Saturday, April 23, 2016

Doug Holder will be the guest poet for a guided tour of the surrounding and former grounds of McLean Hospital May 22, 2016

Poetry Walk at the Lone Tree Hill Reservation In Belmont


From  Ann-Marie Lambert/Belmont Citizen's Forum

Hello friends, colleagues, neighbors, and participants on previous Nature Walks:

I invite you to join a guided nature walk through the Lone Tree Hill Reservation in Belmont Sunday, May 22, 1:30-3:30.  I am delighted to be joined by special guest poet Douglas Holder, who has served since 1982 as a Counselor and Poetry Workshop Leader at the adjacent McLean Hospital.  Mr. Holder also plays many roles in the local poetry scene, including:  Host of “Poet to Poet, Writer to Writer” on Somerville Community Access TV; various roles at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., including Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing, Director of the Ibbetson Street Press and Associate Faculty Editor of the undergraduate literary review Adjunct Professor of College Writing at Bunker Hill Community College; Senior editor at ISCS Press in Littleton, Mass.; Book Review Editor, Wilderness House Literary Review; Poetry Workshop Leader at Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston; Curator of the Newton Free Library Poetry Reading Series; Arts Editor of The Somerville Times; and Advisory Board Member--Tapestry of Voices/ Boston National Poetry Festival.

Mr. Holder will help us enjoy poems which reflect on the drama and awakening taking place in this season, both within McLean and without, in Nature.  We will explore the forests, meadows, and trails in the gem of a landscape which surrounds the "Lone Tree Hill" and McLean.  We will stop along the way to read short poems from a variety of cultures, each with their own perspective on human and wildlife activities of Spring. We will meet at Belmont's Highland Meadow cemetery, stroll along the famous Pine Allee, take in stunning views of the meadow and surrounding forest from Lone Tree Hill, explore the forest habitat surrounding the old Coal Road, and discover the mix of clues that nature and civilization have left for us to learn about the history of this land. People have been strolling here for centuries, healing and gaining inspiration from this beautiful home to wildlife such as red fox, coyote, cottontail rabbit, voles, chipmunks, bees, dragonflies, and many residential birds such as wild turkey, red-tailed hawks, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, chickadees, tufted titmouse, and goldfinches.

Come reconnect with the land through poetry from New England and around the globe.  Poets are keen observers of nature and human nature, of the drama and rebirth of Spring, and of the importance of land and place.   Find inspiration from those whose poems express love and concern for the natural landscape, and for oftentimes more mysterious internal landscapes. Let the poets help you appreciate this nearby gem, with its rich history as a part of the grounds of the McLean hospital of Belmont.

What: Listen to poetry as we stop along a one-mile nature trail in Belmont with a special guest from McLean
When1:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 22, 2016
Where:  Highland Meadow Cemetery, 700 Concord Avenue, Belmont.  If you are already familiar with the area, town officials strongly urge you park early at the parking lots by Rock Meadow on Mill Street and hike 10-15 minutes to the cemetery location. If not, park cars along one side of the cemetery driveway loop across from Somerset St. (stay on the pavement). 
Who: Anne-Marie Lambert is a Belmont Citizens Forum board member who has been leading local nature walks and writing Newsletter articles about Belmont history and storm water.  This is her fourth guided nature walk to explore the four seasons at Lone Tree Hill.

Bring/Wear: water to drink, closed shoes, weather-appropriate clothing, and, optionally, a walking stick for uneven terrain.
Rain: Only thunderstorms will cancel.
Trail Map: Lone Tree Hill Map

Friday, April 22, 2016

Fire Tongue By Zvi Sesling

Fire Tongue
By Zvi Sesling
Cervena Barva Press
Somerville, Massachusetts
ISBN: 978-0-9966894-4-1
87 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Dark, darker, darkest. Zvi Sesling’s Fire Tongue descends through heat and mist and dust into a black oblivion of verbiage, both tellingly vacant and skillfully wrought.  Each geography, whether internal or external, hesitates in its own claustrophobia, offering up a hellish reality of bleakness, alienation, and tortuous terrain. There is no exit save death, and even death’s freedom leaves not a little doubt. This poet does not mince his words. For Sesling memory alone brings clarity and a measure of calming surcease.

The title poem, Fire Tongue, opens this collection with zeal and sear. Sesling describes an ill-fated priestess as damnable and fierce as an Apache warrior or the tempestuously saintly Joan of Arc. Her auguries embarrass and sting, but somehow convey the bloody truths of humanity. The poet addresses her this way,

O priestess of the mad, why did
they take you from us, your tongue
prophesied, even in anger or hate
your tongue spoke the truth, a prophet
they called you, others said you
were simply mad

An isolated heart pads through the barrooms of night seeking companionship in Sesling’s poem entitled Long Night of a Lonely Heart. His short lines create a pulse, a modulated beat which intensifies and then recedes in a dreamlike pattern leading to despondency first, then flickering hope. One wonders at the ambiguous conclusion,

street lamps are broken
or dead of old age
the heart beat increases
the blue veins of night
offering no comfort no hope
no desires fulfilled
the rotted gut of the streets
leaving the heart empty
each chamber compass points
to the oblivion of night
the heart expanding with hope
receding in despair receding
in loneliness stopping at last
beneath a lonely light
under a window

Consider the curious use of the phrase “stopping at last” referring to the movement of the human heart. That “lonely light” now seems a bit more ominous.

Sesling’s piece Gothic Fog strikes the right chords and adds some nice atmospherics to this collection. It begins typically in a graveyard filled with musty odors rising into the night. Then the poet imbues life with death’s nature under the lunar commander hovering above. Here’s the heart of the poem,

Queen of the Entombed

She gives them the night to waft
across fields and roads into the
windows of houses and to dance
their nightly gavotte

They enter the unsuspecting
who make love or dream
or enter into the bones of
the growling dog

Only a red ball held by a child breaks the urban gloom in City of Gray, a poem in which Sesling’s vision of a joyless civilization on automatic pilot plods on and on. Gregorian chant pervades the airways. The poet uses images from our waning industrial society. He opens the piece with newcomers pursuing in vain their dreams of felicity and joyfulness,

Like blind people they grope through
alleys and narrow streets of the city
of the lost—a purgatory of gray
buildings and gray walls, gray alleys
and streets where gray people lead
gray lives and the wanderers seek
happiness in a city that has none as
people in gray uniforms enter and
leave factories with high gray walls
like a prison and their children run
through the streets and never laugh

In Collector of Calamities, my favorite poem in this collection, Sesling sketches out a very human, if unattractive, trait of contrasting each other’s misfortunes. No matter how bad it gets, someone is worse off, that’s the beauty of life. Black humor does work after all. The poet chooses mortality as his subject and picks particularly gruesome episodes. It gets morbid and uncomfortable. But that’s the point—isn’t it? Sesling sets his details,

In Montreal, a brick from the 17th
floor of a building falls and hits a
woman eating lunch with her husband
at a sidewalk café

A car goes down a highway the wrong way
plows into a family of seven riding
to the beach, all die

Someone does not see a stop sign and strikes
a child in a crosswalk who is walking home
from school

Black and white newsprint cut out, placed
in a bowl, a record of lives extinguished
like flames, a history of calamities by a
collector who has survived…

Delusions and obsessions exist for a reason. The poet pushes the vulnerability of mankind to the fore in his piece entitled Paranoid. For one to sleep at night a lot must be ignored or pushed aside. The banality of evil needs to be hidden from sight. Predators denied victims. In fact security demands closure of all portals. Sesling explains,

The window is shut at night
To keep out the heat of stars
Shades closed so the wolf
Does not see the vulnerable

The window is shut at night
So the long fingers of trees cannot
Ensnare in their master plan to
Enslave humanity

This poet serves his poems neat like good whiskey, but, unlike good whiskey, they do not comfort. They afflict their readers with god-awful truths and disconcerting candor. Society needs both badly. Sesling accommodates with his dark, deft, declarative poetics, and we benefit. Heaven (or hell) help us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

10 winning poems selected for Newton’s “Mother’s Day Poetry Walk,” one of the many events in the 2016 Newton Festival of the Arts

10 winning poems selected for Newton’s “Mother’s Day Poetry Walk,” one of the many events in the 2016 Newton Festival of the Arts

The winning poems were chosen from almost 100 poems submitted to an open competition juried by award-winning local poets: Grey Held, Doug Holder, and Clara Silverstein. Theese are not the typical “greeting card” poems. Rather they speak of the complexity, richness, diversity of motherhood.

Each selected poem will be chalked by local artists onto the grand staircase that fronts  Newton City Hall. The poems will become a temporary installation (May 8th through May 22nd) of mother-themed poetry as part of the 2016 Newton Festival of the Arts.

Three of the wining poems-- Lori Kagan’s “Other Children’s Mothers,” Wendy Mnookin’s “Walking to the 58th Street Library,” and Carol Hobbs’ “Her Days,” are written from the young child’s perspective. In her poem “Other Children’s Mothers, Kagan writes “Once in a while / other children’s mothers / lent me bits of their affection: / a smile that spread in my direction / as I sang / in the school concert / A reassuring pat / on the arm / if I was frightened by the sound / of a distant tornado siren…”

Three of the poems, Connemara Wadsworth’s “Washing My Mother’s Feet,” Margot Wizansky’s “In Assisted Living, My Mother Became Holy,” and Rachel Goldstein’s “Portrait of My Mother in Purses,” are touching portraits of mothers near the end of life. In her poem “Washing My Mother’s Feet,” Wadsworth writes “Next,  rub with fine pumice I tell her after / buying the stone for her hardened /  and fissured feet,  peasant feet she called / those size elevens she wore without /  thought, on which she ambled the souqs/  of Baghdad, Venetian calles, Manhattan’s /  grid, brick sidewalks of Harvard Square.”

In two of the poems, Pamela Gemme’s “My Mother, Speaking of Life,” and  Eric Hyett’s “in re: The Stars,” the mother’s presence enters into the home of the grown child. In “ in re: The Stars,” Hyett writes, “Next to my bed, a tin milagro my mother bought /  at the holy shrine at Chimay√≥. To heal my mind…”

Lani Scozzari’s poem, “Postpartum,” takes on the gritty subject matter of a new mother’s postpartum experience. And  Lee Dunne’s “For Mother” reads like a prayer: “I want her /  to go / slowly, / fall softly / as flicking silver / from the golden / rumps of apricots /  expand /  in sweetened space / as rising bread…”

Grey Held designed the project to allow viewers to experience poetry in a visual and kinesthetic way. “The Mother’s Day Poetry Walk brings poetry out into the community, honors motherhood, helps facilitate discussions of motherhood in all its richness and diversity,” says Held, “and allows people to experience poetry outside of the usual framework of books.”

These 10 poems will be viewable on the front steps (western facing) of Newton City Hall beginning on Mother’s Day (May  8). They will remain up through May 22nd.

Monday, April 18, 2016

POET A.D. Winans withdraws his name from consideration to be San Francisco Poet Laureate

A.D. Winans

To San Francisco Poet Laureate Committee:
It’s my understanding that several people have nominated me for the position of San Francisco Poet Laureate. I’m writing to withdraw my name from consideration. I will try to keep my reasons brief.
In the old days the Poet Laureate served at the pleasure of the King’s Court.
Today the position falls under the office of the Mayor.
I was born in San Francisco and except for a brief stint in the military have lived here my entire life.
I have watched with alarm the gentrification of my once proud city and the rising economic disparity. The Silicone Valley technology explosion has caused real estate to skyrocket and people forced to leave the city to seek out affordable housing. Normal income families can no longer afford a home and one-bedroom apartments are going for $4.500 a month or more. If I were not fortunate enough to be under rent control, I could not live in the city of my birth.
The mayor seems comfortable with the Silicone Valley “techie” revolution that has benefited the well off at the expense of the working class and poor. Eviction rates continue to rise and small neighborhood businesses forced to close down when their lease expires and rent is increased two or three fold.
All my life (as expressed in my poetry) I have spent supporting the cause of the ordinary working class man and woman and those who have fallen through the cracks of the system.
It’s indefensible for a city like San Francisco to have the large homeless population it has, many of them elderly and veterans. The administration has been heartless to send the police out to slash homeless people’s tents and take their meager belongings under the dark of night.

I would find it hypocritical of me to accept any position under the current administration.
The second reason I can’t accept the position of Poet Laureate is the requirement the Laureate organize an event at the annual “Lit Quake.” Festival. Lit Quake from its inception has been a self-serving organization that panders to in-group favorites. In an effort to look like it is more representative of the poetry community at large, it encourages small venues to organize and put on events at bars and such under the umbrella of Lit Quake, thus taking credit for events they provide little or no support too.
The third reason is I am more a recluse than a public figure. I write and pretty much live in solitude. I do not wish the label of Poet Laureate to be a marker I will be remembered by. I want to be remembered for my word alone and not by any position I held.
I have never written or read for poets, but for people who do not generally read poetry, those who need it the most. Pomp and ceremony are not markers of who I am.
I wish to thank those who nominated me for Poet Laureate, as I know they did so with the best and most honorable intentions.
A. D. Winans

The Glass Factory by Marilyn McCabe

Marilyn McCabe

Review of The Glass Factory by Marilyn McCabe

By Alice Weiss

Marilyn McCabe is a poet of neighboring upstate New York, its rural emptiness and disused railroad tracks and, also of cosmopolitan, intellectual spaces.  In her most recent book, The Glass Factory, the poems are characterized by arrow-sleek natural imagery, philosophical precision, and subtly shifting lenses.   Take the poem “The Face of the Waters.” Unabashedly alluding to Genesis, her speaker positions herself to question the very basis of the ‘sacred’ metaphor, “What moves on the face of the water but the wind, the sky, the restless eye of the clouds.” seeming to be only lyrical, but attempting  to find realism in the metaphor of God’s face on the water.   ‘Restless eyes.’ we think, OK, clouds reflecting in the water, almost mechanical, but then her mind plays with the image. “Water thirsts at island’s edge.”   It is a process that happens often in these poems, the speaker is taken over, almost slyly by the image she stretches for.  The water thirsting, the reversal, instead of merely extending the image, upstages it.  A narrative emerges at the edge of the water. The speaker is at a campsite.  A bear has visited in the night, again.  “In the morning I put my hand/ in the print of the bear’s sole. . .”  The risky pun teases us. It doesn’t seem up to the thirsting water, but it introduces a shift, almost of levity, then, staring at the horizon, earth, heaven, water, in between, the speaker seems to restart, reassess, break camp, to canoe, a “long row home”

    in God’s teeth
    his shuffling nostrils
    scent of musk, damp duckweed.

finally letting herself  and us flow into vivid interplay with the animal and biblical, not to say comical presences.

    This fracturing of tone, imagery and narrative and for that matter, voice,is implied in the book’s title,  “Glass factory:” the lens, the fragility, the heat of making glass, the danger, the shards.  Often, as in the “Face of the Waters,” The speaker contemplates the unreliability of her vision.  “The Dark Is Shifting Almost Imperceptively.” is another poem where the reader is fooled, this time by the proselike “almost imperceptively”  What is really shifting the poem asks.  Don’t trust me, she seems to say, but play with me while I figure out what I know and how I know it.

    These poems reveal a speaker whose world is broad populated .  Her populations include the cedar waxwing,  Orion in the night sky, the body, skin.  “Dermis” is a meditation on this “vast organ”, its edges, its layers, “layered, it sheds, unthreads as a rag” images seem to stone the very strands of the narrators’s voice, a danger with all this glass around.  Her eyes pick up other lenses: Magritte’s light, undoing the dying, “You can slip out behind the trees/ Get while the going is good;” Munch’s Melancholy; a sculptor, new to me, Goldsworthy, (google it) whose works are constructed to entwine with the landscape. In her three part poem, “Goldsworthy Variations,” McCabe finds in his art a passion for her own art: “what nature tosses, man must assemble,” a decisive counterpoint to the brokenness she finds in her world. Harsh rural and industrial landscapes appear in these poems, copious and abandoned.  It is an America she catches broadly strewn with broken things where “time is not so much the healer as the peeling label torn of its shelf life.”