Saturday, July 16, 2011

small lucidities Book four: random series by Miriam Walsh

small lucidities
Book four: random series
Copyright 2011 by Miriam E. Walsh
ardornata publishing
142 pages, softbound, no price

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

This poetry book is the fourth in a series, the other, to be reviewed by other reviewers are entitled beautifully alien refraction, primitive awe and forced continuity. If the others are anything like this book they should be quite enthralling.

small lucidities has images one may not to read, as in “to breathe 07” in which you can find the following: today was a bad day/to breathe./I should have stopped/that last breath/and the one that came after/but my lungs demanded/and I acquiesced,/from habit.

Ms. Walsh’s images are not pleasant ones, the poems are not happy and a reader feels the Lucidity has been wherever the voice was institutionalized, but ah, there is not indication she ever was, though her bio states she was a health worker at a detox unit and held a number of other positions thus her poems in this volume at least were composed during lunch breaks, poetry readings, train and car rides. As you read this volume, and perhaps the other ones, you will feel that she is indeed prolific, profound and maybe even possessed. Most of the pages have two columns, indicating who directions, two thoughts, too much. Who knows.

Here are samples from two of the poems:

this deep 10: this deep,/this ache/is an ocean I swim under/ warm,/close/pressing/in every inch/a swaddling/that releases/me/from my obligation/to move

no more 08: a rage/I am trying/not to have,/a pain/I am condemned to;/I will be/no more

Some might be repulsed by the concepts behind the whole poem, but they work, they are enthralling, and to be honest makes one wonder whether Ms. Walsh worked in a detox center or was a patient there. Yet having said that, small lucidities has some big lucid thoughts and taken in small doses is a fascinating book (and a reminder there are three others I have not read). Give it a shot and see what you think.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Somerville Poet Julia Story: A Writer with 'Moxie'

Somerville Poet Julia Story: A Writer with "Moxie”

By Doug Holder

Somerville poet Julia Story walked into the Sherman CafĂ© to meet with yours truly on a hot July morning. She looked like a poet. Tall and willowy, long, blondish hair with the requisite tattoo on her naked shoulder—she had all the trappings. One could imagine her burning the midnight oil in some Somerville garret, or playing the role of the hip teacher leading a seminar at some MFA program. I say Story has “Moxie” because her first collection of poetry is titled “Post Moxie,” and because she also has courage. It takes guts to live the life of a writer: all the uncertainty, the hustling for jobs, publishing or perishing, and all that sort of rot.

Story, like many Somerville artists, poets, etc… I have interviewed is a transplant. She hails from Indiana, and later got her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Hampshire. Her adviser was the much lauded poet Charles Simic.

Story is a friend of the former Somerville Poet Heather Madden (Who defected to Providence, RI), who I had the pleasure to interview a few years back. Story heard about the artistic vibe in Somerville from Madden as well as others. She now lives in the Winter Hill Section of the city.

Like many a poet and writer of my acquaintance she works and has worked at a number of jobs to pay the bills. She has been employed by a non-profit, taught high school, tutored, and was a reader for the prestigious Emerson College–based lit mag “Ploughshares.” She loves teaching creative writing—but most of all she likes to have time for her own work.

I asked Story about her first publication credits. She recalled being published by the “Painted Bride" lit mag in 2000, which at the time was solely online. Online was not in vogue 10 years or so ago—-so her excitement was a bit dampened by that. Story said "Today there would be no problem with an online magazine; they are well-accepted in the literary community. My first published work (In print) was in the “Iowa Review” which I was really thrilled with.”

Story’s first collection of poetry “Post Moxie” was the recipient of Sarabande Books 2009 Kathryn A. Morton Prize and the 2010 John C. Zacharis First Book Award. Her work has appeared in “Ploughshares,” “The Paris Review,” “Octopus,” “Salt Hill” and others.

Story conceives her poems within the context of a series. She never has a preconceived plan when she writes a poem—the ideas seem to come to her, and she goes with the flow. Story retains a good measure of childhood innocence in her work despite being in her late 30’s. She feels it is necessary for a poet view the world with fresh eyes.

Story told me her next collection in progress is titled “Red Town.” She is using the concept of a town as an organizing principle for her work ,and perhaps one day she will use “Our Town” (Excuse me Mr. Wilder) for new inspiration for a new book.


Its Plastic Light"

I make the travel plans. When two ghosts
cross each other, a sky is born. Two
skies try to exist together, one in the
background while the other takes the
credit. Or one underneath the other,
coiled like the furnace in a pretend
hideout, waiting until it can be something
else. The birds honking or in silent lines.
This sound steadfast as a face.

Copyright © 2009 Julia Story All rights reserved
from Post Moxie
Sarabande Books

Ibbetson Street #29

Ibbetson Street #29
Publisher: Doug Holder
Managing Editor: Dorian Brooks
Poetry Editors: Mary Rice, Harris Gardner
Consulting Editors: Robert K. Johnson, Dianne Robitaille
Art Consultant: Richard Wilhelm
Design: Steve Glines
Website Managers: Linda Haviland Conte, Ray Conte
Front Cover: Dianne Robitaille
Back Cover: Dianne Robitaille

50 pages, $8, softbound
The Ibbetson Street Press is supported by and formally affiliated
With Endicott College, Beverly, MA

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Somerville poet Doug Holder, the “Johnny Appleseed of Boston area poetry” has done much for the poetic community, including his Bagel Bards (co-founded with Harris Gardner) a group of poets and writers who meet weekly in Somerville, MA and his
publishing house, Ibbetson Street Press which issue poetry books from unknown writers to well known ones. In this latest offering there is a wide selection of excellent poems presented by (to name only a few) Lawrence Kessenich, Ed Galing, Adrienne Drobnies, Richard Hoffman, Dan Sklar, Barbara Helfgott Hyett, Lyn Lifshin and A.D. Winans.

Wendy Drexler’s “Voodoo Donuts” is clever both in its writing and artistic verbal layout which needs to be seen and read. Lawrence Kessenich’s “Writer In Residence” is a nostalgic explanation of a beginning and a veteran’s writer love for pen and paper. Richard Hoffman’s “Long Enough” carries a memory for years. Dan Sklar’s “Of Time And "The Beauty Contest” is a bittersweet poem of love and Alzheimer’s. All the poems in this volume have something to say, are worth a read while the selections provide a diversity of styles.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

If The Potter’s Hands Shake by Renee Summers

If The Potter’s Hands Shake
Renee Summers

Review by Rene Schwiesow

Poet Renee Summers is no stranger to publishing. Her work has appeared in “Spare Change News,” “Ibbetson Street Press,” “The Aurorean,” and “West Crooke Review,” as well as in other presses. Summers has a love for the written and spoken word and enjoys the time she spends reading poetry for the blind on The Talking Information Center, based at WATD Radio Station in Marshfield, MA. She is always looking for those who may be willing join her in the studio to donate a half hour of their time reading on her show.

“If the Potter’s Hands Shake” is Summers second collection of poetry. The work is filled with nature, family, war, and accepting the personal responsibility for “molding the clay,” rather than projecting all blame onto the Divine. If the Divine is the Potter, Summers feels that we are the hands:

He is the Potter, His craft is infinite;
we are his hands that conceive
on life’s wheel the passion,
the adjectives of countless mores
destructed from individual flaws.

She remembers the Holocaust in works such as “Butterflies of Thieresenstadt” and “To Every One There is a Name,” and speaks to terrorism in “Terror:”

came over the boundaries
with snake eyes glazed.

Though Summers addresses the difficult subject of war and the gut-wrenching losses we endure as a result of war, the book is not only a treatise for putting down arms. No, Summers blends all of life together, turning the clay of her experience with a deft hand, knowing the paradox of taking the “bad” along with the “good.” In the first section of the book entitled, “Nature,” Summers addresses nature from gardening to the cosmos:

As the year ends
the cold blue moon
wearing a halo of angelic dust,
a necklace of jewels,
rises in the darkening firmament
to sit upon the edge of the universe.

I am not a winter person, but the visuals in the above strophe from “Colors,” almost give me cause to reconsider my dislike for winter.

The book is separated into three sections. In the final section, “family and other collected poems” Summers has penned a touching, nostalgic work entitled “The Portrait.” The poem is in honor of her grandparents and reading it was a beautiful reminder of all generations that have gone before us.

The sepia photo on the wall
grows to let me step inside

For information on “If the Potter’s Hands Shake” as well as for information on the Talking Information Center, Renee Summers can be contacted at:

Rene Schwiesow is co-host of the popular South Shore venue, The Art of Words. You can reach Rene at

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review of OUR SACRED JOURNEYS, by Linda M. Duncum

Review of OUR SACRED JOURNEYS, by Linda M. Duncum, illustrated by Susan (Mojo) Dixon, Author House, 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403,, 2010, $10.50, 50 pages

Review by Barbara Bialick

From a spiritual point of view, OUR SACRED JOURNEYS is almost a religious tract, but more than that it gives some of the ancient philosophy of the Metis aboriginal people who come from Canada and trace their descent back to mixed European and First Nation parentage, according to Wikipedia. Their homeland is Canada and parts of the northern United States (Montana, North Dakota, and northwest Minnesota).

The fact that I had to look this up on my own, is frustrating, though one could read her spiritual journey poems just on face value as a metaphorical travel experience through Nature. The path she was apparently on she called “the Red Road”—which means, again according to Wikipedia, a “pan-Indian and new age concept of the right path of life, as inspired by the beliefs found in a variety of Native American religions.”

It would be futile to try to explain her religious poetry as religion without more information, but poetically speaking some good lines include:

“What the world would look like”: …”If we actually treated our Mother Earth/as a loving gift, as well as a sacred home/…And if we all saw each other as equal and in the/same light, would we finally have a world/of peace, with no actual reason left to fight?”

“When the world is silent”…”What do I hear when the world is silent,/when all man made sounds do not exist?/I hear the cry of an eagle calling me to a secret place/high in the mountains/…where the sounds of silence are deafening to untrained ears/…to man,/silence is the absence of sound./To the eagle silence is the absence of man…”

“Dreams”: “A young boy quietly leaves the comfort/and safety of his home to climb a lone/pecan tree…/When he finally reaches the top…/it is here, he is cradled in the arms of God…”

Finally, “God’s Mirror”: “Water is the purest reflection of God’s work/a true mirror of how the Creator views his world./…From the water’s stillness lies the true meaning/of serenity…/As with the spirit of God, the waters bring us life;/for it continuously cleanses and heals, all that it touches.”

Linda M. Duncum grew up in New England where she “developed a strong relationship with Mother Earth and the outdoors,” her news release says. Retired from the military,
she has worked as a registered nurse in Alpine, Texas, where she lives in a mountain home.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Somerville Artist Resa Blatman: Where Beauty and Ugly Meet

(Scintillating Swamp, 2011
oil, glitter, beads, graphite, and acrylic on cut-edge panel
39½h x 59w inches)

Somerville Artist Resa Blatman: Where Beauty and Ugly Meet

By Doug Holder

This year I taught the once controversial book "Black Spring" by Henry Miller in my college writing courses. This work deals with the mean streets of Miller's Brooklyn youth: the sweaty press of the flesh, the cast of ner-do-wells, the street urchins, the duplicity of the swells and the hucksters and all that ugliness that Miller found beauty in. This is similar to the work of Somerville artist Resa Blatman. She sees beauty and ugliness and they live next door to each other. In fact much of her work is informed with the duality of the world.

On her website Blatman states: “ Through my work, I attempt to show nature at odds with itself by playing with the contradictions of lush versus barren and rapture vesus displeasure. My compositions are inspired by the Renaissance, Baroque, Victorian, decorative art and botanical imagery to create a visual feast of fruit, wildlife and pattern." This artist takes these out of their natural context and conjures up a surrealistic landscape that gives the reader a take on an enigmatic life cycle. Animals and insects are in this fecund mix and some pretty threatening pieces of fruit which according to Blatman creates: "Undertones of want and dismay."

Blatman happens to have a space at the Vernon Street Studios in Somerville, and lives with her husband in the Magoun Square section of our town. She was born in Long Beach, N.Y., lived in New York City, Italy, and has lived in Somerville for a long while. She loves the Somervillian environs and runs into many artists who are just dying to get a piece of the action and a plot of land here.

Blatman likes to push boundaries: she paints raging tornadoes as well as dead birds. ( Maybe they are related!) She said: " My goal is to make paintings that are sometimes over-the-top." She feels good about pushing things too much, after all too much beauty can be repulsive--the very dichotomy that the painter dwells in.

You might say Blatman's paintings are cutting edge-literally--because she uses cut-edge surfaces. She explains on her website:

"The digitally designed, intricately cut-edge surfaces are new since 2008. The various edges, which may include animals, insects, and flourishes, are an extension of the patterns within the paintings. These cut forms, along with the shadows made by the cuts, encourage a three-dimensionality to the work, and by doing so, the paintings become more experiential and boundless."

Blatman made sure to remind me that she has a solo exhibition at the Ellen Miller Gallery Sept. 9-Oct. 18 36 Newbury St. in Boston. It will be beautiful./It will be ugly./ You will be repulsed/You will love it.

Making A Life by Charles H. Harper

Making A Life
Charles H. Harper
Powder Horn Press, Inc.
Soft cover: $12.00
Hard cover: $22.00

Charles Harper’s second full-length book of poetry weaves the interconnectedness of Being throughout the work – the words as weft and the intention behind the use of the Chinese symbol pronounced “tee-an” as warp. While the symbol cannot be exactly translated into English, it is known to represent a “totality of reality” – all aspects of being: manifest, intuition, and that which goes beyond human intuition.

The use of the symbol intrigued me and each time it appeared in the book along with a short poem, I was offered a moment to meditate on the group of poems that preceded each printing of the symbol. In keeping with the possibilities inherent within interconnectedness, Harper has penned a poem entitled, “Is.” The epigraph is a phrase from Czeslaw Milosz – “they walk contemplating the holy word: Is.” Harper begins by saying:

I’m dancing on the rim of IS: Blue sky
above backdrops the sheen of sun that holds
our planet in its thrall –

In “Disquietude,” Harper looks at the suffering of our interconnectedness, the helplessness that may set in when we perceive there is nothing that we can do to lessen others’ pain:

What good is my bitter lament
for ragged refugee lines
staggering across endless
wastelands of our world?


For Harper interconnectedness does not end with the Oneness of humanity. No, he also addresses our connection to nature – to earth herself.

Gaia trembles beneath our piles
of gadgets, greed, and war.
She weeps a mother’s darkest grief. . .

In a nod to the poetic life the work “Three or Four” brought me a smile:

A Poet
may have three
or four things to say,
hardly ever more

It can take many years,
hundreds of yards of pencil,
paper and eraser,
as well as millions
of wadded up words
tossed in the wastebasket
before you finally figure out
what these three
or four things are

Jean Mellichamp Milliken, editor of “The Lyric,” says “This poetry pulls us away from our duty-filled days and reminds us of the miracles of our presence here on this spinning ball as we whirl through the universe.

Bill Moyers of PBS writes, “These poems cut deep, but not like a knife. They are the slow coming of dawn, until we see all at once what had been there in the dark.

Harper’s book is like wading into a clear tidepool and finding spirituality, nature, the human condition, love, despair, wonder, struggle, hope and, above all, gratitude cohabitating within the eco-system, each embracing and understanding the other.

And isn’t that the way the world should be?

“Making a Life” can be purchased through Charles Harper by contacting him via email at:

Rene Schwiesow is a co-host for the popular South Shore venue: The Art of Words. She can be contacted at

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bagel Bards Appear at Stone Soup Poets: July 25, 2011 8PM

July 25th (2011): The Bagel Bards Invade Stone Soup Poets--- Out of the Blue Gallery-- 106 Prospect St. Cambridge, Mass. 8PM

Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On July 25th, we welcome the local writers group The Bagel Bards as they celebrate the 6th volume of their annual anthology.

Infamous Somerville Bagel Bards to invade Stone Soup!

Article by Chad Parenteau

A host of well-known, well-published Boston area writers will be reading from the recently published Bagel Bards #6. The Bagel Bards, founded in 2004 in the basement of the Finagle-A- Bagel in Harvard Square by Doug Holder and Harris Gardner, who meet every Saturday morning at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square, are a group of writers and poets and other folks of that ilk. Award-winning poet, Lawrence Kessenich was this year’s editor. The introduction to the phenomenal work was written by Kathleen Spivack, also an award winning poet! The Bagel Bards are a group of wonderful, eclectic poets that you will not want to miss!

Kitty Beer
Molly Bennett
Barbara Bialick
Heather Campbell
Louisa Clerici
Adrienne Drobnes
Timothy Gager
Harris Gardner
Elizabeth Hanson
Doug Holder
Abbott Ikeler
Anne Ipsen
Irene Koronas
Linda Larson
Limin Mo
Luke Salisbury
Jack Scully
Zvi Sesling
Manson Solomon
Bert Stern
Paul Stone
Barbara Thomas
Amy Tighe
Chris Warner
Dan Lynn Watt
Molly Lynn Watt
and others...

Purchase a copy before the reading.