Saturday, January 06, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Linda Larson

Poet Linda Larson
Linda Larson has been a journalist, poet, writing teacher, and a writing student in the course of her career. One thing she likes about the role of a poet is that she gets to write about what she loves. And it is evident in her body of work that she has a deep love for her subjects and the craft of writing.

Linda Larson was born and educated in the Midwest, and spent many a childhood summer in Mississippi. She graduated with an M.A. from the Writing Seminars at John Hopkins University in 1970. While in Mississippi she worked as a feature writer for the Capitol Reporterr and The Jackson Advocate. She relocated to the Boston area and for five years she served as an editor and contributor to Spare Change News-- a homeless paper based in Cambridge. In 2007, she published her first book of poetry Washing the Stones ( Ibbetson Street Press)

Postage Due

As a child...walking in the heat,
the light ripples like antique window glass.
Heat waves don't bother children.

Up the lane and then up the hill,
I travel daily to the white frame
post office to check the mail.

Almost every day there is a letter
from Mother to take back to the house
and read in silent comfort.


There is still a satisfaction
in retrieving the mail.
A modest joy but a joy nonetheless.

Letters and postcards first, but
then brochures about travel cruises,
charitable requests, notices from museums,

alumni magazines telling me
which of my classmates have died
and that I am alive.

There is that thrill, that flutter,
that hoped-for sweetness
as long as there is mail.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Interview with Neil Silberblatt: Founder of Voices of Poetry

(Left Doug Holder/Right Neil Silberblatt)

Interview with Neil Silberblatt: Founder of Voices of Poetry

with Doug Holder

In spite of suffering from cancer and all that entails, poet Neil Silberblatt fights on and presents poets, readings and other events through his organization “Voices of Poetry.” This one man dynamo has become a major player in the poetry scene on the Cape, Connecticut, and the region.

Neil Silberblatt was born and grew up in New York City, lived for a (long) time in Connecticut, and is now a “wash ashore” on Cape Cod.  He has been writing poetry since his college days.  His poems have appeared in several print and online literary journals including Verse Wisconsin;Hennen’s Observer; Naugatuck River Review; Chantarelle’s Notebook; Oddball Magazine; and The Good Men ProjectHis work has also been included in Confluencia in the Valley: The First Five Years of Converging with Words (Naugatuck Valley Community College, 2013), an anthology of selected poetry and prose; and in University of Connecticut’s Teacher-Writer magazine.  He has published two poetry collections: So Far, So Good (2012), and Present Tense (2013).  He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and one of his poems – Recycling Instructions – received Honorable Mention in the 2nd Annual OuterMost Poetry Contest judged by Marge Piercy.

Doug Holder: Neil—how did you originally come to poetry?

Neil Silberblatt: I came to it in two ways. One was genetically and the other academic. I have two older brothers—I am one of three boys. My brothers had the good fortune to have two great poetry teachers—Robert Lowell at Harvard and Kenneth Koch at Columbia. They would bring home these poetry books during the spring and summer, put them on the shelf—and I read them. I was especially inspired to read them after I was told the books were over my head. Then in high school I had the incredible good luck of having a great English teacher—Frank McCourt—at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. He was a very demanding teacher. He expected you to justify your presence in class. If you used your Monarch Notes or the like, he would read you the riot act. Because of this he made us think. This stirred my creative juices in a way that I hadn't experienced before. In college I took a lot of English courses with some top notch poets. I continue to hone the craft. It is a craft that you have to work at. I read and write as much as I can.

DH: You are from New York City. What made you relocate to the Cape?

NS: I was friends with somebody and the opportunity came up to move—so I came to the Cape to write and expand my life. I got to know the late poet Joe Gouveia. He was a poet and a force of nature. He hosted the Poet's Corner at on the radio station WOMR in Provincetown. Gouveia was sick with cancer and he asked if I could keep the mic warm for him while he recovered. He passed and I inherited the show. The podcasts for the show are archived at I personally have interviewed a lot of the poets from the Fine Arts Center here in P-Town—like Mark Statman, Jennifer Franklin, Michael Klein and many others.

DH: Tell me a bit about your organization “ Voices of Poetry.”

NS: There are two components of “ Voices of Poetry.” One part is the events that I organize. Basically I am the organization. I go out and find poets and their work and invite them to read. I get folks from the Cape, Connecticut, N.Y., and the region. I have developed a network of connections. I love the art of poetry. I want people to hear poets who really deserve an audience.

DH: How is it funded?

NS: Sometimes hosting libraries have funds—there are some voluntary donations at readings, etc...

DH: How did the Voices of Poetry Facebook page develop?

NS: It started out as a community bulletin board for people to reference then it just evolved.

DH: You have been waging a courageous battle with cancer. Has poetry acted as a balm of sorts?

NS: My involvement with poetry predated my diagnosis. But having Stage 4 Colon Cancer has made me get as much out of the time I have left. I plan to go down fighting. I will not go gently into the night.

The Price of Paradise: A review of Monte Carlo Days & Nights by Susan Tepper

The Price of Paradise
A review of
Monte Carlo Days & Nights
by Susan Tepper
Rain Mountain Press, 74 pp.

Susan Tepper’s Monte Carlo Days & Nights is a triumph of the breezy uncanny – a slim volume thick with resonances.
At the surface level she narrates, in a series of discrete chronological scenes, the quotidian progress of an affair between a powerful music executive and a flight attendant who has taken a week off to tryst with him in “paradise.” And indeed the book may be read entirely on that level. That said, from the opening image – where parrots printed on the hotel corridor’s wallpaper are accompanied by a soundtrack of bird chirps – we are cued to a strangeness, an out-of-the-body quality, that pervades the story. We may suspect the romance took place in the ‘70s, though one occasionally finds notes of more recent “globalization.” From the sureness of the telling – delivered in the female protagonist’s first person voice – one feels certain the relationship is over, though the how and why of its dissolution are not revealed. Nor are clues given as to the time elapsed since the events related, or the current circumstances of the narrator.

We should get married, he says, but I will never marry. But if I were to marry, you’d be the one.

These sentences, repeated twice, once in the middle of the text, and again at the very end, are clearly written, yet subtly leave open the question of who the “I” and “you” refer to. Particularly since the dialogue, sans quotation marks, is folded into the running text.

Likewise, one can only conjecture about the narrator’s motive for writing this slice of her biography, since there seems no urgent need on her part for catharsis, nor does the telling feel impelled by nostalgia for a different, or younger, or better time. All of which leaves the reader with a puzzle. Every piece fits, but despite a wealth of particular details, no depth of field emerges. Man and Woman, who, throughout the text remain unnamed, engage in a great deal of sex, purportedly passionate. But their couplings are not described. Absent almost completely is a sense of touch, with one vivid exception which I’ll discuss below. This means that we  come to “know” the characters without connecting sensations or other referents.

I want to make clear that this is a strategy pursued with discipline and consistency, and so efficaciously that what does emerge from beneath the stylistic mask, and without so much as a hint of didacticism, is a struggle for power between two vastly unequal contenders. Man is cast as a wealthy gear-turner in Joni Mitchell’s “star maker machinery.” Woman works in a seemingly glamorous, but physically taxing and psychologically punishing job, for a barely-living wage. In order to be admitted into Man’s world, she must present as tasteful, sleek and attuned to the occasion. To pull off being such a class chameleon requires poise, circumspection, and mad skills as a bargain shopper. This book, without ever tipping its hand, narrates Woman’s collusion with and resistance to Man’s domination, but leaves open her personal motive for playing this game and her stake in its continuance.

Though referred to as a powerful figure in the music industry, Man is given traditionally effeminate qualities, for example, he eats lightly, mostly salads, forcing Woman to do the same despite her lumberjack’s appetite. Man is also subject to fits of pique when his whims are stymied in any way. He doesn’t drink alcohol, rather, at poolside, many small bottles of Perrier. His physical description consists of two attributes that run counter his yin personality: a long beard – which he occasionally strokes – and an impressive erection.

What we know of Woman comes through his generic appreciation of her body parts. He praises her legs, her ass, her breasts. Not, however her face. And Woman never describes herself, apart from a reference to contrasting tanned and pallid flesh. At this and at all other levels, the narrative is tightly controlled, nothing brims over into outright drama.

The closest we get to open conflict is when the couple ventures out on a shopping expedition to San Remo. There, they are accosted by a trio of thugs who threaten them with robbery and hurl anti-Semitic jibes at Man, who freezes, leaving Woman to drive them away.

Gripping his arm, we continue down the sidewalk. A few minutes go by before he speaks. That was really something, he says. What you did. It was very brave. He seems shaken by the incident.
Well I’m used to crazy people, I say. The planes are full of crazy people. You have no idea.
We walk on, I continue gripping his arm. I look straight ahead. I’m afraid to look at him. I don’t want to see fear.

She is afraid to see his fear. Are we witnessing a relationship between two individuals, or an enacted polarization within a single self? The power struggle between this dyad culminates in the scene immediately following when Woman expresses her wish to visit the actual beach rather than the hotel pool. Man accedes, seizing the opportunity to exert leverage by dressing her for the occasion. Woman pushes back:

Hold it, please. I would like to pick out my own bikini.
I want you in a white one.
Not white! White goes see-through when it gets wet.
You’ll be naked anyway, he says.
That again! I feel myself starting to tighten. I sit at the foot of the bed. Treat me like a whore, I say.

Later, at the sea, “the sun is directly overhead. Everything… looks Technicolor.” Indeed all seems brightly lit in this world. But little is seen that can be reliably confirmed, no more than is revealed on Camus’s fatal beach. Indeed in Monte Carlo… nobody dies, or is injured, except at the level of sensibility, as in the scene where several young women strip at the pool, driving a cohort of fat old men to a display of primate masculinity and scandalizing their wives. While not enacted directly against the body, aggression and a kind of compulsive, archetypally-driven madness underpin the telling. “Two of the wives get out of their chaises and approach the naked girls. Demanding they cover up. The French girls just arch their backs, laughing.”

Partly because it gestures toward but refuses to concretize itself in physical sensation, the language of this book implants itself in the mind, there to work on all the more powerfully on the imagination – to draw us into a paradise of no resolution. One could attempt, at scholarly length, to analyze how the author accomplishes this literary feat. Suffice it that once read, this tale, in all its paradox, becomes impossible to dislodge from one’s internal landscape.

Reviewer bio:

Eric Darton’s books include the novel Free City and the bestselling social history Divided We Stand: A Biography of the World Trade Center. More of his work can be accessed at and He is co-editor of The Wall,, an online triannual review of world literature.

Monday, January 01, 2018

The Sunday Poet: Tom Daley ( Poem for the late poet Joe Cohen)

Poet Tom Daley

"I wrote this poem after visiting Joe Cohen, a poet and photographer who suffered a stroke and died at the age of 100 in December. Joe had just attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah and was explaining to a young friend the inner workings of a Beethoven piece the night the stroke hit him. He lingered for quite a long time, clinging to the life he so loved and enjoyed.

I knew Joe through the Bagel Bards and worked with Joe briefly in my capacity as poetry writing coach. He attended a one-man performance of my play Every Broom and Bridget—Emily Dickinson and Her Irish Servants and took some fabulous photographs. I will miss him."

For Joe Cohen, On His Way Out
Tom Daley

You seem to shudder
when I hold your hand, 

seem to rustle up a cough
of recognition,

seem to say, with the half moons 
of your eyes,

I am almost
with the animals now,

placing my trust
in that dark lair

where breath doesn’t count
itself in or out,

where ripeness is slower
than a century,

where all the surprises
are shedding their fur.