Friday, March 04, 2011

Mississippi Poems by Linda Larson

Mississippi Poems
Linda Larson
ISCS Press
ISBN 9827115-2-1
$12.00 2011

"...She had loved him, in high school,
he with the great, consoling hands.
She had loved him and his hands,
before she understood that to him
she was the land.
And the tornado came for her
and at the last it seemed
to her that he was kind.
But the storm was too great
and it, too, took her
without asking."

This book is what it means to be a writer, poet, 'Mississippi Poems,' selects
the best verse, they are self contained, each poem depicts the character, the
place, or the situation with clear eyed realism, even if it is a lie. Picasso said,
all art is a lie. Larson's poems speak directly and ask to be believed, to hear
the metaphors' bloom, to participate in the maturity of a seasoned poet:

"She planted Tango geraniums
in the bed flanking the driveway
she had always wished was grander.
Still it circled the house, the house
she wished had pillars..."

The poems are crafted with the precise eye of someone who knows it takes
more than talent to render images, verse, or tense. Larson give us her
experiences crossing the years, the pages, we follow her casual gait,
which enables the reader to slow down our readiness to plunge forward
at all costs; the words gather into a bouquet, “which is what lovers do”.
Not all the poems suggest bloom, some look at the underbelly of loss
and what it means to live with the buds that never open:

"I didn't buy a used car from him.
Still he offered to take me out to lunch.
The first thing I noticed was his bright pink rubber hand.
It was especially jarring as it didn't fit with the rest of him.
Neat as a pin. Flaming red hair cut short. Bright blue eyes,
congenial nature. Suit and tie. Lunch led to drinks.
Makers Mark, Glenliver. Bacardi 151-top shelf all the way.

We ended up on my screened-in back porch,
limp as laundry. He wooed me with woe, wooed me till
I was woozy with his tales of being a battlefield medic,
a maestro of morphine, a bringer of comfort
for the snowballs, those triaged in Viet Nam
medivaced last, who didn't have a chance in hell.
It wasn't the screaming he told me, it was the whispers,
the scribbled, penciled promises, that went with the numbers
on the dog tags he had to scramble to keep track of:

If it is a girl, please name her Marie
After Mother, I know you two don't get along...

When I get home I'll make it up to you.
We'll get married, I promise you. A big wedding
Just like you want...

Please tell her I didn't mean to hit her.
I'd rather die than ever hurt her...

From beginning to end these creative works hold my attention and
turn me back to the starting page. I recommend this book, strongly.
Linda Larson is one of our finest poets.

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

Thursday, March 03, 2011

What’s So Funny by Joseph Torra.

What’s So Funny by Joseph Torra. ( Pressed Wafer Press. 9 Columbus Square. Boston, Mass. 02116) $12.

Review by Doug Holder

Joe Torra, a neighbor of mine in my neck of the woods in Somerviile,Mass. is a poet, and novelist who I have admired for years. A while ago I read his memoir “Call Me Waiter” that recounts his years as a struggling writer who worked as a waiter to support his art. It was a wonderful portrait of an artist as a working stiff. A straight-no-chaser account, it was funny, sad, and ultimately uplifting.

Like any good poet Joe Torra can express in words what we want to say but can’t quite spit out. In his new novel “ What’s So Funny” his protagonist is a down-at-the heels, 54 year old comedian, living in what he calls the New Jersey of Boston: Everett, Mass.

On the surface this novel is hilarious. Being the same age as Torra and his main character, I can identify with many of the gripes and perceptions of this sad sack of a comedian. And there is a rich trove of observations in this book. I must admit I finished the novel in a few hours on a Megabus heading to NYC, and like the comedian I was visiting my mother who was caught in the depressing confines of a nursing home. To do justice to this book I have to excerpt the various takes on the world of this Medford bred, Italian-American comedian. Take his view on funerals:

“ There’s nothing worse than attending a family wedding or funeral. All my cousins are fat and old like me…At the wakes my cousins ask things like-- do I remember the time we did that? As if something we did 45 years ago still has meaning. I have a cousin... who always asks do I remember the time he had to take a shit when we were hanging out behind the school yard...At a recent wedding he brought this up as we sat around the table eating prime rib.."

Or how about a New Age woman he used to date?

" Jill was one of those New Age women. She let her hair go gray at eleven. She didn't wear makeup... She burned incense and practiced a synthesis of paganism, Buddhism and consumerism. She had the most amazing hemp wardrobe imaginable, and a different meditation pillow for each day of the week."

And of course his take on his humble Medford, Mass. roots:

" I grew up in Medford, Massachusetts. People from Medford are known to pronounce it Meffa. But I went to college, and live one mile away, so I only say Meffa when I'm drunk, because when you are drunk you let your guard down and its back to basics."

In essence the comedian views his life as a joke--literally. The man is like a poet, the writer, the artist, who uses his whole life as fodder for his work. Even at this low point in his greatly diminished career he continues to plan his next sketch, practicing his next bit for hours in front of his bathroom mirror.

What I am thankful for is Torra doesn't fall into the trap of being maudlin-- or plays for cheap sentiment. The comedian, a single man, has a chance to date an attractive woman who has an interest in him. And no--the love of a good woman doesn't save our hero in this novel. In fact his short and superficial alliance gives him more material for his art. In this passage he takes a full account of his sorry self before going out on another date:

" She was smart and independent. But what could we do? How could I could I possibly undress in front of her with my sagging flesh, and the skin-growth in my upper thigh near my scrotum. What if I couldn't preform?"

This fine novel can be read on two levels. As an astute comedian's view on an absurd world, or a meditation on the all consuming passion of an artist. Take your choice--or choose both-- a must read.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Silk Egg by Eileen R. Tabios

Silk Egg
by Eileen R. Tabios
Shearsman Books
Exeter Books
Copyright © Eileen R. Tabios, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84861-143-1
Softbound, 131 pages, $17

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Some poets just slap you across the face and say, “Here is something new, find it exciting or not, conventional or not, I have written for those who understand and those who do not will come to understand.” There have been more than a few American poets who slapped faces with their “new” poetry. Walt Whitman, was certainly one. The Imagists, Objectivists and the Beats were among the more notable. There are other poets as well who have changed the way we read and write poetry, who have gone one step beyond.

Now along comes Eileen R. Tabios – actually she is not just coming along – she has been
around for a while having “released 18 print, 4 electronic and 1 CD poetry collections, an art-essay collection, a poetry essay/interview anthology, a short story book and a collection of novels.”* For these efforts she has received numerous awards and grants and is well known on the west coast, if not the entire country. She also founded Meritage House, a multi-disciplinary literary and arts press based in San Francisco and St. Helena CA.

Ms. Tabios’ “slap” didn’t start with the title, it began when I opened the book of “novels.” Each chapter is a self contained novel and novels making up what I would call the total novel. In other words the sum is as great as the parts, the parts necessary for the sum. I personally had not seen this before, though Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke employs a similar concept, though not as creative or unique as Ms. Tabios.

As I read through Silk Egg different thoughts flashed across my mind: art deco, a punch of noir, of corrupted romance novels or sharp detective stories – in other words the writing of the 1930s or 1940s. However, while the writing has a retro appearance, it is thoroughly modern, maybe ahead of its time. Definitely captivating and ground breaking.

Ms. Tabios writes images that make wish I had thought of them, lines that make think and stories that leave me wondering (or in wonder):

Pg. 15: Look where the window finally stops.
“Sky is better than aspirin.”

Pg. 41: Red velvet petals. On one a wet diamond.
Her shears also sliced the sun.
Six roses fell. All revealed red cracking into mother-of-
London seemed even more distant that day.

Pg. 81 Whenever surf broke and water pock-marked air, she
recalled Helen – the much-maligned Helen.
Surf broke to reveal pale ankles bound by thin strips of
gold-painted leather.

These are just three examples. You may find others far more mysterious, elusive or exciting. Ms. Tabios is a writer who is in control, knows her trade is whether its is
Silk Egg or one of her others volumes, she is a writer who is worth a long, slow read and then a re-read.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Hello: Snow Emergency Remains In Effect

I wrote this poem for Jackie Rossetti and the City of Somerville:

Hello: Snow Emergency Remains In Effect

***** For Jackie Rossetti

Like an anxious lover
I wait for her call
her passionless voice
at the break of dawn:

"This is Jackie Rossetti from the City of Somerville...
we are still on..."

Until Feb. 2
at the very least,
as the snow outside
my window
shows no intent
to cease.

In the winter of my discontent,
I want to see her--
my raging heart
into the raging storm
but she is a rebel
she is on the
other side of the tracks
on the odd-side of the street...
How I wish
we can meet.

I will try to save her
a seat
perhaps a lawn chair
on that
freshly minted white carpet
but she'll treat
me like thrash
and throw it all way
after all...
it's a snow day.

I will pine for her
I will salt
I will sand
I won't
let what we have
slip from my frostbitten hand.

I would never dare
to shovel
what we share--
our pristine New England snow--
our frigid love,
the cold storage secrets we keep
onto the unforgiving
mean streets.

But in the end
I will break
a city ordinance
our ticket
to meet.

She will be unforgiving
subject me to fines
but Jackie Rossetti
I can read
between the lines.

---Doug Holder

March 3rd, 2011, 8:15 pm marks the 14th annual Women Musicians Network

March 3rd, 2011, 8:15 pm marks the 14th annual Women Musicians Network

by Kirk Etherton

March 3rd, 2011, 8:15 pm marks the 14th annual Women Musicians Network
concert. As always, it will be at the Berklee Performance Center, and the focus
will be on Berklee women students from around the world.

There will be 12 diverse acts, ranging from R&B to film music, alternative, and
Flamenco piano. Lucy Holstedt, W.M.N. co-founder and faculty advisor, is
"extremely pleased" that Daniela Schachter--an acclaimed jazz composer and
performer--will be a special guest. "Daniela was in the show back when she
was a Berklee student: she was excellent then, and of course she's even better
now," says Holstedt. "It's great that she was available."

This is the second year in row that a group from Berklee City Music joins the
W.M.N. concert. "These are some wonderful Middle School kids," according to
Lucy, who will add a "very interesting dimension" to the evening.

Tickets are only $10 at the B.P.C. box office (which doesn't take phone orders).
Tickets are also available this year via Ticketmaster. According to Jennifer
Fuchel, a professor at Suffolk University (who hasn't missed a W.M.N. concert
"for several years"), it's best to get tickets in advance.

"I don't believe it has sold out in the past," says Ms. Fuchel, but this is always
such an amazing concert, I'm surprised to see a single empty seat."

A longtime Somerville fan said, "There's nothing exactly like it. Which is
exactly why you'll like it."

For more info., go to