Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mark Pawlak is a longtime editor of the respected small press “Hanging Loose,” , and the author of the poetry collection “Official Versions.”
His poetry and prose have appeared in The Best American Poetry 2006 (Billy Collins, ed.), New American Writing, Off the Coast, Pemmican, and The Saint Ann’s Review, among other places. In addition, he is editor of four anthologies, most recently, Present/Tense: Poets in the World, a collection of contemporary American political poetry, featuring work from some of the country’s best-known writers. Pawlak is Director of Academic Support Programs at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he also teaches mathematics. He has been the recipient of two Massachusetts Artist Fellowship awards. He lives in Cambridge with his wife and his teenage son. Mark was a guest on my Somerville Community Access TV show: “Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: Marc, you have been at Hanging Loose Press for some twenty-six years. Tell me a bit about the press and your involvement.

Mark Pawlak: Forty years ago Hanging Loose was literally loose sheets of paper inside of an envelope with a cover on it. It literally hung loose. We used to advertise that if you wanted to edit the magazine, you could throw the pages you don’t like in the garbage, and the ones you like you can tack on the wall. Over the years it has evolved to perfect bound.

Doug Holder: What is your press run?

Mark Pawlak: 1500.

Doug Holder: How did you get involved with Hanging Loose?

Mark Pawlak: I got involved through the poet Denise Levertov. She was a contributing editor. She taught a poetry class at MIT, when I was a student. She published a supplement to issue No. 12 in 1970 that included her students’ work. That’s how I was introduced to “Hanging Loose,” through her. Subsequently, I met Ron Schreiber, another of the founding editors, at U/Mass. Later the editors invited me to join them, when on member stepped down.

Doug Holder: This is the 40th Anniversary of Hanging Loose. What keeps the press together?

Mark Pawlak: This year is our 40th. Many small presses are one person operations, and it is a labor of love. We have four different people editing Hanging Loose so when one of us is ill or doesn’t have the energy, we just pick up the slack. That has helped us through the difficult years. Presses with only one or two people might have folded.

Doug Holder: You say this is a labor of love. You don’t make much or any money from your efforts. What keeps you keeping on?

Mark Pawlak: I am a “holy fool.” It has become a community of writers for me. There are people I have never actually met who I consider dear friends. It does distract me from my own work. It took me three years to complete “Official Versions.” The press distracted me.

Doug Holder: You teach math at U/Mass/Boston. How does this fit with the art of writing poetry?

Mark Pawlak: It does and it doesn’t. It does in the sense of the esthetic of math—getting to the solution, much like knowing you finished a poem. There is a formal precision in poetry and math.

I was a math geek as a kid. I did read some poetry on my own. I discovered Whitman one summer and fell in love with him. I am from Buffalo, NY—a really provincial, working class place. I wasn’t until I encountered Denise Levertov at MIT; during my final year at college did I try my hand at poetry.

Doug Holder: I know I use the newspapers as fodder for my poetry. How about you?

Mark Pawlak: I read The Boston Globe and The New York Times. I pick up the METRO on the train, and if I am really bored I read The Boston Herald. I am always foraging. The language, human interest stories interest me, as well as the political pronouncements of the government, all sources of my poetry. I also have used Billboard’s Best Song titles. I did a poem that involved Hallmark greeting card clich├ęs. I am interested in language out in the world and how it is used and abused.

Doug Holder: It has been said that your poetry cuts through “political doubletalk.” Do you consider yourself a political poet?

Mark Pawlak: I do. In the sense I want to empower people to think critically how language is used. I would like them to understand the disinformation of the headlines. I want to speak plainly.

Doug Holder: Some people say that political poetry is no more than polemic disguised as poetry..

Mark Pawlak: It certainly can be. Political poetry has been accused of being too much of the moment. But what’s more permanent than war, oppression and injustice?

Doug Holder: I characterized you as a “lyrical junkman,” in that you sort of forage through newspapers, ephemera, etc… for words and phrases to flesh out a poem. Is this fair?

Mark Pawlak: Poetry can be conservative. I want to take what’s around me—basic language, and put it together in informative ways.

Doug Holder: Is being an editor drudgery?

Mark Pawlak: It can be drudgery. As you get more practice, you are able to read a few lines—by the energy and language—you can decide where a poem is going or not going. So you can minimize drudgery. There is always the excitement of finding unexpected things. It happens a lot. The thing I am most proud about is that we have a special section in our magazine for high school writers. They are not jaded. High school students are very open to experience and language.

Doug Holder: Is it necessary to have a higher education to be a poet?

Mark Pawlak: You have to be able to read and read deeply. I don’t think a PhD is necessary. Denise Levertov said that poets who became grad. students needed a number of years to shed their skins to get back to their “work.”

Doug Holder

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Eric Greinke

Up North. Harry Smith. Eric Greinke. ( Presa S Press ) $6

Presa Press has released a chapbook of poetry by Harry Smith and Eric Greinke. Harry Smith is well-known in small press circles as publisher of "The Smith," and a founding member of COSMEP, ( a seminal small press organization). Eric Greinke was the publisher of "Pilot Press Books" in the 70's, and recently founded the Presa Press. Both Smith and Greinke choose the territory of northern/rural/wilderness environs to set their poems. In Smith's case it is Maine, and in Greinke's Northern Michigan. Being a dyed-in-the wool city boy, with a need for the smell of asphalt to keep me honest, I approached the work with trepidation. But these two poets welcome the inspiration, respite and solace the hinterlands seem to offer. In Smith's poem "Paths." the reader gleans something about the journey of life from a wilderness trail:

" When I was young, I made my paths...
I saw my paths as metaphors
for all my art and thought, and now
the forest and the bog reclaim my toil
I keep no trails; I blunder on
through thickets green beyond conclusion."

Greinke's poem "Green Wood," is sort of a "This Old House Poem." The house at first is made from unformed green wood, and later becomes something more solid. In this poem we learn about the life of a house, but more importantly the man:

"The wood was swollen,
Heavy and green
Sap bubbled
Around the spikes
As I drove them in.

I burned through
Two sabre-saws
cured through
The wet, green wood.
A year later
When it cleared,
It was so hard & dark
That no nail could penetrate."

Hey... if you ain't out of the woods yet, you will be well-served by these two trail blazing poets.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Monday, May 15, 2006

For Immediate ReleaseLiterature:

New Issues ReleaseMay, 2006Mary Curtin, Events Coordinator, 617-241-9664, 617-470-5867 (cell), marycurtin@comcast.netPeter Coyle, Store Manager, 617-629-4840, info@mcintyreandmoore.comDoug Holder, Ibbetson St. Press, 617-628-2313, dougholder@post.harvard.eduMcIntyre & Moore Booksellershosts theIbbetson Street PressIssue No.19Reading and CelebrationSaturday, June 10, 3:00 pm(Somerville, MA) McIntyre & Moore Booksellers hosts the Ibbetson Street Press: Issue No.19 Reading and Celebration. Saturday, June 10, 3:00 pm at McIntyre & Moore Booksellers, 255 Elm St. in Davis Square, Somerville, near the Red Line. Free and open to all, with an open read and reception following; wheelchair accessible. 15% book discount* for all those attending [*discount available for day of event only]. For information call McIntyre & Moore Booksellers (617) 629-4840 or log onto's Independent Poetry Press, the IBBETSON STREET PRESS, will have a poetry reading in celebration of its recent release Issue No.19. Featured readers include Doug Holder, Marc Goldfinger, Lainie Senechal, Steve Glines, Robert K. Johnson, Dorian Brooks, and others. The Ibbetson Street Press has published award-winning books of local and national writers for about eight years. Recent issues of IBBETSON STREET were picks of the month by the Small Press Review.Founded by Doug Holder (, along with Dianne Robitaille and Richard Wilhelm, the press is dedicated to publishing poets from all walks of life. Poets such as Lyn Lifshin, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, X .J. Kennedy, Jack Powers, Diana Der-Hovanessian, Hugh Fox, and historian Howard Zinn have praised Ibbetson's books. Each issue of IBBETSON STREET has a large sampling of local poets. For further information on the press, see AND PRESENT CONTRIBUTORS INVITED TO READ!McIntyre & Moore Booksellerswww.mcintyreandmoore.comOn the Red Line, in the heart of Davis SquareGreater Boston's best source for scholarly used booksOpen for browsing 7 days a week until 11 pm###--submitted by marycurtinproductionsc/o Mary CurtinPO Box 290703, Charlestown, MA 02129617-241-9664, 617-470-5867

(cell),"dedicated to staging insightful entertainment, particularly in non-traditional venues"

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Way, Way, Off The Road." by Hugh Fox edited by Steve Glines
(Ibbetson Street Press-2006)

To order go to:


Several years ago the “Ibbetson Street Press,” publisheda Hugh Fox poetry collection: “Angel of Death.” I had neveractually met Fox in the flesh, but I was aware of his substantialcontributions to the small press over the past 40 years. Foxwas a founding member of the “Pushcart Prize,” a foundingboard member of COSMEP, (a seminal small press organization),edited the groundbreaking anthology “The Living Underground,”to name just a few achievements.One day, in my apartment on Ibbetson Street, inSomerville, Mass., I was just about asleep when I heard mydoorbell ring. I went to answer it and this man of a “certainage,” with long gray hair sprouting from the sides of his capand a heavy Bronx-like accent said: “ Hi Doug, what do ya’have in there, a Blonde?” I said: “Well my wife is here, she’ssort of blondish.” I asked him in but I guess he sensed I was inno condition for company. He declined and promptly took acab back to his hotel.Since then I have had the opportunity to meet him on acouple of occasions. Fox is full of anecdotes about many of thestumblebums, poets, poseurs, players, publishers, editors, withall their infinite variety, on the small press scene. I am glad thismanuscript has seen the light of day. And when you read ithopefully you will see the ‘”light” too.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Street Press

Dick Lourie Brings The Blues to the “News”

Somerville poet, publisher and Blues musician Dick Lourie, is a man who is never without a project. Currently he is working on a collection of poetry: “Overdue At The Crossroad,” that deals with the vibrant Blues community in Clarksdale, Mississippi, that Lourie visits frequently. Lourie talked to the “News” staff at our regular contributors meeting. Although Lourie has been a Somerville resident since 1981, he feels equally at home in Clarksdale. Clarksdale, although much smaller than Somerville, is similar, in that it has a large and vibrant population of musicians. Deep in the south, Clarksdale has an unusual degree of sophistication because according to Lourie, “Many international visitors pass through for the Blues Festival and the plethora of blues clubs.” Lourie said he has an “obsession,” with the town, and has become friends with many of the accomplished musicians and singers who reside in this burg. He hopes to have the poetry book out next year, and is currently soliciting a number of University presses.

Meanwhile Lourie remains active in a Doo-Wop group, and performs regularly with “Weeping Willy”, a Blues musician in the Boston area. Currently, Lourie and his wife Abbey Friedman (a documentary filmmaker) are working on a film documenting a Boston-based Afro-American singing group the “G-Clefs.” This group has been performing together for well-over 40 years, in such venues as the “Apollo Theatre,” in Harlem, to name one.

Lourie, who considers himself a poet first, and a musician a close second, told the “News” reporters that he continues to be intimately involved with the “Hanging Loose Press” that is based in Brooklyn, NY, with former Somerville resident Mark Pawlak and others. Lourie has several poetry books to his credit, most recently: “Ghost Radio Blues” that brags an accompanying CD.

Lourie, who played his 60 year old sax at the end of the meeting, said that his poems are often related to the 12 bar Blues form. Lourie said that poetry and music have always been related. Their separation has only been a relatively recent development in modern cultural history. Lourie, ever the iconoclast, ended the meeting with an unexpected remark: “I realized I was never going to make a living in music, so I went into poetry.” Spoken like a true artist!

Doug Holder