Friday, October 07, 2005

Review of Lo Galluccio’s HOT RAIN Singing Bone Press, Ibbetson Street Press 2004 $5.

Having heard of Lo Galluccio for some time as I frequent the Boston-Cambridge poetry venues, I had the good fortune to hear her read poems at a recent feature at Emack and Bolio’s in Roslindale, MA. I should preface these comments on that reading and her recently published chapbook, HOT RAIN (Ibbetson Street Press) with the fact that I am a tough critic to please. I’ve been doing my own poetry readings and attending nationally and locally known poetry readings on and off for 30 years now, having lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Boston, MA. I’ve heard many “pretenders to the throne” of poetry and music, along with some very good academic and street poets. Lo Galluccio is an original and striking voice, based both on the quality of her work and her lyrically pleasing performance style. Her work is an interesting amalgam of the psychological, mythical and musical. Its content is entertaining and challenging at the same time, weaving in toughness and surrealism.

HOT RAIN is a musical and sustained piece of work. In her Acknowledgments, Lo writes “These poems are about love, loss, identity and just the language out of which they are made.” This is accurate but also an understatement. For Lo Galluccio’s best work is earthy, vivid, painful and haunting. Her style is marked by interesting use of conventional poetic devices like internal rhyme, alliteration, the use of refrain, lending to a distinctive, lyrical style. Her voice is sometimes nonsensical, almost like Dame Edith Sitwell on acid! She makes playful use of rhyming preconscious language in wordplay poems like “The Sweat of His Labor”’s lines: “A mermaid is caught./A mermaid is not.”
The poems occasionally echo poets from another century, while making the subject matter and voice her own:

“The heart pounds in every mask.
Desire burns to ashes of wisdom.
That is passion’s task.” (from “Virtue’s Tongue”)

There’s an oddly medieval tone sometimes from witchcraft, notable in recurrent words like crossbow, flintlock, repeated interest in Puritans, Hansel and Gretel, black bras and rainy days. One of the most interesting aspects of her work in HOT RAIN is how she manages to mix the Catholic/Christian with the pagan in poems like “No Matter What that God Judges”, one of my favorite in this collection:

“And there’s a Godfather looking down saying
That one, if left alone, will find her way to me.
But there is also an Earth Mother looking up
Within me, humming – she hums gorgeously –
No matter what that God judges she or me to be.
We string our necklaces and wash our hair.”

In the poem, “Being Visited”, there’s a kaleidoscope created, containing twists of shifting color, familiar and often violent images of death (bullets, caskets, cancer). There’s the suggestion of living on the edge, quickly scuttling across spiritual underlayers of damaged faith, challenged by being offered a ticket to ride more comfortably in an urban limousine.

In HOT RAIN, Lo Galluccio’s best work combines the eloquent and passionate with a fair amount of discipline. To my mind, this would include the following poems: “No Matter What that God Judges”, “Sarasota I”, “Sarasota IV”, “3 AM Hudson Street”, “The Dream of Life”, and “The Spectre of Guilt”. In all of these poems, fresh diction, highly original imagery, and poetic “shape” predominate. There’s a wide range of feelings explored from the sensual to the angry and cheated “child of ghosts” in “The Dream of Life”. There’s eloquence with mystery and a knack at seeing ghosts in the wallpaper of ordinary rooms (see “The Spectre of Guilt”). When she writes with
tenderness in the two elegies for her dead father, Anthony (“Sarasota I” and “Sarasota IV”), she’s at her best in lines like these:

“I wept into granite to raise you.
Did you drink? Has God
Swallowed like gumdrops your oracle eyes?
Did the morphine blind you like Oedipus?
When will we say our good-byes.”

HOT RAIN is a very good body of work and deserving of a careful reading. There is a lot of energy here, of sense and spirit, a strong sense of place and haunting shadows. It’s a book of poems written by a woman who’s lived, loved, lost and who continues to have a sense of wonder, the wellspring of creativity. In the future, I would like to see her work with historical themes, perhaps use increased narrative diction and move forward from the autobiographical to a larger canvas. I recommend this chapbook and encourage all to attend her next poetry reading in Boston or wherever she roams.

--Carolyn Gregory

Thursday, October 06, 2005

PAUSING FOR POETRY (Boston Globe-- Denise Taylor- -Oct 6, 2005)

Call him the pied piper of poets. If Doug Holder isn't busy publishing poets via his Ibbetson Street Press or sharing new finds through newspaper stories or on cable TV, he's running readings, planning slams, organizing writers' festivals, helping patients at McLean Hospital write verse, or editing Poesy magazine.

With his fingers in so many poetry pots, Holder, 50, knows who is writing what and, when he spies talent, he makes sure that voice is heard. Next week, the Somerville-based poet will present three of his picks at the monthly Newton Free Library poetry series, which he took over in 2002. Reading will be Dick Lourie of Somerville, Laurie Rosenblatt of Brookline, and Clara Silverstein of Newton.Lourie impressed Holder with the musicality of his verse. ''He also writes poems about his father that deal with the yin and the yang of relationships with one's father -- the forgiving, the letting go, the getting closer. That really hit a chord with me," said Holder, adding that he also enjoys Lourie's poems about growing up Jewish.

Lourie is noted in poetry circles. He cofounded Hanging Loose Press, which launched many a poet, including Sherman Alexie, popularly known for the film ''Smoke Signals." But Rosenblatt, by day a psychiatrist working with cancer patients, is one of Holder's recent finds.
''She has not had much exposure but she's a very interesting writer," Holder said. ''She writes with an economy of words. Each word is very charged and full of meaning and there's no excess language. She brings a lot of her work and the issues of life and death into her poetry."

Silverstein, an author and food writer for the Boston Herald, caught Holder's attention with her culinary imagery. ''I've had a fascination with food. I believe it can be very evocative -- the smells, the tastes -- and I find that very interesting in her."

More important, all three write poems that perform what Holder sees as an essential service. ''Good poetry freezes a moment in time. It lets you examine it and reflect and maybe notice some beauty in the banality of every day. When we rush to the subway or sit at the computer, we might not notice how the light is striking the window, some plant, your child, your cat -- the beauty of that."

The three poets will read at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Newton Free Library, 330 Homer St . An open-mike session follows. Admission is free. Call 617-796-1360 or visit

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Newton Free Library Poetry Series Oct 11 7PM Lourie, Silverstein, and Rosenblatt

Poetry Reading Series Presents Dick Lourie, Clara Silverstein and Laurie Rosenblatt & Open Mike

The Library's Poetry Reading Series, coordinated by Doug Holder, continues with readings by Dick Lourie, Laura Rosenblatt and Clara Silverstein on Tuesday, Oct 11, at 7:00PM, followed by an Open Mike with a limit of one poem per reader.Lourie is a long-time editor for Hanging Loose Press whose own poetry has appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Massachusetts Review, Verse and other publications. He has released a spoken word and music CD, “Ghost Radio Blues.” Rosenblatt’s poems have been published in such journals as Academic Medicine, Ibbetson Street, Poesy and Bellevue Literary Review. She is a psychiatrist practicing at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and teaches at Harvard Medical School. Silverstein is a food writer for the Boston Herald and author of the book White Girl: A Story of School Desegregation. Her poetry has appeared in the Comstock Review, Patterson Literary Review, Anthology of New England Writers and other publications.The next reading will be held on November 8. The series is coordinated by Doug Holder.



During a performance of “Jimmy Tingle’s American Dream,” at Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theatre in Davis Square, Somerville, my wife said to me: “He tells it exactly the way I would want to say it.” And so he does. Jimmy Tingle is a master of the vernacular. With his salt-of-the-earth, blue collar, accent and demeanor; he is able to lay his cards out on the table, just like an old drinking buddy in some dark corner of the Burren Pub. Obviously Tingle is a man -of -the people. Listening to the audience before the show, I overheard snippets of conversations about the “Boston Red Sox,” 9th grade girlfriends, the ‘kids,” etc ... This is exactly what Tingle uses in his humorous performance.... and more.
In any Jimmy Tingle performance that I have seen there is a generous dose of levity, but there is always the subtext of a serious political agenda. Most of the show has the crowd in stitches, but at times the lights lower, and Tingle in a deadpan, addresses issues that are close to his heart. He rails against what he perceives as the hypocrisy of Bush, the duplicity of the Church, and the horror and stupidity of the Iraqi War.
Skillfully directed by Larry Arrick, an accomplished man who has directed Tingle on his “60 Minutes ll,” stint, as well as the direction of over 100 productions on Broadway and around-the-world; Tingle uses the elusive concept of “The American Dream,” as a springboard for his comic riffs. He takes on the myth of Christopher Columbus, and then the Vikings, who he said left the New World when they couldn’t get a resident parking sticker. Tingle talked about cutting his teeth at the Chinese eatery/ Comedy club the “Ding-Ho” back in the 80’s. Tingle recalled he had his own “American Dream” back then, albeit a much more modest one than his colleagues: “I saw myself in Davis Square, in a basement, next to a T stop.” Tingle said once he became an owner of his own theater the “Kennedy” side of his brain and the “Romney” side of his brain came into constant conflict. When deciding about health benefits for his employees, the Kennedy side of his brain was naturally supportive, while the Romney side said: “ Screw-em. Let them get their own health insurance.” Tingle a Roman Catholic, took a shot at the Church; concerning their move to ban all Gay priests. With an elfin twinkle in his blue eyes, he stated: “It will sort of the thin the herd, won’t it, father?”
In the second half of the show Tingle had a short Q and A with the audience. At the end of the performance, the lights dimmed again, and Tingle examined the horrible irony of the Iraqi War. Why is it he asked do we count our own dead, but not the Iraqis? When Tingle ended the show there was a profound silence. Tingle brings his flock on manic laughing highs, but at the same time probes the depths, in this accomplished one-man show.
Doug Holder/ “The Somerville News”
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