Saturday, May 04, 2019

A Review of Layla and the Lake By Marcia D. Ross

A Review of Layla and the Lake
By Marcia D. Ross
Pelekinesis Printing, Claremont CA. April 2019
Review by Tom Miller

This is a work of fiction. The lake does not exist except on these pages. Layla does not exist except on these pages. None the less they both are real. They are recognizable. This is because the author, Marcia D. Ross does an excellent job of creating place and person in her story Layla and the Lake. The lake, unnamed in the book, could be one of hundreds that exist in Maine not unlike those that one finds in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Minnesota. It is a pleasant place to be as is the forest that surrounds it.

Layla is a thirty something single mother with two children - a 14 year old son who is pushing limits and beginning to try his wings and an eight or nine year old daughter who still needs her mother in her life. Layla is a poet and an editor for a publisher of classical and academic works whose current project is an analysis of Milton's Paradise Lost , scenes of which pop into Layla’s internal narrative throughout the book. Layla is also everyone who has ever stumbled, erred, made bad choices in life and punishes themselves with constant recrimination and self-doubt. Her self-view is jumbled as is her life. She is confident in her competence with her work but less so in relationships with others, her children, her former in-laws, her ex-husband, and her somewhat mysterious lover whom she meets at the lake.

Layla has brought her children to her former in-laws’ summer home at the lake so they can spend time together as a family, (which is no longer really a family) in anticipation of her ex-husband and his current wife’s arrival the following week. Layla will then depart to give family time to that particular portion of the family, after which the children will return to their mother in Boston. At least that’s the plan.

The Lake is the setting but also a main character in the story. It is peaceful, relaxing, welcoming, beautiful and most of all…away. But it is also challenging and while not threatening, none- the- less --it is to be respected as at times it can be unexpected and tumultuous, potentially dangerous. This is unlike Bobby, the man who lives alone across the lake and with whom Layla engages upon a journey of discovery. Bobby is kind, caring, and gentle but a man with secrets. Layla who constantly berates herself for her impulsive actions and unthinking decisions follows her normal behavior pattern as their relationship evolves.

Of course this adds another layer to Layla’s constant self-derision and her search for indicators in others’ behavior that validate her conviction that they have judged her and found her wanting, but are too polite to be overt in their assessment.

In this her first novel, Ross portrays both Layla and the lake with excellent depth. Her ability to describe both place and character immerses the reader in them. You are there. You experience the lake and its surroundings. You come to know Layla and root for her. The cast of characters are each introduced as one dimensional, but as Ross peals away their layers they prove to be far more complex and real. The tensions between Layla and the in-laws build and are in flux. The same is true in the relationship with Bobby. And the arrival of the ex-husband presents another set of tensions which are resolved, more or less, in an interesting way.

And Layla’s self-esteem? Well, therein lies part of Ross’ artwork. You need to read the book in order to find out how that progresses. Ross is an excellent story teller and the reader will find themselves engrossed.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Cid Corman Boston Small Press Archive

Cid Corman 

Just spoke to Mark Pawlak, the founder of the Cid Corman Boston Small Press Archive at U/MASS Boston...they are planning for a formal opening at the Healey Library in the fall. This is a great collection of Boston area small press editors', poets' and publishers' work over the years. Mark Pawlak said they are thinking of having a display of my videos of poets that I have interviewed at the Somerville Media Studios ...perhaps even digitizing them ... I have a lot of our magazine, books, some of my Somerville Times interviews in the collection. This is a great resource for all of Boston.....

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://  $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