Monday, April 09, 2007

Poet Michael Brown Brings His " Poetry Extravaganza" To Davis Square, Somerville.

Poet Michael Brown Brings His ‘Poetry Extravaganza’ To Davis Square

Well poetry month comes to the ‘ville April 22 at 7:30 PM at Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theatre when celebrated local poet Michael Brown brings his ‘Poetry Extravaganza’ to this Davis Square venue. Ten poets will make a return visit to the theatre as part of “Dr. Brown’s Traveling Poetry Show.” Such well- know slam and performance poets like: Doug Bishop, Jonathan Chin, Melissa Guillet, Valerie Lawson, Ryk McIntyre ,Tom Daley and Maia Radhakrishnan will relive their childhood memories, reinvent an eclectic collection of characters, rage against the machine, throw barbs at the nattering nabobs of negativism, etc… in this unique showcase. This performance piece is directed by Brown. Brown is the author of four books of poetry, a national slam finalist, a PhD, and is known for bringing the poetry slam to Boston from his native Chicago through his venue at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, Mass. that he had hosted for 13 years.

Part two of the program will be hosted by SlamMaster Simone Beaubien. Beaubien took over the Cantab Slam venue for Brown, and the general consensus is that she reinvigorated this celebrated series. Beaubien will direct the “Boston Poetry Slam” part of the “Extravaganza” in which six all-star local poets, selected from Boston’s slam community will compete for the attention of a hopefully animated audience, and the discerning judges. I spoke with Brown recently about his latest project.

Doug Holder: First off "Dr. Brown's Traveling Poetry Show" is a performance poetry show. Isn't all spoken word performance to some extent?

Mike Brown: Sure, all spoken word is performance, but certainly not all poetry presented orally is performance. In fact it has taken quite a while for some poets who do readings to realize how badly they do that. I suspect some will continue reading badly to set themselves apart from spoken word. What we seek with the Dr Brown’s show is to affect the audience with the immediacy of art.You have ten poets in this show.

DH: How do you blend their styles into a cohesive performance piece?

MB: Each show is different. We may do themed shows, such as political, comic, love stories, or Disney-connected poems, for example. But most of our shows are themed based on what the poets want to do at the time. A few days before each show I have the participants e-mail me the titles of the poems (including last lines) they would like to do. I arrange those in a set list. At its simplest, the set list progresses by association, so that one poem follows another. I don’t necessarily try to blend their styles. Each voice is unique and contrast has more value than closeness. Since we perform throughout the room, we try to have poets start at a distance from the previous poem. That facilitates contrast.

DH: Can you talk about some of the featured poets?

MB: I can talk about many of the poets, but not for print. Bada bing!

Mala Radhakrishnan is probably the best example of what this group can do. A Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at MIT, she plays piano and does half a dozen other interesting things. When we first met, she thought her poetry had a limited shelf life because, while witty, it was all about chemistry. She has found that audiences like that. At the same time, she has expanded what she writes about.

At his best, Ryk McIntyre is a great audience favorite. At his worst he can scare whole rooms full of people. Other than myself, he has probably been doing this longer than anyone in our group. Ryk’s wife, Melissa Guillet brings an ethereal and musical grace to what we do.

Douglas Bishop is also a seasoned performer and producer of many group shows. The lyrical quality of his work is unsurpassed.

Tom Daley, like his famous sister Katie, has a great facility with characters and voices, pastoral wit, and keen imagery.

Valerie Lawson is a mainstay, one of those solid mid-group poets with a great range of material—Duchamp, women’s hockey, love and peace. If we were a relay team, she would be the anchor.

Jeff Taylor is the wackiest one in our group. If it has to do with weird people (a guy afraid of cheese), a strange take on politics (Bush’s motivational switches), or late night, drug-induced comedy, it’s Jeff’s.

Jonathan Chin is our newest, a BU student seriously dedicated to poetry whose voice grows with each show.

Melissa Bates is probably has the greatest difficulty performing. We all find memorization difficult, and she finds it agony to stand in front of an audience and deliver. But she pitches women’s softball, so she knows how to stay in there.

Michael Mack is the opposite. He probably has least difficulty with memorization and is the most comfortable with performance. That does not mean he is the best performer. As I always say in workshops, “If you are not nervous about this, you don’t know what you are doing.” Michael knows, but he does this so much, he can get blasé.

DH: The second part of the show will be hosted by SlamMaster Simone Beaubien. Can you define Slam for the uninformed? Who will be featured in this part of the program?

MB: Slam is a competition in which poets are judged Olympic-style on content and performance. Simone has promised to bring the best six poets from the current stable at the Cantab Lounge, but she won’t say who they are, and I can’t force Simone to do anything she does not want to do.

DH: Is performance and slam poetry well-represented around the country for poetry month?

MB: Yes, but…. I first heard from Marge Piercy that poetry month was an invention of publishers and booksellers to profit from the resurgence of interest in poetry. The problem is that, while much of that interest has been fueled by performance poetry, publishers are not looking to put out books by performance poets. Peter Davison, longtime poetry editor for The Atlantic pointed out that performance poetry was having a positive effect on poetry readings. Audiences no longer tolerated being held captive by very bad readers. Those who make a distinction between performance poetry and page poetry now book performance poets to enliven otherwise dull readings by name page poets, especially during poetry month. I defer to Goethe: “Comparisons are odious.” If you don’t think performance poetry is real poetry, I’ll bet you $15. Come to our show. At the end of the evening, if you want your money back, see me.
Doug Holder

For tickets go to

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Review of "On the Line" by Don Winter

On The Line
By Don Winter
2006; 14pp; BoneWorld Publishing,
3700 County Route 24,
Russell, NY 13684. $4.

Reviewed By Michael Kriesel

Winter’s 1st chapbook (also by BoneWorld) had greater depth and range of subject matter. But there are gems here, especially the fast food worker poems. “My first real wage job was at the Niles, MI, Burger Chef,” Don said in an online interview. “I had burger production ingrained into me, position by position: food preparer, cashier, even hostess (no joke)…all the way up to night manager. The battle to somehow live a voluntary, purposive life in that kind of world is reflected in those poems.”

Winter brings grace to his subjects. Here’s the first half of “The Tacoma Tavern.”
“is drunk with rain. / And our tables are careless / with empty bottles, cigarette ash. / And we run our fevers / up over a hundred / arm wrestling our motorcycle buddies, / drinking pitchers on one breath / for a dollar. And we try to drink enough / to lose our names. / And we make up stories to fit / the bad things, by turns hero and victim. / And the waitress acts vaguely in love / with each man.”

His other gift is an ability to speak for the ones at the bottom. “us…good for nothings, wrong / since Genesis.” Those fucked by “factories everywhere / slamming shut like empty cash drawers.”

“I love, and have been influenced by, the poetry of Thomas McGrath,” Winter explained. “He was educated, brilliant, and famous, but had the guts to write poems from the position of the working class poor, from that life and that labor being economically exploited, even though the academics hated him for it, and threw him out for it.”

Perhaps inspired by McGrath, who’s known for his epic “Letter To An Imaginary Friend,” Winter tries a longer poem (7 pages) in this chapbook. He’s also been recently writing short, haiku-ish pieces. I hope he keeps trying new things. He’s one of the best poets in small press…and the one with the most undeveloped potential. His bio notes mention how before a 1998 divorce reduced him to poverty, Winter owned Southeast Real Estate. Worked 16-hour days. Drove 100 mph in his sports car. “Carried a revolver in the front pocket of my leather duster, and lived in a custom-built home on Lake Tuscaloosa.”

More recently, he attended college at the University of Anchorage, serving as assistant editor of the Alaska Quarterly. Currently, Don’s one of the editors of the zine “Fight These Bastards.” And he’s back in Michigan, taking care of elderly parents. His mom and dad both have cancer.
Here’s hoping Don begins to write about these other lives, somewhere down the line.

Review of "Some Global Positioning Dharma" Richard Krech

Krech (left) Thurston Moore (Right)

Some Global Positioning Dharma Richard Krech (Round Barn Press 945 Kains Ave Albany, CA. 94706)

This is a book of simple poems that speak of balance, harmony, and the eternal. They remind of me of the still sheet of some isolated pond that is slightly broken by a stone cast on its waters.
So it follows Krech has a poem “Art Therapy”: “To paint the big picture/ w/exquisite detail/ &economy of words. / No easy task. I choose/ to break off smaller chunks/ & make what I can
of them. / throwing pebbles in a pond.”

And here is a well-rendered picture of the simple beauty of a meal eaten over the Bay of Tangiers: “Ramadan Evening (Tangiers 1989)”:

I see people sitting at tables
looking over the By of Tangiers
hot steam rising
from their bowls.

Poised/ Time Suspends/ Sky Darkens.
The muezzin cries.

After giving thanks
they eat.

A fine collection of quiet, calming and crafted poetry by Richard Krech.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

for more on the author go to