Friday, June 04, 2010

Palazzo Inverso by D. B. Johnson

Palazzo Inverso
D. B. Johnson
Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group

“I don’t grow up. In me is the small child of my early days.” As we prepare to enter the upside-down world of Mauk, his Master and a host of carpenters, bricklayers and other workers, we are welcomed by this Escher quote. Impossible Structures – M. C. Escher was famous for creating them and Mauk, the pencil-sharpening apprentice who just may have turned the blueprints every so slightly on numerous occasions when his master was not looking, created a very Escher-like impossible structure in “Palazzo Inverso.” What a gem of a children’s book D. B. Johnson has written! And for those adults fascinated by the mathematical artistic creations of M. C. Escher, a quick topsy-turvy read of Palazzo Inverso will be a welcome adventure.

When Mauk enters the Palazzo for work one morning he finds carpenters standing on their heads and bricks being spilled onto the ceiling. Mauk finds that he, too, is running the staircase down to the tower! Mauk longed to draw but was never allowed to. His input came while the Master was doing other things and Mauk turned the drawings ever so slightly. When the Master went back to drawing, the blueprints became very strange indeed. Mauk was delighted by the way the structure had evolved, though his Master was not amused. As Mauk runs to escape the agitation of the Master, a wonderful, fun chase takes place through the Palazzo. What Mauk does not realize is that at some point during the chase all of the workers and the Master began laughing with Mauk. A new and wonderful world had been created. Topsy-turvy wasn’t so terrible after all. Perhaps it’s in the way we look at things and impossible structures may not be so impossible in the world of our imagination. Find a child to read to and enjoy the never-ending loop of this book. Or pick up the book yourself and read it for the fun of it. Remember, if anyone is looking, just remind them that life is a far more lively adventure if we never grow up.

************Rene Schwiesow is co-owner of the online poetry forum Poem Train. She is one of the co-hosts of the Mike Amado Memorial Series, Poetry: The Art of Words in Plymouth and Director of the newly formed Plymouth County Coalition for the Arts.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

4th annual Ibbetson Street Poetry Contest Deadline Sept 15, 2010

4th annual Ibbetson Street Poetry Contest

Ibbetson Street Press is pleased to announce the 4th annual Ibbetson Street Poetry Contest.

The winner of the Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Contest award (must be a Massachusetts resident) will receive a $100 cash award, a framed certificate, publication in the literary journal "Ibbetson Street" and a poetry feature in the "Lyrical Somerville," in The Somerville News. The award will be presented at the Somerville News Writers Festival: November 13, 2010. The Somerville News Writers Festival is in its eight year and has hosted such writers and poets as: Rick Moody, Franz Wright, Robert Olen Butler, Sue Miller, Tom Perrotta, Steve Almond, Sam Cornish, Margot Livesey, Robert Pinsky, and many others. The Festival was founded by Timothy Gager and Doug Holder in 2003, and has been sponsored by The Somerville News, GRUB STREET, Porter Square Books and others.

To enter send 3 to 5 poems, any genre, length, to the Ibbetson Street Press 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143. Entry fee is $10. Cash or check only. Make payable to "Ibbetson Street Press." Deadline: Sept 15, 2010.

The contest will be judged by The Somerville News Arts Editor and founder of the Ibbetson Street Press, Doug Holder

The winners will be announced at the Somerville News Writer's festival, where they will receive his or her award. A runner up will be announced as well.

Somerville Musician Dan Blakeslee lives honestly and lives modestly.

Somerville Musician Dan Blakeslee lives honestly and lives modestly.

By Doug Holder

Somerville musician and artist Dan Blakeslee exudes a frenetic energy from his diminutive frame. No, he is not on drugs or booze. He told me that he doesn’t have a taste for either. But he is a man who obviously has a passion for his mission—that being his art. I met with him at the Saturday morning meeting of the Bagel Bards that meets at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square.

Blakeslee lives in the Teele Square section of Somerville, Mass., but he is a native son of South Berwick, Maine. Although he has strayed from the ‘ville on more than one occasion; he is very happy to be smack dab in the “ Paris of New England.” Blakeslee said, “ I have grown as an artist here.” We discussed the fact that many artists of my acquaintance have defected to the wilds of Brooklyn and other places South of the Charles River. Blakeslee replied,” Somerville is my Brooklyn.”

I first encountered Blakeslee at a guitar contest that I was judging at the Bloc 11 Café in Union Square. I was impressed by the artistry of his guitar playing and the passion he brought to his songs. Blakeslee describes his music as “Modern Folk.” He said: “It is a hybrid between Country and Folk.” Being the Bard that I am I asked Blakeslee if he was inspired by any poets. He mentioned the poet Robert Dunn. “ I love wordplay, and Dunn is the king. He writes short and potent poems.” And of course Blakeslee is influenced by such iconic songwriters as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, to mention just a couple.

Blakeslee is an accomplished poster artist as well. He makes posters for any number of the gigs he has in clubs in the area. He said he has been influenced by the 1930s artist Rockwell Kent, who among other things was a draftsman and accomplished print maker.

Blakeslee who graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art , designs posters that are a mixture of the surrealistic and the comic.

Blakeslee has a new CD coming out of his music titled TATNIC TALES, based on a rural part of South Berwick, Maine, where he grew up. He said he and his fellow musicians recorded the CD in a bird-dung infested old barn. The CD will be released on June 13, 2010. On Oct. 6 Blakeslee will have a CD release concert at Club Passim in the Republic of Cambridge. And if you attend you can get a vinyl album available only at the concert.

I asked Blakeslee about his philosophy of life, he said: "Live honestly; Live modestly," and you know--I sort of think the man practices what he preaches.

Dan wrote the News:

Here are the lyrics to my song "On The Watch" which is on the album "Tatnic Tales" due out July 13th. It's the song I was describing to you of a real story that happened to me while playing a late night subway set down in Copley Station:


By Dan Blakeslee

Written on January 1, 2009

Last night I played deep in the tunnels of town.

Bear witness my trade if you took the rails underground.

The smoke and the signals they gave me a sign.

I'm far from the whispering pines.

Tonight I am stuck with luck being blind.

And I feel someone watching me.

A few stragglers hear that greed has me under its blade.

As my words fell so desperate those witnessing fade.

Just then a stinging scent took the room.

Of Listerine, oil and perfume.

Somewhere between darkness and doom.

I feel someone watching me.

In through the gate came an Indian tall as an oak.

Just a wandering drunk I though as he saw me and spoke.

"Surrender your song and your fortune too!"

As fury in my eyes it grew.

Then across the tracks came the boys in blue.
Which left no one watching me.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

My Fix Takes Another Twist: A Review Of Stephen Kessler’s The Mental Traveler

My Fix Takes Another Twist: A Review Of Stephen Kessler’s The Mental Traveler

By John Flynn

Poet, translator, essayist and Redwood Coast Review editor Stephen Kessler in his first novel has penned an honest, articulate and arresting auto-biographical nightmare odyssey of 23-year-old UC Santa Cruz dropout Stephen the K. Starting with Love Creek Lodge in Central California, and getting high with the older loving maternal Nona, Stephen’s Kafkaesque journey takes him, ultimately, to an understanding that “the world was the poem.”

Stephen abandons graduate studies in English for a confused trek into all his fathers. My favorite part of the novel was the description of the Altamont Speedway Festival of 1969, where Stephen’s day peaks with a spontaneous friendship with a fellow named Norm. The memory of that day stays with Stephen as his spiritual trek lands him in treatment at San Francisco General Hospital, to consoling friends in Benedict Canyon, to maverick eccentric profs at UC Santa Cruz, and to City Prison where Stephen becomes a bard behind bars and admits “A pattern was emerging. Each time it seemed my ordeal was about to end, something went wrong and my fix would take another twist.”

Stephen’s fix is rendered in a frank disciplined telling, a torturous soul-searching identity quest that exemplifies the youth-to-age anguish of his generation at that time. Thorazine, hitchhiking, the Zodiac Killer, acid trips, hashish, instant poems, earthy pot-smoking friends, the experimental psychiatric wing of Franciscan Santa Cruz Hospital, talk of Nixonian politics and the Vietnam war, a move to Beverly Hills and St. James Hospital in Santa Monica “because the revolution would have to include Hollywood.”

Spiraling out of control, Stephen cloys to the LA shrink El Silver Man, to street philosophers, Dylan songs, poems, fellow inmates, ward residents, a casual-sex girlfriend with a split personality. He escapes more than once from his various nuthouses. More than once he willingly returns. He rambles along certain of his purpose if only he can discover it, “the gods of the revolution secretly directing my trip.”

In the end, he returns to Santa Cruz County General Hospital, not bereft of hope, but in despair, addled on Thorazine, lost and growing aware of patron saints of lost causes, the art of obedience, choosing to “play it straight” if only to avoid electroshock therapy and a lobotomy, “deeper into despair of ever escaping…the drama of my so-called psychosis had ceased to be entertaining.”
Unable to write, he continued to read poetry, particularly Robert Bly. He then began “working on another life.”

There’s no miraculous coming of age here. No pat answer, quirky minimalism or self-indulgent dream sequences. It’s about the story, plainly told. For readers like me from the East Coast who were children during the Vietnam War era, this novel offers a close, uncompromising look at a specific time and place, and a universal examination of one artist’s sojourn into fragile self-awareness.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ibbetson Street 27-- New Issue Due out Late June 2010 ( Front Cover)

(Click on picture to Enlarge)

The new issue of the Ibbetson Street Press will be out in late June. In this issue we will have the fine poetry of Miriam Levine, two colleagues of mine from Endicott College Dan Sklar and Margaret Young, as well as Lo Galluccio, Kate Chadbourne, Mary Rice, Dorian Brooks, Lainie Senechal and many others... The Front Cover photo is by Kirk Etherton, whose poem also appears in this issue... Design of this issue is by Steve Glines.

Review of NAME THE GLORY by Molly Mattfield Bennett

Review of NAME THE GLORY by Molly Mattfield Bennett, Wilderness House Press, 145 Foster Street, Littleton, Massachusetts 01460, 2010, 37 pages

By Barbara Bialick

My first inclination when looking at the striking red background with a black and white photo of winter branches on the cover of Name the Glory was to well, try to name the Glory. Was it the Glory of God, of Nature, of Love? After reading the book, it seems to me it was all this and more…spiritual glory, the glory of childhood, and as she expresses throughout the book’s four parts, or seasons, “Name the glory of the seasons that circle the year.” The book includes a dozen black and white photographs, including the cover photo by Elizabeth A. Bennett.

But who or Who or what is she asking to name all the glory? That’s for the reader to decide. The book is all one grand poem with two voices—that of an adult speaker’s soliloquy on the circle of life (“Name the glory of a spring morning/and a boy and a girl/free to roam”), in counterpoint to a chorus of children’s voices making a colorful play with the ABC’s: “A is for aunties arguing with aardvarks/B is for bisons beckoning baboons…”

There’s a temptation to take you all through the poem’s seasons, but this is one long poem that just keeps getting deeper and deeper into the natural spiral. The fun is to interpret the poem as you weave through it. I urge you to read the book yourself, for it’s done with wit and wisdom that sometimes reminds one of a female Walt Whitman asking nature to explain itself.

“Name the glory of mind filling the quiet/with thought on thought/until someone breaks in with a word, a touch…” (“Out in the schoolyard the children chant/Q is for querulous Quentin who quizzed quails/R is for rabbits and raccoons rafting the water…”)

A strong stanza near the end of the book reads, “Name the power of those who have no fear/of the dark/they see what they see and know its name.” But coming in right with that is “Name the glory of words that beckon…” This book is not just about life but poetry and the power of words well used. The author, Molly Mattfield Bennett, describes herself as a poet-educator, She writes, “I have taught many young children and their teachers. With Name the Glory I have tried to write my loves into a single poem.” Bennett is a resident of Quincy, Massachusetts, along with her husband, Sheldon.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Salt for the Dead: ‘Passions’ by Denis Emorine

Salt for the Dead: ‘Passions’ by Denis Emorine

article by Michael T. Steffen

Sometimes while watching or reading drama we’re struck by an insight, however subjective, that the theatre the author is presenting to us is the theatre of our own mind. The notion was impressed convincingly upon me once as I read ‘Othello’ and realized that Iago was not an actor of acts, but a protagonist, in the true sense of the word, of the tragic hero’s passions. That is, Iago is the powerful agent of Doubt within Othello’s own psyche.
It’s interesting that Denis Emorine’s one-act monodrama ‘Passions’ (released earlier this year by Červená Barva Press) so deftly evokes this sense of isolated inner psychology, though unusually the drama of ‘Passions’ takes place in the wake of a personal crisis or tragedy, and the tables are turned. The protagonist, Frank, now has nothing to say. He lies on a bed motionless and speechless throughout the short play. Frederick, we gather from his bitter and plaintive monologue, has been the victim of a conspiracy (just what we are not told specifically) which Frank and another referred to as George have played out on him.
This whole displacement of focus from the acts that build to a climax, to the worded invective after, makes a good point in its demonstration of the destructive senseless gestures of regret and spite. We sense throughout the first half of the act that Frederick’s wounded pride is fruitless. He can’t even evoke the events of Frank and George’s treachery, and we suspect moreover, because of this lack of details, that Frederick in fact has no case whatsoever, that he is suffering from delusions.
A further and more poignant point made by ‘Passions’ comes to our awareness when the insularity of the drama is disrupted toward the end of the play by the sound of footsteps rushing to the door outside the room. Here Frederick must realize that he has only deepened his own dilemma by elaborating his grief against his companion. Threatened by the arrival of a soldier, Frederick’s roaring indignation is deflated. He is again frightened and pleading for Frank to help him. At this moment Frank’s unresponsiveness grows haunted and meaningful.
Emorine’s vision operates in terms of shadows and impulses, at the vanities of the essential soul, revealing his subjects unflinchingly at precisely their weakest, at the waste of their own worst powers. In its modest format of a chapbook, ‘Passions’ lurks with dark energy under the surface and filter of our all too frail human confidence.

‘Passions’ by Denis Emorine
published by Červená Barva Press
P.O. Box 440357
W. Somerville, MA 02144-3222
is sold for $7