Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Sunday Poet: Lillian Freedman

Poet Lillian Freedman

Lillian Freedman is a nonagenarian who has been interested in poetry all her life. Her favorite poem is 'The Chambered Nautilus' by Oliver Wendell Holmes. It was in 1978 that she wrote her first poem, while on flight to a wedding ceremony and now she is still still at it. She resides in Newton, Ma.

The Enabler

He knows there is always
Another arrow in the quiver
And another deer in the forest
He knows you are the deer
And the arrow will go
Straight to your heart
Do you want to be
The deer in his forest
Or is it your time to graze

He's luring his victim
With his engaging way
Feeding the deer with nibbles
And despite his previous betrayals
His lure is his charm
Setting up the inviting deer
For the coup d'etat
All the while indulging
His every whim
Knowing his enabler
Will be there for him.

-Lillian Freedman

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Doug Holder interviews poet Fred Marchant

Holder interviewed Marchant about his new poetry collection, "Said Not Said," ( Gray Wolf Press)--his founding of the poetry center at Suffolk University, his work for the Poets Theatre in Cambridge, and other topics. Marchant taught at Suffolk University in Boston for many years, and is an iconic presence on the Boston poetry scene. Holder interviewed him on his Somerville Community Access TV show "Poet to Poet Writer to Writer." 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Somerville Poet Sharon Amuguni chats about the Massachusetts Poetry Festival/ May 5 to May 7, 2017.

  Somerville Poet Sharon Amuguni

Somerville Poet Sharon Amuguni chats about the Massachusetts Poetry Festival/ May 5 to May 7, 2017.

By SharonAmuguni

With increments of spring beginning to appear residents of Massachusetts are looking forward to the potential for activity that good weather brings. As a poet residing in Somerville, a creative, and member of Mass Poetry staff, I am especially looking forward to the start of spring because it signals the oncoming of the Massachusetts Poetry festival.

In its 9th year the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, a three-day festival in Salem dedicated to poetry, is doing a remarkable job of highlighting the complex diversity of the state. The workshops mirror the wide range of lives and how poetry and the arts intertwine with unexpected facets. This year we’re excited to host a variety of panels and workshops with themes ranging from character development for maternal poetry, post rock poetry, building bridges between physics and poetry, to seeds for multilingual multicultural narrative poems. We’ve got a panel for every type of writer. The multitude of events is something we’re proud of and is an indicator of how multifaceted our state is. Along with that we’re pleased to be able to bring in renowned poets into the local sphere. 

Of course, the headliners are always a big hit, drawing a wide crowd of devoted poetry cohorts from all over the state. This year I look forward to hearing from Kazim Ali, Louise Gluck and Ross Gay, as well as local poet Emily Pettit, who I heard speak at my first Student Day of Poetry workshop. Each writer brings a narrative distinctive to their experience.

But, truly my favorite aspect of the Massachusetts Poetry festival is what goes on amidst the headliners. Sitting in on the smaller workshops, I am always impressed by the wide reach that poetry has. Throughout the weekend, I witness poets who usually moonlight as teachers, dog walkers, and mathematicians get the opportunity to unfold in their natural environment. For many, these workshops are a chance to shed the weight of their daily responsibilities and bask in their identity as writers and creatives. The audience is a mix of all ages, students, families, poetry lovers and strangers who happen to wander into downtown Salem. For both workshop leaders and participants, the three-day festival is a moment of shared joy, catharsis, and expression.

At the end of the weekend what I hope festival goers take away is that there isn’t one monolithic approach to poetry. You don’t have to be a best-selling author, or headliner to write or be interested in poetry. Within our sixty plus workshops there are everyday people sharing how poetry moves them in their daily lives. That’s the real essence of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, making poetry more accessible to the greater public. I believe it’s vital that we work towards removing the idea that poetry is a cumbersome solely academic subject critiqued in university classrooms and far away fellowships by older men with degrees and publications. Poetry has many faces each stemming from individuals with varied experiences.

Poetry is not this unfathomable thing separate from you. It is what your dentist devotes their free time to, how your mother finds peace when you leave for school, how children learn about their own emotions. It’s a tool for healing, a medium for community activism and a mouthpiece social justice.
I see this urge to synthesize art and community activism present throughout Somerville. From finding remnants of Mary Oliver’s poems meticulously placed in hidden corridors (which happened to a friend of mine earlier this week) to seeing organizations like Somerville Media Center, there is a focus on utilizing the power of the arts to revitalize communities. 
This want to bring poetry and the arts to the forefront of the public experience is shared at Mass Poetry. Through our Poetry on the T and raining Poetry projects we aim to bring poetry to the people and push forward this notion of poetry being a present and uniting element in everyone’s life. We hope to act as a resource to make it accessible to all community members.

In these next weeks prior to the festival, I implore all community members in Somerville and beyond to set aside some time. Explore how poetry may have played a role in your life and those around you. How access to resources or lack thereof affects individuals and communities’ ability to grow creatively. Then stop by the festival for a day. Bring a friend that loves poetry, two friends who may not be as well versed and a host of strangers with no idea of what to expect. Expose them to the power and freedom in poetry. Most importantly, after the weekend ends, act. Continue to use creative production in your daily lives. Use it to inspire others and explore your own understanding of the issues around you. Use it to showcase diversity and as a platform for activism, knowing that there is a place for everyone in the world of poetry.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


****  "Aspect magazine (1969-1980) was the creation of Edward J. Hogan, of Somerville, Massachusetts. Hogan was a history major at Northeastern University in March of 1969 when he launched a magazine featuring social and political commentary by a small group of university students. Hogan subsequently expanded that magazine to include poetry, fiction, graphic design, and literary news and reviews. Aspect published many writers, poets, and artists that represented the “Boston Scene” of the late 1960s and 1970s." ( Keene State College Archive)



Somerville is a city of many dimensions. It is an eclectic urban soup of professionals, newly arrived immigrants, artists, students, dreamers, drifters, all living in close and hopefully comfortable proximity. What may not be immediate apparent is that it is and has been a city of small presses and little magazines. Offhand I could think of the Boston Literary Review, Dark Horse, Small Moon, Yellow Moon Press, Davis 2 Porter, Ibbetson Street, Abyss and a host of others. Of all these presses, some would argue that ASPECT MAGAZINE and ZEPHYR PRESS founded by Somerville's late Ed Hogan are the most notable.

June Gross, who was Hogan's wife and former editor of Somerville's Dark Horse Magazine told me over tea in her home outside of Union Square, Somerville that there was not much of a literary "scene" in Boston in the 70's, when Aspect was around. There was some activity in Harvard Square, and a fair number of transient small magazines that appeared and vanished into the ether. Reflecting on the Cambridge and Somerville literary milieu, Gross recalled:" People from Cambridge always said, ' Oh, I always get lost in Somerville.' People from Cambridge never came to Somerville. It was a blank space. Somerville was a blank space."

If what Gross said was true then Hogan certainly filled the void with his prolific output of magazines and books over the years. Hogan, who died at the age of 47 in 1997 in a canoe accident, ran Aspect from 1969 to 1980, and in this time published many writers who are well- known today. Looking at a back issue from 1977 the roster of poets was quite impressive. Respected bards such as: Robin Becker, Bill Costley, Anna Warrock, Joyce Peseroff, Fred Marchant, all graced the pages of this single issue.

Ed Hogan grew up in Ball Square Somerville. He wrote in the ASPECT ANTHOLOGY ISSUE that he saw his first "little magazine" at age 12. Hogan was from a working class background and had an average public school education. Later he entered the History program at Northeastern University.While there he was inspired by a Bible scholar to pursue writing. Soon after ASPECT was founded in March of 1969. The early issues were simply typed and mimeographed sheets with articles on everything from Edmund Burke to Rock-n-Roll. Aspect was creature of its time , and the writers often dealt with issue like Vietnam, Watergate and the Cold War.

In 1971 Aspect took a turn to the literary. Aspect's first directory listing for writers was in Trace magazine. Later they were listed in Len Fulton's Int. Directory of Small Presses. As a result Hogan was flooded with poetry submissions. And true to Somerville's scrappy outsider image, Aspect did not pander to the mandarins and the academics. Hogan wrote: "We went about editing without undue notice to academic standards or established reputations . Our contributor's notes showed fewer writer's involved in writing programs or English Department Careers. I like to think we were more open than most to varied sensibilities. As we gained confidence and sophistication we maintained a central concern for accessibility, directness, lack of pretension, and a belief that these values are not antipathetic to literary excellence."

Over the years Aspect produced a Double Fiction Issue that was supplemented by extensive reviews, and a bibliography of small press published fiction. The Third Boston Poets issue included an interview with Phil Zuckerman of Apple-Wood Books, one of Boston's most successful literary small presses.

As any small press publisher knows, it is necessary to have a cadre of loyal, often volunteer staffers to put out a magazine. Aspect had it. Whether on Robinson St., School St., or Ibbetson St, in Somerville, a collective of artists, and writers put out this innovative magazine. One of the staffers Susan Lloyd McGarry wrote: " .editing a magazine collectively, as we do at Aspect, can be wearisome and trying to the temper. But the magazine gains immeasurably from the strength and energy of individuals who have an investment in all (of its) facets.without the others, that pleasure would not exist."

Around 1980 due to the amount of work that it required to run a small magazine and other personal problems, Hogan ended the enterprise. In its place Hogan, along with Miriam Sagan, Ronna Johnson and Leora Zeitlin, established a small press imprint ZEPHYR PRESS. Zephyr published primarily poetry chaps, literary fiction, and some non-fiction titles. Some of the releases were: AN EXPLORER'S GUIDE TO RUSSIA, and FROM THREE WORLDS: NEW UKRAINIAN WRITING. Hogan's crowning achievement was the COMPLETE POEMS OF ANNA AKHMTAOVA, (a famous Russian poetess of the 20th century), as translated by Judith Hemschmeyer. This collection was critically acclaimed by the New York Times Book Review, as one of the best books of 1990.

Len Fulton, publisher of the International Dict. of Small Presses wrote: " It is the Ed Hogans of the world that make it a better place, and it's the Ed Hogans of the small presses who have kept the movement honest and pointed in the right direction." And indeed Hogan was a dedicated man. Hogan embodied the feisty spirit of Somerville. He was an independent publisher from the wrong side of the tracks, who weathered many a storm and made his press work. His stepdaughter Viesia, recalled him hunched over a desk with an exacto knife for days on end, making sure things were just perfect. I think that's the way Hogan might have wanted to be remembered.

--Doug Holder  *** This article was used in a course on the small press at Keene State College New Hampshire.