Saturday, April 30, 2011

Yolandi Elvira Cruz: A talk with a young poet who thrives in Somerville's " Books of Hope

(Books of Hope authors)

Yolandi Elvira Cruz: A talk with a young poet who thrives in Somerville's " Books of Hope" Project.

Interview with Doug Holder

"Books of Hope" is a project located in the Mystic River Housing Project in Somerville that introduces young people to the world of publishing, marketing, poetry and creative writing. I interviewed one of the young poets who particpates in the project: Yolandi Elvira Cruz. I asked her to send her bio. She wrote the News:

"Yolandi Elvira Cruz Guerrero was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and wrote her first book when she was in third grade. It was made up of only eight pages and filled with illustrations she created herself with color pencils and water paint. Yolandi is now a seventeen-year-old High School Junior trying to pass her classes and working with kids at the local library. She has been writing since she came out her mother’s womb and has had the luck of encounteringamazing teachers and friends who have encouraged her to share her stories bothin Spanish and English. She met her first love, Spoken Word, as a freshman and has been working to make her marriage stronger and have a couple kids ever since. Right now she participates in Books of Hope in the community of Somerville.

She writes for peace and refuses to create art that doesn’t work towards positively changing the world."

What has poetry given you that other forms of expression have not?

Poetry has given me confidence and it has empowered me by reassuring me that words do have a strong impact on the entire world.

We live in Somerville, certainly not known for its "natural beauty" It is a city. What for you is beautiful about Somerville--where do you find beauty?

Although, I am not from Somerville I am actually from Boston I would say that I find the beauty of Somerville in its youth because they are very artistic and have important messages to deliver.

I know there are a lot of poets in our area. It is very competitive. Even more so if you are a teenager , and not connected in the "adult" poetry world. Has Books of Hope helped you to connect?

Books of Hope has helped me more so to become a stronger writer, we haven't necessarily had strong connections into the "adult" poetry world yet. However, we did have Lauren Whitehead give us a writing workshop which was amazing. Soon we will be doing a Mystic Ink Tour where we will most likely be exposed to this world "adult" poetry world you speak of.

Has writing poetry been helpful to you in any other aspect of your life?

Yes, writing has helped me release and understand many things I couldn't comprehend on my own. It has also helped me with my ability to speak in public and own my work as an artist.

Any teachers who have inspired you?

All of my teachers have inspired me. All of them, starting from my mother and ending with my 8-year old sister.

What for you makes a great poem?

A great poem to me is a poem that sounds like a melody even if it doesn't make any sense. Poetry is Music. Music is Poetry. And a great poem is simply based on how our hearts not our "intellectual egos" perceives it.

Friday, April 29, 2011

WRESTLING ANGELS Poetic Monologues by Freddy Frankel

Poetic Monologues by Freddy Frankel
Ibbetson Street Press, 57 pgs. $14

To order book go to:

Review by Susan Tepper

In a collection as powerful and eclectic as Wrestling Angels, it seemed appropriate to begin the review with a quote from Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players;” Freddy Frankel’s players, lifted from the bible and from history, get to have their say. These are not reluctant players he has brought to the page. But characters, (and place and document) who own their history, resplendent or vile, and move forward with a kind of persuasive stridency on the stage (page) to take their rightful place at their mark under the light. We hear from Job, Saul, Moses, Rachel, Hitler, Rebekkah, Noah. Others. Each perfectly sure what they’re doing here. The words they speak are gripping and often startling. Frankel begins these monologues with none other than the woman called Eve. She presents as innocent and sultry, an intriguing combination that made me wonder if Eve was perhaps the first female hysteric. Frankel’s field, before entering the fields of poetry, was psychiatry. And though his Poetic Monologues are written in a light, deft hand, the underpinnings of analysis seem to shadow, at times, the myriad voices. This is not a weakness of the book but a strength. The lines are perfect. There is music to be found here, too. Wrestling Angels is meant to provoke and entice the reader. It does. And, then some.

***** Susan Tepper-----Susan Tepper grew up on Long Island where many of the stories in DEER take place. Before settling down to study writing at NYU and New School, she was an actress, flight attendant, marketing manager, tour guide, singer, television producer, interior decorator, rescue worker and more.

Many of her stories, poems and essays have been published in the US and abroad, appearing in fine journals and periodicals including American Letters & Commentary, Salt Hill, Boston Review, Green Mountains Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Crannog, Poetry Salzburg, Ibbetson Street Press and elsewhere. Susan has received 5 Pushcart Prize nominations for fiction and poetry, and she curates the reading series FIZZ at KGB Bar in New York City.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ibbetson Street Press Author Dan Sklar Wins Teaching Excellence Award

Dan Sklar, author of Bicycles, Canoes, Drums ( Ibbetson Street Press) won Endicott College's Teaching Excellence Award--below is the letter.

CLICK ON TITLE TO ORDER SKLAR'S poetry collection:

Good Morning Endicott Faculty & Staff,

It gives me great pleasure, on behalf of the Alumni Council, to announce this year’s recipient of the “Excellence in Teaching Award”. Each school selects students to participate in the nomination process. Representatives selected five candidates who have contributed to the success of the Class of 2011. These five names were then voted on by the graduating class to determine this year’s recipient of the Alumni Excellence in Teaching Award.

Student ballots have now been counted and Dr. Daniel Sklar has been selected. As the recipient of this award Dr. Sklar will serve as the Baccalaureate Speaker on May 20th and will perform the duties of Grand Marshall at the Commencement Exercise on Saturday the 21st.

Professor Sklar has been teaching at Endicott since 1987. He is the author of three books of poetry and some of his recent publications include the Harvard Review, New York Quarterly, Ibbetson Street Press, The Art of the One-Act, and NAP Magazine. In addition to his numerous writings he has produced numerous plays in Newburyport, Boston and off-Broadway.

Please join the Alumni Council and the Commencement Committee in congratulating Professor Dan Sklar on this honor.


Erin T Neuhardt

Director, Alumni Relations

Endicott College

376 Hale St.

Beverly, MA 01915

W: (978) 232-2109

F: (978) 232-2025

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Problem with Relativity: Short Stories by John Sokol

The Problem with Relativity
Short Stories
John Sokol
Rager Media Inc
ISBN 13-978-0-9792091-1-6
2006 $16.95

“...That was the only time I ever heard him really say it and
maybe the only time I've ever known what it really meant
and certainly the first time I ever saw how hard a man has
to fall and how many people he has to take with him before
he's able to spit it out.”

Sokol drags us into his short stories, skeptical, unyielding, we come
to accept the stories as our own. Usually, I review poetry books,
and whether this book was given to me by mistake or has a purpose,
there is no regret on my part. The characters jump at me, reveal
their familiar presence. The battle worn, the inter-generational,
the educated fall, the feisty reverses, and the pull:

“...Newton I recall, thought that space was spread-out, flat
therefore universal. The post office, however, seems to have
proven lately that space is relative. They're holding a letter
from Caroline in their space instead of sending it to my space.
I haven't seen Caroline at the university lately because she took
her senior class to Washington for some literary reason. She
promised she would write. She promised...”

Most of the characters are resolving, are trying to come to a resolution
about a particular circumstance in their relationship with others and
with self. Both are intertwined even when denial rides a plastic horse
like premonition, like a child being abused:

“...Did you hear me, you little shit? Get outta that goddamn tree!”
He says the same thing, every time. I don't answer. I just look
him in the eyes and shake my head no. that always makes him even
madder, so I expect i'll be up here for a while, until he passes out,
or until he storms out of the house, gets in that brown beater he
calls a car, and goes to the bar until two in the morning...”

Every short story in this book is a haiku, it drifts along the shore,
and the reader paddles in the direction the story sets. We end-up
floating on images, startled by the sentences, we remain engrossed
in conclusions; our minds raptured by the pull, the theft of being
left with a short story:

“ Horrible distrust developed in our family after that, and not all
the hostility was directed toward me. Everyone was suspicious of
everyone else. I swore on a stack of bibles that I hadn't taken the
camera and Marie said nothing at all. Mrs. Cuzman continued to
call occasionally to ask if anyone knew anything more about
the missing camera...”

A perfect book to carry with you when you go on vacation or have to wait
in a waiting room. The stories will help the time pass and will lend a
profound view from the authors perspective. A perfect book for those
dark winter rooms, or on an autumn night when moonshine wafts
through the windows. A perfect must read during any season:

“...When I try to figure out a way to resolve the inherent problems
between Joanna and myself, I remember the main doctrine I took
away from my readings of Hegel, that guy who maintained that all
human relationships are based on a master/slave component,
however blatant or subtle, however nefarious or overt. Each party
assumes the role for which they are most naturally inclined, or
they are subsumed into the role they play by the stronger will of
the other. I often wonder if relationships of even the most equitable
sort disintegrate if the initially accepted equation varies even a tad...”

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Somerville Resident Promotes Jimmy Tingle Event--First Church/ Boston-April 29, 2011

“Jimmy Tingle event promoted by

Somerville resident”

On April 29th, locally-raised, nationally-known humorist Jimmy Tingle will perform at an event at First Church in Boston (located at 66 Marlborough Street). Union Square resident Kirk Etherton is doing his best to make sure there isn’t a single empty seat.

Etherton, who used to do stand-up comedy at “Jimmy Tingle’s Off-Broadway” theater in Davis Square, often goes to First Church. He was first attracted by the “thought-provoking sermons and diverse music” broadcast every Sunday morning on 88.9 FM, the Emerson College station.

“Jimmy is a great social comic—and a great person,” says Kirk. “Whether it’s on national TV or a local stage, he connects with audiences on a personal level. And of course, he’s hilarious.” Kirk is promoting the event in a variety of ways; he’s also gotten some of his favorite businesses and artists to donate some fine things for the auction portion of the evening.

Items up for bid will include: a one-hour therapeutic massage from Massage Therapy Works in Davis Square; dinner for two at Tamarind House and The Middle East Restaurant; plus books from award-winning poets such as Richard Hoffman, C.D. Collins, and Kathleen Spivack. (Also, a member of First Church is donating two excellent Red Sox tickets.)

The most unusual offering is a private concert, from mezzo-soprano Katarzyna Sadej and pianist Mark McNeill. “By chance, I recently saw them in a recital,” says Etherton. “Their performance was so powerful and sublime, I felt like I might float out of my seat.” Sadaj and McNeill have performed around the world, including Carnegie Hall.

Kirk is donating his time because of the focus of First Church. “They emphasize community and cooperation—locally and beyond. They support lots of important causes. like Boston youth programs, rebuilding Haiti, etc. So when the Senior Minister asked if I’d help out with this ‘fun fundraiser’ for the church—and told me Jimmy Tingle was involved—I couldn’t say no.”

Kirk has a special thanks for Master Printing & Signs in Union Square, which “did a great job of printing the poster for the event—and also helped me design it.”

The April 29th event begins at 6:30 pm, with complimentary hors d’oeuvres (and a cash bar). The “show” starts at 8:00 pm with music by the Harvard LowKeys, a co-ed a cappella group.

Tickets are just $25 in advance ($30 at the door). You can call 617. 267-6730 or email:

Proceeds will benefit First Church in Boston (Unitarian Universalist), founded in 1630.


by Jen Benka
Hanging Loose Press
Brooklyn NY
Copyright © 2011 by Jen Benka
60 pages, softbound, $18

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Science has often pondered the existence of parallel universes. Jen Benko is proof they exist. How poetry, based on the traditional forms of this universe, take on both universal questions and questions of the parallel universe. Even Benko acknowledges this in the poem “Alpha” in which she writes: “the universe contains the universe. a faint milky circle, a blank field.”

Benko’s words do not sing, but they excite, send the reader into a universe of new thoughts. Take the poem “Romeo” for example:

she says that it’s not
that I am a tall woman
but the mutant
messages I send –
a hymn –
and so I am
sir to them and mister

Now you can interpret what you want from this, Dickinson, out-in-space, gender bender, freedom anthem – whatever. The fact is Benko is her own voice, and what doesn’t make sense will if you take the time and also re-read the poems, most of which are sparse, often dissect and aspect of society critically. Benko is not one kiss your cheek and say you look great. She will find the moles, the pimples, reinterpret writings, happenings, people, like taking a picture and distorting it until it is unrecognizable, a new picture never taken.

Benko is also a dark poet, not much happiness in these pages like her anti-war poem “Yankee” which is both reminiscent of Ginsberg and encompasses perhaps Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and our own Indian wars.

over there occupier
no damn different than here
we are always coming with drums
with dandy prayers dandy guns
emancipation justified what
lincoln ordering 38 Sioux
to be hanged
north has never been true

Benko scores time and again in ways one does not expect, must rethink their own philosophies and histories. The book is, shall I say, avant-garde and worth a reading.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

IN THE SUMMER OF CANCER, Poems by John Sokol

Review of IN THE SUMMER OF CANCER, Poems by John Sokol, Endymion Press, 8446 Melrose Place, Los Angeles, CA 90069, 98 pages, hardcover, dated 2003, $19.95
(Cover painting, “Charon Sleeps”, 1990, also by the author.)

Review by Barbara Bialick

As Nature grows in layers, so grow the images and metaphor in John Sokol’s book THE SUMMER OF CANCER, which reflects back to 1984 when his love, Shelly, died of breast cancer. Painful as this was to him, he coats his book’s sadness in well-crafted, erudite lines from Greek mythology, eastern philosophy, natural detail, even math, before he can finally state so poignantly in the last poem of the book: “This Poem is Just Like All of Us”…that he is ”afraid of dying alone,/in nobody’s lap, in nobody’s arms.”

One of my favorite poems, “Robert Frost’s Books, Rupton, Vermont, 1980” (for Shelly 1940-1984) takes place when the couple came across Robert Frost’s house in the Vermont woods, surrounded by hunters, and go inside, and contemplate making love in the sacred poetry structure still apparently holding some of the poet’s original books and mattress coils. At the end of the poem, he risks having “Robert Frost turn over/in his grave than not pay homage to you in yours:/I shall be telling this with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and you and I--/We took the one less traveled by,/And, in the end, that never made a difference.”

Another powerful poem is his “Letter to a Sister I Don’t Have.” “Maybe your name is Lila, or Sarah./Maybe we live very far apart. Maybe/we haven’t seen each other in ages/…After/everyone else has left, we’ll listen to/Waltzing Matilda, and the waiters will wait/for the juke-box to break our farewell hearts…”

This is Sokol’s first full-length book and it is a good one. The author, a poet, fiction writer and painter, lives in Akron, Ohio. He has published poetry in such fine publications as “Antigonish Review”, “The Berkeley Poetry Review”, “The New York Quarterly” and so on. Here are some lines from his poem, “Old Soul”: “Had you been a/Buddhist, at Wat Po—where turtles/are revered as human souls,/making their way through one/of many lives—you might have/known the slow road to Nirvana/could ditch you here, where you/drag the bottom of a watery/world, and make do in the mud,/with your mutable soul.”