Saturday, April 05, 2008

Pomegranate Seeds:An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry

Pomegranate Seeds
An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry
Dean Kostos, Editor
Somerset Hall Press 2008
ISBN 978-09774610-4-2

The introduction, preface to this anthology is
informative. Dean Kostos gives us reason to explore
and investigate, not just, the history he refers to in
the preface, but, also, the contents of this anthology
of Greek-American poetry. The poets, and poems are as
diverse as America, and as steeped in pride as Greece.
“We too are inspired not only by our ancient heritage,
but also by its subsequent manifestations, when Greek
culture commingled with others.” The connection
between the poets is their heritage, their voices are,
at once, strong and humble.

Thereafter, a brief biography of each of the forty
nine poets sets up an understanding, the poet’s
relationship drawn between two cultures. In all the
writing, the poems seem inseparable from the poet and
their influences. Pages flow into the next, similar to
a mountain stream after the spring rain. The poems
emerge, overflow, careen down, rich with life the
poems feed our commitment to each other as a whole. I
present a small sampling of some of the accomplished
poet’s poems from ‘Pomegranate Seeds.’

Eleni Fourtouni

“I performed the libation at sunset:
milk and honey, wine and olive oil,
enough for a hundred traitors.
once they played tag…”

John Bradley

“I tell you I didn’t die.
I just never bothered
to turn back”

Ioanna Carlsen

“The bigness of the arc going each way,
never deviating in its rhythm.
the back, the forth
the pen writing its line
and then returning,
starting over again…”

Constantine Contogenis

“Before his father told him
the idea of windows, he
loved both sides of walls, locusts
leaving carapaces, ewes…”

Penelope Karageorge

“…the stones await me.
I swallow them with salt and greens and weep.

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor
Wilderness House Literary Review
Reviewer: Ibbetson Street Press

In Chambers: The Boddhisatva of the Public Defender’s Office by Richard Krech

In Chambers: The Boddhisatva of the Public Defender’s Office
by Richard Krech
44 pages/ $10

By Thomas Gagnon

Richard Krech has convictions, which engaged my attention and respect. Krech observes that criminal law operates violently. He makes this clear from the first poem, onwards. (This is also clear from Dickens’ Bleak House or Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.) He then establishes his role as peace-maker and liberator—overall, a life-giving force in a deadly environment. Kudos to Krech, the lawyer.

Krech, the poet, does use poetic devices, like alliteration, but he uses too few and too rarely. Too many of his poems read like news articles cut into varying line lengths that could be pasted back into the article format.

Meanwhile, onward to what works—
The opening poem, “In Chambers,” is also one of the best poems in the book. First compared to poker, a card game of deception and suspense, the courtroom dramas soon become ominously violent, featuring opponents, powder and ammunition, and corrosion—or worse, destruction—of a human being. The indelibly rhythmic assonance of the phrase “Advocates and adversaries” starts both the second stanza and the poem’s recurrent metaphor of courtroom-as-war. This soon leads to a Darth Vader “black robe at the center/of attention, the center of power.” The judge is an unfeeling robe. In the next stanza also, Krech delivers the horror of the courtroom scene.

At poem’s end, Krech asserts, “There is no symbolism here.” He follows this assertion with aptly terse statements, concluding with “and destroy [a whole life].” Well said.

That Robe from “In Chambers” re-appears later in “Virtual Justice,” where again it plays an unfeeling role, as it “two way video conferences/with a concrete cell/miles away…” While “the Robe” depersonalizes the judge, the conference is depersonalized by video technology. Later on, the alliteration of “Dejected distracted” is attention-getting, perhaps to make the reader wonder, are the prisoners distracted by their dejection? Here is a place where I also wonder, why doesn’t Krech use alliteration in other poems? Ultimately, Krech zeroes in on this illusory, virtual, and therefore, injustice.

In Chambers has other good poems, like “Deconstructing the Prosecution’s Case,” and other good devices, like the drive through the fruitful valley into the unchanging town center and then into the
battle of the courtroom. More often, however, Krech is not using language in an engaging, memorable way. His subject deserves more style than he is giving it.

--Thomas Gagnon

Friday, April 04, 2008

Ibbetson Press Book "Housekeeping" by Philip Burnham Jr. featured on NPR's

* Click on banner to get on Writer's Almanac site. Check archive if after April 4, 2008 for audio clip

Ibbetson Press Book "Housekeeping" by Philip Burnham Jr. featured on NPR's The Writer's Almanac

by Doug Holder

Ibbetson Poet Philip Burnham featured on NPR''s Writers Almanac. From his poetry collection "Housekeeping" (Ibbetson 2005)

Poem: "Assignment #1: Write a poem about Baseball and God" by Philip E. Burnham, Jr. from Housekeeping: Poems Out of the Ordinary. © Ibbetson Street Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission.

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 of creation:
"Play ball

Turning Tables by Heather and Rose MacDowell

Turning Tables by Heather and Rose MacDowell
By Shannon O’Connor

The Dial Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
New York, New York
April 2008

Turning Tables was left behind at the Bagel Bards at Au Bon Pain one Saturday mornng as a joke. “We’re going to start doing chick lit books,” was received to dubious laughter. Almost everyone left and the lonely book was abandoned on the table. The few stragglers picked it up, and I decided I would read it, even though I had never dipped my toes into the chick lit sea before, but I was ready to take the plunge.

Erin Edwards, the heroine of the novel, loses her job in marketing, and a family friend gives her a recommendation to work in an upscale Manhattan restaurant. She has no experience in fine dining, but she tries to fake knowledge of food, wine and service.

The characters are extremely one dimensional: there’s the gay waiter/ aspiring actor, the nursing student who works at the restaurant at night, the lifetime waiter, the nasty Italian manager who doesn’t speak proper English, and of course, the crazy cooks.

The dialogue is stilted. The characters say things that should have been said already. At a private party at which Erin serves, a mother says to her daughter, “Look at me when I’m talking to you. There are three decent schools in Manhattan and you’ve blown through two of them.”

I kept reading, not because the characters were interesting or they had something to say, but because the story and plot were fast and intriguing. Erin was always getting into some kind of mishap at work. She had a fling with a guy just because she thought he was hot. And the fate of the restaurant was always in her hands. The managers couldn’t stand her, because she was not quick enough. She despised working there, and she felt ashamed that she had fallen from a professional job to waiting tables. She was embarrassed to tell people she met that she was a waitress. She went to an upscale party with her boyfriend and she felt “like a maid in her mistress’s clothes.”

Even though the book is chick lit, it deals with certain issues about class in America. Of course it is possible for the upper middle class to "fall" to working class, especially in the economic turmoil our country faces now. The character Erin was making a good salary in marketing and eating at the best restaurant in Manhattan, then she lost her job and became a waitress. She felt embarrassed. There shouldn’t be a reason to feel embarrassed about having a job and doing it well. She didn’t do her job well, but she improved as the book wore on, and she didn’t crack under pressure. Serving people could make anyone break, but survival is the goal. I survived this book and came out unscathed, but I don’t know if I’d swim in the chick lit sea again.

*Shannon O'Connor is a recent graduate of U/Mass Boston, and works at Starbucks on Beacon Hill.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Ten Poems about East Asia & Kitsch Nebula Ampersands And: Ralph-Michael Chiaia

Ten Poems About East Asia


Kitsch Nebula Ampersands And:

Poems by Ralph-Michael Chiaia

Coatlism Press, copyright 2007

Pages = 47.

Review by Lo Galluccio

Genius book. I wanted to review it because it’s about a part of the world—East Asia -- I only begin to see through the faces and ideas of my Korean and Japanese students at Berlitz. This is not a book about that part of Asia, however, except for a few poems about Seoul. What’s super-cool though is this book is also full of what I like about experimental work: his code lists, symbols, concrete language and wild juxtapositions of great post-modern verse.

“I like to keep perspective,” Suzanne Vega adroitly sings. So does Chiaia. (His bio says that he resides on Long Island but travels the world armed with his pens and laptop-- you can tell.) This book is an enticing travelogue of portraits of places and people from New York City to Singapore.

His wings are in the mixture of cultural references, combined with a love of Asian ambience and history, and New York’s splaying multi-cultural virtues and vices. The first part of the book, Part 1, “Ten Poems about East Asia” are dedicated to his homeland of East Asia, notably Thailand. (This is my guess, though it is not explicitly stated.) Although he writes with a conscientious and lucid notation of many catastrophes-- only one of which is a scorched Vietnam from the U.S. War against it-- there is a playfulness and richness of language that seems to come from the decadence of a narcotic-filled nights in Bangkok or Hong Kong.


“She’s up in the afternoon

nose stuffed up from too much

alcohol. She washes the cum off her.


hope that tomorrow

will be real

not another fantasy --

her cellphone buzzes.”

p. 14

On the close of the Vietnam War in Phnom Penh he snaps this shot:

(circa 1975):

“the motorcycles dust bowl

the place now

where the Khmer Army,

all boys,

took all the guys wearing glasses,

the doctors, the teachers,

the nurses

to labor camps

to the killing fields

to the Teng Sleng”

p. 12

The Kitsch Part 2 Section is full of Odes to many things. There are several sarcastic but true enough Odes to America that hit hard and funny. Here’s one example:


“America big baby playing with toys

nobody else has

in a room full of boys.”

p. 33

Against this stake to the heart of America’s big boy greed and ridiculousness is a Ginsberg-esque piece called, “Ode for the Fucking Sake of it” that captures the freedom and cravings the US engenders & which suddenly darkens down with an iteration of 9/11.

“I want

the honking, smell of knishes and sauerkraut

and delicious peanuts that taste like shit

I want

The Latinas with hoops and jeeps

the parks and it’s craziness:

man in grey suit playing flute

woman in fountain giving speech

SWAT team in gear

Invisible on rooftops, in vans…”

“the bodegas selling dope

speaking Spanish

the passersby blowing kisses at men’s dates

the many saying yum to the tall girl in heels

the dog run, the chess tables, the arches….”

And then a jumbo jet turns right back into the World Trade Towers and Chiaia returns us to the brutal realities under the surface, or just behind them now, where other brutalities have taken their place:

“the terrorist attacks, the steel burning, the buildings falling,

the smoke that stayed, hovered, stank

of burning flesh and steel

the following antipathy, altruism, and apathy.”

Chiaia is a unique trip-hoppy visionary of language and this book encompasses war and peace, lyricism and death, and hit or miss mixes with strangers, especially women. It’s cover is forest green swirled with an image of a battleship the color of money and spring.

Lo Galluccio

Ibbetson St. Press

Poet Heather Madden: A Recent Transplant to Somerville’s Rich Artistic Milieu

Poet Heather Madden: A Recent Transplant to Somerville’s Rich Artistic Milieu

Somerville poet Heather Madden is in the midst of a love affair. It was love at first sight with the city of Somerville. She loves the mixture of artists, the generations of families that reside here, the Sherman Café, the eclectic shops of Union Square and the general enthusiasm for the Arts the ‘ville embodies. Madden, who lives in the Union Square/Winter Hill Section area of the city, told the News that her Somerville neighborhood is: “quiet enough” for her to write and she loves the view of a historic home across the way from her flat.

Madden is a published poet, with extensive teaching experience on the college level. Currently Madden works as an adjunct professor at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. and as a Development Associate at the Arsenal Center For The Arts in Watertown, Mass.

At the Center she is involved in grant writing, editing, proofing, to name just a few duties. The Center has four resident companies, and has its own programs such as “Text and Context” a series that matches a writer with a visual artist. Both participants talk about their “process” and there is an open discussion with the audience. Somerville Poet Lloyd Schwartz was a recent participant.

As for her work at Hampshire College Madden told the News that she finds the students consistently engaged with the craft of poetry. In Madden’s view her students are genuinely interested in poetry-- a godsend for any teacher.

Madden, who experienced the death of her father and other family members in short order said she need the distance of some eight years to truly write about it. She is now really “engaged” with her past in the context of her work. When she completes the manuscript she is working on: “Bring the Dead Girls Home,” she feels she will be able to “move on” in her writing.

Madden grew up near State College, Pennsylvania, a university town, but her parents were not professors. Her late father was a criminal investigator. When Madden started teaching at her alma mater she founded a visiting writers program for Department of Youth Service kids living in a residential treatment setting. She had her own college students teach the kids with laudable results. Since then Madden has gone on to teach in the Midwest, but came back to the Northeast to be near friends and family.

Madden also pitches in as a reader at the prestigious literary magazine “Ploughshares” based at Emerson College in Boston. As a reader of poetry manuscripts she looks for original vision, an element of surprise, humor, and emotional layers. Madden told the NEWS:

“If a poem makes me pause, and each line makes me want to go back and read the poem again, then it is a winner.”

Madden, who worked at the Sherman Café for a brief time when she first moved to Somerville, is happy in her new digs and glad to live in a place that is inspiring.

Doug Holder

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Poesy Magazine Issue 36

issue 36
P.O.Box 7823
Santa Cruz, Ca. 95061
2008 ISSN# 1541-8162

Publisher: Brian Morrisey
Guest Editor: Erika King
Boston Editor: Doug Holder

Initially I flipped through Poesy Magazine issue 36,
and my first impressions were the juxtaposition of
photography and poetry; essay and poetry; different
type faces and poetry; the white space page integrated
with and opposite the black space page. This issue is
worth the year wait. The size, 7 ½ by 7 ½, the glossy
cover, the presentation, all lend to an intimate hold
in your hand, kind of magazine. The editors did a
fabulous job. Their respect for poetry and the poet is
evident in the formatting.

I started a list of the poems I liked best, then I
realized there were so many that it became impossible
to comment on all of them. It will have to suffice,
that I found some of the finest, grounded, simply
plain spoken poetry, not excluding what I feel is also
experimental phrasing, in a few of the poems;
“daylight snapped between black & white” or “I leave
again for Paris by way of my mother…” Then those poems
of few words, leap off the page and grab my mind, hold
me captive until I think it through; “I am the last
brut’ and the last poem in the magazine seems to be
the epitome of what this magazine stands for, or at
least part of what the magazine espouses..

“I maybe
used to have
favorite poets but they
only wrote about made up things, didn’t
have even a portion of a trashed life…”

Poesy is one of many small magazines, small presses,
that gives the public a sampling of what some poets
are trying to capture about their life and landscape,
without having to confound, us the reader.

Brian Morrisey and Erika King’s interview with the
veiled anonymity of the GPP is interesting but I don’t
agree with a lot of what the responses to the
questions were. I do agree with, “we’ve never said we
we’re, “revolutionary”…we just publish poems and get
them to as many people as possible.” that premise is
what the small press does, get the word or poem out
there and Poesy does it well.

The photography is in itself poetic portraits
portrayed in an insightful manner. Bravo to Poesy and
to all the hard working small presses. Without them
most of the poets I know would not be in print. most
of them would be lurking in a corner coffee shop
waiting for an opportunity to publish.

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor
Wilderness House Literary Review
reviewer: Ibbetson Stree Press

Monday, March 31, 2008

Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Helen Garabedian

Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Helen Garabedian
Da Capo Press
A Member of the Perseus Book Group
ISBN: 973-1-60094-008-8

I think Itsy Bitsy Yoga written in clear prose would be a delightful read for parents and caregivers. In addition to the benefits yoga brings, Ms. Garabedian states that Itsy Bitsy Yoga can tame tantrums, improve digestion, cultivate self-expression, promote fine motor development, improve realization and bring about a healthy lifesstyle. How welcoming is this! The book gives explicit how to directions and is organized around ten playful yoga routines. Each chapter has an
illustration of the posture, a section called Watch Me, Say N' Play, On the Go with Helen and Yogi Wogi Says. For example in Chapter #4, Wake n' Stretch Yoga the poses are called: Table, Cat, Cow, Twisting Cow, Child , Down Dog and Lunge ; the benefits include improved breathing,coordination,and balance
and seems like lots of fun.

The book is abundant with suggestions, songs and age-appropriate information. Ms Garabedian understands how to motivate children. I enjoyed most
the strengthening of the bond between parent and child that happens when engaging in these postures and play. The author tells how to relate to children
through singing, reading together, going on ourdoor walks and other sweet interactions. The practice is child-centered, she emphasizes; it begins where
the child is and helps to build self-confidence and self-esteem . Throughout there are praises and encourgement for the child: a nod, a smile, a high five, a pat on the back, thumbs up. What child wouldn't benefit from the routines in this book. I wish I had learned Itsy Bitsy Yoga when I was five.

Barbara Thomas

"My Fingernails" by Christopher Fritton

'My Fingernails
Are Fresnel Lenses'
Christopher Fritton
2008 ISBN 978-1-934513-06-4

David Michael McNamara, Publisher
P.O.B. 911 Buffalo, New York, 14207

This small square, four inch by four inch, handmade,
or at least partially handmade, hand sewn, with great
attention given to the arrangement of verse done by
letterpress and fine papers contribute to a sense of
value. the book, ‘My Fingernails Are Fresnal Lenses’
becomes a gift, giving us, the general public, a
chance to untie the wrapping. the verse presented in
such a way, that there is an anticipation; you will
be pleased with the poem.

Having worked many years in print shops and paper
store, I appreciate the care given to how the poet
wanted to present his chapbook. There is a marriage of
earlier printing techniques. The red cover symbol
denotes the red lettering of an Celtic illuminated
script or medieval decorative design. The cover paper
is also reminiscent of a paper used and still made for
eighteen century multi-signature books, a laid paper,
which means you can detect a line impressed within the
paper. The letterpress is still in use today, but
mainly, for very special use or occasions. When you
run your fingers over the surface of letterpress you
can feel the indentation. This all lends to the
subject matter of the one poem, joining scientific
investigation with memory and more.

“…the light I make is chemiluminescent. The
chemicals are bodies. Light has no body, but
chemicals can be measured. They have detected light…”

Despite the relationship of chemicals and body, the
poem, for me, is about love, memory of love, human
love explored to it’s minute details. Love can be
explained anyway a poet chooses. Love still shines
through, whether because of the function of the brain,
or because we are emotional creatures, and that, being
emotional, is also connected to the brain; I refer to
the individual choices we make to love or not to love.
Christopher Fritton gives us a kiss; he gives us all
the thoughts perceived by him, behind a long kiss, an
intimate kiss. He whispers in our ear as only a lover
can. We are privy to something special. We alone, are
the only ones to ever be loved in this new way,
everlasting, evermore, that has ever been, that will
ever be.

…”I hold my hand next to your head
and my fingernails near your ear so you can hear…”

Perhaps the poet did not mean what I insist on seeing
in this poem. Light is more than material or light is
not material, or light emanates from the material,
whatever scientists discover, or have discovered, this
poem shines, on; what I call a love poem.

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor, Wilderness House Literary Review
Reviewer, Ibbetson Street Press

Hugh Fox's "Way, Way Off the Road"reviewed in Axe Factory 22

( Axe Factory PO BOX 40691 Philadelphia, PA 19107) Joesph Farley, editor

Hugh Fox’s memoir “Way, Way Off The Road: The Memoirs of the Invisible Man.” (Ibbetson 2006) Has been reviewed by the Axe Factory (22) Joseph Farley the editor writes:

“Part Autobiography, part commentary on the writers of his generation, Fox’s book is a wild ride. The transitions are not always smooth, the design quirky, but in the end it is a fascinating journey. My only regret was that “Way, Way Off The Road” was not longer.

A lot of space is devoted to Fox’s relationship with Harry Smith, editor and publisher of THE SMITH. This is fine, but there are so many other characters in Fox’s life that are introduced and passed over quickly, including members of his amorphous family. I wanted to know more about them.

I strongly recommend taking this book home with you and giving it a good read. I just wish it were 500 pages instead of 275.

To purchase send:

$18 made out to Ibbetson Street Press 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143