Friday, March 14, 2008

Philip E. Burnham's Poetry Collection "Housekeeping" ( Ibbetson Press 2005) to be featured on NPR

Philip E. Burnham, Jr's Housekeeping: Poems out of the ordinary (Ibbetson, 2005) will be featured on Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac on NPR.

March 14, 2008

Ibbetson Street Press

25 School Street

Somerville MA 02143 (617) 628-2313

Garrison Keillor, host of A Prairie Home Companionâ and of The Writer's Almanacâ, would like to include a poem by Philip Burnham, his program. We understand you hold rights to the poem, and I am writing to arrange permission to include it on The Writer’s Almanac. The poem and broadcast date are:

“Assignment # 1: Write a poem about Baseball and God” from Housekeeping: Poems out of the ordinary April 4, 2008

The Writer’s Almanac is a daily radio program produced by American Public Media (APM). In each program Mr. Keillor presents a list of cultural events and anniversaries, many associated with literature and literary figures, then ends with the poetry reading. APM currently distributes the program for broadcast to about 320 non-commercial public radio stations around the country. The program audio is also streamed and podcast from and archived on the APM website at and may be streamed, archived on carrying station websites as well. In addition, we would appreciate permission to put the text of the poem on those websites and promotional materials, only in connection with The Writer’s Almanac.


Kathy Roach

“Assignment # 1: Write a poem about Baseball and God” ( From the collection "Housekeeping")

Assignment #1: Write a poem about Baseball and God

And on the ninth day, God
In His infinite playfulness
Grass green grass, sky blue sky,
Separated the infield from the outfield,
Formed a skin of clay,
Assigned bases of safety
On cardinal points of the compass
Circling the mountain of deliverance,
Fashioned a wandering moon
From a horse, a string and a gum tree,
Tempered weapons of ash,
Made gloves from the golden skin of sacrificial bulls,
Set stars alight in the Milky Way,
Divided the descendants of Cain and Abel into contenders,
Declared time out, time in, stepped back,
And thundered over all creation:

"Play Ball!"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Now in its SUCCESSFUL Eighth !!! Year

CO-SPONSORS:Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with
The Boston Public Library. Starts Saturday, April 12th, 2008 10:00 A.M.
To 5:00 P.M. OPEN MIKE: Saturday, 1:30 to 4:00P.M. The festival will be held at the library ’s main branch in Copley Square.

56 Major and emerging poets will each do a ten minute reading; also

Featuring six extraordinarily talented prize winning high school students: Rhea Kroutil-McKendry and Tu Phan, Boston Latin High School; Jocelyn Morris, Yamira Serret, Taoe Clark, Boston Arts Academy; and Gabriella Fee, a Sophomore attending the Walnut Hill School for the Arts. These Student stars will open the festival at 10:00 A.M. SAM CORNISH, Boston's new and first Poet Laureate will open the formal part of the festival at 11:00 A/M. 55 additional major and emerging poets will follow with a
Some of the many luminaries include SAM CORNISH, Diana DerHovanessian , Rhina P. Espaillat, Richard Wollman, Lloyd Schwartz,, Fred Marchant, Barbara Helfgott-Hyett, DanTobin, Charles Coe, Danielle Legros-Georges, Regie Gibson, Marc Widershien, Sandee Story, Tino Villanueva,C.D. Collins, Stuart Peterfreund, Frannie Lindsay, Ifanyi Menkiti, Lainie Senechal, Harris Gardner, Susan Donnelly and Doug Holder.

This festival has it all. A plethora of professional poets, celebrities, a Pulitzer Prize Winner, numerous award winners, student participation.
Even more, it is about community, neighborhoods, diversity, BOSTON and MASSACHUSETTS. This fast growing tradition is one of the largest events in Boston’s Contribution to National Poetry Month. FREE ADMISSION !!

For information: Tapestry of Voices, (617-306-9484) or
617-723-3716 Library: (617)- 536-5400

Wheelchair accessible. Assistive listening devices available. To request a sign language interpreter or for other special needs, call (617) 536-7855 (TTY) at least two weeks before the program date.

Harris Gardner

The Art of Writing Poetry with Doug Holder


( click on to enlarge)

Course ID:

Course Name:
The Art of Writing Poetry (Writing & Speaking)

Poets want two things: to be able to write compelling poetry, and to
see it in print. In this participatory workshop we will develop
poetry through creative brainstorming. Feedback will focus on the
effective use of language, imagery, and metaphor in the construction
of a poem. The instructor will provide leads for publishing and
contacts at small presses. Many students have published their poems
for the first time in the course of this workshop. Please bring
three original poems to each class. You will have the chance to read
your work aloud and to get feedback from other class members.

Douglas Holder

7pm to 9pm on Tuesday

Newton SOUTH HS in Room 2105


No Class Dates:
(No class Apr 22)
Classes are from 4/8/2008 to 5/20/2008. There will be 6 sessions.

Doug Holder is a small press activist. He founded the Ibbetson
Street Press in the winter of 1998 in Somerville, Mass. He has
published over 40 books of poetry of local and national poets and
over 20 issues of the literary journal "Ibbetson Street." Holder is
a co-founder of "The Somerville News Writers Festival," and is the
curator of the "Newton Free Library Poetry Series" in Newton, Mass.
His interviews with contemporary poets are archived at the Harvard
and Buffalo University libraries, as well as Poet's House in NYC.
Holder's own articles and poetry have appeared in several
anthologies including: Inside the Outside: An Anthology of Avant-
Garde American Poets (Presa Press) "Greatest Hits: twelve years of
Compost Magazine (Zephyr Press) America's Favorite Poems edited by
Robert Pinsky. His work has appeared in such magazines as: Rattle,
Caesura, Home Planet News,Istanbul Literary Review, Sahara, The
Boston Globe Magazine, Poesy, Small Press Review, Artword Quarterly,
Manifold (U.K.), The Café Review, the new renaissance and many
others. He holds an M.A. in Literature from Harvard University.
Recently Holder was a guest of the "Voices Israel" literary
organization, and conducted workshops and read from his work in
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv (Zoa House), and Haifa. His two most recent
collections of poetry are: "Of All the Meals I Had Before," (
Cervena Barva),"No One Dies at the Au Bon Pain" (sunnyoutside)

"Bird Scarer"( poems) by Glenn Sheldon

"Bird Scarer"( poems) by Glenn Sheldon

$14.00 U.S. paperback

Cervena Barva Press

ISBN: 9780615171678

Pub.: 2008

Review by Mike Amado

"Bird Scarer" is the first full-length poetry collection

by Glen Sheldon, though, at the same time, it stands in sapient

observation like a guru in a rock garden, silently reflecting

every speck.

The collection is split into three sections. All of which

own their own psyche, and draws for the reader a continuum

of images, both concrete and not, that shift perception

just like the poems switch geographic locations; from Chicago

to "North of Boston", French Guiana to Buenos Aires.

There is a certain division of voice in the first section of "Bird

Scarer", the "alert" poet taking in the atmosphere of a city where

the view from skyscrapers are,

". . .a tool invented to seduce angels into throwing / stones down

upon damned rooftops." and the man looking for employment.

Shining his shoes just to go to the library or the art museum.

With an almost split personality, the speaker is both an adult

with a job and is an unquiet youth running loose in the city:

"There is the sugar rush of / leaving work and undoing / one’s

tie on an unraveling / street."

In the poem, "Class Wars", the speaker is an infiltrator in the

"High-art" world, stealing into exhibit openings in "SuHu

(SoHo transplanted to corn country)".

The art openings are seen as being less about the art and more

about the artist, "Discreetly visible", in "Expensively pensive

clothing.",( black, of course ) and about making a sale. "The

cheese was often / cut into cubes as if cubism, at last,

/ was profitable." Sheldon concludes:

"The wine spurred us

to fall in love with the neon of streetlights,

the shine on mouths with lipstick or

offers of the wrong kisses. And the art?

In a city rich from hanging meat, it

hung there. It was for the wealthy

to steal away from constipated drunks."

While the first section tackles relocation and the inertia of trying t

o assimilate to new surroundings, the second section introduces

an existentialism. In "Evasive Summer", the last line asks,

"Is Earth the only/ planet where dreams can harm?" The

speaker watches his stoned neighbors cavorting in an above-g

round pool. Though vicariously, at the same time watching

with exhilaration. Calling it, "The Fall of Troy as puppet-theater"

as they,". . .touch each / others scars."

The poems here are presented with a roving eye that virtually

wishes to be somewhere else or apart of what is being observed,

however continuing a keen sense for every detail.

"North of Boston" is the speaker’s account of a "family

tradition",driving with his family to view other families’

Christmas lights. The competing neighbors, no doubt vying for t

he attention with their, "bright attempts to turn /

the manger into a mystery, Off-Broadway." Sheldon continues:

"Angels gather into barber shop quartets.

We look for the lights to make us say, Ah.

I look for the Atlantic lights farther out, heading

south. Cuba? Argentina? Ah."

In section three, "Geography of Desire" the speaker finally casts

off his necktie that only became undone in the first section.

There are many poems worthy of citation that the reader will

have to experience themselves. Holding true to the title, the

poems here involve an eroticism, both for flesh and for

landscapes. All the while the voice of the writer is there.

"Borrowed Horoscope: San Juan" presents that

voice of the writer with strength:

. . . "My journal says Romans were

our first tourists, that souvenirs were

the only proof that they didn’t spend

their last years in prisons. I write just

to look at the splendor of my penmanship,

the Caribbean waves crashing inside comfort

rented by the week." . . .

Throughout "Bird Scarer, Sheldon effortlessly glides from

couplets to triplets, then to quatrains without loosing the story.

Most poetic forms can be the death of a good story, in my opinion.

Though Sheldon has developed both story and form

alongside each other in "Bird Scarer".

These are the words of an uprooted soul, finding transplantation

and a temp job in Chicago, finally regaining a new

consciousness in abstract horizons where,

"My notebooks fill up with zodiacs /

in temporarily strange skies." ("In Nicaragua, Again")


By Indran Amirthanayagam
Hanging Loose Press, 2008
Price $16.00 ISBN 978-1931236-82-9

Review by Richard Wilhelm

More than 225,000 human lives were lost on Dec. 26th 2004 when one of the worst tsunamis in history brought destruction to the coastlines of Indonesia, Thailand, the northwestern coast of Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Even Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania in eastern Africa felt the effects. The death toll was the equivalent of approximately 52 September 11ths occurring on one day. Sri Lanka lost approximately 35,000. Indran Amirthanayagam’s collection of poems memorializes those lost and gives voice to the survivors of this incomprehensible tragedy in powerful evocative images. In the preface, he writes:
“It was the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, and they were sleepy-eyed, and unaware of the ominous signs, a sea receding revealing hundreds of fish gasping for air, brackish, angry water, and animals scurrying for higher ground, birds flying inland. On the Andaman Islands some people still close to birds and beasts picked up the signals and headed for safety. They were a drop literally in the sea’s bucket.”
He speaks of “the ones who picked up huge fish and dashed for shore delighted at their luck,” not guessing that moments later would come a catastrophe of Biblical proportions. Amirthanayagam, along with bearing witness, cannot help but ask questions as well. In the first poem of the collection, “Face”, he asks:

“How shall we greet
the orphan boy,
the husband whose hand
slipped, children
and wife swept away?


“but what if the ocean
were innocent,
the tectonic plates
innocent, what if God
were innocent?

In “Century” he describes the tsunami as a

an-hour knife
hurtling towards
our island
to gash and gut
the coast, unearth
childhood treasures
and landmines

popped out
for public display
in the silt and mud
the tsunami’s
gift and curse,
instant and forced
for you the survivor
who lives on---

Amirthanayagam documents the sufferings of various individuals and gives them a voice, persons such as Chinnathambi, the body builder who tried to swim with his wife and mother-in-law clinging to his neck until he hit a wall and was knocked unconscious. He woke to find his family lost.

And does he think:
Who will say Dada now?
Who will care for me
when I grow old and cannot
lift a woman with my leg,
or 330 pounds of cement?
My sons and wife
must have thought
my strength would save them;
“King Kong”

In the poem “Bill,” the speaker observes:

“Something strange

is happening to the sea,” a man
shouted. “We are going to die.”
I rushed to the window,
the whole bay had emptied
and shoals of huge fish
were flapping and gasping
on the bed. -----

In “Eyewitness,” Amirthanayagam calls the sea “an angry bugger, sleeping monster, murderer,” but adds:

blind, brutal, blood-
thirsty, but she is
our mother;
we are islanders;
she has fed,
brooded us,
let our boats

come and go,----

Indran Amirthanayagam is a poet and essayist whose first collection of poems “Elephants of Reckoning” won the 1994 Paterson Poetry Prize. He was born in Sri Lanka and is a member of the United States Foreign Service. “The Splintered Face,” his second book published in the US, paints haunting images in well-crafted rhythms. It is a deeply moving book, highly recommended especially for those of us who, unlike the Andaman Islanders, are no longer close to birds and beasts, no longer picking up the signals. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to tsunami relief.

-- Richard Wilhelm

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Interview with poet Mark Doty: A poet who goes from “Fire to Fire.”

Interview with poet Mark Doty: A poet who goes from “Fire to Fire.”

When a publicist from Harper Collins in New York City emailed to see if I wanted to review Mark Doty’s new poetry collection: “Fire to Fire,” I was on it like the proverbial hornet. Doty is high on the top shelf of American poets, a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Whiting Writers Award and the U.K’s T.S. Eliot Prize. His poetry has appeared in the American Poetry Review, Ploughshare, Prairie Schooner, and many other well-regarded literary journals. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Ingram-Merrill Foundation, as well as the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. In his new collection Doty peppers his work with beautiful studied images, and haunting apparitions he spies in the most unlikely of places. Doty has an astute ear for music, he can smell death’s most subtle odor, and he can explain to you what you have been just dying to articulate. To be honest, few of the poetry books I get to review are dyed-in-the-wool page turners. But Doty’s is hands down. I interviewed Doty recently for The Somerville News.

Doug Holder: You were an army brat moving from one place to the other. Did that transience early on make you want to get that image on the permanent page?

Mark Doty: I really had transience drummed into me -- by my grandparents' apocalyptic Protestantism, and the hymns we used to sing on the porch, and what seems to have been a built-in obsession with mortality. And because we moved all the time, it's true that people and places were always being left behind.

DH: Ghosts are a presence in your poems. Do you feel that you are haunted? Is that a good thing for a poet?

MD: I do want my poems to hold conversation with the dead -- both my own and the great dead whose poems I love.
It's an inescapable thing for a poet, because how can you not speak back to the poets who've mattered most to you, who've taught you to see and to speak?

DH: Saul Bellow considered himself a writer who happened to be Jewish. Do you consider yourself a poet who happens to be Gay?

MD: I like to steal a line from Lucille Clifton, who says, "I do not happen to be black, I AM black." Same-sex desire lives right near the core of me. But what that has to do with being a poet is complex. It doesn't mean that my poems must always focus on
sexual life, or on the cultural conditions in which gay men live. But it does mean that my sexuality is part of my subjectivity, and inescapably shapes how I see.

DH: Your partner Wally Roberts died of AIDS. Many of your poems address this. Do you view “Illness as a metaphor?

MD: Other people made it so -- AIDS as a token of sexual shame, or punishment for transgression. HIV's a virus, and we surround it, as we do a select group of diseases, with meanings. I have yet to find any of the ways we try to make HIV disease "mean" to be helpful. But I've wanted to at least give form to my experience with Wally, and with our friends and neighbors, during the terrible crisis years of the late 80s and early 90s. That's part of what you described above as being haunted. What can you do for the dead but keep their stories, or name them?

DH: I noticed your second volume of poems was “Bethlehem in Broad Daylight” was published by David R. Godine, Inc., a fine small press here in Boston. I awarded Godine an Ibbetson Street Press Life Time Achievement Award a few years back for his contributions to poetry and the small press. How was it working with Godine? Do you think the small press plays an important role in the development of poetic talent?

MD: Godine published my first two books, and I'm forever grateful for that. The press took a chance on an unknown poet and produced beautiful volumes. I don't think poets need think about smaller presses as just places to start out. A trade house isn't necessarily the best place to wind up; books can get lost in the shuffle, and frequently do not remain in print. The loyalty and resources of a more specialized literary press often serve our art better than the big houses do -- though I have been very fortunate in this regard.

DH: Your poetry is accessible. I don’t think you need an academic bent to get something out of your work. Obviously this has not hurt you in the poetry biz. Do you think a lot of poetry being written today is deliberately obtuse?

MD: It’s a very large and capacious house, American poetry. I have no desire for everyone to work in the same way. What interests me most is the individuality and vivacity of a voice, a way of seeing and speaking the world. So there are poets I love who are very plain-spoken (like Marie Howe) and poets I love whose work makes a different set of demands on the reader (Brenda Hillman or Jean Valentine). I don't think either transparency or opacity are virtues in themselves. They're just ways of speaking. What matters is what you do with them.

DH: In the poem “Almost Blue” in your new collection “Fire to Fire” (Harper Collins) you write of the beautiful and doomed jazz musician Chet Baker. In the poem you imagine Baker’s swan song which is composed of nodding out and falling out a hotel window in Amsterdam:

“ and you leaning into that warm
haze from the window, Amsterdam,
late afternoon glimmer
a blur of buds.

Breathing in the lindens
And you let go and why not.”

Is this acceptance of things as they are, what is, is; something you try to get across in your work?

MD: Baker was a heroin addict for something like 28 years, so you could see that as a very long slow letting go. He fell from a hotel window in Amsterdam, maybe nodded out, maybe jumped. I wanted, in this poem; to try to lean into the feeling of addiction, into that state of mind that just says Oh, let me go, let it all go. What I want to admire, you know, is the Chet Baker who made all that incredible art, who kept producing that stunning music. But there's something about the toxic pull of addiction, of the poison -- you know, the deep allure of that. Acceptance? I don't know. Sometimes yes. Then sometimes I think you should resist with all your might.

At the Gym

This salt-stain spot

marks the place where men

lay down their heads,

back to the bench,

and hoist nothing

that need be lifted

but some burden they've chosen

this time: more reps,

more weight, the upward shove

of it leaving, collectively,

this sign of where we've been:

shroud-stain, negative

flashed onto the vinyl

where we push something

unyielding skyward,

gaining some power

at least over flesh,

which goads with desire,

and terrifies with frailty.

Who could say who's

added his heat to the nimbus

of our intent, here where

we make ourselves:

something difficult

lifted, pressed or curled,

Power over beauty,

power over power!

Though there's something more

tender, beneath our vanity,

our will to become objects

of desire: we sweat the mark

of our presence onto the cloth.

Here is some halo

the living made together.

--Mark Doty

Mark Doty will be reading from his collection "Fire to Fire" March 19 7PM 79 Harvard Street Brookline Booksmith


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems. Mark Doty.

Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems. Mark Doty. (Harper Collins-2008) $23.

Mark Doty is not only a poet’s poet. Thank God. Doty is an accomplished writer, the winner of the National Book Critics Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and is the only American winner of Britain’s T.S. Eliot Prize. But in spite of these accolades, we barbarians outside of the gates of the Academy can be thoroughly engaged and enamored with his latest collection: “Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems.”

Some years ago a friend of mine the poet Richard Wilhelm took a workshop with Doty at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, in Cambridge, Mass. He said Doty emphasized the need to avoid neat, pat, endings. He wanted his students to “stretch” their work. In this time of frenzied movement he wanted his students to “sit” with their poems.

And indeed this seems what Doty has done as evidenced by his brilliant new collection. His work is peppered with beautiful, studied images; with haunting apparitions spotted in the most unlikely of places. Doty has an astute ear for music, which makes for a wonderful musicality in his work. He can smell death’s most subtle odor, and he can explain to you what your inarticulate rage is all about. How many poetry books can we really call page-turners? But this book is in the truest sense.

In a stunning poem about the late “Cool” jazz horn player Chet Baker, Doty’s musical language captures the brutal and beautiful texture of Baker’s life and art. Baker, a naturally gifted musician, with a hauntingly, angelic voice, was also a dyed-in-the wool heroin addict and psychopath. He met his end by nodding out of a hotel window in Amsterdam. In Doty’s poem “Almost Blue,” we have Baker’s swan song, and the poet encapsulates the man, his elegiac music, his lyrics, and his drugged-out Zen-like acceptance of what life brings:

“ in the warm suspension and glaze
of this song everything stays up

almost forever in the long
glide sung into the vein,

one note held almost impossibly
almost blue and the lyric takes so long

to open, a little blood
blooming: there’s no love song finer

but how strange the change
from major to minor

every time
we say goodbye

and you leaning into that warm
haze from the window, Amsterdam,

late afternoon glimmer
a blur of buds

breathing in the lindens
and you let go and why not.”

And speaking of inarticulate rage, and lives of quiet desperation, have you ever thought why you become inordinately angry with some of the daily outrages you encounter on the street? In the poem “Citizens,” Doty is almost swiped by a truck on a Manhattan street. The truck driver smiles as Doty yells his indignant invective in his direction. Doty ponders why he carries the burden of anger so long after the fact:

“ and I am carrying the devil
in his carbon chariot all the way to 23rd, down into the subway,
roiling against the impersonal malice of the truck that armors

so he doesn’t have to know anyone.
Under the Port Authority I understand I’m raging
because that’s easier than weeping, not because I’m so afraid

of scraping my skull
on the pavement but because he’s made me erasable,
a slip of self, subject to. How’d I get emptied

till I can be hostaged
by a dope in a flaming climate-wrecker? I try to think
who made him so powerless he craves dominion over strangers,

but you know what?
I don’t care. If he’s one of those people miserable for lack
of what is found in poetry, fine.”

Yes—that it’s Mr. Doty. You have got it down. It’s what I meant to say. It is what I meant to write.

This is one of the most brilliant collections I have reviewed in years, and I am sent a lot of them. I don’t care if you are gay or straight, have a Rockefeller Grant, or food stamps, Doty speaks to us all, baby.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Somerville, Mass /2008

* Om Monday March 19 7PM Doty will be reading at the Brookline Booksmith 279 Harvard Street.