Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Poet Sees His Family Sleeping by Samuel Charters

The Poet Sees His Family Sleeping

Samuel Charters
Kamini Press 2008
ISBN 978-91-977437-0-9
order@... $6.

"the girl across from me on the bus
thinks I'm staring at her, but I'm
just trying to read the advertisements over
her head. she scowls with pursed mouth
as sour as if I'd reached across the aisle
and tried to touch her,
since to her I look old."

Samuel Charters, like Whitman, asserts the mundane,
every day occurrences, the back and forth realities.
You are me. I am you. In his first poem in this small
volume of poetry, he brushes our ears, takes us on an
intimate journey through his writing rooms. The reader
becomes the child, parent, sky, night, "I move slowly
for a last time from one to the other."

Charters is open; he presents lust in a casual,
dignified manner. "what she presents of her elegant
thigh, slides beneath her swirling skirt." His poems
open all the windows and doors on a spring day, even
the heat of autumn bearing down over our laden walk,
we sit on his bench and breath.

"I notice that the deck needs painting,
I notice that it's still hot, that my legs are
too red for me to think of doing any
work in the garden.
I notice that the sunlight
wasn't given eyes or ears. it won't
see me if I sweat - or don't sweat."

Readers will enjoy the intimacy, the fit in your hand
size, the smooth way in which the poems appear and
gather into a complete song.

Irene Koronas
poetry editor: wilderness house literary review

Case Fbdy by Kate Schapira

Case Fbdy
Kate Schapira
rope-a-dope press 2007

Some of the language in this book of poems comes from,

"a found page of text from a medical journal."
Schapira's inspiration from the one page is fused with
meaning; an honest presentation of characters and
situations we may identify with.

"practice from the outside to the trachea
get her to swallow half the battle. limit
use to a similar instrument. this original
observation of the authors has been observed."

Case Fbdy is a tiny book carefully considered, hand
sewn, folded and more importantly, Kate Schapira
blends the words, each poem becomes her own, then it
becomes the readers:

"old enough to swallow herself
girls seem to be prone
with heads downward. attention
transfixes across the lumen
her obligation. chores.
like on little house
on the prairie sundays
no work as possible
as folded stillness.
staring. aged. enough.
cure. inhale. one every
year for the rest of your
life. see how you've grown"

There are eighteen poems in this unique book. All the
poems stand on their own as they meld with each other.
I will chose to read these poems over and over again;
it is insightful and requires frequent readings. Don't
let the size fool you. This book is an important
presence and deserves a careful read.

Irene Koronas
poetry editor: wilderness house literary review
submissions editor: ibbetson street press

Monday, June 16, 2008

Interview with Poet, and Polymath Hugh Fox: Still a Wunderkind at 76

( Hugh Fox and his wife)

Poet, and Polymath Hugh Fox: Still a Wunderkind at 76

With Doug Holder

At the Sherman CafĂ© in Union Square, I met poet, translator, critic, playwright, Hugh Fox and his wife before a taping we were to do at Somerville Community Access TV of my show “ Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.” Fox was visiting his daughter who lives in Somerville and teaches at area universities. Two of my next-door neighbors Kirk and Lucy joined us as Fox held court. At age 76 Fox no signs of slowing down. He regaled us with stories of his extensive travels, all peppered with his vast wealth of knowledge of ancient Aztec culture, mythology, literature, and publishing. Fox talks like a Bronx cabdriver, (decidedly from the side-of-his mouth,) and he is not afraid to use, to put it mildly, unsavory language. My friend described him as “Larger than life.” And so he is.

Fox, who was a tenured professor at the Michigan State for well over 30 years, recently completed a controversial memoir “Way, Way Off the Road” (Ibbetson Street) that dealt with many of the figures from the small press movement, a movement that has produced thousands of small literary magazines and books, and is the lifeblood of poets and writers of all stripes. Fox was a founding member of COSMEP, (a seminal small press organization), he published the well regarded literary magazine “Ghost Dance,”and penned the first critical study of the dirty old man of literature himself, Charles Bukowski. Fox has written and published many books and chapbooks of poetry, and has reviewed countless small press books for Len Fulton’s “Small Press Review.”

Doug Holder: Hugh you wrote critical studies of Henry James and Charles Bukowski, two vastly different writers. Whom did you have the greater affinity for?

Hugh Fox: I got my PhD from the University of Illinois and my dissertation was on Edgar Allen Poe. I was raised as an Irish Catholic, and all I read was Irish Catholic literature. I had no idea what was in the outside world. I decided to take on Henry James because it would be an Americanization process and I thought I would learn to write novels. I did like James’ work a lot.

I never intended to get involved with Bukowski. I was totally academic. And then one day I was in this bookstore in Hollywood, the “Pickwick,” (I saw Aldous Huxley at the store that day as well. I was reading him for years. There was this old woman standing next to me, and I said to her: “Look there’s Aldous Huxley!” She said: “ Don’t know what you are saying!” He heard us and then vanished!) So I bought Bukowski’s book: “Crucifix and the Death Hand.” I got a hold of his press LouJon in New Orleans, and they told me to look him up in the phonebook. So I called him up and said: “This is Hugh Fox. I love your work. I want to meet you.” He said OK come over tomorrow. He was living in a motel in Hollywood. I talked with him awhile. He took out these suitcases. There were all his books and magazines in them. He gave me five full suitcases. He told me if I saw doubles to keep them. My entire way of seeing the world changed after this. Bukowski and Henry Miller were big influences of change for me.

DH: You were friends with Harry Smith, the book publisher, and founder of “The Smith” magazine. Smith published such writers as: Duane Locke, Ruth Moon Kempher, John Bennett, Lloyd Van Brunt, Jeff Sorensen, Alan Britt, and Tristram Smith as well as my friends Luke Salisbury and Jared Smith. Can you talk about your relationship with Smith?

Hugh Fox: I’ll tell you what happened. Smith had no money at all. He meets Marian Pechak up in Rhode Island at Brown. So he marries her. Her parents die and she gets millions. So they move to Brooklyn Heights. They had a big Brownstone mansion. So Smith tells her he wants to be a publisher. His wife said:” Hey, we have the money do what you want to do”. So he started to publish. He had an office right by City Hall in New York City. I met Smith through COSMEP. I used to go to Smith’s all the time. I go between semesters, the summer; I’d go for a month a year for twenty years. Smith published everyone who was anyone. I did a lot of reviews for him. He paid me—I stayed at his house—he set up the basement for me. We used to go out for lunch and dinner. His wife told the kids to call me: “Uncle Hugh.” I was closer to Smith than anyone else. Through him I met Menke Katz who was a Yiddish writer.

DH: You edited the groundbreaking anthology “The Living Underground,” that our Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish was in. How did you get this collection together?

HF: It was formed due to my connection with COSMEP. This was the “Committee of Small Press Editors and Publishers.” Len Fulton and others formed it in the early 70’s. Len Fulton still runs the magazine “The Small Press Review and “Dustbooks Publishing” in Paradise, California. COSMEP used to have annual conventions around the country: St. Paul, New York, and New Orleans. Every convention had a huge reading. Almost every small press editor in the country was there. I got to meet all the writers and all the publishers. I got to know people in Boston, and of course Sam Cornish was in Boston, and as it happened he was included in “The Living Underground…” He was at the convention in Boston.

DH: What is an “underground poet?”

HF: Someone who is not published by the big New York publishers.

DH: What was “groundbreaking” about the anthology?

HF: We had living, contemporary small press poets. We had folks like Charles Potts, Richard Krech, and many others. We had a reunion almost forty years later in Berkley, Ca.

DH: How did you get involved with the small press literary award the “Pushcart Prize?”

HF: I got involved through a COSMEP conference in New Orleans. The Prize doesn’t have as much impact as it did in the day. I go to a Barnes and Noble today and nobody is
buying anything, everyone is there with his or her computer. Everyone is having coffee with their computers.

DH: Hugh you are the most prolific reviewer I know. How did you get involved with reviewing books, and why do you spend so much time on an activity that doesn’t provide you with monetary compensation?

HF: I became good friends with Len Fulton of the Small Press Review. Now, every four months or so I get a package of books to read. It’s good for me because I get to find out what’s going on with the poets. It influences my style—all these poets I read. It helps me get my name in the Small Press Review all the time. I want to be involved.

DH: Your are the doyen of the short review. How are you able to get to the essence of a book with such few words?

HF: Before I go to bed I always read a few things. Then I just react to it. It’s funny it is like I listen to an inner voice. The inner voice tells me what to write. The reason I got a degree in American Literature was really to learn how to write reviews of books. To react to books. My first draft of my Poe dissertation was horrible. My advisor said as much. He told me that I was going to write his way. He said: “ You are going to react, feel, and so forth. I learned to react. I learned this from academic teaching.

DH: You said you always considered yourself a wunderkind, a boy genius. How about now at 76?

HF: The same at 76. I haven’t aged mentally or psychologically. I’m still 26. I may have cancer of the prostate, arthritis, but my mind is the same. When I was in California recently I wrote 100 poems in two weeks.

DH: What do you want your legacy to be?

HF: I haven’t thought about it. I would like to see other people do the same thing. I want them to react to the world around them.

--Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/ June 2008/Somerville, Mass.

Bagels with the Bards 3 edited by Molly Lynn Watt

Bagels With the Bards #3 (click on title to order)
Edited by Molly Lynn Watt
ISBN 978-0-6152-0762-9
88 pages at 15.95 paperback
Ibbetson Street Press
25 School Street
Somerville MA 02143

According to the Introduction by Regie O’Hare Gibson, a Bagel Bard is “a poet that is glazed and ring-shaped whose poetry has a tough, chewy texture usually made of leavened words and images dropped briefly into nearly boiling conversations on Saturday mornings -- often baked into a golden brown.” The Bards featured in this anthology of 55 poems by 51 poets come together as writers over breakfast every Saturday morning. Every poet -- famous, unknown, or somewhere in between -- is welcome to share breakfast with the Bagel Bards while baking up some tasty treats.

I’ve chosen not to quote from any particular poem in this review. The work here is as individual and unique as each contributing Bard. Delighted readers will find a variety of styles and forms, including ekphrasia, prose poems, villanelle, and free form poetry. Between these covers can be found little day-to-day deaths, dreams, and wounds, lost causes and dead ends presented in playful, whimsical, and experimental ways.

If you haven’t discovered the Bagel Bards yet, start with their latest anthology. Short of having breakfast with them at the Au Bon Pain, reading the results of their Saturday mornings is the next best thing.

Review by Laurel Johnson -- Laurel Johnson is a book reviewer for the Midwest Book Review.