Saturday, January 28, 2023

Ibbetson Street 52 Celebratory Reading--Little Crepe Cafe --Cambridge

The Ibbetson Street Press-- founded in 1998 in Somerville, Mass. by Doug Holder, Dianne Robitaille, and Richard Wilhem, will have a celebratory reading for the new issue of the literary journal, ( Friday Feb 24, 2023) as well as for the 25th year anniversary of the Ibbetson Street Press.   Contributors are welcomed to read from their work. The Little Crepe Cafe will open at 6PM and close around 8:30 PM-- enjoy their wonderful crepes and salads, and listen to great poetry!

*** If time allows --there will be an open mic...

**** Ibbetson Street is affiliated with Endicott College.


Friday, January 27, 2023

Review of The Art of Burning a new play by Kate Snodgrass


Review of The Art of Burning a new play by Kate Snodgrass

By Andy Hoffman ( Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene Correspondent)

The Huntington Theater has staged the world premiere of Kate Snodgrass’ THE ART OF BURNING at the Calderwood Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts. Directed by Melia Bensussen, the Artistic Director of the Hartford Stage, the play moves to Hartford at the end of its run in Boston, giving audiences all over southern New England plenty of opportunity to enjoy being among the first to embrace this great new drama.

The play runs a rapid-fire 90 minutes without intermission. It opens in a legal office with Patricia and her divorce mediator waiting for Jason, Patricia’s estranged husband, so they can all sign the agreement ending the marriage. Beth, their 15-year-old daughter, has become the final sticking point in arriving at a settlement. Mark, the lawyer, has a long-standing friendship with Jason, as Patricia does with Mark’s wife Charlene, relationships that reveal different approaches to the compromises that sustain – and sometimes break – a marriage.

Snodgrass opens THE ART OF BURNING with Patricia recalling for Mark a play she’d seen the night before with Charlene, a production of MEDEA. Patricia defends Medea’s murder of her own children as the only ways to protect them from a worse fate. Mark regards this as a sick choice. Given the vulnerability of Beth, on the cusp of adulthood in a world that seems uncertain about the rights of women, the play renders the monsters of MEDEA as extremely real to Patricia, asking what responsibility she bears to protect Beth.

Snodgrass and Bensussen have chosen to temporally jumble the narrative, revealing bits of the backstory – from how Patricia and Jason met to the ambiguous certainty between Mark and Charlene – at crucial moments of the negotiations. Rather than upsetting the narrative of THE ART OF BURNING, the jumping back and forth in time holds the plays together with remarkable insights into the characters and their motivations. With the exception of Beth, the characters have no costume changes, and the minimal set changes keep the focus on the dramatic resolution. Bensussen uses some remarkably strip lighting, built into the set, to enhance the emotional tug in key scenes.

THE ART OF BURNING is also deeply funny. Every scene includes laughter, often stemming from the cluelessness of the characters. When Patricia tries to explain her concerns over Beth’s emergence into the adult world, Mark asks, as though he’s hip to contemporary social revolutions, “Are we talking about micro-aggressions?”

Adrienne Krstansky does a remarkable job with the role of Patricia, resolving what seems to begin as a portrayal of an unstable woman into that of a committed parent. The other performances delineate the characters with sympathy and precision. Clio Contogenis, in a relatively minor role, captures both the audience and the teenaged Beth with passion and depth.

An odd misstep in the program provided the only negative note. The fraction of an interview with Kate Snodgrass left a false impression of the play. I recommend either not reading it at all before seeing the play.

Kate Snodgrass served as the Artistic Director of Boston Playwrights’ Theater for several decades and taught in Boston University MFA playwrighting program for just as long. Melia Bensussen has taught directing at Emerson College for many years. The cast includes professors and instructors from Brandeis, Suffolk and BU, so the atmosphere at the Calderwood Pavilion overspread a scent of homecoming. I hope that joyful feeling transfers to the Hartford Stage for its March 2nd debut there. Riding on the strength of the THE ART OF BURNING and its production, it should.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Red Letter Poem #145

 The Red Letters



In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.


                                                                                                          – Steven Ratiner





Red Letter Poem #145





“Was I sleeping, while the others suffered?  Am I sleeping now?  Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today?”  That’s Samuel Beckett at his best, in the waking-dream that is Waiting for Godot.  To my mind, Teresa Cader’s new poem, “Pythagoras…”, offers a similar kind of submersion into that cloudy zone where the mind is susceptible to the mystery of its own connectivity: how dream bleeds into memory; and clear-eyed observation can morph into unbridled fantasy without so much as a how-do-you-do.  And as in dream, this liminal state is not wholly random nor governed by intentional design – but neither is it empty sensation generated for its own sake.  It is an engagement with the material of our lives.  This is part of any artist’s essential mission: to make oneself so available to intuition and surprise, that she or he can record those imaginative responses – and then, with a practiced hand, to coax them out into the cold light of day, offering up some of their secrets.  Though we aren’t always aware of it, I believe the conscious mind craves – in fact, depends on – access to something more.  Teresa’s poem is more, and then some.


After all, peacocks and ancient Samos ought not to exist in the same two dozen lines as bread-baking and the oracle of NPR – yet here they are.  But when “cousin Danuta’s husband” is felled by stroke – or when the bright eyes of peacock feathers somehow gaze on both the Dalai Lama and the Nazi invaders – we start to feel wonder, bright as a barracuda, thrashing in the neural net.  What Teresa’s poem does, at least for me, is to expose the way the mind operates – connecting disparate thoughts, creating narratives, coping with pain, and (as the inky script spools across the poet’s notebook page) creating a path forward.


Teresa is the author of three books of poetry: the first, Guests, was awarded both the Norma Farber First Book Award and Ohio State’s The Journal/Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize.  The titles that followed – The Paper Wasp and History of Hurricanes – helped earn her fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, among others – and some of the poems have been translated into Icelandic and Polish.  On a personal note, I’ll add that History of Hurricanes – an exploration of familial and communal history – rarely leaves the reading stack beside my easy chair.  It’s a pleasure to welcome Teresa back to the Red Letters.




Pythagoras Said the Soul of Homer

  Moved into a Peacock



My peacock is strutting on the deck again.

I thought it was in ancient Samos, but no,


its hundred eyes track me in the kitchen

as I knead my floured mound of dough,


listen to NPR—the bees are dying off—

maybe the yellow jackets. They’ve lived


in the cracks of the brick patio for years

and stung my thighs through white cotton.


Maybe, like the peacock, they’re immortal,

their silence a kind of holiness.


When my cousin Danuta’s husband had a stroke,

she used her eyes and voice for his.


Believe me, I am not good at praying for people.

My mind wanders.  I see peacock feathers catch


glints of sun from the window, and Homer’s

soul opens like a peony in the garden.


It’s said the Dalai Lama brings a peacock feather

to his audiences with the holy and the desperate.


I’ve learned my grandmother owned a peacock

when the Nazis stormed her Polish village,


but she and my young aunt and uncle fled

weeks earlier on the last ship for New York.


Before my grandfather died, he called for his prized

canaries, decades gone, trained by his gramophone.


In the hospital they sang for him all night.



––Teresa Cader




The Red Letters 3.0


* If you would like to receive these poems every Friday in your own in-box – or would like to write in with comments or submissions – send correspondence to:



To learn more about the origins of the Red Letter Project, check out an essay I wrote for Arrowsmith Magazine:


and the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene


For updates and announcements about Red Letter projects and poetry readings, please follow me on Twitter          


Through introspection, some prisoners reveal their creative side

 Through introspection, some prisoners reveal their creative side

Article by Eric Silverman

A, an altar boy from Brooklyn, was sexually abused at age seven by a female cousin. Raised in a religious Catholic family, as an adolescent, he began to seek ‘desires of the flesh.’ “Despite outward expressions of love for God, I didn't have a strong relationship with Jesus, and I didn't know how to express myself.

“In 2006, I severely assaulted a pimp after he and an escort came to my office for money, My anger turned to violence. God intervened, saved me from killing myself. But I was very much a broken, troubled soul.”

The day after Easter, 2007, A returned to his employer’s office with a shotgun.

Two of the people he shot survived. One did not.

As a writer who works with prisoners who are recovering from addiction, I have been exploring what The Artists Way author Julia Cameron describes in Twelve Step programs as surrenders or kriyas through the act of keeping a journal. Artists Way and its offshoots espouse creative expression, which I observe in men such as A.

For most prisoners, a two-way exchange starts as a confessional, to get out of emotional and mental isolation, by sorting through the darkness of the past. Though writing introspection in recovery itself is not specifically designed to foster art, the discipline can and often does lead to forms of expression. For A, a ‘broken soul,’ the process has been a positive transformation.

“Writing in recovery forces me to honestly reflect and provide a thoughtful response.

I prefer answering specific reflection questions that get to the heart of the matter, and have seen an improvement in my ability to relate to myself others. I see myself sharing more of my life experiences (good and bad), insights, and opinions, and uncover the covert issues such as the root causes of my lust that is, my emotional and interpersonal struggles.”

According to the Center for Primary Care at Harvard Medical School, the isolation of prison, particularly at holiday time, can lead men and women addicts to higher risk of

J was arrested in front of his wife and family after viewing illegal pornography.

He is currently serving a lengthy term in the Idaho prison system.

After we exchanged email for a few months, J described the act of watching pornography “like lying on railroad tracks” while a train is rushing onwards.

Often, he wrote, “there is the apprehension,“ a sense of panic. At the same time, “the oncoming train lulls me into a false sense of familiar security. I know it'll feel good, what's the harm in acting out?” What he described in an email turned out to be the image, of a deadly locomotive, representing his addiction. Through desperate prayer, he wrote, he is led “off the tracks of temptation and watch as the train thunders past. I can see how close I came to dying. Reminders of past actions and consequences come flooding back. I fully realize the dire results that follow acting out. If not for my Higher Power and my complete dependence on Him, I would have! I am forever grateful for this new path and lease on life, free from the power lust had previously had on.”

J’s images struck me, a fellow creative. I encouraged J to give himself permission to claim the artist. I could see his creative side emerging. I repeated his description of the locomotive and suggested ‘barreling down a mountain grade.’ Afterward, I approached a songwriter friend in recovery who refined these images and set them to music. The result is a song about addiction recovery, ’Fast Moving Train.’

After recording the song, my friend sent me an mp3 that I played it for J over the phone. There was no hiding J’s surprise of excitement in listening to his own words.

J has given me permission, through the song’s intended release, to help other incarcerated addicts. We continue to email each other, with that sense of gratitude that, somewhere, is the Creator, who, in turn, enables creation through us.

Here are some of my highlighted exchanges with both A and J on writing, as follows,

A: “Correspondence via email helps my recovery by having a connection with a trusted servant of God who understands my addiction and wants to help me stay sober.

Having face-to-face, in-person communication offers the most authentic way for human interaction, and I miss that.”

J: “I've always been blessed with a very creative side. Legos were some of my favorite toys growing up and I later found joy in carpentry/construction.”

J, speaking of our collaboration, how has corresponding built a foundation by which you could be involved in something that would be beneficial to others?

“I see the Creator's hand in it all. My first request for a sponsor went unanswered. It was my second request that led to our relationship and the resulting collaboration, of which I'm grateful to be blessed with the opportunity. It has literally been an answer to many prayers that my dark past might be a light to others. Grace, the power behind it all. And none of it would happen without our corresponding.

“Integrity. At times, I feel as if I'm a channel for creativity flowing through me into this world. It's a very subtle feeling that leads to an almost impossible urge to write that I can’t ignore.

J, are you finding a sense of belief in 'God' as 'we understand Him' (the Creator)?

I believe that I've only just begun be aware of what already lies dormant within. The veil is beginning to lift, so to speak…”

Guest blogger and poet Eric Jason Silverman lives in Natick and works with the helping and healing community.