Friday, September 16, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Marc Livanos

"My poems have appeared in Straylight Magazine, Poet’s Espresso Review, Stray Branch Magazine, Old Red Kimono, Ship of Fools, Song of the San Joaquin Quarterly, Emerald Coast Review, WestWard Quarterly, PKA's Advocate, The Ultimate Writer Quarterly, The Pink Chameleon,, and others. My chapbooks “Panhandle Poet - Solitude” and “Panhandle Poet - Second Helpings” are available online at"

The Reasons

saw my Buddha
and came over.

Smiling, he recounted
the basic beliefs
of Buddhism.

The mind exists to the extent 
necessary for thought
and to cling to naught.

The body exists to experience
feelings like lust or non-lust
and to learn how to abandon them.

Life’s journey shows how
material fetters the mind
and the way to see clearly.

The truth is revealed,   
when opinions are dropped
and other ways tolerated.

Such wisdom comes
from the Buddhist text
“Discourse on Mindfulness.”

I asked why Buddha,            
being non-materialistic,
is portrayed beautifully robed?

He explained how Alexander’s troops 
came upon the Ganges and
saw a priest without clothes.

“Why are you without clothes?”
The priest responded,
“Why are you with clothes?”

Alexander stayed and listened,
enthralled that so many cared
about a man who died centuries earlier.

Commissioning a statue,
his sculptor robed the Buddha
in a fine Greek tunic.

All told, Rajith’s eyes lit up,
hearing I was Greek and
my son’s name is Alexander.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lyric Stage Offers Loneliness and Togetherness with Irony

Lyric Stage Offers Loneliness and Togetherness with Irony

By Rosie Rosenzweig, Resident Scholar,

Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center

The 1970 dark comedy Company (music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth), which won the 2007 Best Musical Tony award, was updated by Director Spiro Veloudos at the Lyric Stage with irony and relevance.   This production kept theatre-goers smiling with the occasional “huh?” moment to enliven the evening.

Individual relationships are presented through ironic vignettes, tinged with many annoying flaws of togetherness; this underline the tongue-in-cheek cynicism of the main character’s views of long term relationships. Robert (a.k.a.  the protagonist Bobby) feels that his friends, all in more-or-less committed relationships, adore him to excess.  The work is a brilliant song and dance set at that time in New York when the upper middle class was indulging the psychoanalysis and talking about it ad nauseum. The score, with its almost comical indulgences in muted brass phrases, caused many a guffaw in the audience.  There were shades of Cabaret and the ghost of Berthold Brecht haunting the evening, just in case the audience might even for a second take the digs at relationships seriously. It’s Bobby’s birthday party and the use of the birthday cake causes us to do a double take and question the reality of the vignettes that follow, which caricature “perfect relationships: Neighbors you annoy together/Children you destroy together/ That keep marriage intact.” The various couples have one scene to present themselves, beginning with a judo-fighting couple, and include the number “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.”  The variety of relationships from his diverse and comical friends grab the audience’s attention throughout.  “Company, the recurrent song and dance that rises up at important times in the action of the drama, is presented with different moods by the ensemble, begins with an opening sappy “Happy Birthday” theme and progresses to an almost stifling quality.

What does Bobby do when he realizes that, in truth, all his committed friends are really happy.  And that none of the female partners really want to sleep with him?  That answer arrives with a startling turnabout that awakened us to the truth about the darkness of Bobby’s ironic take on commitment. Can we really take his conclusion seriously in the final number, “Being Alive?”  That will be up to those in attendance and will receive no spoilers here, other than that the themes of this questionably dated work is relevant today among Gen X kids and millennials loathe to commit to marriage and children.

Matching a New York high kicking number was the Act II ensemble show-stopper called, “Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You?” It magnifies the narcissism of Bobby, a 35-year-old bachelor unable to sustain a lasting relationship, surrounded by five couples, who, through his eyes, seem to adore him.  Here, John Abrosino playing and singing Bobby, leads the ensemble with the movements and subtle flair reminiscent of a Fred Astaire; he lights up with body language that, hopefully, will spread to the rest of the play as the production continues through October. Even though he can sing, act, and dance quite professionally, all too often his upper body enacts that uptight quality, which his Puerto Rican girlfriend ridicules.

Another show stopper was the classic “Ladies Who Lunch” by Leigh Barrett, who made this her own, despite original performance by Elaine Stritch and Patti LuPone. This sardonic toast, with the biting irony of a Cabaret number about women is out of Betty Freidan’s Feminine Mystique. This has the historic undertones of the popular sonnet by e.e. cummings about “the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls” with no individuality and “comfortable minds.”  Company features, not only good drama, but some biting social commentary as well. Following this is the contrasting “Being Alive” conclusion of Bobby’s search,

The entire cast embodies what the Director Spiro Veloudos describes as “act the book and act the story” for all the other important numbers in the show.  Veloudos has directed almost 20 Sondheim musicals in the course of his tenure at Lyric Stage.

Presenting big stage choreography on a postage stamp size stage is the remarkable result of Choreographer Rachel Betone. 

Even though Company’s 1970 pre-Broadway Boston run received mixed reviews saying that this show “is for misogynists and homos,” the themes are relevant today for 21str century theatre goers.

Lyric Stage certainly lives up to its mission with this first production of the season to bring to Boston audiences “challenging and entertaining theatre.”

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sentinel: Poetry by Dennis Daly

Poetry by Dennis Daly
© 2016 Dennis Daly
Red Dashboard LLC Publishing
Princeton, NJ
ISBN- 13: 978-1535004541
Sofbound, No Price Given, 107 pages

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Previously I did a review of a Dennis Daly book of poetry in which I stated that he “has been there, done that…” In Custom House Daly takes readers to ancient foreign lands, places of the heart and love-hate relationship with the work place.

In his latest poetic offering, Sentinel, Daly out does himself with mysterious poems that convince you he has an insider's knowledge of the espionage game as played by the likes of the CIA and NSA, maybe even the FBI and any other three letter abbreviations you can think of. He does all this in the style of Wallace Stevens, itself not an easy accomplishment.

The poem “Secrets” sets the stage of the dark and dangerous with an opening line that reminds me of the old radio program “The Shadow,” which began with the oft quoted
“Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men…”

Channels that lead nowhere, nondescript
Dead ends that greet you like vacant smiles,
Yet there are caches of grim jewels
Hidden somewhere. A caution wire tripped

Sets off the venal security
Alerting them to tell-all voices.
Silence the inevitable key
To cults that form the veiled basis

Of earthly power. The living runes
Chiseled onto this fantastic world
Redolent of summer afternoons,
The ammunition spent, flag unfurled.

This is how some reach their bitter end.
They sieve out quiet confidences
To spidery contenders, misspend
The rest on red win and circuses.

Is this a childhood action movie, perhaps a serial? Could it be 007 in action? Jason Bourne on the loose? What it is not is a dream, and Daly lets you know that not all spies can keep their secrets, and often spending on drinks and pleasures leads to their demise.

In “Patterns” Daly deals another dark and mysterious poem for the reader to try and interpret:

The wave and the trough, the unmade man
Takes his turn in the froth-fingered air,
The usual briskness of elsewhere.
Then back again, at least that’s the plan

Of sensible pretense, not reckless.
Not at all. Closing the hatch on sturm
And drang, he nods to all, reaffirms
Solidity and anxiousness

And doubt that public certainty births.
He rehearses the routine. Danger,
So predicable, looms. He’ll wager
Life and limb. His stubborn will unearths.

Fangs and feral claws. The wait not long
As he prepared for the frantic day
When fractal stress and those patterns may,
Seen from afar, go wrong, very wrong.

The man of duty performs his task, he is, perhaps, too close to see the impending results while his superiors, his handlers can see the coming end, the losses he will suffer, maybe even his life.

If you are not convinced of the darkness or the espionage, sink into “Agents of Influence” which incorporates some of the best thriller writing into Daly’s bag of poetics. All of pure noir.

One by one the rocks are chiseled out,
Disassembled, a quick erasure
Of foundation. The shake of structure
Noticeable. As mildews of doubt

Climb tapestries, traitors praise new gods,
The future guards of our guided wills.
Frescoes peel, plaster crumbles, fulfills
years of prediction, multiple frauds.

Steeples, dwarfed now, but still extend up
Toward the unresistant stratosphere.
Demagogues assign fault. The frontier
Forts abandoned, rabble envelope
Our cities, poison our sweetest wells.
Men escape through the mountain passes
Or freeze where they fall. The blown bridges
Mapped months ago. Devolution sells.

You may not find this the easiest book of poetry to read. Perhaps you will read a number of these poems two or three times and possibly reach a different conclusion each time. But one thing is for sure, Sentinel is well worth the effort because your mind will compare it to thriller novels, movies, television shows. In the end you will simply marvel at Dennis Daly’s ability to incorporate espionage into a poetic form-- leaving you wanting more dark shadows and mysterious meanings. You will be pondering long after you have finished reading a poem or the book. Highly recommended.

Zvi A. Sesling

Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva, 2016)
Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011)
King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Press, 2010)
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7& 8

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Judith Katz-levine

Judy Katz-levine is the author of three poetry collections: "When The 
Arms Of Our Dreams Embrace" (SARU 1991), "Ocarina" (SARU/Tarsier 2006), 
and "When Performers Swim, The Dice Are Cast" (Ahadada 2009).  Her 
recent poems have appeared in "Salamander", "Ygdrasil", "Gravel", "Muddy 
River Poetry Review", "Ibbetson Street", "Poem Of The Moment" 
(Massachusetts Poetry Festival Newsletter), and "Blue Unicorn".
Stark Light
the lilac leaves
a young man insists
on justice, grieves
the homeless ones
he meets at
the train station
stark light
I listen   impossible
to move on it
we hear about wars
starting up
pray for an end
to the violence
stark light   at noon
cars shine in the heat
I grieve for the world
and getting older
listen to the young
their laments
for future decades
  - Judy Katz-levine