Thursday, August 01, 2019

Summer Poetry Reading: Bert Stern/Richard Hoffman/ Hasting Room Reading Series : Aug 14 6:30PM Somerville Central Library


Lois Ames at the Wilderness House Literary Retreat (2004)

..... I wrote this article in 2004. At the time I was involved with the Wilderness House Literary Retreat in Littleton, Mass founded by Steve Glines. Lois Ames, who was a confidant of Slyvia Plath and Anne Sexton was our guest at the venue. Ames  wrote the biographical note to Plath's "Bell Jar."

The first event of "The Wilderness House Literary Retreat," located in Littleton, Mass., was a lunch with the late poet Robert Creeley.  That event in Dec. of 2004 provided participants with a rich trove of anecdotes and insight concerning the creative life of Creeley, as well as the Avant-Garde movement in poetry in post World War ll America. The second event on April 9, 2005 was with Lois Ames; held at the headquarters of the New England Forestry Foundation in Littleton, Mass., the temporary home of the Retreat.

   Lois Ames is a poet, biographer, and psychotherapist. She was a confidant of the poet Anne Sexton, and has published many essays on Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath including: "A Biographical Note" in the "Bell Jar" and "Anne Sexton: A Self Portrait In Letters."

   Among the guests for Ames' talk was Alex Beam, Boston Globe columnist, and author of the history of McLean Hospital "Gracefully Insane." Also in attendance were Anne Tom, founder of the "Grange Hall Poetry Series", out in Cape Cod, as well as Jean Houlihan, director of the "Concord Poetry Center," in Concord, Mass.

   Ames started her talk with a discussion of what she feels is essential for good poetry: honesty and integrity. Ames feels that a poet has to be honest in his or her work or they will simply not produce good poetry. For Ames, an active spiritual life is a staple for her poetry, as well as her life.
  The poet talked of the defining moments of her life. A social worker, who is and was politically active; she participated in the "March on Washington," in 1963, and marched against the Vietnam War in Chicago during the tumultous 60's. The most memorable poetry event for her was the "International Poetry Festival," in London in 1967. Many of the great poets of the Western World read there like: Neruda, Ginsberg, and Berryman. Allen Ginsberg taught Ames how to clap to get attention ( with her hands cupped, and on a off-beat sequence from the applause of the crowd) in order to support Neruda who she felt was not getting his share of applause..

 Ames has learned a lot from the great writers and poets over the years. From Anne Sexton she learned the business of poetry. Sexton told her to start submitting to the places that pay the best, and go down the line from there, when submitting work. 

 Ames feels that Sexton was the most generous of the poets she has known. She reached out to people from all walks of life, and was very kind to students in her workshops that she ran at Boston University, McLean Hospital and other places. She respected the poets, as well as the psyche of the poets. Ames accompanied Sexton to the first poetry workshop she conducted for patients at McLean Hospital. Sexton wanted Ames to help determine which patients were most vulnerable. She was afraid of hurting these fragile workshop participants. Many of the "poets" in attendance were on suicide watch. The mental health workers with them held their forearms during the sessions. The philosophy at the time was that a suicidal patient had to feel the presence of another person throughout the day, Ames said. Ames was asked why so many poets seemed to be affected by mental illness. She replied: "Writing poetry is an act of creation. It engenders an ecstasy while you are doing it. After you have a sense of loss. This capricious emotional bounce mimics the cycle of Manic-Depression. Perhaps poets have a predilection for being Bi-Polar," Ames opined.

 There was an active Q and A session with Ames and the audience. During the event participants had a chance to visit the 6 bedroom cabin that the "Wilderness House" will occupy in the summer. The Retreat has ambitious plans for longer sessions, and perhaps week-long workshops in the future. The next event April 30th will be with poet Suzanne Berger.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

At The End Of The War by DeWitt Clinton

At The End Of The War
by DeWitt Clinton
© 2018 DeWitt Clinton
Kelsay Books
Aldrich Press
ISBN 978-1—947465-92-3
Softbound, 111 pages, No Price Given

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

The Holocaust is 80 years in the past and survivors have decreased in large numbers. But deniers of that terrible period have increasingly  spread their message  to countries throughout the world.

In this toxic atmosphere DeWitt Clinton’s poem, “Touring the Holocaust” is more than a reminder; it is a tribute to the past and those who died.

Following are excerpts from this poem “Opening Day, The United States Holocaust Museum.” While the poem is five plus pages long, I present excerpts depicting the prejudice and bigotry unleashed against the Jews.

We cannot move any further
unless we step
into a care
a brown cattle car
swept incredibly clean
where all of us must
unload nothing bad will happen
to us here
though we cannot stay
too long in the car
that would bring the guards
everyone believes
we will be safe
it isn’t as if
we are really there.

And the people on the tour years later see what the camp was like. The truth may frighten. The truth may reveal. Those in the present do not die like those who died in the death camps.

What is it like for a town and its people to be wiped off the face of the earth? Clinton captures this tragedy of the many small shtetls which existed, in some cases for hundreds of years, before being exterminated by the German soldiers and their accomplices.

Dazed, disoriented, we step
into a shtetl sky high
a room of old photos
of everyone who ever
lived in that place
this fire place high as a smokestack
those at the very top
lift first into ash.

Finally we approach
the crematorium
a model of long courteous lines

little people with
little faces
guards and shepherds
keeping everyone
civil, in line.

We watch them go inside
watch them undress
the inappropriateness
of men and women
long beards
pubic hair
a wildness beyond even G-d

Clinton has brought readers through the Holocaust Museum to the reality of the actual brutality as it was perpetrated in the 1930s and 1940s. His poems portray what the Jews experienced. He shows a sensitivity to biblical literature as well as Judaism. Each poem reveals the horror of the war as well as the cruelty and viciousness of the Nazis.

Reading the Tao at Auschwitz” is a 28 part sequence which begins thus:


In the beginning we saw Nothing
From Nothing came Something
Something made All of us
Turn into ash only to
Float onto those just Arrived
or on farmers, nearby,
Turning us into Soil and Food
The irony of death, of ashes of humans becoming food is not missed either by Clinton or his readers. How Nothing becomes Something is the tragedy – of which there are many -- of World War II and the Holocaust.

The third part portrays another tragedy, the treating of humans like cows or sheep led to slaughter:


Imagine, go ahead imagine
Undressing a place
Where signs direct
Everyone to Remember your number
To be efficient, your number is used again

In Part X the helplessness of the Jews is laid out in twenty-three lines. Many of the things Jewish prisoners needed are listed-- food and help the most prominent.


The way never acts yet nothing is left undone.
--I, xxxvii
We needed soup
We needed clothes
We needed penicillin
We needed cots
We needed mothers
We needed water
We needed more soup
We needed flannels
We needed air
We needed guns
We needed prayer
We needed Benji
We needed Marla
We needed all we ever knew
We needed law
We needed time
We needed home
We needed stew
We needed health
We needed Moses
We needed bombs
We needed meals
We needed You

Clinton’s book is a masterpiece of understanding and presenting the Holocaust in real terms.  He refutes the deniers for their anti-Semitic beliefs and their nefarious political purposes.

As Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, I am hoping that he taught his students about the Holocaust during his long career and that they have retained his lessons and passed them forward. That is what keeps the truth ahead of the deniers.

At The End Of The War is a book of poetry to be read by everyone.
Zvi A. Sesling

Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Author, War Zones (Nixes Mate Books)
Author, The Lynching of Leo Frank (Big Table Publishing)

Doug Holder Interviews Victor Wallis: Proud to be called an ECOSOCIALIST

Protecting Your Writing with IP Law

Protecting Your Writing with IP Law
  Article by Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene correspondent  Tori Lutz

Whether you are a casual writer or an aspiring author, it’s important to make sure your original work and ideas is protected through intellectual property (IP) law.  

Preventing others from stealing your work is a major part of the craft since having those rights ensures that you will receive any credit or potential profit that results from your creativity and labor.

Luckily, the law is on your side. Copyright law does a great job at protecting original artwork for any artistic expression, even before you’ve officially registered anything.

Here are the main things you should know about protecting your writing with IP law and why it should matter to you!

Copyright Law

There are four main areas of IP law, and copyrights cover the area of original artwork (including writing).

Copyrights give the respective owner the exclusive right to reproduction and distribution of copies of the protected work. They also grant exclusive rights to derivative versions of the work and performance/display of the work in a public setting.

Works of authorship that can be protected by copyrights include:

  • Musical works
  • Lyrics
  • Literary works
  • Dramatic works
  • Motion pictures
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

One of the best parts of copyright law is that it does fall under common law, meaning a work doesn’t need to be registered for you to be able to hold infringing parties accountable. As long as there is proof that it existed in the open before the infringement, you have rights.

That said, there are still benefits to registering the copyright. Registering is required to be able to actually sue the infringing party and hold them legally accountable, so it’s still in your best interest to make things official.

Copyrights are registered at the federal level through the Library of Congress and last 70 years after the end of the author’s life (after which they are typically passed on to family or individuals specified in the author’s will).

Risks of Unprotected Manuscripts

In addition to the right to sue infringing parties, there are other benefits to officially protecting your manuscripts and making sure you are genuinely careful with them. Adversely, there are also risks to failing to do so.

J.D. Houvener, a Los Angeles patent attorney, has seen plenty of unfortunate disasters for entrepreneurs, artists and inventors who didn’t protect their work:

“Patents are particularly critical since they don’t fall under common law, but there have been many unfortunate cases regarding copyrights and trademarks as well. The problem with original writing or other artwork is that even though common law will protect it without registration or official release of your work, it can be difficult finding proof. If someone overhears your ideas or stumbles upon your notes, they could easily get away with stealing them. It may sound crazy, but it happens.”

That said, there will always be points in your creative process where you aren’t ready to register your work yet. Perhaps it’s still in the planning stages or maybe there is a lot that you are about to change.

Really, everything at this point in the creative process boils down to trust. Know who in your circle is trustworthy with your ideas if you want to get feedback. Make sure you find a trustworthy editor and publisher who won’t take advantage of you.

Ultimately, don’t share your ideas with any and everyone you encounter, at least not until you are secured and protected.

Copyrighting Unfinished Work

To speak more in-depth on the area of unfinished work and manuscripts, it’s important to note that registering copyrights for work in this stage is premature, especially since having your work ripped off before it is public is a rare problem to have.

Copyrights don’t exist to protect the essence of an idea, they exist to protect the expression. This means that it isn’t your idea about a school of magic that is being protected, but rather the book or film that ultimately expresses that idea.

As any artist will know, ideas change and evolve over time. Final drafts are rarely just polished versions of the first draft, and there are many instances in which it ends up having enormous changes that result in a completely different story/product.

Basically, it’s mostly important to just be careful and conscious of your work in its earlier stages (as mentioned earlier). When you have a finished manuscript that is ready for a copyright, definitely make sure to jump on it! Until then, keep on revising and adding to it first.

In Summary

By understanding the basics of IP law (especially copyright law), you’re much closer to being able to successfully protect your writing, both published and unpublished.

It is absolutely vital for writers to understand the importance of protecting their work, especially since it is entirely on the owner of a copyright to hold infringing parties accountable and actually make sure their rights are upheld.

So go out there and get back to writing, but make sure you keep it protected!

******  A graduate of Florida State University, Katherine (Tori) Lutz is a Florida native currently living in Brooklyn, New York.  She is a graduate student in journalism at Columbia University in NYC.
Her work has been published on platforms like USAToday, the Tallahassee Democrat, Altitude Group Inc., and others. She has contributed a breaking news story that ranked as the top viewed article on USAToday for 3 days, served as the sole resource for the Tallahassee Democrat and USAToday network at the 2017 Richard Spencer event at the University of Florida, and stayed on top of on-going coverage of Hurricane Irma.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Filmmaker Olivia Huang: She see the graffiti on the wall, and the spirit of poetry at the Grolier

Filmmaker Olivia Huang" " The Modica Way"

Filmmaker Olivia Huang: She see the graffiti on the wall, and the spirit of poetry at the Grolier

By Doug Holder

When I first met Olivia Huang--she was in the midst of making a documentary about the famed Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square titled, " The Last Sacred Place of Poetry: Grolier Poetry Book Shop." And I was proud to be one of the talking heads in this film about the much-revered shop. And I think the film takes on even more importance with the death of the owner, Ifeanyi Menkiti.  Menkiti, a longtime Somerville resident, was a Professor of Philosophy at Wellesely College for  many years, as well as a respected poet. He passed away in June, 2019. And for now things are in a state of transition.

When the film was completed Huang sent it around and according to her it has been screened at the North Beach American Film Festival, The Massachusetts International Film Festival, Barcelona Planet Film Festival, and others. Huang told me that she is not finished with work on the film. She said, " I am currently editing the film to bring in 15 more minutes  of footage. I want an even fuller view of the store and the activities in and around it."

Huang, a woman of abundant energy, has also set her sights on new subjects since we last talked. Huang, (a former Somerville resident) received a grant from the Cambridge Arts Council to produce a film examining the art and community around the famed graffiti alley in Central Square, Cambridge. The film's  tentative  title is  " Modica Way."   Huang reflected, " I was working in that area, and I passed the alley twice-a-day  It was was fascinating to see folks from all walks of life (not professional artists for the most part) put their work up." According to Huang the graffiti artists' work is up for a while but eventually it will be painted over by another artist. It is this ever changing canvas that Huang places her gimlet eye on.

Huang told me she is working with acclaimed dancer and choreographer Wendy Jehlen and her company  ANIKAYA. She films Jehlen's dance company productions and has other duties. When I left the Bloc 11 Cafe Huang was at work on her laptop--undoubtedly pursuing another worthwhile project---here--in--the Paris of New England.

Trailer for "The Modica Way"