Saturday, January 05, 2013

If There Is Something To Desire, 100 Poems by Vera Pavlova

If There Is Something To Desire, 100 Poems
by Vera Pavlova

Translated from the Russian by Steven Seymour
“This Is A Borzoi Book” Published by Alfred A. Knopf  2012
New York NY
Translation Copyright © 2010  by Steven Seymour
106 pages, softbound, $16.95
Vera Pavlova was born in Moscow. She graduated from the Gnessin Academy, specializing in the history of music, and is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, four opera librettos, and lyrics to two cantatas. Her works have been translated into eighteen languages
Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Every so often I come across a poet – rookie or veteran – who I read for the first time and get completely turned on by the poetry.  This book is one of those.

On the book’s back cover is a partial photo of Pavlova looking perhaps whimsical, perhaps forlorn, perhaps about to smile.  Some of the poems reflect this ambiguity, while others are quite clear. None of the poems are titled, simply numbered 1 to 100. Each is very individual by an individual poet.

Poem 7 is the title poem, a view of life:

If there is something to desire,
there will be something to regret.
If there is something to regret,
there will be something to recall.
If there is something to recall,
there was nothing to regret.
If there was nothing to regret,
there was nothing to desire.

Poem 33 portrays a frustrated woman:

Lay down.
Could not decide: would I rather
sleep or sleep with him
Afterward could not decide
what it was:
was I sleeping?
Were we?
Or the one and the other?

Poem 58 is mystical:

The serenade of a car siren
under a window gone dark.
Anything but betrayal!
Let us stop ears with was,
tie the daredevil to the woman
as to a mast . . . The sleep,
restless and moist.
The arm goes numb.

Many of Pavlova’s poems are sexually themed, but not in the American way, these are Russian poems of cold love, snow covered hearts, occasional melting.  It is a Russia that has not changed hearts much from the Czar to Stalin to Putin.  From Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Mandlestam, to Pavlova, who has inherited the mantle as one of the greatest Russia’s great, most popular poets.

In Poem 67 she presents some of this view:

Eyes of mine,
why so sad?
Am I not cheerful?
Word of mine,
why so rough?
Am I not gentle”
Deed of mine,
why so silly?
Am I not wise?
Friends of mine,
why so dead?
Am I not strong?

Pavlova’s poems are short, terse, to the point or ambiguous. If happiness is sadness and sadness is happiness than Pavlova has written a book for both sides of an ice wall and a wonderful read.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street Press)
Author,  Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva Press)
Author, Fire Tongue (forthcoming, Cervena Barva Press)
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Somerville Writer Dan Kimmel: A mix of Borscht Belt humor and Science Fiction.

Somerville Writer Dan Kimmel: A mix of Borscht Belt humor and Science Fiction.

Daniel critic, author, movie historian - Photo Credit Carsten Turner
Dan Kimmel

By Doug Holder

  Well, since the predictions of the Mayans have failed to see the light of day, I was able to meet with Somerville film critic and science fiction writer Dan Kimmel. Kimmel is the author of a number of books including: The Fourth Network: How Fox Broke the Rules and Reinvented TV, and I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind the Scenes of the Great Romantic Comedies. Since we spoke two years ago, probably at the same booth at the Diesel Cafe, Kimmel was nominated for a HUGO AWARD for his essay collection Jar -Jar Blinks Must Die. Kimmel also has released a science fiction novel Shh! It’s A Secret. The novel concerns space aliens in the La La Land of Hollywood.

  Kimmel is a resident of the Ball Square section of the city, and he teaches film at Suffolk University in Boston. He is a member of Temple B’nai  B’rith on Central Street, and he told me he feels quite at home now in the environs of Somerville.

 Kimmel revealed that a small press in Brooklyn Fantastic Books—a press that usually deals with reprints—took a chance on Shh! It’s A Secret!

  Shh! It’s a Secret deals with a space alien who wants to be an actor. The alien has the unlikely name of Abe—maybe a Jewish alien? The story also involves Jake Berman, a Hollywood player who helps the alien realize his fevered dream. The book is a science fiction/satire of Hollywood—laced with Borscht-Belt humor. Infact, Kimmel, who is from the New York City area, worked at a Borscht Belt hotel in the Catskill Mountains outside of New York City, and such a hotel is used in his novel.

 Kimmel has also written plays. One titled The Waldorf Conference, deals with the Hollywood Black List era. Such tinsel town luminaries as Louie Mayer and Harry Cohn make an appearance.

  Since Kimmel has written extensively about romantic comedy films, I asked him what his favorites were. Kimmel favors the 1930s films: Trouble in Paradise and My Man Godfrey, as well as Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night. Hl also lists My Man Godfrey.

   Kimmel’s choices for more contemporary films are Love Actually, Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally.

  The formula for a good romantic comedy according to Kimmel is: “You have two characters who need something from the other. In the case of Harry and Sally, Sally is wound tight—and Harry is much more expansive—so they complement each other. They wind up helping each other. They eventually find that they are the same species.

  Kimmel will be reading from his new book Jan 27, 2013 at The Book Shop at Ball Square. I hope you can be there for his brand of humor and insight, not to mention the spinning of a good tale.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

New Ibbetson Street Press Release: The Black Buddhist: A Personal Journey

The Black Buddhist: A Personal Journey 


  From the means streets of Roxbury... to a respected educator, lecturer and author...

Paperback, 140 Pages
Price: $15.00
Ships in 3-5 business days
Self-doubt and isolation to self-mastery and a deeper connection to life itself – an evolution of a single individual. That this transformation should occur against the backdrop of a crime ridden and prejudicial city in the 20/21st Century in the persona of a black man makes it all the more accessible and fascinating.






***I wrote this article a decade ago about Bob.  I interviewed Bob in the old/old offices of The Somerville News on Elm St. in Davis Square. I decided to reprint it when I heard he passed.

For all intents and purposes Bob Publicover could have called it quits a long
time ago. Publicover, 52, was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS over 15 years ago, when
it was known as the "gay man's cancer." AIDS, also took the life of his long
time companion,John Carabineris,a brutal blow to this publisher of the
award-winning Somerville News. But Publicover is not only surviving; he is
flourishing. He has published the scrappy Somerville News for 25 years,and he is
currently working on a new play, THE LAST BRONTOSAURUS.
He still tends to his many duties as an AIDS and community activist.
Publicover, seems to have an endless amount of energy at his command.
Thin and lanky, he talks with the rapid-fire cadence of a hard-boiled character
out of Raymond Chandler or Hammett novel.

In his small, cluttered office in the heart of Davis Square, Somerville
he decidedly seems to be in his element. He is surrounded by the artifacts of a
productive life, with pictures of pols, and plaques lining the walls of his
office--all memoirs of his life and times in the city of his birth, Somerville,

Publicover tells me he was first diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1985. At at that
time it was a death sentence. The average person was not expected to live more than eighteen months.
The way the depressing news was relayed to Publicover, can best be
conveyed from the opening scene of his play, THE LAST BRONTOSAURUS. The stage is
dark. The protagonist clicks on his answering machine, and it dispassionately
reports: "Hello, Mr. Publicover, this is Doctor Rick Lane at Harvard Health. I
just wanted you to know your test came back positive. You should probably call
in and make an appointment. Have a nice day!" Publicover recalls, " I drank for
three days. I sat at the end of the bar with a friend, and just talked it over."

If all this wasn't bad enough, Publicover's partner, John Carabineris, was
tested in 1988, and died quickly when the virus invaded his brain, only three
years later. Publicover says:" I always assumed that since I was the older one,
John would take care of me." Ironically, it was the other way around. John was
not only a personal companion, but had worked for the Somerville News for six
years. Publicover revealed that he was never one to be bothered by loss. He had
lost a father and others, but this really threw him for a loop. But, as often is
the case, out of suffering comes art. In this case a book of poetry was penned,
in memory of Publicover's lover, MY UNICORN HAS GONE AWAY (Powder House
Press). It was written in a year's time, and dealt with the years the two men
spent together, and the sense of loss when John passed away. The title was
based on the fact that John collected Unicorns statuettes. Another creation that
was born from this terrible time, is a one man play that P

Publicover hopes to present to the public, THE LAST BRONTOSAURS. It will consist
of stories that he has collected over the years dealing with people and their
experience with HIV/AIDS. The title comes from a song in the play A HIDDEN
LEGACY, written for the L.A. Gay Men's Chorus. Publicover, hopes the play will
be as successful as" My Unicorn...", which sold 5,000 copies...not bad for a
poetry collection.

Bob Publicover has been writing professionally since age nineteen when he first
wrote the BLUNTLY SPEAKING column for the old SOMERVILLE TIMES. Now, he is the
sole owner of the SOMERVILLE NEWS. He is one of the few and dwindling
independent newspaper owners in the area. Publicover feels his job at the
newspaper is to," get the news out about the people, places and things in
Somerville. I never really try to cover hard news, the GLOBE and HERALD do
that." The publisher fancies himself as a community problem solver, and since he
has lived here all his life, he can pick up the phone to city hall and get
things done. Publicover says: " I am the local paper, now. People know me as
honest, I have integrity, and I speak my mind."

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Refrain By Anne Whitehouse

The Refrain
By Anne Whitehouse
Dos Madres Press, 2012
Perfect bound
99 pages

 Review by Pam Rosenblatt

Anne Whitehouse’s The Refrain was published by Dos Madres Press, Loveland, Ohio, in November 2012.

In this 99 page book, Whitehouse writes of aging; death; art; music; writing; dreams; nature; animals; birds;  gardening;  seasons; relationships between wife and husband, mother and daughter, bride and groom, friends; and more. And she relates these topics to changes and choices she - or one - has in life, love, relationships, etc.
With articulate description and imagery, Whitehouse’s poems have unique insights. The Refrain is basically about Whitehouse’s life, as she writes:

The Story of My Life

I tried to write the story of my life
Without knowing what it was.
Its truth grew inside me gradually
Like my own child
That I had to give birth to
To know.

The first night I dreamed
We left our river-view apartment
For smaller place
In better building.
Dark and enclosed.
It faced inward.
I’d lost my view.
And I was unhappy.

The second night I dreamed
We lived in a house underwater
And a shark broke through,
Nosing its way in
Under the glass wall.
It faced me head-on,
Its teeth were terrible,
And with it came the sea.

But you pulled it back by the tail.
Singlehandedly, you forced it
Out of the house
And resealed the wall,
Keeping out the rushing water.

Still we knew
The shark would try again,
And we must keep watch.

Whitehouse lets us into her life once again in:

Rites of Spring


Waking up slowly
I see visions.
Outside the window,
young wisteria branches
yearn upward like sea plants
seeking the light.

This is my life:
finding one thing in another.


The May rain dripped off the tender leaves
Of the apple tree just budding white
And glistened on the thin needles
Of the clipped yew hedge
Planned next to the railing
Of the stairs leading to the bathroom
Outside the Red Rooster.
Late at night,
A robin surprised  us
Hurling out the hedge
And perching on the tree.

Meaning to misguide us,
It led us straight to the nest
Fastened securely
To intersecting branches
In cunning nook
Just inside the hedge.

The hard smooth surface
Of its hollowed-out hemisphere
Enclosed three eggs,
Small and perfect formed,
The  color of heaven.

    Whitehouse also has the ability to distance herself from a scene in her poetry, as evident in

Dancing in Water
                for Eiko and Koma

A frame of driftwood
in the current’s ebb and flow—
clinging to the frame,
the dancers, stiff as driftwood,
curve slowly into stones
while water runs over
their stilled forms.

In time  they come  alive,
are rippling reeds,
swaying stem and buried root,
variously wind, tree,
flower, naked breath
that swells behind
the push to  give birth.

The dancers are in the river,
the dance is in the river,
the dance is the river.

From outside in I found this story:
she almost died,
and he brought her back to life.

Dried leaves, discarded and scattered—
let them go; new ones will grow.
A cricket perched on a twig,
graceful and humorous
at the close.

The Refrain is a good read, especially for those “Haunted by a phrase in a song,/the sequence of notes rising,/falling, rising, falling/a nuanced refrain/like flowing water,” as written in Whitehouse’s concluding poem titled “The Refrain”.