Off The Shelf
This will be my ninth year reading, hosting, and kibitzing at the Boston National Poetry Month Festival April 4, 2009. The festival was founded by Bagel Bard Harris Gardner and it is still going strong. This year, like the others, Somerville poets will be represented. The Somerville contingent includes: CD Collins, Tim Gager, Afaa M. Weaver, Dick Lourie, and Ifeanyi Menkiti. Here is a press release that will give you all the inside dope...hope to see you there!
CO-SPONSORS: Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with the Boston Public Library, SAVE the DATE, Saturday, April 4th 10:00 A.M.- 4:45 P.M. OPEN MIKE: 1:30 to 4:00P.M. The Festival will be held at the library's main branch in Copley Square. FREE ADMISSION
53 Major and Emerging poets will each do a ten minute reading; ALSO
Featuring six extraordinarily talented prize winning high school students: Dianna Willard & Joshua Mejia from Boston Latin High School; Yolanda Cruz, Peter Li & Yamira Serret: Boston Arts Academy; Gabriella Fee: Walnut Hill School for the Arts. These student stars will open the Festival at 10:00 A.M. SAM CORNISH, Boston's current and first Poet Laureate will open the formal part of the Festival at 11:00 A.M. 52 additional major and emerging poets will follow.
Some of the many luminaries include SAM CORNISH, Diana Der Hovanessian, Richard Wollman, Jennifer Barber, Afaa M. Weaver, Barbara Helfgott-Hyett, Dan Tobin, Ellen Steinbaum, Charles Coe, Ryk McIntyre, Elizabeth McKim, Regie O'Gibson, Kate Finnegan, Michael Bialis, Gary Tucker, (Kaji Aso Studio), Marc Widershien, Sandee Story, CD Collins, Marc Goldfinger, Diana Saenz, Stuart Peterfreund, Valerie Lawson, Joseph DeRoche, Frannie Lindsay, Ifeanyi Menkiti, Dick Lourie , Mark Pawlak, Lainie Senechal, Harris Gardner, Joanna Nealon, Susan Donnelly, Irene Koronas, Doug Holder and a Plethora of other prize winning poets.
This Festival has it all: Professional published poets, celebrities, numerous prize winners, student participation, OPEN MIKE.
Even more, it is about community, neighborhoods, diversity, Boston, and Massachusetts. This popular tradition is one of the largest events in Boston's Contribution to National Poetry Month. FREE ADMISSION!!!
FOR INFORMATION: Tapestry of Voices: 617-306-9484 or 617-723-3716
Wheelchair accessible. Assistive listening devices available. To request a sign language interpreter, or for other special needs, call 617-536-7855(TTY) at least two weeks before the program date.
Lyrical Somerville edited by Doug Holder
Cameron Mount is a substitute teacher at Somerville High, and is also a member of the Davis Square Bagel Bards. He recently received his MFA from Emerson College. To have your work considered for the LYRICAL send it to: Doug Holder 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143 email@example.com.
A leaf-littered chair sits
in the woods behind
The deskless seat stares
at train tracks, nothing,
and wishes for an occupant,
oblivion, between trees
in autumn's fall.
Leaves weep and pool
beneath the abandoned,
drowning the lonely
in the forgotten dead.
They crunch in my booted tread.
I steal out
to learn the unteachable
lessons of decay,
to share the solitude
supporting each other
in the certainty of a sharp
Off The Shelf
Paul Steven Stone is the creative director of W.B. Mason, and the author of "Or So It Seems" released by the local Blind Elephant Press. He is a regular at the Bagel Bards, a literary group that meets in Somerville, Mass., and since he has promotion in his blood, he is never without cards and bookmarks to tout his novel. "Or So It Seems" deals with a Woody Allenish, neurotic, type of guy, who searches for truth, spiritual salvation, and sex, guided by an odd and avuncular Hindu deity figure. This all takes place in the environs of Boston and Cambridge, Mass. With this unusual conceit of eastern religion and borscht belt humor, Stone takes us on a rollercoaster of a ride that only lets up when we finish reading. I spoke to Stone on my Somerville Community Access TV Show, "Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer."
Doug Holder: When you started this novel "Or So It Seems" you were divorced, bitter and angry. How about when you finished the novel?
Paul Stone: It is an interesting arc that I traveled. The novel evolved into something bigger and less driven by the forces that made me start the novel. There has always been a novel in me. When I started "Or So It Seems' I was bitter, I needed to feel like the victim, and my now ex-wife was the guilty party. I was told that my first attempt with the novel lacked narrative tension. I sat down to reorder events. As soon as I did this, this spiritual aspect came in to play. It was if someone hit me on the side of the head and said: "Now you are going to write the novel you are supposed to." All of a sudden all these concepts and ideas came flooding in. I really hadn't wanted to rewrite.
DH: Was it therapeutic for you?
Ps: Absolutely. It saved at least 20 years of paid therapy. It allowed me to vent...the time to look closely at something. I moved on from feeling like a victim all the time. I am no longer a victim but the author of a novel.
DH: Before you started your rewrite of you said it was like you heard a voice guiding you. If you had to personify the voice who would it be?
PS: Well I am not hearing voices! But I feel there is someone, a muse, or some force, an elder, whatever that helps me. An entity that wakes me up at 3AM with ideas. I'm in advertising. I get ideas for my work as well that way -they come from somewhere. I get a lot from these "voices"
DH: The protagonist, Paul Peterson, constantly steps back with his spiritual guru-to observe the material world/ reality. In a way this is like the novelist, right?
PS: I think so. One of the intriguing conceits of the novel is that Petersen talks in the present moment sharing the action with the reader, as if the reader was there. It is almost as if the narrator and the reader are there at the same time together-going through it. The first time I wrote this I didn't need the conceit. The 2nd time it made sense.
DH: The writer Thomas Wolfe holed up in the Chelsea Hotel in NYC and wrote (standing up) for hours on end. It was described as "automatic writing" Anything like that happen with you?
PS: No. I have had experiences where things get done through me so easily all I have to do is make the pen hit the paper. Other times I have to sit down and think about it.
DH: A lot of writers self-promote these days. How do you going about getting the word out for your book?
PS: I took a workshop at Grub Street, given by this lady who recently had a successful book. I was amazed at how she had treated marketing her book as if it was an advertising campaign. Up until this time I had not thought about it this way. But she was very methodical. She had a website in place; she had pieces that she would send out to the different publishing arms. She had different elements-it seemed all part of a brand. So I saw what I was supposed to do. The way I approached it was I looked at every avenue that was low cost. I made business cards. I have unique cards that fold out like little books, with reviews from readers inside. I try to take the least expensive avenues and try to do it at a high level. A level that people don't expect from someone who is doing it himself. If you act as if the book is important in everything you do it will seem important. The book will be treated importantly.
DH: In the book you write about the advertising world. It is not a flattering picture.
PS: I think the world would be a much better place without advertising. But there is always going to be advertising, and it is a business, so I think of myself as a positive influence. So it is good to have people in the industry like that. The work I do for W.B. Mason is fun stuff. People enjoy seeing the TV commercials. But I think there is something shallow where art is second to commerce.
DH: Can you tell us about your next book that will be a collection of columns you wrote for a south shore newspaper.
PS: Yes. They were written in many different voices and with many different subjects. Some were short fiction pieces, one column celebrated adversity. The columns deal with things I found of interest or concerned me at the time. The book will be called "How to Train a Rock." I wrote a series of columns on training rocks. This will be a diverse collection.
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Lyrical Somerville edited by Doug Holder
Funny what inspiration one can get on 95 North...takes a poet I guess. In this case the poet is Bridgit Brown. To have your work considered for the Lyrical send it to: Doug Holder 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143 firstname.lastname@example.org
Back and Forth
Heritage is shadows standing beneath
the pecan tree and black gold
strapped and slumped
from the oak
yoke and choke;
sweat and blood spilled
for land and consumption
History is freedom's journey
Is a long walk from manicured, porcelain toe tips
to a soft and tender step,
eyes glistening in the woods
Back and forth
Back and forth
95 North is sweet
like the piston of April flowers;
bitter like the citrus' rind;
is a crimson and gold sunrise;
star spangled sky
A blue note specialty song
is bitter; is sweet juice;
a gold filled heart;
a belly pot; a bouillabaisse,
simmering over the ages;
slow cooked and roasted Negros,
red men, white knuckle,
black body swinging
like the bell's hammer
Heritage is blue night,
white star, black line
back and forth
on 95 North
Redemption is a bible verse;
an unbroken circle;
a token to take you
back and forth
A long walk is history's course,
from Heavenly father to
barber shop talk,
the wino's walk;
stars shine the sea;
apple for pies;
truth for lies
Back and forth
on 95 North
the whip's welt;
a cry, praise,
a song, a long river
to the planter's inn
A sin-soaked whisper;
the liar's grin;
the black finger rising
with a raging spirit
A call; a response;
Back and forth
-- Bridgit Brown
Off The Shelf
I just read in the New Yorker that the late novelist David Foster Wallace lived in Somerville for a while in the 80's and even had a "residency" at my work place (for the last 26 years) - McLean Hospital. I am also reminded that Jonathan Franzen lived here and used to buy chicken wings at Market Basket - he was on a low budget. This is just the tip of the iceberg of course.
Somerville, Massachusetts, a city on the outskirts of Boston and Cambridge, has often been called the "Paris of New England." Maybe at one time, when the city was a down-at-the heels old industrial town, it was said with tongue in cheek - but no more. The UTNE READER opined that Davis Square is the hippest Square in the country, and a study in the tony literary magazine GRANTA reported that Somerville has more writers per-capita than Manhattan. In this charged literary milieu, I am able to entertain my passion for interviewing, more specifically: interviewing Poets and Writers. I happen to be very lucky to be the Arts Editor for The Somerville News, and to have my own column "Off the Shelf." This gives me a sort of license to tap the rich lode of writers and artists who live in my burg. I have interviewed people in my favorite café Sherman in the Union Square section of the city, in my study on School St, on my Somerville Community Access TV show " Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer," in the offices of The Somerville News, and at my regular writers' group the "Bagel Bards," to name a few spots. I decided to compile the many interviews I have conducted in a collection "From the Paris of New England: Interviews with Poets and Writers." (Ibbetson Street). Here is a review of the book by Hugh Fox, who was a founding editor of the Pushcart Prize:
From the Paris of New England:
Interviews with Poets and Writers.
By Doug Holder
2009; 133pp; Ibbetson Street Press,
25 School Street, Somerville, MA 02143.
It's really true, Somerville, Massachusetts, right next to Cambridge, is a kind of New England Paris, all kinds of little eateries and galleries and everything-else-ries, like an Asian market, a Peruvian cafe, you name it. And what Holder has done here is to take the interviews he has done with Somerville (and other fancy-wancy, avant-garde, or no-guard-at-all) writers, bookstore owners, publishers, etc. and put them together in a book -- with photos.
Masterfully done, Holder really brings the Somerville lit-world alive, alive, alive. There's Louisa Solano, who ran the Grolier Poetry Book Shop for over thirty years, talking about Robert Lowell, Philip Levine, Bukowski, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ed Hogan, there's poet Lisa Beatman, talking about her recently published working-class-centered poetry (author of Manufacturing America: Poems From the Factory), there's poet Martha Collins who established the Creative Writing Program at U/Mass Boston and who teachers Creative Writing at Oberlin College, there's Dick Lourie, poet-musician-publisher (of Hanging Loose mag and publishing house) talking about the old (and new) days in Somerville, Beat poet and organizer Jack Powers, Eva Salzman, who has spent years and years in England, there's poet Afaa Michael Weaver, a professor of Literature at Simmons College in Boston talking about being an African-American poet in a community that gives you the space to be eccentric, poet Sarah Hannah, a professor at Emerson College in Boston, talking about Ph.D.'s versus poetic creativity, there's poetic genius Lo Gallucio talking about psychological problems and creativity, poet-publisher Gloria Mindock who glories in the richness of cultural life in Somerville, filled with writers, painters and actors.....
It would take another book to just write about this book, that's how rich it is. Interviews with Mike Basinski, Errol Uys, Lan Samantha Chang, Miriam Levine, Mark Doty, Claire Messud, Ed Sanders, Robert Creeley, it's a veritable Who's Who of artistic souls in Somerville. You go to the Bagel Bard readings in Somerville, hang around with the Somerville poet-artist gang, and it is like going back to Paris at the end of the nineteenth, the beginning of the twentieth century.
*Hugh Fox is a founding editor of the Pushcart Prize and author of "Way, Way Off the Road: Memoir of an Invisible Man."
Lyrical Somerville edited by Doug Holder
Zvi Sesling has been a Brookline selectman, a public relations professional and professor, and currently is the editor of the "Muddy River Poetry Review." He is also a damn, fine poet! Zvi knows a lot about noses...see what I mean! To have your work considered for the Lyrical send it to: Doug Holder 25 School St. Somerville, Ma. 02143 email@example.com
The breath of the unshaven Russian on the other
side of the counter smells like decaying
rats in a trap
The beautiful woman at another counter has
blue eyes like marbles and yellow hair of a
distant sun but her perfume is
like rancid butter
Another man has the odor of a thousand
smoked cigars snuffed out and left in the closet
to grow putrid
There are times the nose wishes to be buried
in roses, greased by orange zest or trapped in
a pecan pie
The nose knows beauty and ugly
as for danger and safety the nose tells the eyes what
to look for
--Zvi A. Sesling
Shirley Gerald Ware is the author of three published books, and the founder of Fresh! Literary Magazine based in Somerville. I talked with her on my Somerville Cable Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”
Doug Holder: Can you tell us a bit about your three books?
Shirley Gerald Ware: The first book was “The Final Goodbye” based on the loss of my father at 10 years old. I was a little girl once with five brothers. I couldn't understand the meaning of life and death. I wrote about how this young girl found her father dead in the woods of South Carolina. He was only 32 years old. My father's death followed me all through adulthood, until I came to grips with it. I finally took control of my life after a lot of soul searching. “Somebody Too” is more like a novel. It tells the story of an alcoholic. It is based on my late brother's life. He lost his life due to his addiction. The book is sad, but hopefully compelling. My third was a collection of “kid” stories. It dealt with kids up to age 16. It concerns the pressure that's put on kids these days. It gives you everyday accounts of what kids are faced with.
New book collects best of “Biker Poetry”
Rubber Side Down. Edited by Joe Gouveia, Peddlar Bridges, and Susan Buck. (Archer Books PO BOX 1254 Santa Monica, CA. 93456) $16.
Did you know there is a Biker Poet movement? Bikers are not only Hell's Angels with leather and nefarious intent, but poets, on the road, burning rubber, and spouting odes to the endless highway. Joe Gouveia, poet, motorcycle enthusiast, and new head of the “Highway Poets Motor Cycle Club” had the good sense to edit an anthology of Biker bards. The poetry club, founded by Colorado T. Sky, boasts many fine poets in their ranks. Allen Ginsberg commented on the concept of “Biker Poets”(according to a history included in the anthology):
“The Highway Poets could be, for their generation, what the Beat Poets were for ours.” And for this lively subculture of poets this could indeed be the case.
Gerald Richman is an energetic man, with a white bristle mustache and a strong sense of purpose. Richman, a professor of English at Suffolk University in Boston, is the creator of the online bibliography, “The Annotated Bibliography of Fiction Set in Boston.” It started out as a two page reading list for a course Richman taught: “Boston: A City of Fiction” at Suffolk. Later it turned into a 40-page list, and presently it is an online list of 240 pages with thousands of entries and detailed annotations. I talked with Richman on my Somerville Community Access TV Show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”
Off The Shelf by Doug Holder
When Poet Afaa Michael Weaver walked into the editorial offices of The Somerville News his presence seemed to require a hush. He is a large, distinguished-looking, black man in his late 50s who has made considerable contributions to the contemporary poetry world.
This is not a poet who went straight from a top shelf college to an MFA mill. He is from the streets of Baltimore, a working class kid who wrote for The Baltimore Sun, and started his own small press while he toiled in the less than academic settings of a tin mill, and a Procter & Gamble factory. He was a member in good standing with the International Oil and Chemical Workers Union, and his hands were callused from hard physical labor, not pampered with a pen.
Library welcomes new director
The last thing you expect to encounter is a lilting Southern accent when you walk into the Director's office at the Central Branch of the Somerville Public Library. But that's part of the package you get with the new Director Nancy Milnor.
Milnor is a native of Tennessee and has run libraries in Galveston, Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri, to name just a few locales. Milnor's last job was the relatively “genteel” position of director of the Connecticut Historical Library. She left those tony environs to work in the milieu that is her first love: the public library system.
The Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville has released a collection of remarks titled: “In Gratitude and Hope,” made to the Boston-area Jewish community by former German Consul to Boston Wolfgang K. Vorwerk. Vorwerk, who was Consul from 2004 to June 2008, was first asked to speak at the annual Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) services at Faneuil Hall in Boston in 2005. During his tenure Vorwerk has reached out to the Jewish community.
Vorwerk made presentations at Temple Israel in Boston, Temple Shalom in Newton, the House of Representatives, State House, Boston, and other forums. He facilitated German/Jewish dialogue and spoke to Holocaust survivors, Nazi resistors, and the general community-at-large. Vorwerk has also helped with the funding of several Holocaust-related initiatives.
Being a small press publisher I have always been impressed with the Books of Hope project. I interviewed the former director Anika Nailah and her young charges on my Somerville Community Access TV “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”
I was impressed by how Nailah instilled a love for the “word” in these kids, many from the Mystic Avenue housing project in our city. For nine years the program has trained kids from the projects and elsewhere in four key areas: writing, publishing, performing, marketing and outreach. The youth are involved in many aspects of producing a book, and their development is advanced through a writer-in-residence, guest artists and mentors, as well as field trips.
Sam Cornish, the Boston Poet Laureate, invited me to his office to chat before participating in another meeting we were involved with later in the day with Boston-area poetry activists. On the subway, on the way to the meeting, I read through a collection of Cornish's that I picked up at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop some time ago: “Cross A Parted Sea.” Cornish writes about everything from Pullman Porters, sharecroppers, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, his father, etc. He does it with just the right amount of raw energy and the Blues, and his choice of words packs a wallop, or at times a well-appointed sucker punch: Case in point:
Writer Timothy Gager is a man who crosses many literary genres. He has a new poetry collection out from Somerville's Cervena Barva Press: “This Is Where You Go When You Are Gone.” In 2007 alone Gager had 32 works of fiction, as well as poetry published in online and print journals.
He is the current fiction editor of the “Wilderness House Literary Review,” the coeditor of the “Heat City Literary Review,” and the editor of the fiction and prose anthology “Out of the Blue Writers Unite.” He is the cofounder of the Somerville News Writers Festival, as well as the Dire Literary Series in Cambridge. The series was voted “Best Of” in the Boston Phoenix 2008. I spoke with him on my Somerville Cable Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”
Longtime Somerville resident Dale Patterson is a soft- spoken and modest man, but don’t be fooled by that. He is a well-respected grant writer, a Manager of Development Communications for the Boston Public Library Foundation, a former president of the board of Somerville Community Access TV, a lecturer at Simmons College in Boston, and a runner-up for the 2007 Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Award. I interviewed Patterson on my Somerville Community Access TV Show: “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”
Off The Shelf by Doug Holder
The workshop is directed by poet Kevin Bowen, and is held every summer at the Boston campus.
The late Grace Paley is a renowned fiction writer and poet who passed away in 2007. Paley was an enthusiastic, and much admired and loved teacher at the William Joiner. She was born in 1922 in the Bronx to Russian-Jewish immigrants. She published three collections of short stories “The Little Disturbances of Man,” (1959), “Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974), and “Later the Same Day” (1985), and her “Collected Stories”(1994) was a finalist for a Pulitzer and a National Book Award. She published several volumes of poetry, was elected the first New York State Writer, and the Vermont Poet Laureate in (2003).
Somerville poets respond
I posed this question to local poets of my acquaintance: "What is a failed poet?" I hear the term used all the time, but what does it mean? How do you define a failed poet? Is there such a thing? Below are some very thought provoking answers to this question I posed:
An artist who holds back, obeying current rules or trends whether or not they challenge or showcase individualized craft, generally frustrates readers as well as himself by writing safe for decades. An artist who lacks personal integrity is the worst poetic failure of all.
- Mignon Ariel King (Bagel Bards Poet )
This November will mark the third year the Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Award is presented at the Somerville News Writers Festival. The previous winners of the award have been Michael Alpert and Michael Todd Steffen.
Since 1998, when the press was founded by Doug Holder, Richard Wilhelm and Dianne Robitaille, “Ibbetson Street” has published a biannual literary journal and more than 40 collections of poetry by local and national authors. Its journal and books have won numerous “Pick of the Month” awards in the Small Press Review. Recently Ibbetson Street has been included in the prestigious “Index of American Periodical Verse,” along with many other top small press literary journals. Ibbetson Street has been reviewed favorably by any number of small press literary magazines, both in print and online. Ibbetson books and journals have been featured on NPR, PBS, Verse Daily and other venues. Its books and journals are collected at Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Buffalo University libraries, to name only a few.
Over 20 years ago Poet Eva Salzman popped over the pond to England after spending her early years in Brooklyn and Long Island. Salzman was a friend of the late poet Sarah Hannah who was interviewed on my show “ Poet to Poet” on Somerville Community Access Television shortly before Hannah took her own life.
Salzman was in town visiting with Hannah's parents, and gave a reading of her own and Hannah's work at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge (hosted by Fulcrum Magazine). Salzman traveled in a drenching rainstorm to the hinterlands of Union Square to be interviewed by yours truly.
Cervena Barva releases two new collections
Almost every time I see Gloria Mindock at our Bagel Bards literary group in Davis Square, she lays yet another published collection from her prolific Cervena Barva Press on me. And more often than not the collections are first rate and make for compelling reads. Her latest two releases are by local poet Chad Parenteau and New York City poet Larissa Shmailo, who also happens to be the public coordinator for the acclaimed poetry journal “Fulcrum,” based in Cambridge.
Blue Land by C.D. Collins (Polyho Press 10 Howard St. Somerville, Mass http://www.polyho.com).
In Somerville C.D. Collins, lives amidst the east coast literary establishment. The fiction that is produced in these parts is often first rate. It often deals with the young, the disaffected, the urbane and privileged. The characters often are jaded, over-educated, underemployed, and, in short, not reflective of the hinterlands south, west and even north of the Brahmin waters of the Charles River.
But in the west of Somerville, Collins writes about the folks who habituated the bygone tobacco farms of rural Kentucky, and other gone-to-seed burgs. Like William Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor she writes with a gothic and highly emotional acumen that is at times striking. Collins who moved to Somerville from Kentucky some years ago, is an accomplished singer/songwriter as well as poet, who now has written a collection of short stories titled “Blue Land.” It examines the lives of mostly agrarian, poor white folks in an unsentimental, authentic, and even spiritual style.
Off The Shelf By Doug Holder
Some people live with blinders on. They are afflicted with tunnel vision. They block out the light of the plight of others and are members of the cult of “me” or their immediate circle of friends and family. Now these are not necessarily bad people. It is hard enough to keep one’s own head above water in these troubled times. And, if one is living in the envious environs of middleclass white America, then it is easy to be blinded to what’s happening behind their sheltered gates.