Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Tom Miller

Tom Miller
 Tom Miller is a Somerville Bagel Bard, a graduate student in History at Salem State University, a retired auto executive, and a much-published poet.

The Marathon
Boston April 15, 2013

The next day.
Friends and loved ones accounted for.
All are well.

But all are not well.
Counts are done.
Casualties tabulated.

Dead identified.
Wounded suffering.
Psyche flat.

Flags at half staff.
Bells will soon toll.
Tears shed but again.

The randomness.
Not so much of the act
But of the victims.

Just ones out to enjoy the day.
An accident of timing merely.
Malice in its anonymity.

And what do you accomplish
With your venal act?
Retribution? Salvation for self or others?

Meaningless.  Meaningless.

Suffering and loss.
Gains to you only in the negative.
For you have added nothing to the world

But misery.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak By Lori Desrosiers

Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak
By Lori Desrosiers
Salmon Poetry
Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland
ISBN: 978-1-910669-30-3
67 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Samba scat, pot-laced giggles, a baby crying in tune, bugled reveille, a cantor’s baritone, the thwap of a heron’s wings, the hiccup of time, and many other lyrical moments punctuate the deep mnemonic resonance flowing through Lori Desrosiers’ captivating new poetry collection entitled Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak. These poems shimmy successfully past the emotional complexities of life with organic joy and growing perception. Desrosiers’ words thrill with the thrum of life needing to be lived.

In her piece, The Year of Bad Decisions, the poet splices aural childhood memories with adult concerns. The touch is light and the onward movement detailed and deepening. Desrosiers acknowledges life’s events with nods of interest, her eyes always returning to the yet-to-be determined future. A brother’s trombone competes for attention with the poet’s violin in the heart of the poem. Neither prevail.

We’d practice in our rooms upstairs,
his bleating drowned out my high notes.
Mother begged us to take breaks,
tempted us with plates of Ritz and cheddar,

a bribe to soothe her delicate ears, knowing
full well we would start again next day.
Perhaps we were the reason she spent so much
time out of the house, finding excuses to leave

us alone for hours on end, we didn’t know
her newly single life or what she did at night.
Found out later she was dating the chorus teacher,
whose classroom both my brother and I attended.

It’s Hard to be Six, Desrosiers poem that explains everything you ever want to know about childhood, works uncommonly well by modulating its humor and toning its irony. The poet’s persona opens this childhood chronicle by insisting, “I tell my mother the truth.” Indeed she does. A young Cassandra, this protagonist confronts the grown-ups that run her world. Here’s one pretty funny stanza,

I tell my parents my baby brother can talk.
They never believe me.
Playing upstairs, I say to him
make the teddy bear say I’m going to school.
My brother says, I’m going to school.
He says whatever I tell him.
When they put him in the high chair
and he wants something,
all he has to do is point and say Ummm
and they jump to get it.

Sometimes chance intervenes and childhood memories need revising. Desrosiers, in her poem My Violin, learns the difference between a student violin and a professional instrument years after discontinuing her lessons. Illuminations like this can upset an artist’s complacency and assumed self-knowledge. The piece concludes by separating the artist from the instrument,

Year’s later, a friend’s violin sitting out

Scheherazade on the music stand,
asked if I could try, it was one we played.
So shocked I almost dropped the instrument.

She explained it was the violin.
If only I had known,
all those years in High School

when I sounded worse than
everyone else, no matter
how hard I practiced.

It was my student violin
That lacked resonance, not I.

Good art ages well, but good artists sometimes not so much. In her poem entitled My Brother’s Voice Desrosiers chronicles her family’s genetic choral talents. Inheritance proceeds not in straight lines, but unpredictably, in many artistic families. Wrinkles inevitably appear and intertwine with everyday life. Consider this cruel misdirection of nature,

Dad would try to sing
Loudly, out of tune, the Marseillaise
Running into the ocean.

When he was seven
before antibiotics
they removed his right eardrum.

My brother sings
more like my grandfather
on our mother’s side

who sang Russian songs
and snippets of operas
as he cooked fried matzo.

My favorite piece in this collection is a well-crafted poem entitled Sestina for my Daughter Margot.  Desrosiers navigates successfully between the dual shoals of sentiment and regret into a sea of reconciliation and potential. Vocal memories and music are the oars that get her there. The repetition of word endings in this classic sestina work beautifully by controlling and channeling the emotion. Here’s two of the more telling stanzas,

Amazing now, our closeness of late.
You call me often on your own.
My lovely girl, you seem less gone.
You visit me and hold my hand,
I bask in the timbre of your voice.
Time helps forget the pain we left.

For a time you and I were left.
We played together, slept late,
I learned to fix things, found new voice,
figured out our future on our own,
slowly stilled my trembling hand.
Years went by before the fear was gone.

Reverie Obscura, Desrosiers clever meditation on the art of poetry, catches reality in a novel way. The poem begins as a panorama, then progresses into a camera obscura metaphor, where the world appears through pin holes as platonic projections, only upside down. Consider how the poet exits that world,

Then we are on a train, going backwards.
The world goes by upside down,
a camera obscura, light peeks
through pinhole windows
reflecting on black walls.

We sit upside down
To see the world right side up.
“This is poetry,” he says,
And I am falling now,
Falling out of this poem.

As Desrosiers’ persona tumbles back to human actuality and its constrained visions, her poems seem to continue on. One oral memory after another hesitates like a charmed particle in “time’s flutter,” then spins off into the arcing buzz of space.  Singular poems like these orbit their readers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Longtime Somerville, Mass. Poet and Publisher Received Allen Ginsberg Award

Gloria Mindock

By Doug Holder

(Somerville, Mass.)

For years I heard about Gloria Mindock the founder of the Cervena Barva Press, but I never met her in the flesh. She was the editor of the Boston Literary Review for a decade; she was involved in avant-garde theatre, ( her theatre company won a  Rockefeller Grant)  as well as being an accomplished poet and a strong presence in the arts scene in these parts. About 10 years ago I finally got the chance to meet her. I had noticed that she started a new venture--the Cervena Barva Press. I was intrigued--Somerville has always been a home for small presses--and so I want to see what this lady was about. She agreed to meet me in the basement of the now defunct Finagle-a-Bagel in the heart of Harvard Square. Our early meetings of the literary group  the Bagel Bards met there every Saturday. At first glance she seemed to be very reserved and a bit nervous. But we all know what can be beneath placid waters. Gloria Mindock proved to be a dynamo -- with an infectious, zany laugh. With the help of her partner Bill Kelle, she has published over a hundred titles, including translations, plays, fiction, poetry collections and has received international recognition for her work--especially in Eastern Europe.

The Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville published her poetry book Blood Soaked Dresses that pays tribute to the Salvadoran people who suffered greatly during their civil war in the 1980s. I am also glad that Mindock published my first perfect bound collection of poetry The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel.

Mindock has now established a studio and bookstore for her press in the Somerville Arts Armory and has established a number of reading series, the current one being The First and Last Word Reading Series with  her cohort Harris Gardner.

Mindock is an accessible, warm and kindhearted women, but doesn't suffer fools gladly.

Robin Stratton, the founder of the Newton Writing and Publishing Center presented Gloria with the Allen Ginsberg Community Service Award on May 14, 2016 at 1PM. For more info go to