Saturday, October 31, 2015

Women Musicians Network 19th Concert Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 8:00 pm

Photo taken March, 2015. Photographer: Caroline Alden. Singer: Nadia Chechet

Women Musicians Network 19th Concert
Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 8:00 pm (doors 7:30)
Berklee Performance Center

By Kirk Etherton

        One great thing—or problem—about my living here in "Greater Somerville" (which includes Boston) is that there are always so many very good events, it's easy to miss something great.

        The W.M.N. concert, usually held in March, is truly a great thing. I've seen at least the past 12 shows, and I won't miss this one.

        What sets this event apart is always the exceptional level of diversity, plus very fine musicianship.

        Women Musicians Network is a student club at Berklee College of Music. Somerville resident Lucy Holstedt (also a Berklee professor and the club's co-founder and faculty advisor) directs and hosts the concert.

        Every time, the focus is on women students and their bands from around the world. There are plenty of guys performing, too, but the spotlight is on women—as composers, bandleaders, rock guitarists, you name it.

        I got to hear "audition tapes" from all of the 11 original acts chosen to perform on Nov. 10—from jazz and blues to gospel, folk, and fusion. Here is some of what impressed me the most.

        1. Olivia, a composer and pianist from Spain, doing a Spanish / Indian fusion piece along with an Indian singer and a sitar player.
        2. Shir, a woman from Israel who has an amazing vocal range, leading her "electro-pop" tune. (It would be difficult to describe, without losing most everything in translation.)
        3. Mariana, a pianist / guitarist / singer-songwriter from Portugal, doing a very beautiful, original song in her native language.
        4. Gretchen, guitarist and vocalist from Chile. She leads a mostly male band; her singing on the rock tune she composed brings to mind some of the most powerful and affecting female vocalists of the past 40 years.

        That's four of the 11 acts. I could go on and on, but space is limited. Besides, music doesn't come across very well in a newspaper.

        I should mention that most of these women arrive at Berklee with significant musical credits. Natalia has a great Andean folk-based tune that's doing very well on the radio charts in her native Columbia. Some of these "college students" have already taught in universities, and performed around the world.

        Special guests this year are three Berklee professors, also doing original material. Christiane Karam, concert co-director, will be leading her Pletenitsa Balkan Choir.

        The concert starts at 8:00 pm and ends at 9:30 pm, which I feel makes it an extremely efficient international music festival.

Women Musicians Network 19th Concert
Tickets: $8 in advance / $12 day of show

Box office: 617.747.2261

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Somerville's Jane Sherrill: An Artist Who Is All About Water

By Doug Holder

Somerville artist Jane Sherrill thrives around water. Most recently her sculpture and art has revolved around oceans, icicles and the shadows they produce. Sherrill has been producing art for many years now and she is a longtime resident of the Vernon St. Studios in Somerville. I talked with her amidst the din of the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square.

Doug Holder: You have worked in many different forms: painting, sculpture, etc...You are self-taught. Are there any disadvantages to that?

Jane Sherrill: Yes. You don't have teachers to help you get grants and better shows. But it also pushes you to be more creative. It has been up to me to teach myself how to draw. So I found my own way of doing things.

DH: You had another life before painting.

JS: I had a few lives before painting. I taught emotionally disturbed and learning disabled children. I was a psychiatric social worker, and a graphic designer. I also did some performance art based on temp jobs I held.

DH: Recently I heard that you completed a series of pictures of the pre-Sandy New Jersey shore.

JS: Yes. I took some pictures in Point Pleasant. I completed some very large paintings using these photos. There are 5 in the series. Right before I finished them Hurricane Sandy plowed through.

DH: Why did you choose New Jersey beaches?

JS: Here is the thing. I started a series of paintings about the ocean. I did this because I love the ocean. I worked on the large sense of the ocean and the tiny details, like droplets. I was aware that beaches are very different. I mean the color of the water varies from Cape Cod to New Jersey. I visited different beaches. I wanted to document that in the face of climate change. But what really inspires me is my awe of all of this. Oceans are stunning. And from this I have gone into cloud and sky. And people are telling me after they look at my paintings they are looking up at the sky all the time. I want people to look at this gorgeousness.

DH: How long have you been at the Vernon St. Studios?

JS. Over thirty years. There are people who have been there longer. It is a wonderful place. The only problem is that everybody is so busy that we don't get together as much as we did years ago.

DH: Can you tell me about your icicle project?

JS: This past year I was accepted into the Vermont Studios. I went up to Johnson, VT. It was bitter cold. One morning it was 27 below. The studio was beautiful. I walked in and I noticed that windows were covered with icicles. I came up with no set idea of what I wanted to work on. Then I began to draw the icicles. I also started to trace the shadows they made. I also decided to paint the icicles. I also made sculptures from hot glue.

DH: You were in the poetry scene in New York City some years ago.

JS: Years ago. I read at St. Mark's Church—and in a theatre in Hell's Kitchen—among other venues. My poetry was very performance based. I was touted as the new Patti Smith. (Laugh) It was the late 70s. I still love to write. It is wonderful to work with words. Now that I am on Facebook I write poetic vignettes.

DH: Do you make your daily nut from your art?

JS: I do a number of things to get by. I sell may paintings; I do graphic design and in the past I have taught everything from the Torah in Hebrew School and substitute taught. It ain't easy.

Go to: for more info.

Stable Poems by David R. Surette

David R. Surette

Poems by David R. Surette
Moon Pie Press
Westbrook, Maine
ISBN: 978-0-9861524-2-9
50 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

These animal poems by David Surette, in his new collection entitled Stable, paw and hoof their paged-out floor and signal with enormous eyes the kinship and mutual dependency of all life’s creatures. They exhale a wonderfully natural sentimentality found, as much as we like to deny it, in our double helixes. The often postulated biblical responsibility that goes with humanity’s seemingly endowed dominion over lesser beasts pervades each verse and connects the poet to surrounding family, friends, and acquaintances in sometimes surprising ways.

Opening the collection with Aquarium, a poem that delves into the well-worn template of the soft-hearted tough guy, Surette personalizes the character type and utilizes the most unlikely life forms as objects of the proffered kindnesses. He also seems intent on making a point about altruism. The hero of the piece, the poet’s brother, uses good heartedness as a survival strategy that clings inseparably to the laudable acts of compassion. Initially speaking of his brother’s pet turtles, the poet explains,

They didn’t last long, and sometimes
their eyes swelled shut or their shell grew weak.
Steve learned what to do to save them,
fed them what they needed
and even bought drops when their eyes swelled.
He had fish too, guppies and gourami and African frogs.
This didn’t fit with the hockey Steve,
The fierce, quick tempered defenseman
or the Steve I saw in the empty lots by school
fighting all comers, throwing lefts
when they expected rights.

Defeat and life’s limits Surette muses on in After Watching the Bruins, a pointedly didactic poem with a message of stoicism. The poet’s dog, Maggie, acts the part of the wise teacher and Surette ties the dog’s lessons and the commonality of human failure neatly together in a splendid conclusion. The piece opens with the dog adapting quickly to human foolishness,

I walk Maggie to Devir Park.
At home plate, I set her free and
watch her round up imaginary sheep.
Once, while she ran through the outfield,
I hid behind a tree. She searched
the park as if it was a grid.
it took a while, but she found me.
The next night I hid again.
She went to the middle of the field
and sat until I showed myself.

Building a stable requires plans, wood, a quirky sense of humor and, most of all, an ability to hold one’s tongue in the face of studied provocation. The humor sneaks up on the reader in Surette’s poem entitled The Sawmill. Here’s part of the set-up,

He leads me down the hill
to the sawmill which looks
like it’s either half built
or half falling down.
I don’t ask.
In the center
a buzzsaw
so huge I expect
to see Pearl Purebread
tied down waiting for Mighty Mouse.
The whole operation is run
off the engine of an ancient pickup truck,
the belts stretch from it to the saw,
a liability nightmare.
I keep that to myself too.

Surette’s poem The Border Collie etches itself into one’s sense of other. It’s my favorite piece in the collection. The loyalty and responsibility of the poet’s dog in the face of adversity inspires awe, just as it triggers suspicion. How much should you anthropomorphize another species, especially one directly descended from wolves?  Those loving and shame ridden eyes do, after all, have crosshairs built in. But, yet, the connection of touch and the space of separation translate into friendship as true as anything found in humanity. Our kind, after all, are killers too. Suspicion pervades all higher levels of civilization. Surette considers a bestial possibility,

Rowdy cowers at every harsh word,
assumes all our guilt.

He stares when it’s time to work,
Turns away when the stare is returned.

I can’t lie down in his presence,
refuses to rise in our home’s hierarchy.

I wonder if he’s just playing me … 

In The Back Yard, a sturdy yet modest piece of five couplets, Surette suggests an invisible dream-world of Hadean shades leaving hints of its reality in natural decomposition. The imagery stuns with a strange combination of putrescence and hagiography. The saint involved is Veronica, who famously wiped the face of Jesus during the crucifixion passion. The poet identifies his numinous image after mowing the grass,

A young fox on its side. Fully furred. Empty eyes.
Legs extended like it died dream-running.

I fetched a shovel from the shed, pried it off the grass.
Under, the bugs had eaten him to the bones, his skeleton marvelous.

He left a shadow on the grass
like the cloth of Veronica.

A superb metaphor for the human heart, Stable, the title poem of this collection, invites hard work and life-affirming postures. Human beings need their tools, but nothing comes easy. The poet’s self-made stable is neither square, nor plumb. However with each added stall the artistry improves, as true in carpentry as it is true in poetry. Yet life rarely proceeds in an orderly fashion. Tragedy occurs more often than not. The poet’s family recommits to life,

A winter night, Stanley,
the Percheron/quarter
horse rolled in pain,
knocking down the walls of the first stall,
but it didn’t fall on him and kill him, but he died
the next day anyway.
I tacked up a picture of our remaining horse
at the feed store,
hoping for a fair price.

Then the girls bought two foals.
I rebuilt that damaged stall from the studs up.

Like his honestly constructed stable Surette’s collection of poems shelters wonderful qualities of fauna-nurture and pantheistic understanding that will endure the mercurial fashions of today’s poetic art.

Monday, October 26, 2015

COME DANCE UPON THE MOON’S BRIGHT EDGE Contemporary Poets Talk and Waltz…

Contemporary Poets Talk and Waltz…

by Diane Smith

Sure, everyone remembers how Arthur and Ford were tortured with grueling Vogon poetry in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Don’t despair.  Our contemporary poets take us through the Milky Way minus the word-boarding, speaking to new platforms in contemporary poetry—not so distant from glyphs on a cave wall.   Themes and use of language, along with cross-cultural styles shift with the landscape.

Aside from the obvious changes, new platforms for poetry are cropping up daily.
“Installation poetry is displayed on public spaces like subway stations, parks, the side of a building, sidewalks... Poets are branching out,” Doug Holder, Founder of the Ibbetson Review Press and arts/editor of the Somerville News in MA said.

Holder’s poem encompasses elements of the contemporary poetry scene; free verse, eloquent language, strong cultural identity—as reprinted from Grey Sparrow Journal.

The Bronx 1965

All those ancient Jewish women on lawn chairs—as I walked by they pinched my cheeks as if I was a piece of prime meat. "Such a nice boy, he is Minnie's grandson," they crowed. These old women—once their now deflated breasts—fed their children shtetl milk. And in the hall of my grandmother’s building—a waft of Eastern European cooking—I could Daven—like a religious man: "kishka, herring, schmaltz, borscht, flanken, blintzes, chopped liver...amen." My grandmother—senile— scolded my father, "You went all over Europe, you were a playboy!" My father replied: "Ma! I was in the army—World War II!" "A playboy, a playboy," she muttered. Uncle Dave, a rare book dealer, Homburg hat, cane, never cracked a smile, a brilliant bald head under the lights—started out selling books on pushcarts in the Lower East Side— "I had to make a living," he explained—called George Gershwin—"A good kid." He grew up with him—urchins darting up and down the street, roasting spuds in back alleys—there was music—Klezmer, Jazz, the neighs of horses, the come-on from peddlers, prayers on tenement rooftops, the cooing of pigeons on fire escapes...
 —Doug Holder

While installation art is one dimension that speaks to the contemporary landscape, book art offers softer decibels in terms of distribution for the poet.

A poetry or prose book may become a container to hold and to communicate.  How that’s done is a critical issue with book art, Jill S. Weese, former director of youth and community programs, artist and current volunteer at Minnesota Center for the Book Arts [MCBA] explains.

“Book arts include both the traditional crafts that go into making books and the creative art process.  That’s when you may get into the sculptural piece [such as the mushrooms on the wall.] Book art is such a broad field. It presses the boundaries of what a book is perceived to be, Weese said.

While new platforms offer creative space for poets, themes are constant as well as changing.

Poetry has been and continues to be either private (domestic) or public (political), M.J. Iuppa, poet and lecturer in creative writing at St. John Fisher College, said. The landscapes, that is the poetry of place gives us regionalism, whereas the political takes on protest in an inclusive and far-reaching call to action.

“Often, I tell my students that the nineteenth century, especially after 1870, the trend in poetry was “The good will be rewarded and the bad will be punished”; twentieth century’s trend was “Sometimes the good don’t get what they deserve;” and currently, I think the trend is a divide on what is and isn’t authentic, and that in itself is debatable,” Iuppa said. (Iuppa’s poetry follows.)

Nothing Ever Dies

In the middle of autumn
do you hear yellow explosions?
                              ~Pablo Neruda

It’s no longer surprising when summer begins
to crinkle at its pinked edges, and in spite of rain,
nothing smooths out, supple and green as a field
of wheat swelling in wind’s constant indecision.

Over and over, and over, everything appears to be
the same.  Yet, all of our life, it’s been a subtle
expectation— something will change by the way
the sun shifts in the sky. We sense the second

it happens: that gush of light in heady marigolds;
the heavy scent of moss and yellow leaves set
loose in the weight of our steps. We’re pleased
by this ticklish thrill. Nothing ever dies. 
                                                 —M.J. Iuppa

Thomas R. Smith, poet and teacher at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, buzzes on contemporary themes in poetry.

“Though the academics still have a strong hold on the college-based literary journals, the online world is a dizzying profusion of sharply and often cultishly defined styles and movements. Sometimes I think this is a good thing, and at other times a bad thing, and at still other times a neutral thing.   All the tiny new isms of poetry need to find ways to talk with each other if American poetry to live up to its great democratic history.”

Smith’s poetry [in memoriam] in 7 quatrains and a single line, in free verse, offers historical context from 9/11:

People Falling

It¹s one thing to watch the explosions
on TV, the smoke flagging its black
united nations of grief, hydrangeas of
flame in horrible exfoliation,

but another to see the photographs
of the people who chose to jump
rather than suffer incineration in that
relentlessly collapsing inferno.

Thirteen seconds to drop from the upper
stories, hitting pavement not with a moist
meat-thud but the dry, almost metallic
fury of every fiber shattering . . .

During the Cuban missile crisis,
Dylan sang, Let me die in my footsteps
before I go down under the ground.  That song
comes back to me while staring at a Time

Magazine photo in which, very high up
and small, a man and woman hold hands
as they plummet past the windowless, sheer
wall that can do nothing to help them,

that in fact can do nothing to prevent
its own falling, soon to follow.  Lovers?
Friends?  Or merely strangers brought together
by desperation in the last minutes of life?

How your leap, leaving behind everything
but the touch of another¹s hand, tears
my heart open again, that was closed
by fear and anger, my heart that is torn

and held together by your hopeless clasp.

                                —Thomas R. Smith

“People are starting to incorporate more language from the world of computers and the Internet. Daniel Y. Harris, the president of the board of New York Quarterly Books, is a pioneer in the incorporation of computer language,” Holder said.

Harris’s poetry rich with metaphor and contemporary language follows:

The Bug in the Bait File*
An ecclesia of wings
enters ear
and net 

Trojan or worm

deadlock by

a bit rot glitch
of a software

in a handle leak—


fandangos on the core
before a patch
signals to the cargo


*Hyperlinks of Anxiety (Cervena Barva Press, 2013)

-Daniel Y. Harris

Platforms, themes, language have seen major changes along with Cross-cultural poetry.

“There's a beautiful confluence in the literary ecosystem where writers, readers, critics and publishers engage in an unending and exciting conversation on new works, or new concerns pushing at the limits of our literary consciousness,” Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingde, global poet in Singapore said. 

Zhicheng-Mingde’s lyrical prose poem follows:

in aeternum :: into eternity

An awkward plant that tilts out from under the grass.   It looks like the pedestrian on the embankment, keeping unnaturally still.  As if frozen in time, in mid-thought, like Laotzu dreaming of Zhongdian.   “I saw Shangri-La once,” the woman beside him says matter-of-factly.   “I lived in a Tibetan house.   I ate at their table, slept in all day because of the cold.”   This could be Shuodu Hai or Haba Village, no one can be sure.   There are no landmarks.   Only vast tracts of land, and a range of mountains only the locals tell apart, and name, intimately as if calling out to a friend.   The tree behind the guesthouse has drooped its branches to nearly touch the ground, the ground dry and cracked all the way to the pond of ice.   At the edge of the cliff, another tree, an old willow, grows out into the mist.

                                                                                                     Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingde

“This robust dialogue is always welcome.”  Zhicheng-Mingde said.

Diane Smith is the founder of the Grey Sparrow Press and Journal.