Friday, September 19, 2008

Village Limits by Greg Joly

Village Limits by Greg Joly

Adastra Press
(16 Reservation Rd., Easthampton, MA, United States
(413)527-3324, (413)549-2201 fax)

Reviewed by Lawrence Kessenich

Roughly speaking, there are two kinds of poems in Greg Joly’s Village Limits, just published by Adastra Press: short, serious, meditative poems, such as “15,” “Sawmill,” “Village Spring,” and “she said,” and longer, narrative, often amusing ones, such as “Directions,” “Firewall,” “Town Meeting,” and “Milk-Run Driver.” What unites them all, and gives the book an enjoyable sense of eavesdropping on small town life, is character – and, in many cases, characters, the classic rural New England kind in their contemporary incarnation.

The brief “Village Spring” opens the book:

Peter leaves wide
the doors to his shop
& all day
little is done
as people stop to
talk winter out
of their systems
in a cradle
of sun
two open doors.

Like most of the shorter poems, this one is more lyrical than the longer ones, and here the character, Peter, is more a part of the background than a full-blown character. But we get a sense of what he must be like, because he’s clearly a magnet for the town folk, a relaxed presence who makes them feel comfortable lingering and chatting.

In “Sawmill,” another short poem, Joel is also undeveloped, but he is the catalyst for his fellow workers noticing a kind of beauty they might not otherwise notice, which tells us something important about him:

When pitching boards
sometimes a knot
breaks free
We hold these out
for Joel who first
held one
clear against
the late spring
sun to show us
how the rosin-thick
edge blazed
a translucent corona
ravenous to flare
up on coals knocked
bright in the predawn cold.

“15,” however, is all character, a girl determined to make it on her own, no matter what it costs her, as the second half of the poem makes clear:

& she knows well enough
to keep clear of her mother’s
boyfriend back at the trailer.
& who cares if she spends
the high school weekend
turning a trick
with some rich ski bum.
At least that way she can
pay her own way
& the baby’s.

More predominant in the book, however, are longer poems, one to five pages, all or partially humorous, that paint colorful portraits of small town characters “in action.”

Walter speaking at the “Town Meeting” against a motion to increase the town’s donation to the animal shelter; Nat Heath “comin’ off Gilbert Hill full / tilt with 90 bales of straw” that have caught fire; Simon, ice cream in his beard from the cone he’s eating, telling some “flatlanders” who ask, “How to do you get to Manchester?” that “My brother usually takes me.”

There a few more serious narrative poems, too. “Last Auction of the Season in Worthington” interweaves the auctioneer’s plea for bids for Robert C. Treager’s tools and farm implements with quotes from the conversations townspeople are having as the auction goes on. In “Mud Season,” the narrator, a newspaper editor, is given a dressing down by a citizen who didn’t like what the editor had written in a recent issue.

The longer, narrative poems are less “quotable.” Their impact is cumulative, the tale building over the entire length of the poem.

It must also be added that this is yet another beautifully produced book from Gary Metras’s wonderful Adastra Press – which was the subject of well-deserved accolades in the most recent issue of Poets & Writers. The creamy paper, well-chosen font, and sharp, clear printing present these poems in a way that would make any poet envious. Would that all poetry could be displayed for the world in such an artistic package.

Lawrence Kessenich/Ibbetson Update

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Curator of Harvard Poetry Room Announced!

Well... I was doing my usual rounds in Harvard know the drill--Harvard Coop, Harvard Bookstore, the Grolier, and then to the the Woodberry Poetry Room at the Lamont Library at Harvard. Seems the asst. curator said the new curator of this august poetry room will be none other than Christina Davis (Publicity and Marketing Director) of Poet's House in NYC. She will be arriving on this side of the Charles Sept.24

Poet's House is a great place, ( they have a great poetry library, and consider the book, particuraly the poetry book, a sacred object.

The young asst. curator told me Davis is the author of the collection "Forth A Raven" (Alice James Books) Hope we will be "raven" about her.

Seems there is going to be a reception Oct. 2 Call 617-495-2454 to get details or email:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Red Sox Threads by Bill Nowlin

Red Sox Threads

Odds & Ends From Red Sox History

by Bill Nowlin

Rounder Books, 2008, $18.95, Softcover, 545 pgs. ISBN -13:978-1-57940-157-3

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

I always thought I knew baseball trivia. Then I read Bill Nowlin’s Red Sox Threads, Odds and Ends From Red Sox History. I compare myself to Bill Nowlin’s work as I would my knowledge of the universe compared to Stephen Hawking. Zero. Zip. Nada. These guys are in a class by themselves and Nowlin’s book on the Red Sox tops anything I’ve seen to date.

The long forgotten names he whips up like soufflĂ© include Matt Batts and Danny Heep (Batts was Heep’s uncle). Jack “Tomato” Lamabe, Willie Tasby, Tom Satriano, and so many more from every era of Bosox history. Eight or 80, any member of Red Sox nation will find a “lost” name, an old hero, and many facts or trivia bits they never knew.

Red Sox Threads is a totally amazing book by Nowlin, a Lexington, MA native, and Cambridge, MA resident, who began writing about the Sox as a teenager. He has written more than 100 articles in various publications and 15 books about the team he loves – or rather to which he is addicted.

So what’s in this book? Practically everything any Red Sox fan would want to know: How the team got its name, player nicknames, all the players who ever played for the Sox, foreign born players, Latinos, Jewish (you’ll be surprised), Native Americans (more surprises), African-Americans, Asian ball players and even women who played at Fenway Park (but not for the Red Sox).

Are you interested in relatives (like Batts and Heep) who played for the Red Sox? Or do you prefer to learn about names that appear in a box score but never played for the Sox – the phantoms? Maybe you recall the one game wonders: Bob Scherbarth (1950), Jim Hisner (1951), Guy “Moose” Morton (1954), Bill “Rudy” Schlesinger (1965) and the most recent one game wonder Peabody’s Steve Lomasney (1999). Then there are those who played in two games.....

Ah, but there is so much more. Sox opening day wins, road openers, how some great Sox broke in to the majors, and, yes, a page entitled, “The day the Red Sox showed up in the wrong city.”

There is also a lot of history (and some conjecture) about the Red Sox racism, how they turned down Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Sam Jethroe (Boston Braves 1950 Rookie of the Year). Read closely and you will find who said what, especially the racial epithets. Nowlin does not hold back on the truth or even alleged accusations of racism.

You will find it all in the more than 500 pages of material he has compiled.

Some of my favorites sections are players’ names based on different things like girl’s names, occupations, religion, plants, drinking, animals and so on. And my personal favorite story was about Ted Williams (an all time favorite even though I am an inveterate Braves fan) and his positive attitude toward black ball players.

Zvi Sesling/ Ibbetson Update