Saturday, December 20, 2008


CHIRON REVIEW ISSUE #85 (522 E. South Ave. St. John KS 67576)


I have been trying to get a poem of mine accepted in the Chiron Review for the longest time. And there is good reason. This newsprint, tabloid journal of poetry, reviews, and interviews publishes work that is raw, exciting, rude and most importantly dangerous.
And of course this is what the Alternative Press is all about. No painfully polite or pleasant poem…this stuff live and breathes.

In the current issue I noticed a poem by my friend and fellow “Bagel Bard” member (a literary group in the Boston area) Zvi A. Sesling. Sesling’s poem “Grammar” bristles with humor: “the verb on your tongue is hard to swallow/ Adjectives in your ears are pleasant/Nouns in your eyes can be seen yards away/ Why must you eat conjunctions?

There is also an excellent piece by a fellow Somerville, Mass. resident Taylor Stoehr. Stoehr frequents the Sherman CafĂ© in Somerville, a favorite haunt of mine, so it is fun to see his article and translations in the issue. His essay deals with the lyric poetry of ancient Greece. Much of the poetry of that time (starting in the Seventh Century BCE), was destroyed by wars, fires, etc… Taylor Stoehr writes: “Some remnants of this vast treasure, still valuable as scrap papyrus, were used to wrap mummies instead off fish, and scholars today are still peeling shreds of verse off corpses…”

There is a revealing interview with AD Winans by Teri Reis Kennedy, in which Winans claims he doesn’t want to be labeled “ poe.t” Very interesting for a guy who produces a prolific amount of poetry, and has been in hundreds or perhaps thousand of small press literary magazines.

And I was pleased to see that Gloria Mindock’s poetry book “Blood Soaked Dresses” (Ibbetson Street) was reviewed by the master Charles Reis. Also Ed Galing’s “Confessions of a White Hat’ (Propaganda Press) was reviewed. I know the press’ founder Leah Angstman, and she is making a name for herself with her innovative publishing house based in Cambridge, Mass. She also is a barkeep at a bar named “Bukowski’s” I used to hit that place now and then.

And Charles Plymell, who I had the pleasure to interview in Configurations magazine, has a signature sacrilegious poem about religious Fundamentalism:

“In Kansas, the Fundamentalists
Taught me that God made man
In His own image and likeness.
I hope He likes His dirty asshole!”


Highly recommended

Friday, December 19, 2008

Alternating Current’s: Current Titles.

Alternating Current’s: Current Titles.

The local “Alternating Current´ press has two new poetry titles out by two well-known small press poets Timothy Gager and B.Z. Niditch.

Gager, the cofounder of the Somerville News Writers Festival, and the author of a number of poetry and fiction titles, has a new poetry collection released “ These Poems Are Not Pink Clouds.” Gager’s poetry has a signature mixture of humor, irony, and angst, tinged with a healthy dose of Bukowski-like fatalism. In his poem “Harvard Square” Gager pays homage to the bohemian square of the past, as opposed to the less romantic realities of the present day. Here Gager uses a peasant dress an old girlfriend wears to evoke a time and a place when his world was unjaded and fresh:

“ but when
I was sixteen
the used clothing store
existed right there
and a beaded dress
made you more
beautiful than
a haunted gypsy,
made me kiss you
when you exited
the changing room
deciding whether
I should either
live or die forever”

In B.Z. Niditch’s “Portraits” Niditch presents a series of short poems that capture, with an economy of words, a wide variety of writers and artists. “Bukowski” captures the down-at-the-heels, gone-to-seed; milieu the writer Charles Bukowski thrived and wrote in:

“ Wild wordsmith
in your great spaces
of L.A horror’s beauty
will always come back
in a drinking mirror…

effacing barracks of chaos—
along peppered rail yards
tearing up your
daybreak flesh.”

Both books are mini-digest sized, with compelling front cover artwork. These titles are welcome additions and editions to the growing Alternating Current list of publications.

To order these and other books go to:

Alternating Current
PO BOX 398058
Cambridge, Ma.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Doug Holder Poetry Workshop Jan 13 2009

( click on for contact info)


Denise Taylor ( Boston Globe West ) " him the pied piper of poets... with his fingers in so many poetry pots...whenever he spies talent he makes sure the voice is heard"

"Ease yourself into poetry and the poetry scene,
with small press poet, publisher,
and activist
Doug Holder"

Course ID:
Course Name: Poetry Writing & Publishing (Writing & Speaking)

Description: Doug Holder is a widely published poet and founder of the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, which has produced books of poetry and journals since 1998. Join Doug as he demystifies the poetry writing and publishing process. We'll develop our poems in a supportive atmosphere, and provide tips for getting your work published. Many students in this class have gone on to publish their poetry in small literary magazines, and some have even started their own magazines. This course is perfect for the novice poet or the poet who has been away from the "scene" for a while. Please bring three poems to the first session (six copies of each). There will be a field trip to the Newton Free Library Poetry series where students will have a chance to read from their work.

Instructor: Douglas Holder
Time: 6:45pm to 8:45pm on Tuesday
Location: Newton SOUTH HS in Room 2102
Tuition: $116
No Class Dates: (No class Feb 17)
Classes are from 1/13/2009 to 2/24/2009. There will be 6 sessions.

The Small Press Review: From Print to Online

The November/Dec. 2008 is the last print issue of The Small Press Review. According to an announcement:

"Beginning with the Jan/Feb 2009 issue SPR will be an online magazine only. The online edition is a pdf and looks exactly like the print version of the magazine. It will be downloadable. If you are a subscriber to SPR you will have access to the magazine go to: Your password and username are on the mailing label of the print magazine, for instruction see p. 2 of SPR

Well, in these times of recession I can certainly understand why Len Fulton had decided to nix the print edition. In my neck of the woods, in Harvard Square, Cambridge, our much-loved news kiosk "Out of Town News" will be hitting the dust. Hudson News, the owners, reports that the demand is way down for physical newspapers, and it just isn't a viable business anymore. With me, my hands are still stained with ink, my eyes still search for the scream of the headlines on the newsstand each morning, and my cup of coffee needs the rag as much as the perfunctory bagel. I write for a community newspaper "The Somerville News," and although we have an online presence our main gig is still the printed page. Every Wednesday I go down to the office to pick up the new edition, my face becomes veiled by the front and back page. But for a new generation (I am 53) the internet is the first place they go. Not to mention the fact that the old gray lady (The New York Times) herself is a buck fifty for the daily and five bucks for the Sunday (in Boston). With the Globe, I spend nine bucks on newspapers every Sunday. But I am an addict, a newspaper is the monkey on my back, and welcome aboard!

In the final print edition of the Small Press Review, edited for the past 40 years by Len Fulton, we have an editorial by Fulton concerning small press icon Hugh Fox. Fox has a new book out by the World Audience Press " Collected Poetry by Hugh Fox 1966-2007." Fulton writes of Fox: "For Hugh Fox the reach must be always for the grasp to be ever. He takes memory, mixes it with imagination, imagery and an almost Teutonic lexical arsenal, and flings it into the cosmos for the delectation of anyone who cares to listen." I am proud to say that Steve Glines, myself and the Ibbetson Street Press published a controversial autobiography of the man: "Way, Way Off the Road" ( 2006) that Fulton mentions in his article.

Fulton also mentioned Poesy Magazine, that has an interview by Brian Morrisey ( Founder of Poesy) with Len Fulton, not to mention an interview by the Boston editor Doug Holder with Afaa Michael Weaver.

There is a great piece by Linda Lerner "A Flunky Blues Riff- On Hayden Carruth" about the late, and much celebrated poet. I just finished a memoir of Carruth's about his experience with James Laughlin, the founder of the "New Direstions" Press . Lerner, an accomplished poet, recounts a visit she had with Carruth. She writes;

" He cared for language, and struggled over the choice of words as a worker cares for his tools." I was surprised and pleased that Lerner got a note from Carruth about her book " A Koan for Samsara" ( Ibbetson Street Press 2003) that was published after her partner's death.

I was also glad to see that " Ten Songs from Bulgaria" was reviewed ( and on the front page). It was published by the Cervena Barva Press, Gloria Mindock's brainchild and fellow Somervillian.

It was also a pleasure to see that Bagel Bards 3, the anthology edited by Molly Lynn Watt, and designed by Steve Glines, was reviewed in this last issue. Mike Amado, Bagel Bard scribe, was the focus of the piece, the reviewer wrote: "Maybe Mike Amado's "Word Catcher Poem Four" a prose poem, suggests their tack:"

"The coming autumn was felt in the lazy morning wind, blowing summer afar, and in it's place, leaving conversations of foot fetishes, and broadsides that lack substance. Besides our dismantling of the Mr. Rogers enigma, we discussed how a poet should be a vessel for universal expression."

I am thankful that the Small Press Review is still around in any shape or form. They have and will provide a forum for the small press... and God knows we need it!

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/ Dec. 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On/Off The Beaten Path:The Road Poems by RD Armstrong

On/Off The Beaten Path:The Road Poems

by R.D. Armstrong

What is it that addicts us to the tease of R.D. Armstrong? Not knowing which ache of his existential wound he’ll exhibit next? Or where he’ll next bed his crotchety ass?
It’s certainly not the free punctuation, which except for a few grudging dots and dashes, you supply as you travel this long, looping paean to the road, mainly that coastal, crystal road which shoots along the Pacific from L.A. to Seattle .
No. For a punctuated map, you would do much better calling AAA. So it must be the landscape of R.D. Armstrong’s psyche and soma which so attracts us… or so repels us. Or is it both?
Know, before you leap, that R.D. Armstrong is the head honcho of The Lummox Press, based in L.A., and that, from this office, he warns subscribers that they might well become the “stepping stones” by which he “fords the stream of consciousness”. In other words, expect a visit from a guy who thinks best when he’s driving from place to place and needs a bed to bunk in.

And before you think yourself safely immune from the blandishments of any hustler who so ingenuously tells you he’s going to use you as a “stepping stone” , think again.
A large part of R.D. Armstrong’s loopy charm is that he can’t be bothered to hide his most nefarious intentions.
Hitch-Hiking readers, as well as hapless subscribers, know from the get-go, soon as they climb into his crotchety ’88 Nissan Sentra and seat themselves by the crotchety driver, what kind of spin they’re in for.
But, believe this reviewer, knowing R. D. is not enough. The dynamic in this danger is that R.D. knows you!
Most insidiously, he knows you speak “American”, and live the American dream. And thus formed he knows you hunger to converse with a speaker caught up in the same thundering contradictions and ephemeral illuminations as others so isolated and so joined.
By turns folksy and sly, encyclopedic and microscopic, genial and dyspeptic, social and
private. And with all these contradictions still talking to himself and piloting us to places we’ve

never seen before. At least not through his eyes.
And whether the fatal charm in that is the places or the perspectives, you, dear reader, must decide.
As befits a loner, albeit a choosey one, R. D. has an unsparingly sharp eye for herd behavior – especially of the consuming and colonizing variety.
As he approaches San Francisco, “SanFran” to him, R.D. notes ominously:

“Suddenly a bend reveals
a herd of suburbia as
frightening and sudden
as a herd of pastel buffalo sweeping
across the hills of South SanFran.

At least part of the frisson in this image lies in the melding of that iconic beast of freedom, the American Bison, into a herd of suburbanites. Both the buffalo who roamed the plains as well as the plains themselves have been transformed into “us” and our hive-like habitations.

This note of culpability will be sounded more than once in R.D.’s travels. Again, when he is spending his few pence for: “a loaf of bread some apples and some celery” he characterizes with biting wit the frenzy of the shoppers around him:
Shoppers around me seem almost
Giddy as if someone was handing out
Free samples of the blood of Kali –
One sip and you’re hooked one sip
And whatever the bossman tells
You to do you do it gladly because
Everyone wants to be a happy
Now, the reader can’t help noting that the narrator is himself a “getter and spender” and therefore himself one of the culpable actors in this drama. R.D. does drive a car, however venerable. Also, he buys and consumes supermarket fare - though it is simple fare and it is consumed “right out in the parking” lot.

There are many points in this odyssey when the reader might well wonder if the contradictions inherent in speaking “American” excuse the narrator from every
hypocrisy - and the passenger/reader from tagging along.
My fatal attraction resided, as far as it can be analyzed, in the charms of my driver’s prose/poetry joyride, and in the ritual penances, not unfeeling told, that R.D. performs along the way.
First, the charms are many. Could Oscar Wilde, himself, burdened with an English of formal, punctuated cadences, have gathered such ethereal images by America’s highways and byways as our strenuously homegrown poet? Listen:

“Lane 101 twists and turns along the
Western band of Puget Sound on a
Typical Washington morning globs of
Fog hang wet and low fishermen are
Merely silhouettes on mirrors no breath
Of wind except for motorhomes that whip by
On their way north…

Or, again, remembering another journey, in altogether different terrain:

“Perhaps it’s the way the desert
camouflages its constant state of movement –
hidden from our casual glimpses out
across the seemingly endless nothing –
that sets us up for the next surprise…..
A land devoid of definition
A blur of shapes
Of dirty / washed out colors.

And yet

a sudden splatter of
shatters a cool sky-
a cluster motion
that blinks on..
then off! Then on..
Then off!
It is only a flock

Of white birds flying
In a wide circle but
In this endless caged
Monotony of road noise

And white line fever
It is an aerial ballet

After a few of these passages of lyrical beauty and etched wit, I felt myself more indulgent of what before seemed posturing. Flawed he may be, but the man can fly - especially if irked by one of our national manias or tantalized by roadside beauty.
I even made my peace with his quirky punctuation, or lack therof, thinking, perhaps it’s a style tailor-made to a discourse less of logic than of percepts, of sudden moments of beauty or inanity, both of which snatched away my driver’s breath – and his punctuation.

But, perhaps the final fascination linking us together for the journey was not simply R.D.’s lively esthetic susceptibility nor his witty jibes at our more clownish mores, but my glimpsing, in this aging hippy, the somberly clothed profile of my long-suffering grandmother counting out the sorrows of her life on clicking rosary beads.
Yes, no matter how tonic the change of scenery, a sudden windfall of book sales, or the encounter of an old friend, or new one, well-met, R.D.’s sense of the tragic in life and in self is as a cup filled to the brim and often pressed to the lip.
Smack in the middle of a jam session among new friends on an early stop along his journey, a buoyant R.D. “noodling around on my Casio digital horn and tone generator” suddenly and surprisingly plucks a note of gratitude mixed with deep melancholy:

“I couldn’t know that the sadness
that fills each waking moment
could be so universally accepted
by people I never met.”

“Is this Laguna Beach, or “Dover Beach”?” the reader wonders, suddenly shifted from one time and place to another by these very unCalifornian sentiments.
But this is no misprint, and this journey, however “West-Coast” is no unalloyed joy-ride.
“Ah, Nissan, let us be true to one another!” could well be an up-dated duet sung by R.D. and Mathew Arnold, our mid- Victorian bard who heard so clearly the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of the “Sea of Faith”.
But what drear note does our Californian bard hear? And once heard, can it ever be transcribed into our demotic lingo?
R. D. Armstrong will try manfully to sing this note; sometimes the note sneaks up on the singer and fills him with vatic urgency as on R.D.’s approach to his friend Todd Moore’s home:
“Six hours later
in the guest bed
making notes
I wonder what
I was worried about

No te preocupes, eh ?
(no worries)
Except for the accursed shadow
That dogs my every move.
Someday I’m gonna be found out.
Someday the phony-baloney from L.A.
Will be unmasked…”

Suddenly our grizzled hippy guide tooling along Western highways and byways become a flagellant in one of those medieval processions plucked from a Bergman epic.
What relieves and redeems this constant note of angst is its power to alter and even to occasionally transform the lyrical note that is the “tortured” R.D.’s other voice:

“A train moves across the
desert like Morse Code –
dots and dashes heading
south towards Amboy
all washed in muted hues of desert
grays and greens.

In this image, the train, journeying from here to there on a certain schedule but, in the larger scheme of things, an uncertain destination, becomes an analogue for R.D., himself a coded message as he journeys from here to there in this always remarkable, sometimes forgiving landscape.
More often, the spectacles that ease R.D. Armstrong’s existential ache are the ones that man has not yet made into his own imperfect image, the scenes between the towns where R.D. peddles books and meets his contributors and readers.
One such scene, as final and as summative as any of R.D’s endless questing, is a good note to leave on:

Climbing now, eyeball to eyeball
with red-tailed hawk
and sore-assed snowbirds
migrating north for the summer.
Five thousand feet of
blue sky spreading wide
like smile on mother of
prodigal son

then sudden puff of
single cotton-tail cloud
drifting lazy
across vast and holy blueness.

Are R.D.’s travails and triumphs, highs and lows, as substantive to you, the reader, as they are to him?
No need to decide soon. As long as there is gas to top up his tank, and juice in his publishing presses, R.D. Armstrong will be “On/Off the Beaten Path” – and ready to swing open his door for any hitchhiker/seeker
to hoist his thumb and his need into view.

J. C. Foritano/Ibbetson Update/ Somerville, Mass.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cervena Barva Press:Poetry nominated for the 2008 Pushcart Prize

Cervena Barva Press

Poetry nominated for the 2008 Pushcart Prize

“Ways of Forgetting” by Flavia Cosma/from her full-length collection, The Season of Love.

(P. 40-41)

“Bird Scarer” by Glenn Sheldon/from his full-length collection, Bird Scarer (P. 21-22)

“Competence” by Kathleen Aguero/from her chapbook, Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl

Sleuth (P.18-19)

“Portrait of the Author as Six-Year-Old Yankee” by Catherine Sasanov/from her chapbook, Tara

(P. 14)

“Dear Regime” by Roger Sedarat/from his chapbook, From Tehran to Texas (P. 10)

“In the Twin Towers” by Doug Holder/from his full-length collection, The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel”

Books By Somerville Authors 2008

Books By Somerville Authors 2008

More than likely if you pass a few people in the street in Davis Square one of them will be a writer of some sort. So I decided to put out a call for books published by former or current Somerville residents in 2008. They appear in the order I received them:

“This is where you go when you are gone”, Tim Gager, cervena barva press, $7

Simple, yet explosive, this features much of Tim Gager's published poems from 2007.

These Poems are not Pink Fluffy Clouds, Tim Gager, Propaganda Press, $5.

This little square package of over thirty poems packs an emotional punch.

The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel by Doug Holder Cervena Barva Press $13

A collection of poetry by the arts/editor of The Somerville News. It was a pick of the month in The Small Press Review

Swimming Back Taylor Altman sunnyoutside $10

Set against the changing seasons in suburban America, the poems of Swimming Back chronicle a young woman’s struggle to make sense of her world after the early loss of her father. These poems, with their incredible range of human emotion, effectively transform grief into art.

Eden Waters HOME Anthology, edited by Anne Brudevold, and published by Eden Waters Press $16.50

Diverse takes on the theme of HOME by over three dozen poets and prose talents. Many well-known names from the Boston small press arena will be recognized, and new ones from around the country and abroad will be found. Copiously illustrated, the book is a delight to peruse. Available at local bookstores and online.

The Perfect Insult for Every Occasion: Lady Snark's Guide to Common Discourtesy
Adams Media $9.95

With a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other, fictional socialite Lady Arabella Snark (aka linguist A. C. Kemp) shows you how to use malicious language and stinging zingers to your advantage.

Way Opens: A Spiritual Journey by Patricia Wild. Published by Warwick House Publishers, Lynchburg, VA, 2008 $15.

Eight years ago, Patricia Wild asked, “What happened to the African Americans who desegregated my high school in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1962?” That question became a quest; Way Opens tracks her journey.

AWAKENINGS by Richard Wilhelm Ibbetson Street Press; $14.00

This collection of poems cycles through the seasons of the year as both the poet and the reader awaken to the magic of nature, art and the life cycle.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rebuilding the Pyramids (Poems of Healing in a Sick World) Mike Amado

Rebuilding the Pyramids
(Poems of Healing in a Sick World)
Mike Amado
Ibbetson Street Press 2008
ISBN 978-0-578-00041-1

Mike Amado lets the reader know this collection, in three parts: “dis-ease, coping, and healing,” is not, “a memoir, not meant to diagnose or treat.” The poet was diagnosed with “end stage kidney disease” at the age of thirteen. Within this volume of noble poems, Amado imparts part of his journey. For me, it was difficult to sit patiently with his book. The representations are close to the bone and in my difficulty I found, when I took a deep breath, the light of each verse came through.

“days after surgery i'm different
my johnny with diamond patterns
holds me like smoke”

All I might say about these poems would be platitudes. Who can review someone’s life, certainly not me. With that being said, I offer, from the coping section of Rebuilding the Pyramids:

“Doctor, Doctor

assist me in making up my mind.
go for the jugular?
or go for doctor assisted
the bullet and the pill can both
come to nothing if utilized improperly.
what are you implying, patient?
I’m saying: I knew a guy
given six months to live (fifteen years ago)
who had a brain stormed by tumors.
he was given a syringe then told,
“if it comes to this, you know what to do”…
silver pin sends murder bubble
to pop the balloon of life.
patient, are you sure you heard it right?
I did. but, I need advice.
no, not on which slow death to commit.
doctor, assist me
in choosing a full color brochure.
the one made of photo stock? with high-hair
centerfolds fully clothed playing
nurses, with men too late for beer ads,
too “unathletic” for sneaker selling
playing patients…..”

and then there is this poem from the "healing" section:

“ …the first emanation is light…”*
*paraphrase of paul foster case

“dialysis machine
pulses soft light
on walls of my bedroom,
drives fluid into my abdomen.
pain grips my body python-like.
I wonder:
are deities in the machine?
if so, when the day comes
we all need pacemakers
will heart then be
divine? maybe
people are machines who
need machines. but cells
are micro-Gods.
they thwart the darkness,
this harvest season
that promises burial.
cells secretly reinvent light.”

and the last poem in the book, full of relections:


“I contemplate my situation
by studying the refrigerator
light: when opened, it’s on
when closed, it’s off
just like my mind. I choose
this instant, this moment to be
utterly overt.
I contemplate
until my skin casts back a thousand
reflections: which one is me?
which one is you?
everyone who sees
themselves in you
are overcoats of chrome
polished by others envy.
a clouded mind is a soiled sky,
clouds make slivers of stars and
stagnant energy slows down the body
until all that’s left is malady…
and death.
one body contains my one brain
that isn’t one at all.
layers overlap on layers,
various facets flow like
color from a faucet, a liquid rubik’s cube.
many sides to one personality,
no need to match the cored squares.
(and no, right now I am not on acid).
consciousness provides
an escape-hatch
a latent capacity to walk out of this brain
like quitting a job.
so I shake up my head, pop the cork,
let my Higher Self mingle
with the Divine Everywhere
in a transcendental water tornado.
my psyche slips like a bendy straw
into that bottle that’s more
full than I am.
there is a part of the human vehicle
that dr. mechanics can’t remove,
that’s the part I live from.
the Creator doesn’t create imperfection,
perfection lives in acceptance.
we live in an altruistic universe-
that’s my alternate reality…..”

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor
Ibbetson Street Press