Monday, March 29, 2010



I have known poet Jade Sylvan casually over the years. I had the good fortune to publish her poetry in “Ibbetson Street” and the ” Lyrical Somerville” in The Somerville News. She is a dynamic reader and an arresting presence on stage. I have seen her strut her poetic stuff at Stone Soup Poetry at the Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge, and other venues. I have also followed her blog “The Broken Watch”, which traces the life of this young, "boheme" artist, as she makes her way in our city.

Sylvan, 27, (who has a new book of poetry out “The Spark Singer,”) is a corn-fed Midwesterner, but for the past three years she has lived in the Allston section of Boston, (which she said she outgrew), and most recently in Union Square and Davis Square in our beloved burg. She is a patron and a performer at many venues in Somerville, including the P.A Lounge., The Burren, Bloc 11, to name just a few. She finds that Somerville with its rich mother lode of artists feeds her creative fire.

Sylvan recently emailed me to tell me she has landed a plum job with Somerville’s “Book of Hope” program. The “ Books of Hope” project is a joint operation of the Somerville Arts Council and the Mystic Learning Center (Housed at the Mystic River Housing Project) The program was started in 1999 by Anika Nailah, who I had the privilege to interview on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.” Its mission is to allow young people to be involved in the writing, publishing, and marketing of their own books. They also have readings in area venues, and Sylvan and BOH have plans to expand that component. The current director Soul Brown writes of the organization:

“BOH has experienced an expansion this year with more youth involved. At one point the program peaked at 18 teens, ranging from high school freshman to college sophomores, representing Somerville and the neighboring communities of Medford, Malden and Everett.”

Sylvan told me over coffee at the Bloc 11 Café in Union Square that the kids in the program will be participating in a book tour starting May 13, at the main Branch of The Somerville Public Library. Brown and Sylvan have ambitions to have the BOH known statewide and nationally. The reading tour will take their young charges from Porter Square Books in Cambridge, to Providence, Rhode Island and as far away as Manchester, New Hampshire.

Sylvan told me that many of these young bards she works with are dealing with many issues that affect urban youth. Their poetry reflects their hardscrabble environs, but also more traditional teenage concerns: popularity, love, music, etc…

Sylvan has experience with adolescents, and brings empathy and creativity to the table.

Sylvan flashed a smile when I asked her if she plans to stay in Somerville, stating “As long as I am in Boston, I’m happy on this side.” Well, it’s good to have her on our side!

For more info on Books of Hope or to make a donation go to:

For more info on Jade go to

Books of Hope
Book Tour 2010 Dates

Thursday, May 13 6:00 pm
Somerville Library (main)
Tour Kick Off / Release Party
Featuring BOH Founder & Author Anika Nailah,
Bestselling BOH Author RJL & BOH Alum

Thursday, May 20 7:00 pm
Art Is Life Itself
Haley House Bakery Café (Roxbury)
Reading & Book Signing
Hosted by Nina LaNegra

Friday, May 21 0:00 pm
More Than Words Bookstore (Waltham)
Reading & Book Signing
Youth-run bookstore

Saturday, June 5 6:00 pm
Porter Square Books (Cambridge)
Reading & Book Signing

Tuesday, June 8 0:00 pm
Got Poetry Live (Providence RI)
Reading & Book Signing

Friday, June 11 7:00 pm
Slam Free or Die (Manchester NH)
Reading & Book Signing

Monday, June 21 0:00 pm
Stone Soup Poetry
Out of the Blue Cafe (Cambridge)
Reading & Book Signing

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review of KING OF THE JUNGLE by Zvi A. Sesling

Review of KING OF THE JUNGLE by Zvi A. Sesling, Ibbetson Street Press, Somerville, Massachusetts, 2010, 73 pages, $15

By Barbara Bialick

KING OF THE JUNGLE may be a first book, but it doesn’t read like one. It’s a book by an experienced, professional writer who’s got his own voice speaking out in every poem, and he should be considered worth reading by both small press fans and the mainstream. This may be because he got his first kiss in Youngstown, Ohio, which reminded him of a sweaty afternoon watching the Indians play baseball…but he didn’t stop there. “In the human species looks, money/and sometimes personality could get/a female to lay on her back, spread/her legs and say Enter my jungle/And what a jungle! The vines wrap/around you, the lions roar…”

He doesn’t stop there. He also reminds us of the Viet Nam War jungle, and about Jews forced to wear yellow stars in Hitler’s Germany. He keeps hinting at desert sands he doesn’t name, but he seems to describe Jewish immigrants who not only came to the U.S, but went to Israel.

Even the book itself is on slippery sensual paper including the cover, which features an original art work by Irene Koronas, artist and also poetry editor of the Wilderness House Literary Review. The picture makes me think of Sesling’s “word sheets hanging out to dry” or again, the desert sands of his poem “Pyramid”: “There among the flat sands/the color of a cat/the grey pyramid arises/…built by slaves forgotten/…crushed Hebrew bones…”

Before I even read the book I was intrigued with the word “jungle” on the cover and who could be king of it. I created a little word game: J for Jewish, U for universe or university, N for nazis, G for God or girls, L for life or life force, and E for earth. But he mentions neither university nor God in this book, except perhaps subtly as a lightening bolt that splits in halves the fruit tree “where a man and woman, naked, eat the fruit of the tree…”

Sesling’s poetry has been published widely. His work placed Third in the 2004 and First in the 2007 Reuben Rose International Poetry Competition. He’s also the editor of the Muddy River Poetry Review. There’s an intriguing introduction to the book by Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish, which declares Sesling “a buttoned-down Bukowski—direct, honest, male writing…” Who wouldn’t want to check this book out!