Tuesday, August 25, 2009

City Lights: An Anthology of Poetry and Art. Shelia Mullen Twyman, editor.

City Lights: An Anthology of Poetry and Art. Shelia Mullen Twyman, editor. ( Beachcomber Press 27 Strawberry, Lane Scituate, Ma. 02066) $15 http://www.gbspa.org

I was recently a featured reader for the Greater Brockton Society for Poetry and the Arts at the Brockton Public Library. I read with Kate Chadbourne, and had the pleasure of having dinner with the principals of this poetic enterprise: (Frank Miller, Shelia Mullen Twyman, Arnie Danielson, and Phil Hasouris) These guys are putting Brockton on the map as a center for literature and the arts. They told me they admire what our city of Somerville has done in revitalizing our community, and they are on the way there themselves. Unfortunately Brockton has gotten a lot of bad press, but the Brockton, Mass. I saw was populated with friends of the arts, as well as an attractive downtown center. The City Lights anthology is a first publishing effort by this band of brothers and sisters. It has attractive production values, with front cover art by Arnie Danielson, and cover design by Shelia Twyman.

There are many poets in this collection I admire including Somerville poets Gloria Mindock, Timothy Gager, Irene Koronas, Patrick Sylvain, as well as Marge Piercy, Robert Pinsky, Mike Amado, Elizabeth Quinlan, Joanna Nealon, Rene Schwiesow, Fred Marchant, Louisa Clerici to name a few. And the poetry for the most part is top shelf.

Marge Piercy has a poem “ Growing Up Female In The 50’s” about the corseted values of the era, where the cult of the “little woman” prospered. Here is the shopworn and repressive advice of two mothers to their young daughters:

“Keep your head down, don’t
stand out. Nice girls don’t.
Nice girls never ask for it.
Nice girls die with clean under

wear. Nice girls do it only
after a gold ring and then
they close their eyes. Do you
Want him to think you’re a whore?…”

And the late poet Mike Amado’s lead poem “The Poet’s Fire” is like a lyrical sucker punch to those of us who knew and loved this talented young man. Mike died at the tender age of 33 from kidney disease.

The Poets Fire

The last time I checked
I only have one body.
The time I held a mirror behind my back
and looked in the bathroom mirror
I could not find a zipper on my spine.
This is my flesh-vehicle.
It won’t run forever.
When the arrow finally ends on “E”
And its time to leave,
don’t scrap me to the graveyard.
Let those whipping flames flutter
around my remnants like butterflies.
My fly-ash will be a swirl of ravens and wax paper.
This won’t be a usual cremation,
just a ceremony of freedom.
A final cleansing of black tar, toxins
and thoughts: useless coat of paint.
No, this won’t be anything somber,
The flames are happy like chanting monks,
they chant a melody of beginnings.
The flames will cuddle me like a lover
having his first time.
As my dwindling body glows,
I will make love to those flames
because I do not want to be swallowed by the earth
with all the poison, preservatives and putrefaction
that my one-and-only body steeped in
to make the stomach of the earth turn and retch.
She doesn’t deserve this.
She had too much of this.

Highly Recommended.

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