Thursday, May 16, 2013

Beautybeast by Adina Dabija translated by Claudia Serea

Adina Dabija


by Adina Dabija

translated by Claudia Serea

Port Alworth, AK: North Shore Press, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9794365-5-0

Reviewed by David P. Miller

Romanian poet Adina Dabija, living in New York and a practitioner of oriental medicine, has published two award-winning books in Romania. Beautybeast is her first collection in English. Although I’m not able to respond to the poems as originally written, I find Dabjia’s poetry lively, dreamlike, and sometimes ecstatic. Her writing describes a world of continuous, unpredictable metamorphosis, grounded in the body and its many extensions.

Transformation pervades her work. The frequent density of her imagery makes any illustrative selection reductive, but examples are necessary. As one instance, in “The world seen through a toilet paper tube,” the lowly cardboard object begins as a tool for “cross section views” -

In a New York subway car, two rows of midgets.

Nature had fun carving us in various ways.

Yes, we are the latest adventure of the matter:

chunks of clay with eyes

making history on the edge of the pipes

that spit and swallow us again.

The viewing tube has already become both the “tube” of the subway and a kind of cloaca, morphing later on into her hat, and in the next poem, “At the end of the tube,” resuming its cloacal status:

[…] I descend carefully on a straw

into the garden. […]

through pipes clogged with clotted blood

and dinosaur bones,

through the hungry mouths of the earth,

into the digestive tubes of the worms

In the book’s title poem, an accidental encounter with an undescribed creature leads to a radical change in her sense of her own being:

Running, I stepped on

a sleeping beast.

She opened her mouth and swallowed me.

Now I sit in her black belly and bang on it with my fists.


Suddenly, I turn my head, and in a corner of the belly,

I see myself.

I’m afraid.

Is it possible that this creature

with bloody soles and phosphorescent breasts

is really me?

The human body, and in particular the woman’s body, is both the agent and object of changes among living states. “The woman who ate the day and the night” is a kind of anti-creation goddess, who “sucked all daylight / into my colossal breasts.” But even that was insufficient, as the night remaining “soon disappeared / into the crevice / between my legs.” This seemingly destructive energy is linked in other poems with unexpected acts of re-creation. In “The woman of wind,” deaths of relatives and acquaintances lead her to a new survival strategy, fashioning a surrogate body:

I’m thinking, if my body would die,

I’d hire a wind

to wear my dresses

and imitate my walk, my shape, the way I move.

I’d put lipstick on my lips of wind

and call men into my room.

And in “Jazz,” though violated and seemingly murdered by “the devil,” she finds a resurrection: “From my buried body, the good plants grow on my tomb / and embrace my lover’s feet.” Carnal being is inherently fluid and, of course, erotic. She describes “How I turn into an old wine”:

Your lips are the fruits that make me turn into wine.

Come, step down into the cellar

to drink me directly from the barrel.

To make oneself unavailable to this state, to keep this bodily knowledge at arm’s length and submit to hypothetical dualisms, enables another sort of metamorphosis, into desiccated being. “Impossible to make sense” describes this using images that, with humorous irony, invoke food in a metaphor that negates its function as nourishment:

Everything could ultimately be reduced to an idea,

you figure, walking down the street,

parting the world in halves with your chest.

The juicy, impenetrable world

seems rather a hard piece of cheese

you cut into pieces into order to chew on it easier.


The binary machine of making sense

ticks deep into your veins,

its cold metal slowly replacing your blood.

Strikingly, the act of lovemaking can only be imagined or described beforehand or afterwards, as - assuming it is not also reduced to an idea - sex’s immersion precludes the possibility of naming or distinction. In “On love and blowing bubbles,”

The best time I made love to you

was before making love to you.

Then we held hands, told everybody


We allowed ourselves to be watched from a window above.

We laughed, our hands filled with air,

throwing into the others’ faces the whipped cream

extracted from our ears.

This joy, which comes up again “after making love to you,” becomes “impossible”

while making love to you.

At that time, you don’t even exist

and I don’t even exist.

We can’t even imagine our existence.


with your mouth, with my fingers,

with my scar caressing your scar,

with my pain sipping your pain,

until nothing is left of us

Beautybeast concludes with the prose poem, “An undifferentiated state,” which may not have been intended as a summation for this collection, but serves as one for me. Adina Dabija describes the simple exercise of covering eyes, mouth, and nostrils - the latter “with your middle fingers, or, even better, with your little toes.”

Imagine you are an amoeba -- you don’t have lungs, eyes, ears or a mouth. You are the world itself, before the world existed.

Re-emerging from that imagined primal condition, you re-enter the world of distinct perceptions, separate things and beings:

Let the light come to you, the air, sounds, like an old friend coming for a visit. You sit together in the kitchen, share a watermelon slice, then you say goodbye and each of you goes back to your business.

The value is not in pretending you aren’t this person, with this body and this sense of self, but in remembering the flow beneath, where everything perceptible exchanges its matter with all other things and all boundaries are permeable. Where, as in “I chose the pumpkin pie,”

There is no difference between my poem

and the pumpkin pie.

It’s an undefined state, best described

by a bug climbing my leg

on a lazy afternoon.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ibbetson Street Press Poet Lo Galluccio named Populist Poet of Cambridge

Lo Galluccio

We are glad to say Lo Galluccio, Bagel Bard, published Ibbetson Street Press poet (" Hot Rain" 2004), has been elected Cambridge Populist poet. Lo has been in numerous issues of Ibbetson Street, was on the planning committee for the Grolier Poetry Room Reading Series, sponsored by the Ibbetson St Press and the Blind Elephant Press, and was a reader at the Somerville News Writers Festival founded by Timothy Gager and Doug Holder in 2003. She has also participated in many of our readings for the last glad for you Lo!

Here is the press Release from the Cambridge Arts Council:


May 14, 2013


Jason Weeks, Executive Director

617-349-4383 or

Julie Barry, Director of Community Arts

617-349-4381 or

New Poet Populist Named In Cambridge

Cambridge, MA –The City of Cambridge announces that Lo Galluccio has won election as the 2013 Poet Populist. The Cambridge Poet Populist is selected by Cambridge residents to represent the art of poetry for the City of Cambridge. During her two-year span, Lo will have the opportunity to affect the artistic landscape of the Cambridge community and help the unique creative spirit of Cambridge thrive. The official induction ceremony for Galluccio will take place under the Poet Populist Tent at the Cambridge River Festival on Saturday, June 1, 2013 2:30pm.

Lo Galluccio is a vocal artist, memoirist and poet whose roots lie in the Lower East Side of NYC, though she is a Cambridge native and a Harvard graduate. Lo has released three books in Boston, since returning in 2001: “Hot Rain,” a chapbook with illustrations put out by Ibbetson St. Press, “Sarasota VII” a prose-poem memoir published by Cervena Barva Press and “Terrible Baubles” a chapbook on Propaganda Press. Some of the poems in “Terrible Baubles” were set to music or made into songs for a CD released on Studio 234 records this past year, with piano by Eric Zinman and cello by Mobius artist Jane Wang. Lo has two other vocal CDs “Being Visited” on the Knitting Factory label in NYC, and “Spell on You,” self-released in Boston, an avant jazz and blues CD. Her websites are and She was the Arts editor of the Cambridge Alewife from 2003-2007 and continues to review poetry for the Ibbetson St. small press blog. Lo has developed a distinctive lyrical style of poetry and uses spoken and sung iterations for some of her pieces, especially the more surreal texts. As a page poet, Lo often likes to follow a rhyming pattern, following poets like Anne Sexton. She hopes to combine her love of music and spoken word as the Poet Populist while reaching out to many venues in Cambridge and including all styles of poetry, including slam.

Cambridge Arts Council is a city agency that funds, promotes, and presents high-quality, community-based arts programs for the benefit of artists, residents, and visitors. Established in 1974, Cambridge Arts Council is one of the oldest and most dynamic arts agencies in the country. As a public nonprofit, Cambridge Arts Council operates through funding from local government, private foundations, corporate sponsors, and individual donors.

The Cambridge Poet Populist program was developed in 2007 to celebrate the creation and appreciation of poetry throughout the city. The Poet Populist will be honored in an official capacity, receive a stipend, and maintain a schedule of public appearances for a two-year term. Cambridge poet Peter Payack initiated the role in 2007, and was succeeded by Jean-Dany Joachim in 2009 and Toni Bee in 2011.

The Cambridge Arts Council is supported in part by the City of Cambridge, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Poet Sassan Tabatabai: A Persian poet of mourning, exile and love.


Sassan Tabatabai has composed a book of delicate mourning, exile, and love. Ancient Persia and modern Iran harmonize in his vision, as do the ancient poems of Rudaki and Rumi and the contemporary poems of Kadkani in Tabatabai’s translations. Sensuous, rueful and clear, these poems recreate lost worlds in imagination: their Beloved is both a country and a mysterious female figure worthy of the poet’s longing.
            — Rosanna Warren  ( Commenting on Tabatabai's new poetry collection UZUNBURUN ( The Pen and Anvil Press)

Born in Tehran, Iran, Sassan Tabatabai has lived in the United States since 1980. As a poet and scholar of medieval Persian poetry, he is the author of Father of Persian Verse: Rudaki and His Poetry (Leiden University Press, 2010). He teaches humanities and Persian literature at Boston University and Boston College, and is Poetry Editor of the literary journal News from the Republic of Letters. Most recently, Tabatabai is the author of Uzunburun, a collection of poetry and translations published in 2011 by Pen & Anvil Press in Boston.
I had the privilege to interview him on my Somerville Community Access TV show Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.

Doug Holder: You are an accomplished poet, but you are also an accomplished boxer. Is this a surprise to many people?

Sassan Tabatatbai
. To most people it is a surprise. I think they consider poetry to be soft and emotional and boxing the complete opposite. But they have a lot in common. There is something philosophical about boxing. Something that teaches you about yourself. There is a kind of deep introspection that you can get from both poetry and boxing. Nabokov took boxing lessons for instance.

DH:  You were poetry editor for News from The Republic of Letters
founded by the acclaimed writer Saul Bellow at Boston University.  How was it working with the man?

ST: I got introduced to Bellows by some of my old professors, and that is how I got involved with the magazine. When I started working with Bellows--it was basically about running things by him for his approval. He was still sharp at that time. He kind of deteriorated slowly over time. He seemed to have a very piercing look. When he looked at you, it was as if he was formulating one of his characters. But he was always very sharp with details. Even when he got older he was still on top of all the material he read in the past.

DH:  Your grandfather served in the Iranian army reaching the rank of general, until 1979--the time of the Islamic Revolution. You are involved in a project translating his memoirs. Talk about this.
ST: My grandfather had a whole career in the military. He reached the rank of the general. With the Revolution we all went into exile and left the country. Ultimately he settled in Atlanta , Georgia. I inherited his papers. His papers consisted of his memoirs, and his poetry. I am in the process of translating both the memoirs and poetry. Most of the memoir was from the time he was stationed in the mountains of Kurdistan. This was right after World War 2 when Soviet troops still occupied parts of Iran. It is very fascinating stuff as far as giving historical insight on a real human level on the political situation.
DH Was it difficult translating from the Persian?
ST: Translating poetry creates all kinds of problems from any language. In Persian-- for instance-- our pronouns don't have gender. We don't distinguish between he and she. Persian does not have articles--this also creates problems. When translating poetry you need to transfer the meaning of the poem--at the same time you can't kill the poem...the musicality of the lines. Oscar Wilde said and I paraphrase:" A literary translation is either faithful or beautiful, but rarely both."
DH:  Are Americans aware of Persian verse?
ST: I would say yes and no. Rumi is over- represented here. This 13th Century mystical poet was the bestselling poet in the U.S. just a few years ago. There is something about Rumi that resonates with the contemporary reader. But there is a huge Persian canon that is neglected.
DH:  In your poem Caspian Summer from your new collection UZUNBURUN,  you use a phrase  your mother used during your childhood and it seems almost like a poetic prompt, bringing the reader into a womb of memory:
"Come inside, she would say, it's almost dark"
Yes this is a poem of childhood memories. The Caspian Sea brings back the memories of childhood. The humidity, salt, garlic, the moist sheets--is still something I remember. We as kids played outside and at some point we were called back to the house. Part of these memories is a full sensory experience. And it is sound and one of the sounds is the voice of my mother calling me back in.
Caspian Summer
I can still hear my mother’s voice
sifting its way through the orange grove,
broken by dusk and distance, calling
me back to the villa on the hill
away from my August friends:
local boys who didn’t need sunscreen,
who caught water snakes with their bare hands
and carried frogs in their pants pockets.
"Come inside," she would say, "it’s almost dark."
Inside the screened porch, safe
from mosquitoes and night sounds,
glowing comfort awaited:
smell of fried garlic, rattle of dice
rolling on the wooden backgammon board,
and moist, sticky tiles under my bare feet.
Later, tucked into cool, damp sheets,
my little sister asleep,
I listened to the ebb and flow
of adult conversations downstairs,
cornices of excitement followed by lulls
filled with the sea’s silence, distant
waves crashing, mute on the deserted shore.
Strange, that as autumn leaves
bruise in New England, I can still
taste the air of a Caspian summer,
heavy with humidity and salt.
Strange, that as time thickens, the distance
between us shrinks.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Coffee House Confessions by Ellaraine Lockie

Coffee House Confessions

Silver Birch Press

Los Angeles CA

© Copyright 2013, Ellaraine Lockie

ISBN-13: 978-0651727677

Softbound, $10, 43 pages

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

How many times have you sat in a coffee house or cafĂ© observing people, taking notes or writing poetry? Most poets have at one time or another. In the back of Coffee House Confessions, Ellaraine Lockie’s tenth volume of poetry, it states she, “writes every day in a coffee shop no matter where she is in the world.”

Often we find her in a Starbucks, but no matter, the poems carry humor and keen observation as in White Noise and Other Muses:

The woman sitting next to me in Starbucks says

I wish I were as dedicated to something

as you to whatever you do here every day

Little does she know I’m eating her alive

Dissecting her and spitting her out on paper

Or in another poem titled Ashes:

He’s been to this Starbucks before

Someone at a nearby table says

he rotates to avoid arrest

A mountain man or maybe Santa Claus look

Except skinny as a stage-four Jesus

Guitar on top of his grocery cart

over piles of clothes and a bag of cat food

Cat food, when there’s no place for a cat

Twenty-six degrees last night and damp

But not everything is stateside or Starbucks. Indeed we find her in Italy and Portugal and other unnamed locations, yet each poem provides insight into the people at each site.

A few samples include Man About Town in which “His stride was a study in meter/And any female looking his way/from the Leaf and Bean/as he crossed the street/would become an immediate student”

Or there is the study of a female in Short-Shorts on Midlife Legs: “Does she know/how the back of her thighs/look without shadow of shade

Ms. Lockie knows what to look for and how to put it down on paper. The latter was in a Peet’s somewhere that doesn’t really matter because it is the observation and its placement on the page that brings it all to life.

In reading this I was often chuckling or smiling inside at the descriptions of people who might turn purple if they read this book and recognize themselves. Are you one of them? After all, one of the coffee houses could be in your town.


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