Thursday, July 02, 2020

The Art Beat Festival: July 10 to 18: 'Chance' it and visit!

Recently I spoke with Rachel Strutt of The Somerville Arts Council about the Art Beat Festival coming up July 8-10. Because of the pandemic--most of the events will be virtual, but there will be some live happenings as well.

Strutt told me the festival was found in the late 1990s before her and Gregory Jenkins' ( Director) tenure. The mission statement of the festival was as it is now: to bring the community together through engagement with the arts.

Last year's theme was "consumed," this year's is "chance." Strutt told me, " The theme last year was a bit heavy--we wanted to lighten it up a bit." And indeed, the wonderful graphic for the festival, created by Paula Champagne, of a young and beautiful African woman, walking on a sort of tight rope certainly fits the bill.

Strut told me the council is following the strict rules of social distancing as established by the CDC,  as well as state and local officials.

Strutt said there will be musical events at venues like The Burren, The Jungle, and the Arts Armory. There will be no audience of course, but the virtual performances will be streamed to the public. Better yet--the musicians get paid. Strutt added, " We have a Brazilian drummer Marcus Santos, who will appear in three different unannounced places--to minimize the crowds.

Well, I am a poet so I certainly was interested to hear what was in store for that end of things  Thanks to the efforts of the council and Somerville's Poet Laureate Lloyd Schwartz, select Somerville poets will be streamed from the festival's website. Also there will be signs, with each poet's poems posted around the city.

Strutt said the festival will address the atrocious treatment of people-of- color in this country, as it will be manifested in the art, installations, poetry and music that this event offers.

Go to  to watch the festival.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Fly Fishing in Times Square by William Walsh

Fly Fishing in Times Square by William Walsh
Cervena Barva Press, 2020
Reviewer: Zachary Cook

In Fly Fishing in Times Square William Walsh contrasts the difference between nature and city, boyhood and manhood and the importance of generational differences.  With a variety of skills, and an array of job experiences to draw from, he is an author who moved into the foray of writing, and into different disciplines which gave him insight as to what to write on and how to write about it. In his past, he has repaired swimming pools, owned a restaurant, been a private investigator and programmed computers. It seems his passion relies on these former occupations and has considerably to do with his memories concerning childhood, his early adulthood, and his ability to redeem himself by imagining that what may have been is better than what could have been. 

There are many different structures and several themes in this collection of narrative poetry. Some of these poems are written in couplets, others in stanzas, and others free verse.  His characters are rife with the adolescent insecurities people of a certain age have. The abandonment of the wayward life experienced by the city folk in favor of the mystical beauty of nature will result in the banishment of the importance and unimportance of the lives they have chosen and the ones that they are destined for. One is a pinnacle of beauty, and the other is tantamount to monotony and less than pleasurable experiences. The poem which gives its name to the collection underscores that something is missing in Times Square: in it you can do many things, but you cannot go fly fishing there.

All of the poems tell a tale, whether true or imagined, the reader cannot always know. For readers of generations which follow Mr. Walsh’s, it helps to have an internet browser opened.  And so this reader was able to discover that, Kenny Powers, who is key to appreciating “Baptism in the Ascension Pool,” was indeed a real person, who actually attempted to jump the St. Lawrence River in a jet powered Lincoln!  An indelible memory must have formed for the child, William Walsh, as he and his buddy watched on the Philco television the daring, but ill-fated stunt. A more recent memory is captured in the sensuous “Wine Tasting at Rudy and Wilbur’s.” It is a real place whose location will be fondly recognized by Georgians nowadays.

A very prolific author, Mr. Walsh has written four novels, four books of poetry, three screenplays, a collection of interviews, an anthology of contemporary American poetry and a collection of essays. In this collection of poetry, time stretches from his youth to the present in an America that underwent a wide variety of changes during that period. Referring to the numerous occasions in which poverty reigns supreme, the decades which throughout half a century have not spun on a dime will remain in the minds of the elderly, an unquenchable thirst whose parched throats cannot be alleviated by the passing of time. Only in the minds of the old folk will their traditions and the minds of their fellow man of a certain demographic be the emperor of the time that they inhabited.

Geography is important to these poems. Sometimes it is possible to know where these memories and stories take place, for example: Illinois, north Georgia, Kentucky, Montana, Texas, Tennessee, Wyoming and New York City.  Other times the location may be more general. For example Fairview, Lakewood and Villa Park could be in any number of states. Through these poems the reader travels throughout the United States, encountering both humans and the wild in their natural habitats.
Overcoming obstacles, presented by both nature and man, is an important theme for Mr. Walsh.  For example in the poem, “Last Days of Friendship with Shawn M.” the nasty neighbor, Martin Turner, left for Nebraska and so Shawn M. had no more worries. In this instance it is just luck that Shawn prevails, even if it may only be in the author’s imagination. In other poems, the characters survive by escaping or reshaping their difficult situations themselves.

With humility, Mr. Walsh approaches poetry, and his words flow smoothly and viscously until the poems’ conclusions, and there he often ends with a swift finish. The delicate and harsh reality of what he writes moves from journey to adventure, and fate exacerbates the sometimes unfortunate subject of the poem.  Suffice to say, each poem has a barbed and wiry introduction, while some end with an escape from the less than desirable life, resulting in tearful living becoming an unstoppable destiny. 

The deliberately beautiful and eruditely woven sentences of Fly Fishing in Times Square result in a salty and tart revelation to the reader. Realizing the importance and distinction when juxtaposing city life to those obsessed with the beauty and symmetry of nature, it is needless to forsake from one’s soul the importance or insignificance of either setting.  It is apparent in Mr. Walsh’s writings that each adversity faced by the people who are the subjects of his poetry, has to be overcome with steadfastness and resolve, determination or grit.  A thrilling, and at the same time, sobering read, Fly Fishing in Times Square is a symposium of bad luck, good chance and hard work ethic.