Saturday, December 31, 2011

This Time by Robert Gibbons

This Time

By Robert Gibbons

ISBN: 0-9824263-3-X

Nine Point Publishing

Bridgton, Maine

216 pages


Reviewed by Dennis Daly

As I read through Robert Gibbons’ lengthy book of prose poems, This Time, I felt transported from page to page, not in the usual bookish way, but architecturally. The poems have the feel of lived-in rooms, each decorative item and essential furnishing intimately connected to its neighboring artifact in some sensory or psychological way.

There is an old story told about Simonides, the ancient Greek poet and verse innovator. While attending a drunken party with friends, relatives and a multitude of invited guests, he had to leave for a moment. After he had exited the party, a freak storm hit the building and demolished it. By the time the victims had been uncovered their bodies were unrecognizable even to family members. Simonides, however, identified them all. They had been forever ordered in his poetic memory and all that was left for him to do was recite.

Gibbons is the Simonides of the prose poem. He has revolutionized the form and made it into something new and wonderful. His poetics populate the kitchens, the dens, the bedrooms, the halls, and the balconies of a grand internal palace, a palace haunted by poltergeists and other phenomena, both real and fictive.

Once inside his palace, Gibbons’ mind works fast. Some of his pieces are densely packed, some would argue over packed with detail. In fact in his first short poem, Silence’s Desire, he seems to be admonishing himself,

There is that silence which has at its sole desire language, music,

primal cry! There is that silence whose immensity rests upon Soul’s

desire, language, music, primal cry! Quiet down now.

In Vortex of Inclusion, Gibbons’ art leaps from Debussy’s La Mer to the local waterfront, which seems to give him worldwide connections, to a Mallarm√® letter,

… Mallarm√® writes in 1885 that the present is an

“interregnum,” an obsolescence with which the poet has no business

getting involved. Advises writing “mysteriously,” thinking only of

the future, or no Time at all.

Dreams proliferate in Gibbons’ poems. Since dreams do not conform to the rules of traditional time, they fit right into the design features. The Geography of Dreams ends this way,

… Hurried from my station at

the circulation desk to write down the dream of waves in the bay in

Zihuatanejo, standing on top of the world in Boston, brushing past

Death with an “Excuse me,” & all the geography enclosed in the atlas,

when suddenly my father came by asking if he could cook supper for

me, peering over my shoulder interested in what I’d already written


A good number of poems at the heart of the book are meditations on Goya or paintings by Goya. Especially interesting in this dream context is a piece called Goya’s Etching, Murio La Verdad (Truth Has Died). The poem leads into narrative explanation of the book’s cover with this,

Unusual, insistent dream, consisting of words alone: the image

of black letters falling down against white space, as if vortex, or

river, & led, strange as it seems, by the Spanish word obra, or work.


Perhaps “uncanny.” But I think not so much in these poems, where images, numbers, and names collide in a timeless museum of movement.

This Goya theme is beautifully alluded to by the book’s gorgeous cover. Referring, of course to Ernest Hemingway the narrator comments with rising pleasure in Goya’s Passionate Introduction,

… I never bothered with Death in the Afternoon, until now. He refers

to Goya by page 3. Makes the art and knowledge of drinking wine

analogous to the art & knowledge of bullfighting by page 10. Goya

wine & the printed word, what more, (other than friend or woman), can

a man want at this stage?

Goya’s use of the moment coincides with Gibbons concept of no time. The poem Time = Goya explains:

Time went nowhere away from Goya at the hora de la verdad, or

moment of Truth, when Death enters the ring for the kill. For Goya

used to such ajustarse, or close infighting, & having fully encompassed

it, Time remained right there in his heart, eyes, and hands. Whereas,

even today, time embodies Goya; Time frees Goya; Time is Goya.

In Salem Came Back To Me Before I Came Back To Salem Gibbons deals with the non- chronology of his home town. Again he seems to be reciting or interpreting this interior architecture. These intimate and memorized details come to him not in a dream but in the next best thing, an insomniac’s trance. He says,

… during a brutal two hour bout with insomnia images

arrived, not chronologically, but a montage of streets and workplaces,

people and events, transient & permanent. I’ll document it as between

1:45-3:45 a.m.

Notice that Gibbons is straining to reconcile his artistic vision with reality and often they don’t correspond exactly; nor should they. Further on in the poem the same thing happens,

… working at Met-Com on Derby, the library on Lafayette,

or cataloguing the broadside collection at the museum on Essex. I

can’t reorder their non-chronological sequence, but driving down

Boston Street one might see, as I did again, those neighborhood

toughs Tarqui, or Pelletier, while Snowy and his crew emerged from

the woodwork of the Willows’ neon arcades.

Doors and Windows, a poem toward the end of the book uses internal language to convey poetic constructs of understanding,

.. Earlier this week I saw a storm

door standing vertical-upright leaning against two wooden horses,

ready for planning and shellac, the three small glass windows reminding

me of the one I carted in from the back parking lot of the apartment

building off of Porter Square in Cambridge

Storm doors or not, the entrances into these magnificent palace rooms invite all in to view the poet’s timeless creations.

I’ve seen most of Robert Gibbons’ other books. They are studied and delightful. However this book goes well beyond his other accomplishments. It is his master work, his mature opus not to be missed.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ibbetson Street Press/Endicott College: An Affiliation. A Literary Community.

Ibbetson Street Press/Endicott College: An Affiliation. A Literary Community.

By Doug Holder

I have always been a proponent of a literary community to nurture young writers. Many a graduate of MFA programs have told me that the most important part of their experience was the community they were involved in for a couple of years. The chance to be with folks of their ilk and sensibility in a creative environment was at the top of their list. So I had this in mind when the affiliation between Endicott College and the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass. was formed in Sept. 2010. The mission of the affiliation as we see it is to connect students with the greater Boston area literary scene, involve them in writing book reviews, interviews, and poetry, as well as literary activism--to make them solid literary citizens.

Since the affiliation has started at Endicott we have begun a Visiting Author Series that has connected students with prominent literary figures in the community. Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish, Vivian Shipley ( Editor of the Connecticut Review),Gary Metras ( Founder of the Adastra Press), Mark Pawlak ( Hanging Loose Press), Luke Salisbury, (The Answer is Baseball) poets Miriam Levine, Bert Stern,(Steerage) and Tom Daley have appeared. Upcoming features include: De Witt Henry (Founder of Ploughshares Magazine) and performance artist Michael Mack. We have also had writers in the classroom like Timothy Gager, Gloria Mindock, Jennifer Jean, Zvi A. Sesling, Steve Glines, Li Min Mo, January O'Neil and Paul Steven Stone. Students have and will be given the opportunity to network with these people and in some cases interview them (The Endicott Observer has on a number of occasions) as well as explore internship opportunities.

Students have also been involved with the Ibbetson Street magazine as well. Katie Clarke, an English major, interviewed Pulitzer Prize winning poet Maxine Kumin for one issue, and we plan to have another student interview acclaimed poet Marge Piercy for the June 2012 issue.

An offshoot of the Ibbetson Street Press is a well-known literary blog the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene. Here poetry, fiction and prose works from the large world of the small press are reviewed. English majors have reviewed books by such authors as Tom Perrotta, Lois Ames ( Who wrote the Notes to Plath's Bell Jar), and other poets and writers. These reviews are read by a significant swath of the literary community.

It is important for students to see their work in print. I am a columnist and Arts Editor for The Somerville News, as well as the Book Review Editor for the Wilderness House Literary Review. In that capacity I have published high quality poetry, prose, and reviews from Endicott students. I have worked with students to make sure their pieces are ready to be published. I have also published poetry by faculty as well, which includes a number of accomplished poets such as Dan Sklar, Margaret Young, Deborah Finkelstein, and Abigail Bottome to name a few. It is good for students to be aware there are a number practitioners of the art in their midst.

Ibbetson Street has long realized the importance of libraries for the "center to hold" in a literary community. For that reason I have worked with the Halle library, its director Brian Courtemanche, as well as the Dean of Humanities Mark Herlihy,and Professor Dan Sklar ( Both of whom are instrumental in all aspects of the affiliation) to create a small press collection in the tradition of the University of Buffalo, Brown University, and the University of Wisconsin/Madison. We have received a large number of books from regional, national, and even international authors that are being entered into the catalog as we speak.

Another component that the affiliation offers are internship opportunities. Students have been introduced to people affiliated with the famed Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square, Hanging Loose Press ( U/Mass Boston), Mass. Poetry Festival, MassLeap, and other organizations and prominent writers in the vicinity.

Our hope through all of this is to create a vibrant literary community for students. We want a place where students will grow as writers, as well as explore tangible opportunities as working writers that they will use long after they leave the campus.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gloria Mindock: A Somerville Poet with an Eastern European Sensibility‏

Gloria Mindock: A Somerville Poet with an Eastern European Sensibility‏

Interview with Doug Holder

Gloria Mindock has lived, written, and created in Somerville, Mass for many years. Not only does she have the respect of the local and national poetry community but she has quite a following abroad. She edits the Istanbul Literary Review from her home in the Union Square section of our city, as well as running her Cervena Barva Press , an independent press that has published numerous titles from poets domestic and foreign. Mindock's own work has resonated with the poetry community in Eastern Europe, and she has been published in a number of literary journal there, most notably in Rumania. Mindock is a substance abuse social worker, had her own theater company, and for a decade co- edited the Boston Literary Review. I spoke to her on my Somerville Community Access TV Show Poet to Poet : Writer to Writer.

Doug Holder: How and when did the Cervena Barva Press start?

Gloria Mindock: I started the Cervena Barva Press in 2005. I have an interest in Eastern European writing thus the name Cervena Barva, which in Czech means "red."

We have published over 60 chapbooks and 31 full lengths. Our new focus will be on translations but we still will be involved with traditional publishing.

DH: Your work is very popular in Eastern Europe, and has appeared in prominent Romanian journals. What's your ethnic background?

GM: I'm French, Italian, Polish and German. A real mutt. I think Eastern European folks are attracted to my poems for their emotion, and the risks they take. I write about death, a lot of dark imagery. I deal with atrocities--Eastern Europe has had their share of them.

DH: Tell me about this Eastern European Writing Conference you are planning.

GM: It is a very exciting project. It's going to be a weekend long conference next year. I know a lot of writers in this part of the world so I know I can swing it. I will bring some over from Europe, and invite area writers like Andrey Gritsman as well. I am also interested in inviting Jim Kates of the Zephyr Press based in New Hampshire-they do a wonderful job with translations.

DH: Tell us about your latest collection The Whiteness of Bone.

GM: It is about the atrocities in El Salvador years back and it is about El Salvador today. It also deals with atrocities around the world.

DH: The writer's life has been a labor of love for many of us. You pursued it-and probably sacrificed financial stability etc... Has it been worth it?

GM: Yes. Definitely. My partner Bill sacrificed a lot-we certainly don't live a fancy lifestyle. I work as a social worker here in Somerville. I am glad I do what I do-my artistic pursuits. I can't imagine doing anything else. Sure--I wish I made more money--who doesn't? It would be easier. It is very expensive to live around here. But I couldn't leave. I have made many friends over the years and through the Bagel Bards- a Somerville, Mass. based literary group.

DH: Tell us about the reading series you started at the Arts Armory here in Somerville.

GM: I started the First and Last Word Poetry Series with Harris Gardner. It meets once-a-month--every third Tuesday. Three poets read and there is an open mic. We have had great audiences and have hosted poets like Ben Mazer, Lloyd Schwartz, Richard Cambridge, X. J. Kennedy and many others. The cafe is great--and they recently got a beer and wine license--so come on down!

Oscar Romero, poem by Gloria Mindock

Sin has formed on their mouths, and they
assault us.
We are silenced into a void.
Souls singled out for torture.

Oscar Romero created a Heaven.
Carried us in his arms of prayer.
In church, we drink Christ to free ourselves.
Decapitation was not a devotion to believe in.
The soldiers will burn in a red sky.

When Oscar gave his life to the Lord,
he made a bed of blood and bones, turned it
into a path of purity so white that only the people
of El Salvador can use it. Sometimes we flee
on horseback to get away from the visible.

Those soldiers are the ones in battle with themselves.
Like Lions, they roar, sooner or later,
they will be tamed.
This persecution will turn back on them.
We learned to deliver our ashes. We rise
up and bury ourselves in this white
church with a bullet to our bone.
Scorched from the hot sun, our sandals
fall apart. We carry ourselves like a surge, proud
and capable of waiting for our execution.

Oscar was married to the church.
Life was only his bride for awhile.
He is our altar we pray at diligently.
We pray our dreams are received as they
assassinate us kneeling in prayer.
Better to die this way than clinging
to the wrong light. The soldiers are like wild animals.
A bite that shows such commotion that we laugh.

***** From Arabesque-editions.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fast and Soon: Poems, Drawings, and Stories By Bryan Bingham , Danielle Laura Blumstein, Emily Blumstein, Richard P. Keeshan , J. “Max,” Ruschak

Fast and Soon: Poems, Drawings, and Stories

By Bryan Bingham

Danielle Laura Blumstein

Emily Blumstein

Richard P. Keeshan

J. “Max” Ruschak

packhyderm press


Review by Dennis Daly

A disembodied arm and hand, seemingly attached to an oddly perched hat, reached across a table at the Au Bon Pain in Somerville Mass and handed me a thin red chapbook by five authors and artists entitled Fast and Soon: Poems, Drawings, and Stories. I must have looked dubious because the hand momentarily withdrew the booklet—a tease?—before proffering it again.

I grabbed it, caressed it, and read through it carefully. Many years ago I was included in a chapbook published by a local university with two other poets. We each contributed ten poems. The other two poets were much better than I. My pieces were especially raw and in some cases immature. Five out of the ten I now dislike. That experience colors my readings of younger writer and poet groups for good or ill. That said, sifting out the coarse sand, you can occasionally find a gold nugget or two.

So coming across Danielle Laura Blumstein’s well-wrought poem, Crossing Lake Pontchartrain, delighted me more than a little. The poem is a sharp metaphor. A bridge connects the outside world to the poet’s internal life. The internal life is threatened by devastation. A hurricane perhaps.

In the center, you could believe

the world was no longer standing

and the bridge was taking you

into the truth of your life,

or the devastation of your home and family.

In this same poem there are two elegant and interesting images. The first one describes the bridge,

The bridge is slung on the lake

spun and stretched like a thread of molten sugar.

Then the poem nicely reverses the image,

The lake is slung on the bridge

spun and stretched like a thread of molten glass.

A few pages further on the reader will find a short story by Richard P Keeshan, called Champagne. The characterization here could be from an O. Henry collection; it is that good. It pairs up dental work and life into an unusual dance. In the early going there is this scene:

…”You, my friend, have not been taking care of your teeth.”

He liked the way she said the word friend. He imagined them as neighbors, borrowing salt and pepper and detergents from one another. Sharing recipes and wishing each other a good morning as they passed on their way to their respective jobs. Friends. Just like she said. She reprimanded him on proper dental care and how bad teeth can lead to heart attacks and bad breath and practically the whole world coming undone.

The writer goes on to portray lost love and life’s apathy. It has a harsh undercurrent, but at the end I got up and walked away thinking about people and smiling.