Saturday, November 05, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Karen Locascio

Karen Locascio is a graduate of the MFA program at UMass, Boston, where she won an Academy of American Poets prize. Her work has appeared in Paper Nautilus, Cider Press Review, and Window Cat Press, among others, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her debut collection, May All My Wounds Be Mortal, won the first Ron Schreiber Poetry Prize and will be published by Hanging Loose Press in early 2017. In her spare time, Karen enjoys genealogy research and fantasy football, and reads submissions for Spry Literary Journal. Originally from New Jersey, Karen currently lives in Dorchester.

The Fool

I dream you swoop in
on wings I can’t see. You burn
off like dust on a candle,
my skeleton radiating
hypnotic from my breastbone.
You’re better as visitation
or morning sickness,
and me as a padded room,
a concavity.

Flip the shell.
Pick a card, any card.
I’ll break a plate
then the sky. Rain, rain…
The sperm is rain,
the rain is sperm.

The ovum’s the only human cell
visible to the naked eye.
I’ve got cavities in my ovaries
and sperm in my mouth.
When you tell me to leave, you mean it
half the time. You slap me
on the ass, chain-smoking,
sink full of empties.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Search for a new Somerville Poet Laureate begins!

Nicole Terez Dutton-- First Somerville Poet Laureate

 ***** Harris Gardner and myself, along with the Director of the Somerville Arts Council, Greg Jenkins-- jump-started the first Poet Laureate position in Somerville, Mass. in 2014. Nicole Terez Dutton was the pick of the committee, and she has done a fine job. Now the search begins, yet again. Here is the application process...

Somerville Poet Laureate
Application and Overview
Statement of Purpose

The City of Somerville announces the creation of a Poet Laureate for Somerville. The City views the position as a means to further enhance the profile of poets and poetry in the city and beyond. The Poet Laureate is expected to bring poetry to segments of Somerville's community that have less access or exposure to poetry: senior citizens, youth, schools and communities. The Poet Laureate will be a person of vision with the ability to enact his/her vision.

The Poet Laureate will serve for a two-year term, 2017 & 2018, and will be provided an honorarium of $2,000 per year. A contract will be derived with expectations detailed as to the public benefit required of the position, which will be jointly determined with the final applicant and review committee. The expectation is that the position will support and expand poetry in the city. The Somerville Arts Council/City of Somerville will support the Laureate in networking within the community but actual work must be accomplished by the chosen candidate.

How to apply Deadline: Postmarked by November 29, 2016
Candidates for Somerville Poet Laureate must provide the following:
• One page contact info sheet with name, address, phone number, email, website (if applicable)
• Proof of residence demonstrated by sending a copy of a utility bill, lease, phone bill. (a jpg image of a current bill or statement is fine if emailing application, or a photocopy of statement if mailing application)

• Curriculum Vitae / Poetry-Related Bio
• Up to 20 pages of original poetry
• One to three-page vision statement with details as to how you will implement the public benefit component.

How to submit
1. Either email PDFs of the above items to Gregory Jenkins at with Poet Laureate in the subject header:
2. Or mail the following documents to: Somerville Poet Laureate, Somerville Arts Council, 50 Evergreen Ave., Somerville, MA 02145

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Podcast : Doug Holder interviews poet Joyce Peseroff

Doug Holder/Joyce Peseroff ( Click on)

Here is a podcast I conducted with noted poet Joyce Peseroff-- Peseroff was one of the original members of the Alice James Collective in Cambridge, the first director of the MFA program at U/Mass Boston, friend to Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon, and many other things in her long and accomplished career. We also discussed her new collection "Know Thyself."

From Nothing By Daniel Tobin

From Nothing
By Daniel Tobin
Four Way Books
New York, NY
ISBN: 978-1-935536-69-7
39 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Melding together physics, mysticism, and mathematics, Daniel Tobin, in his epic paean to Jesuit priest and scientist Georges Lemaitre entitled From Nothing, creates and choreographs a twentieth century re-conjured world of cosmological wonder and Dantean horror. He conveys his tale to us in extraordinary lines of narrative poetry.  Tobin’s writing explodes onto the page with white-hot intensity, its numinous words and birthing suns expanding and cooling first into elegance and then into a compassionate understanding of our human condition.

Tobin’s subject, Lemaitre, just for his acquaintances and geographic address, deserves substantial intrinsic interest.  A friend of Albert Einstein, Lemaitre visited with him often after Einstein had fled Germany for the temporary sanctuary of Belgium.

No stranger to savagery, Lemaitre fought in the trenches during the First World War and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Lemaitre remained in Belgium up until and through the 1940s and the Jewish holocaust. He witnessed the horrors first-hand and was himself questioned by the Nazis because of his friendships with multiple Jewish scientists.

In his work Lemaitre anticipated and solved many of the problems inherent in Einstein’s physics. He disagreed with Einstein on issues of quantum mechanics and his insights were later proved correct. He also developed the theory of cosmology that became known as the “Big Bang.”

Though writing mostly in the third person, Tobin occasionally speaks in the voices of preeminent scientists of the time such as Lemaitre himself, astronomer Edwin Hubble, Robert Oppenheimer, and George Gamow. The technique works wonderfully by infusing emotion, humor, and, generally, other points of view into the text.

A consideration of Lemaitre’s deeply felt faith and his scientific persona opens this collection of distinct, yet intrinsically connected, poems. In this piece entitled (Fountain) Tobin expounds on the attraction between matter and anti-matter before ending his argument with Lemaitre’s own words,

… your physics and your faith,
the divergent roads with their singular horizon

where the radius of space converges into zero,
where what was, is, will be waxes without boundary
into seed and sand grain, a Cepheid luster of eyes—

news of the minor signature keyed from everywhere,
the primal radiation, omnipresent, the prodigal
wave arriving from its Now that has no yesterday,

the proof of your calculus, the tour of the expanse:
“The evolution of the universe might be compared
to a display of fireworks that has just ended,

some few red wisps, ashes, and smoke. So we stand
on a well-cooled cinder to see the fading of suns,
to glimpse a vanished brilliance, the origin of worlds.”

At the Battle of Yser Lemaitre details a chemical gas attack and pivots from realty into a work of art. The poem, (De Rerum), is spoken, amidst the spattering of machine guns, in Lemaitre’s voice. Here’s the heart of the piece,

Why is it, O my Precious Christ, we do this to each other,
crouching in transverse, trench, the barbed, deadlocked lines,
who might have joined like harvesters among hedge and fold?

A hiss, and from enemy dug-outs the strange cloud curls
in waves, grayish, yellow to green, darkest at the bottom.
And I know we are in a biblical plague, the men fumbling

for bits of flannel, cotton pads, the gassed in spasm, clawing
at their throats, their eyes, vomiting, crawling off to die—
the way the forsaken do in Bruegel’s The Triumph of Death,   

its black plumes of smoke and burning cities, its scythes
and armies, skeletal, their coffin lid shields, the slit throats,
wagonloads of skulls, that dog nibbling a dead child’s face.

At his most provocative Tobin summons up Pope Pius XII, the mystic and Vicar of Christ, loathed by Adolf Hitler, obsessed with apparitions in Fatima, and utterly alone in his bureaucracy. He had ordered his churches to save individual Jews by hiding them and issuing phony baptismal records. He broadcasted veiled condemnations of the Nazis. He seemed to mean well, but yet…. The poet, speaking of the audience Lemaitre had with the Pope, concludes the piece this way,

… his silence at the roundups

near Vatican walls: culpability caught by hindsight,
the encyclical denouncing hate shelved for diplomacy.
In the photograph you look up at him, your pontiff,

as he welcomes you. Obedient, open, to his throne.
And had he donned the yellow star? History’s “What if.”

Using the famous double-slit thought experiment as a metaphor in his poem (Aperture), Tobin plots out the possibilities and paths of science, as well as Lemaitre’s mystical hope for religious salvation. In the experiment that charts “wave theory,” particle photons, when shot through a slit screen, seem to know where to go; they have a kind of consciousness. Does probability theory indubitably lead to an invisible world? The poet explains,

--“ Infinity is such an artistic creation, all symmetry
And elegance, but your method smacks of metaphysics,
Lifeless life, and the Bible is not a textbook of science.

If relativity theory had been necessary to salvation
it would have been revealed to St. Paul or Moses.
Still, the deeper we penetrate the universal mystery

The more we will find one law and one goodness.”

Lemaitre envisions cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) in Tobin’s poem entitled Canto. His predictions were validated shortly before he died by Arno Penzias and James Wilson. The poet begins his piece by quoting St Augustine,

Is it motion itself that makes the day? Or is it the time
taken in the motion? Or is it both? The saint asked,
searchingly— Deus creator omnium: the measure

of mind made by the Maker of minds, and time
come to existence only observable as time, phase
transition to the radio spectrum, pre-recombinant,

the primordial light unchanged from the initial
sea of light, a television hiss homing everywhere,
mysterious, incessant…

Tobin has dared mightily with this multi-faceted book of cosmological wonders and soaring divination.  The degree of his rarefied achievement startles beyond mere artistic credence. Bravo.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Women Musicians Network 20th Concert Wednesday, November 9, 2016, 8:00 pm (doors 7:30) Berklee Performance Center

Christiane Karam & Lucy Holstedt
photo credit: Carolyn Alden
Women Musicians Network
20th annual concert, Wed., Nov. 9th
Berklee Performance Center
"Once again, it's a once-in-a-lifetime show."

20 years ago, Lucy Holstedt moved to Somerville and also co-founded the W.M.N. concert. Today, Lucy (a professor in Berklee's Harmony Dept.) feels "very good" about both decisions: she is now a homeowner here, and this concert has become well known and highly regarded.
One fan is Cambridge Major E. Denise Simmons, whose 2016 PROCLAMATION thanks Holstedt for her huge role in creating an "exciting and diverse showcase {that brings} the gift of music to so many throughout Greater Boston."
"It's never easy," says Lucy—who is also the W.M.N. student club advisor, concert co-director, and primary host—"but I love working with the great, original talent constantly pouring into Berklee. This may be the only college where you could put together such an eclectic concert that's different every year." As always, the focus is on Berklee women (mainly students) as songwriters, composers, bandleaders, and producers. In the course of 90 minutes, you'll see 10 original acts—from Solo Jazz and Contemporary Classical, to Funk/Gospel and Rock.

The Nov. 9th show begins with a Big Band arrangement by Berklee professor Ayn Inserto, based on a jazz composition by pianist Zahili Gonzalez Zamora—a Berklee student from Cuba who has already performed around the world. "I'm excited we're starting with an all-women, 19-piece band," Lucy remarks. "It's not something you see every day."

Soon after, concert co-director Christiane Karam will be leading her magnificent (in my experience) traditional Pletinitsa Balkan Choir. Near the end of the concert is a setting of a poem dealing with refugees. The poem was written by Boston Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges (born in Haiti), who now teaches at Lesley University. This poem inspired Holstedt to write "Miles Apart," a song she'll be performing with vocalists from Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Every Women Musicians Network concert I've been to—roughly a dozen so far—is like a cross between an international music festival and a magic trick: 10 acts in an hour and a half!? How is this possible? "The staff at the B.P.C. deserve a huge amount of credit," says Lucy, who adds that W.M.N. student leaders are always working to make smooth transitions between acts.

The focus is on women, but a good number of Berklee men are included. Lucy shows me a draft of the program, and I count participants from more than 20 countries.

Not quite as "international" as Somerville, of course—but not bad for a concert.

Women Musicians Network
20th annual concert the
Berklee Performance Center
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm (doors 7:00 pm)
Tickets: only $8 in advance / $12 day of show