Saturday, February 07, 2009

English Poet David Caddy on Hugh Fox's "Way, Way Off the Road" ( Ibbetson Street Press)

SHWA 19: A Note on Hugh Fox --- from:

Hugh Fox, one of the co-founders of the Committee of Small Magazine Editors & Publishers (COSMEP) network, has been an abiding and colourful presence on the small press scene for forty years. COSMEP was founded at Berkeley in November 1968, by a generation born in the Thirties, to foster the post-Beat boom in small press publishing. Closely linked to Sixties counter-culture, the founders of COSMEP were interested in breaking down social, psychological, personal and literary barriers. Hugh Fox has continued on this route unabated, combining an academic career with his small press activity. He wrote an acclaimed book on pre-Columbian religion and edited, Ghost Dance, an international quarterly of experimental poetry from 1968 until 1995 that featured Latin American and outsider poets. He is a poet of exuberant mental states and shifting voices. He has published more than one hundred books of poetry and is one of those poets that is forever looking and moving forward. The direct opposite of, for example, the English poet, Philip Larkin, who published only five books and was predominantly introspective. Widely read with an inquisitive mind, Fox’s poetry exudes the spirit of opening the doors of perception and its arc of development is outwards towards the new.

His work jumps from perception to perception, allusion to allusion, drawing upon vast knowledge in literature, history, archaeology, anthropology and languages and experience. Like Charles Olson, Fox works on a grand scale, seeking out a universality and global and or comparative perspective. Fox, though, is more divergent than Olson and works in shorter units. He is a beguiling poet, continually experimenting with different techniques and personae and using cultural, historical, autobiographical and linguistic references to open out meaning and ways of being.
It is this constant quest of moving forward, onwards to the next technical problem, book, chapbook, and a desire to publish with independent presses that he shares with his English contemporaries associated with The English Intelligencer newsletter started in 1968 and the Association of Little Presses, founded in 1966.

Quoting from Fox’s own autobiographical comment, he writes:

‘After attending grammar school with the Irish nuns at Saint Francis de Paulo school in Chicago, and then high school with the Christian Brothers of Ireland (not just the regular Christian Brothers), the pre-med and medicine at Loyola University in Chicago, then a switch to English, a Ph.D. in American Literature from the Univ. of Illinois and marriage to a Peruvian who was mostly Indian and getting involved with the mythologies of the ancient world, making discoveries no one had ever dreamed of before (like discovering Phoenician writing all over the pottery and ruins of the Mochica Indians in Peru and the Yopi Indians in Mexico, discovering Sumerian writing on pots in ancient Bolivia), and then becoming a Jew after I discovered that the ‘Czech’ grandmother who had raised me was really Jewish too ...’ (Hugh Fox – Defiance Higganum Hill Books 2007 page 88) Note the emphasis upon discovery and the movement from one discipline to another, from one religion to another. His second wife was from Kansas and his third is a Brazilian MD. From the same autobiographical note, we read ‘When in Spain or Latin America he is usually identified as an Argentinean.’

His memoir, Way, Way Off The Road (Ibbetson Street Press 2006) sheds light on what he terms the invisible post-Beat hippie generation of poets. It’s full of vignettes of poets and literary figures and criss-crosses over time and place in a collage of stories.

Fox is fascinated with the roots of individual identity and language that is backed up by research in Peru, Columbia, Chile, Mexico and Trinidad, a facility in several languages and the first critical studies of Charles Bukowski and Lyn Lifshin. He was attracted to Bukowski’s non-academic, non-Latinate English and its lack of pretension and Lifshin’s sense of isolation that he links to her father’s hidden Jewishness. (Way, Way Off The Road pp 10, 101-6, 128-134) He admires both for their artistic integrity and yet sees their outsider status as masks. The same perspective can be applied to Fox’s poetry. For he also plays the outsider card and similarly employs masks. The most notable of which is his alter ego, Connie Fox, which he played out in dress and print. (See Connie Fox’s Blood Cocoon: Selected Poems Presa Press 2005) The creation and writing of an active female self with a life and history can be seen as an extension or unfurling of the creative self and a movement against another barrier or plain exhibitionism. Certainly he has remained true to the post-April 1968 Berkeley sensibility of the gypsy poet vagabond and continues his outward journey of discovery and the books continue to appear at a prolific rate.

His Brazilian poems, Finalmente / Finally translated from the Portuguese into English by Glanna Luschei (Solo Press 2007) has been followed by Nunca Mais / Never Again (Cornerstone Press 2008) a series of sequentially numbered first person narratives that places the perceiving self within the living culture of Florianopolis, Brazil. It is a subjective study of the body in flight, crippled and fighting against the ravages of time and the backdrop of a holiday from Michigan to distant relatives.


Teresa walking slowly with her cane,
talking about “I…I…I…w…w…would..I…I…
like…to go t…t……the..b…b…bathroom,”
her son who spoke perfect English last
year yesterday told me (eating coconut
sweets) “I’ve already forgotten everything,”
his sweetheart, Neiva, has a son from another
guy..the commandments here:

1. More coffee,
2. More butterflies,
3. Papaya,
4. News on the TV,
5. Clothes,
6. Free time,
7. Sea,
8. Hills,
9. Grilled beef,
10. Eternities.

The movement here from pathos to bathos gives extra depth and humour to a sequence that effortlessly sprawls across intercultural relations into philosophical
probing. Fox positions words to employ their full meaning in poems and in so doing makes easy poems more complex and brings in a wider range of reference, as here:


Lovers Day tomorrow – the TV shows
men lifting women over to beds, me
castrated like a monkey from another planet,
trying to learn how to be a human being
in the middle of assassinated sons, drugs,
rifles, cocaine, cocaine, cocaine,
communion / the body of Christ in
the twenty-first century

Coca = Herb
and herbas are natural products of the earth.

The tone of casual reportage begins to unwind towards the end of the sequence.


The church channel on TV, hypnotizing,
Hail Mary to the computers, hail to
to the TV with a thousand channels,
hail to the cost of gas going up, hail
to the motorcycles that go like bullets
and use less gas, hail to inflation
lowering the salaries and raising prices,
hail to all the faces in the world together,
no differences because of color or language,
or the name of the tribe, waiting for Jesus
to come back again, and for the difference
between heaven and earth to disappear
forever. Amen.

‘Hail’ here of course can be pellets of frozen rain, to greet enthusiastically and to acclaim as the reader knows and thus the tone of the poem is both enhanced and potentially mocked. As the news and films of violence escalates, the narrator becomes more isolated by thoughts of mortality and this eventually leads to a poetic implosion.


My poetry itself begins to
undo itself, the intellectual-
creative landscape undoing
itself and the philosophical
richness of the present moment
here re-becoming the great
emptiness of my life (almost
over) there.

This reinforces the Bukowskian theme of the body with teasing comic puns in the bracketed ‘almost’ and line broken ‘over’ coalescing thoughts of mortality into the kind of self-pity that Bukowski would have ridiculed. Fox employs a knowing self that seeks to embrace the world as fully as possible and calls upon the full gamut of emotional responses within a continually evolving exploration of identity.

***David Caddy Poet, Writer, Critic. Caddy edits the international literary magazine, Tears in the Fence. My most recent books are Man in Black (Penned In The Margins 2007), London: City of Words (Blue Island 2006) and The Willy Poems (Clamp Down Press 2004). I also write the occasional episode of Middle Ditch, the internet drama serial.

* To order a copy send $19 ( includes postage and handling ) to Doug Holder 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143

REBUILDING THE PYRAMIDS: Poems of Healing in a Sick World by Mike Amado

Poems of Healing in a Sick World
by Mike Amado, Ibbetson Street Press, 2008

Review by Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard

Mike Amado’s extraordinary book redeems society from its deliberate efforts to render illness, death and suffering invisible. It explores and reveals the three sides of living with End State Kidney Disease: Dis_Ease, the reality of medical practices that often make a person feel like an organ, Coping, the dailiness of living while facing death, and Healing. The latter shares Amado’s extraordinary celebration and contemplation of his spirit and soul as well as his understanding of his connection to the life of our earth. He understands that our lives are extraordinarily complex, that our dealings with the medical profession are often frustrating, that we gain perspective and wisdom while dealing with what seem like overwhelming problems.

It is astonishing that such a young person, a man in his early thirties, can give us such a clear perception of the problems of dealing with the medical profession, a practice overrated by the healthy. In the first section of his book his poem TALES FROM THE CHAIR, Amado explores the pain of his treatment and expands it into metaphysics.

“Many smiles
in scrubs would say:
You look good as
Self-esteem drains
three times a week.

Catheters draw Chi
from body tissues.
Technicians say:
We’re removing excess
fluid, it can kill you.

The poem ends with a view of the universe that encompasses the tragedy that affects humanity around the world and is inspired by a power that is deeply personal.

The world is burned fields,
heavens evaporate,
angels, hit with layoffs,
leap from skyscrapers,
their bodies never found.

One of the most moving poems in this section, TO THE WOMB connects Amado’s suffering with his reentry into earth and sky. The third stanza lifts us into a spiritual and enlightened world that accepts scars, silence, graves and the many paths to eternity.

There runs a river I call sky,
Horizon names me. My mind disembarks,
I enter the Earth that I call Mother.
Dry shores soaked by waves.

Mother, my body is scars over scars.
I lay in a medical grave of cold,
White sheets, silent call buttons.
Your song disappears.

Mother, meet me in the water
with my cast-off flesh,
see if we choose to let go

or wake up. Mother,
open me to let in more light.
Your womb shapes snowflake stars.

Heart-wisdom swells in a sliver of a breath,
I know now my name:
I rise on Serpent’s head to bring to the sky
The orange crescent amid the webbed stars!

The section COPING reveals the inability of the medical profession to deal with the pain of illness and dying. In the poem, DOCTOR, DOCTOR, Amado responds to the shallowness revealed by the so- called healing profession. The end of this long poem is a stage where the physician and the patient argue over how to confront reality.

May I chose the road that ascends,
but not sterile?
No, you may not.
Like landscaping and plumbing,
medical science is here to provide a service!
All we give is all we have.
…And not all I need.
My life in medical hands does not demand
I dream your reality.
Patient, stop your dreaming,
Fill out this annual smiley-faced survey.
And on the survey, I wrote
I have filled up many suggestion boxes
with dead forests. My T-shirt reads:
I survived a “failed” transplant
and all I got was this brochure.

One of his loveliest poems in the final section, THE FIRST EMANATION OF LIGHT helps us experience his dialysis and his pain, but ends with these affirming lines, “Cells/ are micro-Gods. /They thwart the darkness, /this harvest season/ that promises burial. / Cells secretly invent light.

In this section Amado’s spirit is alive and intense, burning with light as well as agony. His poem MY MANTRA is wider than prayer, is already a soul that has shed its bodily limitations and is soaring. “What sustains me trembles /with curiosity/ The whistle of a humming bird/ and the tongue of a Spider Flower/ in perfect pitch. / What sustains me/ could be a mantra/ “Remember, Transcend, Reclaim, Ascend”/Remember: who you are/ where you come from/ Transcend: your limitations. / Reclaim your inner wisdom/ and…Ascend!.

This book belongs in hospitals and doctors’ offices to heal the isolation of the seriously ill. It also belongs in medical schools so that physicians can deepen their understanding as well as bring wisdom to their patients. Most importantly, it is a collection of prayers and a celebration. Truth usually emerges from small, secret places, from the extraordinary range of personal experience. Thus, this book is a wonderful guide that helps us all understand the hidden dimensions of life.

*********To order go to:

Marguerite Guzman Bouvard/ Ibbetson Update/Feb 2009

* Reviewer Marguerite Guzman Bouvard was for many years a professor of Political Science at Regis College and a director of poetry workshops. She is multidisciplinary and has published 15 books, numerous articles in the fields of political science, psychology, literature and poetry. Both her poetry and essays have been widely anthologized. She has received fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute, the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women and from the Puffin Foundation. She has been a writer in residence at the University of Maryland and has had residencies at the MacDowell Colony the Yaddo Foundation, the Djerassi Foundation, the Leighton Artists’ colony at the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Darkness Above. Selected Poems: 1968-2002. by Donald Lev

The Darkness Above. Selected Poems: 1968-2002. by Donald Lev ( Red Hill Outloud Books POBOX 86 Claryville, NY 12725)

Donald Lev, the founder of the venerable New York-based literary tabloid “The Home Planet News” has a new collection of his “ancient” poetry out ,as he described it in a note to me.

The poems in this book go back forty years. If I remember correctly this was the time of my first Robert Hall suit and my Bar Mitzvah. I’ve met Lev at a couple of gatherings at Poet’s House in NYC, and he impresses me as the proverbial, old school, New York, bohemian, poet.

Lev is in his seventies and in his time operated the Home Planet News Bookshop in the Lower East Side, had a brief stint as an underground actor most notably in “Putney Swope,” was a regular poetry contributor to the Village Voice, worked the wire rooms of the Daily News and the New York Times, to name a few gigs.

The poems presented in “The Darkness Above…” are chockfull of wit, irony, kosher chicken hearts, Westchester County, astrology, spirituality, that is to say a very wide swath. It sort reminds me of the poetry of my old pal Hugh Fox—although Fox dwells more in the long and rambling form.

In the poem “Higgins Again” Lev compares an old wino falling off his stool as a metaphor for the poet trying to perfect a poem night after night:

higgins again
Pat Higgins was an old man, used to be
an elevator operator at the
Forest Hills Inn
and used to sit in
Marshall’s Bar night after night till closing time
drinking beer and stout and
talking to himself
he fell off his stool a
couple of times
before he died
night after night do I
attempt this poem?

In “Thoughts on Allen Ginsberg” Lev writes about his mentor , and in turns defines his own artistic life and vision:

“…but he for me somehow was always
a permitting presence.
i’d scan the universe for hints on how
a jewish dropout in America, reluctant to leave queens,
makes poems:
the way ads read, ferlinghetti’s lines, Dylan
Thomas’s resonant consonants, the way
things looked stones…”


Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/Feb. 2009/Somerville, Mass.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Bagel Bard Gloria Mindock to Tour Romania in Spring on Book Tour for "At The Heaven's Gate"

Gloria Mindock’s book, “At the Heaven’s Gates” will be published by Cogito Press in Oradea, Romania. with translation by Flavia Cosma.

The editor/publisher, Mr. Ioan Tepelea will write the introduction in her book. Mr. Tepelea has published Gloria’s poetry before in an anthology called “Murmur of Voices” and in the magazine he publishes called, UNU: REVISTA DE CULTURA.

Gloria and her translator are planning a book tour with her publisher in Romania in May of this year.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Ibbetson Street Press Poets Lisa Beatman and Elizabeth Quinlan nominated for St. Botolph Arts Award!



Lisa Beatman author of: “Manufacturing America” Elizabeth Quinlan author of: “Promise Supermarket”

Ibbetson Street Poets Lisa Beatman and Elizabeth Quinlan Nominated for St. Botolph Arts Grant.

Dear Friend of the Arts:

The Saint Botolph Club Foundation now in its 45th year, has provided more than 300 grants to artists in New England. Grants are awarded in three disciplines: literature, music, and the visual arts.

History of Club

The St. Botolph Club was founded in Boston on January 10, 1880 following the circulation of a letter sent to some three hundred prominent male citizens. Signed by Henry Cabot Lodge, Francis Parkman, the club's first president, Phillips Brooks, William Dean Howells and seven others, the invitation proposed a club which would feature an art gallery with monthly exhibitions open to the public, a reading room, and rooms for general use. Its purpose, as noted in the club constitution, was established for the "promotion of social intercourse among authors, artists, and other gentlemen connected with or interested in literature and art."

Modeled after New York's Century Club, the newly founded club debated over its name, finally deciding on the St. Botolph, the patron saint of Boston (a corruption of St. Botolph's Town in Lincolnshire, England).

The organization's first quarters were located at 87 Boylston St. The club resided in two other locations, 2 Newbury St. (later 4 Newbury St.) and 115 Commonwealth Ave. before securing its current location, 199 Commonwealth Ave. in 1971.
In addition to social intercourse, the club offered its members a variety of activities. Sunday afternoons were reserved for concerts. "Smoke talks," lectures which surveyed politics, science, social issues, and the arts, began in 1883.

Monday, February 02, 2009

no one gains weight in the shoulders by leah angstman

no one gains weight in the shoulders by leah angstman

alternating current 398058
cambridge, ma 02139

leah angstman uses lower case and in this case her small book of political poems, (mostly political), resounds in upper case.

“whose words are like cancer
and candy squeezed up
into cellophane together
as one glistening pitched package
marketed to a
cavitied and chemo’ed
shopper in a
tidy book aisle”…

some of angstman’s poem titles: ‘the eager spring of politicking; electronic love; airports; the bored wife; and someone else’s war. angstman fuels her poems with a generation of overeaters and excessive greed.

are better left to emperors
and dictators
of high degree
than presidents
of these united states

attempting to be
the paradox of dictator
and fdr
in one tight
honey herb spinach wrap

are better fought
on home turfs
where we are not
strangers or outsiders
or unwelcome

but know the soil
we trod
and the temple
we burn

the chapbook is 4 ½ x 5 inches in size, but large in content and it is not for the light headed/hearted reader. the reader/activist will find powerful recommendations, observations and a sprinkle of love, angst and self reality.

“there is a bar
in boston
that bookwork would not
with the great wall of china
would not gaze upon
a namesake
of tongue and cheek
solutions to alcoholism
buk would
celebrate his beer no
his alcoholism…”

------- Irene Koronas

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Distance Between Two Hands by Greg Watson

The Distance Between Two Hands ($9.00) (March Street Press) by Greg Watson

Review by Pam Rosenblatt

Greg Watson has recently published his sixth poetry book called The Distance Between Two Hands (2008), published by March Street Press. The five other books include
Things You Will Never See Again (2006), Pale Light from a Distant Room (2004), Cold Water Memory (2001), Annmarie Revisions (2000) (chapbook), Open Door, Open Wall 1998) (chapbook).

The cover of The Distance Between Two Hands is a tranquil scene portrayed through a photograph by Sandy Anderson who has taken snapshot of the long sleeves of a person’s black shirt, sweater, or jacket. These sleeves expose a person’s folded hands resting on a pair of knees covered by dungarees. The hidden, unknown person sits in a very green, grassy area. In this simple scene, Watson suggests a religious nature that The Distance Between Two Hands holds in its fifty- eight pages. The reader finds herself intrigued to read the book, and all five chapters at that.

What you probably will discover while reading this book is that Watson isn’t your typical poet who writes your typical poetry, whether his poems be romantic love poems or element poems (earth, wind, fire, water). Through the use of descriptive imagery, he is able to capture everyday observations in imaginative, creative, sometimes minimalist ways. His poems are often erotic. Sometimes they are frightening. Often the unexpected happens. Sometimes images are conjured but don’t necessarily make sense in that particular context. Other times, Watson lets us into his mind’s eye with absolute clarity and pleasure. And, I think, all of these tactics make for an interesting, thought-provoking, sometimes eye-opening book.

Watson writes about a lot about women with scars, men and women in love, and the speaker in love as well. The speaker tells about journeys of “passengers on separate trains”(p. 25) , “the way crowds sometimes blur in the unwavering heat of late summer—“ (p. 26) , and even “hands (which) are glass keys, the navigators of distance, weather vanes of wind, rain, and bitter heart…”. (p. 12) His romantic poetic writing style is sometimes reminiscent of Pablo Neruda, the late Chilean poet who won the Noble Prize for Literature in 1971. If you compare Neruda’s poem, “Too Many Names”, to Watson’s “The Conspiracy of Names”, you may agree.

Let’s begin the journey to understanding The Distance Between Two Hands with the opening poem “On The Highway To Lake Mille Lacs” (p. 3). In this piece, the speaker starts the reader on Watson’s journey of self-realization and inner peace. The speaker immediately says, “It’s a long drive,…” He seems to be preparing us the readers for an experience that will take time, that may make

…your legs and shoulders
tense with the effort of stillness,
your hair flying like a red dress torn to ribbons,
your naked feet beautiful as lilies
against the tar-hot Naugahyde of the dash.

The speaker seems to romantically infer that his companion in this car ride isn’t that comfortable and the ride is, in fact, rather rough, as her “legs and shoulders/ (are) tense with the effort of stillness” and her “hair (is) flying like a red dress torn to ribbons”.

Even this woman’s bare feet, “naked…beautiful as lilies” are probably having a hard time “against the tar-hot Naugahyde of the dash.” Watson’s articulate word choices have created similes that conjure up images, distinct and visual. The reader can easily imagine the situation that has both positive and negative imagery.
The speaker seems unaffected by his companion’s plight as he reveals:

I do not speak, confining my thoughts
to the blue concave of sky,
the stone-white of highway lines,
the earthen blood of animals
tire-flattened, strewn along the roadside
like clots of ground the earth has refused.

The speaker only sees the heavens, or the “blue concave of sky” as an escape, as he looks at the “earthen blood of animals/tire-flattened, strewn along the roadside/like clots of ground the earth has refused.” Here the dead animals are like sacrifices to the “earth”, or perhaps more biblically, God. But the “earth” hasn’t accepted the sacrifices except to be “clots of ground the earth has refused.”

The change of tone is effective in the last lines of his poem. Here the speaker says,

The smell of water rises like a premonition,

subtle as dream, pervasive as sex,
that good, godless argument
we wish never to end. It is
a long drive, and for these brief moments
I have been born at the right time.

This poem is filled with concrete observations, but “The smell of water rises like a premonition,/subtle as dream” is a simile that more abstract in thought. While realizing the car is getting closer to the lake as “The smell of water rises”, the speaker admits he’s having a good journey so far and concludes the poem saying,
It is/a long drive, and for these brief moments/I have been born at the right time.”

If the reader compares Chapters One, Two, Three, Five to Chapter Four, the reader will find Watson’s expertise with different writing styles. Unlike the other chapters that contain longer stanzas and take time to read and re-read to understand, Watson has developed shorter, more economical one stanza, three line poems that are more dependent upon syllables and easy to figure out. These pieces are similar to the Haiku that has a total of seventeen syllables in each separate poem. But while Watson’s series of twenty-three poems in “Correspondence of One a sequence” (pp. 42-47) do not consist of seventeen syllables per poem but suggest momentary insights of observations through imagery and because of space between the second and the first and third lines. Here Watson’s style can be likened to Japanese poetry. Here are three “momentary insights” poems by Watson:

Morning glories
in the parking lot fence
glistening with rain (p. 42)

~ ~

Summer night—
old books in the window
swollen with rain (p. 43)

~ ~

the sea returns to the sea,
the greasy moon (p. 45)

~ ~

Greg Watson’s The Distance Between Two Hands is influenced by many sources ranging from poets like Pablo Neruda to minimalism to the Bible to Asian thought and writing style, plus more. If you like a unique reading experience, this book is right for you.