Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Greatest Hits: twelve years of compost magazine. Edited by Kevin Gallagher and Margaret Bezucha

Greatest Hits: twelve years of compost magazine. Edited by Kevin Gallagher and Margaret Bezucha. Preface by Rosanna Warren.  (Zephyr Press 50 Kenwood St. Brookline, Ma. 02446)   http:// www.zephyrpress.org  $15.
  Some years ago, 23 to be exact, I remember Richard Wilhelm (my trusted arts/editor at Ibbetson Street), his wife Elisa, my wife Dianne and I, picking up the late Diana Der-Hovanessian (president of the New England Poetry Club) at her house in order to go to a COMPOST reading both Der-Hovanessian and I were participating in. We were contributors to the new issue of COMPOST, (that was based in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston) titled “The Hub of the Universe: Celebrating Boston.” Some of the cream of the crop of the Boston poetry scene were in this issue, such as: Robert Pinsky, Sam Cornish, Rosanna Warren, Joe De Roche, Fred Marchant, Jack Powers, Kevin Bowen, and Richard Moore, to name a few.
  In the early 90’s, in the “low rent mecca” of Jamaica Plain, Boston, a haven for many artists, musicians, etc… COMPOST magazine was founded. Perhaps the germ of the idea was born in the Brendan Behan Pub, a gathering place for the young bohemian crowd of the area. Kevin Gallagher and Margaret Bezucha, founders of COMPOST, wrote in their introduction: “This group of emerging artists saw the Boston (and national) area poetry scene as a lull. To us, the long standing clan of university- based magazines seemed to have an iron curtain that blocked out innovation and all our submissions.” So they did what any self-respecting poets would do--they started their own magazine. It was a unique magazine that placed poetry in the context of visual art, theatre and discussions of society at large. According to the founders it was an “attempt to re-internationalize poetry in the United States--showcase Boston area artists alongside emerging and established artists across the United States and the globe.” COMPOST featured not only local poets, but poets from Haiti, Vietnam, India, China, Armenia, Ireland, etc… They also had a wonderful interview series with folks such as: Alan Dugan, Rosanna Warren, Ed Bullins, and Eavan Boland.
  Eventually real life reared its head and the artists decided to pay more attention to their individual work, to their families, and their professions and the magazine folded But they left quite a legacy.
  I am happy to report that Cris Mattison of the Zephyr Press published it with excellent results, both in production values and of course content.
  There is so much in this 12-year anthology. So I can only give you a small sampler. And since I am first and foremost a poet I’ll lay a couple of poems on you. In “Memory,” by the Chinese poet Bei Ling, (translated by Tony Barnstone and Xi Chuan) the poet characterizes the pained persistence of the past:
“You hear the sound of it peeling off,
The sound of its fall to earth
Its old eyes are astigmatic
Reluctant to leave quietly
Like a solitary river
It makes these small noises.
It’s always behind us
Walking us forward on our feet
Ready to give us pain.”
  And in the “Hub of the Universe: Celebrating Boston,” issue, Victor Howes has a sharp-as-a-tack take on a ill-fated young love affair, where neither party plays fair:
“Eddie and Juliet”
“She vows, “I’ll never speak to him again”
He only wanted one thing, as Mama
warned her, but breathless, she breathes, “When?”
when he suggests they meet. She is so far 
gone in the tragic love that turns to grief
now that he dropped her. Meeting now, he says
“So long. Let’s keep it brief.
I’m heading off to college in six days.”
He wants them to be friends, old friends. Just that.
He wants his frat pin back, and all those notes
he passed to her in math. “You are a rat.”
she moans thru tears, hating him with a hate
that will not die. Her turn to play her ace:
she says, “I’m pregnant,” just to watch his face.”
Ah! Ain’t love grand!
 This is a fine collection of one the independent lit. mags that made its mark on our vibrant arts scene.
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

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