Thursday, October 05, 2006

Grief. Poems by Donald Lev. (A Bard Press Chapbook/ Ten Players Inc. 393 Saint Pauls Ave. Staten Island, NY 10304) $12.

Like my good friend Ed Galing, Donald Lev lost his creative and life partner Enid Dame. Lev has produced a collection of poetry in memory of her, and the pain he feels in her absence.

Donald Lev, who I had the pleasure to meet at the “Poet’s House” poetry month celebration in NYC in April 2006, is a small press character of the highest order. Born in NYC, he worked in the wire rooms of the “Daily News,” and “The New York Times,” and later drove a cab for twenty years. Later he worked at and contributed poetry to the “Village Voice,” and operated a bookstore on the Lower East Side of NYC. He had a brief underground acting career, appearing in the movie “Putney Swope.” (1969)
In 1979 he founded the well-known literary tabloid the “Home Planet News” with his partner Enid Dame.

The poems in “Grief” make it viscerally evident of the poet’s love for his dearly departed. These poems have nothing that you would find in Hallmark card verse. They are a call from the living wounded; honest and unreserved. In the poem “Another Day,” the everyday is elevated to the high holy:

“… I am here
to celebrate existence, say that it is
good then go on to another day when
one hopes one’s beautiful old long
haired cat does not die, when one’s
wife’s terrible disease does not hasten
on its destructive path but stops along
the way to perhaps atone? And one’s
own deserved agonies take a holiday.
A lovely day to contemplate. A Disney
day with happy animals and birds at
play. A child’s day.”

In “No Exit Ever,” a poem dedicated to Philip Levine, Lev takes on the ironic sensibility of the posturing existentialists; when confronting the cold slap of the death of a partner:

“Hell isn’t other people, it is also no other people.
Jean Paul Sartre and his cool ilk
fabricated an existential hero alone
in glacial subterranea
making cool decisions…

I wished myself a happy (don’t laugh)
69th birthday at a bar with gibsons and
steak sandwich. Only my second in the last
27 I was not across a table from the one
other person that had been my heaven.
Cool existentialist poet that I was I
guess I gave little inkling on paper all those years
on how it really was”

After reading this chap you might look at your partner and give him or her a hug…like it could be your very last.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Cheryl Perreault: A Poet with many stories to tell.

Cheryl Perreault stopped writing creatively after high school. Years later after earning her PhD in Psychology and starting a family, she found herself gravitating back towards writing. Since this rediscovery she has teamed up with guitarist Steve Rapson, to present her poetry, music and storytelling at many venues throughout the area. Perreault, who has a poetry column with a local Hopkinton newspaper, also works with Hospice and Alzheimer patients through the mediums of poetry, storytelling and song. Perreault has a CD available online, that she produced with Steve Rapson: “On ants, Sandwiches and the Meaning of it All.”

Doug Holder: You describe yourself as a “spoken word artist,” as well as a poet. What, if any, is the difference between the two?

Cheryl Perreault: Well let’s see. A spoken word artist. It’s the fusion of poetry and storytelling. Some of the pieces I share are humorous; some are rather brief. I typically share at open mics coffeehouses, and concert venues. I am preferably accompanied by music. So there is music, storytelling, and poetry combined.

DH: What is poetic storytelling?

CP: Poetic storytelling is more of a personal definition of what I do. I have participated in storytelling open mics and I feel a connection to that world as well—a world where performance is involved. I include reading with rhythm, and music.

DH: What attracts you to storytelling?

CP: The oral tradition. I grew up with storytelling. My grandmothers and my great grandmothers told stories. I have been interested in stories all of my life. I have been a psychologist and I interviewed both parents and children. More recently I have worked with hospice patients, and I have helped them tell their life stories.

DH: What can storytelling do for a child, hospice patient, and even an Alzheimer’s patient?

CP: It brings awareness to different experiences. It might send messages; promote different ways of thinking of things. It is a way of connecting, and opening up to one another.

DH: You work with a guitarist, Steve Rapson. Is music an enhancement or is it an integral part of your work?

CP: I prefer to have it as a part of my work whenever possible. It transfers the poetry into a spoken song lyric, as well as storytelling.

DH: Like me; you have a poetry column in your local newspaper. Do you find a newspaper a good way to spread the word about poetry?

CP: I hope so. It reaches a different type of audience; different ages and groups. My column usually deals with a local poet, and their story.

DH: You work with clients in a hospice. You are around death constantly. Does death frighten you?

CP: Sure. I am human. But I know it is part of our life cycle. Loss, death and dying. The final stage is important, but it is hidden under our carpet in our society; or resisted; or not considered important. A lot of people have a very unpleasant end of life—when it should be a natural part of the cycle.

DH: How much material do you use from your work as a therapist, hospice worker, etc…?

CP: 50%. I started writing again 7 years ago. I am still focused on raising a family. So I don’t go looking for material. I wait for it to come. This past year a friend of mine suggested we have a Friday morning sharing time where we pick a subject and put 10 minutes aside to write about it. I’ve written a lot of poetry because of this idea. I am grateful for that.

For more info about Cheryl go to: