Thursday, May 06, 2010


Here is a letter from poet Miriam Levine about the announcement that SMU PRESS is to close June 1, 2010:

The decision to destroy SMU Press is shocking and discredits the university. Since 1936 the press has distinguished the school, publishing books of lasting value, and more recently fiction that future generations will read long after the cheering fans at football games in the twenty-first century are dead.

Few editors give manuscripts the careful, intelligent, fearless editing my manuscript received under Kathryn Lang's sensitive, scouring and polishing hands. And few publishers produce such beautiful books.

The word “culture” comes from a word meaning cultivation, tillage of the soil. In cultivation of the soil and the arts, the tools must go deep. SMU Press went deep and produced rich results.

Surely everything cannot be about money! Four hundred thousand dollars, the operating budget of the press, is an insignificant sum compared to the university’s other expenditures. Surely there are other ways to save money. Up here in the north we turn down the thermostat and put on sweaters. What would be the equivalent action in Texas? The university must do the right thing and keep the press open.

All the best from Miriam Levine

Letter from the editor of SMU PRESS:

Dear friend of SMU Press:
Last Thursday Keith Gregory, director; George Ann Ratchford, production and marketing manager; and I, acquisitions and developmental editor, were summoned to a meeting with the SMU Provost, at which we were told that the operations of the SMU Press would be closed down on June 1, 2010. We had no hint or prior warning that this was coming. We have fifteen stranded new projects under contract and 130 other titles in print, effectively unsupported if this should come to pass.
Would you please e-mail me a statement in support of the Press ASAP (today, if possible, for us to take to our editorial board meeting—and later this week, if not)??

Many thanks,
Kathryn Lang

Senior Editor

The Endicott Review: Volume 27, Issue 1 Spring 2010

The Endicott Review
Volume 27, Issue 1 Spring 2010
Endicott College
Beverly Ma 01915


The Endicott Review spring issue is teeming with compositions in verse and otherwise emerging phrases. A sacred space crammed with creativity, as opposed to the other sacred space, sparsely arranged. I for one, live in an apartment stacked with books in almost all the rooms, and most of the time I know where every book lives in any particular pile. Don't expect one poem to a page, expect the reality of most writers, an accumulation of words hidden within the already limited space:

"…They come in
carnivorous clusters
hungry for yielding flesh
they infiltrate
the safety
of a sequestered nest…"

Readers will find short stories and poems that relate the immediacy of an intimate occurrence, an identification to an action or the written being part of any given particular. The voices in this magazine redden truth:

"I hear the wind
push his broad shoulder
against the window.
He's looking to pick a fight,
and I have half a mind
to give him one.
I'm in the mood to rumble,
like the air over the ocean
on a night like this.
I'm in the mood to
tear or be torn
by an adversary
proportionate to my hostility.
I'm in the mood to fight,
and so,
it would seem,
is the wind.

Every writing petal, sings the experiences of the writer, whether student
or seasoned poet:

"1. Hold the banana up to your ear to get out of unruly conversations.
2. Peel the banana for an edible hat.
3. Cut out the seeds to make stick-on-freckles.
4. Mush the fruit like human organs.
5. Feel the skin - it is like the chin of a whale.
6. See the yellow. You are holding the sun."

I'm taking this journal with me when I travel to visit my son in Florida. The journal is my invitation to read in short spurts, and the collection offers me a chance to concentrate on new writing, on each writer who offers their song and I'll learn their tune so I can hum along with its message or lack there of, or their burst of spoken flowering on the page; a bouquet fit for anyone who likes to read:

"I'm against the rules, structure, norms, notions, stereotypes.
How on earth could you be yourself - with a world of such profound persuasion
How could you truly express emotions without being judged or marked as different by all
Break rules and boundaries and finally feel a sense of freedom
Be someone who does not discriminate and project hatred
I'm against it all.
We should all run around naked."

Irene Koronas
Ibbetson Street Press
Poetry Editor:
Wilderness House Literary Review

Poet Jade Sylvan: A Railing Romantic

Jade Sylvan is a writer and performer living in Boston. At times she comes across as an angry young bard railing against the world, and at other times an idealistic romantic---pardon the pun, but "unjaded." Her first full-length collection of poetry, The Spark Singer, was published in 2009 by Spuyten Duyvil Press. Her first novel, Backstage at The Caribou, was published in 2009 by Ray Ontko & Co. She has performed across the country, appearing as the featured performer at The Cantab Lounge (Boston), The Green Mill (Chicago), and The Nuyorican Poets Cafe (New York City), among others. She has also lectured and facilitated writing workshops, most recently at Indiana University and The University of Cincinnati. In 2010, she began working as an Editor and Mentor for Books of Hope, a nonprofit that seeks to empower urban youth through writing, book production, performance, and social entrepreneurship. She is currently at work on a second novel, an album of songs, and more poetry. You can find her at I talked with Sylvan on my Somerville Community Access TV show: "Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."

Doug Holder: You come from the Midwest. Why did you decide to move to Boston as opposed to New York or L.A.?

Jade Sylvan: One of my best friends was moving here... his name is Caleb Cole. ( Cole is a 2009 Artadia Award winner) He is doing very well. So I knew someone here. I knew it was a literary town. I knew it was a very smart city. So I thought I would fit in here. New York just seems too big. I was coming from a small college town. I was raised in Indianapolis a much smaller city. I wanted a more college town feel, in terms of concentration of writers, places to read, places to meet good writers. You really can't beat Boston. It has been awesome to me. I love it here--it is wonderful.

DH: I have followed your blog "The Broken Watch" for awhile now. You seemed a lot angrier a few years ago then now.

JS: Well- I mean--I am getting older. I'm 27, I was 23 when I started the blog. I feel now--that I am on the right path. I feel that I started to accomplish some things. I don't feel as lost or hopeless. It is hard for a young writer. It is hard for one to establish his or her self anywhere and feel like your voice is being heard.

All I ever wanted was to do my art and get it out there. I grew up doing my art very privately, and it was a long time before I ever got to the point that I felt comfortable showing it. Even through college, until I moved to Somerville really--I wouldn't tell anyone that I wrote. It was very internal. And I wasn't happy like that. I had a lot problems so I found what really motivates me is to keep producing, and finding avenues to get out into the world.

DH: Tell us about your new collection "Spark Singer." How did you find a publisher?

JS: I actually had an agent for my novel "Backstage at the Caribou" for a year and a half. She introduced me to the Spuyten Duyvil Press in Brooklyn.

DH: You seem to rail against what you see as mediocrity, pretense--and you seem to constantly count the ticking clock of time.

JS: Yes. Very insightful. I know my father is like this. He is a law professor. He has always been obsessed with time, with doing the most he can. My brother and I were brought up to really, really value life. We were raised to follow our dreams and passions. I am always trying to do the best and most I can with any given moment.

DH: In your new collection you have a poem "A-Train" where you are vomiting in front of a cardigan clad, rather proper young couple. You seem to be taking a studied swipe of this conventional duo, and envision them remembering you in their comfortable suburban home,
over cocktails perhaps. Do you think you could wind up like them--I mean ensconced in a suburban home years from now--remembering fondly your youthful salad days?

JS: I think I could happy with my version of that. Talk to me 5 or 6 years from now. We all have the capabilities of living dozen of lives. It's not the lifestyle I criticize. It's the inauthentic expression of the lifestyle. It's the idea that people go along with things because that's what the convention is, rather than a reason I deem worthy. ( Laugh)

DH: Despite your hard edged and at times cutting work--there is definitely the romantic in you.

JD: I feel that anybody who has the ability to get angry and upset about the world as I do has to be a romantic. I think if you weren't a romantic--if you didn't value life--you wouldn't have a reason to get upset.

DH: Define yourself as a poet?

JD: Well, I hang out with a lot of Slam poets. I read at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge more than any other place. My closest friends are in that scene. I take that in with my performances. I am not a Slam poet however. I am trying to do something new.

DH: Do you think the poetry scene has been ghettoized into different camps?

JD: Definitely. Back in Indiana I didn't like the Slam--I thought it was silly. I didn't like the MFA crowd. I thought it was dry and terrible. It seemed that poetry was in two camps. It seemed if you were not in one camp, you had no outlet. Neither one was interesting to me. So I just decided to make up my own rules.

DH: Have you felt alienated by the "Academy" poets?

JD: I am not really concerned about it. At times I will read to a Slam audience and they won't get my work because it is not conversational, and I use a lot of big words. I steal from all over the place. I take from everyone from Tony Hoagland to Allen Ginsberg.

DH: What advice would you have for poets just starting out?

JD; Read for people--find a place for that. Make friends with other writers who will challenge you. Read as much as you can. Read things you don't like. Work, Work, Work, DO IT NOW.

by Jade Sylvan

for Maxwell Kessler

Head between my knees in black lace
green bra belt buckle eyeliner
on the A train uptown
to sleep on a boxspring tonight,
my companions off to sodomy clubs
no use to me. I just want some screaming sleep.

My lips drip acidic puke
of evian grey goose and cheeseburger
into a plastic bag leftover
from a blueberry bagel.

Across sit tittering man and woman,
red patent heels and cardigans
and straight brown bangs and
tasteful glasses and creased pants.

They are new acquaintances
subway coincidences, and on this
near empty car they have to watch
this tattooed medusa spew into a plastic bag.

Watch the makeup trail off her summer sweat
as her eyes water. Watch her try to wipe the snot.
Worse, near hellish, is her high hysteric
laughter, even as she vomits and cries,
her wild desperate mirth with the awareness of this horror.
Not what anyone wants to see before the first date.

They whisper eye-avert.
How alike they are,
they who are not this,
so different together
from this hungry purger,
painted and spangled
on this midnight banshee train.

And they, safe outside this nightmare
exchange names, numbers, a promise to text
all just below the rumble of existential moan.
It is so good to be a human, they are thinking,
and to know what you are supposed to do.

You give the guy your phone number,
cut your bangs, cross your legs
smell of fabric softener and shampoo,
thank your own personal star face that you are not
that puking snotting laughing creature
disguised so poorly as young woman.

If we're going to call it something,
let's call this my gift.
My shivering purblind with substance
and bleeding vision of bodies corroded formless,
this fragile dissection of both compass and clock.
I will do the work for you. The smoky breath
caught in these ribs is insurance
for your calm and grinning life.

Take it. It's much too precious for me to hang on to.
These types of things tend to get away from me
in bars, beds, taxis, trains, whirlpools, volcanoes, novas, and time.
Tonight I lost my last twenty-dollar bill.
Finding it will let someone believe in fate.

Your hair will keep growing
and you will marry in October.
You will have career paths and children and grow slowly fat
and your faces will wrinkle, eventually,
and for years over wine drinking you will remember
how you met, began speaking because of the thick discomfort
of that hideous vomiting girl on the subway,
so romantic, you will laugh, and kiss with tongues
even after all these years.
Such good lifetimes you are about to live.

Let this life of separate shapes and colors
and words that mean what the dictionary says
be my happy gift to you,
all you pretty people with your clean mouths.

I am glad to do it. I know it will be safe with you.
Your chests make better homes.
I never could teach it how to hold m

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Poems by Ben Mazer

Ben Mazer
The Pen & Anvil Press
ISBN 978-0-9821629-4-5
2010 $!3.95

Some of the poems in POEMS remind me of the l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e poet Charles Bernstein's work, which has transpired in the last thirty years. "Language poetry was more like a set of elective affinities shared among a group of poets…" Ben Mazer uses the best influences from free verse and experimental play, to give his poems the 'jump off the page' readers often long for:

"The closed world adumbrates the snow.
Midnight deciphers pillows at the window.
Though it was several months ago,
in dead of winter, nothing knows or shows
where the requested intimacy goes.
The silent isolated frames
of meditation have dispersed the names.
The couches crouch in feeble poses,
incognizant of roses."

This collection of poetry lands squarely on its feet, balanced like an Olympic athlete Mazer knows his craft and feels agile enough to do somersaults. In his poem, EVEN AS WE SPEAK, the words are capitalized for eleven pages, quick sentences catapulting across the pages. The reader sees the end results of what has been a long training, practicing with words so that words can say what they imply. Page after page we meet ourselves through those words, often questioning how we might relate, "The evening hour's to and fro, time's thick repercussions bloom (the hour of the small meeting)"

Each word in each poem conjures an emotion, an experience, an action. the poems wake us from our deep slumbering reality. Mazer bothers us with his intelligence. He expects an understanding from his audience:


I take each summersault with him, every twist in mid air, every flip:

this is the subject of my poetry
The prodigal
The Return
Eliot is sympathetic
What is he to me?

POEMS is all and more. I am looking forward to meeting the first poet laureate of Somerville, nominated by Doug Holder, Ibbetson Street Press.
All those in favor. Congratulation Ben Mazer.

Irene Koronas
Ibbetson Street Press
Poetry Editor
Wilderness House Literary Review

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Somerville News: Poet Ben Mazer Declared Poet Laureate of Somerville

*** This will appear in the Lyrical Somerville this Wed. May 5, 2010:

Lyrical Somerville edited by Doug Holder

You might have seen Mazer around. He is a man somewhere in his 40s with an enviable crop of curly hair, has an intense stare, and seems to be always working on something on his laptop. "Must be a writer you think." You got that straight...he is. Mazer has been a fixture on the literary scene for awhile and a denizen of the Diesel Cafe in Davis Square.

Now since the city has never acted on my requests for a Poet Laureate program, I, Doug Holder have declared Ben Mazer as the Poet Laureate of Davis Square. And Mazer has accepted the honor. His budget will be zero, and his office will be his usual chair in the Diesel. But we have made history...the first Poet Laureate in Somerville.

Here is Dr. Mazer's bio:

A denizen of the Cambridge area all my life, I lived in Davis Square from February 2004 through January 2010, six years during which I completed a doctoral dissertation for the Editorial Institute at Boston University, edited Selected Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (Harvard University Press, 2010) and Everything Preserved: Poems 1955-2005 by Landis Everson (Graywolf Press, 2006, first winner of the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Foundation), and wrote two full length collections of poetry, both of which have just been published, Poems (The Pen & Anvil Press) and January 2008 (Dark Sky Books). When in Davis, I am always to be found at the Diesel, where I have heard myself referred to by other locals as the unofficial poet laureate of Davis Square.

Before Us

i. m. Frank Parker

Lowell winning the Pulitzer in 1947...

Pushing ecstatic through the darkening crowd...

the newspapers not yet lifted, fish and corn

wrapped by the flashing grocer, millennial...

weighed in two scales by his hurt, flashing eyes...

a seething margin, bustling with friends

and lovers, trinket-shaking sky, to die...

how can they tell us what they didn't know?

Logical types the century pressed white...

rounding the corner of each first familiar

tombstone or commemorative stone

cut in the image of the training sailor...

homecoming, whether on the edge of home.

Writing is fighting in the Christ-whale's eyes.

Orient Heights

Orient heights the sole star blessed

motion against motion movement against movement

to the one house buried in the rest

no one sees me but an old man

I've come to use drunk in his playroom

sole star blessed and a blank page

divided between the world as we know it

the world as we saw it and a blank page

and all the rest Orient heights

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Review of VEINS by Larry Johnson

Review of VEINS by Larry Johnson, David Robert Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2009, 109 pages

By Barbara Bialick

VEINS is Larry Johnson’s first poetry book, but he’s been writing and publishing since the 1960s. An academic through and through, he sends historical figures into his poems in the form of dramatic monologues in iambic pentameter or other forms of free verse. He’s nice enough to provide notes on some of his characters—which include, for example, Weldon Kees, American poet, Julius Caesar, and linguist-adventurer Richard Francis Burton. If you like deciphering historical poetry from AD 406 to the present, this may be the book for you. Even after showing off his good vocabulary and poetic craft, he also manages to include some painful emotional experiences, such as his love for a married woman, and some thoughts about suicides.

He sums up his own work in the poem “Hangover in Memory of James Wright”:
“My best friend/once said that most poems have/an ordered group of images and a patchwork of philosophy/tacked on. My Coke gets flatter. Let them find/philosophy here…”

While I’m still not sure what the theme of veins, in vane, and vain is all about, I did find the word “vein” popping up here and there in various poems such as in “Death of the Bat-Poet”: ”though he can still/feel the moon’s fire pare the wind to voices, swirl in the lean mist, or sting upward/through veins of grass…bright swishing shapes!”

In “Morte d’Oscar” he writes, “my gaze is lost in veins of the leaded lampshade--/is it Mary’s chrysolite eyes I seek in the glow/or the brown-toned gardenia of the moon?”

The author presents his photo on the back of the book standing at Keats’ grave in Rome, 1997. He was born in Natchez, Mississippi in 1945, grew up in Jackson. He got his BA at Mississippi College and received his MA and MFA at the University of Arkansas.
He’s taught at Alma College, the University of New Orleans, North Carolina State University and Louisburg College. He’s also given a reading at the Library of Congress.

He writes his own wish for a legacy in the final poem in the collection, “When I Die”.
“When I die let multitudes read my pages/let someone say my words were buffed chalcedony