Thursday, December 21, 2006

Body Language: Poems of the Medical Training Experience. Edited by Neeta Jain, Dagan Coppock, Stephanie Brown Clark. (BOA Anthology Series No. 2)
Rochester, NY 2006 $22

In the introduction to: “Body Language,” Poems of the Medical Training Experience,” Jack Coulehan writes: “In ‘Body Language’, the editors have chosen poems that evoke the entire spectrum of medical education, beginning with medical school and residency training, and ending with full medical citizenship, as an attending physician…The book’s medical education framework provides the reader with an in-depth history of the conflict( and ultimately dynamic tension) between tenderness and steadiness in medical practice.”

This is poetry with a bedside manner. We are so often confronted with overworked doctors with huge caseloads that we find there is very little time for human contact, much less clinical. But if these doctors are any indication of the crop out there; then the medical profession still has a healthy population of sensitive and feeling beings.

There is a lot of excellent poetry to recommend this anthology. Kelly Jean White, a major presence on the small press poetry scene for years and an internet acquaintance of mine, has a number of fine pieces between the covers.
In her poem “Pandora” the poet deals with the Pandora’s Box of a hidden cancer in a 56 year old man she encountered while training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. White, true to form, laces her work with striking imagery:

“I bring him a coloring book picture
that shows him this thing, this unfamiliar
organ that melted beneath our hands
at dissection:

Leaving his room, crying,
avoiding classmates,
I take the back stairs.
I find myself locked,
coatless in the courtyard outside.”

My wife, the poet Dianne Robitaille, is also a Registered Nurse (who worked at MGH years ago) loved the poem “Foley,” by Mindy Shah. I had to concur; probably for different reasons. Shah follows of all things—a man’s penis—from its salad days to its undignified decline:

“As a kid you pissed
your name in the snow; at sixteen
you showed it to a girl
for the first time, face damp
and flushed. Now wires
thread your body.
I pull your old penis
from the fat seat of your thigh
and hold tight
as the catheter slides in to let
the blood and urine out,
tubing taped to your leg.
your glorious moment passed—
my first one.

Highly Recommended.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/Somerville, Mass/Dec 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

" Did I mention that Mr. Slavitt is also a pornographer?" Alex Beam on David Slavitt.

In today's Alex Beam column in the Boston Globe Beam writes about Slavitt's many literary accomplishments. Now, you remember Slavitt( the gentleman) who read a poem about how much he dislikes the poet Robert Lowell at the Somerville News Writers Festival, and was trounced by Tim Toomey in an election for state rep. He also has a book out "Blue State Blues" about his campaign against Toomey. Now it seems that Slavitt has had a great career in another genre: Porn, according to Beam:

"Writing as "Henry Sutton" Slavitt grabbed the brass ring with his 1967 soft-porn bestseller "The Exhibitionist." which sold 4 million copies. "It's every English majors dream...I put my children through college and continue to write poems and translate Ausonius, whom nobody has ever heard of." Slavitt said. Beam writes " During his campaign against Toomey, Slavitt worried that his other works might come to light...his 1987 work "The-Book: A Child's First Book of Pornography." which he calls "my fist porn version of Dr. Seuss's "One Fish, Two Fish."

On Slavitt's hometown Cambridge, Mass: He asked his son Evan ( a lawyer) how he should handle any questions regarding his alternative literary history during his campaign against Toomey. His son, evidently a chip off the old block, replied:

"In Cambridge? There are no community standards."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Living In Dangerous Times. Linda Lerner. ( PO BOX 792 Rockford, MI 49341 $6.

Linda Lerner is a Brooklyn-based poet who is passionate about poetry’s potency in our increasingly frightening and alienating age. Having interviewed her, published her, and reviewed several of her books I can say she shoots from the hip, is politically engaged, and at times very erotic. Like Lifshin, she is a popular poet, and although she teaches at Brooklyn College, her poetry remains outside the gates of the academy. In the poem “Who Dares Invoke The Bard?” Lerner is full of righteous indignation about the reporter who described Howard Dean’s primal scream as a “mad howl.” Surely not a “howl” worthy of Allen Ginsberg:

“ What “mad howl”
Allen would have fumed…

his ashes stir in its urn
at the very mention…

eminds us who rammed past
Columbia’s hollowed gates
more than fifty years ago
freed poetry a whole decade
marching in robot lockstep
nation: to breathe in
our own rhythm.

the sound that still reverberates
loud as all hell.” (9)

Linda Lerner is a fine addition to Presa Press’s “Contemporary Poetry Series.”

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update