Saturday, March 28, 2015

Or So It Seems By Paul Steven Stone

Or So It Seems
By Paul Steven Stone
Blind Elephant Press
Cambridge, Massachusetts
ISBN: 978-1438207698
434 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Overthinking a book review can be hazardous to both the author and the reviewer. You never quite know where these musings will take you. Here I am, disembodied, settled in a few inches under the ceiling of this book-strewn room where I am consulting with Bapu, a fictoplasmic Hindu holy man that I have borrowed from the pages of Or So It Seems, the very novel that I am reviewing.  Both Bapu and I look down upon my squat physical being, sitting at a large drawless, cherry-stained desk, clad in sweats, feverish and suffering from a head cold. I seem to have come up with an idea and am now typing furiously into my cranky HP computer. My newly-found spiritual companion comments unmercifully on recent changes in my appearance—my baldness, my thickening no-neck carriage, and my toad-like expressions to be exact. Fair enough. But I must admit that his damnable high-pitched giggling does, occasionally, get to me.

Bapu reminds me that Paul Steven Stone created his character as an aid to the reader’s consciousness and as the driving mechanism which moves a charmingly simple and often hilarious story of father and son intimacy and family dysfunction into the exotic realm of karma and time travel. Structured as a do-it-yourself-workshop, the novel’s characters discuss and confront the nature of experience and reality itself. The book’s protagonist, Paul Peterson, responds to life’s hurdles with thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and astute problem solving, and is, of course, duly rewarded with divinely appropriate punishments for each of these positive reactions. Like most humans Peterson experiences missteps and shares his fellow travelers’ befuddlement. And also, like most humans, he makes the best of things and continues on his one-way (or perhaps circular) journey through life.

Did I mention sex and the singles scene? Stone tethers his plotline to a Plymouth Massachusetts second floor apartment and this setting becomes not only the center of feral sexuality, but also the launching pad for his time tripping into past and future adventures. The unbridled cougar who entertains Peterson here doubles as the stressed-out, cynical fourth grade teacher of his earnest and perceptive son, Mickey. Her character type exudes hilarity and danger in a sexual package that our pedestrian reality unfortunately loves to nurture. Unaccountably, I think that I’ve met this woman in a past life. “You have!” giggles Bapu. Oh God, this head cold has impaired my frail judgement.  Stone entitles one of his chapters,

Never Let A
Fourth Grade Teacher
Drink More Than Three
Glasses of Wine.

Pretty funny stuff.

In perhaps more innocent times the Pinewood Derby ruled the day as the yearly ritual of father and son connection. Often it would be overseen by other stalwart organizations of fading (at least in this locale) Americana like the Cub Scouts. Stone uses this event with great effect in chronicling the evolving relationship between the hapless but well-meaning Peterson and his son. Lessons are offered and learned, but they are quite different from any considered pertinent or intended when the game was joined. Peterson unknowingly schools his beloved son in independence, humor, and courage. Without giving away the twisting plot lines and the neat punch lines, there is a terrific scene in which Peterson faces a bully overcome by envy and rage. The humor surrounding the struggle melts away… and the starkness of the real world harshly appears, as it often does. Both protagonist and antagonist grip Mickey’s race car and the universe stands still. The tone is just about right. Don’t miss this section; alone, it’s worth the price of purchase. 

As you read through this novel the texture deepens considerably. Stone includes not only past and future events that support his interwoven plot, but also includes what he call glimmers. These glimmers give insight into roads not taken and the importance of free will in self-discovery. Think Hindu karma, of course. But there’s also the Christian concept of grace. Bapu reminds me that the concept of time changes as the book progresses. Here is another relevant chapter title (Lesson 31 of the workshop),

A Ten Minute
On Why
Time Does Not Exist.

Easy for Stone to say, he spent eleven years writing this book.

Having a guiding holy man as prophet and coach to the protagonist condenses the space between thought and action.  Settings and resolutions immediately follow, but not always seamlessly. Early theories in neuroscience (see Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind) considered this phenomenon as wholly internal. Bapu’s very existence was conceived as built in. Call him muse, god, prophet, or disembodied holy man.  As this relationship broke down, space increased and reactions became confused and halted. I can see at this moment my computer has crashed and I’ve walked away temporarily. Giggling still, Bapu cautions me to calm my obvious impatience. Stone’s Peterson will still be there and the review can, in a disconnected sense, be completed. I am sitting back down and complying with necessity now. You need to read this book. It is a bundle of well-built laughs. IT IS WRITTEN for you. So sayeth Bapu.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Danielle Legros Georges ( Boston Poet Laureate)

                   Boston National Poetry Month Festival, 2015
                        Boston Public Library, Central Library in Copley Square
                        and  Fisher College, 116 Beacon Street 

     April 9th-12th. FREE ADMISSION to all events.
            An Evening of Poetry, Music & Dance.  Dozens of Established Poets.
         High School Poetry Slam Competition.  Emerging Poets and an Open Mic.

Thursday evening, the Festival begins at Fisher College, with a program of Poetry set to Music & Dance.
        This event is produced by Lucy Holstedt, professor at Berklee College of Music.

Friday afternoon, the Festival continues at Fisher College with 13 "Keynote Poets." They include winners of
        the National Book Award. the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize.

Friday night at Fisher College, we're pleased to host the festival's first high school poetry slam competition.
Saturday and Sunday at Boston Public Library, you can enjoy 50 established and emerging poets, incuding         Boston's new Poet Laureate, Danielle Legros George, National Poetry Slam winner Regie O. Gibson, 
         Rep. Denise Provost and professors at area colleges. Saturday features winners of the slam poetry
         competition, and a panel on "Craft and Publishing." Sunday includes an Open Mic.

Fisher College (116 Beacon St.), Alumni Hall (accessible)  all events are FREE
Thursday, April 9th, 7:30pm Poetry, Dance and Music
Friday, April 10th, 12:00 noon-4:45pm,13 Keynote poets
Friday, April 10th, 7:30pm, High school slam competition 

BPL (700 Boylston St.),Commonwealth Salon (accessible) all events are FREE
Saturday, April 11th, 10:15am-4:50pm, 30 published poets, including the former Boston Poet Laureate,
     Sam Cornish, slam poetry finalists, book table/signing, and panel on "Craft and Publishing"

Sunday, April 12th, 1:00-4:00pm, 17 published poets, including the new Boston Poet Laureate, Danielle
      Legros George, Open mic (sign-up starts 1:00), Poetry slide show, and book table/signing.

Boston National Poetry Month Festival is co-sponsored by Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio in partnership with Fisher College and in collaboration with Boston Public Library.      
FOR INFORMATION: Tapestry of Voices: 617-306-9484. Library: 617-536-5400.

The Hastings Room Celebrating a Centenary in Print: T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock With Lloyd Schwartz & Jennifer Formichelli

The Hastings Room

Celebrating a Centenary in Print

T.S. Eliot’s

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


Lloyd Schwartz & Jennifer Formichelli

 Wednesday, April 15th, 7:00 pm
First Church Congregationalist
11 Garden Street
near Harvard Square
co-sponsored by The Grolier Poetry Book Shop

***   ***   ***

Lloyd Schwartz

Lloyd Schwartz is Frederick S. Troy Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston and a Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator on music and the arts. He is the author of three books of poetry and his poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The Best American Poetry, and The Best of the Best American Poetry.

***   ***   ***

Jennifer Formichelli

Jennifer Formichelli received a BA in Literary History from Boston University, and a PhD in English Literature from the University of Cambridge, where she wrote a doctoral thesis on the epigraphs to the poems of T.S. Eliot. She has written on literary history, epigraphs, Shakespeare, Elizabethan theatre history, William Empson, and T.S. Eliot’s poetry and prose. She currently teaches Humanities and Rhetoric at Boston University, and is a co-editor of The Collected Prose of T.S. Eliot.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Where The Meadowlark Sings by Ellaraine Lockie

Where The Meadowlark Sings
Encircle Publications
Farmington, MA
© Copyright 2015, Ellaraine Lockie
ISBN-13: 978-1-893035-23-2
Softbound, $12.95, 26 pages

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Last I reviewed Ms. Lockie she was sitting mostly in a Starbucks observing people and writing about them.  Many of those poems had a subtle humor and were quite enjoyable. This time we find her in home backyard of Montana Big Sky country.  These poems are more serious, more enjoyable and just as worthy of being read.

These poems can be hard, gritty, excruciatingly honest and that is what makes them so compelling.  For those of us who live in the east, or have never been to Montana where Custer made his last stand  and Glacier National Park is a top tourist attraction, there is much to learn and Ms. Lockie provides a somewhat different, if not personal, education.

In “Godot Goes to Montana” readers learn the basics of farm life:

My farmer father waited to
if crops would hail out or dry up
If coyotes would tunnel the chicken coops
If the price of grain could keep
me out of used clothes
If the bank would waive foreclosure
for another year

After hay bailing and breech delivering
from sunrise to body’s fall
He slept in front of the evening news
Too worn out to watch the world squirm
Too weary to hear warning from ghost brothers
who were slain by bee, bacon and stress
Too spent to move into the next day

when couldn’t afford to forget
how Brew Wilcox lost his left arm to an auger
How the mayor’s son suffocated in a silo
Too responsible to remember the bleak option
my grandfather chose for the rope
hanging over the barn rafters

never too lonely every farmer
had a neighbor to bullshit with
To share an early A.M. pot of Folger’s
To eat fresh sourdough doughnuts
To chew the fat of their existence

Whether Lockie is telling you “How To Know A Prairie Poem”  or about “Witches of the West” or what it is like “On the road After a Record Rain” you will gain insight not only into her psyche, but learn about the west without didactic preaching. For example take the following poem:


The one-room schoolhouse
is weathered by a hundred years
on the prairie
Emptied of my mother, aunts, uncles
and the bell in the tower that tolled
their welcome to the middle of nowhere

I bring my daughter here
for an optical history lesson
Me to summon ancestor stories
that have been silenced by the din
of decades in cities

She forges in front of me
ever anxious to embrace anything abandoned
And I’m struck dumb by the assault
of some instinct as old and tongue-tied
as those stories

At the doorframe she hears the hiss
before the rattle that roots her
to the cactus-covered earth
As the snake slithers away
And elementary education continues
two generations after it began
in the one-room schoolhouse

It is easy to see why Where The Meadowlark Sings was the winner of the 2014 Encircle Publications Chapbook Contest.  It is an accessible and enjoyable read.
Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle (Ibbetson St.) and  Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva)
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies #7 & #8