Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Review of: From the Paris of New England: Interviews with Poets and Writers by Doug Holder

From the Paris of New England:
Interviews with Poets and Writers.
By Doug Holder
2009; 133pp; Ibbetson Street Press,
25 School Street, Somerville, MA 02143.

It’s really true, Somerville, Massachusetts, right next to Cambridge, is a kind of New England Paris, all kinds of little eateries and galleries and everything-else-ries, like an Asian market, a Peruvian cafe, you name it. And what Holder has done here is to take the interviews he has done with Somerville (and other fancy-wancy, avant-garde, or no-guard-at-all) writers, book-store owners, publishers, etc. and put them together in a book -- with photos.

Masterfully done, Holder really brings the Somerville lit-world alive, alive, alive. There’s Louisa Solano, who ran the Grolier Poetry Book Shop for over thirty years, talking about Robert Lowell, Philip Levine, Bukowski, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ed Hogan, there’s poet Lisa Beatman, talking about her recently published working-class-centered poetry (author of Manufacturing America: Poems From the Factory ), there’s poet Martha Collins who established the Creative Writing Program at U/Mass Boston and who teachers Creative Writing at Oberlin College, there’s Dick Lourie, poet-musician-publisher (of Hanging Loose mag and publishing house) talking about the old (and new) days in Somerville, Beat poet and organizer Jack Powers, Eva Salzman, who has spent years and years in England, there’s poet Afaa Michael Weaver, a professor of Literature at Simmons College in Boston talking about being an African-American poet in a community that gives you the space to be eccentric, poet Sarah Hannah, a professor at Emerson College in Boston, talking about Ph.D.’s versus poetic creativity, there’s poetic genius Lo Gallucio talking about

psychological problems and creativity, poet-publisher Gloria Mindock who glories in the richness of cultural life in Somerville, filled with writers, painters and actors.....

It would take another book to just write about this book, that’s how rich it is. Interviews with Mike Basinski, Errol Uys, Lan Samantha Chang, Miriam Levine, Mark Doty, Claire Messud, Ed Sanders, Robert Creeley, it’s a veritable Who’s Who of artistic souls in Somerville. You go to the Bagel Bard readings in Somerville, hang around with the Somerville poet-artist gang, and it is like going back to Paris at the end of the nineteenth, the beginning of the twentieth century.

*Hugh Fox is a founding editor of the Pushcart Prize and author of “Way, Way Off the Road: Memoir of an Invisible Man.”

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