Saturday, August 06, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Kevin Gallagher

Kevin Gallagher

Kevin Gallagher is a political economist, poet, and publisher living in Greater Boston with his wife Kelly, their children Theo and Estelle, and Rexroth the family German Shepherd.  These poems are from Gallagher's new book, LOOM, published by MadHat Press.  Gallagher edits spoKe, a Boston-based annual of poetry and poetics, and works as a Professor of Global Development Policy at Boston University’s Pardee School for Global Studies. 

The Foot of Slave Power

                        Samuel May Jr., June 2, 1854

A body of troop with drawn swords
and a large force of police and marines

surrounded a hollow square
hemmed by a thick-set hedge of gleaming blades

and large brass field-piece with artillery--
loaded to the muzzle and more than ready.

In the midst of this walked Anthony Burns.
Fifty thousand rushed in all around them.

Fifty thousand carrying black coffins.
Companies of mounted horsemen rushed us,

dividing and scattering us for a time.
He has gone off to their tender mercies.

He has gone!  Boston lies bound hand and foot!
Slaves at the foot of Slave Power!

The Blood of ’76

Amos A. Lawrence, 1854

Three years ago I offered my support
to protect U.S. Marshals from the mob.

This time I prefer to see the court
razed than see this man’s newfound freedom robbed.

They marched him down State Street in procession.
Cavalry, artillery, and cannon.

U.S. troops before him and behind him.
He held his head up and marched like a man.

The windows on houses were filled with faces,
though the streets and alleys had all been cleared.

We thought Boston the safest of places,
that here freedom could never disappear.

We cannot stand that this was not a crime.
I have to tell you that it is high time.

Friday, August 05, 2016

August 9, 2016 Poet Alfred Nicol -- appears on Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer--Somerville Community Access TV

 See it live at 5PM  at  Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer
Alfred Nicol


Alfred Nicol’s third full-length book of poetry, Animal Psalms, was published in March, 2016 by Able Muse Press. Designed and meticulously edited by Alex Pepple, the book has received glowing recommendations from several of our finest contemporary poets, including David Ferry, winner of the 2012 National Book Award, who wrote, “Dear reader, I’ve fallen in love with this book, and that will happen to you too.”

Nicol’s previous collection, Elegy for Everyone, published in 2009, was chosen for the first Anita Dorn Memorial Prize as “a work of complex vision and stylistic mastery.” He received the 2004 Richard Wilbur Award for an earlier volume, Winter Light, of which Jay Parini, biographer of Robert Frost, said, “This is certainly among the finest new volumes of poetry I have read in years.”
Alfred Nicol has written the lyrics for nine original compositions by classical/flamenco guitarist John Tavano. The CD, released in January, 2015, is titled The Subtle Thread.

In 2011 Nicol contributed a sequence of dream-notations to a book of images created by his sister, the artist Elise Nicol: the collaboration is titled Second Hand Second Mind. In 2009 Nicol, Tavano and poet Rhina Espaillat recorded the CD Melopoeia (poetry recited with musical accompaniment).
A member of the Powow River Poets since 1999, Nicol edited The Powow River Anthology, published in 2006.

Nicol’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The New England Review, Dark Horse, First Things, Atlanta Review, Commonweal, The Formalist, The Hopkins Review, and other literary journals, as well as in Contemporary Poetry of New England and other anthologies.

Whiteness of Bone By Gloria Mindock

Whiteness of Bone
By Gloria Mindock
Glass Lyre Press
Glenview, Illinois
ISBN: 978-1-941783-19-1
81 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Certain extraordinary people absorb the world’s suffering and cruelty; they identify with the victims of inhumanity so closely that at times they seem to transfigure themselves into exemplars of those unfortunates. Faith healers, saints, mystics all possess a measure of this quality. In hagiography think of Francis of Assisi, Theresa of Avila, and stigmatics like Padre Pio. On the secular side, singular artists also manifest this imaginative and creative trait in different, but no less extreme, forms—including and especially poets.

Gloria Mindock, one of these versifiers of villainy, pens her narrated atrocities with a radiating light of white hot indignation. She aims to shame us all for not listening to the piercing screams of child-sufferers and the horrified protestations of adult innocents against imminent barbarity. Like Cassandra, the poet predicts future savagery and devastation, and, like that prophetess, she feels ignored. From Mindock’s opening poem, In a Dark World, her obsessive need to voice the world’s Manichean reality and her sense of crushing injustice drives each poetic commentary. The poet questions her own worthiness in the heart of this piece,

Day after day, death happens…
despite the sun coming out to
show the blue of the sky.
Beauty and ugliness in battle—
Light and dark in battle—
Each day, a tug of war and each day,
each side wins somewhere in the world.

You told me I was light in a dark world.
Why did you do this?
Do you know something I don’t?

Railing against bestiality is, in a sense, railing against human nature, since humans are, at least in part, beasts too. Altruists, such as Mindock, want to invent a civilization of angels, who answer to the golden rule rather than base instinct. It’s unattainable, of course, but quite necessary in the long evolution of mankind’s soul. The poet in her opening stanza of Call describes our present state,

Pounding, beating…
Possessing the prey, like an
animal with no cares but survival.
This is what we do to each other.
Some defeat is on purpose and the power,
spills out of the soul.
Blood tries to swallow the world.

Mindock intimates that the end is near in her apocalyptic poem entitled End. Her persona plays hide and seek in little-girl fashion, waiting for the missiles to strike. Personal death powers these words, but total annihilation also seems expected. For the dead, these conclusions are, indeed, synonymous. Mindock’s persona channels a fiery fate,

My hands are together as I wait, but first
I must put on a pretty dress.
People are weeping, not me.
I welcome the heat disintegrating my body.
It is time to slide down to the floor,
feel the rush around me.

Nothing remains…

State terrorism casts its shadow within Mindock’s poems. In her poem Missing she effectively calls criminal governments to task by conjuring up apparitions of the villagers who “died with grace” to bear witness to the horrors. The Disappeared understand that the poet’s words embody their existence once more in mnemonic sympathy,

They can hear me speak. Their hearts beat
faster and they understand.
They feel my breath—
This is not un-human.

Overhead birds sing about what they saw.
It is not joyful chirping.
This evening, there is a big light shining
from the countryside.

It is my fault, I lit the match so
the world could see, remember.
The military killed them.

Whiteness of Bone, the title poem, fluctuates between objective reflection and emotional response. Mindock rationalizes that war and genocide are always with mankind. Cruelty grows out of nature. Slaughter seems almost ritual. The poet repeats in this poem and others the image of blood flowing into the ground as if the earth demands this as a sacramental sacrifice. She also channels the dead, her heart bursting with a pointed compassion. Mindock’s dual identity forges a poignant conversation of conscience. The piece concludes with her conversation culling a new identity from moldering bodies,

All the bones saturate the ground.
One can learn about the life and death of the
dead by holding them.
I hear you, know you, there is no vacancy
in my heart as your life closes in.
the whiteness of bone, I caress, kiss and
retrieve your memories for a better life.

Brutalized countries often cannot escape the cycles of revenge and murder. Common people pay a terrible price from both contending sides and many seek refuge. El Salvador emerged from a 12 year war into a hair-trigger existence, the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero still shining brightly in that country’s collective consciousness. Mindock uses this background in her piece entitled Escape to chronicle the flight of many Salvadorian people to the United States. The poet describes her role,

hidden in trucks.
Travelling falls into place with rosary beads
in their hands, each bead a prayer to Romero.

Living is a taste I really want for them.
Escaping, a betrayal to El Salvador but
the pavement to a new life is calling.

In America, they have a dialogue
with themselves.
Crying and mourning, loss, a way of life
until the joy of a new oxygen takes over.

Meanwhile, I speak for them. Putting my hand
again on their soil… taking the role of angel, anointing their
foreheads with the soul of a dead one…

Mindock’s poems give witness to an earthly hell. Her collection cries to heaven. Readers of good will, take notice.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Death of a Salesman. By Arthur Miller. Vokes Players. Wayland, Mass. Directed by John Barrett

 "I don't say he's a great man. Willie Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person."
Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Death of A Salesman. By Arthur Miller. Vokes Players. Wayland, Mass. Directed by John Barrett

Willy Loman , the tragic hero in Arthur Millers “ Death of a Salesman” is captured by this quote from his wife Linda. Loman, a long-in-the-tooth salesman whose shoe shine has lost its luster, and has a handshake that went firm to limp, may have not amounted to hill of a beans in the play, but he remains a powerful symbol of lives of quiet and in this case not so quiet desperation. He is an icon of the nightmare that hides behind the sizzle but no steak billboard of the American Dream. Loman makes his sales pitch to mocking laughter, to rolling eyes, as he completes the last half of the roller coaster ride to oblivion.

Robert Zawistowski, who plays Loman like a clinically depressed Falstaff, has mastered the body language, the stoop, the perpetual sweat on the brow, the speech, of a defeated man.

This play is directed by John Barrett and is true to the original. I have seen television and film adaptions with Lee J. Cobb, and Dustin Hoffman, that were marvelously produced. I have never seen the play on stage. But—the stage has an intimacy—the feel of the press of the flesh, the texture that can't be captured in another medium.

Biff, the wayward son of Loman is expertly played by Bill Stambaugh. Stambaugh interprets the character as a tightly coiled—powder keg of a man, stunted to a degree by his father and his own limitations. Deanna Swan, who plays Linda, Willy's wife, is the definition of long suffering. Her smile seems like a brittle pop-- a thin scrim to the unfolding tragedy.

The last scene in the play, at Loman's funeral, was particularly striking. The lighting designer Dan Clawson ( and I always noticed lighting because my brother Donald Holder is a Tony Award -winning lighting designer), has affected a melancholy line up of silhouettes over Willy's grave-- a somber Greek Chorus that left a chill down my spine.

The Vokes Players, in this production, have contributed to a night of theatre that I will long remember.

*** Doug Holder is the arts/editor of The Somerville Times, and teaches writing at Endicott College and Bunker Hill Community College.

The Sunday Poet: Jennifer Matthews

Poet/Musician  Jennifer Matthews

Jennifer Matthews is an accomplished poet, photographer, and singer/songwriter. Her poetry has appeared in the Midway Journal, Lyrical Somerville, Ibbetson Street and many others. To find out more about Matthews go to: Jennifer Matthews

When we are One

Singing with the choir, we are born into this life
some of us raise hell and fire
some of us just dust

and the years go by like passing moments
when we are one, we are beautiful

in this world we tame the fires
we start the fires we breathe the fires
I wonder if we all are lilies, lilies open hearts desires

and the years go by like passing moments
when we are one, we are beautiful

even when you think, you're falling apart
you are stronger then the weight of your heart
and when you think your falling apart
don't be fooled by desire, reach for something higher

maybe we are exploding stars, exploding stars
maybe we are the greatest part, the greatest part

and the years go by like passing moments
when we are one, we are beautiful