Monday, October 23, 2006

The Confidence Man. Poems by Michael R. Brown. (Ragged Sky Press 270 Griggs Drive Princeton, NJ 08540) $10.

Michael Brown, the resident graybeard of the Boston-area poetry scene has a new collection of verse out: “The Confidence Man.” Brown’s poetry is an interesting mix of jaded wit, irony, and world-weariness. The last poem in the collection: “Jon Shea and Teaching,” made me pause because Shea was the founder of the “South Boston Literary Review,”, and the short-lived “Journal of Modern Literature.” Shea died a couple of years ago at the still fairly tender age of 48. Brown resurrects Shea so he can reflect on his own years of teaching, which he reveals is even more important to him than his writing. In the answer to a question from the always offbeat and colorful Shea, Brown riffs on the classroom, and takes a poetic poke at some posturing colleagues:

“It’s like I told him when he asked earlier about teaching and
writing. If I had to give up one, I’d give up writing. Just like
today, I got some student evaluations for my classes last
semester. They have about thirty questions like,” Is prepared for class” and they score one to five. In each set I get one four and all the rest are all fives.

I thank my supervisor for taking all the bad ones before
he gives them to me, and he thinks he’s a good teacher and I’m a wise-ass. I go to the teacher’s lounge and say it’s time to write
my thank-you note to the registrar. Some of those teachers
have been there 25 years and never get good students. I get
them all the time. (85)’

In an excellent poem “BJ’s Poetry Store” Brown takes a swing at the use of prepackaged or clich├ęd language in the poetry world. He imagines a discount store, where the merchandise is second hand language for bards:

“ …But this BJ shit has me worried.
Big white sheets of paper announce in blue block letters—
rural American figures of speech/
$5 a dozen/6 dozen minimum,
tough urban images/ 2 for a dollar/ boxes of 10.
Inside, the aisles are littered with case-sized lots
of canned poetry pieces; frozen iambic pentameters
are stacked high in Styrofoam trays;
and anyone can afford them.
Soon open readings will be endless,
and the only real poetry will be the conversations
of those who won’t buy language,
and say nothing while everyone else reads.” (200

Brown’s range is wide and he takes in everything from the sculptor Alexander Calder, to the image of the actor Johnny Weissmuller (“Tarzan”) at the pool at a very pedestrian Motel 6.
Brown offers a thoughtful and engaging read. Recommended.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Somerville, Mass. /Oct. 2006

LUMMOX JOURNAL: An Interview with Raindog: The Final Issues.

with Doug Holder

The "Lummox Journal" founded by R.D. Armstrong ( "Raindog") has been a respected, controversial, and quality literary journal for the past 11 years. I have had the pleasure to be published in it a couple of times, and have subscribed to it in the past. "Lummox" has had a great series of interviews with artists and poets, as well as some memorable all-poetry issues. Most small press magazines fold after a year, but like most of us holy fools in the alternative press R.D. kept plugging away at his labor of love. R.D. has published the next to last issue, and so I decided to interview him about his winning literary enterprise.

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update

Doug Holder: Why are calling it quits?

Raindog: When I started doing this (publishing the Lummox Journal), it was an interesting hobby, but it quickly grew to become a second job. At one point I had nearly two hundred paying subscribers; but after 9/11 (about a year later) the income began to dwindle. So it became a low-paying second job, and now it's a no-paying second job. Basically, I'm ceasing publication of a hard-copy version because it takes more energy to put each issue out, than I seem to have these days. Plus the cost of production and mailing just keeps going up and up, but not the revenue.

DH: What did you set out to accomplish? Did you?

R: Early on I thought that with luck I'd make some money to buy stamps with and send my own writing out. Eventually it became (so I've been told) a forum for literary expression and an outlet for poetry, above and beyond my own (which kind of fell to the wayside). I never imagined it would end up like this.

DH: Most memorable issue?

R: Almost all the issues are great, but some of the All Poetry issues are pretty damn fine. It's hard to say because I'm looking at over 120 issues between Oct. '95 - Oct. '06. It's like trying to decide which of your kids you love the best...

DH: Can you talk about some of the interviews you have conducted and were printed in the magazine?

R: I think I've interviewed nearly a hundred poets, painters, musicians and even a dancer in the LJ. Of course I haven't been able to get the really big poet cats like you guys over at Poesy, but I've done all right. Here are some of the poets and artists that I have interviewed: Linda Albertano, Steve Abee, Gerald Locklin, Mark Weber, Todd Moore (this is how I got to know Todd), Bill Shields, Paul Krasner, Laurel Ann Bogen, Frank Moore, Lyn Lifshin, Scott Wannberg, S. A. Griffin, Michael Ventura, Errol Miller, Charles Plymell, A. D. Winans, Linda Lerner, Tomata Du Plenty, B. Z. Niditch, Kell Robertson, Tony Moffeit, Donna Cartelli, John Thomas, Holly Prado, Harry Northup, Jazz Morgan, Jack Grapes, Larry Jaffe, Philomene Long, Larry Welsh, Claudio Parentela, Dan Fante, Leonard J. Cirino, John Dorsey, Glenn Cooper and Neeli Cherkovski. I don't know how many of these names your readers will know, but I've highlighted the one's that I liked more. Mostly, I picked interviewees based on people I knew, or thought were interesting (some were recommended by other people I knew). A lot of the poets are from the Western US, 'cause that's where I live. Most were answering a generic set of questions that I had come up with over the years, because most interviews were done via Email/letters.

DH:Do you still plan to publish books?

R: Yes, the Little Red Book series (LRB) continues. I just published Outrun Your Fate by Australian poet Glenn Cooper; Digging my own Grave and Enjoying the Work by Ed Jamieson, Jr. (Lummox Journal's poetry editor for the last few years); and The Painter by Marie Lecrivain with drawings by Aurora Antonovic. I'll also publish other collections when I can raise the funds.

DH: And your own plans?

R: It's time for me to get back to being a poet and going thru the grind of getting my poetry published or not. I hope to publish, or get published, a collection of my own poetry (in an ideal world it would be a collection of my long road poems, some of my fiction and selections of my poesy -- but that's not likely because it would be a 250 to 300 page book and nobody would take that risk on a relatively unknown poet such as myself -- I know I wouldn't). Maybe I'll become egotistical and publish a whole string of Little Red Books of my own work. Lord knows I've certainly served the poetry community by presenting their thoughts and work in the LJ and in the LRB series (over 50 titles thus far). I'd also like to put out a CD of some of my songs and poems.

for more info:

Doug Holder

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Poets offer trio of unique voices at Chapter and Verse
Jamaica Plain Gazette

By DOROTHY DERIFIELD October 20, 2006

Chapter and Verse presents its second program of the season on Nov. 1 in its new home, the Loring-Greenough House. Readers that evening will be bilingual poet and JP resident Alan Smith Soto, Lisa Beatman of Roslindale and Doug Holder, a Somerville resident who really needs no introduction in the local poetry scene.

Soto, who writes in both Spanish and English, was born in San Jose, Costa Rica. His work has received international attention, appearing in journals ranging from “Anthropos” in Barcelona and “Cambio” in Lima to the “International Poetry Review” out of the University of North Carolina. In 1998 his book “Fragmentos de Alancia” was published by Asaltoalcielo editors (Cambridge), and in 2000 he published a Spanish translation of Robert Creeley’s “Life and Death” (“Vida y muerte,” Madrid).

Recently, he was the translator and guest editor of the issue “Spain’s Poetry of Conscience” of the “International Poetry Review,” spring, 2006. This is Soto’s first appearance at Chapter and Verse, where he will present a program in English.

Beatman is no stranger to the local poetry community. Author of the prize-winning “Ladies Night at the Blue Hill Spa,” Beatman is an adult education specialist who spent several years teaching factory workers who were mainly Hispanic immigrants. Her forthcoming work, “Songs from the Factory Floor,” grew out of that experience and out of her concern about the loss of manufacturing jobs, historically the economic gateway for immigrants.

Last year Beatman received a fellowship to an artists’ colony in Brazil, where she had the good fortune to be invited to join a local women’s sewing circle, and their creativity in turn nourished her own. Now she will share the results with us.

Everyone in the Boston poetry world knows Holder—poet, editor, impressario—a man who always has time to encourage both beginners and veterans alike. Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press in Somerville, which publishes poetry books and the journal “Ibbetson Street,” (

He hosts a number of venues from Somerville to Newton, and his poetry has been published in countless journals. He recently released a collection of poems dedicated to the memory of his father entitled, “Wrestling With My Father” (Yellow Paper Press). Holder’s poems are sharp, funny and profound; definitely not to be missed.

Chapter and Verse takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Wed., Nov. 1, at the historic Loring-Greenough House, 12 South St., just across from the Monument in JP Center. The reading is free, open to all, and refreshments will be served. For more information call 325-8388 or e-mail or
The writer is the director of Chapter and Verse.