Saturday, June 13, 2020

Interview with Harry Nudel: New York Bookseller with a penchant for the underground

Harry Nudel, is much more than just a book dealer. This New York-based seller lists close to 10,000 books, including a number of very rare books at prices up to $250,000.
He talks about his early life, 40 years as a book scout, and also his poetry writing. Nudel said in an interview:
“I’ve pretty much sold books to anyone who is anyone in the New York downtown scene… Andy Warhol, Susan Sontag, writer and actor Taylor Mead, artist Jim Dine (a pretty steady customer) the guy who plays Kramer (actor Michael Richards) in Seinfeld, TV newscaster Walter Cronkite (for ‘you, Walter, it’s 10 per cent off’ and rock star Patti Smith (a Rimbaud bio)”

Here is an interview with John Wisniewski

When did you begin writing, Harry?
Any poets who may inspire you?
What may inspire you to write?

I stared to write poems as a teenager, though I knew no poets. We lived in a lower middle-class Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx so our culture was basically stickball, basketball & football with some religious holidays thrown in. At my high school our English teacher, an intellectual Jesuit-- young devout Irish Catholic just finishing his PHD, took some interest in this dour, sullen shy-- almost friendless kid and asked me to a write a poem, maybe for the lit mag. He objected to the phrase "doors asway" since that wasn't a real word. Any way I said it didn't matter if it wasn't a word. I have been difficult ever since.

I've had a number of good teachers, John Logan, Paul Blackburn, but the greatest influence has been Robert Creeley. I heard him read at CCNY & followed that voice to SUNY BUFFALO where he taught. We became lifetime friends, with thus the usual fights in between, but I never wanted to have his voice, though I also write short poems, I've tried to disentangle myself from his influence. I think I have and I haven't. There was a conservative New.England streak in Bob & for some reason, beats me. I always wanted to be an underground Poet & I don't mean with the megaphone of St. Marks. Since I have hardly published anything, at least I've succeeded in that.

I'm not inspired, though when young alcohol and grass squeezed some poems out of me. They just happen and I'm just hopeful that they will keep happening. I don't write, I kind of trance them. I know this is pretentious, but it's all I got.

You've written a tribute to Ted Joan's. Could you tell us about him?

Ted along with Bob Creeley & Tuli Kupferberg were poetic father figures to me. Though my real father was my real hero. Each was so different, but I feel like these are the three parts of me that make a whole. Ted was a hustler charmer, creative at all moments, wanderer and though he didn't know it, lost soul. Ted was not a great poet like Bob, or with a Rabbinical sense of Justice like Tuli had but he was a great liver of life. He was a magnet, charismatic but not loud. I don't know how I lucked out and knew him, but as with all three of my Freudian Fathers I had my share of difficulties. which I guess was inevitable for me to become myself as a poet.

Any memories of Steve Dalachinsky?

Steve was Steve, he exemplified both the genius of autodidactism and its limitations. He could be both your best friend and your worst enemy in a long sentence. He was kind beyond belief & a weasel in sheep's clothing. He was loved best by those who knew him least, yet had an extraordinary passion for what he loved, Jazz, Po, Cinema which never wavered. I fully intend to make him a legend.

Do you have any new anthologies of your poems due out?

I'm hoping to do a little book of my writing and poems about this plague time, I'd like to do it soon, so it would be contemporaneous with the virus. I'm also diddling with someone to publish three poems of mine with some other poets in Tel A Viv mostly vanity but I want an imprint there. I want to see a photo of it in bookstore window in Israel.

You are a bookseller, could you tell us about this?

Had a Phd, without a job. One day I saw a catalog of a bookseller who was selling modern books at (for that time) big prices. I told myself I could find those books and the next day I took a walk and that's how it started 45 years ago. Steve Dalachinksy and I also sold books & records in front of my loft on Spring St in Soho for some 20 yrs. Of course, these are the basic facts and there were many permutations. I liked book selling, it was a clean exchange facilitated by money, poetry was a morass of publishers, academics, friends, neighbors, lovers. I’'ll publish you if you publish me, sex for hire, group therapy, cliques, cults, smoky bars, endless phone calls etc. I just wanted to make some money so I could write poems, but I will say, over the years, poetry and book selling, finding and researching, have become equal parts of my life.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Photographers capture people on their porches in East Somerville

If you look closely at even the most banal of pictures, you will find  a plethora of clues about the people in them.   You should look at the body language, the appointment of the subjects, look into their eyes, note the topography of their faces. In these troubled times, East Somerville Main Streets has an innovative project that catches people on their porches-- giving us a big picture of our neighbors and friends--in some ways a break from the isolation we are experiencing.

I had the chance to catch up with this band of photographers via the internet...

What was the germ of the idea for the project?

The idea came from East Somerville Main Street Board President Devon Moos, "I started doing them as a way to help families, roommates, or individuals document the moment in time during the start of the COVID crisis, and initially, I started taking photos of friends first.  I really feel like documentation is important, and if you don't have someone taking the photo, you just have the memory to look back on.  Doing something creative also was a good distraction for me while everything felt overwhelming, and it was a nice break from working full time and gave me a chance to go on walks.  I realized we could use the funds raised to give back to the local businesses, and that seemed like a win all around.  The goal is to use the funds raised to purchase PPE - gloves, masks, and sanitizer, to give to the businesses, which we are working on sourcing."

Why were porches chosen as the setting?
 I think people wanted to document this weird time in their lives where people were stuck at home for three months.  I like that we've been including photos that have folks wearing their masks.  It's capturing a moment of history while also bringing some much needed joy to the neighborhood.  When we post the pictures online, it's nice to see the faces of our friends and neighbors that we haven't been able to interact with for so long.  

According to Devon, "Other photographers have been taking photos on porches, but it doesn't seem like a lot in Somerville.  I liked that most people aren't wearing shoes, and are generally comfortable, while I am able to maintain my social distance.  I have primarily been using a wide angle lens, so I can stand further back from families to ensure safety.  It's a nice extension of home, and people are on their porches more that the weather is warmer, which is nice."

Tell me a bit about the photographers involved?

Devon Moos is the Board President of East Somerville Main Streets, and primarily takes photos of family and friends for fun.  She also is usually our photographer for the Halloween Block Party family photos, which are always adorable.

The project was Devon's idea initially, but Devon & Jen (director of ESMS) asked Scott Istvan to help out with requests outside of walking distance of East Somerville because he likes to bike. Scott Is an East Somerville resident, and has been an amateur photographer since 2010 when he got his first DSLR camera. Scott is a web developer by trade, and is also currently working with the Economic Development Division to help local businesses update their websites.

Jen Atwood, director of ESMS has only done a couple of the portraits, so I guess I am a back-up photographer.  I am also an amateur and usually focus on nature photography so it's been fun to try my hand at doing portraits.  Like Devon, I find that doing something creative helps me process that feeling of being overwhelmed and instead focus on the moment.  I think the portraits have a positive impact on their own, but it's also been a successful fundraiser to help get needed supplies into the community, so even more of a win-win.

What have been the reactions from participants?

I was a bit surprised when so many people not only participated, but also ended up donating as a result.  It's really highlighted how amazingly supportive the residents of Somerville are of their community.

From Devon, "I think that people are excited to have a visitor who is stopping by safely, and that they know is capturing images that they'll be able to keep.  I also think it's been nice to make connections with community members who we don't know and help connect people and build bonds during a time when we otherwise wouldn't get that opportunity."

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Doug Holder interviews poet Tom Miller

Doug Holder ( Right) Tom Miller (Left)   ( click on)

  ( Click on for video)  Doug Holder interviews poet Tom Miller-- Miller is a well-known North Shore and Greater Boston Area poet. His work has been published in The Somerville Times, Ibbetson Street, Poem During the Plague Series, and elsewhere.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Somerville's David Thorne Scott: Brings a Modern Edge to the Great American Songbook

David Thorne Scott

I spoke with Somerville’s David Thorne Scott about his music and his life as an artist.

Here is a bio that Scott sent me:

“David Thorne Scott is an entertainer whose beautiful voice and creativity have thrilled audiences in venues large and small. 

His passion for bringing a modern edge to the classics of the Great American Songbook, as well as his original songs, earned his album "
" a "Top 5 CD of the Year" by the Jazz Education Journal. Cadence Magazine said "he phrases like a saxophone player and is as slippery and hip as the young Mel Tormé." Herb Wong, one of the west coast's leading jazz experts, wrote “I haven’t been this moved by a performance of ‘For All We Know’ since Carmen McRae.”David has sung with the Boston Pops, the Capital Jazz Orchestra, the New England Wind Symphony, and the Melrose Symphony, the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra and the Thinkin' Big Band.”

 Doug Holder: What is your connection to Somerville?

 David Thorne Scott: I have lived in Somerville for over 20 years in the Union Square area. I am a newly elected member of the Union Square Neighborhood Council.

DH: What makes this city unique?

DTS: When I volunteered with the Somerville Arts Council as a panelist for the grant program I got to see the amazing range of musicians doing exciting work. Jazz venues in the area are suffering because of gentrification. We lost Johnny D’s, Ryles, Third Life Studio, and 186 Outpost in quick succession. The EMF building and Jamspot are gone too. However, there are still great places near me hosting certain types of music.

 DH: What are you working on now?

 DTS: Since COVID I've been mixing and editing my new album, “Thornewood”. Thank god I got all the recording and overdubs finished before the lockdown! I recorded the album partly at Q Division in Somerville.

 The "Thornewood” album mixes and matches elements of jazz and Americana: Cole Porter and Harold Arlen right next to John Denver and Townes Van Zandt. Both bebop trumpet and lap steel guitar. Even a little scat singing and Jordanaires-inspired background vocals.

Special guests on the album:
Grammy-award winning singer Paula Cole
Peter Eldridge, internationally-renowned jazz singer and member of New York Voices
Trumpeter Jason Palmer, one of the most in-demand musicians of his generation
Saxophonist Walter Smith III, whose new album features Christian McBride and Joshua Redman
Violinist Sara Caswell, a 2018 Grammy nominee
Bluesy R&B powerhouse Thaddeus Hogarth on harmonica

The rhythm section is:
Kevin Barry on guitars (tours with Rosanne Cash, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Ray Lamontagne)
Mark Shilansky on piano (has performed with Luciana Souza and Kim Nazarian)
Marty Ballou on basses (tours with Peter Wolf and Duke Robillard)
Austin McMahon on drums (performs with Jerry Bergonzi, Kate McGarry).

DH: What projects do you envision for the future?

DTS: My summer/fall composition project is an attempt to my varied musical skills – a cappella singing, piano, electric bass, trumpet, melodica, vocal improvisation, whistling, beat boxing, body percussion, and digital looper – into a focused artistic statement. I will be writing songs for  solo a cappella performance, songs to be self-accompanied on electric bass, songs to be self-accompanied on piano and synthesizer, and songs employing multiple instruments with digital looper.

 DH: Is your work now influenced by the virus?

 DTS: My COVID-era performance projects are on YouTube
...and a congratulatory video for my Berklee students
A few other remote collaborations, including jazz and classical singing, are in the works.

DH: Do you think it will be in the future?

DTS: I’m sure that things will be different, but I hope we can get back to gathering for musical experiences together. Luckily my composing project, which I’ve been planning since November of last year, is a solitary pursuit and doesn’t require in-person collaboration.

DH: It is hard to make a living as an artist-- period, how has this situation affected you? 

DTS: I am a professor in the voice department at Berklee college of music. We had to start teaching remotely at spring break, which has been a challenge, but I'm grateful that I still have a job when so many are out of work. My virtual lessons and classes are with students in Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Puerto Rico, Turkey, Georgia (both the country and the state), and China. I'm the executive VP of the Berklee Faculty Union, which is fighting hard for job security for our faculty.

My performing gigs were all cancelled. These included out-of-town shows with my band the Vintage Vocal Quartet, as well as my local residency playing piano and singing jazz standards at the Avery Bar at the Ritz-Carlton. In March I was literally on the way to the rental car place in Assembly Row to get a vehicle for a tour to Pennsylvania when everything stopped.

Toxic Cookout Rob Dinsmoor

Toxic Cookout  
Rob Dinsmoor
Big Table Publishing
San Francisco, CA
Copyright © 2020 by Rob Dinsmoor
Softcover, 150 Pages, price n/a


I have rarely been a fan of big novels because I usually found the books too long and I could not even finish one on a transcontinental flight. Short stories, on the other hand, have allowed me to read and absorb a few stories on the same flight. The stories from old masters such as Malamud, Fitzgerald, Nabokov, and Porter can be quite lengthy. Short story authors tend toward a shorter story running from three or four pages to seventeen to twenty pages.

One writer of this shorter form who spins wonderful tales that encompass a broad range of issues is Rob Dinsmoor, a writer readers will enjoy and enthusiastically recommend to  others. Dinsmoor’s Toxic Cookout falls into the shorter category and makes reading his stories enjoyable. While science fiction is Dinsmoor’s forte, the breadth of his writing is both visual and easy to comprehend. The back cover says, “[Rob Dinsmoor] has written dozens of scripts for Nickelodeon and MTV. He has published stories in many literary magazines, two of which were nominated for Pushcart Prizes.”

In Toxic Cookout Dinsmoor, in addition to specializing in science fiction, displays knowledge of astronomy, the environment, yoga, chemistry, psychology, GPS systems, life in New York city, pyramid schemes, animals and so many more aspects of everyday life we may never think about.

What makes Dinsmoor so interesting is the often subtle, sometimes it is the dark humor which  pervades his work.  For example, in the opening story “Selfies” two young girls are in a swimming pool taking selfies. They go to the bathroom for more photos of each other and one of them reveals the truth about herself.

In another story, “Kundalini Yoga at the Arkham YMCA” the narrator teaches yoga at the local YMCA and discovers a room unused for years. He takes his class in there and what happens to them is what follows.

A story for lovers of science fiction and horror is “Howard at Ravenswood” about a rather odd young boy who grows up in his self-made world to become a writer many readers will recognize. Is the story true or another creation from Dinsmoor’s fertile imagination?

In “The World In Gunnar’s Barn” a tinkerer becomes the creator. A whole world inside a bell jar with an ending that leaves the creator’s friend with more than worries.

‘Times Are Different In Port St. Joe” is a time travel story of a different kind of trip that Dinsmoor creates, a mystery at the beginning with an ending that reminds you to always answer your cellphone.

And there is the truck stop in the middle of the desert where a purple streak lands and a mysterious encounter ensures the finale readers do not expect. 

The title story is a tale that can take place in anyone’s back yard as the following excerpt will show:

“Hope dumped a big pile of generic-brand charcoal briquettes, which look like they’d been reconstituted out of old tires, into the large charcoal grill. Then she squirted the coals with charcoal starter, maintaining such a long stream that it reminded me of a big, drunken sailor taking a leak. Then shup the can down next to the grill, open. It tipped over, draining charcoal started into the grass. She produced a long-barreled grill igniter, pulled the trigger, and set the pile of reconstituted tires ablaze with a “whoosh!” and a wave of heat that I felt on my eyelashes. The flames shot up about six feet, calling to mind of bonfire, and sent up a plume of black smoke reminiscent of oil fields burning in Kuwait, which may have caused countless health problems.”

The story contains many references to the environment without being didactic. In fact Dinsmoor is such a writer. However, for those who prefer the realism of life and love, Dinsmoor has included two stories, “Falling in Love While Clinically Depressed” and “On the Brink of Total Immersion.”

Reading Rob Dinsmoor’s Toxic Cookout I became determined to read more of his work and I wait impatiently for the next volume of stories. In the meantime, I enjoyed this book so much that I will probably reread it very soon.