Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cervena Barva Press Reading Photos by Dianne Robitaille

This is just a partial group of pictures --- others should be posted on

Gloria Mindock/ with partner Bill-- Cervena webmaster / Mark Pawlak- Hanging Loose Press

Bill Lewis and Deborah Priestly. (Out of the Blue Gallery)

( Left) Dave McNamara ( and partner.
Doug Holder ( author of " All The Meals I Had Before" "No One Dies At The Au Bon Pain")

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"No One Dies At The Au Bon Pain" by Doug Holder ( reviewed by Hugh Fox.)

No One Dies at the Au BonPain By Doug Holder 2007; 28pp; Pa; sunnyoutside, POB 441429,Somerville, MA 02144. $8.00.

First off, a little background. There are a couple of Au Bon Pain coffee houses in the Boston area. My own favorite is in Harvard Square. Doug Holder is the mythical, revered, super-star head of Ibbetson Street Press in Somerville.

And the whole book here has a certain mythical-classical feel about it. Like St. Augustine or San Juan de la Cruz had come back reincarnated and started re-meditating on death, time, the meaning of life:

"I am not afraid of bones./I trace them/through a facade of flesh..../and there/is always/the joke/of a skeleton/under the myth/of the most beautiful woman.//Bones--/they are what/make us/most human. ( I Am Not Afraid of Bones, p.9).

The poetry gets even scarier when it gets medical, moves out of philosophical-theological theory into things like colonoscopies: "In the funeral parlor bathroom/I thought/odd/how the light/seems to divinely illuminate me/through the stained glass window/as if I was part of a purifying ritual./I strained and strained/and wondered about/that test/and how long/I have before/that dreaded/rest. (Colonoscopy, p.21).

Always a sense of impending doom as a normal component of daily living:

"that short/tenuous last breath/that will surely be/the death//of me. (My Life: In Contrast with Others, p.24).

Amazingly effective, what we have here are classic, condensed meditations on what it's all about in a context of eventual anihilation. A volume to be on the shelves next to Keats, Whitman, Rimbaud.

Hugh Fox/Ibbetson Update

* Hugh Fox was born in Chicago in 1932. He has his Ph.D.from the U. of Illinois, has taught at Loyola in Los Angeles, the U. of Sonora in Hermosillo, Mexico, the Instituto Pedagogico and the Universidad Catholico in Caracas, the U. of Santa Catarina in Florianopolis, Brazil, and for some 35 years was a professor at Michigan State U. He has some 85 books published, poetry, archaeology, criticism, novels, literary and cultural history, and more.
Bill Ryan in The Unborn Book: "Hugh Fox is the Paul Bunyan of American Letters, part myth, part monster, and, myself-as-subject, a magnificent non-stop storyteller."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Defiance by Hugh Fox (reviewed by Lo Galluccio)

Defiance: Pensee Rouges et Noirs
Poems by Hugh Fox
Higgannum Hill Books
88 pages

Hugh Fox’s latest collection, Defiance, is a brilliant freeverse exploration of fractured language in two languages – French and English, my favorite of all his work thus far. It’s divided into two sections, like any revolutionary undertaking, “Hope” and “Despair” – in fact the first section’s “Hope” is more deconstructed and list-like and Kerouacian than the second, which becomes more narrative and real. I suppose that tells us about Hugh’s stance in the existential picture, and maybe why he chose to write this collection in French and English. French being the birthplace of class revolution as we know it, deconstructionism, romantic beauty (for me, it runs a close second to Italian as a romance language’s ultimate beauty) and existentialism. Immediately, I wanted to re-read Barthes, “A Lover’s Discourse” as I remember it being laid out in lettered segments, both delicious and abstract. So is Hugh’s book: it is delicious and it is rather abstract/formal but child-like too. What is a fox, clever and defiant? Yes.

We dig in at the Hope Section:

In the poem FORGETTING (on p 29)

(I’ve written in the margins MAKING SENSE BREAKING SENSE)

“The raven still hovering over all
Our Baruchs, Attas and Adonais,
mea culpa, mea culpa,
the reins of
even though the devil-
angel shadows
still growl

Hugh starts with an event or a place and unwinds to his own position or place in it, an emotional one, “maxima” referring to mea culpa in Latin and then down to the positing of a devil-angel growling in shadows, a typical hybrid moral invention or amoral invention of Fox’s. Remember the collection sports a sinuous orange Fox on the cover, maybe and of course Fox himself, in a defiant foxy frame of mind.

More language games in the poem SATORI (p 25) on which I write at the bottom Strange love poem, a love poem to what really? And then figure out:

In the daughter-granddaughter,
Christian- Aztec-Hercules Sungod
Village under the
Moon-sun sky

Je t’aime/toute le monde moi aime -*

nothing more than


It is a love poem ultimately to the referent on the left, all the religious descriptions end in Buddhistic, the religion of the present, of sitting with oneself in the present, breathing and the little pyramid of love, I love you/all of the world, my friends, nothing more than NOW. The power of Now. With all the other religious referring to it coming down to it on the right hand list. Our image is the village under the lilac poppy moon sun sky. So Hugh will take important, even personal fragments, that may seem abstract, and combine them to a splendid whole image. One that contains opposites, one that tastes good on the mouth that embraces earth and sky, a flower like the red delirium poppy.

In MAGNA MATER Hugh translates the first French stanzas into English at the bottom. As my French is not terribly good, I will give you the English:

The magic of nothing,
Nude legs in tennis shoes,
Long hair all fluffed up, two
Women who are taking a walk
Because everything has begun to
Be reborn, almost ready to die/sleep
Again, I wait for magic runes and

Prehistoric musics when everyone,
Like me today, believes that the earth was
The Magic Mother,
Nothing else.

In this poem, Hugh refers to a subject in which he has shown an archeological interest: prehistory and the cross-connections of culture, in addition to women as sign, the signifier also. It is the Magic Mother that he yearns for. To go back, as Van Morrison sings, to be born again, in “Astral Weeks.” He starts with the seemingly suburban “nude legs in tennis shoes” looking for the magic of nothing….to be found in women. That is fine, fine. Prehistoric musics and prehistoric muses as well….

There is a feeling of lists and list making and transcription in these poems that is elegant and sly mystical and beautiful. It does not seem overly constructed, not haphazard and that makes for a thrilling and imploring read.

In EROS – Post-Modern.

“All night long massaging our feet with sandalwood oil, a cloudless, billion-starred sky, full moon and your feet….”

A quote from another poem?

Then the French,
“Moi aussi, la meme shose…mais nous sommes separes puir seicles et les spaces celestes/me too, the same thing…but we’ve been separated by centuries and celestial spaces…”

And then,

“Gitane-Gypsy cornhusks and tequila, submerging back to sane-times, before the Aryans come in.”

Post-Modern is also, for Fox, a time before recorded history, before the Aryans came in. the gypsy signifying erotic innocence and free-beauty. This his love, his romance. His roaming. His trance-dance...

The second half of the book, “Despair” contains more mosaics of real world details. For instance, in ONE MORE DAY (p. 66)

“One more day alive, coming
to this page to reach out to you
wherever I may find you, now,
or in a thousand years buried
in a tomb under endless sands,
inflamed and half mad, my
groin screaming! The doctors
(general physical) examining
my eyes and toes, while my prick, balls,
prostate burn, burn, burn
all through the psycho night.”

For the poem EDEN, I wrote: “Condradiction: this poem is in the section called Despair. Hugh’s turning things on their head, upside down.”

Feeling ashamed of walking
Under new maples, drinking pink
lemonade instead of getting shot
in the head by a terratenanente
in the Brazilian Outback, walking
over new grass next to new ferns
instead of through pigshit,
being constipated instead of having
cholera, surviving to 60
instead of being tossed onto the sidewalk
from four stores up by the “Gestapo”
when I was two.

Okay, black humor. A dark poem which still centers also around the new maples and the pink lemonade. “Every picture has its shadow and it’s source of light, blindness, blindness and sight” Joni Mitchell.

And another example of the “polytheistic heavens” that Hugh Fox believes in/lives under can be found in the references in the facing poem called, “What are the voices….”
p 73 which I’ve circled: (the whole poem):

“Hanuman dance, Ganesh dissolve into the
mud of the ashes, Kali
stand, sword and severed head,
blessing and protecting?”

It’s important to note that with all the shifting political and historical entities, Hugh still pins most of his poems on a love of women—la femme eternale --- and deities of other cultures. He is in this sense, despite his Judeo-Christian background a true Sufi poet because he gives many of these figures their magical and essential power. They are part of his landscape….Kali the goddess of destruction/creation in Hinduism, Hanuman, Krishna’s monkey-headed and winged messenger and Ganesh, the Gateway God who is throw in to the ocean in plaster from by his beloved devotees. None of this is highlighted as strange, foreign or inconsistent with life as we know it to Hugh. They are, like the world he hearkens back to, elemental and animistic and this is the interesting mix of Hugh Fox’s vision. Whether they are truly real, truly the answer can be found in his question mark.

There is something human and bitter-sweet, like the mirror we look in each morning, about the book’s second half and perhaps I will leave it off with one last poem:


“A man about sixty comes into
The café, very elegant, reminds
me of my father, she’s maybe
fifty, the suave perfect legs and
elegant Madrilena face, they
sit down and order and all
or a suddent it’s like he takes
off a mask, starts kidding around,
I can’t hear what he’s saying but
He’s five again, I can’t see her
Face, she’s laughing, you never
See this kind of thing where I’m
From, no multiple personalities,
Just one mask per person.”

For Hugh, one mask per person is not really what we want to expect from each other. He prefers the ancient mask, the Carnival, the unexpected and wrestles with the Thanatos/Eros swing in us all. Defiance is as much about defying death as language as a means to defy what is placid and pedestrian all the time about life in the modern world.

Lo Galluccio
Ibbetson St. Press

Q and A on Mass. Book Award

With the announcement of the Mass. Book Awards today I posed the question to the executive director: " Can the small press can have a category in the Mass. Book Awards.?" The winners are usually associated with the big publishing houses, and have received much recognition already. ( example this years' winners are Claire Messud, Franz Wright, Louise Gluck) These are all great writers, but how about some state-wide recognition for the alternative presses?

And the response:

Hi, Doug -- I saw this email that went to the Amherst office/Book awards coordinator. I hear you ... and -- as you can imagine -- funding is an issue. At present, we are struggling to support the four categories we have. I have long wanted to add a design and also illustration awards. I hadn't thought about a separate small press award ... for a number of reasons. Primarily, I don't want to ghettoize small press publishing ... b/c I see no reason why small press publications can't compete with trade houses... but another way to promote what is going on with our small presses ... that is desirable. I will add it to the concerns as we discuss next steps with the program and certainly keep you in any loops that start to get traced.
Regards, Sharon
************************************************ Sharon Shaloo, Executive Director Massachusetts Center for the Book Mailing from Boston office: On the web at

Quoting Doug HOLDER :
I think you should have a category for small press authors and poets people who publish chapbooks in the state. There is a great literary subculture that is ignored... Certainly all the people you selected were great writers. But Messud, Wright, Gluck and the like have recieved thousands of accolades. How about a category that would represent the alternative press which plays an important part in literary history?

Best--Doug Holder

Should Somerville Have A Poet Laureate?

Should Somerville Have A Poet Laureate?

Doug Holder

When I asked a city alderman recently about the possibility of the council considering having a poet laureate like Cambridge and Boston are presently pondering he laughed, stating: “So that’s the latest trend, huh?” So I decided to send out a call for comments from Somerville residents, poets, etc…to see what they think of the idea: Here is what I got:

C.D. Collins (Poet/Vocalist): “We should have one. It should be an annual award.”

Bert Stern (Off the Grid Press) “I think that Somerville poetry speaks clearly and humanely, and with a notion of folk poetry that has a long lineage. Somerville is witty and has guts, and is somewhat anti- Cambridge. I see it as a position of public responsibility. A laureate should write occasional poems, celebrate commissions, like the English poet/laureate, who writes poems for coronations, etc…

Gloria Mindock (Cervena Barva Press): “Somerville is such a rich community with so many artists and writers living here. It would be a great idea to have one.

So many writers in Somerville have remarkable qualifications if one must choose the poet laureate based on that. Having some sort of guidelines is good because it closes the door to “bad writing” or a writer who hasn’t developed good writing skills. The poet laureate should be community minded. All the books and publications in the world does not mean anything if you don’t care about the artistic scene in Somerville. “

Afaa Michael Weaver (Simmons College): “So many? Why not just one of Massachusetts? Too many and it gets diluted.”

Ian Thal (Poet/Mime/Performer): “The question should be: ‘Would having a poet laureate serve Somerville in a manner that the Somerville Arts Council does not already?’ The Somerville Arts Council does a better job than most cities in Massachusetts supporting the arts/artists (certainly better than Boston). The laureate position should add something to what is already there.”

Tam Lin Neville (author of “Journey Cake”): Of course we should have a poet/laureate. I am sure we have more poets here than Boston and Cambridge put together. My pick would be someone who combines the quality of a good poet—and someone with the proper community spirit.”

Doug Holder


On June 10, 2007 at 5PM at McIntyre and Moore Books in Davis Square ( 255 Elm St.), Somerville, the Ibbetson Street Press will celebrate the release of its literary journal "Ibbetson Street 21"

The press was founded in 1998, by Doug Holder, Timothy, Richard Wilhelm and Dianne Robitaille, and started publishing from its home on (33) Ibbetson Street in Somerville, Mass, later moving several streets down to 25 School Street in the same city.

Since its inception the press has released over 30 books of poetry from local and national authors, and 21 issues of the journal "Ibbetson Street." Ibbetson Street is listed in the "Index of American Periodical Verse," and won several pics of the month from the "Small Press Review."

Many of the journals and books published over the years are archived at Harvard, Brown, Buffalo, Yale, university libraries, as well as "Poet's House" in New York City.

The reading will cellebrate the release of "Ibbetson 21" The new issue has poetry from such local stars as : Timothy Gager, Bert Stern, Deborah Priestly, Lo Galluccio, Dorian Brooks, Robert K. Johnson, Dianne Robitaille, Marc Widershien, and many more.

Front and back cover photographer is the work of poet/vocalist Jennifer Matthews.

Featured readers: will be Doug Holder, Bert Stern, Richard Wilhelm, Molly Lynn Watt, Dorian Brooks and others. There will be an open mic to follow. Refreshments provided. Free admission. Handicap Accessible.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Review of "Sky Is" by George Wallace

George Wallace, lyrics and vocals
The Moontones, music
October, 2006

SKY IS is a self-produced CD of poetry and music from Long Island-based George Wallace, backed by a group called the Moontones. There is no mention of personnel so, whoever the Moontones are, they need to start advocating for themselves more and get credit for their work. The music contributes effectively to the dynamics of the CD. Now a note of disclosure: I have at least a cursory knowledge of George Wallace’s poetry and admire his work. I met him on several occasions including one evening when he came to my house in the company of Marc Widershien to help Doug Holder, John Wunjo and myself with some proof-reading back in paleolithic times before Robert K. Johnson and Dorian Brooks took over the editorial helm of Ibbetson Street. So I expected the CD to be good. I was not disappointed.

The first piece on the CD is "When I Go Away," a lilting, upbeat poem which is enhanced by melodies derived from a major scale. The piece that follows, "The 12th Street Shuffle," is bluesy, kind of film noir-ish. Wallace intones:

it was the east river
it was not the east river
it was the black keys
it was not the black keys
it was the 12th street shuffle
captured for eternity
in a convex spoon

(Apologies to Wallace. I didn’t see the lyrics in print so in this review I’m creating line breaks as I hear them, rather than how Wallace may have conceived them.)
"This Does Not Stop Me," the fourth number, saunters along on a funky groove. Wallace lays out his lover’s habits and foibles but says in the refrain "this does not stop me." Wallace’s voice is responded to by lovely minor key licks.

The beautiful "Heaven Soars East" conveys a longing for peace with lyrics like:

the land we know is no longer
the land we have known
a drop of rain turns
yellow in a blackbird’s eye

And further on:

some things that should have changed
remain the same a man who
would otherwise be occupied
making baskets from wisteria vines
is busy making preparations for war

In "Growing," set to some mournful Appalachian fiddle, the speaker observes all the things that are commanding his attention. He struggles with lists of things he should be doing, but decides against making a list, preferring to just "be alive and remember things."
In "Sky Is," fractured gypsy violin runs heighten the enigmatic beauty.

sky is a woman in white stockings,
baghdad in coral rain

The eighth and last and longest piece (at 4:06) is "I Have Discovered A Country." It begins with:
I have discovered a country
of modest people that live
without great obsessions
that live without great anxiety
that live in the silence
of forgotten places, in the alleyways
of their imagination

He describes this country as one:

where schemes are impossible
where a handshake is unnecessary
where doctors are poets
and horoscopes are optional
there are many colors on its flag
the politicians close their mouths while chewing
what a great country I have discovered

And what a great poetry-music album I have discovered.

--Richard Wilhelm

Ibbetson Update
*Richard Wilhelm is the arts/editor for the Ibbetson Street Press. He is working on a collection of his poetry to be edited by Cambridge, Mass. poet Doug Worth that is slated to be out early next year. Check out Wilhelm's blog at