Saturday, June 02, 2007

Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Award


The Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Award is presented at the annual Somerville News Writers Festival ( ) held every year at the Jimmy Tingle Off-Broadway Theatre in Davis Square. The festival will be held November 11th this year. In past years poets and writers such as Pulitzer Prize winner Franz Wright, Robert Olen Butler, Oscar-nominated novelist Tom Perotta, Iowa Writer’s Workshop head Lan Samantha Chang, Sue Miller ( author of “The Good Mother”) , Steve Almond, Boston Globe Columnist Alex Beam, poet Nick Flynn, and many others have read in this event. This year former poet/laureate Robert Pinsky will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement award.

Ibbetson Street Press is also pleased to announce the 2nd annual Ibbetson Street Poetry Contest.

The winner of the Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Contest award (must be a Massachusetts resident) will receive a $100 cash award, a framed certificate, publication in the literary journal “Ibbetson Street” and a poetry feature in the “Lyrical Somerville,” in The Somerville News.

To enter send 3 to 5 poems, any genre, length, to Doug Holder 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143. Entry fee is $10. Cash or check only. Make payable to “Ibbetson Street Press” or “Doug Holder. Deadline: Sept 15, 2007

The contest will be judged by Richard Wilhelm poet and arts/editor of the Ibbetson Street Press.

The winner will be announced at the festival, and will receive his or her award. A runner up will be announced as well.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tino Villanueva: A Chicano poet with an eye in many worlds...

Tino Villanueva: A Chicano poet with an eye on many worlds…

Tino Villanueva is a Chicano writer who according to celebrated poet Martin Espada invented (along with Gary Soto), a new genre of poetry. Espada opines that Villanueva conceived: “…serious literature about farm workers. That in itself guarantees Tino a place in literary history.” Villanueva, who earned a PhD in Spanish Literature, and is a professor at Boston University, does not however live in a literary ghetto of Latino literature. Reginald Gibbons, former editor of Tri- Quarterly magazine wrote that Villanueva has: “… found a way, to write of both worlds (Chicano and Anglo) that makes sense, I believe to all readers, even those who might be interested in one of those worlds or the other.”

Villanueva has received a 1994 American Book Award for “Scene for the Movie Giant,” and has penned a number of books, including: “Primera Causa/ First Cause,’ “Shaking off the Dark,” and others. He also edited the literary magazine: “Imagine: International Chicano Poetry Journal.”

I talked with Villanueva on my Somerville Cable Access TV show: “Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: What is your experience with political poetry? Do you feel it gets mired in dogma?

Tino Villanueva: It’s not an easy genre to write in. I’m very wary about it. And I often think what Pablo Neruda said about political poetry. His warning to a young poet was not to begin writing political poetry until he mastered what poetry “is.”
When you start out you think what you write is poetry but it is sloganeering or just propaganda. What Neruda says is politics as well as love, and I would add religion, are three major things that if you want to write about them, you have to “pass through.” You have to have experience in technique and know what poetry is. You may think you are writing a love poem, but it is just gushy, saccarhine and sentimental.

DH: Were you an “angry young poet?”

TV: I was born in Texas in 1941. I went into the Service. I served in Panama. When I was a freshman in college I was 24 years old. I graduated in three years. I went to college on the G.I. Bill. When I started writing poetry I felt true love for the poetry of Dylan Thomas. If he was writing about birth and death then that was what I was writing about. He became my mentor. I wanted to sound like him…he had a great voice. He was a marvelous reader.

Later I became part of the Chicano Movement on campus. We had a Latino Civil Rights Movement from 1965 to 1975. So my poems from this period may show anger. Those types of poems are in my first book that came out in 1972. They were mostly written as an undergraduate and in graduate school.
DH: Are you embarrassed by these early poems?

TV: There are one or two poems that are salvageable. Some poems I don’t bother reading. With many of the poems I tried to sound like Dylan Thomas. It was important work in that I learned discipline and how to say what I wanted to say. It took me 12 years to write the next book.

DH: In an article in the Texas Observer it states that your poetry has echoes of French Existentialism, where you insist on the possibilities of creating oneself through choice and will. What have you created?

TV: I don’t know what the critic meant there. There are some poems in my last three books that show a transformation of a young man struggling out of a disadvantaged background and making something out of himself. He first wanted to be a baseball player because he thought he had a good curve ball. But the scouts never came. He had no idea back then that he would become a poet. But he would save himself that way.

So in my last two books there are several poems that make reference to this transformation. It is making something out of yourself through sheer will.

So in my last two books there are several poems that make reference to this transformation. Making something out of yourself through sheer will.

DH: In a poem of yours you wrote: “I write. I stop writing. I write.” Is this your definition of the writing life?

TV: When you are hitting it right, yes. When the muse is with you, when the inspiration is with you—those are the moments you have to take advantage of. You hit some dry spots, but you have to get out of it.

DH: What do you do to get out of writer’s block?

TV: Well language produces language. I turn on the radio, even if it is a soap opera. I’ll pick up a newspaper. I might hear something that snaps me out of it—a particular turn of phrase. Sometimes I will pick up a book by Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, and read work that inspires me.

DH: You are a very accomplished and learned man. Yet you still take courses at the Boston Center for Adult Education, and attend groups like the “Bagel Bards,” a group of poets that meet at the local Au Bon Pain.

TV: I am always learning something. Intelligent talk always helps me write or snap out of a block.

DH: Do you write in cafes?

TV: I am not a café sitter. When I am in Barcelona or Madrid, but not Boston.

DH: Is writing natural or “organic” for you?

TV: I’ll quote from James Dickey: “We all have ideas about what we want to write about. It takes 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” We’ll, you have ideas I am sure—you have to figure out how to express them—you have to figure out how you are going to transfer it on the page. What kind of images you are going to present? I am full of ideas but I have to find the words. I have to work to find the words. It is not easy.

DH: How was it being a Latino-American in the Academy?

TV: Well I had no role models. I was treated well in Buffalo and Boston. I felt welcomed. At Wellesley College I taught the first Chicano Lit. course in 1978.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


( Click on to enlarge)
Join us at the the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square at 9AM every other Saturday, and Central Square Au Bon Pain-the other Saturday.
June 2: Central Square-- Au Bon Pain
June 9: Davis Square-- Au Bon Pain-- and so on..
Come and go as you please...very informal.
An informal group of poets and writers ... all welcome. Chat, network, get published, make new friends...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

FOR SARAH ( a poem in memory of Sarah Hannah)

Sarah Hannah

I got this poem from Ibbetson Street poet Ruth Sabath Rosenthal. Ruth was a student of Sarah's when she lived in
New York City, and they kept in touch when Sarah moved back to the Boston- area.


My friend, mine is a beating heart,
a poem bursting to come forth;
yours has stopped. No dormancy
of writer's block. Stopped for good.

O, that yours would still beat out poems.
No matter how dark, we'd listen,
we'd learn, we'd understand & maybe
you'd be here now. Perhaps

a Sonnet with its turn moving to depths
of utter bleakness, assonance resounding
in the second stanza. No resolution fit
for dreamy eyes to rest upon.

Blank verse, rhyme-riddled with
syllabic runs, each iambic line
symbolic unto itself, each stanza break,
a whip crack, a heart breaking.

A Villanelle, whose repeating end-
rhymed lines bleed their way down
to a finale punctuated by a question
mark & dead silence.

A Sestina of razor-sharp repitition
echoing the i in cry. A lament that pierces
through stanza upon stanza, until
reaching biblical heights of irony.

O. that we'd hear more from you. No
matter how dark the sound, we'd listen,
we'd learn, we'd understand & maybe
you'd be here now.

Ruth Sabath Rosenthal -

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Poet Sarah Hannah Has Passed.

Poet Sarah Hannah Has Passed.

Poet Sarah Hannah, Emerson College instructor and author of “Longing Distance” has passed away. Hannah reportedly committed suicide.

A Newton, Mass. native, she held a PhD. From Columbia University. I had the pleasure to know her, interview her, book her for readings, and publish her in issue 20 of the Ibbetson Street Press. She was a striking woman, wore a nose ring, played the bass in a rock band, and had a brilliant poetic talent.

Ironically she sent me an article she wrote on the poetry of Sylvia Plath; who met the same fate. She said her next book of poetry was to deal with the mental illness of her mother. Tupelo Press is publishing the collection, and it was due out in the next several months. I had booked her for The Somerville News Writers Festival, and she asked me to help book her for a reading at McLean Hospital, which I was close to doing. I sent her an email last week. I was told that she killed herself last week. She was only in her early 40’s. I know her high school teacher. She seemed so happy. Her star was rising. She had been through a divorce. She had everything to live for. I have only clichés. I am sorry. I have worked at McLean Hospital for 25 years, but I am not immune to this. May she rest in peace.

The family is having a private memorial. There will be a public memorial at Emerson College in the fall.

I conducted this interview with Sarah a year ago:
Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene

Interview with poet Sarah Hannah: A Poet within “Longing Distance”

Sarah Hannah is an educator, a poet with a PhD from Columbia University, and a sometimes rock musician. Her poems have appeared in “Barrow Street,” “Parnassus,” “Gulf Coast,” “Crab Orchard Review,” and others. Her original manuscript, which became her first poetry collection “Longing Distance,” was a semi-finalist for the “Yale Younger Poets Prize,” in 2002. Anne Dillard describes her collection as: “…an extremely moving work. I’m struck by her intelligence of emotion and her unmistakable voice…Sarah Hannah is a true original.” She currently resides with her husband in Cambridge and teaches at Emerson College in Boston. She was a guest on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer.

”Doug Holder: Can you tell us about the “Yale Younger Poets Prize” which “Longing Distance,” was a semi-finalist for?

Sarah Hannah: That was a sort of near miss. That was in 2002. That was the year Tupelo Press accepted my book. I found out I was a runner up by phoning the editor, (not the judge) who was W.S. Merwin. The editor told me he remembered the book, and it was a semi-finalist, and it was a strong book.

Doug Holder: A lot of folks claim a PhD can ruin a poet. You learn how to write academic papers, but you forget how to write poetry. This does not seem to be the case with you.

Sarah Hannah: It ruined me in the sense that while I was writing my dissertation, I felt that I didn’t have time to write poetry. But I think the PhD made me a better poet. It forced me to really study poetry deeply. You have to grapple with ideas that are foreign to you. You read more than just contemporary poets. You learn to become a better writer.Some people become sidetracked. They go into a PhD program and they emerge as critics not poets. There are more people around than you think that are poets and scholars.

Doug Holder: How did you come up with the title for your collection “Longing Distance?”

Sarah Hannah: I was writing a series of sonnets about a messed up love affair. You know “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” an all those clichés. So I came up with a line while I was in the country watching my husband scale a rock. I thought of the line: “I keep you at longing distance.” I thought it was just going to be another sonnet in the sequence. I wrote the sonnet, but then wound up expunging it from the book. I kept “Longing Distance,’ as the title.

Doug Holder: From our email exchanges I get the impression you haven’t had an easy life.

Sarah Hannah: I lived a hardscrabble life. I’ve seen life disintegrate. I wanted to put back my experiences in more metaphysical or formal terms.I grew up in Newton, Mass., in the Waban section. A lot of neurosis going on there. I would say seven out of my eight high school friends were bulimic. I was not. My mother was hospitalized at the same “summer hotel” Anne Sexton visited.

Doug Holder: How does your teaching at Emerson College fit with your poetry?

Sarah Hannah: It’s fitting beautifully because I am teaching poetry, as opposed to composition. I am teaching traditional form to graduate and undergraduate students. I teach a hybrid literature and writing course.

Doug Holder: Why did you move from the bright lights and big city of New York to the more provincial environs of Boston?

Sarah Hannah: I am a lover of the underdog. Boston is the underdog to New York. I felt I had to come back. You know: “My end is my beginning, my beginning my end.” I have always missed Boston. I am a loyal person that way. My husband and I purchased a house in Cambridge. It’s right in the Central Square area. It’s a very diverse city. I often write at the ‘1369” Coffee Shop or ‘Grendel’s Den,” in Harvard Square. I feel rooted here.

Doug Holder: How does the lit scene here compare to the “Big Apple?”

Sarah Hannah: There are a lot of readings here like N.Y. I lived in N.Y. for 17 years. It took me 8 years to get “out” there. It seems much faster out here. I have a book though, that makes a difference. I was worried. It took a long time for me to establish myself in New York City. But I didn’t loose my contacts because I maintained my connection to the journal “Barrow Street,” and now I am an editor there.”

Monday, May 28, 2007

Endicott College: A Hub for the Arts on the North Shore

Endicott College: A Hub for the Arts on the North Shore

By Doug Holder

If someone is artistically inclined, and he or she drives out to the campus of Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., they may very well be tempted to paint a picture or compose a poem. The stately old New England homes, the breathtaking view of Beverly Harbor, the waft of a bracing sea breeze, certainly can conjure up the muse. So it makes sense that Endicott College is focused on bringing on an ambitious program in the arts and writing to its hallowed halls.

Endicott College was founded in 1939 by Dr. Eleanor Tupper and her husband Dr. George O. Bierke, with the idea, (according to the official Endicott history):

“to educate women for greater independence professionally and socially.” Endicott then and now offers a solid classroom experience, as well as a link to the outside work-a-day world through a recognized internship program. From just 20 students in 1941, there are now over 1,800 daytime undergraduates, as well as 1100 adult students in graduate and professional studies programs. This along with a 230 acre, well-appointed estate, completes a very pleasing picture.

But Endicott’s ambitions have not stopped here. Dr. Peter Eden, the new Dean of Arts and Sciences, has a PhD in Microbiology, but is very interested in delivering a complete package for a liberal arts institution such as Endicott College. To this end he has worked with Chairman of the Humanities Dr. Mark Herlihy, and Creative Writing professor Dr. Dan Sklar, to affiliate the college with the prestigious journal of arts and ideas, “the new renaissance.” Headed by Louise Reynolds, the magazine has an illustrious history of presenting the best poetry, fiction, and articles of pressing social concern to a national and international audience. A new office has been set up, and students will intern with the magazine and learn the essentials of writing, reviewing, and what it takes to put out a quality journal.

Mark Herlihy feels that the connection with “the new renaissance”, and the recent creation of the Creative Writing program, can only bolster the liberal arts education. Herlihy says of “the new renaissance:”

“The college’s affiliation connects the college to a broad network of poets, artists, and writers in New England and beyond.”

Dan Sklar, who initially approached Peter Eden and Mark Herlihy with the idea for a residency for “the new renaissance,” is a dyed-in-the-wool published poet, and playwright, who tries to connect the literary world to the academic. In classes he is noted for his use of the work of living writers and poetry from small press journals. He has ambitions for an MFA in Creative Writing at Endicott College, if things go well. Sklar told the NEWS:

“Creative writing is grounded in the love of language, and writing in a natural, spontaneous, and expressive and open way. We feel there is a deep connection between the arts, literature and history as an inspirational light in one’s growth as an artist. The MFA is an extension of this philosophy. Our vision of the MFA is also one that is noncompetitive where students become part of a community of writers who are inspired by the world, everyday life, each other’s work, and by the things we see, and the art we see…”

Mark Herlihy also told the NEWS that the undergraduate literary magazine the “Endicott Review,” (that Dan Sklar is faculty advisor for)), had a poem in “The Best American Poetry 2006” edited by the former poet/Laureate Billy Collins. The college has also added to the faculty Charlotte Gordon, author of “Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Story of America’s First Poet,” which won a Massachusetts Book Award.

Endicott is also expanding on another front as well. Mark Towner, Dean of the Fine Arts School of Art and Design, says that the Board of Trustees of the college authorized the construction of a 70,000 square foot Center for Visual and Performing Arts at the College. The design will be completed June 15, and construction should begin on July 1, 2007. Towner adds that:

“The new facility will support the visual arts by providing state-of-the-art studios, galleries, and workshops. The latter will include woodwork/model building/ book arts (printmaking/bookbinding), finishing and mounting, computer labs, digital printing, a performance hall and a blackbox theatre. These two major additions will support the growth of both music and theatre arts at Endicott.”

With all this new activity on this campus by-the sea, it seems likely that Endicott will become the arts and cultural hub of the North Shore. Boston and Cambridge watch your backs!

Doug Holder

Modern Lovers: Sherman Cafe- Memorial Day ( Somerville, Mass.)

So there I was having a scone at Sherman' I have done on and off for a decade, when I hear someone say : "Hey, I hear you are closing." I asked the counterman, and he said today--Sunday Sept 14, 2014 was the last day of the Sherman Cafe. I guess it wasn't making money--and the owner decided to close it. They are going to morph into a somewhat tony ice cream shop--that will probably fit the high end image the hip and new square will affect in the coming months and years. It was a great cafe-- I have interviewed many local and national writers and artists there like Hugh Fox, Ethan Gilsdorf, Afaa Michael Weaver, too many to name. I also reveled in their oatmeal/cherry made rare appearances as of late. I also composed many a poem there. This fateful morning I was having breakfast with my old friend Jennifer Matthews--who is relocating to another part of the state, and who I just finished a music,poetry collaboration with. So parting is such sweet/sorrow.. Here is a poem I wrote at the said cafe some years ago--hope you enjoy:

Modern Lovers: Sherman Cafe-Memorial Day-Somerville, Mass.


joined at the hip...

they sit.

Across the small table

hand on his mouse

the other on

the folds of her

draping blouse.

He sends an amorous


to the inbox

of her wireless

beating heart--

And says the very

same things,

lovers have

always said,

from the start.