). He is the author of over 40 books of poetry and prose including North Beach Poems and The Holy Grail: The Charles Bukowski and Second Coming Revolution. From 1972 through 1989 he edited and published Second Coming Magazine/Press. He worked for the San Francisco Art Commission (1975-80), during which time he produced the Second Coming 1980 Poets and Music Festival, honoring the late poet Josephine Miles and the late blues musician John Lee Hooker. He has received numerous editor and publishing grants from the NEA and the California Arts Council, and writer assistance grants from PEN and the Academy of American Poets. In 1983 he was awarded a San Francisco Arts and Letters Foundation cash award for his contribution to small press literature.
His poetry, prose, essays and book reviews have appeared in over a thousand literary magazines and anthologies, including City Lights Journal, Poetry Australia, The American Poetry Review (APR) and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (Thunder’s Mouth Press). His poetry has been translated into Spanish, French, German, Japanese. Croatian, Polish and Russian. A song poem of his was performed in April 2002 at Tully Hall in New York City. His work has been praised by such noted poets and writers as Colin Wilson, Studs Terkel, James Purdy, Peter Coyote, and the late Charles Bukowski.
He is a member of PEN and has served on the Board of Directors of many arts organizations, including the now defunct Committee of Small Press Magazine Editors and Publishers (COSMEP). He is listed in Who’s Who in America, The International Directory of Who‚s Who in Poetry, The Gale Research Contemporary American Authors and the Gale Research Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. His archives and those of Second Coming Magazine/Press are housed at Brown University.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

by David Ray, 2004, Howling Dog Press

Leave aside the question of whether art can change the world. There are times when the world, being what it is, demands the artist’s attention and involvement. To not speak to certain pressing injustices raises questions about an artist’s sincerity, presence of mind, perhaps even his or her sanity.
David Ray’s DEATH OF SARDANAPULIS is a 240 page volume of well-crafted poetry. Ray’s book is also a scalpel with which to excise the bullshit and spin that permeates even the few media outlets left that still adhere to standards of journalistic objectivity.
In “The Homeric Proportions” Ray says of George W. Bush:

When he mocked another Born Again
Christian for begging for her life just

before her execution, we should
have noted what we were dealing with--

Ray’s is not a carping, negative voice. He also offers the reader moral wisdom. In “Friends” he says:

Bill Stafford called the world Friend,
and that’s the right attitude for sure.

But it is Ray’s moral outrage and refusal to look away that brings the poem to its close:

but it takes some doing on a day when

the front page is devoted to full-color,
a father holding his bleeding son in his arms

as he cries to the sky, Why? Why?
in a language no one bothers to translate.

Ray’s poetry brings us the news we won’t find on the 6 o’clock broadcasts. He tells us Colin Powell, trying to sell the Iraq invasion to the UN, had the Guernica that hung in the background draped while he was being interviewed, not wanting Picasso’s powerful depiction of the truth about war to counter the Bush Administration hype. In “A Captivity Narrative” he tells of the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch and says:

Yet it was an Iraqi doctor who risked

his life and trudged across the desert
to summon her rescuers--

But when it comes to myth making
the truth must not stand in the way

even when the heroine objects.
We like to stick to the classic formulas

David Ray’s THE DEATH OF SARDANAPALUS is a beautifully bound book. It features a full color center fold-out of Delacroix’s famous painting of the same name. It is a book that belongs on the shelf of every poetry lover and every enlightened, “reality-based “ person. It is available from HOWLING DOG PRESS (www.

Richard Wilhelm, Ibbetson Update, Nov. 2005

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Poet Afaa Michael Weaver Visits Littleton’s “Wilderness House Literary Retreat.”

November arrived at “The Wilderness House Literary Retreat” and brought brightly colored foliage to its scenic surroundings, as well as poet and playwright Afaa Michael Weaver for an informal lunch and conversation for retreat members.

Afaa Michael Weaver is a tenured professor of English at Simmons College in Boston, and is a former NEA fellow, a Fulbright Scholar, a PEW Fellow, and the founder of the “Simmons International Chinese Poetry Conference.” He has penned 9 Collections of poetry, including: “Multitudes,” and a full length play: “Rosa,” which was produced at the Venture Theatre in Philadelphia.

Weaver, 54, hails from a working-class section of Baltimore, and worked in factories for much of his early adult years. But even during this time, he was a freelance writer for “The Baltimore Sun,” and started a small literary press: “Seven Sun Press,” that published a broadside of his, as well as work by such poets as: Lucille Clifton, Frank Marshal Davis (A Harlem Renaissance writer) and the surrealist Andre Codrescu. While at “The Baltimore Sun,” he wrote reviews of books by: James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg’s (first poetry collection), and Alice Walker, whose book he panned.

In 1985, a lot happened for the budding poet. He released his first poetry collection “Water Song,” he got a NEA grant as a result of the book, and got accepted in Brown University’s MFA program. Leaving Baltimore and a good factory job, he was thrown into the elite world of Brown University.

Still, amidst a student body with all these privileged “children,” Weaver, a grown man in his mid-30’s, thrived. He studied with the noted playwright Paula Vogel, and actually graduated with an advanced degree in Playwriting.

Weaver, told the group at the retreat that he once met the late, celebrated Afro-American playwright August Wilson on a train to New Haven. Wilson, who wrote “Gem of the Ocean,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and other works, was a role-model for Weaver. Like Weaver, Wilson started out as a poet. On that fateful train ride, Wilson asked Weaver if he could sit with him, after Weaver casually complimented him on his work. As Weaver described it they immediately hit it off and talked and laughed all the way from Newark to New Haven. He gave Wilson “Water Song,” and Wilson confided to him that he really had wanted to be a poet, if the truth be known.

Weaver has known his share of hardship. He has survived three marriages, the death of a young son, and a near fatal heart condition. After being a nomad adjunct professor in NYC, and later on the faculty of Rutgers University, he took the advice of poet Michael Brown of “Cantab Lounge Slam Poetry” fame, and approached Simmons College about a job. He secured a teaching position, and now is a tenured professor. He founded the “Simmons International Poetry Conference,” which is the largest such gathering outside of mainland China. Weaver, has had a long love affair with the Chinese language and poetry ever since he was given a book: “Dao De Jing,” translated by Laozi from a friend in the factory he worked in. Weaver, a low-key presence, finds the Chinese sensibility compatible with his own modest approach to life.

Weaver told the audience that a Harvard scholar of some note came to his Chinese conference and told him “Harvard should have done this!” But you have to move fast to keep up with Weaver. Throughout his life, this accomplished artist has worked outside the box, and decidedly ahead of the pack.

Doug Holder

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Charms of Vaudeville Meet The Charms of the Writers Festival.

The charms of an old Vaudeville-era theatre are never lost on me. There is always the haunting tapping presence of the "song and dance men," the proverbial echo of "the fat lady," who closed the show with a smile and a torch song, the well-appointed banana peel that made the most puffed-up of men fall to the ground in spastic indignity. So I felt a welcoming aura when the "Somerville News Writers Festival," commenced at the old "Somerville Theatre," on a mild night in November. And like any Vaudeville variety show we had an infinite variety of talent. Jennifer Matthews’ beautiful, lilting voice wafted to the rafters, and punctuated the particular energy of each of the readers. 80 years ago BARATUNDE, the host for the event, might have affected a straw bowler and a dandy of a cane, as he sprayed the audience with a steady stream of jokes, and comic asides. Much of the reading was laced with humor. From Steve Almond’s riff on being "ugly," to Robert Olen Butler’s strange obsession with severed heads, the audience never
had to wait long to laugh.

I was thinking at the reception in our modest editorial offices at 21A College Ave., how amazing it was to have such world-class writers like: Sue Miller, Franz Wright, Afaa Michael Weaver, Lan Samantha Chang, and all the others, milling around our story board, that housed a simple spread of cheese and crackers. And equally amazing was how willingly they accepted the offer to read at our festival, and for the most part for little or no monetary compensation.

Most importantly however, the festival met the approval of my mother’s critical eagle eye. She told me after: "Great show. Fascinating people." I think that’s the kind of seal of approval both Tim Gager and I were looking for.

--Doug Holder

Monday, November 14, 2005

Interview with Naomi Chase: A poet in search of the messiah

Naomi Feigelson Chase is a poet, journalist, fiction writer and a former resident of Somerville, who has written three books of poetry including: “The Messiah Comes to Somerville,” and most recently: “Gittel: The Would be Messiah.” She has written for the “New York Times,” the “Village Voice,” and other publications. She has penned numerous short stories and her poetry has appeared in such journals as: “Sojourner,” “Ploughshares,” and the “Cream City Review.”

Doug Holder: What was going on in your life when you penned the collection: “Waiting For The Messiah in Somerville.”

Naomi Chase: I moved to Somerville after my husband died. So I was in a very depressed state. With the poem “”Waiting For The Messiah in Somerville,” I worked on it for years until I finally got it right. I was struck by the whole feeling in Somerville. I don’t know if it is the same today. I bought a two family house in Somerville with another woman and I think everyone felt we were whores. No one had ever seen this before. Somerville, in the 70’s, had no condominiums. People were very unfriendly. If you hadn’t lived there forever then you just didn’t fit in. It was not a creative time. I could barely get out of bed. It eventually spurred me to write a lot of things about it, like this title poem. It was sort of a “coming back to life poem.”

DH: The concept of the “Messiah” comes up in your work a lot. Can you talk about your interest with this concept?

NC: I really don’t know where this interest came from. The title of my new book is “Gittel: The-Would -Be Messiah” It is about a young woman who is told by God that she is going to be the Messiah. She eventually turns him down. She feels he has caused evil in the world by giving man power over all creatures and other men. I am very taken by the idea that people are sitting around waiting for the Messiah. This seems to be a constant recurring theme not only in Judaism, but in other religions. I grew up not as a religious Jew. My grandfather was a Hebrew teacher. He was a compelling person. But I don’t think he believed in God. For me, my writing has been one way that I dealt with what all this meant to me.

DH: Do you think the Messiah will actually come?

NC: No. I don’t think so. I think he would have come already and knocked out George Bush. (laughs)

DH: You were involved with the Cambridge, Mass. small press “Garden Street.”
Can you talk about your involvement with the press and how it got its start?

NC: I started the press with Jean Flanagan and Marilyn Zuckerman.. I really didn’t start writing poetry until I was an adult in my 40’s. I had a book of poems, as did Jean. I met Jean at MIT, as well as Marilyn Zuckerman. The three of us decided to start a press. We thought this was the only way to get published. The press is no longer around. After we published a book by each of us, I moved to the Cape, and Marilyn moved to Seattle. It was hard to stay in touch. Running a small press is a money-loser, and requires a tremendous amount of work. After awhile I wanted to concentrate on my own work. The press produced about ten titles. Each of us had two books we published, plus about 3 or 4 other titles from other poets.

DH: In your collection “One Blue Thread,” you have a character named: “Gittel,” a Jewish girl, living in the “pale of settlement,” who has an ongoing conversation with God.
Where did you get the idea for this?

NC: I was taking a train from Boston, and passing through Connecticut, when I noticed a church spire. I thought: ‘What would happen if the Messiah landed on a church spire?” And that’s the way it started. Once this idea captured me I started writing about this young woman who was constantly asking questions of God about the meaning of life. I started reading a lot about mysticism, and I discovered that all religions have this mystic bent. So I tried to sort it out.

DH: Do you think God is a feminist?

NC: Gittel is a feminist, and she is angry with God. She tells him that the myth of “Adam and Eve,” has done terrible things to the idea of woman. So God is not a feminist. No male God is.

DH: Can you tell me about your experience writing for “The Village Voice/’

NC: I started in the 70’s. I started writing for them because I was living in a building with Jules Feiffer. I ran into him in the elevator. I had written for the “Herald Tribune,” and he said if I wrote for them I could write for the “Voice.” He had me call Dan Wilson, and soon after I was writing about politics, and also children’s issues. I was paid $25 an article, which I used to pay for 25 copies of the “Voice,” so I could see my name in print. But it was really something to write from the ‘Voice.’

DH: Can you make a living as a writer or poet?

NC: It is very hard to make a living as a writer. I always worked in PR and Journalism. You compromise your work if you depend on your writing as your living. You usually live on nothing. I didn’t want to do that.

Doug Holder. “Gittle” The Would-Be Messiah” can be purchased at the “Grolier Book Shop” in Harvard Square, or through AMAZON.COM

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Saturday, November 12, 2005

"The poetic look"
by Steve Glines

When I'm in my car or other places where I can't write a thought down I get a constant stream of good ideas. Most of the ideas are only good for a paragraph or so but some of them are really food for thought and some are just fleeting fragments that only leave me the feeling that I may have had a good idea . But the idea itself is far, far gone. Some ideas start out as a germ of a thought, embed themselves under a particularly sensitive piece of very thin skin and gnaw at you.I had one of those thoughts driving home from the bagel-bards meeting last Saturday morning. Someone said to me that I didn't look like a poet. It took an hour to realize that I didn't know if I should take offence or not. The idea had embedded itself. That thought struck me as odd. What does a poet look like? I remember hanging out at the Grolier book shop when I was in my late teens and early twenties (in the early 1970's), there were lots of people who made sure they looked like poets, complete with a poetic swagger, tortured soul all.A "poet" of the middle Grolier period (1968-1975) wore black, black pants, a black turtleneck, a black beret and posed, whenever possible, in public, as if struck that very moment by the muses arrow, a black thought. Somehow poetry turned very dark in the 1970's. That was, I suppose, a natural evolution from the beat stuff I loved, which was both profound and real. The 1970's stuff was dark for the sake of being dark. I used to think the "poets" that hung around the Grolier in the 1970's confused darkness with profundity.I arrived in Cambridge Massachusetts in September 1970 with everything I owned strapped on the back of a Yamaha 250 motorcycle. I was 18 years old, an orphan, unemployed and without a home. I should have been in college but only Oberlin College way out in noplace would take me but only if I could find $3,000. I couldn't. Scholarships, if you can call them that, went to jocks. So I rode my bike to Boston where I thought there might be a literary life. I found the Grolier before I found a place to live.If you were an unknown 18 year old in a place like the Grolier Bookshop in 1970 you would have been made to feel if not completely unwelcome, then certainly way out of place. There were the real poets posing and want-to-be thought of as poets posing. Robert Bly would routinely make a grand entrance with his multi-colored poncho (and for weeks ponchos were in) then Robert Creeley would arrive with a pack of fawning grad students plucked from the sanctified halls of Harvard. The ever-present Else Dorfman would be photographing the scene. You were in if she made a point of shooting you.I was out and so would have been Gordon Carnie, except that the crusty old man owned the Grolier. Most of the fawning and posing went on about the grand old man of letters without his acknowledgement or so much as nod to anyone but his select few. I couldn't afford to buy books so I, like a lot of other people, treated the Grolier like a library. I could sit in a corner for hours, so long as there wasn't a reception or some other event that filled the place, and read to my hearts content.Every few weeks I'd buy a chapbook or some other cheap item to pacify my conscience. I honestly don't think Gordon cared one way or the other if he ever sold a book. If Gordon never noticed me sitting in the corner reading most afternoons he eventually noticed my habit of buying older poets. I think the first thing he said to me was that he liked my taste and that he didn't like any poets after e. e. cummings. A few days later we had a long chat. It turns out that he used to summer about a mile or so from my mothers house in Nova Scotia and he knew all the neighbors and characters of Poplar Hill. That started a friendship that lasted until his death a few years later.Once I counted Gordon as a friend I made it a point of saying hello when I walked in and he would grunt something back that I took for a hello. The posers didn't bother me after that. Gordon made me feel welcome even if I wasn't a "know poet." I came to realize that much of the posing was for my benefit. If I was a friend of Gordon's then I was in the inner-circle. How did that happen? How did he do that? Even Elsa Dorfman has a picture of me someplace that used to hang way up on the upper right side as you walk into the Grolier. When Louisa Solano bought the Grolier after Gordon died she took down all the photos and replaced them with even higher bookracks. I can't blame her but it's not been the same since.What happened? I'm not sure. I didn't like the academic poets, the "Yale younger poets," that hung around the Grolier and neither did Gordon. He told me to visit the Stone Soup poets run by Jack Powers. I did and have visited that venue off and on over the years. I dropped out of the Grolier scene and indeed haven't been inside the store in a decade. I dropped out of the poetry scene for almost 20 years to raise a family and earn a living.So what does a poet look like? What was meant by "not looking like a poet." The answer was something like . "well poets are . thinkers, you know deep . profound .." Apparently a poet does not look fat, middle aged, reasonably well dressed (although I'm wearing a ripped, hooded sweatshirt and sneakers today) and not subject many deep thoughts . at least not in public. I guess I'll have to stop keeping my thoughts to myself.

Steve Glines-- Steve Glines is the founder of the "Wilderness House Literary Retreat" and a member of the "Breaking Bagels With The Bards" group that meets in the basement of "Finagle-A-Bagel" in Harvard Square--every Saturday at 9AM. (All Welcome!)

Monday, November 07, 2005

The front and back covers were by my long-time friend Gene Smith. Gene is a self-taught artist and has exhibited his work at the "Out of the Blue Gallery" in Cambridge. Born and raised in Somerville, Gene is also an actor who has performed at the A.R.T., Molasses Tank Productions at the Piano Factory (Boston), and regional and community theatres in the region. Gene has also has been an extra in "Spenser for Hire," and numerous independent, student, and major studio films.
Many thanks to Richard Wilhelm our art director for working with Gene to format these pictures for the magazine. Doug Holder * I am told now that the magazine will be out Friday.

To contact Gene: copies are available for $5 make checks payable to Ibbetson Street 25 School St. Somerville, Ma. 02143

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dec. 6 2005 5:30 PM to 7:45 PM

Fundraiser For "the new renaissance" literary magazine:

" the new renaissance"

"the new renaissance" magazine is having a fundraising reading and reception at the Pucker Gallery 171 Newbury St. Boston, Mass. Food and wine
$40 donation suggestion. Readers: Marc Widershien ( author of "The Life of All Worlds"), Doug Holder ( founder "Ibbetson Street Press")

about tnr page two page three

Kudos from the literary, library,and alternative presses...
"the new renaissance is one of the best literary magazines around. It publishes known and unknown writers from India to Indiana and has only one criterion: excellence. tnr has a unique and vital approach to literature and the arts."-Bill KatzLibrary Journal

"tnr is for a thought-provoking blend of opinions and ideas, consistently fine fiction and poetry and a staunch commitment to the visual arts."The Christian Science Monitor

"Combine the journals of Foreign Affairs, Artforum, TriQuarterly," and Poetry and what do you have? -a multifaceted publication of arts, literature and thought called the new renaissance."-
Small Press Review

"tnris always a wonderful surprise. No library interested in the range of international literature should be without it"-David LyonNew England Foundation for the Arts

"the new renaissance may be based in the Boston area but it has a mailing list with addresses from around the world. With the October 1986 issue tnr continues an 18-year old tradition - - the acceptance and nurturing of writers and artists of disparate styles in order to attain both quality and breadth of vision. The next issue of the new renaissance (#21) will contain not only the usual photographs with the non-fiction lead article (...a piece on toxic wastes in the U.S....witten by Greenpeace program director) and the featured artwork, but alos photos accompanying an essay on the history of the first racially integrated [Broadway] musical, Beggars Holiday."-Matthew F. WittenThe Tab

IBBETSON STREET 18 Reading. Dec 10, 2005 McIntyre and Moore Books. 255 Elm St. Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. 3 PM Free.
Featured Readers: Philip E. Burnham, Ann Carhart, and Doug Holder. Open mic to follow--all past and current contributors invited to read.

The Ibbetson Street Press is Somerville’s independent poetry press. Since 1998 the press has published the journal “Ibbetson Street,” and books and chapbooks from a variety of local and national poets and writers. Our books are archived at Harvard, Buffalo, and Brown University libraries, as well as other libraries around the country.
Our reading Dec. 10, will feature three Ibbetson poets with recently published books: Anne Carhart, ( Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus!) Doug Holder ( “Wrestling With My Father“), Philip Burnham Jr. ( “Housekeeping”).

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Surfings: Selected Poems of Will Inman. Edited by David Ray and Michael Rattee. ( )

First off, "Surfings..." is a beautiful looking book. It is perfect bound, with a wonderful cover painting by David Chorlton. The paper is of fine stock, and the font is condusive to an easy-on-the-eyes read. Inman himself is a fascinating story. William Inman was born in Wilmington, North Carolina on May 4, 1923. He graduated from Duke University, worked in a shipyard in World War ll, was a trade union member, a member of the "War Resisters League," and a one time member of the Communist Party. He was apponied Poet-In-Residence at American University, and he was very much a part of the Lower East Side (NYC) poetry scene in the late 50's and 60's.

We are what we eat, and Inman makes use of all the wide and eclectic experiences he digested. For those with a taste for "compassionate social engagement," this book will be of great interest. Inman was a man of his times, and his poetry brings his era alive again. Any man or woman who lives to his eighties is a survivor. He survives lovers, friends, love, lust, etc...In his poem: " living at 2551 west mossman," Inman paints a finely detailed portrait of the artist as an old man,with one of the things that has not deserted him...his writing life:
to sit in a large chair, yellow lined pad
against my decades-old writing board,
single lamp burning, ceiling crouched twilight, i
found old and new worlds in me
stirrring in the dust of the place-- two large rooms
built onto a trailer, thousands of pages
typed and photocopied, hundreds of copies
small magazines, chapbooks, i did not own them, they
filled my years owning

Like many, I have always been interested in the Beat-era poetry scene, especially in NYC. Inman spent many years in the Lower East Side, and the poem: " lower east side poets," captures that Bohemian atmosphere for those of us too young to be there: " in those days poetry was in ferment, hardware poets/ read at les deux megots and, later, at/ le metro and st. marks, and others of us,/lesser names, read with them/ but also in our small east side/ tenement flats, teaching roaches/yet more arcane tongues."

The Howling Dog Press has a whole bunch of interesting titles, so I would advise you to check out their website, and sample their fare.
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Somerville, Mass./ Nov. 2005

Sunday, October 30, 2005

We Need A Night Out. Tim Gager. ( ) $15.

I first became familiar with Tim Gager’s poetry when he sent me his manuscript: “From The Same Corner of the Bar,” that Ibbetson wound up publishing in 2003. Gager’s poetry is a potent mix of humor, love, lust, self-flagellation, and hard drinking. Gager shows his range with work that speaks to the doting father, the down-at-the-heels barfly, and the both distanced and the attentive lover. In the end we are all an enigma to each other, and Gager explores this mystique through his own quirky persona. In his poem: “H.G.Wells,” Gager adds a needed dose of levity to the inevitable path of a May/December romance: “ So I fall in love, I mean younger/ as in/ perhaps twenty years./ Then I wonder why she freaks/ and has a ton of emotion/ Sexually it’s great, I’m teaching, she’s learning/ I reach for my inhaler to keep up./ I think it is going to be over soon/ I’ve finally wasted someone else’s youth…”

In “Perfect Kid,” Gager conveys a studied tenderness towards his children, and makes a nod to the passage of time: “Walking through the park/ wondering how he stays complete/ this boy of mine/ running ahead laughing with his sister/ perfectly loving her and/ I smile knowing/the leaves will begin to turn soon/ falling, flashing of color,/ swept up in a spin/ that happens each year…

“ We Needed A Night Out” can be considered a signature Gager work. It holds the sinewy meat that makes the man, and we meet him at a most human level.”
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Somerville, Mass.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Interview with Philosopher/Poet Ifeanyi Menkiti

Ifeanyi Menkiti came to this country from Nigeria to study in the 1960’s. Years after he earned a PhD. in Philosophy from Harvard University and since has taught at Wellesley College for more than thirty years. He has penned three books of poetry: “Affirmations,” “The Jubilation of Falling Bodies,” and most recently “Of Altair: The Bright Light.’ His poetry has appeared in journals like “Ploughshares,” “New Directions,” and the “Massachusetts Review.” Menkiti is a recipient of an award by the “National Endowment of the Arts,” and his poetry has been aired on NPR, and other radio stations. I talked with Menkiti on my Somerville Community Access TV show ‘Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: You are trained as a philosopher. Is there poetry in philosophy and is there philosophy in poetry? Are they a good fit?

Ifeanyi Menkiti: I don’t think we have to make such a rigorous separation between the two. I think there is a connection between the two. There was an interesting observation by this poet who taught physics . He said: “I teach physics to make a living, I write poetry to live.” I don’t know if I would quite put it that way, but it is a sort of a philosophy of mine. Poetry deals with the meaning of life, the meaning of meaning, just like philosophy.

DH: In a press release that concerns your work as a poet, it reads: “… the poet looks deeply into the psyche of individuals, and urges us to look for references beyond our local prejudices, and thereby discover a sense of our shared humanity. Did your experience coming from Nigeria to the United States have a role in developing this goal in your work?

IM: Being born in Africa I had a very strong sense of my own being. I felt comfortable taking on the world. When I came to this country I was with kids from Asia, Sweden, all over, and it was good. I enjoyed it. I like the Global community. We tend to think we can only do the “local thing.” If you really want to protect the local state, you really have to look what’s going on in the rest of the world.

It’s not only American’s trying to open their own minds, it’s other people trying to see behind what’s at the surface. Americans are real human beings struggling to make sense of their lives, they have a lot of sorrow, and yet they keep on moving. In the book: “ Altair…” I am trying to bring this sense of mutuality together.

DH: In your poem from “Altair…” “They Will Rise,” you write: “… the body of Europe,/ but an elongation/ of the body of Africa…. Some deep mystery sprung/ from the soil of this Africa/ & the mystery is not done.” Do you believe Africa will rise from a third world continent to a major player in world affairs? What’s its mystery?

IM: I believe Africa has ancient wisdom. It’s an elder continent. I don’t see the buffoonery of Idi Amin, but I see the Africa of Mandela. There is another side of the continent that has to do with its rich culture, not just its suffering. There is a sense that we all carry that DNA from Eve who walked the grounds of Africa. The body of Europe is then an elongation of Africa.

DH: You like to play with words. In your poem “Hubble…” you describe neutrinos like they are funnily shaped pasta in alphabet soup, or the fact that “white instruments,” often search for “Black Holes”

IM: I am fascinated by the immensity of the night sky. All these wars, they are little, petty battles, like little chickens battling in the backyard, in comparison. I am fascinated by the mystery of the universe—the mystery of matter. Nature is so strange and mysterious that it becomes an inspiration for my work.

DH: In any good work there is a musicality, a particular cadence, inherent in it. Where does yours come from?

IM: My mother used to sing to me as a child. I think as you grow up, you pick these things up. The music of the African languages comes through. Each language has its own music. It is the sound of humanity. It is good to know music in language is not encased in locality, but has huge world wide content.

DH: In your own experience have you experienced poetry as a cohesive or healing force in society?

IM: I believe it has the power to do that. Poetry should not be used to beat up on the other guy, but to explore our common humanity. It comes from our common connection.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I sent my 6 nominations in for the Pushcart Prize from Issue 17 of "Ibbetson Street" So feel free to say in your bios you were nominated for a Pushcart! Best--Doug Holder

"Michelangelo" Doug Worth
"A Cup of Time" Harris Gardner
" Notes From Years of Journal Entries" Robert K. Johnson
"Rosary" Marc Goldfinger
"Professional Man" Mid Walsh
" Hearing Voices" Linda Haviland Conte

Monday, October 24, 2005

Please join us Saturdays at 9AM at "Finagle-A-Bagel" basement in Harvard Sq and talk, kvetch, joke with fellow poets. Come early, late...we usually hang around till 10:30 or 11.. bring a poem, a newspaper, a significant other, someone you just picked up last night or this morning, a current or ex, an academic or a street urchin...just come! Best-Doug Holder To contact Irene:
with drizzle, constant wet footprints, and the regattaon the charles river; people stumble over each otherto get to where they need to be. my usual morningbagel, had to be postponed for forty-five minutesuntil the crowd waiting in line for coffee and eggbagels, got smaller or thinned out, or just went abouttheir business of watching a bunch of college guys rowin long thin boats on polluted waters. while poorschmucks, like us poets huddle together trying to figureout how to get published. this then is the beginningof an autumn dilemma and the on going soap opera offinding ways to get poems printed, so the public canread our wondrous juxtaposition of thoughts. i tooknotes on how and what to send to where and who. first,it was suggested to send out to at least fortydifferent places, poems in three or four sets of thesame poems. second, don't worry about simultaneoussubmissions. i question this but i probably won't dowhat i'm told or take any of the suggestions since ino longer care if the new yorker or whatever big namemagazine who publishes dribble, (excuse me, i meangreat poetry.) third, make sure you hand write theaddress on the envelope. i like the intimate smallpress releases and they are getting so inundated withsubmissions that its harder to get an acceptance catch the new presses when they first start out,they are more willing to print poems by people they donot know. there are the on line zines, poetry blogs,poetry venues, poetry mugs, shirts, those oblong padsfor your mouse, hats, and next, poetry will be flashedon all dvd discs at the beginning of a movie. maybe wearen't poor schmucks, but the overlooked green poets whofeel certain about their principles. what are a poetsprinciples? that question needs to be answered by youthe writers. i get my bagel; catch words, phrases andmeditate on whether to have cream cheese or butterslabbed on top. (is slabbed with one b or two?)words caught:cranky poetsmove your poetic feet aroundher 20 yr old voiceread this text backwardthe woes and correctness of submitting poemsshe slushed through the slush pilesometimes getting inspiration is as hard as jumpingthrough hoop earrings

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Interview with Judah LeBlang: A Storyteller with a Universal Tale to Tell.

Judah LeBlang is a writer, teacher, storyteller, and a former Somerville resident. In fact he used to have a column with that “other” paper in out fair burg. His stories have been published in “Northern Ohio Live Magazine,” and have been featured on radio. His most recent CD of stories is “Snapshots,” that takes place in his native Cleveland Ohio, and the Boston area where he now resides. His stories explore universal themes: the meaning of names, the trails and travails of being a Jewish gay man, and his mercurial love affair with the Cleveland Indians. He currently works at Lesley University and performs in the area.

Doug Holder: Why have you chosen to work in the medium of storytelling as opposed to poetry?

Judah LeBlang: I don’t differentiate from being a writer and being a storyteller. I think writing, the writing I like, tells a story, has a lot of sensory images and details. It also has a strong sense of place. I have written short fiction that takes place in Cleveland. I feel like when I am thinking of specifics from my life that connect with other people, then I am writing well. I feel that the memoir and the personal essay have the strongest voice. I usually talk about something I experienced, but it usually is something other people can relate to. Even if you are not a Cleveland Indian fan, as a Red Sox fan you know what it is like to suffer. One of the ideas that interests me is the idea that we all have multiple identities. I carry the identity of a Midwesterner even though I have lived here for eighteen years. I have other identities as well. Everyone has a mix. This all informs our voice.

Doug Holder: You do have a good voice. Have you been told this?

Judah LeBlang: I have been told that I have a good voice for radio. Better than being told you have a good face for radio. I have been working on getting some pieces on NPR. There is something to be said about a distinctive voice, and having something to say.

Doug Holder: Most of your stories are about your life. What makes you interesting?

Judah LeBlang: The feedback I am getting from my readings is that people are relating to my specifics. If I was just getting up there and venting about my life, I don’t think that would be interesting. To me great writing is about specifics.

Doug Holder: You talk a lot about getting older in your work.

Judah LeBlang: In my CD “Finding My Place,” I talk about my last name ’Le Blang.” In the old country it means “live long.” It is a little bit of a joke... My father died at 61. Seeing what my father went through with his heart condition I know there are no guarantees. As I grow older I become aware of the preciousness of time, and I want to use it. For me, the writing and storytelling are ways to leave something behind, and impact some people. I think that is a human desire. I think we are wired for storytelling. I want to touch some people through this life.

Doug Holder: Why did you change your name from Bruce to Judah?

Judah LeBlang: Bruce is a Scottish name and there is no Scottish blood in my family. It was an interesting process for me. “Bruce,” carried the story that I carried for 40 plus years, and “Judah,” felt to me like a marker. I didn’t run into a lot of resistance. It wasn’t an intellectual decision, it came from my gut. I feel the name suits me more.

Doug Holder: You had a lot of transitions in your life. You left a good job at Boston University, you left your hometown of Cleveland. Were these transition worthwhile?

Judah LeBlang: When I was in Ohio, I was working in Columbus at the Ohio School for the Deaf. If I knew how hard it would be to adjust to Boston ( it took me 10 years), I might not have had the gumption to do it. But now I have a good life here. I probably wouldn’t be the person I am now if I hadn’t made the move.

When I was at Boston University I was teaching, and I was a career counselor. When I left I spent a year working at a Yoga center. It wasn’t a vacation--it was hard--but I learned a lot. It gave me a broader frame of reference. As you get older you have more material to work with. Up until the time I was 35, other than being gay, I had lived a fairly conventional life. I didn’t realize how many choices were out there. After living “outside of the box,’ my frame of reference became broader. This has helped my writing life. Looking back I am glad I did it. At the time I wasn’t so sure.

Doug Holder: Is it hard to keep an audience’s attention?

Judah LeBlang: I don’t have a lot of formal training. You need material that is engaging. Sometimes I will employ a call and response with the audience. I invite the audience in. Often at the readings I know people in the audience. So it is almost like I have plants, which helps. It’s a matter of putting some energy into that connection. I use my voice and movement.

Doug Holder: You worked with Robert Smyth of Somerville’s “Yellow Moon Press,” a publishing house that specializes in storytelling books. Can you talk a bit about this.

Judah LeBlang: Robert recorded my first CD: “ Finding My Place.” I went into his store, and asked him how I can get my work on the radio. Robert explained to me how the process works. He got me well-prepared.

Doug Holder: Are your stories as good on paper as they are spoken?

Judah LeBlang: I don’t write with the idea of how it sounds. I focus more on the writing. Sometimes I will massage things to get maybe a little more alliteration or rhythm. I want my stories to be as strong on the page as it is vocally.

Doug Holder for more info on Judah go to:

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Hymns and rants
By Clara Silverstein, Globe Correspondent October 19, 2005
If you think poets tramp around with their noses pointed up toward their black berets, then you haven’t read ‘‘Formaggio,’’ by Louise Gluck. The Pulitzer Prize winner and former national poet laureate found inspiration ‘‘in the flats of cherries, clementines’’ at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge. The poem, originally published in The New Yorker, is still posted at the store.

From produce displays to elegant parlors at Harvard, poetry cuts a wide swath through Greater Boston. On any given night, you can find a slam at a cafĂ©, a reading at a bookstore, or any number of adult-ed poetry workshops. ‘‘There is a great need for people to go out and express themselves,’’ says Doug Holder, a Somerville poet who runs the Ibbetson Street Press and organizes readings at the Newton Free Library and other venues. ‘‘There is a free market in poetry here, with a vibrant community on both sides of the river.’’

That free market offers poetry consumers a lot of choices in the coming days and weeks, starting Friday night with a reading by Waltham resident and Pulitzer Prize winner Franz Wright, sponsored by the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge. A longtime gathering spot for poets in Boston, the Grolier is the area’s sole poetry-only bookstore; proprietor Louisa Solano stocks nearly 15,000 volumes. Among them is Wright’s book ‘‘Walking to Martha’s Vineyard,’’ wherein he ponders a variety of existential matters, using an ocean that ‘‘smells like lilacs’’ as a catalyst for the collection’s title poem.

On Sunday, a trio of Boston-area poets share the stage at the Concord Library’s Evening of Poetry. The three address an unusual array of subjects in their recent books: Kevin Young explores the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat in ‘‘To Repel Ghosts,’’ MIT lecturer Erica Funkhouser uses moments of domestic life to reach larger truths in ‘‘Pursuit,’’ and work by Pliny the Elder inspires Dan Chiasson’s ‘‘Natural History.’’ (Chiasson also has a poem called ‘‘Mosaic of a Hare, Corinium’’ in the current New Yorker magazine.) Young reads again Oct. 24 at the Blacksmith House Poetry Series at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, accompanied by Jacquelyn Pope reading from her first collection of poems, ‘‘Watermark.’’

Fans of Allen Ginsberg will want to draw a big pink circle around Nov. 14 on their calendars, which is when Frank Bidart, William Corbett, Gail Mazur, Maureen McLane, David Rivard, Lloyd Schwartz, and Joseph Torra read as part of ‘‘The Poems of Allen Ginsberg’’ at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, another Blacksmith series event.

Ongoing reading series in Boston give other award-winning poets, up-and-comers, and wannabes a chance to be heard. Chapter and Verse, founded 12 years ago by rector and poet Anne Fowler at St. John’s Church in Jamaica Plain, features a mix of neighborhood poets and prose writers, as well as more well-known readers, at its monthly readings; the next event is Nov. 2. The monthly Tapestry of Voices series at Borders bookstore in Boston usually features three to four readers, followed by a freewheeling open mic. (Tapestry of Voices also sponsors the two-day Boston National Poetry Festival each April.) A relative newcomer to the literary scene, the Concord Poetry Center pairs established and emerging poets (often students at local schools and universities) at its occasional Sunday readings. Its next event, slated for Nov. 13, features Steven Cramer and Susan Edwards Richmond, and will introduce Diane Randolph, a graduate of the writing program at Lesley University. !

!Oct. 21 Franz Wright
Harvard University, Adams House, Entry C, 26 Plympton St., Cambridge. 617-547-4648. 8 p.m. Free.!!Oct. 23 An Evening of Poetry with Kevin Young, Erica Funkhouser, and Dan Chiasson
Concord Library, 129 Main St., Concord. 978-318-3347. 7:30 p.m. Free. Part of the Concord Festival of Authors, which runs through Nov. 5.
Oct. 24 Kevin Young and Jacquelyn Pope
Cambridge Center for Adult Education, 56 Brattle St., Harvard Square, Cambridge. 617-547-6789. 8 p.m. Tickets $3.
Nov. 2 Chapter and Verse reading
St. John’s Church, 1 Roanoke Ave., Jamiaca Jamaica Plain. 617-325-8388. 7:30 p.m. Free. Readers include Roslindale poet Peter Bates and the poet Sandee Storey, along with Doug Most, editor of the Boston Globe Magazine.
Nov. 3 Tapestry of Voices reading
Borders bookstore, 10-24 School St., Boston. 617-306-9484. Readings are usually the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m., followed by an open mic at 7:30 p.m. Free. The Nov. 3 reading, a variation on the series’ usual schedule, includes Sarah Getty, Irene Koronas, Preston Hood III, and Lamont Steptoe.
Nov. 13 Steven Cramer, Susan Edwards Richmond, and Diane Randolph!Concord Poetry Center at the Emerson Umbrella, 40 Stow St., Concord. 978-371-0820. 3 p.m. $6, $3 students.!!
Nov. 14 The Poems of Allen Ginsberg
Cambridge Center for Adult Education, 56 Brattle St., Harvard Square, Cambridge. 617-547-6789. 8 p.m. $10, $7 students and seniors. Readers include Frank Bidart, William Corbett, Gail Mazur, Maureen McLane, David Rivard, Lloyd Schwartz, and Joseph Torra. Event benefits the Blacksmith House Poetry Series.!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Interview with The Old Guard: Avant- Garde Artist Aldo Tambellini

by Doug Holder

I first met Aldo Tambelini about five years ago, when we were involved in a group that was putting out a poetry anthology: “City of Poets: 18 Boston Voices.” Tambellini is a poet who has been a longtime political activist, an avant-garde film and video maker, a sculptor, and painter . Tambellini was born in Syracuse, N.Y. 1930, and was taken to Italy to live shortly after. His neighborhood in the Italian village he resided in was bombed during World War ll, and he lost 21 neighbors and friends. In 1946 he returned to Syracuse University to study art, and later got an M.A. in Sculpture from Notre Dame in 1959. After this Tambellini moved to New York City, and founded an artistic group named:" Group Center,” an active counter-culture organization that hosted group exhibits, organized Vietnam War demonstrations, multi-media events, etc... He later founded “The Gate Theatre,” in the East Village of NYC, the only daily public theatre to show alternative, independent films. In the 1960’s he was a pioneer of the “Alternative Video Movement,” and later he went on to teach at the “M.I.T. Center for Advanced Visual Studies.” In 1998 he hosted a poetry venue in Cambridge, Mass. titled “The People’s Poetry,” and he has accrued numerous poetry publication credits over the years. I spoke to him on my Somerville Community Access TV Show, “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”
Tambellini made it clear that the avant-garde of his salad days in the 50’s and 60’s was different from the avant-garde today. In fact Tambellini dismisses the contemporary avant-garde, and told this writer if there was any worthwhile work he wasn’t aware of it. Tambellini, no fan of Lyrical poetry, has a strong belief in art used as a political tool. Tambellini said that part of being a human being is to interact with society, to challenge the “establishment,” and to fight poverty and oppression. Tambellini, who experienced the horrors of World War ll firsthand, uses his art to address his ghosts. Recently he self-published a book of his poetry that consists of a number of his poems published on the website: “Voices in Times of War”
Tambellini, 75, is certainly not from the computer generation, but is profoundly aware of its significance. Tambellini stated: “It is impossible not to work with the computer. It creates a space to communicate with a very large group of people.” And this, according to Tambellini, is what he is about. Communicating. In his early years in New York City he worked at “St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery” bringing as much artwork as possible to the public without dealing with a gallery or dealer. Computer Science and Science in general are important to Tambellini because he feels it reveals the nature of the world. This “nature,” is what Tambellini explores in the mediums of painting, video, sculpture, and poetry.
The themes in his paintings he described as “circular.” He reflected: "We are all tied up to the universe... we are in a circle, in that we are all connected.”
Tambellini said his poetry is written with the intent to read to an audience. Tambellini, feels his poetry is presented at its best when it is spoken, not lying inert on the page.
Tambellini also talked about his years in the alternative video scene. He has always had a fascination with TV. TV, unlike movies, during the pre-video, DVD days, was ubiquitous. With a movie you had to go to a specific theatre in order to view it. TV was in every home, and Tambellini was well aware of its power. When Tambellini was starting out there was no video work, other than the work being done at the major networks. So he was like a dog on a meat truck, when he discovered this nascent art form. He incorporated light , his own voice, test patterns, news clips, and children’s songs, in a sort of abstract video painting. These videos were devoid of narrative or dialogue.
Tambellini said he always used Afro-American poetry and poets in his video work. He is close friends with esteemed Afro-American poets and writers Ishmael Reed and Askia Toure. He feels Afro-American poets reveal the underside of America, and the American Dream. Tambellini said these poets reveal the “reality of America.”
Tambellini continues to stay active, and participates in the “Howl Festival” in New York’s Lower East Side every year, and his videos are being shown at the New England Video Festival in Coolidge Corner this month. Tambellini feels his work keeps him vital, and he wants to remain nothing less. ---Doug Holder