Friday, December 28, 2012



By Barbara Bialick

CONJUNCTIONS: 59, COLLOQUY, literary journal, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Editorial communications to Bradford Morrow, Editor, Conjunctions, 21 East 10th Street, 3E, New York 10003 (include SASE, no electronic submissions.), “Bi-annual volumes of New Writing”,, $18 for subscription, single copy $15.

Conjunctions 59 is a literate and professionally written magazine with an emphasis on fiction, essays, or other prose, with some long poems included. It is also devoted to new and emerging authors and has a substantial poetry prize. The Bard Fiction Prize 2013 went to emerging writer Brian Conn, who gets $30,000 and a one-semester seat as writer-in-residence at Bard College.

The hefty 350-page journal plus 15 advertising pages, has beautiful cover art designed by Jerry Kelly. It is detail from “Jesus in the Olive Grove” by Master Vyss Brod, c. 1350, Narodni Galerie, Prague, Czech Republic.

From the point of view of a poet, this doesn’t seem to be a very available market, though I believe the prose work is also very competitive. Here’s a snippet of poetry from “The Immediacy of Heat” by Arthur Sze:

“’No Trespassing’ is nailed to a cottonwood trunk,/but the sign vanishes within days. You’ve seen/a pile of sheep bones dumped off this dirt road/to the river…”.

In a separate section with its own table of contents called The Alphabet and Its Pretences,
it says “The discovery of some intriguing stories by a couple of younger writers led us to the notion of this small portfolio of writings—stories, poems, essays—more or less on the theme. In this era of the dying book—of reading, writing, words, form, language, libraries, the mouths of angels.”

Another fascinating section is called “Theses on Monsters”.  In prose/poetry, China Mieville writes, “Ghosts are not monsters…Our sympathy for the monster is notorious. We weep for King Kong and the Creatures from the Black Lagoon, no matter what they’ve done. We root for Lucifer and ache for Grendel…/The saw that we have seen the real monsters and they are us is neither revelation, nor clever, nor interesting, nor true. It is a betrayal of the monstrous, and of humanity…”

One thing a writer wouldn’t weep for would be getting into print in Conjunctions…

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ilana Krepchin: A Jeweler who incorporates photography and sculpture into her craft.

Ilana Krepchin: A Jeweler who incorporates photography and sculpture into her craft.

By Doug Holder

  I met Ilana Krepchin on a wind-swept morning in late fall at my usual seat at the Bloc 11 Café in the Union Square section of Somerville. Krepchin resides near the café but is originally from Newton, Mass. She has lived in Somerville for 15 years, and loves the art shows, the coffee shops, the Open Studio events, and the general cultural milieu Somerville has to offer.

  Krepchin used to work with a jeweler in a shop in Union Square as a studio manager. She learned a lot about her craft, trade and art while employed there.

  Krepchin told me: “I really wanted to be a sculptor. I view the jewelry I make as small scale sculpture. “On her website Krepchin writes: “All of the jewelry is handmade. My creations combine a sense of fun and purpose with essential interests in my past. As a kid I wanted to be an architect—when I grew up—I now make miniature buildings.” And indeed  Krepchin uses miniature buildings in her jewelry and the crafted jewelry boxes she makes.

  And like many artists I have interviewed she uses diverse elements in her a work. A photographer for many years, she has accumulated piles of photographs that she squirreled away. She chops them up and transfers them to silver and etches their likeness in her work.

 Krepchin, who is a stay at home mom, has a studio in Cambridge where she works. She said her prices are reasonable, ranging from $10 to $400.

  Krepchin is a graduate of Hampshire College. She graduated with a degree in Anthropology. But she was always interested in artistic pursuits, and took classes along the way to perfect her craft. We are fortunate to see the fruit of her labors, here in The Paris of New England.

Mayakovsky’s Revolver by Matthew Dickman


Mayakovsky’s Revolver
by Matthew Dickman
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
New York NY
Copyright © 2012 by Matthew Dickman
93 pages, hardbound, $18

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

If you are going to make it in poetry, the Matthew Dickman highway to success is a good road to take.  According to a Wikipedia article Dickman will be thirty-eight this coming August. He received a B.A. from the University of Oregon in 2001 and has been the recipient of fellowships from The Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin, The Vermont Studio Center, and The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He is the author of two chapbooks, Amigos and Something about a Black Scarf, and two full-length poetry collections. His first book, All-American Poem, was winner of the 2008 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry, published by American Poetry Review and distributed by Copper Canyon Press. He was also the winner of the 2009 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for that book, and the inaugural May Sarton Award from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Mayakovsky’s Revolver is his  second full length volume and it is easy to see why he has won the awards. From catch opening lines like “ no dog chained to a spike in a yard of dying/grass like the dogs/I grew up with…” And “Because I miss you I have made a pile of clothes/along the bed, your exact height and weight.”  Or “There’s no telling what the night will bring/but the moon./That’s a no brainer.”  Try this one:  “The only precious thing I own, this little espresso/cup. Finally,  “I’m thinking about the ancient Egyptians/and how when someone died/they would separate the body forever in four jars…”

And those are only the beginnings! Lest you think this book is one of humor, be cautioned. Dickman’s poems are about loss and grief, remembrance and sadness. Even the book’s title recalls the Russian poet who committed suicide like so many other poets have done.
The title poem tells a lot about Dickman’s poetic powers, his thoughts and ability to translate them to paper:

I keep thinking about the way
blackberries will make the mouth
of an eight-year-old look like he’s a ghost
that’s been shot in the face. In the dark I can see
my older brother walking through the tall brush
of his brain. I can see him standing
in the lobby of the hotel,
alone, crying along with the ice machine.
Instead of the moon
I’ve been falling for the lunar light pouring out of a plastic shell
I’ve plugged into the bathroom wall. Online
someone is claiming to own Mayakovsky’s revolver
which they will sell for only fifty thousand dollars. Why didn’t I
think of that?  Remove the socks from my dead brother’s feet
and trade them in for a small bit
of change, a ticket to a movie, something
with a receipt, proof I was busy living,
that I didn’t stay in all night weeping,
that I didn’t stay up
drawing a gun over and over
with a black marker, that I didn’t cut
out of the best one, or stand
in front of the mirror, pulling the paper trigger until it tore away

These poems heavy in the heart. Ropes hung from light bulbs ready to burst. Emotions boiled like potatoes, but not mashed, Instead they remain hard, the skins cleaned, the interiors there for us to explore if we wish to enter.

His poems beg us to enter. Demands we look deeper. Is My Brother’s Grave about Dickman or his brother. Is it about grief or remembrance. The past, present or future.
Perhaps it is about all of this:

Like a city I’ve always hated, driving through but never stopping,
my foot on the gas, running all the lights,
wishing I were home. Hating even the children who live there
as if they had a choice. I imagine him
in his ten-million particles
of ash, tied up into a beautiful white bundle of lace, a silver bow
looped where his neck should be,
thrown into a washing machine, set on a delicate cycle
to spin forever under the dirt. The all of him
left, the vegetation of him, the no more thing
of him: his skateboard and mountain bike and beers and cigarettes
            and daughter
and mixtapes and loneliness, his legs and feet and arms and brain
            and kneecaps
Out the graveyard
there is still some part of him
buried in the mysticism of his DNA, smeared across a doorknob
or brushed along the jagged edge of his car keys. Two kids
from the high school nearby
will fuck each other on top of him
and I won’t know how to stop them. Someone
will throw an empty bottle of vodka over their shoulder
and he will have to catch it.

It is a book to be read with objectivity and subjectivity. With sensitivity and never
with an ice box of a heart.   It is a book which will be a permanent part of a collection.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and  Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Prayer For Everyone Poems by Tomas O'Leary

A Prayer For Everyone
Poems by Tomas O’Leary
Ilora Press
Circumstantial Productions
Washington, D.C.
92 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Poet Tomas O'Leary

Confiteor Deo omnipotenti… et vobis fratres. Yes, I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned exceedingly well in thought, word, and deed by reading and enjoying way too much blessed Tomas O’Leary’s sacramental poetry text, A Prayer for Everyone.  And, indeed, in this collection of prayers, sermons, homilies, psalms, parables, confessions, and meditations on the curiosities of religious rites, O’Leary demonically and wittily serves up something for every appetite with sometimes skewed, sometimes laugh-out -loud humor. That is not to say that the poet does not have a serious bent. He does. He confronts “heaven’s vacant lot” and life’s “cannibal convention” with due Kierkegaardian dread. The difference is that he responds with exhilarating wonder and glee—a holy glee.  

The title poem, A Prayer For Everyone, appears as the first poem in the book and establishes the poet’s comic view of life and his all- encompassing philosophy. The poem takes the biblical form of the beatitudes from Christ’s all important Sermon on the Mount and with a twinkling eye expands on them. O’Leary’s version begins this way,

Blessed are the absent, for they are not here;
Blessed are the near at hand, for they would
               seem to be;
Blessed are the saved and the damned, for both
               are born to blessing;
Blessed are the best and the worst, the wisest,
               the most foolish…

This way of looking at the world is comic not in a satirical sense, but rather in a Shakespearean sense. O’Leary unflinchingly accepts the world as it as and prays only for the blessings of inertia. In fact he ends this first poem that way,

And blessed, ever blessed, thrice blest, the unbegun
               And neverending;
And blessed, ever blessed, the blest and the unblest:
May all find rest.

Like a bookend, the last poem in the collection reinforces this world view with the addition of an observant, if detached God. The poet says,

Let it end
as it begins
a pale green flash

in that no-ness
of an eye
calmly watching

with potential
wit and wonder
over all nothing.

The poem O’Reilly’s Rites gut hurts with its hilarity. Readers follow the progress of O’Reilly’s internment by his pub mates and their meditations on the “awful ass” and “slobbering plague” that O’Reilly was. After they plant him O’Reilly’s colleagues engage in a memorable toast to his life’s accomplishments. The poet describes this rite of passage thus,

… as we put him down
with decent cause, him dead and all, and we pause
here ever so briefly in our sorrows
to raise strong spirits to his snuffled flame
and send him winging—egregious, lugubrious, ill-famed—
past the hell he well merits…

The poem ends with an inside joke that I won’t spoil for future readers. I must say however that I’m startled that this poem has not been included in a major anthology of English literature. It certainly merits such an inclusion.

Black humor and irony rear their heads in the poem The Prodigal’s Party. O’Leary takes Christ’s famous parable and poetically takes us though the father’s emotions of love and anger. Nothing is as simple as it seems the poet points out in the versed out subtext. The father intimates,

Let us further assume

that I love you
without condition.
Must be nice coming back

to such a dad
after debauchery failed
finally to deliver…

But O’Leary’s not through with this forgiven ingrate. He concludes,

You’ve been a rotten son.
I love you.
Welcome home.

Balancing the spirit world with the material world can be a tricky undertaking. O’Leary rises to the challenge with the poem The Patient Diners. The poet sets the ritual table with a metaphorical meal of bread and wine. Not original, of course, but quite powerful. He uses this imagery to get at the sacredness of life’s every moment. Then he takes a step back and real practicalities take over. He puts it this way.

But hey, we’ve now romanced the fading thread
of time itself, and pray our spirit  
will turn to matter and be smartly set before us—
not that we’re in a hurry to be fed,
just that we’d sooner eat it while we’re not dead.

The absurdness of life, of which his God is part and parcel, has already been digested by this poet and has become part of his sinew. The poem So How Am I Today seems to reflect the poet’s unease, his loss of center. As in Yeats’ Second Coming the center cannot hold. O’Leary puts it this way,

that thin, mean edge, that hint of ill-repose,
the bother of a psyche spinning fast
in its erratic orbit around lost
evidence of a solar burst somewhere …

Did I mention that O’Leary rhymes with the best of them when he chooses that poetic technique (think X.J. Kennedy). He taunts and teases and sets baited traps for his unsuspecting readers. Listen to this ending sequence from the poem Gnosis,

… as words ascended into rhyme;
himself, psychiatrist in earnest, blinked
a wise and vapid catch of phrase each time,
as if to say: : I’m a sphinx with which your linked,
by virtue of my timely diagnosis;
not that you’re nuts—just that I know my gnosis,
and know it never must preclude psychosis.”

Now consider the first stanza (a veritable Ars Poetica) of the poem Rhymer’s Horoscope,

The point of rhyme
is to catch time
by its streaming hair
and hold it there
the split second
till time is beckoned
back to onward motion
upon the sound’s ocean…

Wonderful imagery like this from a playful but reverent intelligence can’t miss. And it doesn’t! Imprimatur!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jenny Hudson: A literary midwife who helps birth your book and guides it out to the marketplace.

  Interview with Doug Holder 

 Jenny Hudson is a literary midwife—she will help birth your book. Delivery can be painful but Hudson is there like a kind, doting and wise partner. She will even help you name your baby…I mean book.

Jenny Hudson--CEO of Merrimack Media


Jenny Hudson has worked as a graphic designer, art teacher, and has designed and produced a line of outerwear for the boutique market. She became smitten with the Internet while designing a site for the clothing business and went on to study web design.  She has produced websites and graphics through her own business since 2002. 

Now she now publishes print-on-demand books and helps authors market them through her business, Merrimack Media ( 

Jenny has published three of her own novels along the way and written many short stories and poems. She was the producer and host of the cable show about live jazz, Live From Chianti, and is an exhibiting digital artist.

I had the pleasure to speak to her on my Somerville Community Access TV showPoet to Poet: Writer to Writer.


Doug Holder: There are many services out there that publish books. What makes Merrimack Media different? Why wouldn’t I go to them instead of you? Don’t the bigger ones like Lulu and their ilk have more resources available to them?

Jenny Hudson:  Not really. Yes they are bigger. They have more volume. But we have a production entity where books are produced and designed. I don’t think the big guys really promote their books like we do. The author does not get the personal attention. Of course I am local, and I meet with people who are local, but I am not limited to locals because of Skype.
I have a number of writers and artists on staff. I have been a graphic designer for years. I have also been an art teacher. I worked for a number of universities. I was at the University of Wisconsin as a web designer and graphic artist. I moved back to Boston 2 years ago.

DH:  Your business is sort of like a mom and pop literary storefront.

JH: I think our business is like a mom and pop store. I answer phone calls, and I actually speak to my authors. (Laugh) I often meet with them and help them.

DH: You are also about creating community—offering events, classes, readings. You are sort of like GRUB STREET in Boston?

JH: Well… GRUB ST. gets you ready for publishing. I  publish the book and beyond. I have a Meet Up group called The Write Publishing Network. There is over 100 people in the network. There are different events offered. Connected with this we have The Writer’s Table that is a monthly critique group. Authors come to have their work critiqued. Jennifer Kroll, who wrote for the Boston Herald is involved. It is free right now. There are a lot of young writers who really appreciate the help.
We also have something called Merrimack Writers, a program that includes events that you can attend for a minimal charge. Right now we have a series of wine readings on Sunday afternoons.

DH: Tell me the process a prospective author goes through to have his manuscript start the process.

JH: Well the author should go to: http://www. —we have a very robust website. We will want to know what your book is about, what services you will need. For instance sometimes an author will need an editor. We have a total of three editors. After the book is completed we schedule readings. We have had readings at Porter Square Books in Cambridge  for instance. We have had a Mass. Art professor read, a local private eye, quite an eclectic group. We also host something called the Beer and Book Series in East Cambridge.

DH: Are your books Print On Demand?

JH:  All our books are POD. They have good production values. Authors get royalty for each book ordered.

DH: Are you selective in regards to manuscripts?

JH: I have looked at manuscripts that are not ready. I tell the author that he or she needs to work with an editor.

DH: Can you talk about some of your authors?

JH:  I have one author Steve Pinkham who wrote Old Tales of the Maine Woods. He grew up in Maine and is in love with the outdoors. This book has many stories that celebrate Maine, its wilderness and mountains. Hal Marshall, a Boston native, penned a book about a runaway slave. He wrote this book when he was sick with cancer. What a triumph to come out with this book! These are just a couple of the many authors we have helped since our inception.