Friday, March 31, 2017

The Sunday Poet: Neil Silberblatt


  Neil Silberblatt

 Neil Silberblatt’s poems have appeared in various journals, including Poetica Magazine, The Otter, The Aurorean, Two Bridges Review, Verse Wisconsin, Naugatuck River Review, WordPeace, Chantarelle’s Notebook, and The Good Men Project. His work has been included in the anthology, Confluencia in the Valley: The First Five Years of Converging with Words (Naugatuck Valley Community College, 2013); and in University of Connecticut’s Teacher-Writer magazine. He has published two poetry collections: So Far, So Good (2012), and Present Tense (2013) and is hard at work on a third collection, tentatively titled Past Imperfect.

He has been nominated (twice) for a Pushcart Prize, and one of his poems received Honorable Mention in the 2nd Annual OuterMost Poetry Contest (2014), judged by Marge Piercy. Neil is the founder of Voices of Poetry - which, since 2012, has presented poetry events, featuring distinguished poets & writers, at various venues throughout CT, NYC and MA - and the host of Poet's Corner on WOMR/WFMR, for which he has interviewed acclaimed poets on and off of Cape Cod.

 How to Build a Fire

Start slowly,
no, slower
with longing or, perhaps,
a lemon cut along its pregnant midsection and
squeezed over plump scallops seared to a walnut
finish while their flesh recalls the ocean.

Nurse it with desire or, perhaps,
garlic roasted until its sweet pulp emerges
Minerva-like from its parchment skin, like Torah scrolls
whose crowned letters leap from flames.

Only then, add touch or, perhaps,
logs whose air pockets wait to be emptied
by pickpocket flames, releasing ash fireflies
like so many copper pennies scattered onto
the night’s floor.

Skip the fire pit.
You don’t even need matches.
Just start with kindling or, perhaps,
a poem about kindling.

Transom Poems 2016 By Rick Mullin

Poet Rick Mullin


Poems 2016
By Rick Mullin
Dos Madres Press
Loveland, Ohio
ISBN: 978-1-939929-76-1
65 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Dismal things embedded in a city-scape of soaring architecture gaze outward like Gothic demons into the crisp sunlit clarity of Rick Mullin’s poetic universe. Mullin notices them there and paints their likenesses onto the pages of Transom, his newest collection of ground-breaking poetry. Unlike some of his grander books such as Soutine (a stunning verse biography of a neglected artist) and Sonnets from the Voyage of the Beagle (a wondrously detailed retelling of Charles Darwin’s epic journey), Mullin scales down his subjects to pedestrian or, more to the point, commuter proportions.

As a consummate formalist Mullin uses measure and rhyme in a fifteen line sonnet-like invention he calls a Third Sancerre. Appropriately enough the name suggests a French wine region noted for its elegant, yet very drinkable, wines grown in flinty, mineral rich soils.

From his very first poem, At Century 21, Mullin frames chaotic details and turns them into art. The poet remembers a troubling scene where fate chooses and rejects its victims indiscriminately. He sets his tableau at Century 21, a department store that survived 9-11, located across from the World Trade Center. What often gets brushed off as unexceptional low-drama incidents evolve into high tragedy.

A woman cried as all
the contents of her briefcase scattered
over Dey Street. I assume she worked
in Tower One and would have made it in
by 9. And then the transit cruiser parked
on Broadway hit its lights and faded in-
to smoke and mirrors and a sense that mattered
more than any rational surmise.

Notice that the measure picks up steam because of Mullin’s effective enjambment technique. Form and material complement each other perfectly here.

Another early piece in the collection, Ferry Weather, projects timeless classicism (The Odyssey, which the poet’s persona is reading on his way to work) as well as tragic hints (the World Trade Center) onto the stunning but everyday imagery of New York Harbor. A tug follows the poet’s ferry, cutting its wake, which then bleeds into a blue-green palette. The poet praises the clarity of this September day—like the infamous day of September 11th. As he watches the tug, it

rumbles through an image in the book
that carried me, unconscious, from the train.
The giant-killer channeling a brook
of weedy ghosts. But, oh, the sky again!
That unforgettable cerulean lake
Of clean electric air that spells September.

Apparently Mullin is not impervious to psychoanalysis. He questions his own disquiet level or lack thereof after he misses his train station in his poem entitled After Little Falls. Was he reading a good poem or did he just fall asleep? And, since he forgot his cell phone at work, why not panic like anyone else would instead of exuding a solid front of apathy? The poet considers the conundrum and its potential resolution,

So why the smirk?
Your nonchalance is irritating. Show ‘em
something normal like anxiety. Oh, well.
Someone would have let you make a call—
you don’t look crazy, staring at the swell
of taillights bleeding in the rain, the wall
of autumn, lost in the enfolding gloam.

Blue Jay, Mullin’s suburban song of paradise lost, delivers full frontal comedy as well as a twist of irony to the collection. Before ceding his property to the progeny of dinosaurs, and making clear his position on the unfairness of his own wretched fate, the poet introduces the invader of his world,

Oh floppy dishtowel blue jay in the yard,
most vicious of the garden birds, most summer;
who understands suburban life is hard,
who hates the robin and the neighbor’s Hummer;
who scares the children in the plastic pool
and tears through my tomatoes—criminal,
you fall from grace and crap on my Toyota.
Political poetry doesn’t do much for me unless it approaches the intensity and the not so subtle recklessness of an Ossip Mandelstam piece (I’m thinking of the “Kremlin mountaineer” poem). Mullen’s poem The Aggregate achieves that level. The poet dates his poem November 9, the day after the general election. He sandwiches the poem with a dazzling opening image and a finale that cuts through a morning walk like a machete. Mullin knows what he’s doing! The poem begins this way,

Somewhere out there, not so far away
from all the inconsolable commuters
solemnly interred beneath a day
they’d warded off on personal computers,
wakes the shadow of catastrophe
and rage…

For pure magic you can’t beat The Peppers in December, Mullin’s piece about very little, or perhaps quite a lot. The poet’s wife brings a bunch of dried out peppers from the kitchen and mysteriously places them on his writing desk. That’s all. There is no more. Except, of course, in Mullin’s imagination and egomania and music. Consider here the poet considering,

Was it the pressure of the holidays,
your hectic preparations that consume
a month? Whose judgment of what stays
consigns memento mori to my room?
Ignominy. The sheer effrontery of it all!
And not a word! A motherly reproof
so unbecoming of a wife, this slap
with no report but elegance and truth.
I am the husband, now, of husks.

With this collection Mullin adds the poetic portrayal of everyday hubbub in a way that engages and compels to his stash of impressive artistic achievements. This extraordinary poet never disappoints.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ibbetson Street Press Poet and Bagel Bard Zvi Sesling Named Poet Laureate of Brookline, Ma.

 Zvi Sesling, author of King of the Jungle ( Ibbetson Street Press), and publisher of the Muddy River Poetry Review--was named Poet/Laureate of Brookline, Mass...  For an interview with Sesling go to:

Doug Holder Interviews Poet Richard Waring

Boston National Poetry Month Festival, 2017/ Famous poets, Berklee musicians, a WWII veteran & you

  Boston Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges will be a featured reader at the Festival.

Boston National Poetry Month Festival, 2017
(Famous poets, Berklee musicians, a WWII veteran & you.)

By Kirk Etherton

April 5-9, there's a bunch of stuff to enjoy. I like to say "diverse eclecticism" — which may be redundant, but has a nice ring to it.

As usual, the B.P.L. portion of this fine festival begins Friday afternoon, April 7, with a group of great "Keynote Poets." David Ferry (National Book Award), Lloyd Schwartz (Pulitzer Prize), Gail Mazur, and Rhina Espaillat are among them.

That evening, there's a "Poetry, Music & Dance" concert across the street, produced by Berklee's Lucy Holstedt and boasting 10 highly diverse acts — including Ron Reid from Trinidad, reciting poetry and playing his ringing, singing steel pans.

If you just can't wait to check out the website for this FREE festival, here it is: NOTE: make sure to check out the "Directory" tab, where you'll see some of the great local businesses that help make this FREE festival FREE!

(Another NOTE: 'til April 15, one of our constant sponsors, The Middle East & ZuZu, has a 50% OFF SPECIAL, every single day from 4 -7 pm. I mention this as a "public service announcement"!)

OK! So, if you're still reading this, instead of our website — or a menu in Central Square, Cambridge—here's a little more about the poetry (& music) festival. Saturday, you can hear 35 established poets. Beatrize Alba Del Rio, from Argentina, is also an attorney. Jim Schley is coming down from Vermont; he's Managing Editor of Tupelo Press, and will also be part of a panel on "Craft & Publishing." Richard Hoffman and Fred Marchant are two great writers you should never miss.

Sunday features 15 more fine poets, including Doug Holder and Danielle Legros Georges, Boston's Poet Laureate. WWII veteran (and poet) Joe Cohen will perform with his daughter, Berklee prof. Beth Bahia Cohen. BOTH weekend days include Open Mics—hosted by accomplished poets. Acclaimed singer-songwriter Thea Hopkins will also be there on Sunday with her great voice, lyrics, and a very fine guitar.

Last — and first — the Festival begins Wednesday evening, April 5, with our third annual High School Slam Poetry Contest.

—Kirk Etherton, B.N.P.M.F. board of directors

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Phenomenal *Personal Shopper* starring Kristen Stewart

The Phenomenal *Personal Shopper* starring Kristen Stewart, directed by Olivier Assayas

article by Michael Todd Steffen

There is an empty empty house at the beginning of the new film starring Kristen Stewart, *Personal Shopper*, directed by Olivier Assayas, which makes an apt setting for a long opening of silence, situating the viewers precisely in their seats, in the act of watching. As Michael Nordine in his City Pages review observes, “*Personal Shopper* is a quiet movie, all the better for us to hear every creaking floorboard and let our minds follow sounds that might not be emanating from our realm.” Nordine’s term “quiet movie” recalls the old original “silent movie,” so called after “talkies” were invented. It’s not too simple to remember here that we call them “movies” because they are pictures in sequence, that move. Any director or film that includes significant silence, or scenes thereof, is citing the art at its origins. The way Assayas has the camera following Maureen (Kristen Stewart) through the empty house, room to room, in this long opening scene is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s following little Danny on his tricycle through the empty halls of the vast resort hotel in the mountains in *The Shining*.
     Another reference to Kubrick in Assayas’ astonishing ghost story comes by way of the material opulence encountered in the fashion luxuries Maureen shops for. These high-priced glitzy dresses and leather handbags and spike-heeled shoes are not for her. Maureen seeks the items out to rent for a high-profile vedette whose career status is uncertain, yet whose fate (you’ll have to see this for yourselves) stuns both the viewer’s sense of humanity and better-knowing. (It might be added that the star’s fate is not unusual in terms of the dynamics of Inspiration/follower, and the character Maureen comes under suspicion.)
     Hence the film’s title, *Personal Shopper*, serving as the film’s primary scenario. Celebrities of whatever profession, movie stars themselves, must have helpers of all kinds, among them clothing shoppers. It is assumed in the film that Maureen is bodily identical (shoe size, dress size, height, etc.) with the vedette she shops for. An interesting element of the film is how Maureen feels about trying on and at times wearing these luxury items, which is a kind of taboo for her. For though she and the star are dimensionally parallel, they are of distinctly separate personalities. One thing the film does is to remind us of the dangers of vanity involved in just being a star, in belonging to the capricious circle of affluent, important people. Stewart’s character Maureen otherwise dresses down, in just jeans (uncomfortably stiff and narrow at the calves) and sweatshirts and awkward bright white running shoes.
     The film’s driving scenario and back stories are calibrated into a delicate balance that actually evokes a lot about film making (any creative or artisanal vocation, even cabinet making, for that matter), acting, and the lives around the profession. Most of us know something about shopping for clothes, to some extent. What most of us perhaps do not know much about is waiting in an empty house for the phenomenon of a ghost or poltergeist to make itself known. It is odd and enjoyable that the film reverses the terms of familiarity and the exotic or odd, to underscore our capacity for personal loneliness, with the Internet configured into our cell phones. While we probably communicate more with one another than ever before, we are likely more personally and bodily alienated from one another, and full of strange ideas about “others,” to the extent of the paranoia that makes a murder/horror film credible as a psychic mirror. At one point in the film a mystery texter asks Maureen what she hates. The audience gets a good laugh at her reply: horror movies.
     For a viewer attuned to the genre, there’s a lot more humor throughout the film, particularly in the fleeing (moped) scenes ensuing the film’s intensely scary moments. Even veterans will feel the hair on their necks rise. The ghost is convincingly intractable and dominating, with awesome special effects. Yet the outcome of the film leaves one wondering whether the star Maureen shops for isn’t more terrible. In our times it isn’t so farfetched to think that it is we humans who haunt our world.