Saturday, July 09, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Chad Parenteau

Chad Parenteau

 Chad Parenteau moved to  Boston in 1995, he obtained his MFA at Emerson College, studying with Bill Knott, Gail Mazur and John Skoyles. His involvement in the small press  continued, publishing poetry in Meanie and Shampoo and profile pieces  for Lollipop, Comics Interpreter and Whats Up. He was also an early contributor to Boston's Weekly Dig, focusing on artistic and activist groups and reporting as one of a the few print journalists present for the events during and after the 2000 presidential debate at UMass Boston.

In 2003, Chad self-published his first chapbook, Self-Portrait In Fire (based on his MFA thesis) and won a Cambridge Poetry  Award. He continures to appear in numerous print and online publications, including anthologies such as French Connections: A Gathering of Franco-American Poets. In 2007, his poem "Moonlighting" was on display at Boston City Hall as part of The Mayor's Prose and Poetry Program. 2008 saw the publication of his third chapbook, Discarded: Poems for My Apartments from Červená Barva Press.  In 2011, a catalog of his work was added to Framingham State University's Alumni Collection at the Henry Whittemore Library. Recently, his light verse has appeared in such venues as Salon. His first full-length collection, Patron Emeritus, was released in June 2013 from FootHills Publishing.

No Good

Karma has

use-or lose points

dogma always

leaves mess to clean

enemies made

doing what they want

winning way

claiming no one wins

nothing made

out of vacuum

reason cartoons

have "Welcome"

writs traps doors

silence be

comes only

one’s safe word.

––Chad Parenteau, 2014

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Keeping the Kerouac Flame Alive in Lowell by Steve Edington

***About a decade ago I interviewed Steve Edington about the Kerouac Festival in Lowell, Mass. He has been involved with the festival for many years, and has written extensively about the Beat Generation and Kerouac. So I asked Steve to write a piece for the BASPPS, and The Somerville Times. Somerville is a very literary town, so I want to remind  Somervillians  about this festival-- a short distance away, and also tell others about the great work these folks are doing in keeping the "word" alive..

Keeping the Kerouac Flame Alive in Lowell

By Steve Edington

When it comes to preserving Jack Kerouac’s literary and cultural legacy, there is probably no greater band of hearty and dedicated souls than the people who have made up the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Committee during the past near-thirty years.

We put on an annual 4-5 day Kerouac Festival in Lowell every October, with a smaller scale observance of the author’s birthday in March. In October it’s a weekend of literary tours, open mikes, theme speakers, art exhibitions, and musical events—with an overlay of high comradery among Kerouac devotees of all ages.

For many years now the wrap up event has been the annual Amram Jam with composer, jazzman, and Kerouac collaborator David Amram providing the back-up for all who wish to read their favorite Kerouac passages or their own Kerouac inspired work. Now at age 85, David continues to bless us with his wonderful presence each year as he lends his amazing musical skills to many of our October and March happenings.

Over the years a number of “beat luminaires” and scholars (some still with us and some not) have come to Lowell to be a part of the scene and to help us honor and celebrate Jack Kerouac’s roots. They include, in addition to Mr. Amram,: Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Gregory Corso, Ray Manzarek, Henry Ferrini, Ed Sanders, Willie Alexander, Regina Weinreich, Ann Douglas, Diane DiPrima, Rhoney Stanley, Douglas Brinkley, Ann Charters, Joyce Johnson, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Sinclair, Anne Waldman, Ann Charters, and Robert Creeley, to name a few.

LCK had its origins in the mid-1980s in the effort to build the Jack Kerouac Commemorative in what is now Lowell’s Kerouac Park. This arrangement of triangular marble pillars, with works of Kerouac inscribed on them stands at the corner of Lowell’s Bridge and French Streets. Following the Dedication of the Commemorative in the summer of 1988, LCK continued on as the producer of the annual Kerouac Festivals and Kerouac Birthday Celebrations. The Commemorative is the site of our annual “Commemorative at the Commemorative” event each Saturday morning of the LCK Fest.

One of LCK’s founding members, Mr. Roger Brunelle, remains a member of the Committee and conducts the annual Kerouac Tours each October. His tours include many of the sites Kerouac refers to in his five Lowell-based novels, as well as the author’s birthplace and gravesite. Many of the neighborhoods Kerouac describes of the Lowell of the 1920s and 30s have remained remarkably well in place, bearing many of the traits Kerouac portrays. The tours also reflect the basis of much of Kerouac’s spirituality, especially the neighborhood in and around the St. Louis de France Church and School that Jack writes of in Visions of Gerard.

Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about the LCK Organization is its resilience and its perseverance. Over the near three decades of its life it remains an all- volunteer organization with no paid staff or office. The Committee meets monthly year-round to plan the October Festivals and March Birthday Celebrations. Its support comes from an annual donor appeal, occasional modest cultural council grants, sales of merchandise, requested donations for certain Festival events, and the like. Our largest major donor to date is Mr. James Irsay, owner of the NFL franchise Indianapolis Colts, and the high bidder for the original “scroll” manuscript of On the Road when it was sold at auction in May of 2001. In the fall of 2014 Mr. Irsay made a donation of $10,000 to LCK.

Over the course of its life, seven persons have served as LCK’s President: They are: Brian Foye, Richard Scott, Mark Hemenway, Steve Edington, Lawrence Carradini, and Mike Wurm. The current President is Judith Bessette of Dracut, MA.

There is an interesting parallel between the Kerouac Renaissance that began in the mid-to-late 1980s, and the Lowell Renaissance of roughly the same period. Lowell has staged a remarkable civic and cultural comeback over the past 30+ years following a period of drift and decline, with the creation of the Lowell National Historical Park playing a significant role in that comeback.

Over that approximate same period of time the Kerouac literary star has risen to scarcely imagined heights. He is now recognized as a major American, and global, literary and cultural figure of the latter half of the 20th century; and that legacy now strongly continues into the 21st.

Standing astride these twin renaissances has been, as previously noted, a hardy and dedicated band of brothers and sisters known as the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Committee. With the donation of countless hours of their time, and making it all work on shoe-string budgets, they keep the Kerouac flame brightly burning in Jack’s hometown.

Readers can keep themselves abreast of LCK happenings by checking out its website at

Steve Edington is a 25 year member of the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Committee and a past President. He currently serves as the LCK Treasurer. He is a Unitarian Universalist minister, residing in Nashua, New Hampshire, and currently serving as the Interim Minister of the First Church, Unitarian of Littleton, MA.

Steve is the author of Kerouac’s Nashua Connection, The Beat Face of God—The Beat Generation Writers as Spirit Guides, and Bring Your Own God—The Spirituality of Woody Guthrie. He is in the early stages of a book on the above described parallels between the twin renaissances of the Kerouac legacy and the City of Lowell, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Review of Hanging Loose 106 a biannual literary magazine Spring 2016

Review of Hanging Loose 106
a biannual literary magazine
Spring 2016

Alice Weiss
I can’t imagine a review of the magazine, Hanging Loose, that does not begin with the aptness of its name. The editors’ vision of poetry is that it loosens the things of this life and looks through the loosened ties to find what happens when the clown shakes us up, and the floppy polka dots and big shoes take over.
The editors are interested in voice and story, sometimes shaggy dog story and the spirit of Frank O”Hara and Damon Runyon hover nearby. They are also interested in the poetry of high school kids.
The issue begins with a fourteen poem series by Sherman Alexie on the occasion of the death of his mother. They are prosy, eloquent, angry, funny, bitter, and loving. Loving,not so much of the mother who put the little boy he was outside in the middle of the night to sleep with the dogs, but of all the things in his world, not his mother: his sons, his wife, his friends, his grief, his gutsiness. There are always other people in his poems. the hot dog salesman at the highway exit who sells his dogs half price if you can prove you are half in love, the asshole who complains that his shirt is wrinkled at his mother’s wake. His son is there; he understands that art has to be honest—he wants to be a rapper, gonna call himself L’il Privilege. “Things I Never Said To My Mother” is a seven stanza poem that ends up with the following verse:

Mother I know
I was a sad little fucker.

I cried all the time.
It wasn’t pretty.

But I wasn’t always
Crying because of you.

I was crying because
I was born to live in the city.

And now I do.
Thank God I do.

Among the other poems that stood out for me, Jack Anderson’s “Night in St. Lézard,” a shaggy dog story that turns into a nightmare in its resistance to ending with a punch line, or ending at all. His “A Poem With That Word” is a story of a comeuppance, with the appropriate glee. Justin Jamail’s “One Night This Guy Scared the Crap Out of Me” ups the ante on Frank O’Hara as does John Keithke’s “A Couple Yeggs.” Mary Ferrari’s lines Written on The Way to Visit Catherine,” on the other hand, is a poem of grief where dinner party conversation with politically prominent dissidents, what is heard and overheard, resonate with the coming death of a friend.
Caroline Knox’s “Watershed” lit-crit list poem made up of allusions to rivers in poems of poets ranging from Kenneth Koch to Henry Thoreau. is witty and exciting in its literary and watery confrontations. In Rebecca Newth’s “My Edward Gorey Journal,” flat anaphoric sentences reflect the spirit and form of Gorey’s so exactly it’s spooky. I knew the man distantly. She’s got him down.
Every now and then a line or two lifts you out of your easy chair. This is from John Paul O’Connor’s poem “First Love” about loving a girl whose former boyfriend is a vet:
I didn’t know what war did to people.
I didn’t know how love made its way from the stick
shift of a ’55 Ford into the combat boots of jealousy
and rage.
Reading Hanging Loose, you feel as if you are entering a close laid back community, or indeed, family. At the center of the magazine we come to a series of collages by Helen Adam, brilliant in their colors, smoothly reproduced. The editor, Robert Hershon introduces these with a short note that the artist brought a series of her collages to his wedding to Donna Brook in 1982. Here are five of them. We are swept into an unexpected intimacy with the magazine, become aware that actual people put the thing together with love and want the reader to feel part of this family. That feels good.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Summer's End: Stories by R.D. Skillings

R.D. Skillings

Summer's End: Stories by R.D. Skillings

Review by Doug Holder

R.D. Skillings is a mainstay of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., where he has served as a trustee and chair of its writing committee for decades. He has mentored many young writers and has been prolific in his own writing-- publishing collections of poetry, short stories, and novels. Recently Christopher Busa of the Provincetown Arts Press sent me Skillings' new short story collection “Summer's End” for review. He felt that I might relate to this collection because of my own youthful forays in Boston-- the rooming houses, the cat ladies, the old haunts, etc... that I covered in my poetic memoir of Boston and beyond “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Poseur.”

Skillings' book is an old fashioned one in the best sense. He writes about Boston, Provincetown and the environs before the tendrils of gentrification transformed them to another thing entirely. This was when a dive bar was not a cutting edge concept to lure tourists in to experience the sanitized grit of the days of yore. This book goes back to a time when the red-light district of the Combat Zone in Boston was flush with blinking neon signs, ladies of the evening, strip clubs, and when on a wafting night breeze one could hear the whispers of “ Hey, doll—want some company?” At times Skillings' ear for dialogue impressed me as much as the late, great George Higgins ( "The Friends of Eddie Coyle”) did with his mastery of the vernacular—the linguistic nuances that give the reader a “this is for real” moment. Whether it is the tit for tat of some old men in a barbershop, or a floozy in a seedy bar, the dialogue never seems stilted.

Skillings' characterization are right on the money as well. Skilling is not in the habit of labeling or creating stick figures. He realizes the complexity of the most down and out, and challenged stumble bums. In the “ Girl who saw God,” a group of 70-somethings and a younger barber have for years ritualistically gathered at a barbershop in a small burg to chew the fat. At first the conversation seems casual—but as it progresses the subtext rears its head, and the discussion becomes more about life and death. There is a talk of a young girl who told one of the older gents about a near death experience she had, and her sighting of a divine, all encompassing and welcoming white light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The young barber hears this and is brought to ponder ontological question a midst his banal existence:

“ At a loss, already weary, dazed by the thought of everything vanishing in light, he tries to recall his wife's warm hips and sleepy morning smile, wishes, wishes he too could hang up his white coat, forget his car, walk home the old way through childhood streets beneath the bygone elms, and take her back to bed for a long, long nap.”

In the “Tomb of Hiram Gooms” Skillingtons' ear for dialogue bitch slaps you with its blunt, in your face sensibility. In this story of a gone-to-seed, white trash sort of gal ( Who we later learn has a surprising sensitivity)  she  makes a pitch to a barkeep for a bit of carnal pleasure. She pleads her case:

“I'd like a pole of prick with a red head like a pomegranate right up my bazoo. I happen to know you've got a wanger on you would make a heifer howl. What say we go out back like we used to?'

Me thinks that Skillings might have been influenced by the“ Spoon River Anthology” by Edgar Lee Masters because of his wonderful descriptions of small town characters-- that although not dead—for all practical purposes some of them should be. In the same story, in the window of a hash house, Skillington has his female narrator view a sort of museum of people beaten down by life—like one Wally Wizzling, once a railroad man—who goes into a nightly pantomime of waving his hands at an imaginary oncoming train—fueled by booze and what haunts him.

Some stories have a meandering, unfinished quality about them—but even in those you see Skillings' mastery at work. Highly Recommended.