Friday, September 24, 2010

Where Sanity Begins by Hugh Fox

Where Sanity Begins
by Hugh Fox
Cervena Barva Press
copyright 2010

Review by Lo Galluccio

Hugh Fox is one of the most prolific and genius voices on the poetry scene in America. His writing spans generations, cultures, cosmos and concepts of time and self. With a deeply subjective eye he manages to orient us as the compass of his heart would, toward people, places and things that flash through his awareness. His poems read like little short stories sometimes, or flash fiction snapshots of the real. There is also a journalistic flavor to some of his best poems, disjointed or elliptical as they may be, a sheer and jumbled travelogue of this wondrous man's life. In “Where Sanity Begins.” he has put together quite a fine collection of these poems and the picture on the title portrays the irony of it. Sanity is important to Hugh Fox, the everyday sanity of childbirth, of worldly transactions, of chit chat, and his grandchildren, but he has his demons too and they edge his poems like the angular play masks on the cover of the book. Sanity is really multifaceted and manifold. And it means seeing things your own way, from different perspectives. What any poet or songwriter must do to succeed.

First, there is the generosity factor of the poet's big heart, in “The Invisible Woman,” who he describes as having “a look of stark terror on her face, like she's face to face with a King-Kong sized spider.” And furthermore “the old lady and her terror totally invisible.” So what does he do but befriend her by picking her up for ice-cream every afternoon at 2 pm? And in a typically beautiful and dissociative way, the poems ends with “as I walk to the top of midnight and over down to dawn.”

And memory. There is much remembrance in these pieces, of a sage older man looking back through time. At one point he remembers how, in his youth, he would marshal a culture brigade in his family to hit the theatre and concert scene, putting these excursions before even the money at hand, “I feel that we're all pulling together toward the cooperative kibbutz realization of The Circle of Light, educated, enlightened, knowledge = Power DREAM..” p 12

Hugh's poems resemble hyper-journal entries replete with lists and sub-dubbed with precise and colorful details of city streets and familiar places. Often threaded in is a movie title like “BONNY AND CLYDE” OR a sign like “CHAMBER OF COMERCE OF GREATER JACKSON AREA.” These are both fixed and moving markers of pop culture, and landscape. All parts of a travelogue of his life where people, places and things are collected, recollected and indemnified.

I love the way he interjects a drop of dialogue in the center of a descriptive-narrative piece, this one not so disjunctive, but following the thread of taking his 1 and half year old grandson (or is it his son?) out to the sandbox in the autumn. The kid sees leaves and wants to eat them. “You don't eatum for god's sakes” cautions the narrator to his beloved boy and then off onto an aria of earth bits: “lilac seeds, pieces of acorns chewed on by squirrels...” Called “The Lowest Layer” Hugh Fox seems to be reaching down through this fragmenting hearth, to see the earth as a home and to tell his legacy that “you'll have a feeling when Fall comes and you're in a place like this, that someone loved you,” “look at things, don't just run away, but stop....” p 21

Another charming poem about his grandson is “Tantric Moon.” Together in the bathtub he “scrambles after the big white soap...” And then “I take him out into the cold late-October dark, the first time I've ever showed him the moon, “Look at the moon!” And the ending, again, pieces on an ethereal wonder: “I'm teaching Night too, Water, doesn't want to go in, dying. Awe.” A bulleting through description of the states he moves through at that moment looking at the moon after the bath.

One fine poem is Irdische/Earthly wherein he defines himself as an “I-Robot remembering when I was a man,” he conjectures “She must remember too. When the girls were born and her body flooded in all the good hormones, centered, the center of love, flowing out, flowing toward her, current and counter current.” It unravels with “sails/gloved/domed/the dew inside continuing skin...” A lyrical treatise on how again and bodies changing remains a constant in our impermanence but how the time of succulence and love-making still hovers by from when it was manifest.

In another portrait poem called, “Fireworks” the poet watches a woman dressed up with “an onyx medallion around her neck,” “trying on flowered pants and holding earrings up to her ears” – in this Fellini-like flashpoint of an image of beauty, there is “only the burst of light in the black Time sky.” In “Houdini Returns” the poet plays escape artist with the illusion or dream of life, its many rooms and the juxtaposition of timelessness and time with the human condition: “the petty but painful “individual neurosis or perversion” – “to walk into the jaguar forest to meet the gods.”

The gods, the moon, Kali, time, seasonal shifts all enter into Fox's poetry as it is in touch with the primordial and cosmic aspects of civilization as well as the contemporary antics of modern man. In an aside in a poem called, “The Light” he writes “I always wanted to write a book about the migration of the morning star symbol out of Asia to the Americas....” p.37 A magnificent poem of many threads, Fox begins with “The light goes so early, fugaz,” and ends with a meditation on the Nazis: “instead of killing the Jews, the Germans should have said LETS DRINK WINE, DO BUSINESS, AND EAT WELL AND BUILD HOMES AND BE JUST AND LIGHT CANDLES AND PRAISE GOD.” p 37

Fox's hunger for life and for loved ones is curdled sometimes by depression. – his consciousness haunted by the great ones who've gone before him. However, in “In the Moment” he writes: “The last fine day before the herds of Winter come and I feel like I've died and almost come all the way back, a spider thread between a dead pine tree and the Design Studio, a bright sag for a moment, then invisible, then bright again, invisible.” p. 40. It is an almost Puck like persona that can flicker back and forth from visible and invisible on the heels of the hell-frost. It seems to refer back to the theatrical masks on the cover of the book, to a man whose real and imaginary lives remain in great balance, neither eclipsing the other, both vivid, devoted and compelling.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Ibbetson Street Press/Endicott College Visiting Author Series launches Oct. 6, 2010

(Sam Cornish)

There is a new series on the North Shore at Endicott College directed by Somerville's Ibbetson Street press founder Doug Holder. Its title: "Endicott College/Ibbetson Street Press Visiting Author Series. " It will be held at the Halle Library on the beautiful, sea-breeze infused Endicott College campus in Beverly, Mass. The series is part of the new affiliation that the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville has formed with Endicott College. The first reader will be the first Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish. It will be held at 4P.M. Open mic to follow. Open to the public. Help launch this new literary series at the "Hub of the Arts" on the North Shore.

For directions to Endicott go to the website his website is

Sam Cornish, poet, essayist, editor of children's literature, photographer, educator, and figure in the Black Arts movement. He is the first City of Boston Poet Laureate.

Cornish served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps (1958–1960), then returned to his native Baltimore, where he published two poetry collections—In This Corner: Sam Cornish and Verses (1961) and People Beneath the Window (1964). While working at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, he became part of Baltimore's political and literary underground, self-publishing a sixteen-page pamphlet entitled Generations and Other Poems (1964). A subsequent edition of Generations (1966) appeared when Cornish was editing Chicory, a literary magazine by children and young adults in the Community Action Target Area of Baltimore. Lucian W. Dixon and Cornish edited a selection from the magazine entitled Chicory: Young Voices from the Black Ghetto (1969). In 1968 Cornish won the Humanities Institute of Coppin State College Poetry Prize for his “influence on the Coppin poets” and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Soon poets as diverse as Maxine Kumin, Clarence Major, and Eugene Redmond would acknowledge Cornish's significance.

By 1970 Cornish was represented in the LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and Larry Neal anthology Black Fire (1968) as well as in the Clarence Major collection New Black Poetry (1969). He reconsidered his early poems of black historicized kinship, restructuring them into the Beacon Press's Generations (1971). After a brief stay in Boston, Cornish returned to Baltimore to work in secondary school and college writing programs. While there, Cornish published Sometimes (1973) with Cambridge's Pym-Randall Press. Teaching poetry in the schools led to several children's books: Your Hand in Mine (1970), Grandmother's Pictures (1974), and My Daddy's People (1976).

Returning to Boston in the mid-1970s, Cornish worked with the Educational Development Corporation and attended Goddard College in Vermont. He appeared in a host of new anthologies, from George Plimpton and Peter Ardery's American Literary Anthology (1970) and Harry Smith's Smith Poets (1971), to Ted Wilentz and Tom Weatherly's Natural Process (1972) and Arnold One Hundred Years of Black Poetry (1972). Sam's World (1978) continued the historical and genealogical project of Generations.

Since the 1980s Cornish has divided his time between bookselling and teaching creative writing and literature at Emerson College in Boston. Songs of Jubilee: New and Selected Poems, 1969–1983 (1986) recasts earlier work into sequences of a historical and biographical nature. His autobiographical narrative, 1935: A Memoir (1990), blends poetry and prose into a montage of twentieth-century history. The poems of Folks Like Me (1993) offer political and cultural portraits of African Americans from the depression to the early 1960s. Current projects include the next volume of his autobiography, 1955, and a critical study of Langston Hughes. His latest collection of poetry is an "Apron Full of Beans"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ibbetson Street Poetry Award Winners..... Announced 2010!

We are proud to announce the winner of the Ibbetson Street Press Award, poet Kim Triedman. The winner will be given her award at The Somerville News Writers Festival, Nov. 13, 2010. The runner up and honorable mentions will also be announced at the Festival.

About Kim Triedman:

Kim Triedman began writing poetry after working in fiction for several years. In the past year, she's been named winner of the 2008 Main Street Rag Chapbook Competition, finalist for the 2007 Philbrick Poetry Award, finalist for the 2008 James Jones First Novel Fellowship, semi-finalist for the 2008 Black River Chapbook Competition and, most recently, semifinalist for the 2008 Parthenon Prize for Fiction. Her poems have been published widely in literary journals and anthologies here and abroad, including Main Street Rag, Poetry International, Appalachia, The Aurorean, Avocet, The New Writer, Byline Magazine, Poet's Ink, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Journal (U.K.), Asinine Poetry, Poetry Monthly, Current Accounts, Ghoti Magazine, IF Poetry Journal, Great Kills Review, Trespass Magazine, Mature Years, ART TIMES, Literary Bird Journal, and FRiGG Magazine. Additionally, one of her recent poems was selected by John Ashbery to be included in the Ashbery Resource Center’s online catalogue, which serves as a comprehensive bibliography of both Ashbery's work and work by artists directly influenced by Ashbery. This poem has also been included in the John Cage Trust archives at Bard College. Ms. Triedman has been nominated for the anthologies Best New Poets 2009 and Best of the Web 2010. She is a graduate of Brown University and lives in the Boston area with her husband and three daughters. Her first poetry collection -- "bathe in it or sleep" -- was published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company in October of 2008.

Ibbetson Award 2010

Winner: Kim Triedman: "(Captiv)ated"

Runner Up: Linda Larson: "Sweet Dixeyland, Early Sixties"

Honorable Mentions:

Pamela Annas: "Saturday Sock Hop, 1959."

Rose Scherlis: "Poker Circle"

Marilyn Jurich: " My Lost Mothers."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review of PROFANE UNCERTAINTIES by Luis Raul Calvo

Review of PROFANE UNCERTAINTIES by Luis Raul Calvo, Translated from Spanish into English by Flavia Cosma, Cervena Barva Press, Somerville, Massachusetts, USA, 2010, poetry, 48 pages. Bookstore:

By Barbara Bialick

The book PROFANE UNCERTAINTIES by Luis Raul Calvo, is intriguing in its fascination with things universal, especially considering it’s written profanity-free by a man from Buenos Aires, Argentina and translated by a woman, Flavia Cosma, born in Romania, who lives and writes poetry, children’s books and TV documentaries in Canada in North American English.

Calvo’s philosophical wondering about life and death flows like a river in the tradition of other Latin American writers I have read but am not an expert in. “Real Life”, the first poem in the book starts you thinking right away: “Real life is nothing but a carroded/priesthood/in magnificent cities…But you who disowned the dogma and the customs/and chose the freedom of the blind…/you wander today/…wavering, your head bent/and staggering with your hands tangled/…in a dubious banquet.”

What does this mean? isn’t even a question I asked right away. Rather I just kept reading the book from beginning to end in its gentle language ironically frought with diatribes on death and memory. “When we think we have everything, something reminds us that the void also exists,” he writes, in “Nomadic Beauty (Fragments”). “When we start asking ourselves about love, we have ceased to be in love.”

Then he brings us into “Bajos fondos del alma, The lowest depths of the soul”, a long series of poems. In XIV, he notes “We were obliged to reach an understanding/that neither the world or our parents/resembled our primitive sensations.” In XIX, he says, “There are no memories/that can survive with dignity…the business of living becomes something similar to a fleeting/and fickle absence.”

A poet’s poet, Calvo is someone whose work you’d want to read when looking for inspiration. Indeed, he is a well known poet and essayist who was born in 1955 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is editor-in-chief of “Generation Abierta” (Literature-Art-Education), a prominent cultural magazine founded in Buenos Aires in 1988. He’s also director of the weekly radio show “Generacion Abierta”, president of Literary CafĂ© Antonio Alberti, and a member of the Directorate of Argentina para la poesia foundation.
He has published more than six other books and his poems have been translated into English, French, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

At the End of Time: The Incomplete Works of Richard Krech

At the End of Time

The Incomplete Works of Richard Krech

Volume II Poems 2001 - 2009 $20.00

Sunnyoutside Press Buffalo 2010

ISBN: 978-1-934513-27-9

There are seven sections in this book of self realization, of how

worldly interruptions may effect the creative life. Krech breaks

out of his self imposed retreat from poetry, because…

"The statue with no face and broken legs

no longer stares out at the long green valley.

The frightened men have shattered their own

image. They

diminish themselves as they step beyond

their banal legacy of oppression

and turn to destroying the very history of the world.

The statue no longer stares out at Bamiyan valley,

the enlightened gaze takes in the reflection


The collection of poems is a mixture of Buddhist thought, political

treaties, and biographical sketches. The poet places himself outside

the portraits and renders in fine lines the intentions of those he writes

about. The poems are mannered, concise, and full of insights…

"I have accomplished several remarkable

feats in poetry, I thought,

after coming off a 25-year line break.

I wrote a poem about the vibrate mode

of a cell phone;

another about Valerie Solanis

and Enver Hoxha.

I saw old friends and made new ones.

I found out that my spelling

has improved."

There is a stillness within the poems, and are often pulled up from the

ground, gritty, earthy. Krech uses form to express his word play.

The reader can relax with this worthy book, with its sense of history,

personal references and experiences, the poet/monk/activist/teacher,

writes with a wider audience in mind…

"…as yesterday's sun flattens out

and sinks into mountain ridges,

lights twinkling on

in West Oakland,

first evening breeze,

and the adventure continues."


Irene Koronas


Ibbetson Street Press

Poetry Editor:

Wilderness House Literary Review