Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Road To Emmaus by Spencer Reece

Spence Reece

The Road To Emmaus
by Spencer Reece
© 2014 Spencer Reece
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
New York, New York
Hardbound, $24 (tentative),124 page

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

There are some poets a reader discovers and is determined to read the rest of that poet’s work.  This happened with The Road to Emmaus, Spencer Reece’s second offering to the poetic world.  The first book, A Clerk’s Tale, of which the title poem was given a full page review in The New Yorker proved to be an enthralling poem, in fact the whole book proved more than interesting.  However, the current volume, due out in April 2014 from Farrar, Strauss and Giroux is one to be recommended without hesitation.

As interesting as his poems are, Reece himself is fascinating character. He was a salesman for Brooks Brothers, clothing men in high priced apparel. A gay man, he later became an Episcopalian priest. He teaches in Central America now. His poems are reality based often depicting what he sees or experiences.  Let’s look at “ICU”

Those mornings I traveled north on I-91,
passing below the basalt cliff of East Rock
where elms discussed their genealogies,
I was a chaplain at Hartford Hospital,
took the Myers-Briggs with Sister Margaret,
learned I was an I drawn to Es.
In small group I said, “I do not like it,
the way young black men die in the ER,
shot, unrecognized, their gurneys stripped,
their belongings catalogued and unclaimed.”
In the neonatal ICU, newborns, breathed,
blue, spider-delicate in nests of tubes.
A Sunday of themselves, their tissue purpled,
their eyelids the film on old water in a well,
their faces resigned in plastic attics,
their skin mottled mildewed wallpaper.
It is correct to love even at the wrong time.
On rounds, the newborns eyed me, each one
like Orpheus in his dark hallway, saying:
I knew I would find, I knew I would lose you.

Perhaps his teaching experiences in central America resulted in the poem “Among Schoolchildren” in which the following appears:

I had come to work in the orphanage of Villa Florencia.
Inside the ten-foot wall with barbed wire, behind the mental
guards fingered
their pistols like Bibles,
and seventy orphaned girls politely greeted strident Christians.
One girl had been found on a coconut truck.
She had lived on coconut juice since birth,
had trouble speaking, preferred not to be held.
Two sisters had been left a street corner on a sheet of
their mother told them to wait, then never came back.

Reece’s descriptions leave little to the imagination. No surrealist, he realistic verbiage brings it all to the immediate, the real. Yes, his sexual orientation crops up. More importantly is his religious orientation which buttresses his faith and his ability to see and deal with the difficulties of the lives of others.  

In his final poem, “Hymn,” the last three lines may best sum up Reece’s poetry:

We each went our separate ways
following where we were being led.
Marie said: “Writ it down, just as it happened.”

Reece has done that in definitive fashion much to our good fortune.

Zvi A. Sesling
Author, King of the Jungle and Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books, Brookline, MA
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 8

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kate Chadboune: An Irish Gal for All Seasons

Kate Chadbourne with her constant companion

Kate Chadboune:   An Irish Gal for All Seasons
Interview with Doug Holder

 Kate Chadbourne is about all things Irish. She radiates warmth and a passion for Irish folklore, music, literature, poetry, food…in short everything the Emerald Isle has to offer.


 Chadbourne is a singer, storyteller, and poet whose performances combine traditional tales with music for voice, harp, flutes, and piano. She holds a PhD in Celtic Languages and Literature from Harvard where she teaches courses in Irish language and folklore – but the heart of her understanding of Irish folk tradition comes from encounters with singers, storytellers, and great talkers in Ireland. She has been a “tradition bearer” in the Revels Salon series and in the Gaelic Roots Concert Series at Boston College. Her music was featured recently on NPR’s programs, “Cartalk” and “All Songs Considered,” and songs from her latest CD, The Irishy Girl, are played on Irish radio programs throughout the country. The Harp-Boat, a collection of poems about her father, a Maine lobster man, won the Kulupi Press 2007 Sense of Place Chapbook Contest and was published in 2008. Whether she is singing, telling stories, teaching, or sharing a poem, she aims to leave her audiences moved, enlivened, and eager for their own adventures.

I had the pleasure to speak to her on my Somerville Public TV show  Poet to Poet Writer to Writer.

Doug Holder: Kate you have a PhD in Celtic Studies, you have taught at Harvard--- you are a scholar. But in fact you said you learned more from your informal education—talking to regular folks in Ireland than in your scholarly pursuits.

Kate Chadbourne: I think you need to learn from both. You need to do your book learning, but then you have to get out and around. I was walking in the hills of eastern Ireland and I meet this cheerful, little man. I was fresh out of doing folklore research at the Folklore Archive in Dublin. I asked him: “What do you do for fun in the evening?” He replied, “Oh, we talk, play cards or fight.”  And it so happens I was looking at things like ritualized conflict and there it was. So this was the payoff from the scholarly work. So I listened to what people were saying about their lives. And this is when it all comes together. I am mad about the music, poetry and the storytelling of the Irish. I want to hear it in life. Like when you are in a pub, and the fiddler is playing slowly, and you observe the etiquette of the moment—and it comes together.

DH:  You have an award-winning collection of poetry “The Harp Boat” that is about your late lobster man father in Maine. The sea, I am sure you will agree is a good source for poetry- we are often transfixed by it. Did your father instill in you a love of poetry?

KC: My father would have said he was the farthest thing from a poet and yet there were rhythms in his speech and his swearing that were poetic. Or just the way he could complain. I really got a sense of season and time. My father was with nature. Hey—you reach a certain point in life, and this all comes together.

DH : You play the harp—quite impressively—how did this come about?

KC: I have worked with harpers for 10 or 11 years now. When I was doing research in 2003, a friend looked at me and said: “ You look like a harper.” So when I was back in the states, my ex-husband bought a harp, because it was his dream to play one. So I kept my hands off it. He never played it, but eventually I did. I was going to play music in an assisted living home and I asked him to borrow his harp to make some chords. And that was the beginning of my affair with the harp. I lost my husband, but I gained a harp. (Laugh)

DH: How do you integrate your music and poetry?

KC: I integrate it all the time. When I tell a traditional Irish story, I bring up some poetry. I am crazy for putting poems to music. Not so much mine but others’. I do it with poems that speak to me. I get seized with the desire, and then I hear it in my head. I just love the process. Song writing is like poetry writing. You are trying to access this bedrock of truth and feeling.

DH: You started this online website the Bardic Academy   Tell us about this.

KC: I view it as a resource for writers and musicians. It is a website for my school where I give lessons in voice, harping, poetry, piano playing—singing in the Irish language. I also compose well-wishing poems, to make my music useful. People send me letters—about a sick loved one, their wife, etc...—I hold it my mind—then I let it rip on the piano—I send a recording to the person.

DH: Reading your poems I get the sense that you do not manipulate nature, but you sit back and learn.

KC: I love that. I have a great deal of trust in nature—human nature too. I love the integrity and holiness of the world.

How are Sea and Ocean Different?

Ocean is the realer thing-
brine with real salt that dries the lips
and sun off the wave knits a web in the eye.
Men spend a life drenched through their waders,
hauling up empty pots, eyeing the chickens.
Good ones hanging offshore; the hull needs work.

Sea is the wind between two planets,
the silver place on ancient maps,
spuming with narwhals and dolphins,
collared with green lace and hung with pearls.
Ships there go with quiet sails,
and the wind is kind to travelers.

I have sailed a life at sea
while my father works the ocean. 

--Kate Chadbourne

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Macbeth By William Shakespeare

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Joey DeMita
Black Box Theatre at Arsenal Center for the Arts
November 22-30, 2013
F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Staging a Shakespeare play can be quite difficult even for the most professional theater companies and FUDGE proves itself up to the task.  Joey DeMita’s direction brings out some fine acting from Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to the three witches, who are particularly frightening with their hissing and murderous intent.  Dave Rich making his FUDGE debut with a number of others in the play is an energetic and convincingly mad Macbeth, his ability to retain and recite the many lines is admirable. Linda Goetz (Lady Macbeth) is excellent in her slightly understated role.  This is the third time I have seen Ms. Goetz and she never fails to succeed, no matter the role.

Among the supporting actors there are no failures; each plays his role well. There are no obvious flubs or missteps by the FUDGE debut actors which includes Timothy McGuire (Dunjcan/Doctor/Siward), Benjamin Medeiros (Banquo/Menteith), Tim Kimani (Ross), Grant Jacoby (Malcolm).  In particular, Mr. McGuire is interesting in that this is his stage debut having previously appeared on television and in movies. 

And a note about Sam Greene (Apparitions/Macduff’s son), seventh grader at Brookline’s Runkle School. He appeared more than adequately in last season’s Assassins and his growth can be seen in his acting ability.

DeMita’s directing is always sharp—lines are rarely missed, positions and movements always timely. James Petty’s set design while sparse is used well for location changes,
witches’ cauldron and ghostly apparitions. Steve Bergman’s music is eerie and well integrated into theme of the play.

Most important is that Shakespeare was well ahead of his time as a psychologist depicting things already known: tyranny, treachery, violence and murder while mixing it into a bowl of ambition, guilt, madness and revenge to cook up a delicious tragedy that some four hundred years later FUDGE can enthrall audiences.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer, Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and  Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books

Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7 & 8