Wednesday, March 07, 2012

WHITE PAPERS by Martha Collins

Martha Collins
University of Pittsburgh Press
ISBN 13: 978-0-8229-6184-0
2012 $15.95

Martha Collin's poetry mixes metaphor with concrete
images. Sometimes the breakdown and repetitiveness
of phrases and words, helps the reader to ascertain
their own reality, identity, their own rag tag submission
to our own skin, thin enough to see through:

“black keys letters learn
to play read write dress
shoes purse suit grown
up clothes hat tie night
out morning coffee not
yet sin will find you out
dirt sheep eye and blue
mark so it seemed wrong
that in the meant good
book word confused with
Middle English blac pale
(see bleach) oh no never”

When the reader reads the poems aloud, one can hear
the word clicking rhythm that could be, if we
continue to recite with an accent on what is being written,
an accent that is familiar and then clicks into another
pentameter, like jazz bends a note:

“...a dark sky the coming
in of the kept out
in the wind waves
of whites only within

city limits after dark
whites only under
the stones no skin

And there is history, and color clarification, and experi-
mental writing. And there is the History in the text books
or not, ethics or not, this is a principled reality and not
the History taught. Collin's music is in the revolutionary
in the same way hip hop and rap lyric the 'revolution.'
Each verse, each awareness addresses the reader. The
song so long ignored by some, we are naked in front
of this verse:::

“could get a credit card loan car

come and go without a never had

to think about a school work job

to open doors to buy a rent a nice

place yard park beside a walk

in any store without a never had

to dress to buy a dress shoes under-

wear to understate or -play myself

to make myself heard to get across...”

 Collins plunges into herself, her image and all the foibles
we all believe, but are afraid to reveal and research, and with
book in hand, fingers ink stained, “playing in the dark.” we
are participants:

“although my father although
my mother although we rarely
although we whispered

although the silence although
the absence although even now
some TV books not to mention

radio websites new militias hate
groups raging against our socialist-
communist-fascist although but still...”

This book brings me to the great poet Susan Howe and her intense
study of her subjects in the same way Martha Collins has studied
her subject, even on the personal level. I also think of Cornell West,
his book, “Race Matters” in the same way Collins denotes colors.
Color matters in this book of white papers with black ink. I counted
color words because color matters and because I enjoy what color
represents and their many representations. There are variations on
color so my count is approximate. These are the colors in this book:

white 101, black 43, green 3, pink 5, browns 13, red 8, blue 1, gold 3,
yellow 7, gray 1:

“...and although I've gone back
and filled in some blanks
I'm still learning this un-

learning untying
the knot of Yes but re-
writing this  Yes  Yes”

The poems are masterfully rendered, using space and time
in newer forms and classical form. This is another must read,
another thoughtful book by Martha Collins

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor: Wilderness House Literary Review
Reviewer: Ibettson Street Press

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

January O’Neil and Jennifer Jean: Friends, Poets, and The Massachusetts Poetry Festival

January O’Neil and Jennifer Jean: Friends, Poets, and The Massachusetts Poetry Festival

By Doug Holder

I have known these two dynamic poets for a number of years now and have seen them branch out into the poetry community—starting their own series, releasing new books, winning awards—and now these talented women are instrumental players for the Mass. Poetry Festival to be held April 20 to 22 in Salem, Mass. Jennifer Jean has been on the English faculty at Salem State University for awhile now and O’Neil left a plum post at Babson College to join the faculty as an Assistant Professor of English at Salem, in addition to being appointed the Executive Director of the Festival. Jennifer Jean has recently released her third collection of the “Archivist,” and O’Neil will be releasing a new collection of poetry “Misery Island” (Kavan Kerry Press) in the coming months. I talked with them on Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer on Somerville Community Access TV.

Doug Holder: So what’s happening this year at the Mass. Poetry Festival?

January O’Neil: The question is what’s not happening. We are going to three days instead of two—Friday, Saturday, Sunday-- April 20 to 22. Salem is a great city and they are experienced hosts—they have been a tourist attraction for many years, and can handle this event easily. We will also have events Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights—as well as the day—of course. We will probably do a kickoff event at Salem State University, and the Peabody Essex Museum is even getting more involved this year. We will have quite a few events and exhibits happening there and we are glad they are letting us use their space. They have a really wonderful Native American art exhibit and we have a Native American poet feature: Joy Harjo I expect we will have 1500 people attend the festival over the three days.

Some of the featured poets we will have include Major Jackson, and Robert Pinsky—former U.S. Poet Laureate. We are going to have 20 events, including a “Favorite Poem Project.” This will be tailored to poetry lovers to celebrate their favorite poem. Also: as part of the tie in the National Poetry Month we are creating a collection of poems that will be distributed to book clubs and libraries that we call “Common Threads.” It will be an anthology of nine poems: by poets who are alive and poets who have passed. Included will be very the very much alive: Sam Cornish, David Ferry, and Frank Bidart--to name a few.

Jennifer Jean: We are going to have a lot of music and poetry mixtures going throughout the day. We will have panels on "songology." We are going to have Slam poets as well and a lot of poetry paired with music.

Doug Holder: Can you talk about the Small Press Book Fair?

January O'Neil: I think at this point we have 35 to 40 presses participating. It is a terrific way for local presses to get the word out to an audience. The Loom Press, Ibbetson Street, Salamander Magazine, Tuesday: An Art Project, and Zephyr Press are just a few of the presses that are participating.

Doug Holder: Jan, you are now an Asst. Professor of English at Salem State University. It is one thing to write poetry--it is another thing to teach it--right?

January O'Neil: You are absolutely right. It is a learning process. I have a lot of friends at Salem State. Jennifer included. I find that students are eager to learn. Like all writers students they have trouble starting a poem and trouble ending one. I teach Creative Writing which is really in my comfort zone. I am learning to get them to talk about poetry, and helping them get inspired. I am also teaching them to give constructive feedback.

Doug Holder: Both of you seem to be all about community--and this of course is strongly expressed in the Mass. Poetry Festival.

Jennifer Jean: I love what other organizations and the Mass. Poetry Festival are doing in helping create community. I feel connected to this greater thing...we share our poetry--our hearts.

January O'Neil: Yes. We go into the schools and talk to students who need help. We help them with their literary skills, and at the same time we broaden our connection to the literary community.

Doug Holder: I have seen both of you grow as poets over the years. I am impressed with your friendship and how you compliment each other.

Jennifer Jean: Jan is very helpful with all kinds of community organizing--nurturing. She has a natural ability, and a good and gracious heart.

January O'Neil: Jean is a talented poet. She is a good friend to have when you get your seventh rejection in one week. A high tide rises all boats. We are there for each other.

Doug Holder: Jan, you have a new poetry collection coming out " Misery Island." Can you talk about it.

January O'Neil. The title is named after an island in Salem Harbor. The poems deal with my divorce--two people clashing, and other themes.

*** For more information about the Mass. Poetry Festival go to


Contact: Meaghan Ford, Press Coordinator

Tel. 908-472-2236




Youth Poetry Takes Center Stage

BOSTON, Mass January 5, 2012--This spring, Mass LEAP celebrates the very first Louder Than A Bomb festival in

Massachusetts. Louder Than A Bomb was started in Chicago in 2001 by poets Anna West and Kevin Coval. It’s since

grown to be the largest teen poetry festival in the world, and even inspired a full-length feature film

( Teaming with Mass Poetry, Mass LEAP will be hosting the event on the MIT

campus in Kresge Hall and will also be hosting the “Student Day of Poetry” in which all youth, competing in the

LTAB festival or otherwise, are welcome. There will be workshops, preliminary bouts, special events, and an

amazing time had by all.

“Aiming to bring teens together across racial, gang, and socio-economic lines, LTAB is a friendly competition that

emphasizes self-expression and community via poetry, oral story-telling, and hip-hop spoken word.” In this inaugural year

Mass LEAP hopes to garner enough enthusiasm for the festival to be able to continue it yearly with as much success at

Chicago and other cities. Any Massachusetts high school, club, organization, teacher, or individual can register a team to

compete at LTAB: Massachusetts.

Preliminary bouts between the registered teams will take place March 30th to April 1st with finals being held on April 13th

at a venue to be announced shortly.

For more information please visit

LTAB: Massachusetts: A Mass LEAP and Mass Poetry Event


thaN BOMBmassachusetts---------------*a

About Louder Than a Bomb

“For three minutes at a time the students speak about their lives. For the other eighty-seven minutes, they are listening to

the lives and stories and dreams of others. Kids that don’t look like them and come from a different neighborhood. In listening, the city shrinks.” - K. Coval, LTAB co-founder

Founded in 2001 the largest youth poetry slam in a world strives to bring together teens, ages 13-19, for a friendly

competition. The goal is to bring together the youth poetry communities and organizations across the area. Begun in Chicago by poets Anna West and Kevin Coval, Louder Than a Bomb has spread across the nation inspiring teens in poetry communities to become leaders. Now, it’s Massachusetts’ turn. Hosting their very first Louder than a Bomb festival, the established and

budding youth communities will get to come together and compete. Louder Than a Bomb sprung out of Poetry Slam, the “competitive art of performance poetry” also birthed in Chicago by Matt Smith. A new form of poetry and oral tradition, slam poetry fuses together poetics, stand-up comedy, lyricism, and storytelling to bring the artists words to a new audience.

About Mass LEAP

Mass LEAP is a network of artists, educators, and students working together to create a vibrant youth poetry community

in Greater Boston. We work together to connect teaching artists with schools and other organizations in order to create

opportunities for the youth of the Commonwealth to experience, create, and performance poetry. Our goals are to empower the voices of young people, foster creativity, promote literacy, and build community.

We offer:

+ Writing workshops

+ Open mics

+ Poetry slams

+ Adult development training for educators who want to incorporate spoken word into their curricula

About Mass Poetry is a new program to connect poets and poetry with larger audiences. The project grew out of roundtables with poets in every part of the state to explore that condition of poetry in Massachusetts. Those roundtables were a

collaborative effort between, the Mass Cultural Council and MassHumanities.

The purpose of is to create resources to aid and support the Massachusetts poetry community, to reconnect poetry to more mainstream culture, to create new audiences for poetry and to organize the poetry community throughout

the state.


LTAB: Massachusetts: A Mass LEAP and Mass Poetry Event

LTAB: Massachusetts: A Mass LEAP and Mass Poetry Event

MassPoetry and Mass L.E.A.P. are partnering to create the first ever state-wide youth poetry slam festival and tournament, modeled after the wildly popular Young Chicago Authors Program. Over 20 teams from across the Commonwealth will

connect, compete and share their work over the weekend of March 30th to April 1st, 2012. All three day’s events are taking place at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge.

LTAB Venues & Dates

Friday, March 30th: Student Day of Poetry & Crossing The Street

@ MIT’s Kresge Hall & campus (8-3pm)

Saturday, March 31st: LTAB Preliminaries

@ MIT Student Center (9-6pm)

Sunday, April 1st: LTAB Semi-Finals

@ MIT Kresge Little Theater (10-5pm)

Friday, April 13th: LTAB FINALS

@ Venue

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Resisting II: Selected Vignettes The Resisting III: Selected Poetry By Meg Founds

The Resisting II: Selected Vignettes
The Resisting III: Selected Poetry
By Meg Founds
Illustrations by Michael Shores
Hawkpond Press
Printed by Red Sun Press
Boston MA
No price

Review by Dennis Daly

Both of these chapbooks ooze production value. The poems and vignettes were all set up as poems and seem interchangeable, so I read them and treat them for the purposes of this review as all poems. The illustrations alone are worth the price of each chapbook (whatever those prices are). The illustrations are illogical and dream-like, more surreal than romantic, more dada than fantasy. That said, many of the poems connect wonderfully with their allotted illustration. In the poem The Migraine the poet details a delightful side effect of her migraine, one that overshadows the debilitating headache. Not easy to do. This side effect is called synesthesia, or transferred sensation. Here are the key lines,

Simultaneous perception
I saw little white butterflies or moths flutter
From the tip of our Christmas tree
And at the very same time I smelled cinnamon
Wafting into the room from the kitchen
Where there was no one baking.

The picture on the opposite page strikes all the right chords as you read the poem including minimizing the suffering from the migraine.
The poem Gone Fishin’ At Old St. Paul’s juxtaposes a bucolic day of lake fishing with grave stones and cemetery mourners.  The mourners are laying flowers down for their loved ones and at the same time showing curiosity about the day's catch. Resolution comes from an unexpected source,

Organ music wafted from the church
Someone had forgotten to lock the instrument
But the music sounded appropriate and proper
A medley, a backdrop for mourners
And fishermen alike.

Paired with this poem is the picture of a romanticized angel playing a mandolin at the intersection of a coast scene and a country scene with geometric lines to stress the imposition of the figure on another context and its artificiality.  It works!
A poem entitled Chicken Heaven, on the face of it, is a funny recitation of parental love and the security children usually find in repetition. The child would be asked where her pet chicken was each time she was driven past the hen house. “There’s Henrietta,” she would say. This poem gives more credit to the child than is normally given. The poem concludes this way,

Then one day as we were returning
From Ann Arbor
The Chicken was gone
We asked Molly, “Where’s Henrietta?”
And Molly answered, “Gone to Chicken Heaven!”

The oddball picture on the opposite page shows the ladder to a chicken coop going up through clouds. Angel wings also proliferate. Two parental birds stand at attention nearby.  I left these pages feeling uneasy.
The Giant, a poem which depicts a dead giant ray of some sort that has been washed in with the tide, opens for inspection its real subject: the minds of the onlookers. Imaginations are mirrored on the opposite page by a fantastical monster with bird eyes and exposed lungs and fish-like head. The poet comes to his point with these lines,

Engendering more than fascination
From the human onlookers
This dead, smelly giant rolls to a stop
On the sand
And is moved
By each concurrent wave.

Many of these poems are intrinsically tied to their illustrations (keep in mind that not all of them are illustrated). One such poem is The Mildew Man.  The poem is almost a refrain cosmically afloat. It starts,

what a nice guy
he’s the mildew man
the mildew man
what a bright sky
he’s the stars
he’s the star man.

There is a curious poem at the end of Resisting III called Nutrition From the Womb. This poem on the surface discusses cravings and calcium. I think it really is pointing out the constant remake of the human soul and the need for lifelong replenishment of sensory and possibly spiritual data. Or perhaps the human skull across from the poem has just woken up new fears of mortality in me. The poet says,

Does this mean I must choke down
Six calcium tablets a day
Because I am large boned?

Does it make sense I must replenish
What I already have?

I think it does. Nice metaphor!