Friday, October 09, 2015

The Chintz Age: Tales of Love and Loss for a New New York by Ed Hamilton

Ed Hamilton

A friend of mine, Ed Hamilton has finished a new collection of fictional stories that deal with the gentrification of New York City but can easily apply to what is happening right here in Somerville, Mass. and other cities across the nation. In fact, the collection is published by another friend, Gloria Mindock of the Cervena Barva Press of Somerville, Mass. I have read the Chintz Age... and I think Hamilton has hit it on the head with these heart-wrenching stories of artists, writers, eccentrics, and other people of limited means being forced out of neighborhoods they called home for many years.  Hamilton has walked the walk and is acquainted with the night—the night these people face as real estate interests and corporations destroy Jane Jacob’s ideal of an urban village. Hamilton is still a resident of the Chelsea Hotel in New York City—a long time residence for painters, writers, poets, composers, etc... He has seen the hotel gutted, the eviction of tenants, as it slowly becomes yet another boutique hotel. The hotel and the neighborhood of Chelsea are changing drastically, and the diversity, the quirkiness that made New York City unique is being replaced by high-toned  shops, and skyscrapers, changing the face of the city. On a smaller scale this is happening in Union Square in Somerville, as it has in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and countless other areas where people once could afford the rent, partake in the community, and live modestly. Ed will be reading from his book at the Arts Armory on Highland Ave., in Somerville on Oct 30, 2015 at 7P.M.  Check out: for directions and more information.

--Doug Holder

The Chintz Age: Tales of Love and Loss for a New New York

by Ed Hamilton

Ed Hamilton resident of New York’s storied Chelsea Hotel, featured in New York Times, Village Voice, and Vanity Fair pens debut collection of stories of artists in gentrifying times.

Somerville MASS, Oct. 1, 2015 –Gentrification has been going on for a long time, maybe for as long as there have been cities. In the past, gentrification was almost an organic phenomenon, with creative/alternative lifestyle types moving into poor neighborhoods for the cheap rent; then, when the creatives had “improved” the neighborhoods to a certain degree, they, in their turn, were replaced by more affluent homeowners. But it was a process that took decades. These days, with government programs designed to benefit developers and real estate speculators whole neighborhoods are changing character in a matter of a year or two. Outside of millionaires, we’re all at risk these days. And it’s not only happening in New York, either; this is a world-wide phenomenon. So, how are these creatives choosing to make their last stand? This is the story told by The Chintz Age.

In seven stories and a novella, Ed Hamilton takes on this clash of cultures between the old and the new, as his characters are forced to confront their own obsolescence in the face of a rapidly surging capitalist juggernaut. Ranging over the whole panorama of New York neighborhoods—from the East Village to Hell’s Kitchen, and from the Bowery to Washington Heights—Hamilton weaves a spellbinding web of urban mythology. Punks, hippies, beatniks, squatters, junkies, derelicts, and anarchists—the entire pantheon of urban demigods—gambol through a grungy subterranean Elysium of dive bars, cheap diners, flophouses, and shooting galleries, searching for meaning and a place to make their stand.

 Greg had started his shop, the aptly named Fat Hippie Books, in the mid-eighties on a burned-out block of New York’s East Village. The shop was around the corner from the famous punk venue CBGB and the former office of the Yipster Times. When he moved in, the store was right across the street from a rubble-strewn lot where junkies shot up. Now, in 2004, there was a brand new condo building there. The neighborhood had gentrified, but the bookstore remained the same: aged tomes spilling off the sagging wooden shelves onto unstable piles rising up from the creaking floor. And when the door popped open with a clatter of bells, plate glass, old boards and rusty hinges, a gust of wind might set the dust to swirling, some of the same dust maybe as back in the eighties, and patrons would catch a whiff of that unmistakable used bookstore smell. And these patrons, each of that furtive, clandestine race who frequent such places, would feel that familiar tingle of recognition deep in their brain stems that told them instinctively what this place was about: the preservation of knowledge, the suspension of time.” -- From The Chintz Age

Ed Hamilton is also the author of “Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with the Artists and Outlaws of New York’s Rebel Mecca” (DaCapo 2007) which is now in its eighth printing. As of this writing Hamilton is still living in the famed Chelsea Hotel.

978-0-9861111-9-8 | $18.00 | Trade Paperback | 6 X 9, 287 pages| Červená  Barva Press | Small Press Distribution | On Sale: Nov 2, 2015

Červená Barva, a small press operating out of Somerville, Mass., which has to date published 160 titles (70 books and 90 chapbooks), celebrated its ten-year anniversary in April of this year.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

House You Cannot Reach Poems in the Voice of My Mother And Other Poems by Tom Daley

House You Cannot Reach
Poems in the Voice of My Mother
And Other Poems by Tom Daley
Futurecycle Press
Lexington, Kentucky
ISBN: 978-1-938853-68-5
89 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

A respected local poet and esteemed (some would say, “beloved”) teacher of poetic craft pens his first full length book using his deceased mother’s voice in fashioning a persona that vents from deep within his (and, perhaps her), now unbridled unconscious. What could go wrong? If the reader answers to a highbrow persuasion he or she may consider the fate of Oedipus. Others may think with some trepidation on Norman Bates.

Well, be at ease. What Tom Daley does concoct is remarkable. Many of these penetrating pieces, taken together, stake out a claim for a new genre of modern poetry—certainly personal, decidedly expressionistic, but pointedly anti-confessional. While Daley clearly uses elements of Browning-esque dramatic monologues, his persona’s manipulation of daringly personal details and the self-referral direction of its singular voice verges on unique. It’s as if each page of poetry utilizes a palimpsest of Ouija board insights from the skinned souls of past and future ghosts. Daley’s invented persona speaks back to his own receptive ego, among other parties, with a profound sadness, a targeted truth-telling and, above all, toughness. 

My Mother Revisits the Scene of a Tryst with My Father at the Great Falls of the Potomac, the first poem of the “Mother” series and the second poem in the collection douses the reader with a romantic remembrance of early love. Daley words the scene lovingly, and adds in resistance and complexity of feeling with a seamless touch. The piece concludes with not a little narrative tension.

I still buckle
under the old taste
of your tongue’s slow bruise;
still fret, marking your hand,
mute and sly,
where it once worked its furious glee

I still listen for your torso
tuned square as a suitcase,
for the vows we soothed
with crossed fingers.

Here, in rapids
jostling a bilious remorse,
I drag back to your rampages
tricked out
as accomplice with scar.

Family tragedy generates unanswerable questions and opens the eyes of survivors to strange ironies and everyday absurdities. In My Mother Speaks with Two Police Officers Who Arrive at Her Door on Good Friday Afternoon Daley’s persona deals with the suicide death of one of her sons. Here’s a bit of everyday detail that the poet’s persona uses to absorb the oncoming waves of grief,

Gentlemen, come see our piano,
its black keys all stooped
by the weight of his knuckles.

Here’s a hope chest
where mothballs
seal the rot in his slapstick.

They hoard the stains where his T-shirts
sweated out Trotskyist proverbs.
Here’s a cruet for his chrism,

a vat for his vinegar.
See? That sticky flytrap
dangles his tear salts

with the smut of his incense.

Notice that the presence of the police officers turns an excruciating private interval into an almost public tour. But isn’t that what funeral rites do?

Daley shows his poetic range in a piece entitled My Mother Calls Her Portfolio Manager in the Middle of a Bad Week on the Market. The poet provides a comedic antidote for those who have lost their 401k and IRA savings in the manipulated and unsavory machinations of the stock market. His persona-Mother shows her laugh-out-loud archness and biting anger in a good cause. She complains,

What do you mean by subterranean economies?
If these dips are mavericks,
are they thirsty calves, then,
bleating for their brands?
I am wise to your feints, to your doping indicators,
to your tribe of tyro soothsayers who teethed
on their own sound bites.

Sir, I am proud
of my prudent weather. I never swore
off my sweeteners completely,
but I know how to stretch the dregs
in a bottle of ketchup. I cancelled the milkman
long before you cashed in your Krugerrands.

But, my man! This is slapdash, this is kidnapping!
This is all my collectables cheek-cheek
with the ukuleles
in the pawnshop window.
This is a deadletter box destination
for a mail-order bride.
These are the decades of tinned pilchards
against which you said you had me inoculated.

My favorite poem in this collection Daley entitles After a Stroke, My Mother Speaks to a Stuffed Pheasant in her Son-In-Law’s living Room. At first reading I thought the poet’s engagement with the stuffed bird bordered on the surreal. After a second read I realized my mistake and saw absolute logic in the poet’s monologue. Daley’s persona waits for death to make its move. In the meantime she marvels at the bird preserved beyond its time. During a peculiar set of stanzas the persona delves into the (D.H. Lawrence-like?) motivations of the pheasant’s killer and the kindness of his wife, the persona’s daughter. The poet says,

Give me back my girl’s ministrations.
Yes, her husband’s backbone is maimed,
but let her attend to my squalor,

my blatant and durable envy.
If her man is courteous,
His pockets are bulging with buckshot.

His hands are forever tying tiny lures.
His hunt fills my girl’s need.
He fishes her and fills her.

Throughout this book Daley peppers in non-persona poems which act as a sort of terra firma to the conjured up and versed metaphysics. One entitled Benediction especially caught my attention. Very much a tone poem, this piece signals a reconciliation between the poet and his dead brother. Daley couches all emotion in narrative, a detailed description of a snapshot on a bookshelf. It ends in an affecting prayer, with echoes of Francis of Assisi’s exhilarating canticle and the confessional. The poet concludes his piece this way,

Afternoon light honors and disturbs you.
Your smooth skin, your blue shirt have absorbed
their portion of the light.
What they shed is what I am given.

Bless with me now, brother,
the good ministrations of the daylight
that swaddled you then
and still frames
an unmendable chaos of loss.

No, nothing went wrong in this collection. Quite the contrary.