Friday, January 11, 2013

Angels&Beasts poems by Claudia Serea

Phoenicia Publishing
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Copyright © 2012 by Claudia Serea
85 pages, hardbound, no price give

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

There is always something about Eastern European poets that has found its way to my often offbeat sensibilities. Claudia Serea, who left Romania for the United States in 1995 is another poet who I can add to my collection of surrealist Eastern Europeans who fit into this mold of exciting creative poetics.

Now living in New Jersey and working in New York, Ms. Serea’s first poetry books, To Part Is to Die a Little, was published by Gloria Mindock’s Cervena Barva Press.

This particular volume, Angels&Beasts is one of prose poems. Of the volumes of prose poetry which I have come across most have poems that read more like flash fiction, maybe even short stories. However, Ms. Serea’s poetry ( many without titles – unless the bold print at the beginning of the poems is the title) is short and to the point. The longest I read was eleven lines. Yet despite their brevity they make their point, like an arrow shot into the reader. (And one particular poem answers my childhood question of why, as I am riding down a highway I see hundreds of birds sitting on telephone wires):

Page 30:

I send you transparent love letters that barn swallows sow in the sky
when I miss you. The swallows are great mail carriers: they fly fast
and low, preserving the letters’ sentiments. Sometimes their job
makes them late for school, and they get punished: they have to sit
for hours on a wire and sing in unison.

Or perhaps you have wondered about what happens to balloons the little boy or girl at a parade let loose. Perhaps the poem on Page 23 will give you some idea:

The red balloon reports the blue one for its inflated ego. The blue balloon
bursts into tears. The yellow one doesn’t feel so well, and the white one has a
blank stare as my brother ties them all to his backpack.
When the clouds look the other way, the wind steals the balloons and
ties them to the tallest tree branch. from there, the balloons can see the sunset
and the planes in the sky’s belly.
At night, they float with the moon.

If you have ever been to Times Square you may recognize the characters Ms. Serea has met in the poem on Page 66:

42nd Street Times Square

The man in a top hat blows into a noisemaker. His shadow wakes
up startled and bites his leg. Boy, are my arms tired of flying, mutters
a suitcase a girls pulls through the crowd. The preacher rolls his eyes
and yells Repent! Repent! For God is a consuming fire—and I would,
but my train has arrived.

Everything about her poetry is offbeat: askew here, off kilter there, perhaps backwards or upside down. It is how you choose to read it, it is your interpretation of what she says. Unlike some poets, she does not make her life ours because she is different, which of course makes me wonder what she is like at home, in the office, with friends or lovers or with children. This is quite enjoyable for me and it might be for you as well.

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
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 8

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Somerville’s Callie Chapman Korn and the Zoe Dance Company

By Doug Holder

Zoe Dance Company

  One might pass the window of the Sherman Café in Union Square and see a man in his middle years praying over his New York Times, nursing a cup of coffee, and pondering the remains of his oatmeal scone. That would be me. On this particular morning I was waiting to interview the Artistic Director of the Zoe Dance Company, Callie Chapman Korn.

  Korn is originally from Lynn, Mass. but for a number of years has lived in Somerville with her husband and kids.

  Korn, a graduate of the Boston Conservatory, started the Zoe with her classmates in 2002. They used to perform at places like the Boston Common accompanied by a boom box. They kept at it and they were later performing at a number venues in and around Boston and internationally, such as Somerville’s Art Beat, Harvard Square’s May Fair, Boston Center for the Arts, Mass. College of the Arts, Green Street Studios,  Corporacion Cultural de Las Condes ( Santiago, Chile), and many others. 

  I asked Korn if she considers her company a Modern Dance company. She replied: “Modern Dance was basically a movement of the 1950s. The Postmodern movement was in the 1960s. I like to call us a Contemporary Dance company. We have a fusion of many styles and influences.”

   One part of Zoe’s mission statement (according to their website) is to increase social awareness. Korn has a special interest in the 1970 coup in Chile, and the corruption of government. Through movement, video, and vocalization, some of her dance pieces have addressed this.

   Zoe has no official office. Korn said this true of most local dance companies.

   She said she strives to expand her audience base beyond rich white people. In this regard the company has performed at such venues as the Somerville Dance Festival, and has had performances at the Union Square Plaza, events that are free and open to all.

  I asked Korn what themes she brings to her dance. She said: “Emotion, how people love, how they hate, and how they react to each other.”

  This young choreographer told me she has a performance coming up at the Dance Complex in Cambridge March 1 to 3. It may well be worthwhile for my fellow Somervillians to cross the border to the Republic to view the work of this gifted artist who resides in the Paris of New England, Somerville, Mass.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Shore Lines: Poems from the Water’s Edge by Philip Burnham, Jr.

Ibbetson Street Press

Somerville, MA


73 Pages


Review by Dennis Daly

Philip Burnham murmurs his subdued poems to us as if they were delicate miracles of nature or intricate tidal secrets. And many of them are. His poetic techniques, although traditional, are never overbearing and Burnham’s rhymes, off-rhymes, and near rhymes flow easily and unforced. The poet’s persona captures you with his likeability and does a masterful job conveying love, loss, and mortality through images of the natural world and an extraordinary perception of the ordinary and touchable implements of time and place.

The sonnet, Fog at Round Pond, Maine, fittingly introduces this collection. Boats become personified vessels of dreams, which either strain at life’s moorings or lay low in hibernation. Burnham begins this way,

See how the boats are compass to the wind,

Bows pointed east toward Muscongus Bay,

Taut on their moorings, slipped against the play

Of tides, their line as of a single mind…

A bit of color can change everything. So the poet seems to suggest in his poem, Waiting for the Red-winged Blackbirds. We leave the dark and passive monotony of winter and enter into the staccato of rebirth. And with this rebirth comes a subtle intimation of danger. Burnham describes the commotion,

…returning birds flashing their

Red shoulders in the cane, staccato cries

Of greeting and of warning cross the air

When dark arrival, ritual mating

Signify an end to winter waiting.

The blood of imagination and romance can infuse the most remote and windswept geography with passion and mystery. The poem Nohaval Cove, County Cork does exactly that, not with full blown stories, but with pointed suggestions—a neat artifice that Burnham accomplishes with great effect. Following an unmarked and overgrown path down a precarious cliff, the poet discovers his singular metaphor. He describes it thusly,

… a narrow

Cove slid under brae and bluff, a shallow

Treacherous peat black water’s waves to wear

Round sharp-shinned shards of blunt Irish coast sheared

Off into a secret landfall for boats

Of rebels, smugglers, lovers, come about

Conspiracy, so willing to risk all

To be ashore, or gone…

Burnham uses the technique of suggestion in his anti-war poem entitled On Pemaquid Beach: The Lost Soldier. He demands that his readers conjure up the battles of Anzio and Normandy and the emotion and drama of those two debarkations. I go him one further and think of Gallipoli. Then he changes the context of this unknown soldier, or does he. Here is the last stanza,

Then as the dunes were cleared, the armies’ heated joust

Come to an end, brave talk of battles went among

His comrades when he unnoticeably fell, lost

In the gathering of toys children carried home.

War does at a distance seem to be little more than a gathering of God’s children and their curious toys.

Many of Burnham’s nature poems emit an impressionistic, almost a Monet-like shimmer of light. In A Dream of Fishes the surface sparkles with treasure emanating from a deeper place. The poet says it is,

…as if someone had ploughed

Dark fields and turned up diamonds or a horde

Of hidden coins, a miser treasury

From some forgotten king whose wealth was stored

Too deep for public generosity..

Obviously a royal member of the 1%!

The poem Beach Stones also uses this impressionistic angle to observe nature and then adds a bit of alchemy to the mix. The piece begins this way,

Like jewels in an ancient kingdom’s crown

Half-buried under sand small smooth stones lie

Sea-washed brilliant to catch a wander eye

At the retreat of tides lovers come down

To walk along the silvered water’s edge

In broken repetitions whispering

“Again,” “again,” imagining a ring…

Burnham’s love poems in this collection are well done on multiple levels. In the poem 1960 Wedding Photograph the poet describes a momentary Eden of happiness, almost a childhood game of pretend that was, of course, not pretend, but very real and very lovely. The poet meditates on this moment of light and shadow decades later with updated information and an exposed sadness. He laments,

… the bride

Two of her bridesmaids and a groomsman die,

Two maids and two men are divorced, the groom,

His best man widowed…

The Companion piece of the previous poem is Anniversary 1961. It interests me for a couple of reasons. First of all it is beautifully done with an affecting metaphor of two doves and two ways of seeing things. The second thing is the technique. If this regularly metered poem had been perfectly rhymed it would not have worked. So Burnham seems to have disguised his rhymes ever so slightly; and, just like that, the tone rings true. Listen,

A twelve-month passage from our wedding day

We sailed aboard a queen to England bound,

A gift of doves for anniversary,

One looked to sea, the other back to land.

Gold-eyed, sienna figures smooth as love

For two score years and more they were displayed

On mantles in the houses where we lived,

One saw the hearth, the other looked away.

A poem Burnham wrote for his daughter entitled Departure’s Space has at its heart almost a metaphysical section recalling the mental constructions of 16th century Jesuit Matteo Ricci—his memory palaces. Burnham explains,

Our Pacific to Atlantic Oceans’

Continental separation distance

Enough to raise over the weathered face

Of earth a memory palace from times

Of meeting, conversation, embrace,

A breeze-borne architecture, love’s design

Where we may turn to return to repose

At days’ end…

These and the other well-wrought poems of Burnham’s are best read on a wild and deserted spur of stone separated from shore by the tidal powers. Recite them aloud; then savor their elegance for years to come.

*****  Dennis Daly is the author of The Custom House.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Poetry Series Continues at the Newton Free Library, Feb 12, 7PM

Poetry Series Continues
at the Newton Free Library,
Tuesday, February 12, 7:00 pm 


The Poetry Series at the Newton Free Library continues on Tuesday, February 12 at 7:00 pm with readings by Irene Koronas, Jack Scully with Nancy Brady Cunningham, and Nicole Terez Dutton. An open mic will follow with a limit of one poem per person. Come early to sign up for the open mic; limited slots are available, time permitting. The series is facilitated by Doug Holder of Ibbetson Street Press.

Irene Koronas has been writing poetry and working as an artist since the age of twelve. Her poems are published in various small press journals; she has five chap books and is the fiction editor of the Wilderness House Literary Review.
Jack Scully and the late Mike Amado co-founded two ongoing poetry venues in Plymouth, MA. Poetry: The Art of Words, a monthly poetry series, and The Poetry Showcase, a poetry reading held in conjunction with the Plymouth Guild for the Arts annual juried art show. Mike Amado published three books of poetry during his short life. Scully and poet Nancy Brady Cunningham edited Amado’s fourth book and will read from his works. Scully, who currently serves as the literary executor of Mike’s work has read Mike's poetry as a feature reader at Greater Brockton Poetry and Arts Society, Boston National Poetry Month Festival, Main Street Café, Poetry in the Village, Stone Soup Poetry and Salem Literary Festival 2010.

Nicole Terez Dutton's work has appeared in Callaloo, Ploughshares, 32 Poems, Indiana Review and Salt Hill Journal. Nicole earned an MFA from Brown University. She has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She won the 2011 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for If One of Us Should Fall.

For more information call the Newton Free Library at 617-796-1360. All programs are free and open to the public, parking is free. The Newton Free Library is handicap accessible.