This blog consists of reviews, interviews, news, etc...from the world of the Boston area small press/ poetry scene and beyond. Regular contributors are reviewers: Dennis Daly, Michael Todd Steffen, David Miller, Alice Weiss,Timothy Gager,Lawrence Kessenich, Lo Galluccio, Zvi Sesling, Kirk Etherton, Tom Miller, Emily Pineau, and others.
Founder Doug Holder: email@example.com.
* B A S P P S is listed in the New Pages Index of Alternative Literary Blogs.
Scott Ruescher won the 2013 Erika Mumford Prize for poetry about travel
and international culture from the New England Poetry Club for
“Looking for Lorca”—one of the eleven poems in his chapbook Perfect Memory (Finishing Line Press, 2015). Some of the other poems have appeared in Tower Journal, Naugatuck River Review, In My Bed, Harvard Educational Review, and the Larcom Review. His chapbook Sidewalk Tectonics
was released by Pudding House Publications in 2009. Ruescher
coordinates the Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School
of Education and teaches in the Boston University Prison Education
program. He writes of his poem,
" Like William Butler Yeats in the opening lines of "The Circus Animal's
Desertion,"I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,/I sought it daily
for six weeks or so." Only for me it took ten years or more to figure
out a fresh approach to the notorious and troubling Charles Stuart case
that tragically confirmed again the legacy of blatant racism in Boston.
It was remembering a friend at work running to tell me that Stuart had
jumped from the Tobin Bridge that gave me the poem. This originally
appeared online in The Tower Journal--and it also appears in my
full-length collection, 'Waiting for the Light to Change' (Prolific
Press, 2017), along with many other poems on similar themes."
the Tobin Bridge
I close my eyes and see my friend Regina running,
from her parents’ Victorian house near Franklin Park
the Dorchester section of Boston, not from the starting line
the track in the stadium behind the suburban high school
attended on the METCO program—for disadvantaged
aspiring kids from the city—and not from the bus stop
Mass. Ave. and Tremont to the Josiah Quincy Middle School
the border of Chinatown and the South End,
husband Melvin used to do, racing the school bus
his friends and closest cousins every morning—
from one polished end of the hallway to the other
the second floor of Longfellow Hall, where we used
work together, at the Harvard Graduate
of Education, on this, the fourth of January, 1990,
the beginning of the all-too-ordinary workday,
everything is quiet, the students all gone
winter vacation, and the professors home in their sweaters;
that is, to tell me the news that she has just heard
the radio in her office—that they have just dredged the body
Charles Stuart up from the green tidal waters
the misnamed Mystic River, beneath the Tobin Bridge
spans Boston Harbor from Charlestown to the North Shore,
cover of the psychopath who blamed the murder of his wife
some anonymous black guy blown at last, his dream
living with the rich blonde he worked with at the fur store
chic-chic Newbury Street now just a nightmare,
brother Matthew having confessed this morning
it wasn’t, after all, some desperate black junkie
killed Chuck’s wife, the lovely Carol DiMaiti,
a botched armed robbery after their weekly birthing class
Brigham and Women’s Hospital on Huntington Ave.,
an alley across the street on Mission Hill in Roxbury,
Chuck himself, who hoped to get the insurance money
run off with that goddess from horsey Dover-Sherborn—
good enough, after years of wondering why the tide
racism in Boston has not yet receded, to break Regina,
the better judgment of her Christian education,
a fit of giggles that keeps her from crying
moral indignation at how the Boston cops, believing
word Stuart said, contrary, apparently,
the intuition of the nurses in the emergency room
they sewed up the wound Stuart had made
shooting himself in the leg to make his story plausible,
right ahead and conducted that month-long investigation
the criminal in question, bringing every black man
Mission Hill with a record in for questioning,
booking on suspicion one repeat offender
Willie Bennett who’d been in and out of prison—
that cracks Regina’s composure open in a carefree chuckle,
her down the hall, even while her plaid skirt
her strides, while her brown feet in black flats slap
shiny hallway tiles, and while the matching unbuttoned lapels
her red cardigan sweater open to the white blouse,
unbuttoned at the throat to reveal the gold cross
the rich brown skin, which somehow sets off
red clip in her pressed hair, above the left brow,
the ornery and elated smile on her broad brown face.
**** "The Algonquin Round Table, also called The Round Table, was an
informal group of American literary men and women who met daily for
lunch on weekdays at a large round table in the Algonquin Hotel in New York City during the 1920s and ’30s. The Algonquin Round Table
began meeting in 1919, and within a few years its participants included
many of the best-known writers, journalists, and artists in New York
City. Among them were Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Robert Benchley, Robert Sherwood, George S. Kaufman, Franklin P. Adams, Marc Connelly,
Harold Ross, Harpo Marx, and Russell Crouse. The Round Table became
celebrated in the 1920s for its members’ lively, witty conversation and
urbane sophistication. Its members gradually went their separate ways,
however, and the last meeting of the Round Table took place in 1943. " (Britannica.com)
Writer Susan Tepper interviews Donna Baier Stein in this legendary literary stomping grounds."
LIVE at THE ALGONQUIN in NYC ~
Susan Tepper Interviews Donna Baier Stein
Baier Stein is the author of The Silver Baron's Wife (PEN/New
England Discovery Award, Finalist in Foreword reviews 2017 Book of the Year
Award, and Finalist in Paterson Prize for Fiction), Sympathetic People (Iowa
Fiction Award Finalist and 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Finalist), and Sometimes You Sense the Difference (poetry
chapbook). She was a Founding Editor of Bellevue Literary Review and
founded and publishes Tiferet Journal. She has received a
Scholarship from Bread Loaf, a Fellowship from the Johns Hopkins University
Writing Seminars, four Pushcart nominations, and prizes from the Allen Ginsberg
Awards and elsewhere. Her writing has appeared in Writer’s Digest,
Virginia Quarterly Review, New York Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and
many other journals and anthologies. www.donnabaierstein.com
Susan Tepper:Your fictionalized historical novel The
Silver Baron’s Wife begins its journey in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, during August
of 1866.This is a rags-to riches-to rags story of a particular woman.What drew you toward this woman, who did indeed
exist, and was called Baby Doe Tabor?
Donna Baier Stein:The seed for my multi-decade obsession with Lizzie, or Baby Doe, Tabor
was planted when I was seven years old, during a family vacation to Colorado.
Two photographs of Lizzie mesmerized me. In one, she wears an elegant ermine
opera coat. In the second, she stands in front of a run-down shack, wearing a
man’s old coat and cap and holding a rifle. Even as a girl, I wondered how this
woman could journey from Point A to Point B, living in such drastically
different circumstances. I was also very intrigued by the fact that Lizzie
wrote down thousands of her dreams, many of which are now housed in the History
Susan Tepper:Did you ever read any of her dreams?
did.In fact I photo-copied about 100 or
more of them.I read and copied them
prior to the writing of this book.That’s how much they fascinated me.A woman during the time period of the early 20th Century
writing down her dreams, well that was an unusual thing.She jotted them on the back of grocery lists,
Western Union Telegrams, scraps of paper.Anywhere.
how a poet works.You’re in some ‘place’
and your head starts a line of poetry and you jot it on a napkin or anything
you can get your hands on.She sounds
compulsive in that same way.What were
her dreams about?
of her family would appear in them.Also
images of Jesus, Mary, the Devil.Many
vivid spiritual images came into her dreams. Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams
was published in 1899 but I don’t know if she would have read it. And I
certainly don’t think there were many people in America writing down their
dreams or noting spirit visitations on their calendars in those days.
ST:Fascinating.I would love to read
some of those dreams.Particularly since
I’ve read this book and have such a strong sense of the character.
I didn’t have the language at age seven to articulate any of this, I somehow
saw the amazing contrasts in her life—wealth versus poverty, materialism versus
spirituality, family versus solitude.
As I matured myself, I learned what we all
learn—that the things we are told will make us happy don’t always completely
satisfy. Marriage, motherhood, money—Lizzie experienced all these gifts and yet
longed for more than these outer trappings.Here was a woman whose second husband, Horace, was worth $24 million (or
about half a billion dollars in today’s currency), who lived in a huge villa
with 100 peacocks roaming the yard and who wore a $90,000 necklace at her 1883
wedding, who gave birth to two beloved daughters… and yet still felt, I
believe, what Rumi calls “this longing” or what St. Augustine calls “the
In her later life, she experienced many visions of
Jesus and Mary. Some theologians think she may well have been an American female
mystic. Some think she experienced lead poisoning, or had dementia, or perhaps
went crazy in her grief. Spiritual visionaries are often seen as crazy
The other important thing that made me want to tell
Lizzie’s story is that it has so often been told only from a male perspective.
One notable exception to this is Judy Nolte-Temple’s nonfiction book Baby Doe Tabor: Madwoman in the Cabin.
But long before Judy’s book, an American opera was written about her by Douglas
Moore. Called “The Ballad of Baby Doe,” it focuses primarily on the love
triangle between Lizzie, Horace, and his first wife Augusta.
Horace (the rich husband), she went into her first marriage to Harvey with such
a clear head and high expectations that all would remain wonderful in their
life.Harvey must have been a huge
disappointment as he devolved into alcoholism and lost his will to work and
provide for his family.That’s when her
tremendous strength kicked in with such ferocity and she found herself working
down in the silver mines, despite a strong superstition that women brought bad
luck and danger to miners.
movie starring Edward G. Robinson called Silver
Dollar portrayed her as a beautiful young blonde who broke up a
long-standing marriage (to Horace). To my mind, she was much more than a
mistress or wife of a wealthy man. She was instead a woman who bucked all the
social expectations of her time. She worked in the silver mines when women
simply didn’t do that.
necessity because Harvey had thrown in the towel.You wrote him really well, by the way.A young man who started out so bright and
earnest, then collapsed when the weight of life became very heavy.She carried that burden for them both.
DBS:Yes.But I also feel she was
drawn to the mines on some psychological level.She was searching for that ‘invisible something’ that wasn’t part of her
life.Going deep below the surface of
the earth may have been a way for her to search out this emotion.
daring.I felt she was an
extraordinarily strong and risk-taking woman throughout her lifetime.
divorced her first husband, Harvey Doe, when that was rarely done, especially
considering she was Catholic.She
remained with her second husband Horace long after he lost his fortune, despite
peoples’ expectations that she had only married him for his money.
things were going well Horace was worth about $24 million.I have to admit I might have been less
a tremendous sum of money for those times, around half a billion in today’s
digesting that.So he loses $24 million
and she sticks by him anyway.It says a
lot about her character as a human being.
think so. I believe she truly loved Horace and stayed with him despite that the
drastic change in his fortune. I feel her story has a tremendous amount of
wisdom for us today. It shows the fickleness of wealth, the importance of equal
rights and respect for women to enjoy, and the need in all of us to search
inside for our own spiritual questions and answers.
****Susan Tepper, an award-winning writer, has been at it for twenty years.
Six books of her fiction and poetry have been published, with a seventh
book, a novella, forthcoming in the fall of 2017. FIZZ her reading
series at KGB Bar, NYC, is sporadically ongoing these past nine years. www.susantepper.com
Interview with Somerville novelist and bookseller, Josh Cook.
Interview with Doug Holder
Josh Cook has for many years been an
ubiquitous presence at Porter Square Books in Porter Square, Cambridge,
where he works as a bookseller. Cook penned a detective novel recently,
An Exaggerated Murder, that has echoes of Sherlock
Holmes, as well as the detective Auguste Dupin created by Edgar Allen
Poe. I talked with him on my Somerville Community Access TV show,
Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer.
Doug Holder: You told me you were influenced by fictional detectives Auguste Dupin, and Sherlock Holmes.
Josh Cook: It was always
interesting to me that detective fiction started with the Gothic short
story writer and poet Edgar Allen Poe. He created the detective Auguste
Dupin, and Poe is highly identified
with detective fiction. The detective in my book is very much Sherlock
Holmes --style. Trike, my detective, uses evidence-based deduction,
mixed with cold intellect. This whole genre that Poe started always
starts out with strange, baffling stories. Holmes sprung from Dupin,
and many detective stories since have sprung from Dupin. Later British
Detective fiction is less about the case and more about the state of
mind of the detective. What is so interesting about American detective
heroes like Marlowe and Sam Spade --it isn't so much about
the actual case they are involved in (like in Holmes), but the emotions and moral compass they had to sort through.
DH: Trike has a bad cigarette addiction—why did you add this to an already complex character?
JC: If you look at
American fiction many writers have their characters addicted to booze,
TV, etc...We all have addictions of one sort or the other. Addictions
are used to sort through the moral complexities of our society.
DH: The city the novel is set in—seems sort of generic—there is no specific city mentioned.
JC: Well—stories can
only bear so much weight. I felt this was the best way to tell the
story. I wasn't thinking of any particular city. But—I set one scene in a
gross Karaoke bar—and someone said, “ Hey—I know
exactly where that bar is” That's very satisfying. I felt the the story
could not wear the weight of Boston, for instance. It would have
required the reader to keep too many things in his or her head.
DH: You have a number of
characters that revolve around Trike—like his assistants Max and Lola.
Are these composites of people you know?
JC: No one is a particular person. They do draw on people I know, my partner and other characters that I have experienced in fiction, etc...
DH: Your detective Trike is a pompous, pain in the butt-- type of guy. Why did use such an unlikable character?
JC: Sometimes you need a guy with no social graces to get the truth out. He needs to be tough and abrasive.
DH: Did you grow up in a literary family?
JC: I grew up in
Lewiston, Maine. My mom worked in the schools as a guidance counselor—my
father was a social worker. Both were big readers. Both of them read to
me before bed. My grandparents were also big readers.
DH: How has it been working at Porter Square Books all these years?
JC: It has been
fantastic. You see more and more booksellers who are publishing books. I
get to see what is published now, and what will be published in the
next six months. I have been able to establish relationships
with publishers. Melville House published my novel. They are a
publisher I liked and I pushed their book at the store. I feel I am part of a community working at Porter Square Books.
James Maynard ( New curator the University of Buffalo Poetry Collection)
"When the Poetry Collection began in 1937, its original mission was to
collect first editions of poetry written in English and English
translation published since 1900. Today, the collection houses over
140,000 titles of Anglophone poetry including 6,600 broadsides as well
as an extensive selection of little magazines, anthologies, criticism,
reference books, ephemera and audio recordings, making it the largest
poetry library of its kind in North America." ( From the University of Buffalo Library Website)
I had the pleasure of dealing with the former curator of the University of Buffalo Poetry Collection--Mike Basinski--for many years. Mike is semi-retired, but the new curator is James Maynard. I figured this would a good time to interview his successor. The Ibbetson Street Press has long donated books to this extensive collection--and we are glad that many of our publications have found a permanent home.
I would love to get a statement about your background. I know [former curator] Mike Basinski is a poet--wondering if you are?
I haven't identified myself as a poet in almost two decades, but I did write poetry for several years. Looking
back, I've been interested for a long time in poetry and
poetics and started writing it in high school, where I also worked on
the school literary magazine. I then continued to do both at Ursinus
College, where I was an English major, creative writing minor,
and also received my certification to teach secondary education. After
teaching high school English for two years, I went back to school at
Temple University to do what they offered at the time as a hybrid MA
English: Creative Writing degree, in which half
of my credits were in writing seminars and tutorials, and the other
half were in graduate lit and theory courses. While at Temple I was
never really satisfied with my writing and increasingly felt like a spy
among the poets, eventually coming to the realization
that what I really loved most was learning about poetry from the
perspective of those who actually made it as opposed to the presumed
stance of critical objectivity from which it is often taught. I also
loved spending time with poets, and appreciated the opportunity
to get to know a wider canon of avant-garde and other innovative
poetries as per the aesthetics of Temple's program. Consequently, after
finishing the master's degree it was an obvious choice to continue my
graduate study as a PhD student in the University
at Buffalo Poetics Program, which, like the larger English department
in which it is housed, has a long tradition of both hiring
creative writers to teach doctoral students and also valorizing more
experimental writing practices.
first starting as a graduate student assistant in the Poetry Collection
in 2004 it has been a long and happy apprenticeship--as I think all
special collections jobs
are--during which I've served as Assistant to the Robert Duncan
Collection, Assistant to the Curator, Visiting Assistant Curator,
Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, and now Curator. And after 13
years I think I'm finally starting to scratch the surface
of the collection's possibilities!
What are your particular literary interests?
I've always been interested in all kinds of poetry from a wide range
of poetic practices and movements, and less interested in partisan
debates about which are
superior to others, although I certainly appreciate historically the
value of such social tensions for the development of the art. In
the broadest terms I see poetry as a function of need--a confluence
of personal and political need--and am sympathetic to
how different needs manifest themselves formally into different
poetics. My own work--a product of my own needs, I suppose--has focused
largely on the poetry and prose of Robert Duncan, which I find endlessly
generative and inspiring for the world of possibilities
they project. I am also interested in 20th- and 21st-century Anglophone
poetry and poetics more broadly, as well as pragmatism and process
philosophy, the history of little magazines and small presses, and
Previously my book-length projects have included co-editing a single volume edition of Robert Duncan's
Ground Work: Before the War / In the Dark (New Directions, 2006), editing
Discovering James Joyce: The University at Buffalo Collection (The Poetry Collection, 2009), editing (Re:)Working
the Ground: Essays on the Late Writings of Robert Duncan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and Robert Duncan: Collected Essays
and Other Prose (University of California Press, 2014), and co-editing Such Conjunctions: Robert Duncan, Jess, and Alberto de Lacerda (BlazeVOX
Books, 2014). A longer list of my select publications is available here: http://libweb.lib.buffalo.edu/staff/index.asp?id=88.
Right now I am very excited about a collection of Helen Adam's collages
which is forthcoming later this year from Further Other Book Works (http://furtherotherbookworks.com/index.php/product/the-collages-of-helen-adam-pre-sale),
and in spring 2018 I’ll have a monograph titled Robert Duncan and the Pragmatist Sublime
that will be published in the University of New Mexico Press series
“Recencies: Research and Recovery in Twentieth-Century American
Poetics.” Currently I have either
just finished up, am working on, or will shortly be working on an essay
on Duncan and his partner Jess's private library, an introduction to a
Duncan manuscript on the poet's experiences at Black Mountain College,
and a reflection on the relationship between
the Buffalo Poetics Program and the Poetry Collection in the early
2000s. Another larger project that I've started is editing an edition of
Duncan's uncollected prose.
What is your vision for the library collection?
became the Poetry Collection's seventh curator last fall (2016) at a
particularly auspicious time in the collection's history, which dates
back to the mid-1930s. Thanks
to my predecessor Michael Basinski (whom Doug you've known for many
years) and his distinguished 32-year career in the University
Libraries, the Poetry Collection has benefitted from the acquisition
of numerous manuscript collections and book donations, award-winning
exhibitions like the 2009 Discovering James Joyce, countless
collaborations and partnerships, new endowments, and over $2.5 million
in grants and private donations. I take it as my challenge to
continue fundraising and bringing in new collections,
grow the collection's staff, increase access to materials
through additional digital collections, oversee an eventual relocation
and expansion project, and, with any luck, usher in the Poetry
100th anniversary in 2037.
What do you view as the future of libraries and the physical literary book?
the future of university libraries, I think the University at Buffalo
Libraries provide a telling example. Recently, the UB Libraries
have enjoyed a major renovation
of what was previously the undergraduate library, with the browsable
stacks replaced with new user spaces and reading rooms,
smart classrooms, computers, a cafe, and media labs. I've heard
many people lament the loss of physical books from the library proper,
but the truth is, access to the books and other resources has
simply shifted (the books themselves have moved into a library annex and are still available on demand to anyone who wants them),
with students today wanting
electronic access to everything. As a result, as more and more
academic libraries subscribe to the same digital resources, they are
becoming more and more homogeneous. However, this is only half of the
story. I tell everyone that if they only see the renovated
area their tour of the library is incomplete unless they come upstairs
and visit Special Collections--the Poetry Collection, the University
Archives, the Rare & Special Books Collection--where our rare and
unique primary materials complement the digital resources
otherwise available. Consequently, more and more libraries are
highlighting and promoting their special collections as the answer to
the question of what makes them truly distinct. This is by no means an
original observation, but I think it is true.
for the book itself, for the past few years it seems that every few
weeks there has been another article proclaiming the decline of the
physical book and the ascension
of digital texts. Now, the tables have turned and there are stories
appearing that claim that interest in both e-books and devices like
kindle are lagging. The truth is, we are in a period of publishing where
we will see both print and digital copies existing
side by side for a long time to come. For many of the presses that have
published my own books, for example, they still publish a small number
of print books, but the expectation is that they will earn a greater
return in digital subscriptions. That said,
although one can point perhaps to a certain decline in poetry
publishing by university presses, I see overall no decline in the print
publication of poetry. This is especially true among small and
independent presses, where if anything the rush to digitize everything
has led many people back to the analog skills of letterpress and other
artisanal aspects of bookmaking. So all such reports of the death of the
book have been greatly exaggerated, and in fact poetry books are doing
very well, thank you! This is not to say
that online blogs and poetry journals don't play an essential role in
the art form, but print chapbooks are still the coin of the realm,
especially for younger poets.
We know why libraries collect the manuscripts, books, etc. of famous authors, but
you guys also warehouse the obscure, the oddball, the fringe. What is your method behind this madness?
love "the obscure, the oddball, the fringe"--to which I would add the
ephemeral, the marginalized, the transient, and the fugitive. In fact, I
can think of no other
collection that has from its inception dedicated itself to the
impossible goal of attempting to collect the sum total of anglophone
poetry at any given historical moment. "Completion" is a horizon
that forever haunts the Poetry Collection, but I like to think
that we fail a little less every year. Of course, we are only able to
accomplish what we do thanks to a very large network of friends,
representatives, fellow travelers, and ambassadors. I'm thinking
especially of people like you, Doug, who have been generously
sending us donations for several decades, and countless others who help
keep us informed about new presses and publications. One of our
founder's--Charles Abbott's--greatest accomplishments was
involving poets (and editors, publishers, critics, etc.) themselves
as active participants in the process of building the Poetry
Collection, and that same extended collaboration continues to this day.
P. Miller’s chapbook, The
Afterimages, was published in
2014 by Červená Barva Press. His poems have appeared in Meat
for Tea, Main
and Poets, Fox
Chase Review, Third Wednesday,Wilderness House Literary
River Poetry Review, Oddball
Unbound, and Ekphrastic
Review, among others.
Anthology appearances include Tell-Tale
Inklings #1 and three Bagel
Bards Anthologies. His poem
“Kneeling Woman and Dog” was included in the 2015 edition of Best
Indie Lit New England. David
was a member of the multidisciplinary Mobius Artists Group of Boston
for 25 years, and is a librarian at Curry College in Milton, Mass.