Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Year in Poetry: One man's provincial perspective. By Doug Holder

The Year in Poetry: One man's provincial perspective.

Doug Holder

Well-- I am writing this from my small table in the corner at the Sherman Cafe in Union Square. And I am writing with my gimlet eye fixed on the poetry world in Somerville and just beyond. I am not writing about the luminaries of the literary world: the Ploughshares, The Paris Review, the new schools, the latest trends, the much lauded retreats, you know the drill. I am writing for the most part about the everyday folks in my world who engage literary pursuits on the grassroots level.

I am writing about poet Kim Triedman who edited the acclaimed anthology "Poets for Haiti." Triedman tells me that all proceeds from the sale of this anthology will go to benefit the people of Haiti. I am writing about Tom Daley, poetry workshop guru who created a one man show about Emily Dickinson that was a hit at the Concord Poetry Center. I am writing about Chad Parenteau who runs the Stone Soup Poetry Series and keeps the tradition that the late Jack Powers started alive and well. I am talking about Deborah M. Priestly and Tom Tipton, who run the Open Bark Series at the Out of the Blue Gallery, and have been a supporters of poets and poetry for many years. I am going to mention my pal Sam Cornish, the first Boston Poet Laureate, who continues to pound the pavement in nursing homes, schools, hospitals, to bring the word to the people. My friend, and co-founder of the Somerville News Writers Festival, Timothy Gager, still heads the Dire Reader Series from the Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge and has had a prolific output of the best area poets and writers in town. This venue has been going on close to a decade! Gloria Mindock, the founder of Somerville's Cervena Barva Press produced a slew of poetry books this year (with the help of her loyal partner Bill Kelle) from their small nook of a place in Union Square. Marc Goldfinger, the poetry editor of Spare Change News, publishes a long-running poetry column that brings poetry from the street for you to meet. Marc is a great poet as well-and many are grateful for his long and hard work in the poetry community.

Shall I mention the Bagel Bards? Damn right I will. This iconoclastic group of poets, writers, poseurs, stumble bums, and publishers are going into their 7th year and still meet every Saturday morning at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square, Somerville.

My buddy Harris Gardner, continues to come up with great poetry venues. Gardner has started a poetry venue at the Liberty Hotel ( Formerly the Charles St. Jail), a stone's throw across the Charles River, and is starting yet another one at the Arts Amory in Somerville the "First and Last Word" series with his pal Gloria Mindock. And least I forget-- Molly Lynn Watt warms our world with her Fireside Reading Series in North Cambridge, Mass.

Oh--how about the magazines? I am not going to mention the Boston Review,Harvard Review and Agni, and their ilk--sorry. They get enough play. And we know-every dog has its day. So how about the Wilderness House Literary Review, headed by Steve Glines? Or the Somerville-based Istanbul Literary review edited by Gloria Mindock and Susan Tepper? There is a new magazine I noticed in town the "Inman square Review"--it may be the magazine for you. And of course the little treasure out at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. the "Endicott Review" of course.

And those book reviewers--I love them. I am talking about the ones who write for the online blog Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene. Folks like Irene Koronas, Barbara Bialick, Zvi Sesling, Rene Schwiesow, Paul Steven Stone, Lo Galluccio and others have reviewed hundreds of books from the vast world of the small press.

Of course I have to mention my own press (Ibbetson Street Press) and magazine that has been publishing in these parts since 1998. We are pleased to be affiliated with Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. This is a great break for Ibbetson Street! I want to thanks professor and poet Dan Sklar for his efforts in our behalf as well as Chairman of the Humanities Mark Herlihy and Dean of Arts and Sciences Peter Eden.

Also--to the staff at Ibbetson, my fedora is off to you: Dorian Brooks, our managing editor, Poetry editors: Mary Rice/Harris Gardner, Website/ Linda/Ray Conte, Steve Glines/ Designer, Arts Editor/ Richard Wilhelm and Consulting Editor/Robert K. Johnson/.

And how about The Somerville News? What newspaper do you know that consistently publishes a poetry column ( Lyrical Somerville) and a substantial literary page? Not many, pal. Thanks Donald Norton, Billy Tauro, Cam Toner, Bobie Toner, George Hassett, for your support!

Bert Stern and Tam Lin Neville over on Quincy St. in Somerville continue to run the Off the Grid Press for you folks over 60 who have a hot poetry manuscript in your hand. A lot of local folks I know have put out new poetry books including: Zvi Sesling, Ruth Kramer Baden, Tam Lin Neville, to just give you the tip of the poetry iceberg.

Some many more out there to mention--but as always--words fail--- in any case Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Where Once by Sally Allen McNall

Where Once
Sally Allen McNall
Main Street Rag Publishing Co.
ISBN 978-1-59948-263-7
2010 $14.00

…"It is tender where I cannot go.
Baghdad, where once gardens.
A shore where once wild strawberries this small…"

McNall's poetry is a conversation with her readers. We are placed into
situations and places we might otherwise not be:

"…watch a child die of hunger.
Go onstage howling and high.
Collect enough debris and ice to reflect light. Then orbit.

Be the mountain mudhouse in the earthquake.
Descend the fallopian tube.
Be the forest canopy as it ignites."

The poems are reaffirmations of the poet, the poets fundamental stance,
placing McNall as the narrator who muses about her surroundings, her life,
her time and her images are images from any century, except the poet
lets us see in minute detail the this moment's effect:

…"In that first nest, first dark burrowing, you learned
to love because you had to, to survive. You knew this, then.
Now there are other questions of survival before you.
There is anger everywhere in the world and sorrow
following. Even the Buddha would not tell you to forget
this, while you are busy remembering the bobolink,
snow-cricket, brown bat, peony, honeysuckle."

Some of the poems are political because of the presence of this particular
time and particular war raging, one against another, again. In one poem,
"Goodbye to Byzantium" the poet reiterates the empires reign and conflicts
that ensure with any powers that be, fighting for land, ideology and how it
effects one human being, one plant, one place, one animal. McNall brings
it all into her poems. She is an accomplished write.

"…Please hold the ladder once again
whilei reach for something I want
for you, the weight not yet in my fingers.
Its ripeness will let it go easily into my hand."

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor:
Wilderness House Literary Review

Friday, December 24, 2010

Meeting Artichokes and Prawns by Leo Racicot

( Leo Racicot as a boy)

Meeting Artichokes and Prawns by Leo Racicot

One of the glaring ironies of my life consisted of being pals with food goddesses, Julia Child andM.F.K. Fisher, and yet not knowing how to cook anything other than a peanut butter sandwich. My friends used to tease that "Leo could burn boiling water if you don't keep an eye on him."When I was a kid, my poor mother, who often claimed I was her ticket to sainthood, would prepare the evening meal for my father, my sister, Diane and her and have a lonely hamburger in a lonely pan on a back burner for me because other than that and the peanut butter and bread, I refused to even look at any other kind of food. "This isn't restaurant", my mother used to say but I was defiant and wanted my burger and nothing else.

So, in later years, it was of particular surprise to many, and especially to me, when I became a private chef to two, former members of The Roosevelt Administration, Hilda and Francis Shea, their son,Richard and their live-in staff of 15. I can boast a little bit now that I am quite the accomplished cook -- I whip up a mean jambalaya and can flambe and saute alongside the best of them -- but it did me no good at all at the time to throw the names Fisher and Child around because that made Ms. Shea assume I, too, could cook. "Do you know how to make a saucesoubise?" she intoned, summoning up her most aristocratic accent -- "Suuuuu-beeeze?" I said I did not, and reminded her she had hired me to be Richard's companion and caregiver. It led anyway to the dread question, "Well, did you ever take Chemistry 101 in school?" "Yes", I said, and was then led by the nose over to shelves heavy with cook books of every decade and design, names so dear to me now butwhich instilled instant quaking in my spine when I laid eye son them: some vintage such as Michael Field's beloved "Culinary Classics and Improvisations", and of course the two Bibles of every serious kitchen, "Irma Rombauer's"The Joy of Cooking" and Julia's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"; some quirky, even strange: "Cook It Ahead", "Live High on Low Fat", John Thorne's "OutlawCook", "Zodiac Cookbook, "Cooking with Astrology".

Ms. Shea waved her hand a la Vanna White showcasing letters of the alphabet and said, "Well, this is like Chemistry 101 only with food", showed me where the apron was and left me to my folly. Folly and long months of fumbling it was. Only God knows what those first things that came out of the oven were because I certainly didn't. When I first started cooking, it was not uncommon for the guys to take one look at what I had made then call out for pizza delivery.

My feelings could not be hurt because I didn't want to eat the unidentifiables either. One particularly nasty dish, which deserved a place in "The Gallery of Regrettable Food", was called "Catfish Surprise", and the surprise was it was unedible and unable to be looked upon, at least as cooked up by me. The preparation took forever and involved the "shucking" of fingernail-sized catfish nuggets which were then sent swimming into a sea of bubbling fluorescent yellow sauce. Yuk! The guys (a good sixty toseventy of them passed through the portals of 17 Francis Avenue during my ten years there: handsome jocks and scholars attending Harvard,M.I.T., B.U., B.C.; they made up Ms. Shea's harem of male companions for Richard OR, so we sometimes joked, for her) took to calling it "Louise's Hepatitis Casserole" and would run the other way whenever I placed it lovingly on the table. It did look sickly, as if someone had had an afterbirth in a pan. The Apple Brown Betty, the one and only dessert in my repertoire, wasn't any better; it was so sickeningly sweet, well -- you might just as easily have stuck your tongue in a bowl of sugar and sucked. So meal time for a long time was not fun atFrancis Avenue until I reminded myself the Universe had gifted me with friends like Julia and Mary Frances and I towed the line and made myself better.

In time, the guys came to smack their lips with delight, arrive early for dinner and leave late, heap praises on Louise for her prowess at the stove. And yes, your eyes are not de-ceiving you; the guys and Richard fondly called me 'Louise' but that is another story for another time... For these reminiscences of culinary hurricanesare taking me back in time to the first meal I evercooked for Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher. She would,of course, have been cooking for me had she not recently undergone hip replacement surgery and was pretty much confined to her combination writing room/bedroom. She bid me please go to the fridge and bring us"the artichokes and prawns". The artichokes I found but I had no clue what prawns were or even if I had heard her right. Did she saw "prongs"?"Tongs?" Did she want me to bring out a utensil?I stuck my head in the fridge and panicked and prayed and via a process of elimination, I realized the only thing there I did not have an easy label for was a bowl of jumbo shrimp. Maybe this was "prawns"? She smiled approvingly when I carried in the two items and placed them down on the table. Eureka!Prawns!

But eating them was another matter. I kid younot that I had no idea you do not eat the wholeshrimp, peels and seabug legs and all. Once again --Yuk! I thought, "Better not wince. This is M.F.K.Fisher". And what to do with these artichoke leaves? Again, I stuck the whole branch inside my mouth, trying madly to mash it down to the point where I could swallow it. My teeth worked that hard, hideous limb for what seemed like a year until Mary Frances, by gracious and unspoken example, demonstrated how, using the front teeth, you scrape the pulp from the leaf,leaving the hard part of it behind on the plate. Whew! I felt a little bit better. If only I hadn't burned the peas. Canned peas. Who burns canned peas??? It is a testament to Fisher's good will, and to Ms. Shea's and Julia Child's, that they allowed me the time and patience tolearn the art of eating and of cooking, andt hat they overlooked my faux pas at the stove and dinner table to remain in faith with me true and generous and lasting friends...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cambridge Community Poem book publication‏

I asked former Cambridge Populist poet Peter Payack about a book project long-in-the making that I am proud to be included in.

(Peter Payack)

Actually it is going very, very well. I am very excited about it. As of now, the poems are in place, and edited. The Intro is written. Table of Contents in set. I am just working on the final cover design. I wanted the book to be out by Christmas, but my son, who is a graphic designer, wanted to do it right, with no mistakes. My friend, roland pease, long time publisher of Zoland Books also advised against rushing it. I am learning the in's and out's of Indesign on the fly. So I am still working at least 8 hours a day on it, and will have it ready for the printer by the first of the year. (Even though it is semester break at Berklee and UMassLowell, my coaching duties on the CRLS Wrestling team gets crazy at this time of the year, with four hour practices, meets and all-day tournaments.) The printer, of course, is "Guttenborg," the on demand book publisher at the Harvard Bookstore. And it will be under the label my two sons and I have, Assembly Line Studio. It has an ISBN and Bar code. There are roughly 250 "poets" represented. This volume includes poems by Octogenarians, third graders, college presidents and professors, city workers, Pulitzer Prize winners, elected officials, Grammy Award Winners, teachers, All-Americans and All-State Athletes, comedians, street performers, carpenters, High School Students, Scientists, researchers, Lawyers, doctors, artists, nurses, coaches, bicycle mechanics, marathoners, Firefighters, pharmacists. And even poets and writers, if you can imagine that! Now, instead of the last book of 2010, The Cambridge Community Poem will be one of the first of 2011. I am going to organize a giant "reading" party for early in the year. A group of my colleagues at Berklee want to play jazz at the opening. Could actually be fun.
I'll let you know as soon as the first copy rolls off the press!

aka peter

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nancy Rubin Stuart: New head of the Cape Cod Writers Center, and author of The Muse of the Revolution

Nancy Rubin Stuart: New head of the Cape Cod Writers Center, and author of "The Muse of the Revolution"

Interview with Doug Holder

Nancy Rubin Stuart is a seasoned journalist who still remembers what pounding on the keys of a battered Royal feels like, and how to negotiate the shoals of a predominately male, smoke-filled newsroom. Stuart is also the author of a number of critically acclaimed books including her most recent "The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation" which concerns the Revolutionary War era writer Mercy Otis Warren. Stuart, who has taught writing at Yale, SUNY at Purchase, and other universities, is also the new director of the Cape Cod Writers Center. I spoke to her on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: Mercy Otis Warren the subject of your book "The Muse of the Revolution" was a poet, playwright, and propagandist for the Colonies during the Revolutionary War. How effective and how widely read was she during this era?

Nancy Rubin Stuart: I think she was very widely read because much of her work was serialized. Her work was put in pamphlets—that was a major medium of that era. In those days there were no bylines, and certainly a woman wouldn’t have one. Other people would pick her writing up, use her material, and put their own name on it. But as I said it was serialized in all the major papers from Philadelphia to New York City—this was the age of protest publications. Although a lot of folks read her stuff it was not until a lot later on that it was revealed that she was the author.

Warren had been writing poetry before the pamphlets, but this was her first venture into politics. If you think of today’s Saturday Night Live—that is the style in which she wrote. She took political figures and made fun of the, including Thomas Hutchinson, the governor of Massachusetts.

DH: Why was she so obscure?

NRS: Well, that’s why I wrote the book. She was the first female playwright. And we didn’t know that until much later in history. She had good reason to write plays against British rule. Her brother talked about taxation without representation as a tyranny back in the 1760’s. He was an attorney and he was brutally assaulted by the British for his position. He never recovered his sanity after this—and that’s why she picked up the pen. She was fervently for justice for all, the little people, against oppression, etc… John Adams was a friend, mentor—he encouraged her to write. At first she was reluctant. But Adams told her “You have a genius pen.”

DH: Now Warren was a feminist. Yet she was very dependent on her husband to the point of refusing to allow him to take a post away from home in support of the Revolution. How do you explain this woman of contradictions?

NRS: We all have contradictions. Yes, some more than others. She was nearly 50 when the Revolution started. So you have a woman of a certain age. She was desperately in love with her husband, and he with her. Their love letters continued right up to old age. She didn’t want him to leave. In many ways she was a very traditional woman. She believed in education for women, but essentially she was a woman of her time and took care of her family. She had five sons, and was a terrific mother.

DH: So often when politics comes into your writing the work becomes less art and more polemic. Were her plays and poems considered art or were they more rants against the British.

NRS: Her plays were the equivalent of Saturday Night Live. They consisted of caricatures of political figures. They were difficult to read. Certainly she is not in the literary cannon of Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller. She was a competent poet. She was reasonably skilled. But for a woman of those days this was quite an accomplishment. By a fluke she was well-educated.

DH: You are the new director of the Cape Cod Writers Center. Can you tell us a little about the center and the programs you offer?

NRS: This will be our 49th year. We try to keep abreast with whatever is happening in publishing. Last year our theme was Books, Byte, and Beach. We tried to incorporate traditional genres but we also tried to incorporate social media.

The campus overlooks the Cape Cod Sound—you would be right near the beach if you attend. You can live in the dorms on campus.

The Keynote speaker this summer (2011) will be Malachy McCourt. Lisa Genova will be back with a new book. We will have agents, publishers, broadcasters, media people, poets, etc… Last summer we had poet Charles Coe. We also will have folks who will be talking about social media, blogging—we will offer 33 courses this summer. Also included will be a course on how to present yourself to an audience. We look for teachers who are well-known, and are accomplished writers.

DH: What’s hot in publishing these days?

NRS: A good story. People are still interested in thrillers, and mysteries. Any story that is exciting or different.

In addition, self-publishing has bloomed and blossomed. Because the publishing industry is so stretched most authors find that they have to do most of their own publicity. So they figure they might as well self-publish. All major conferences offer something about self-publishing.

DH: I remember having an argument with Rebecca Wolf of “Fence Magazine” in which
she stated that she would never use Print-On-Demand technology. David Godine Jr., the acclaimed publisher said they now use POD with some of their books and their authors love it.

NRS: It has become much more sophisticated. And now so much is digital. There will always be traditional publishing. This summer we will have the author Lisa Genova who wrote "Still Alice" which became a bestseller—this book was self-published. It is a rapidly changing environment.

DH: You studied at Tufts University—right here in Somerville. Is this where you got your seminal training as a writer?

NRS: I started out as a poet. I also taught high school English after college to put my husband through graduate school. I used to collect rejection slips for my poetry. Eventually I started to write nonfiction. I was writing for local papers in Westchester County, NY. The New York Times started a suburban edition and asked me to write for them. I learned a lot of discipline from my time as a journalist. When I was there it was basically a smoke-filled, male bastion—with typewriters—I loved it! Eventually computers moved in.

DH: Do you pine for the old days?

NRS: I loved it. I loved the excitement writing for a newspaper. I still write a column. Most writing can be done at home now. I was fortunate to do magazine work as well. I really like the immediacy of journalism, but there is nothing like spinning out a story to create a book.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review of HANGING LOOSE 97 literary magazine

Review of HANGING LOOSE 97 literary magazine, 2010, $9; subscription $22 for three issues, (published twice a year), sample copy $12 (includes postage). Submit to Hanging Loose Press, 231 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217 with self-addressed stamped envelope. See more information at www.hangingloosepress.com.

Review by Barbara Bialick

You’ve heard the phrase, “Read the magazine before submitting”. That’s clearly the philosophy of Hanging Loose, which writes on its website: “It doesn’t sound flippant, we hope, if we say that the most meaningful guide is the magazine itself.” I have just traveled through this entire issue, including the special section for high school writers at the back, but can’t conclusively say what makes a poem (or story) a Hanging Loose piece. Polished and well-edited, yes, urgent and leftish political, sometimes, receptive to wide free verse poetry lines, yes, but also publishes narrow ones, experienced poets, yes, though one of the best writers in the book was in the high school section. Rhyming would not be at home here, symbolism, irony, and a general sense of cultural history, probably would.

Part of the style of the magazine is a sort of random chaos that nevertheless organizes it well for readers. All poems (and short and rare stories) are presented alphabetically by last name, as opposed to a theme or pattern imposed by editors. The high school section has its own alphabetical layout. All the authors’ bios are also presented alphabetically—it’s easy to keep track of where the writer lives or comes from, which is as far away as Peru down home to Brooklyn, New York. Amazingly most of the Brooklyn writers landed in the center of the book! Also found in the middle are ten intriguing paintings presented glossy in black and white, as with both covers, by Sean Grandits, of Brooklyn, New York.

Here are some poems that held my interest:

“The moon is shy, but bold./The moon is made of ground goblins./…The moon cried louder than cats do…The moon’s a ball. And we are all invited. All.” (Mudhuri K. Akin, of Weston, Maryland, “More about the Moon”.)

“The biodegradable bomb/causes no collateral/damage if left/unexploded…” (Indran Amirthanayagam of Lima, Peru, “Memo (About Ordnance”.)

“Yesterday, my father’s birthday/…He quit at eighty-six/angry with age, annoyed at each small ache/…one fast ball low across the net, and then/goodbye.” (Rosalind Brackenbury, of Key West, Florida, “Goodbye”.)

“I love ordering and having to order/in the mist of the waitress’ cologne./I love watching her walk/toward me. I love watching/her walk away.” (Leonard Gontarek of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “Derrida”)

“my hair hanging long, romancing my waist. Down by the creek with my baby./marsh marigolds slick as melted butter. His hair sticking up in small flames…./that made my mouth look like glass and rode the frisky horse of time, mane braided/with stars, down the serpentine humps of the slide. A stone horse, but I was flying.” (Diane Suess, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, “I Once Fought the Idea of Body as Artifact”.)

“Three times, Dad, you died on the table/and three times they brought you back./You were sure death didn’t want you/…the fourth time you died on the table/your organs shut down, one at a time/like lights blinking out across the city/during a blackout, one grid after another…” (James Valvis, of Issaqua, Washington, in “Power Outage”.)

And finally, from a younger generation called “high school” I pick out Nikki Rhodes of Vancouver, Washington in “Dear Mississippi”: “I would not save you, Mississippi River; in a flood/…I would carry Chaucer/and hope that the language of those who survived/was his. I would save the cats. The cats/they would rule the boat, would sit at every/edge…/I would carry Uruguay/with me and leave no room/for you…/Everyone would be there but you.”

I hope this helps someone “get” the magazine “HANGING LOOSE 97” which is by the way, well worth getting a copy of!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Battle Scars by John Bennett

Battle Scars

by John Bennett
Kamini Press, Stockholm,Sweden
Softbound, Copyright © 2010 by John Bennett
ISBN 978-91-977437-5-4

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

The second poem in John Bennett’s 40th book, Battle Scars, is three simple lines under the title Trust “Don’t trust/cause-oriented/people.”

In another poem, Mirrors Bennett writes:

After a
certain age
all mirrors are
good for is
checking for
skin cancer &
the nicotine
stain in
your mustache

And in another titled Lacking he notes:

We will
not do
what we
need to
do to
save ourselves.

We do not
have it
in us.

Bennett is obviously a man of few words, but words that pack a wallop, fraught
with meaning, an arrow to whatever gets you thinking, whatever causes an emotion
in you. He can take a thought, or a cliche and make into an aphorism. The titles let
you know he is not messing around, that he is an in-your-face kinda guy: Ego Like Indelible Ink, Reading Tea Leaves, Diminishing Returns, Battle Scars, Less Is More,
and plenty of others.

I admire Bennett’s ability to boil down what could be a seemingly endless poem into
six or eight lines and instead of leaving the reader confused or wondering what he said,
he makes direct contact and you say, “Oh, yah!”

If you want a book that you can easily relate to and have it small enough to carry in a
pocket or pocketbook, then this is definitely for you. By the way, keep close at hand
to keep you out of trouble.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Israeli Poet Karen Akalay-Gut: An orphan who has found a home.

Israeli Poet Karen Akalay-Gut: An orphan who has found a home.

Interview with Doug Holder.

In an email from Poet Karen Akalay-Gut she writes:

"When I was just beginning to feel at home in the Israeli poetry scene, the author and editor Ben Zion Tomer was looking over a piece of mine he was going to publish and said, “You know, you were born an orphan.” The shock I felt was one of recognition not insult – for the first time someone had understood the basis of my writing more clearly than I had. The idea of exile, of perspective, was something I had carried with me from the days of my childhood, when my parents, long-term refugees and now new immigrants to the United States, chose to share their freshly acquired dwelling with displaced persons and concentration camp survivors. The religious education I was given in a Jewish Day School which emphasized Judaism as its center and Israel as the new home for the Jews was balanced by the afterschool Yiddish Farband Classes which focused on socialism and community. Home in other words, was always relative. But when I first came to Israel as a teenager I understood that for me there was an emotional absolute, that no matter how much it might be strange, and no matter how much I could argue about its directions, this was where I belonged."

Karen Alkalay-Gut was born in London in the Blitz (March 29,1945), and was educated in the United States. She received her Ph.D in English literature at the University of Rochester. In 1972 She moved to Israel, and has been teaching poetry at Israeli universities since then. In 1977 she joined the faculty at Tel Aviv University. In addition to a biography of the poet Adelaide Crapsey, Alkalay-Gut has published numerous articles on modern American poetry, Victorian literature and fiction, and studies of poetry and popular culture. In addition to over twenty books of poetry and a number of CDs with pianist Liz Magnes, Roi Yarkoni, and others, new work scheduled for 2010 include: a compact disk of her poetry with Panic Ensemble; a dual language collection, Belly Dancing in Tel Aviv, will appear with Edizioni Kolibris in Italy; and an edition of Selected Poems will be appearing in Hebrew translation.

I was suppose to meet her in Israeli and talk to her class in 2007, but the University was on strike and it never happened. I met her a couple of years later at McLean Hospital when she was researching a book on Sexton, and Plath. Gut is planning a trip this Winter in 2001, and hopefully will make a trip to the promised land of Somerville and a meeting of the Bagel Bards.

Do you think being born in London during the Blitz had a subliminal effect on you as a poet and writer?

I was born on the last night of the buzz bombs, so in a way I brought the peace, but the real effect on me came through my parents: for them, the blitz in London was a relief. They were refugees, had been fleeing for years before WWII, fled from Lida in Lithuania to Danzig in 1930, were persecuted for my father’s communist background in Danzig, and escaped that city on the night before Hitler invaded, on the last bus out. By the time they got to England they must have been wrecks, but the tragedy of the war only came to them when I was born. It was then that my mother learned that all of her family had been killed in the war. That must have influenced the way I was raised, and the expectations my parents had for me. I think the enormous tragedies that were uncovered at the time of my birth had more than a subliminal effect on me – they are part of my identity.

In your poetry and in your life--you exhibit the feeling of being an orphan. Literally you are not--but metaphorically you are. Explain?

In a way I wanted to be an orphan, to grow up without the burden of my family’s past. To grow up without the past of my people, without the imperative of my gender, without the rules that seem to dominate the way we think. I was always breaking out of traditions, even while I was enjoying my own versions of traditional things. For example, when Isaac Bashevis Singer’s book, Satan in Goray, came out in English, I was sixteen, and I devoured the book. He wasn’t famous yet, and was invited by my parents’ in Rochester to lecture in Yiddish. His lecture was wild, rowdy, nothing like any Yiddish literature the cultured Yiddish audience had experienced, and the audience was appalled. Afterward, my mother brought him to me, and said to him, “Here, SHE will be interested in what you have to say!” That was meant as a little insult to both of us, but I was overjoyed to be coupled with my new hero.

You moved to Israel in 1972 from the States. Israel is a place where many people go to find themselves--they are disconnected where they presently live--and are looking for meaning--a sort of existential crisis. Was that how it was for you?

I was perfectly happy in Rochester, New York. There were many ways in which the city, the schools, the centers, the university nurtured me in a way that is rarely available to people. For years I had saved up to go to Europe, but when I was 20, and had enough money, my parents “strongly urged” me to go to Israel instead. I wasn’t interested, but being a good girl, went along, thinking I’d catch a flight to Greece from Tel Aviv. The moment I landed in Israel I fell in love, and continued to fall in love with every single person I met, every place I encountered. So the first chance I got after I finished school I moved to Israel. It wasn’t easy, and I have political conflicts all the time, but existentially, I’m where I’m supposed to be.

You use this quote in your collection of poetry " Miracles"

From far away everything looks like a miracle,

but up close even a miracle doesn’t look like one.

- Yehuda Amichai, “Miracles”

Is this a call to you for immediate experience--the tangible over conjecture?

I thought I was simply referring to the fact that there are millions of miracles that occur every day – and we usually don’t notice them because we’re so involved in our own survival.

Like the Israelite in Amichai’s poem who is busy watching the back of the man in front of him on the way out of Egypt and doesn’t realize that the parting of the Red Sea has taken place. Medicine seems a miracle to me – the stuff that makes you better when you’re sick. But for Amichai the real miracles are the ones we experience all the time – little amazing details, remarkable in themselves, and of which poetry is created.

You have written a great deal about Slyvia Plath and Anne Sexton. They both seemed like orphans in the context of their tragic lives. Is this what attracted you?

My initial attraction was to their boldness and daring, but the more I read their poetry the more I saw what wonderful artists they were, asserting madness and freedom but with such control and craftsmanship that their art is often invisible. The drama attracted me, and the art keeps me attracted. My ‘orphans’ have the freedom determine their status. Even though my heart breaks every time I think of what Anne Sexton’s treatment should have been, and how much damage her mistreatment did, that isn’t what calls me to her. I am drawn to their pinpoint analysis of the social imperatives that were imprisoning them, and their desire to create their own destinies.

There is no one right way to write a poem. How do you go about it?

When I was nine or ten, a wise Yiddish poet was boarding with my family, and when he saw that I was making some efforts at composition he gave me this advice: “Never write if you can sleep without it.” I have thousands of ideas and phrases in my head all the time, but most of the time they will dissipate if I can ignore them, but when the words start to overwhelm me I jot them down and then begin to work on them, to hone them into the poem that reflects the original thought, and/or to develop them into what they could be.

What school of poetry are you in or have been expelled from?

Orphans don’t go to school.

I’ve been teaching poetry for forty five years. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Tennyson, Rossetti, Wilde, Williams, Stevens, Roethke, Lowell, Pinsky... I learn from them, from my students, from my research. There’s also my rock group – for a few years I was performing with them and in the past few years I’ve been writing lyrics for them. It makes me more aware of the sound of words, how they fit together to make their own meaning. Maybe the whole world is my school. There are a group of poems pasted on the wall in my bathroom – they were written from contemplation there – but they are about how it feels to be a sink, the responsibilities of soap, what is hiding behind the shower curtain, stuff like that. Was the bathroom my school?

A summer dress hangs on two pegs

The sash flutters out, like a butterfly
Who knows where it belongs
and the wind fills out the flowered bosom
as if spirit alone
was enough to give it life

-----Karen Akalay-Gut

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

“Redneck Poems” by Rusty Barnes

“Redneck Poems”
Rusty Barnes
MiPOesias Chapbook Series
$4.25 Holiday Sale

Edge. Rusty Barnes work will walk you out to the edge, ask you to look over, and consider whether you feel your stomach drop or your eyes water as you read. This is the real thing. Barnes grew up in rural Appalachia and his words are shot through with those Appalachian roots. Barnes creates an image that arouses all the senses in the opening of “When the Wrong Words Get Said”

Car tire on gravel,
rough smell of beer
and roasted corn. . .

the low of cows,
moonshine slips in like a tongue
through the treeless hedge fence

His pen inks imagery onto the page that cannot help but offer us a clear and vivid picture. In the opening work with the killer title: “Hollywood Appalachian Noir: A Lesson,” his description of taking a fist to the jaw is fluid motion

Vaughan turns round and strokes my jaw loose on its strings with his hard-
working fist. . .

Soon I am ass-over-teakettle and not even Patrick Swayze
can save me now. . .

How can one consider putting a book down that opens with a poem that scores being on the wrong end of a fight with such lyricism?

“Redneck Poems” never loses its edge. Later in the book a poem entitled “Cutter” will reach your ears with the echo of a soulful mandolin

Between the witching hour and its successor
I caught her with my utility knife in the open closet

all sound ceases when in a few lines we read

. . .I grasp her by the forearm, press the brachial artery and try
to ignore her pleading, I just want to die, then Daddy,
then Daddy again.

There is only one thing wrong with this poetry book. It’s over too soon. This Holiday Season treat yourself to “Redneck Poems.” You will not be disappointed.

Rene Schwiesow is the co-host of Poetry: The Art of Words in Plymouth, MA.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Somerville Poet/Writer Cam Terwilliger: From the Nursing Home to the Atlantic Magazine

Somerville Poet/Writer Cam Terwillger: From the Nursing Home to the Atlantic Magazine

Cam Terwilliger is a tall man and holds one mean pen. This Somerville poet and writer is equally adept at verse as well as fiction, and has the credits in top tier magazines to prove it. He teaches at GRUB ST., Emerson College, and has an MFA from that same college. He is the author of the short story collection Man & Machine, and stories from that manuscript have appeared in The Greensboro Review, The Mid-American Review, and The GSU Review. I talked with Terwillger on my Somerville Community Access TV show: " Poet to Poet : Writer to Writer."

Doug Holder: I first heard of you when I interviewed several elderly poets at THE SOMERVILLE HOME. They told me that you ran a memoir workshop.

Cam Terwilliger: The program was held during the winter/spring of 2009. We met every Thursday morning. I got a small grant from the Somerville Arts Council. It really went well. We had a range of folks who would appear. We had a number of regulars. Some who were quite young--in their 50's and 60's--one woman was in her 90's. Often my students told me that they had nothing to write about, but we would have these prompts that were very specific to the memories they had. I was invariably surprised that at the end of these prompts they would conjure up these vivid stories about childhood, the Great Depression, or the trials and tribulations of living in a nursing home. I was always stunned by the level of detail and imagination that was displayed in their writing.

DH: What were the prompts?

CT: Stuff like " Write about your first memory of riding a bicycle." One woman wrote this memorable story about the first time she witnessed her mother riding a bike. She had never seen a woman ride a bike, and she thought this was the most magical thing.

DH: Did you ever print an anthology?

CT: No, but we did have a public reading. The Boston Globe covered it. The group members had great stuff that we would revise at the end. I always tried to get them to have that great sense of voice.

DH: You have worked as a reader at top shelf literary magazines such as: the Atlantic and Ploughshares. How much of a chance does an unsolicited manuscript have of getting in these magazines?

CT: I am going to be perfectly honest--the chances are very small. The top tier magazines have a flood of submissions. But they all are read--that was my job at the time. It was very difficult for a fiction manuscript to make it up from the slush pile. You have a better chance with poetry--perhaps because they are shorter, and people are willing to take a chance on them. Half the submissions at Ploughshares are solicited by the editors, the other half are collected by staff.

DH: What qualities do you look for in poetry submissions?

CT: Each poet has his own style. I am looking for that level of surprise. Some poems surprise you but then they falter. In that case you often write a letter to the poet and encourage him to keep submitting. It takes a long time for a poet to perfect their craft: the line breaks--the sound, etc...If you have the desire to perfect your craft you can but it takes a long time. There is not one answer as to what makes a good poem

DH: You got your MFA at Emerson College in Boston. A lot of great folks teach there. I've interviewed writer/poet Richard Hoffman, Tracy Strauss, the late poet Sarah Hannah, and I have had the opportunity to publish Daniel Tobin in the latest issue of Ibbetson Street. Who did you study with?

CT: For poetry I studied with David Barber, the Atlantic's poetry editor. I also studied with Bill Knott. He is different from Barber, but brilliant as well. Knott has some real problems with the way the publishing industry works. I studied with fiction writer Pamela Hunter--a great writer of Flash Fiction.

The Extinct

I see them at museums—arrayed
as the animals they must have been.
Steel rods force their bodies together.
Their faces assemble like jigsaws.
Because no one alive has ever seen them
one missing bone changes their message.
Without the ankle: No one outruns
the asteroid. Without the jaw: Hunger.
It doesn’t matter. All bones are synonyms.
No species can outlast its fossils.
Skeletons totter around their case
like antique alphabets, longing to collapse.
They long to disband the characters
for disease, for ice—whatever composed
the irresistible song: their last evolutions,
the chorus of silence we are not required
to understand, only required to join.

----Cam Terwilliger

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Attention Somerville Poets... The Mass. Poetry Festival....May 13

By Doug Holder

I am excited to be on the Advisory Board of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival to be held this Spring in Salem, Mass. I have spoken several times with the Director Mike Ansara, and have attended meetings with poets from around the state about this exciting event that was previously held in Lowell, Mass. I hope to involve Endicott College, Beverly, Mass. (where I teach writing) in this state-wide venue for the art of poetry. Here is quote from the website for the festival that will provide further details.

"MassPoetry has chosen historic Salem as the location for the third Massachusetts Poetry Festival to be held on May 13 and 14, 2011. A two day festival features poetry readings, slams, workshops, a day of poetry for high school students, and a small press fair highlighting published poets. The event is coordinated by founder Michael Ansara, and by a variety of poetry partners, including Salem State University, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, Destination Salem, local businesses and poetry enthusiasts. The Massachusetts Poetry Outreach Project, also known as MassPoetry, sponsors this flagship event and also coordinates outreach programs to bring poetry into schools and communities across the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival will bring a blizzard of verbal beauty to Salem, a city with a rich literary history and vibrant writing community. It will connect generations, and it will give the city and university a leadership role in building culture in the Commonwealth,” said J.D. Scrimgeour, poet and Professor of English at Salem State University. ‘The Poetry Festival is evidence of the vitality of the fundamental, central art of poetry,” said Robert Pinsky, the former Poet Laureate of the U.S. and the Honorary Chair of the Poetry Festival.

Mayor Driscoll declared, “Salem is proud of its own unique literary tradition and offers many exciting venues for such an event. We look forward, with great enthusiasm, to hosting a successful Festival in May, 2011.” Provost Kristin Esterberg from Salem State University also commented, “Salem State has been engaged with the Massachusetts Poetry Festival since its beginning. We’re delighted to continue the tradition which began in Lowell, and we welcome the festival to Salem, another proud literary city in Massachusetts.”

Friday, the first day of the festival, is devoted to high school students and teachers with workshops at Salem State University. Among the featured readers will be Salem State Alumni, poet Tom Sexton, who has published more than 10 books of poetry and has won numerous regional and national awards for his writing. He is the former poet laureate of Alaska, where he spent much of his life since his childhood in Massachusetts. Day two of the festival will be open to the public and will include readings, workshops, performances, poetry and dance, Shakespearean sonnets, and slam poetry. These events will be held across downtown Salem’s cafes, restaurants, historic buildings, churches, museums, and Old Town Hall.

“Given its long literary traditions, Salem, the home of Hawthorne, is an appropriate site for the 2011 Poetry Festival,” Congressman John Tierney said. “Salem State University’s involvement and the Festival’s educational focus for young students will continue to foster creativity and energy across our community.” The festival brought over 1000 poetry lovers to Lowell in 2009, and the May, 2011 festival is expected to be even larger."

I hope folks from Somerville will make the relatively short trek to Salem to participate in this valuable venue for the spoken and written word.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Poena Damni by Dimitris Lyacos

Poena Damni
Z213: EXIT
Dimitris Lyacos
Shoestring Press 2010
translation: Shorsha Sullivan
ISBN: 978356-05-6

Lyacos's trilogy, Poena Damni; in reverse, Z213: Exit is the completion
of the trilogy. If the translations of the poems are exact, these poems
are light years beyond our contemporary poetics. It reads like Homer,
in that it is an epic poem taken from the sea in other words almost forcing
a perpetrated history, each poem connected by heritage. The poems
connect without a consistent use of punctuation; it all reads like an epic
and the epic is intellectual as well as experiential imparting:

"these names and that's how
they found me.And as soon as they brought me I stayed
for a while and then they took me it was a building of
four wards large yards and rooms the rest of the people
were there four wards separate not far from the sea.
And we would eat together sometimes and in the middle
a log with cut branches on top over it an opening for the
smoke, and ashes spread out on the floor black stains
and ashes.And from the pores in the walls a little water
would come and sometimes you could ask go upstairs
and visit somebody else and when sometimes in the
evening the power was out and we were sitting silent in
the dark…"

And these references:

"This is continuity, you travel,
perhaps in your mind, a paper world real, God reeling up
and down landscapes and buildings, knocks down, opens
new roads, doesn't like it, changes again, but there isn't
a seam, His world is onefold and you perceive neither
seam nor contradiction, continuity only…"

Some of Lyacos's poems carry cultural inclinations:

"The slow bells from the church which must be near me
I stopped for a while and waited and now they were
chiming again.And here where I sat, like stains below
the slabs as if blooded.Who was there ringing, guess-
es confused not made clear, who was there ringing the
bell waves going down the dome, the echo of an ocean
that licks on it and drips here.And the flashes through
the window from the one to the other like a search-
light turning around seeking me out.Here, in a flooded
pit full of bodies, branches that cover and float leaves
that float on faces unknown funerary gifts on the side,
phrases by him and the Writ mixed on this page, and
further down sea tombs and then something between
the frozen palms…"

With the exception of a few poems the poems read like quick fiction
enjambed with little punctuation, "Or other marks, or his own parts
that you were reading"

The poets' contemporary writing position is fused with or steeped in
oral tradition and tradition is not a dirty word it is a knowing or
an unknowing, a passing on, where influences come, even when those
influences may come from a lending, or continental cafes, Lyacos is a
master craftsman steering his way through tons of immediate information
or any candle lit for the dead or the coffee house philosophers or mothers'
dire warnings, "This too for a pillow, on top of the bible." or "Remember
to write as much as I can. As much as I remember. So that I can remember."

I love this book, the bringing together, the collage of differences, the
intense focus, the separation of pages, "And then stone yellow gleam
the stones that light up, matches flare again in the room." Every page
inspires a conundrum of thoughts.

Get this book for all your up-to-date-friends who read experimental poetry
or read the master writers. I strongly recommend!

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor:
Wilderness House Literary Review

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Immaculate Conception Mother’s Club by David R. Surette

The Immaculate Conception Mother’s Club

by David R. Surette
Koenisha Publications
Hamilton MI
Softbound, 85 pages, No Price Indicated
Copyright © 2010 by David R. Surette
ISBN-13: 978-0-9800098-6-6

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

There are far too many poets who simply are not accessible, whatever that means. Perhaps it what down south they call “high falutin’ language.” Perhaps it is what some
consider “academic poetry,” “obscure” poetry or “confusing” poetry. With David R.
Surette, none of these apply. He is easily accessible and straight to the point.

I have had never read Surette before, nor had I see him read. Now I am sorry that I
had not done both. Surette lives and teaches in southeastern Massachusetts, but his
poetry in this volume is based in Malden, Massachusetts. It is down to earth, gritty,
honest, capable of making a reader whose past is similar associate quite readily with
his poetry. In fact, the poetry is a series of vignettes, incidents from the poet’s life,
experienced like a Mark Wahlberg movie. The best part is, you don’t have to be
Catholic to dig him and his poetry.

And if Catholic means universal, then Surette can universally touch readers of every
persuasion, even atheists.

Here is one page from a book of 85 pages:

The Boston Arena

It was another penalty in a career of penalties.
He chopped the forearms of a winger speeding by.
“Two minutes, slashing,” barked the ref.
He snapped. He choked up on his stick, cocked
it, and with all his strength, sent it
helicopting through the air,
clearing the boards, the glass,
climbing higher and higher,
until pausing at its apex, descended,
still spinning, cracking a woman in the head,
knocking her out.
The woman was the kid’s mother.
What are the odds?
He had sent his stick spinning into the stands,
all 4,000 waiting seats, maybe 200 occupied,
and hit his own mother.
The ref tacked on a 10-minutes misconduct.
The rumor spread that, after school, he hooked up
with the mob, collecting, leg breaking, but that
was the rumor for every tough Italian kid we knew.
Maybe he believed he was fated for the work
foreshadowed by that day when
even his own mother didn’t love him.

If there is a weakness in Surette’s poetry, some of the poems have last lines that perhaps should have been deleted, but the poem itself is still worth the read. In fact, this is a book
one should keep, put on the bookshelf and periodically open to read some of the poems.

Monday, December 06, 2010


REVIEW OF “GUD, GREATEST UNCOMMON DENOMINATOR” MAGAZINE, biannual, Issue 6, Summer 2010, 206 pages, fiction, poetry, artwork, produced by Greatest Uncommon Denominator Publishing, PO Box 1537, Laconia, NH 03247,$12
perfect bound, $3.50 electronic copy, http:gudmagazine.com, editor@gudmagazine.com

Review by Barbara Bialick

I’ll get this fact out right away. GUD is very good, but I’m only reviewing it from the poetry perspective. There are only 12 poems in this issue. But they fit in visually with the other genres mentioned. A good-looking magazine with a surrealistic, yet contemporary theme, it is not so dark that it’s inaccessible to general readers. It’s strong on imagery and symbolism as in the poem, “Whale on the Roof” by Rose Lemberg:

“My roof is flat, and /there was once a whale on it, red with the dawn,/toothlessly grinning—and grass grew on its back...”.Not wanting to mow the lawn because that was “bad for the environment”, she still had to live with the city coming to mow “the hippie grass down…”

Another strong poem—actually they’re all strong poems—is “Again” by Molly Horan:
she thinks back to a younger age—around September 11, 2001—when she wondered if only she’d not done certain things maybe it wouldn’t have happened. This combination of superstition and imagery is compelling. “Maybe if I’d been younger/hadn’t let my bangs grow out/hadn’t bought the lipstick/too dark to be a Kool Aid stain…” The school sends home a “crumpled” note with her sister about not watching the news: “Every time the clip plays/your child will think the planes are crashing again.”

On it’s website the magazine reveals that it comes out twice a year and requests you submit online. They call themselves an award-winning print/pdf magazine that is also available on Kindle. They are currently reading for their summer 2011 issue.

It looks like an intriguing magazine to publish in, but it better be good, as the pun goes. I’ll close with some lines from “Crumpled Receipts” by Bryan C. Murray:
“I took my vitamins today, by alphabet,/the way my Centrum dictates…Like most people, I don’t trust return clauses…people always get carried away: men exchanging/ex-wives/doctors calling patients back, reinserting tumors…” And so on.

Give it a read and try to get read if you can.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Chava Hudson: An artist adept with the pen and the paint brush.

On Chava Hudson's website it states:

“After working as a graphic designer, an art teacher, and then designing and producing her own line of outerwear for the boutique market, Chava became smitten with the Internet. In 1998, she studied web design and since then has created sites for universities and non-profits, but mostly designs websites and graphics for small businesses, artists and writers.

As an offshoot of her web design career and interest in writing, she started zingology.com a literary blog in 2007 which has evolved to a just for fun collaboration with a cartoonist and a comedy writer.

As an artist, Chava produces limited edition prints which are currently in private and corporate collections and has taught graphic design and digital painting at Endicott College in Beverly, MA. She's completed four novels, many short stories, and still publishes Zingology.com a blog.

In 2009 Chava began producing and hosting a monthly local cable show for BevCam entitled Out and About, produced by Film North in Beverly, MA. The show features interesting musicians, writers, filmmakers, an occasional foray into cooking, and even a psychic reading by the official witch of Salem, MA. In 2010 she won the BevCam Producer of the Year award for her show. She co-founder of the North Shore Jazz Project and is about to launch a second cable show, Live From Chianti, featuring live music from the Beverly jazz club.

She's published two books Sarah's Secret and The Closing through Zingology Press."

I talked with Hudson on my Somerville Community Access TV show "Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."

Doug Holder: Your novel "The Closing" deals with (among other things) a murderous real estate agent. Have you had any experience with "Closings" such as this?

Chava Hudson: My father, when he retired, became a real estate agent out in California. So this isn't really related to my feelings about real estate agents. I got the idea for the book when I was walking around Beverly and I saw a FOR SALE sign in someone's house, and the realtor's name was Kevorkian. So I got the idea for a realtor who helped elderly people close the deal or checkout so to speak.

DH: Can you talk about your online magazine zingology?

CH: I am a web designer. I started the magazine originally for myself--for play. But then I realized I had so many friends who were artists and writers. So I started getting submissions from a lot of people. At one time I had 10 people who were on staff. I was printing hard copies. But it all became too much work. So I whittled it down again.

DH: You started the North Shore Jazz Project with Henry Ferrini, the nephew of the noted poet Vincent Ferrini. Have you always had an affinity for jazz?

CH: Not always--I didn't like it when I was young. My entry into jazz was sparked by listening to Billie Holiday. Then I got into Miles Davis. And then it was like "yeah-there is a whole world out there of this music..." Now I like more off-the-wall kind of music. This will be the second year of the Jazz Project that is held in Beverly, Mass.

DH: Let's say I am a writer--(well I am aren't I?)-- If I wanted you to design a website for me, describe the process you go through to come up with something.

CH: I look at it as some kind of painting. I try to get to the essence of my clients. Like a therapist I speak with them for an hour or two. I try to find out what they are trying to communicate.

DH: You taught digital painting at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. What exactly is this?

CH: It's done on the computer. I think there is a lot of prejudice by people who think the computer is not a legitimate tool to create art. But the fact is software is just another medium. I mean, you still have the ideas in your head. You move in colors and shapes--and you manipulate your images. It is becoming much more legitimate. It is just another medium and it is versatile. I painted on canvass but I prefer digital.

DH: Any new projects?

CH: I have a novella "Dates Out of Hell" coming out. I am reworking a novel I wrote five years ago. It deals with two women who have met for coffee over they years--and how they deal with all their struggles.

Jack Powers, founder of Stone Soup Poets, will be honored at the 15th Annual Richard Cardinal Cushing Christmas Tree Lighting

The late poet Jack Powers, founder of Stone Soup Poets, will be honored at the 15th Annual Richard Cardinal Cushing Christmas Tree Lighting-- Saturday Dec. 11, 2010 6PM One Bowdoin Square. West End, Boston. 617-869-7001. This year’s tree lighting will also honor Richard Cardinal Cushing, John Henning, and Bobby Christofore.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Poetry/Literary Arts Collection at Endicott College

(Beverly, Mass.)

I had discussions with the director of the Halle Library,Brian Courtemanche at Endicott College about starting a poetry/literature arts collection at their facility. We are planning to slowly develop a Literary Arts and Poetry Center that will include a poetry collection, and will be a venue for workshops and seminars, etc....I am asking poets and playwrights, and other writers for donations of their own written works for this effort. Your book will be listed in the Endicott College collection on the NOBLE CATALOGUE. Endicott's books are lent and shipped out internationally. We hope to have an extensive collection and we would love for you to be part of it. Send your donations to :

Endicott College
Halle Library
ATTN: Brian Courtemanche
376 Hale St.
Beverly, Mass.

*** You will receive acknowledgements for your book... and hey... you can say your books are archived in the prestigious poetry and literary arts collection at Endicott...just look it up!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Endicott College/Ibbetson Street Press Visiting Author Series-- Spring 2011

Endicott College of Beverly, Mass. and the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass. launched a Visiting Author Series in Oct. 2010. The series premiered with Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish, and followed with award-winning poets Bert Stern and Miriam Levine. The Spring 2011 featured writers for the Series have been announced by Doug Holder, founder of the Ibbetson Street Press and Dr. Mark Herlhy, the Chairman of Humanities at Endicott College.

**For more information contact Doug Holder dholder@endicott.edu

On Feb 24, 2011 at 4PM at the Halle Library on the Endicott Campus noted Poets/Publishers Gary Metras (Adastra Press) and Mark Pawlak (Hanging Loose Press) will read from their poetry and discuss their work as editors and publishers.

On April 14, 20ll at 4PM at the Halle Library noted fiction writer and baseball afficando Luke Salisbury will read from his work and chat about America's favorite pastime.

Gary Metras is the editor, publisher, and printer of the Adastra Press which specializes in handcrafted chapbooks of poetry. The American Book Review said of Adastra: “As long as fine literary presses continue to handcraft handsome books like these from Adastra, serious readers can rest assured that the book is alive and well.” Metras has worked with such renowned poets as: Thomas Lux and Ed Ochester, but has published many debut collections as well.

Metras is a well-regarded poet in his own right. Recently the Pudding House Press released his collection “Greatest Hits: 1980-2006.” He has been the subject of a feature story in "Poets and Writers" magazine; he has been widely published in the small press, and has been a featured poet in a recent issue of the literary magazine: “Ibbetson Street.” Metras has read at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and he teaches writing at Springfield College in Springfield, Mass.

Mark Pawlak is a longtime editor of the respected small press Hanging Loose, http://www.hangingloosepress.com , and the author of the poetry collection “Official Versions."

His poetry and prose have appeared in “The Best American Poetry 2006,” “New American Writing,” “Off the Coast,” “Pemmican,” and “The Saint Ann’s Review,” among other places. In addition, he is editor of four anthologies, most recently, “Present/Tense: Poets in the World,” a collection of contemporary American political poetry, featuring work from some of the country’s best-known writers. Pawlak is Director of Academic Support Programs at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he also teaches mathematics. He has been the recipient of two Massachusetts Artist Fellowship awards. He lives in Cambridge with his wife and his teenage son.

Luke Salisbury is a professor of English at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. Salisbury, 64, is a man with a gift for gab, and the well-turned phrase. Eclectic in his tastes, Salisbury, with his signature rapid - fire cadence and disarming laugh, regales you with his anecdotes, his impressive knowledge of baseball, and his “alternative” universe of film, books and political intrigue he has spent many years pondering and writing about. He is the author of a number of fiction titles including: “The Answer is Baseball.” (Time Books, 1989), “The Cleveland Indian” (Smith, 1992), and his novel about the great filmmaker D.W. Griffith “Hollywood and Sunset” (2007). His writing has appeared in such publications as “The Boston Globe,” “Ploughshares,” “Cooperstown Review,” "Pulp- smith,” and others. Salisbury received his M.A. in Creative Writing from Boston University and lives in Chelsea, Mass. with his wife Barbara.

SARX, Poetry by Nancy A. Henry

Review of SARX, Poetry by Nancy A. Henry, Moon Pie Press, Westbrook, Maine, 2010, 127 pages, www.moonpiepress.com, $11.

Review by Barbara Bialick

To begin with I want to apologize to the author, in that I did not read SARX cover to cover as I ordinarily would. She is a sensual, lightly erotic poet who can turn good phrases, but there’s simply too much of this collection to go around. Sarx, which apparently means “flesh” in Greek, means not only lovers loving, but nature naturing. Here are some examples that I enjoyed:

“Husband came spinning and sparkling/out of the brilliant powder of the earth,/his magnificent reason full of glory.” (“A Genesis”)

“These brainy types,/listen to them dissect our souls/they don’t need God/they need more pricey booze” (“Undergrad Waitress Serves Faculty Cocktails”)

“In midsummer, the turtles would stage/their silent siege, heads like dried prunes/just beyond the razor weed…” (“In Midsummer”)

“I am waiting/for you to seep into me/the liquefied silver permeating/all these fractures/in the hard brittle glass of myself/till your shining grace spiders/through every vein,/rings every cell./…I am waiting Lord/step here/into this gray dusty room/make every dust mote sing/and bloom.” (“Noon Prayer”)

According to George Wallace on the back of the book, “Sarx is a book of poems that is, at its core, reverential of its subjects, whether they are sensuous, funny or sacred or mundane; a praise poem to that which is flawless, but also to ‘the erotic power of flaws.’ Once again Nancy Henry gives voice to a heart that swallows things whole. These are poems to cherish, as one might an ‘Ironic secret…this tenderness nearly unbearable.’”

To her credit, Henry lists around 50 known and little known journals these poems were previously published in. She teaches English and humanities courses at Central Maine Community College, Thomas College and University of Southern Maine. She’s published two previous full-length collections of poetry and several chapbooks.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Somerville’s Jane Sherrill: An artist who likes to tear paper….

( Seascape by--Jane Sherill)

Somerville’s Jane Sherrill: An artist who likes to tear paper….

By Doug Holder

Artist Jane Sherrill is on a big tear these days…literally. On her website she writes: “I tear paper. That is what I do. It frees me and opens up possibilities. I’m interested in breaking out of habitual ways of thinking …”

Sherrill tears old drawing and paintings into strips. She then weaves them together to form new collages. She then applies her colored pencils to her creations making for an evocative affect.

Sherrill is an accomplished artist who has lived in Somerville for the past 20 years. Originally from New Jersey, she started out as a poet in New York City publishing her work in a variety of small press magazines and journals. As a resident artist in the Vernon Street Studios in Somerville, she juggles teaching jobs with her artistic work to pay the bills. Sherrill who has worked as a psychotherapist, special education teacher, and a social worker, decided to give up the steady income that came with her profession to pursue her passion—her art.

Sherrill told the News that she regularly participates at the Open Studios at Vernon St. Each November she opens her studio to the public. The Vernon St. Studios is housed in a historic 19th century industrial building (“Rogers Foam Facility’), and is comprised of two buildings. Somerville artists such as Gary Duehr, Emily Hiestand, and Tova Specter have studios on the premises.

Sherrill's paintings, etc… have been exhibited in many Somerville locales, such as: Somerville City Hospital, Willoughby Baltic Gallery, Tufts University Art Gallery, and Baltic Fine Arts to name a few venues.

Besides the collages Sherrill has painted a collection of beautifully rendered seascapes inspired by a week in Truro on Cape Cod, as well as many other works-in-progress. Sherill said: “I love the sea; its constant movement, its colors changing all the time, the transformation of its surface by nature—in short it has the energy of life.”

Jane Sherrill has worn many hats in her long career. She has developed her own monologues for the stage, and has been involved with graphic design. She is like many of the eclectic and talented artists who ply their trade in the “Paris of New England.”

For more information go to http://www.janesherrill.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

Leo Racicot recalls Ted Kennedy/Katherine Hepburn


"Meeting Katharine Hepburn" by Leo Racicot

The legendary Katharine Hepburn was indeed, notorious for refusing to sign autographs but must not have considered correspondence as "autograph" because I have many letters and notes from her (signed) as well as one cherished autographed photo.

She was interested in doing a screenplay of mine back in theearly 80s, "Walking Song". She liked it but kept demanding I "cut it down "because it was "too long". I cut it and sent it back to her. "Too long",came back the reply. "Cut more!"So I cut and cut and cut.

This went on awhile until the happy day when I was summoned to 244East 49th St. in tony Turtle Bay to meet her. She was much shorter than I pictured, maybe 5' 7", stunning face, very self-centered. It seemed, for the longest time, to be about homemade brownies and tea with Hepburn doing little calesthetics in between ("Opens the pores"). When I finally worked up the courage to ask about the play, Her Majesty waved a dismissive hand, said, "Oh,that play's too short", gave her housekeeper a look that said, "Get him out of here" and ascended into the nether sphere.

HAHAHAHA!!!!! I was crushed. About a month or so later, I received a photo of Hepburn in the mail. On it she wrote, "Sorry.You whittled that thing down to a nub."

"Meeting Ted Kennedy"

by Leo Racicot

Back in the 1980s, I was working
for UMass Lowell Libraries (then
called ULowell) when the Senator
came into O'Leary and headed up
the stairs with his entourage to
the director's office. My colleague,
Marge Ryder, said, "Darn! Now we
won't get to meet him!" A little
while later, Marge nudged me; the
Senator was coming down the stairs
by himself and went into our faculty
lounge. Marge grabbed my arm
and said, "Here's our chance!!"

But once inside the lounge,
we found hide nor hair of Kennedy
and Marge yelled out, "Where the
HELL is he??? He was just in here!!"
No sooner had she said this than
the toilet in the Men's Room flushed
and the Senator emerged. He barely
had time to zipper up when Marge
torpedoed herself at him and introduced
the both of us. In spite of the embarrassing
moment, Ted was more than gracious
and kind. Soon, we were joined in the
lounge by other staffers and the Senator
regaled us with his instant wit and charm.

In all the excitement, I lost track
of the conversation and did not realize
it had turned to talk of the conflict
in Northern Ireland. Innocently, I
piped in, "Did something bad
happen in Northern Ireland?",
thinking some new development
had occurred. Ted's face took on
an air of disbelief and in his full-on
Kennedy accent he said, "YOU
don't KNOW about the TROUBLES
dad silence fell on the faculty room.
Then he pointed at me and
ordered, "String this man up

******Leo Racicot's work has appeared in CO-EVOLUTION QUARTERLY, UTNE READER, MOTHER JONES, SPIRITUAL LIFE, FAITH AND INSPIRATION, GAY SUNSHINE JOURNAL, TOBIAS, THE POET, POETRY MAGAZINE, YANKEE MAGAZINE. Two of my essays were included in BEST OF....anthologies, and I is the recipient (1988, 1992) of the SYLVIA PLATH POETRY FORUM AWARD.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Author Joan Leegant: Novelist of the wandering Jew in search of connection...

Author Joan Leegant: A novelist of the wandering Jew in search of connection...

With Doug Holder

Joan Leegant is the author of WHEREVER YOU GO, published July 2010, and AN HOUR IN PARADISE, for which she won the PEN/New England Book Award, the Wallant Award for Jewish Fiction, and was a Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. Formerly an attorney, she taught at Harvard University for eight years. Since 2007, she has lived half the year in Tel Aviv, where she is the visiting writer at Bar-Ilan University and lectures for the U.S. State Department. When not in Israel she lives in Newton, Massachusetts. Her latest book WHEREVER YOU GO portrays three lost souls in the Israel--each in their own way trying to find themselves. I interviewed Leegant on my Somerville Community Access TV Show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder : I heard you once shared a pastrami sandwich with Allen Ginsberg, the iconic Beat Generation poet?

Joan Leegant: What I recollect of it—I was a teenager, but I was in awe. This was in the mid 60’s. And he had just completed a performance—he was sort of in his guru stage. He was chanting, etc... So I was sort of surprised when he asked my father Bernie, who was a cousin of his, to get him a pastrami sandwich. This was a serious disconnect for me. I didn’t expect him to be so down-to-earth. He was a very regular guy. He asked how the family was, etc... He was an object of curiosity of course for the family. He hadn’t the huge reputation he would make later on. By-the-way the pastrami was excellent--it was N.Y. pastrami of course!

DH: When did you first go to Israel?

JL: My first trip to Israel was in the 1970’s. I was 27. I stayed for a few years and I was enamored with the country. I really admired its spunk and its community at the time. In the late 70’s I had come out of an anti-war period. Israel had just been involved in two wars in 1967 and 1973, and I was used to the sight of soldiers. I speak the language and have Israeli friends—so I am quite comfortable there.

DH: The three young protagonists in "Wherever You Go" seem like lost souls--they are looking to define themselves. They come to Israel. Is Israel a good place for this?

JL: That basically is the theme of the work. People are seeking to connect to the divine or something larger than themselves. They want to find one little corner of happiness. So people do come to Israel seeking something...and sometimes they find it is available--whether it is religious, political activity, or a sense of belonging.

DH: There are two sisters in the novel Dena and Yona. Dena is a staunch ideologue living in a settlement in the desert. Yona lives in New York (and travels to Israel), is an adulteress, and is trying to reconcile with her estranged sister. Who are you more sympathetic to?

JL: Yona is the character who has a lot more compassion, and she is far more vulnerable. I have more compassion for her.

I do admire but I don't agree with the politics at all of the sister Dena. She is a very principled person. There is a part of me that really admires people who want to live by their principles, and are passionate about that. But this can turn into fundamentalism. And that is the point of the book.

DH: There is a lot of hostility in the book towards American Jews. Do you feel that when you are in Israel?

JL: I don't feel it. But I have observed it. I think there is a level in which they are more cynical. The people portrayed in the book are fundraisers for the right wing settlements. And they are aware that the American Jews who financially support the settlements are not going to live there or send their children there. They are not prepared to make the sacrifice to live there. But they will offer their financial support. The people who are willing to accept the money are cynical and that's who I am portraying. One of them says that the Americans come here and help them out but go back to live in their affluent communities and big houses. I guess some Israelis feel that Jews in the diaspora are not living their destiny in Israel.

DH: You teach writing in Israel at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv. You have also taught writing at Harvard University Extension. How do the students differ--what are the writing about? How do your courses unfold?

JL: I do two things. We do alot of reading and discuss other authors work. Then we have workshops. Students work is discussed.

Like the Extension School my students in Israel are of an older population. I teach in an Master's program in Israel--most of the students are native English speakers who are either in the country for the program or live there. This is a program in the English Department of an Israeli University. They are often from South Africa, the United States, Great Britian, etc... Like Harvard Extension they come from diverse backgrounds.

The subject matter they write about is different. Some of my Israeli students come from the army and write about their army experience. Some people have lived in the country for twenty-five years or more and write about their immigration experience. There is a Jewish women in my class from India, and she writes evocatively about the Jewish community in her native country. So often people write about immigration--the tapestry of the immigrant experience, the Jewish experience, Jewish identity, etc...

For more information about MS. LEEGANT go to http://www.joanleegant.com

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dosha, Flight of the Russian Gypsies by Sonia Meyer

Dosha, Flight of the Russian Gypsies
Sonia Meyer
Wilderness House Press

The atrocities inflicted upon cultural groups have existed for centuries. Roma have been hard hit by the full impact of prejudice and persecution. From pre-Third-Reich Germany to Stalin’s reign of terror, to the illusion of Kruschev’s thaw, Rom and Romni have been captured, tortured, left for dead or murdered. Still today, Roma are faced with torment. Sonia Meyer, author of “Dosha: Flight of the Russian Gyspies,” knows the threat of persecution first-hand. At the young age of two, Sonia fled with her parents from the Nazi regime, taking refuge with partisans and Gypsies. By the age of 7 she knew no other life beyond that of war and death. Sonia grew up reassured by the howl of the wolf, for at that moment she knew that she was safe, that the forest could, once again, awaken to its own sounds, following the cacophony of bomb droppings and the crack of gunfire.

From the memories of the nomadic life Meyer was forced to live hiding out in forests, abandoned houses, inns and barns during and post World War II, the story of Dosha, Russian Gypsy, has been given Roma wings to fly. And “Dosha: Flight of the Russian Gypsies,” does soar from its pages, each of its three parts a mixture of action, intrigue, and romance blended seamlessly into harmonious balance.

While the story of Dosha as a Lovari woman is fictional, the historical perspective of Russian Gypsies on the run from the Nazis, from Stalin, and from Kruschev’s Roma round-ups has been successfully and accurately woven through the book with a deftness that slips around factual ennui as silently and mysteriously as the Roma navigate their beloved woods. This is the beauty of Meyer’s ability to bring to life the way of the Roma amidst war and post-war oppression.

In 1941 Dosha is a small child facing life in a war-ravaged country. Days, months, years lived on the move, sharing family around campfires, sleeping soundly in caravans, and becoming one with her horse courses through her veins. It is a life that captivity can never truly separate her from. Later, drafted by the Soviet government as a horsewoman, she and her stallion are trained in Russian dressage. Employed by the State behind the Iron Curtain, Dosha knows the constant pull of longing to be free again, the ever-present threat of death, the inevitable entanglement of lives ordered into service, frightened into silence.

Meyer has put pen to the page in a lyrical movement of literature with a European flair. Her personal knowledge of gypsy life and the time spent in historical research have served this story well. There is richness to her images, depth in her characters, and fluidity in her narration. The swish of a Gypsy skirt, the camaraderie of the Gypsy men, the laughter of their children, and the Roma’s ability to understand and intuit the hidden forces of this world will stay with you long after the last word of this story offers its hush to your soul.
Rene Schwiesow is a Massachusetts poet and writer, co-host of Plymouth’s Art of Words, she thrives on bringing words to life behind an open mic.