Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Grolier Poetry Festival: The Certain Magic that Happens When

The Grolier Poetry Festival: The Certain Magic that Happens When

Collective Poetry and Arts Performances Gather Together in a Public Space

by Francine C. LaChance

The Grolier Poetry Festival went on, as scheduled, on Saturday June 2, 2018, from 12noon–8pm. Poets, musicians, dancers, and actors performed for a rapt audience, under the sun and an occasional light rain. During the light rain, Stage Manager James Fraser was found onstage, holding an umbrella or two over the performers, and in one case, a harp. Some remarked that the light rain only added to the magic of the day–the magic that occurs when so much talent and creativity comes together in one glorious space, with an open and receptive audience.

The Poetry Festival opened with the dynamic scene selections from "Romeo and Juliet," performed by the The Young Company at Greater Boston Stage Company, followed by a poetry reading for children, by poet X.J. Kennedy, reflecting the Grolier’s commitment to providing engaging  programming for children. David Ferry was the first in an impressive lineup of poets, followed by Lloyd Schwartz, Gail Mazur, Kathleen Spivack and many other notable poets. Dramatic performances were presented by Jim Vrabel and Michael Mack. Sounds in Bloom performed, with Dennis Shafer playing the saxophone while Diana Norma Szokolyai read her poetry. Audrey Harrer, a harpist, also performed. Readings from poets published by the Grolier Poetry Press were held, including excerpts from Tino Villanueva’s book “So Spoke Penelope,” followed by Grolier Poetry Press poets X.J.Kennedy and Partridge Boswell. Joe Burgio presented Ensemble Inedit: Poetry, Song and Dance. Dancers Katerine Gagnon and Ofri Rieger, and musicians John Voigt and Walter Wright performed to poems by Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau and Todros Abulafia.

The Grolier also paid homage to their dear long-time friend, Donald Hall, who just weeks later passed away. Lloyd Schwartz and Joyce Peseroff read excerpts from Donald Hall's essays and poems, and poems by Donald Hall’s late wife Jane Kenyon. The conclusion was magnificent: A video presentation of George Emlen's musical composition of Ifeanyi Menkiti's poem "Before a Common Soil," performed by the Revels chorus and musicians. The dramatic music filled the streets, while the sun was beginning to set.

While the Grolier Poetry Festival was a special celebration for their 90th year, with so much positive feedback and hope expressed that the Grolier would plan another poetry festival, both Ifeanyi Menkiti, Director and Proprietor, and Francine LaChance, Festival Producer and Director  will be exploring the possibility of other poetry festivals in the coming years.

On the importance of sharing poetry and performances at the Poetry Festival, outside of the Grolier, on Plympton Street, in Harvard Square, Ifeanyi Menkiti remarked:

“When a brilliant moon is shining, and kinsmen gather together in the public square, to watch the moon under an Iroko tree, a tree with very hard wood that is tall and strong, and tell stories to one another and recount history there is a certain power to it. Everybody can see that moon from his or her own private back yard, but when kinsmen and women, in this case, the poetry and arts communities, gather together in a public space, celebrating, watching the moon together, there is a certain power to this collective experience, another dimension is introduced, that is magical.”

Along with celebrating our 90th year, the Grolier has recommitted to our mission of keeping poetry alive, expanding programming, and providing many more opportunities for poets and performers to gather together. The Festival is one such example, and more collaborations with other art forms and cultural organizations will follow. We are developing an educational book discussion on “Richard III,” the play the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company will perform on the Boston Common, from July 17–August 5. We are planning an event with Robert Perkins, who creates art work in response to poetry by many of our poet friends. We are in discussion with Ivy Moylan, Executive Director of the Brattle Theatre, who is interested in creating a Friday Night Stroll with us, which would include several additional arts and cultural organizations in Harvard Square to participate. The following events are being planned with poets:  2018 Poetry Pulitzer Prize winner Frank Bidart, Robert Pinsky, David Ferry, Peter Balakian, Robert Perkins, Lloyd Schwartz, and many more. We will also premiere Olivia (Weiying) Huang’s documentary of the Grolier.

We will be releasing a comprehensive list of additional future events shortly, in addition to the ongoing readings in the Book Shop.

The Sunday Poet: Abigail Wotton

 Abigail Wotton teaches English at Red Cloud Indian School, Pine Ridge, SD. Her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in 805 Lit+Art, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal and Free Inquiry.

When the Heart Forgets

On Delancey Street,
hands like knotted tree bark,
flip and slap hot roti.
Hold the grocery bags on the train.
Hold the door,
look for the keys,
pick up the phone.
Slip peppermint candy into a child’s coat pocket. 
At home, a mother’s hands
linger by the microwave.
Clean the bottles,
pick up the baby,
put her down.
Leave pizza on the counter.
Make sure the door is locked.
And then check it again.

At the bar, a girl’s hands hold up the hands
of the girl next to her.
Whose are smaller?
Hands look at lines,
check for veins,
feel callouses.                                                                
The hand waves over another drink
for both of them.

When I drive
I stretch my hands out the window.
Hands know resilience
when the heart forgets.                                     
They can point out Cassiopeia
in an October sky.
If you can find the Big Dipper,
they say, you can see her.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Among the Neighbors 4, The Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo

Essay Author: Dale Smith
Publication: Among the Neighbors 4, The Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York Buffalo, New York 2018. 

 Review Author: Ari Appel

Skanky Possum Press: A (Personal) Genealogy” is a short essay by Dale Smith recapitulating his personal history as a founder and editor of the now-defunct Skanky Possum Press (1998-2004). It is part of a pamphlet series called Among the Neighbors, a series for the study of Little Magazines run out of the University at Buffalo. Smith's essay offers a glimpse into the small press scene of the 1990s and early 2000s in San Francisco. His experience calls to attention the place of fertile writers' impulses among the hegemonic forces of neoliberal capitalism and its adjacent apparatus of mainstream publication. Smith turns to the word "ethos" to help describe his creative efforts from that place, stating, "It's a term I'm using to describe the complex interaction of individuals seeking ways to establish authority in an antithetical social, technological, and geographic reality. I am not talking about dogmatic authority, but the kind of authority developed by trust, enthusiasm, and commitment to an establishment of literary and social relationships." "Ethos" describes the "structures of feeling that converged in the years of the publication of Skanky Possum. Perhaps, by following in the footsteps of Skanky Possum, young writers of the now might be able to forge a collective ethos comparable to the one Smith is describing. 

Smith was a student of the Poetics program of the now-defunct New College of California, where he met his co-editor of the Skanky Possum Press, Hoa Nguyen, following his tenure as a founder of Mike and Dale's Younger Poets with Michael Price. Smith's essay is encouraging for anyone looking to find his or her ground in the publishing scene by painting a portrait of artists struggling to make it at a certain place in time. It affords belief in a way of life and an artistic process that may not lead to blockbuster sales but nonetheless enriches the mind and the spirit.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Endicott College graduate Emily Pineau becomes a new managing editor of the noted literary magazine Ibbetson Street

Emily Pineau

I am pleased to announce that Emily Pineau--the director of the Endicott College/Ibbetson Street Press Young Poet Series has joined Lawrence Kessenich as a new managing editor of Ibbetson StreetIbbetson Street, founded by Doug Holder, Dianne Robitaille, and Richard Wilhelm in 1998, is a respected literary magazine-- based in Somerville, MA. since 1998. Ibbetson Street is affiliated with Endicott College.

Emily Pineau holds an M.F.A. from Pine Manor College, Chestnut Hill, MA, in Creative Writing, with a concentration in Writing for Young People. Pineau is an Editorial Assistant at a medical publisher, a Co-managing Editor of Ibbetson Street Press, and the Director of Ibbetson Street Press’s Young Poet Series at Endicott College. Pineau’s chapbook No Need to Speak (Ibbetson Street Press, 2013) was chosen for The Aurorean’s Chap Book Choice in 2013. She has been featured on New Mexico’s National Public Radio, and has won Salamander Magazine’s Poetry-On-the-Spot contest. Pineau’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Medical Literary Messenger, Freshwater, Muddy River Poetry Review (which nominated her poem “I Would For You” for a Pushcart Prize), and elsewhere. Pineau lives in the suburbs of Boston with her finacĂ©, Tabby, and Pomerania

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Jessica Eshleman: New Director of Union Square Main Streets

Jessica Eshleman

Jessica Eshleman: New Director of Union Square Main Streets

By Doug Holder

I saw Jessica Eshleman in the crowded Bloc11 Cafe. She gave me a sort of a half bow—got her coffee, and joined me in my inner sanctum at the back of the Bloc.

Eshleman seems to be a person of abundant energy, and is well-oiled in the mechanics of how to handle an interview.

She has been appointed director of Union Square Main Street here in Somerville, MA. It is an organization that (according to its website) oversees the, “...continued advocacy of the Union Square business district and neighborhood.”

Eshleman is from a small town outside of Boston. Now she conveniently lives in Union Square, and is in the midst of a love affair with the environs. She said, ' I love its variety, diversity, my neighbors, everything about it.”

She is certainly no neophyte to the Main Street concept. She was the past Executive Director of Main Street Concord Inc. In her role there-- one of the many things she did was to help make the Concord Business District more pedestrian friendly. She said, "I am all about being multi-mobile. I wanted to make sure that people could traverse the vibrant center easily by foot, bike and car.” She continued, “From what I heard after I left Concord –the district had significantly enhanced economic development.”

As far as Somerville goes—Eshleman is certainly enthusiastic. She will do her best to support the iconic Fluff Festival that celebrates the invention of marshmallow fluff in our city, as well as the Saturday farmer's market, continue to support the arts and provide brass tacks assistance to small businesses in the district.

Behind the many good things that gentrification and “revitalization” can bring, there is always the lingering specter of displacement. So I asked Eshleman about the less than sunnier side of the street. I inquired how would these funky stores, all the unique stuff the Square offers, be affected by the the rapid rise of rents. How will Union Square not end up like, say Newton—or worse-- the antiseptic desert of Kendall Square in Cambridge? Eshleman's tone changed a bit. She reflected, “ There are no easy answers to this. But I will promise to start conversations among landlords, tenants and businessman to see how we can mitigate the problem.”

But in spite of the treacherous shoals the new Executive Director faces—she has not lost any of her zeal and remains stolidly optimistic.

Eshleman told me that a while ago she completed the Appalachian Trail, a 2,189 mile trek through the wilderness. It took he 8 months. She suffered a broken wrist—but still persisted. This is evidently a woman who does not give up without a fight. Exactly what we need—here-- in the Paris of New England.