Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ibbetson 26 due out in late October!


Poetry from: Elizabeth Swados, Simon Perchik, Zvi Sesling, Kim Triedman, AD Winans, and more. Exclusive interview with poet Fred Marchant and great art work from Bridget Galway! $8 Magazine will be out in late October reserve your copy send check or cash to Ibbetson Street Press 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143

*****Front and Back Cover by Somerville, Mass. artist Bridget Galway

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Gates Unbarred: A History of University Extension at Harvard 1910-2009. Michael Shinagel

The Gates Unbarred: A History of University Extension at Harvard 1910-2009. Michael Shinagel (Harvard University Press)

Review by Doug Holder

" At the stroke of eight every lecture evening notebooks were spread and until nine o’clock not a glance wandered to the clock nor was there any sign of wavering interest. The students were all voluntary seekers of knowledge who elected philosophy as an aid in constructive thinking. Young and old, black and white, artisans and teachers, men and women--who had questioned the meaning of life, and the universe, were eager to compare their thoughts with the questioners of all time. It was an audience to challenge any professor's attention and respect...” (Quote taken from “The Gates Unbarred…” Boston Evening Transcript June 15, 1910)

Although this quote is almost 100 years old, it could still apply today. I remember studying for my Master's degree at the Extension School during the mid 90's. I was in my late 30's, working 40 hours a week at McLean Hospital while attending classes several nights a week. Was it a difficult course of study? Yes. But I loved it. The teachers were first rate, I feel in love with the winding, tome- filled stacks at the Widener Library, but most importantly I gained more confidence as a writer-- and I would like to think I graduated as a better, more complete person.

Michael Shinagel, the present Dean of the Extension School has written a thorough and scholarly, (but not inaccessible) history of the said school titled: "The Gates Unbarred: A History of University Extension at Harvard 1910-2009." I took a course on the novel with Dr. Shinagel. I remember coming into his office with a convoluted proposal for a paper on Defoe’s "Robinson Crusoe" In his tactful, avuncular manner, he advised me (in so many words) to trash it and start fresh. He told me that it would be a rewarding challenge for me, this nascent scholar. I was doubtful, but in the end the man was right on the money. And this could be said about the development of the school itself, a rewarding challenge.

The University Extension was created in 1910 by A. Lawrence Lowell, with the idea to provide the community access to Harvard, and give them the opportunity to earn degrees. The Extension started small with courses mainly offered to teachers. But over the years,
and many battles, it expanded, offering TV courses to the Navy's Polaris submarine fleet, and by the 21st Century it offered advanced degrees to the general public. Because of the quality of the Harvard faculty, and the faculties of Boston University, Tufts and other area institutions, Harvard Extension has raised the status of "Evening Schools" nationwide; schools that were often afterthoughts of the Academy.

On a personal note I was fascinated to read that a Professor Bertocci, my old undergraduate philosophy teacher from Boston University, offered the first Extension radio course on WBMS FM titled: “Introductory Psychology.” He was one of the more popular professors at the Extension, and had a loyal and large following.

Throughout this century under Shinagel, the Extension offers a number of advanced degrees in management, journalism, creative writing, biotechnology, and other disciplines. The Master's in Journalism is of interest to this community journalist. Shinagel writes:

" upon completion of several courses, candidates put their skills to the test by completing internships at newspaper or magazine offices. In many cases the students work has been rewarded by appearing in print in local newspapers."

These days the Extension degree is a sought after sheepskin. And buyer beware, this is no diploma mill, it is a rigorous course of study, as Shinagel puts it:

" ... the high academic standards...were never compromised for earning a degree. Even though many more degrees are awarded now, it is important to bear in mind that the nearly 12,500 graduates to date represent a minute percentage of the 500,000 students who have taken classes...."many are called, but few are chosen."

This book is a fairly exhaustive study. It will definitely be of interest to folks who have been involved with the Extension School. But I think the casual reader can glean a great deal about the evolution of education in general, as well as the “Evening School." And hey, after reading the book, they may make haste to matriculate.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Review, Wisconsin Poets Laureate by Marilyn L. Taylor, Denise Sweet and Ellen Kort

Review, Wisconsin Poets Laureate by Marilyn L. Taylor, Denise Sweet and Ellen Kort, Marsh River Editions, Marshfield, Wisconsin, 29 pages, $10, 2009

By Barbara Bialick

It’s not often that you see a chapbook collection by not one but three poets laureate, these all from Wisconsin, going back to the year 2000 and up to the present. All three of these women have strong, creative, voices.

The current laureate is Marilyn L. Taylor, a contributing editor of The Writer magazine.

She taught English at UW-Milwaukee for 15 years in the honors program. In a poem dedicated to her students, “Subject to Change”, she writes in a villanelle: “They are so beautiful, and so very young/they seem almost to glitter with perfection…they’re traveling headlong/in that familiar, vertical direction/that coarsens beautiful, blackmails young…”.

Like the others, she gives us a flavor of Wisconsin, as in “Summer Sapphics”: “a rubber inner tube still can send us/drifting down a sinuous, tree-draped river/like the Wisconsin—“ where she imagines “It’s as if we’ve started evolving backwards: mammal, reptile, polliwog, protozoon—/toward that dark primordial soup we seem so eager to get to…”.

Denise Sweet was Wisconsin poet laureate from 2004-2008. A grandmother and faculty member at UW-Green Bay, she won The North American Natives First Book Award for Poetry, along with other publications and 100 public readings in the US, Canada, Mexico and Guatemala.

In “Palominos Near Tuba City”, she writes “I chase poems down like/wild mares into fenced corrals/…In “Sky Opens”, she calls out to “our relatives without names…”. She moves from “the star quilt/I hide under most nights” to musing “whether the stars we see now have been there all along…just like this/waiting to skid across /the sky, waiting to fall/into the blue canopy we occupy/…So I must think of them/as though no one has ever seen this before…”

The third poet laureate is Ellen Kort, who served from 2000 to 2004. She contributed all new poems for this collection. She has worked with her poetry as an expressive and healing art for cancer, grief, domestic abuse survivors and women in prison. Her poetry has also been performed by the New York City Dance Theater, among others, and she has traveled as a speaker, poet and workshop facilitator in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

She advises in “When You Write”, to “Do it with your eyes closed with the tips of your/ fingers circling air from the knot in your chest/from juices nerves and hollow bones. Write/ in the deepest well in water that licks your hand craves your salt…”

The publisher has wrapped the soft cover book in a heavy, colorful book cover apparently to elevate it to the status of a larger book. A good notion, as the poets laureate of Wisconsin are all good writers worthy of a second look.