Saturday, July 28, 2012

The River Within By Ann Taylor

 River Within
By Ann Taylor
Ravenna Press
ISBN:  978-0-9835982-8-2
65 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, exclaimed “no man ever steps in the same river twice.” Ann Taylor goes one better and internalizes the river, punctuating each bend and turbulent eddy with her own riveting memories and graceful musings. Her faith in the legitimacy of her singular vision and her ability as a passionate observer sustains a measured tempo and delights with intelligence and occasional twists of wry humor. 

In Jenny and Charles, Taylor portrays the historical obsession that Charles Darwin once had for an actual monkey named Jenny. As the poem progresses the monkey’s actions become comingled with the human observer’s. Darwin in fact is introduced into the piece as a “cagemate.” The cagemate is observed by the monkey scratching incomprehensible markings into a notebook. This neat twist the poet accomplishes in a seamless fashion. Jenny seems to evolve right before our eyes into a child. Here are the last three stanzas:

Darwin was entranced with Jenny,
housed himself with her, smiled, and wrote
when she threw a tantrum for an apple,

placed his gift of a mouth organ straight
to her lips, astonished herself
with her own image in a mirror.

At home, he was happier still to record
whatever she and his children had in common—
their monkeyshines, her humanness.
Jumping into history’s river again, unhesitant, Taylor grabs hold of Cleopatra, Queen of the mighty Nile and remolds her into a model of excess and consumption. Antony is left in the background with plain pancakes and peasant fare. Taylor’s queen knows her magical power and uses it,

She removes her huge pearl earring,
the largest in history, a king’s treasure,
richer than all roman banquets combined,

dropped it into her cup of wine vinegar,
and as it sizzled
drank it.

Again the poet dares history in a poem entitled Annie Taylor takes the Falls. Here we are presented with another river queen, the poet’s namesake. Over sixty this schoolmarm took a terrifying chance and found fame tumbling in a four and half foot barrel over one hundred and seventy feet down Niagara’s magnificent Horseshoe Falls to find her place in this world. A true artist: Taylor the daredevil. Coincidently, this reviewer composed your present reading material standing in the mists of those same falls and he does attest to the crushing power of Taylor’s metaphor exhibited in the water’s cataclysm, first hand. A true artist: Taylor the poet.
The poem concludes by quoting the daredevil Taylor cautioning,

“No one ought ever do that again!”
She warned, quaking,
Propped from rapids across a shaky ramp—

A “Queen of the Mist,”
Numbered forever in the company
Of daredevils.

Maybe. Or was she just scaring off potential rivals who might diminish her feats by their future accomplishments, in other words protecting her immortality.
Sigmund Freud famously said that sometimes a pencil is just a pencil, nothing more. Our poet makes the opposite case in her poem, Pencil. Here this writing tool brims with generative powers. Taylor intimates,

I read that a pencil can write 45,000 words,
draw a line thirty-five miles long—
consume itself
with its own verbosity.

The poet clearly makes this pencil, snatched from her river of memory, her own. Her first confession, a traumatic affair to begin with, as every Catholic child knows, included the theft of pencils.  And now her husband’s personal use of them tie past and present together in her memories. The poem ends with very little ambiguity this way,

Less hungry, I love them still—
my glittery red stocking- stuffer
rolling to me across the desk,
my husband’s just sharpened

hexagonal yellow at the phone,
the one touting in green script
down its side a challenging
Dixon Ticonderoga 1388-3H, HARD

In the poem So much of my journeying has been with you, Taylor beautifully describes discrete incidents in her travels as if they were flowing past her, river-like. Each incident she reconstructs with details defining her companion more than the geography. It is, of course, a love story. Her lover leads her though the darkness in Oxford. He provides the cheese and wine in the Alps. The Taj Mahal exists only in shadows without the presence of her lover. The Great Wall of China exists only as her lover’s running course. Her lover in the heart of the poem appears as her classic protector against life’s physical threats. Speaking to her lover she remembers the scene this way,

My memories of Kenya bring you
Tugging my camera from the robber monkey,
Your breadknife protecting our tent
From the lion roaring just feet away.

In short the river of reality has been changed forever for this intertwined couple and the objective details of life have become, at least in this one poetic iteration, wholly personal and unique.
Lucky couple.
Terrific poet.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Confucius Say by Martha Boss

Confucius Say

By Martha Boss


22 Pages

Price: negotiable

Review by Dennis Daly

Each unpretentious poem in this amazing little chapbook by Martha Boss sneaks up on you and pulls you in to its seemingly surface world of charming stick characters and humorous observations. But there is something else here too: an unusual texture that produces depth in a hologram-like fashion.

Boss infuses her books with mystery from the moment of manufacture. The cover of each book is fringed off-white canvas held together by three staples and common brown twine. The author illustrates each chapbook with an original drawing. Mine has a primitive sketch of a rather angry and protective bird, a mother I think. The pages are cream-colored sturdy paper stock with retro lettering. Boss uses a Hermes Rocket portable typewriter, circa 1987. Occasional production errors are corrected with the use of white out fluid. The occurrence of imperfection only adds to the three dimensional quality and a comfortable feeling of accessibility.

The title poem, Confucius Say, is also the first poem in the collection. It sets the stage for what comes after with witty observations as well as a hint of something deeper. After comparing the actions of a young woman in the midst of a tai kwon do workout and six resting ducks that are getting fat and therefore fit to eat. Confucius, the observer, then notices a ripple on the water’s surface. The poet continues,

Confucius have cell phone.

henot just sit there

like a duck.

he have number

he call number.

he say something.

he say: ah, ripple on top

of water

come from

under water.

Boss’ poem Let Them Eat Cake shows off the poet’s sense of timing and wit. She says,

… sodium aluminum phosphate

propyleneglycolmono esters



xanathan gum

polysorbate 60

tetra sodium pyrophosphate

now you know

why it’s called

marble cake…

The poem ends with some laugh out loud irony. The baker apologizes but he apologizes for the trace nutritional ingredients that the cake mix contains. And thusly does the poet accurately describe thepresent state of poetry.

Both breathtaking in its simplicity and profoundly sad, the poem Mother’s Work dazzles. Boss’s persona brings new life to the old term describing life’s mortality: dust to dust. The poem is relatively short. Here is the better part of it:

…2 hooked rugs

i made one.

my daughter made the other.

the one she gave me had

her dust in the yarn.

the broom scattered it.

it’s looking for her ashes.

we scattered them years ago.

the ashes, somewhere,

have been waiting

for the dust.

i hope they find each other.

Did I say “profoundly sad.” Well okay, but it’s also a sadness tempered by acceptance and a touch of hopefulness. I like this poem a lot.

In her poem Peace Boss delivers a meditation on the title word suitable only for grown-ups. The poet sees world peace as a quaint expression hiding within more modern slogans. She then fleshes out her own understanding of peace in very personal terms.She says,

i remember the cradle

presumably soothing

to& fro

to& fro

back& forth

back& forth.

there are echoes

of motherly screams

in passive rocking.

blips on the radar.


a strange word.

Indeed a strange word. In its very essence the seeds of disquietude grow. The poet makes that very point this way,


it’s like dust

settling down

in the afternoon sun

as calmly

as wars are planned.

Another poem by Boss reinforces this theme of connections within opposites. In the poem The Battle In Surrender, she sees the adult world as a bit more complicated than some would have us believe. She says,

…the good

in the harm

the chink

in the armor

the enlightenment

in capital punishment

the hug

in the closed arms…

Boss in the poem entitled The Old Moviesmeditates on yesteryear’s popular habits as portrayed in film. But, of course, the sum of the poem is much more than that. She begins,

in the old movies

smoking was popular.

almost everyone smoked

especially when they were

angry. They just lit up.


slapping was big too.

all the women slapped

all the men.

love, hate, it didn’t matter.

The poet’s observations then zero in on the toothy smiles which have apparently replaced cigarettes but not necessarily slaps. We are talking about artists now and artistic fads and it’s quite funny. Boss comments,

if you look closely tho,

doesn’t that smile look

weirdly hostile?

i mean look near the nostrils…

there’s a little bit of grrr…

To read more of this wonderful poet you must find her and her books, a selection of which she carries with her. She reads regularly at the Stone Soup venue at the Out of the Blue art gallery in Cambridge on Monday evenings, and often meets with the Bagel Bards Saturday mornings at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square Somerville.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ibbetson Street Press/Medicine Wheel Productions/ Small Press Celebration


Small Press Festival Sept. 29, 2012

( Boston, Mass.)

Medicine Wheel Productions in collaboration with the Ibbetson Street Press is proud to present A Celebration of the Small Presses at the home of Medicine Wheel Productions in South Boston on Sept. 29, at 7PM. The event is free and open to public.

This event is conjunction with Medicine Wheel’s Spoke Gallery’s exhibition, Terrain. The Spoke exhibition is based on the word Terrain and all of its meanings- although maps and mapping will be key the thread of investigation. Many small presses are named after the sites where they were founded. The event is also in conjunction with the annual international event, 100 Thousand Poets for Change which is also occurring on September 29th.

The small presses and little magazines have long been the life blood for the literary community. Many poets from Walt Whitman to Allen Ginsberg got their start in the print and now online literary subculture. The Small Press has been there to give a voice to the emerging, the iconoclast,, the experimental, the mad man, the holy fool, all of whom would not have a chance with mainstream publishers.

Participating local presses will included the Cervena Barva Press
Wilderness House Literary Press

South Boston Literary Review

Off the Grid Press

Ibbetson Street Press

There will be a reading from authors from the said presses as well as a student readers Samille Taylor and Kara Bonelli from Endicott College that is now affiliated with Ibbetson. Books will be available for purchase, and a small reception will follow.

"Ibbetson Street Press is a unifying force in the Boston poetry scene, and the most viable way for poetry lovers to keep in touch with what's happening. There's nothing sectarian or cliquey about Ibbetson, and I think the variety of its poets...reflect the breadth of its community." (Peter Desmond- Cambridge, Mass. poet and winner of two Cambridge Poetry Awards)

Medicine Wheel Productions (MWP) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform communities from the inside out by inviting all members to participate in the healing and transcendent power of public art. MWP’s Spoke Gallery is an innovative new program that seeks to act as a hub for artists of all disciplines who want to join the conversation.

Medicine Wheel Productions and its exhibition programs are supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, and in part by a grant from the Boston Cultural Council, a local agency which is funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, administrated by the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism, and Special Events.

Medicine Wheel Productions

110 K Street – 2nd floor, South Boston, MA 02127

(617) 268-6700, , Email:  617-710-0163 MBTA: Redline Broadway Stop- no 9 Bus to K St.

The Custom House by Dennis Daly

The Custom House
© 2012 Dennis Daly
Ibbetson Street Press
Somerville MA
ISBN  978-0-9846614-1-1
Sofbound, $12.95, 105 pages

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Dennis Daly has been there, done that and the poetry in Custom House takes you there: ancient foreign lands you have dreamed about, places of the heart where we all want to be and the love-hate relationship with work place. Daly is a master artist painting portraits of places and people, telling stories and in the end revealing himself as a sensitive soul whose poetry we will not only enjoy, but ultimately associate with and let enter our hearts.

That is what I wrote for a blurb of Dennis Daly’s book of poetry and a second reading has not changed my opinion. In fact, it may have reinforced my feelings about his poetic prowess.  This is a book one can thoroughly enjoy for the images they conjure, for the imagination they ignite.

Take for example the title poem which could be a movie scene, but is poetry that brings you to the moment of action:

Another age: our greed-governed ancestors
Venture forth, significant super cargoes
Compelling the twins: speed and economy
They bounded oceans

We watch for their return with telescope
Of brass: pennants streaming, hull stowed with teas
And silks.  We dream them into our harbors.

Long doldrumed – their ships in need of repair:
Sails split and rotting, spars sprung.

There is also The Dogs of Mazar-I-Sharif where you are taken to a place where past and present converge in a picture of present into modern horror in the last two stanzas:

…They ordered blood-barbarity

Against Mongol Hazareas. The outrage began
As door to door they slaughtered them where they stood,
Dragging them into the street like firewood
and there they remained by decree. No Afghan
Could touch the on pain of execution.
The starved city-dogs came out and feasted.
The howling that I’d heard was the cry of those cheated
Animals, recalling their lost fortune

In The Violinist shows musical insight and how music plays on the heart:

The action of our hearts
In your instrument’s fire,
Sounding in soulful parts
Celestial: a string choir

The examples exhibit just a bit of Daly’s depth and breadth of observation, imagination and poetic reportage.  His book is well worth a read, but be warned,
reading between the lines or rereading lines or stanzas yields even more satisfaction.  Highly recommended.

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marge Piercy To Be Visiting Poet at Endicott College--Nov. 13, 2012

Beverly, Mass.

 Endicott College Professor Charlotte Gordon and Creative Writing faculty member Doug Holder are pleased to announce that Marge Piercy will be the Endicott College Visiting Poet on Nov. 13, 2012, at 4PM at the  Chapel on the main campus.  Her biography on the Poetry Foundation website states:

"Marge Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan, into a working-class family that had been hard-hit by the Depression. Piercy was the first member of her family to attend college, winning a scholarship to attend the University of Michigan. She received an MA from Northwestern University. During the 1960s, Piercy was an organizer in political movements like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the movement against the war in Vietnam, an engagement which has shaped her work in myriad ways. Perhaps most importantly, though, has been Piercy’s sustained involvement with feminism, Marxism and environmental thought. An extremely prolific writer, Piercy has published 17 volumes of poetry and 17 novels. Her novels generally address larger social concerns through sharply observed characters and brisk plot lines. Though generally focused on issues such as class or culture, and usually written from a feminist position, Piercy’s novels have taken on a variety of guises, including historical fiction and science or speculative fiction. Her novel He, She, and It (1991)—published as Body of Glass in the UK—won that country’s prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award; an earlier novel of speculative fiction, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) has been credited as the first work of cyber-punk.

Piercy’s poetry is known for its highly personal, often angry and very emotional timbre. She writes a swift free verse that shows the same commitment to the social and environmental issues that fill her novels. The Moon is Always Female (1980) is considered a classic text of the feminist movement. Early Grrl (1999) collects Piercy’s earliest work and includes some unpublished poems. Of the autobiographical elements in her poetry, Piercy has said that “although my major impulse to autobiography has played itself out in poems rather than novels, I have never made a distinction in working up my own experience and other people's. I imagine I speak for a constituency, living and dead, and that I give utterance to energy, experience, insight, words flowing from many lives. I have always desired that my poems work for others. 'To Be of Use' is the title of one of my favorite poems and one of my best-known books." Piercy has also written plays, several volumes of nonfiction, a memoir, and has edited the anthology Early Ripening: American Women's Poetry Now (1988). Increasingly interested in Jewish issues, Piercy has also been poetry editor of Tikkun Magazine.

In 1971 Piercy moved to Cape Cod where she continues to live and work. She and her husband, the novelist Ira Wood, run Leapfrog Press."

Also the Visiting Author Series at Endicott directed by Doug Holder will feature award-winning poets and writers Fred Marchant and Richard Hoffman. Hoffman, according to the Poetry Foundation: 

"Poet and teacher Richard Hoffman earned a BA in English from Fordham University and an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. He is the author of the poetry collections Without Paradise: Poems (2002) and Gold Star Road (2007), which was selected by Molly Peacock for the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and won the Sheila Motton Award from the New England Poetry Club.

Hoffman is also the author of the memoir Half the House (2005), chosen as Book of the Year by the Boston Athenaeum Readers’ Group, and the collection of short fiction Interference &; Other Stories (2009).

A writer-in-residence at Emerson College in Boston, Hoffman also teaches for the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast low-residency MFA program."

Fred Marchant is the author of Tipping Point, winner of the 1993 Washington Prize in poetry. His second book of poems, Full Moon Boat, came out from Graywolf Press in 2000, and House on Water, House in Air: New and Selected Poems came out from Dedalus Press, Dublin, Ireland, in 2002. He is also the co-translator (with Nguyen Ba Chung) of From a Corner of My Yard, poetry by the Vietnamese poet Tran Dang Khoa. This book was published in 2006 by the Education Publishing House and the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

He is a Professor of English and the Director of the Creative Writing Program, and Co-director (with Robert Dugan) of The Poetry Center at Suffolk University in Boston. A graduate of Brown University, he earned a Ph.D. from The University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought. He is also a longtime teaching affiliate of The William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. He has taught creative writing workshops at sites around the country, ranging from the Robert Frost Place in Franconia, NH to the Veterans Writing Group, organized by Maxine Hong Kingston, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In 1970 Marchant became one of the first officers ever to be honorably discharged as a conscientious objector from the United States Marine Corps. Recently he has edited Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford, 1937-1947. This collection of poems, to be published by Graywolf Press in April 2008, focuses on Stafford's time as a conscientious objector in Civilian Public Service camps during World War II. Fred Marchant's new collection of his own poetry, The Looking House, was published in June 2009, also from Graywolf Press.

Fort directions go to

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ronnie’s Charger A Play by Lawrence Kessenich

David Brooks Andrews/Correspondent  -- metro-west news --Playwright Lawrence Kessenich (front left) discusses "Ronnie's Charger" with director Jess Viator (front right) and actors Frank Bartucca and Kate Blair.

Ronnie’s Charger
A Play  by Lawrence Kessenich
Peformed at Hovey Players
Waltham, MA
also 9 other plays

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

The concept of the Hovey Players is wonderful: ten 10-minute plays by talented playwrights
blended with experienced and new actors. The play I was to review was Lawrence Kessenich’s Ronnie’s Charger, which was recently a prize winner in Chicago.   It was ably directed by Jess Viator.  Frank Bartucca and Kate Blair are the  parents whose grief thirty years after their son was killed in action in Vietnam has not abated.    Both actors portray their thirty years of suffering realistically and Kessenich has dialogue that is perfectly believable, portraying anger and heartbreak at Ronnie’s death. The Charger, of course, is the auto that Ronnie owned and was proud of, which has become a metaphor for life, death and rebirth: the car at first serving as Ronnie’s life then as it rots in the driveway, symbolizes his death and finally, after the car is vandalized and the trunk popped open, raccoons move in to raise their ones and the final symbol of resurrection culminates the play. 

There are five dramas, all of which in one way or another are didactic. The first Life Choice is about abortion, a mother (Kate Forrestall) and her daughter (Kate Blair), argue about life, death and abortion. It is written by Andrea Clardy and directed by Jesse Strachman. The second, It Doesn’t, is about a Good Samaritan-like counselor (Jon Nuquist) and a young man (Richie DeJesus). The latter, who has been outed in school as being gay wants to commit suicide and calls the counselor who tries to talk him out of suicide.  The play is written by George Smart and Directed by Kaitlyn MacPherson.  The third is entitled Fork in the Road and has a wonderful concept of four women – all one person? speaking about cancer survival. The four women are Sami Malnekoff, KC O’Connor, Nicole Pavol and Tristyn Sepersky. The drama is written by Eoin Carney and directed by Mike Haddad.

The final drama is Rosie the Teddy Bear acted by Tristyn Seperksy. Written by Steven Bergman and Liz Fenstermaker it is a sad monologue by a teddy bear who has been discarded and waits for its child to return. It is also about abuse and abandonment, and like the others is didactic and attention getting.

Of the five, however, Ronnie’s Charger stands out as being the best acted, least didactic and most easy with which to associate.

Hovey Players also performed five comedies, Diamonds & A Girl’s Best Friend is a very humorous play with some great lines, well acted by Stephanie Grinley, Kimberly Truon, KC O’Connor and Sami Malnekoff.  Clever writing by Katelyn Tustin and well directed by Kristine Mackin. 

The theme song to the movie and TV show M.A.S.H. was “Suicide Is Painless.”  Playwright John Greiner-Ferris and director Katelyn Tustin show us that while suicide is not painless, as acted by Kimberly Truon, Ron Gabrielli and Matthew Hathorn, suicide can be funny.

Dan in the Lion’s Den is clumsily funny. A family watches as the father-husband enters a zoo’s lion area and emerges intact. Cody Tustin, just out of high school plays the son, Kristin Riopelle, the daughter and Carolyn Cafarelli is the mother. 

The Change along with Ronnie’s Charger were clearly the night’s best.  The Change is about a man entering a hospital for an appendectomy and waking to find they made him  a woman. Written by Peter Floyd and acted by Kate Forrestall and Robin Gabrielli, it is extremely funny
especially when discovering his/her plight Ms. Forrestall provides the audience with the ultimate
look of horror.

Not Funny lives up to its name.  It is the final “comedy” but as conceived by playwright Chris Lockheardt and director Mike Haddad it is more of a serio-comedy, perhaps more drama and
well performed by Kristie Norris and Andy Leburn.