Tag Archives: boston small press and poetry scene

Boston 1978-83 Stream of consciousness sort of–portrait of an artist as a young poseur

By Doug Holder

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The picture above is of a one time rooming house on Newbury Street ( 271) which I was a denizen of from ( 1978-1983).

I lived in a room on the top floor (38/week), bathroom down the hall, a stairway to the roof, cockroaches–above Davio’s Rest. I remember I worked at the “Fatted Calf” in Copley Square as a short order cook, and sold the Globe over the phone in Cambridge. Used to frequent the Exeter Theatre down the block– Marx Brothers, Rocky Horror–chanting at midnight–ate at Guild’s drugstore across from the Lenox Hotel, Ethel, the counterman, continuous narrative of her rotten kids at the Old Colony project in Southie… I also was an asst. manager at Big L Discount Stores for a stint– health and beauty aids–can you believe it?…taught in the South End at Dr. Solomon Carter Mental Health Center–DYS and DSS Kids… field trips to Roxbury and the abandoned Jewish Temples…  home visits for the kids…the families smoking pot and doing lines..There was a restaurant I used to frequent, the Peter Pan on Beacon Street–big cafeteria style food, poetry readings, Jim and I sat near the steam table, our words floated on the mist of steamed cabbage– and I was habitually at the Kebab and Curry right down the block…sitar and sag . I used to see Richard Yates  (Revolutionary Road”)  a drunken shamble down the block, and I had the same Chinese laundry ( I always lost my ticket..he was irate Why you lose ticket!!) as the late radio personality David Brudnoy–loved his show. I remember … working as a clerk at the corner of Newbury and Beacon Street–  (Sunny Corner Farms) “The Cars” used to come in there regularly,  Rick so sky high..fingering a Twinkie.. also remember meeting Gildna Radner, Barney Frank, and Howard Zinn on the night shift. And beers after work at Frankenstein’s. My boss after–a fat Irish man called me a dirty kike regularly after he had a few…nice to me the next day… I remember the ancient gay security guard ( Maynard) who used to come in to chat–and always told me of stories of how young men were enamored with him–and yes the “toothless whore” who told me she only gives “head” to her ” man” her point of honor. I remember during a snow storm I gave shelter to the street icon ” Mr. Butch” and almost left him there overnight…Oh yes the Victor Hugo bookshop–what a joint– cloistered myself with used and rare..and the Newbury Steakhouse–remember the chef– a real card–dirty jokes and hard-earned wisdom–we used to shoot the shit..even had a sort of girlfriend–well–I later learned she was community property–if you know what I mean–I remember sitting on the stoop of my brownstone on a hot summer night, and people would stop and chat and shoot the summer breeze–I remember being dead drunk and asking the drunks sleeping on the grates of the Boston Public Library what the meaning of life was…They told me to f-off. I remember the thick hash and eggs I had every morning for breakfast– how the eggs would bleed every morning on that mound–and Malaba–the Zimbabwe  man on the night shift at McLean –called it hashish browns -would be dead if I continued that habit. I remember writing in my furnished room–with my hot plate and thinking I was a Beat poet or something–mice scurrying by–my father told me” get the hell out of there,” My mother joined in ” That’s the life style they live, Larry…”  Hordes of us made pilgrimages to be with the rodents and roaches.. remember all night poker games with the service bartender, who worked at the Hilton. He was going back to U/Mass for years to finish his degree.. for the past 5 years. Courtesy of Shabunawaz Photography © 2010 ( Picture first appeared in Oddball Magazine)

Part 2

Oh–that distinct flushed out smell of Father’s Five–tattooed- Hell’s Angels, ready to bounce you at the door–the Citgo sign flashing in the canyon of Kenmore Square…direction, an elixir for your fog–vinyls at Loony Tunes–the old ladies in Coolidge Corner who brought you their dead husbands’ shirts when you manned the counter–“this should fit you they crooned–“-and you would be a walking monument to the deceased. Cutting through the alleys in the Back Bay– a buffet in the trash bins for the down and out–they delicately picked at the remains of the day–sewage and rot behind a tony shop– it was always Doomsday in the Commons–street preachers at a clearance sale—street singers–sing for change and begged for it–the old Italian guy who yelled at you: “Hey kid–ripe tomatoes–bring some for ya tomato”–laughing–the stub of a cigar shaking outside his mouth… the Mass. ave bridge gave your life a horizon–open space from the small furnished room– a city on a hill–Buzzy’s roast-beef–in front of the Charles Street Jail —a knish–delish–hotdog , —  oh,red phallus of beef, melts in my teeth– .  Karen–the Jewish girl in the North End–you lived and learned to love and leave–Caruso music and the couple that had operatic fights in sync… Her last words before she threw you out “I can’t stand all this eating.” Smell of bread baking all night–corpulent men outside the social club–called you twinkle toes, as you jogged by with chicken legs.  Your friend– a clerk–dating a dwarf–an adjunct at B.C.–American Studies–small love affair–

Part 3

Lived on Park Drive–sounds fancy–  but overlooked  the subway tracks and the vast Sears warehouse– the roar of the subway, the gray, looming Sears trucks in the distance–the trickle of the Muddy River–My window open–forgot I was nude, catcalls from the subway platform at my flabby body–bloated from the 11 to 7 shift, sitting watching the restraints– on patients– rise and fall slightly with their sedated breath–so many chests inflated, deflated…defeated. The croissants from the Savoy Baker in Audbon Circle were flaky concessions, the dark beers and dark cavernous bar at Brown’s my balm. And the elevated tracks on Harrison avenue–elevated me–I was a transcendent blur crosstown… the Dudley Bus idling near the vacant lot, rats as big as cats foraging near a fence. Sometimes I met her at the Nickelodeon,…was it the Kiss of the Spiderman…? Held her hand…traced it the way I would her body later in her studio– a rail thin graphic artist from Providence–she wrote me beautiful letters, that made me swoon in my room. holder 2

 

 

Part 4 

The Greyhound Station was near a RockaBilly bar–the flashing, seductive light of the Playboy Club, hawked long legs and short resumes–there I weaved my way to the carnality of the Combat Zone–down La Grange Street, first stopping by Hand the Hatter, an avuncular old man–some fish–some fish out of order–in the midst of all this–presided over blocked, buffed and august fedoras–the kind my father wore, his heels pounding the floor in Penn Station. And the whore in the bar said ” Give this kid a glass of milk.” And all my street-wise posturing melted with these succinct words–not a boilermaker man but a milk boy.

In the old wing of the Boston Public Library Bacchante and Baby met me–lifting her child with joy–I wondered if my mother ever did that with me? A bust of Henry James stared at me in Bates Hall, as I made my way to the Periodical Room–scrolls of newspapers– old men–half-glasses, canes,wondering why that man was praying over an Anchorage Times–the room smelled like sweat, vaguely urinous–reading a rag– a waiting room for death…

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*first published at The Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene, 12/18/14 .

Doug Holder

Doug Holder

-Doug Holder is a Boston Poet and publishes the widely read Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene Blog. He is the publisher of Ibbetson Books, hosts a community access show in Somerville, Mass. among the many activities he engages in the good name of poetry. http://dougholder.blogspot.com/

A Hard Summation by Afaa Michael Weaver

a hardPaperback: 44 pages

Publisher: Central Square Press (July 18, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1941604005

ISBN-13: 978-1941604007

Reviewed by Doug Holder

It is always a pleasure to get a new book published by a new local press. A colleague of mine at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Enzo Silo Surin, the founder of the Central Square Press, has published a new book of poetry (A Hard Summation) by poet and Somerville resident Afaa Michael Weaver. Weaver is a professor at Simmons College in Boston, and recently won the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Award. He has penned a collection of 13 poems that cover the history of African- Americans from the Middle Passage to the present day. Weaver’s intention, according to Surin, is to give the reader, “an opportunity to listen, celebrate, commemorate, and appreciate the success and failures of the past in order to develop a current and contextual understanding of what it means to be an African-American.”

In the poem “In Charleston, the Slave Market” Weaver gives us the visceral feel of a human being, being treated like a shank of beef by prospective slave brokers. Like the slaves, the poem is stripped down and naked, with powerful short bursts of metaphorical language:

“…the markets where they stand naked,
white women poking at them, looking over places
only mothers should touch, shopping for black pets
for white children, for girls who can grow and make
more black children, as it they are gardens…”

The two part poem “Migration, the Big Cities” concerns the thoughts of a husband and wife about their exodus from the sweaty, unforgiving fields of the South, to the Northern industrial cities, with their relative freedom and broader horizons. Weaver, attuned to the telling detail gives us the before and after with crystal clear brushstrokes. Here the husband thinks of his new life with his wife and the past he left behind:

“ Steelworker now, ain’t no farmer no more.
met my wife in the  mills, not a juke joint floor.
I got a time clock to punch and work shoes too,
no mule to prance behind and feed hay to chew.

My dreams touch the sky and tickle heaven
as we forget the night riders and the evils of men,
while we save money for our little house
where we can feed our children a plate of souse.”

Weaver, a respected academic, was a factory worker in Baltimore for many years.  He knows his lineage and was part of the next generation of African-Americans to leave their blue-collar jobs to join the professional class. It is amazing what Weaver can do with thirteen poems. But a top shelf poet, with an economy of words, can create a whole world, a whole history for his reader. Weaver has achieved this.

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You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Hard-Summation-Afaa-Michael-Weaver/dp/1941604005

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doug-Doug Holder is a Boston Poet and publishes the widely read Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene Blog. He is the publisher of Ibbetson Books, hosts a community access show in Somerville, Mass. among the many activities he engages in the good name of poetry. http://dougholder.blogspot.com/

This review was first published at The Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene.

 

A Walk Through The City: My changing landscape By Doug Holder

A beautiful piece by Doug Holder at The Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Blog

man walking

http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2014/07/normal-0-false-false-false-en-us-x-none_21.html

Is Paxman right? Or Should Poetry Just Follow its Natural Course

-g emil reutter 

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Jerry Paxman, a judge for Britain’s Forward Prize for poetry said in a recent article at the Guardian “I think poetry has really rather connived at its own irrelevance and that shouldn’t happen, because it’s the most delightful thing,”  Paxman continued, “It seems to me very often that poets now seem to be talking to other poets and that is not talking to people as a whole.”  The full article appears here: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/jun/01/jeremy-paxman-poets-engage-ordinary-people-forward-prize

There has been much said and much written over the last two centuries about the relevance of poetry, yet it remains. Poets are the great observers of the world around us and while many don’t read poetry or attend poetry readings on a regular basis, most folks like to know there are poets around. While the Guardian article is Britain specific I believe it could apply to any nation. It seems to me that poets are the only one’s concerned about this for in the end poets write, it is what they do, relevant or not, sales or none, poetry is written. So we asked a few poets to let us know their thoughts on the matter..

DOUG HOLDERDoug Holder, Lecturer in Creative Writing at Endicott College and publisher of the Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene said: “Just because we are poets doesn’t mean we are not ordinary people. I for one am an everyday person who happens to write poetry. I write poems about life–the everyday stuff–love, loss, death the whole gamut. All poetry addresses this I think. That being said sometimes poetry that is being written today maybe too conceptual.

Holder believes in solid grounding, “You need to have some concrete detail. As William Carlos William said, and I paraphrase “Not in ideas, but things.” A poem must be grounded first–solid ground- and then you can float off after this point. Perhaps this would be a way to engage with more readers.”.

Holder may be right. Conceptual poetry may hurt poetry as a whole, grounded may be the way to go..

JC-Necklace2jpgPoet J.C. Todd viewed the article a bit differently. She takes issue with Paxman and his premise.  “Jeremy Paxman has the noun wrong. If there is a problem, it is not with poetry but with poets or, more likely, with publishers of poetry or, could the problem be with his taste as a reader. Blaming an art form? That’s a bit of fuzzy thinking since art is made by humans. Blame the humans–poets, publishers, readers? They are responding to culture. Blame the culture? You can see this is leading down a weedy garden path.”.

Todd also takes issue with Paxman as a judge and celebrity. “Paxman was reading poems as a judge, his primary motive to assign selective value instead of appreciating them or grappling with them. Could the process of choosing “the best” have tainted his engagement with the art? He was paid to judge and now he’s double-dipping making a celebrity or pundit of himself by blaming poetry. Oh, dear. And poetry, having no legal standing, can’t sue for defamation or libel or slander. The perfect victim and cause célèbre.”

So is Paxman the guy to take this position? Is Todd correct in her premise,” the problem lies with poets or more likely publishers of poetry, or, could the problem be with Paxman’s taste as a reader?”

 ???????????????????????????????Poet and Editor of The Fox Chase Review, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri agrees with Paxman on some points. “Poetry can appeal to all levels of life and should be read as widely as bestselling novels; and therefore poets writing poetry should not discount people, who are not poets, yet enjoy reading poetry.    Although poetry takes on numerous forms and voices (including but not limited to language, surrealism, experimental, and realism) there has always been a need for poetry that speaks directly to the masses, the everyday reader, and the “non-poets.”

Sahms-Guarnieri continues, “The problem is they’re so many cliques, factions, and élite groups of poets that demand that other poets (not in their group) write the way that they write.  These groups of poets truly believe that they hold the “truth” and poetry has to be written their way, as if the world of poetry exists just for them and those who drink with them from their “limited” well of water.”

She is concerned about the impact of this institutionalized exclusion and agrees with Paxman that poetry should relate to the people as a whole.  “ My friends, exclusion is  not what freedom of expression is all about, that is, you cannot and will not harness the muse into one little holding cell.  Poetry is by nature for everyone, from every walk of life, and the muse will always allow for variation and freedom.  Poems will always be written by and performed by many different poetic voices.   Poets should echo the human experience with poetry that relates to “all” people, touching and re-touching lives.”

Sahms-Guarnieri agrees  with Paxman that poetry should reach out beyond poets. Poetry written and read for the people as opposed to a select group of poets would seem to make sense. As she states, “poets write to “echo the human experience”, to touch all people.”

Frank WilsonPoet and publisher of Book Inq. , Frank Wilson believes Paxman’s premise is more applicable in the U.K. than in the U.S. “… where poetry seems to be flourishing at readings in bars, galleries and parks.” Wilson stated he was just finishing off reviews of three poetry collections, “They have much in common, but are still quite distinct.”

He points to the internet, “The internet abounds with poetry, and most of it is not at all academic. Some, I have no doubt, will have quite a long life.” 

Poets write poetry often without recognition or profit. Paraphrasing Stanley Kunitz, “poetry is the last uncorrupted art… there is no profit in it.” Commercialization as Paxman calls for is not the answer, it may be a very simple answer indeed, writing poetry people will read. Poetry rises and falls with the changing cultural ocean. It is as natural as the rising and setting of the sun. Let nature take its course, reach out to people, go out and write a poem.

Related post at FCR:  Poetry in Decline- Is a Revolution Needed?

g emil reutter 2-g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) http://gereutter.wordpress.com/

 

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Devotion: A Memoir by Miriam Levine

devHardcover: 241 pages

Publisher: Univ of Georgia Pr (December 1993)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0820315559

ISBN-13: 978-0820315553

Review by Doug Holder

Each family and each life have their own secrets, their own beauty, and their own warts. Yet each has its own universal characteristics, after all as the song goes “It is still the same old story.” And though Levine’s story has her own distinct flavor, every person can relate to the overall themes presented in this book. In Miriam Levine’s memoir Devotion, Levine an accomplished poet and writer, recounts in stunning detail about her life as a Jewish kid in New Jersey with an idiosyncratic family, and her maturation into a scholar, writer, wife and mother. There are no stick figures in Levine’s lush memoir. The people are fleshed out, and Levine, with her gimlet eye, does not miss nuance , affectation, the stray aside, or the damning gesture. In this passage Levine describes her grandmother Molly, and at the same time her own emerging artistic sensibility:

” The memory of Molly’s serenity does not interest me: there are no quirky bumps, no sticky places, and certainly no passion. If she had a personality, her clothes did not reflect it. They were like a habit: old woman’s costume. She wore cotton self-belted house dresses, sometimes a white linen babushka, blue felt slippers…She never wore jewelry. Molly was unadorned as a nun–even more so: she had given her wide gold wedding band–it had come from Europe-to a daughter-in-law. Thinking of Molly’s hands disturbs me. I wish I could have given her a ring–two rings. She never knew the exact date of her birthday. Sometime in the spring, I believe. Peasants don’t keep those type of records.”

Levine recounts her years as a student at Boston University; her courtship with an older man who she really did not find attractive, but at the same time she was drawn to. His satyr-like face haunted her for years, and she realized the devil in this man’s details was an aphrodisiac. While driving through

Somerville, Mass, the memoirist had an epiphany:

“..I remember Mike’s face, the habitual smirk was now a genuine devilish leer, unselfconscious; his head was tossed back; he was about to speak, or rather, make a sound, one of his buzzing sounds of pleasure. There he was-naked, his high broad chest, the glint of fair hair, the flat belly, and narrow hips, and strong, well-shaped legs. His penis was erect, pointing up. His skin was delicate and pink. I found myself grinning into his awful satyr’s face. He was ruined and potent. I laughed out loud and let myself remember.”

So often today our writing is in tweets, bytes, flashes–punctuated with LOL–inexpressive fragments of frenzied 21st Century life. Levine is decidedly old school. She is not plugged in to some high tech device, but she is plugged into the world. She stops, she listens, she breathes in deeply, and exhales so the reader can take it all in before returning to the endless rush, the press of the flesh, and the pounding heels of the crowd.

Buy the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Devotion-A-Memoir-Miriam-Levine/dp/0820315559

This review was first published at The Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene Blog on 12/30/13.

doug-Doug Holder is a Boston Poet and publishes the widely read Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene Blog. He is the publisher of Ibbetson Books, hosts a community access show in Somerville, Mass. among the many activities he engages in the good name of poetry. http://dougholder.blogspot.com/