Saturday, February 25, 2006

Interview with poet Sarah Hannah: A Poet within “Longing Distance”

Sarah Hannah is an educator, a poet with a PhD from Columbia University, and a sometimes rock musician. Her poems have appeared in “Barrow Street,” “Parnassus,” “Gulf Coast,” “Crab Orchard Review,” and others. Her original manuscript which became her first poetry collection “Longing Distance,” was a semi-finalist for the “Yale Younger Poets Prize,” in 2002. Anne Dillard describes her collection as: “…an extremely moving work. I’m struck by her intelligence of emotion and her unmistakable voice…Sarah Hannah is a true original.” She currently resides with her husband in Cambridge and teaches at Emerson College in Boston. She was a guest on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: Can you tell us about the “Yale Younger Poets Prize” which “Longing Distance,” was a semi-finalist for?

Sarah Hannah: That was a sort of near miss. That was in 2002. That was the year Tupelo Press accepted my book. I found out I was a runner up by phoning the editor, (not the judge) who was W.S. Merwin. The editor told me he remembered the book, and it was a semi-finalist, and it was a strong book.

Doug Holder: A lot of folks claim a PhD can ruin a poet. You learn how to write academic papers, but you forget how to write poetry. This does not seem to be the case with you.

Sarah Hannah: It ruined me in the sense that while I was writing my dissertation, I felt that I didn’t have time to write poetry. But I think the PhD made me a better poet. It forced me to really study poetry deeply. You have to grapple with ideas that are foreign to you. You read more than just contemporary poets. You learn to become a better writer.

Some people become sidetracked. They go into a PhD program and they emerge as critics not poets. There are more people around than you think that are poets and scholars.

Doug Holder: How did you come up with the title for your collection “Longing Distance?”

Sarah Hannah: I was writing a series of sonnets about a messed up love affair. You know “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” an all those clich├ęs. So I came up with a line while I was in the country watching my husband scale a rock. I thought of the line: “I keep you at longing distance.” I thought it was just going to be another sonnet in the sequence. I wrote the sonnet, but then wound up expunging it from the book. I kept “Longing Distance,’ as the title.

Doug Holder: From our email exchanges I get the impression you haven’t had an easy life.

Sarah Hannah: I lived a hardscrabble life. I’ve seen life disintegrate . I wanted to put back my experiences in more metaphysical or formal terms.

I grew up in Newton, Mass., in the Waban section. A lot of neurosis going on there. I would say seven out of my eight high school friends were bulimic. I was not. My mother was hospitalized at the same “summer hotel” Anne Sexton visited.

Doug Holder: How does your teaching at Emerson College fit with your poetry?

Sarah Hannah: It’s fitting beautifully because I am teaching poetry, as opposed to composition. I am teaching traditional form to graduate and undergraduate students. I teach a hybrid literature and writing course.

Doug Holder: Why did you move from the bright lights and big city of New York to the more provincial environs of Boston?

Sarah Hannah: I am a lover of the underdog. Boston is the underdog to New York. I felt I had to come back. You know: “My end is my beginning, my beginning my end.” I have always missed Boston. I am a loyal person that way. My husband and I purchased a house in Cambridge. It’s right in the Central Square area. It’s a very diverse city. I often write at the ‘1369” Coffee Shop or ‘Grendel’s Den,” in Harvard Square. I feel rooted here.

Doug Holder: How does the lit scene here compare to the “Big Apple?”

Sarah Hannah: There are a lot of readings here like N.Y. I lived in N.Y. for 17 years. It took me 8 years to get “out” there. It seems much faster out here. I have a book though, that makes a difference. I was worried. It took a long time for me to establish myself in New York City. But I didn’t loose my contacts because I maintained my connection to the journal “Barrow Street,” and now I am an editor there.”


Every so often I am dilated; the pupilsSwallow everything—a catchall soup,Two cauldrons, stubborn in the bald glare
Of bathroom light. They are hunting sleep—The sea grass, the blue cot rocking;In sleep I am a Spanish dancer,
Awaiting my cue at the velvet curtain,Now and then groping for the sash,Or on horseback, abducted, thumping
Through pampas. I sleep too much;I curl in at midday, sheepish,In strange rooms. Clouds are hurrying by—
The walls, a wash of white; still my eyesAre mazing through their dark gardens,The great lamp shut, the crescents duplicating.
It is only a temporary state of affairs.The sun boils behind the moon.

Sarah Hannah will be reading at the Newton Free Library Poetry Series March 14 7PM. 330 Homer St. Newton Centre, Mass.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I have had the pleasure to have been published and to have read for Anne Hudson, and her online magazine FACETS. This magazine is based at MIT, and publishes some poetry and fiction. Read more below about FACETS:


P. O. Box 380915Cambridge, MA

On October 13, 2005, Facets celebrated five years of publication with its first reading. The event was sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Artists Behind the Desk and held at MIT’s Stata Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Center is where MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory is located; somehow the whimsical building that is home to computer science seemed a fitting setting for an internet-based literary magazine’s first public event. Eight past Facets contributors from the Boston area read from their work to a rapt audience (Kitty Beer, Maura Greene, Kevin Harvey, Doug Holder, Paul Hostovsky, Karyn Crispo Jones, David Surette, and Tom Sheehan). The poems and stories were artful and relatable, and audience members proclaimed the evening “exhilarating” and “inspirational to say the least.” Honoring all the superb and original work we published in 2005, Facets made six nominations for the Pushcart Prize/The Best of the Small Press: “Silvia and Alfredo,” short story by Maura Greene (April 2005)“In Kansas:,” short story by Aaron Hellem (October 2005)“Road Work,” memoir of Iraq war by Jack Lewis (October 2005)“’Shut Up,’ He Explained,” prose poem by Susan Rawlins (October 2005)“Mercies Found in Light,” poem by Tom F. Sheehan (October 2005)“Cicadas,” poem by Donna Spector (October 2005) As we launch our sixth year, we publish work by one of the editors for the first time, William Routhier’s haunting story, “The Writing Hand.” From the beginning Facets has included graphics. In this issue, we introduce the layered, provocative images of multimedia artist, Ilene Segalove (see “Contents” for links to her images in this issue). One of our regular features is “Writers’ Resources,” where we provide information about writing books, writing workshops, writing advice, writing prizes, literary links, and other things we run across of interest to writers. The recommendation of a writing book comes this time from Kathleen Olesky, a Boston-area writer and workshop leader who uses the methods described in Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider.
Thank you for reading Facets. We hope you enjoy it, visit the site again, and share the link with friends.

Anne M. HudsonPoetry Editor
William RouthierFiction Editor
February 23, 2006
14,600 Moons Ago Once Upon A Time: Written and Lived By Annmarie L. Boudreau. Doug Holder. No. Price.

Somerville school teacher and poet Annmarie L. Boudreau writes in her introduction to her new poetry collection: “14,600 Moons Ago Once Upon A Time…”: “Let me introduce myself. I am a woman, who at 56 is feeling comfortable finally in her size six Dr. Martens. My lessons have all come from entwining passages as a daughter, woman, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, teacher, and soul mate. This collection is a reflection of all that I was before emerging to everything I am.” And indeed the poet’s life, which like ours, is marked by happiness and despair. Boudreau who has so far survived breast and skin cancer writes inspite of her afflictions not because of them.

Before each poem in the book is an essay that introduces the reader to different phases of her life. And since she has worn many hats, the poems are a varied bunch. Here is a poem about the “sounds of silence,” that is a favorite of her elementary school charges titled: “Awkward Silence:” “I don’t like awkward silence/ imminent silent void, / cliff hanging inside limbo, / suffocating anticipation, dwelling/ exaggerated soundless noise/
Piercing through my ears.”

And here is an endearing portrait of her grandmother when the poet was playing the role of a grandchild: “Long row of fresh ravioli dough diligently stretched across her white laced sheets placed on her bed/ Angelic ballets flowing from her soul and passing through her lips as she sings her favorite operatic songs.”

There are poems about divorce, her children, and her emergent feminism, to touch on a few. I think many women, and even us men from Mars, can take much from this first collection of poetry by Annmarie Boudreau.

Doug Holder /Ibbetson Update/ Feb. 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

Somerville Poet Gloria Mindock: Pressing the Cervena Barva Press

Somerville, Mass. publisher and poet Gloria Mindock and I met in the basement of “Finagle-a-Bagel” in Harvard Square one Saturday morning. We were part of a group of animated “Bagel Bards” that meets there every weekend to break bread, or in this case bagels, and to dish the dirt about poetry and the “scene.” I had the chance to speak privately with Mindock after the meeting. I wanted to find out what makes this Somerville small press figure tick.

Mindock’s experience in small press publishing goes way back to 1984 when she was co-editor of the “Boston Literary Review,” that was founded in Somerville. The magazine was based on Hawthorne St. in West Somerville to be exact. It lasted until 1994. The magazine published such poets as: Catherine Sassanov, Carl Phillips, Marc Fleckenstein and others.

Mindock is an eclectic artist, and was also involved in a theatre company in Somerville, and many other projects over the years. However she describes herself as primarily a poet. Mindock, whose poetry collection “Oh Angel,” was recently released by a small press, told me: “ I am more of a poet. I studied theatre, but I feel I can express myself more clearly as a poet.” Mindock explained that she writes about death, politics and the way: “man destroys man, and the atrocities governments commit for power, greed and money…

Many poets have inspired Mindock. She cites Neruda as the strongest influence on her work.

Mindock was out of the publishing game for awhile, but now has come back full force with the” Cervena Barva Press,” which means the “Red,” press in Czech. Mindock is fascinated by Eastern Europe, and especially Prague, hence the name.

The press, founded in her Somerville home on Highland Ave., with her partner Bill, produces full-length poetry books and chapbooks, and now has a poetry postcard series, that combines poetry and art, and has published such poets as: Ed Cates, Simon Perchick, Barry Casselman, Roberta Swann and others.

Mindock funds her press from her own money. She wants full control, to be her “own woman,” as she describes it. She has learned over the years to be more assertive, and not to take the “crap” the world often throws at you.

Mindock accepts poetry that she likes without regard to poets’ past publishing history, degrees, etc… She is open to submissions, and is dedicated to providing a venue for emerging poets as well as established ones.

Mindock along with “sunny outside,” “Ibbetson Street,” and other presses contribute to the rich literary milieu we have in the “Ville.
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Somerville, Mass./ Feb. 2006

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Reviews of Ibbetson Street 18, Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! and Poem for the Little Book by The Blindman's Rainbow : A Journal of Poetry and Art.

Ibbetson 18
Review by Melody Sherosky

"I greatly enjoyed the cover art (both front and back) done by Gene Smith." "The poetry is great. I enjoyed the two-page poem," The Cat Who Could Open Doors ( for Jeremiah)," by Marc Goldfinger, "Self-Portrait"by Gale L. Roby, and "Lingering" by Ann Murphy "Fletcher." "I found that Lyln Clague's discussion of the personal in poetry took center stage in this issue. The essay is titled "Poetry and the Larger Public," and I was intrigued by Clague's views on where the individual is in his own writing." You can purchase an issue of Ibbetson Street for 5 bucks Ibbetson Street 25 School St. Somerville, Mass.

Poem for the Little Book by Tomas O'Leary "...a very solid...poetry form peeks through..." $2 Ibbetson Street Press

Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! by Ann Carhart "This is a lovely collection of mostly relationship poetry...with only a few exceptions, work well individually." $6 Ibbetson Street Press

Doug Holder