Friday, March 28, 2014

Waiting At The Dead End Diner by Rebecca Schumejda

Waiting At The Dead End Diner
Rebecca Schumejda

Bottom Dog Press

Review by  Thomas Benfield

As dusk settles into night and streetlights begin to glow onto vacant sidewalks, through Rebecca Schumejda’s writing, we shuffle out of the cold and into the Dead End Diner. The poetry collection Waiting At The Dead End Diner is as much about Rebecca Schumejda’s time waiting tables, as it is a confession, about waiting for a transitory period in her life to end. There is palpable urgency, nostalgic dialogue, and conflict in her voice as a writer. Whether filling ketchup bottles or saltshakers, occupational activities become her platform to tackle deeper topics like love, friendship, and humanity. These poems should sit beside a bottomless cup of coffee, toast, and a dimly lit red leather stool, bolted into the ground at the counter. With blunt imagery, detailed dialogue, and well-hidden optimism, Waiting At The Dead End Diner is a working-class anthem.

A selection from the poem," Scheduling", reads, “Oil and vinegar are housed in separate bottles,/ but George schedules Jolene and Carrie/ to work the same shifts almost every week.” Throughout Waiting At The Dead End Diner, Rebecca Schumejda makes comparisons between people, relationships, or feelings, with common objects found in multiples on every table of every booth. These comparisons are often left unexplained. However, they all share the same theme.  Sooner or later, every job or hobby will reveal a greater lesson. Waiting At The Dead End Diner is a collection of lessons taught by burns and spills to an audience of very few. But to those who can hear the message in each poem, we will be spared the monotony of 12-hour shifts usually needed for such epiphanies.

Rebecca Schumejda, much like a modern Hemingway, has mastered the use of short succinct sentences. Her poems read as easily as a grocery list. But as always, deeper contemplation is left to the reader,

The Décor

Since children never happened,
George’s wife adopts Chihuahuas,
dresses them in costumes
she designs herself.
She photographs them,
and hangs them framed
on the wall behind the register.

The Décor is just one of many uses of prose. Because Schumejda only reports factual action, the entire feeling of each piece is up for interpretation by the reader. This is an interesting tactic. It draws the reader immediately into analysis, sometimes before even completing the poem. The poem opens simply, “Since children never happened.” This vague statement with no further explanation begs the reader to ask, how does that make her feel? Or, why couldn’t she have children? This technique is interesting because there is no correct answer. The readers choose whether the poem is happy or sad, based on their own sensitivity towards each topic.

The crippling monotony of each shift grows on the reader throughout the book, “I start taking orders,/ prioritize- get drinks-/ refill coffees- bring out soups- place orders/ take another order- salads- place orders-/ extra dressing- bring out food- check on tables-/ find the rhythm of routine- drop checks.” (The Exterminator). Even the language used suggests an endless string of blue-collar days. Rebecca Schumejda writes accurately about her topic. The lack of rhyme schemes and meter makes these poems emulate the feeling of their action. Similarly, her use of heavy enjambment and figurative language provides a sense of urgency, which accurately grows and grows while working a dead end job.

Above all, these poems make me appreciative. As a student feeling the pressure of the future, we all like to think that we’ll become some kind of big shot. Throughout my life teachers and adults have threatened me, if I ever began to slack off. They would say that all I’d ever become is a waiter or a gas station attendant. The reinforcement of these jokes wore me down into thinking negatively about those professions. After reading Waiting At The Dead End Diner, I realized that every kind of work can either be done well or poorly. The profession only matters to the individual. Confidence only comes from your own perception of a job well done.

Thomas Benfield

Thomas Benfield is a 19-year-old writer from Mystic Connecticut. He is an English major at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. He is currently a freshman at Endicott College, pursuing a Creative writing major. Thomas attended Berkshire school, a four-year private boarding school in Sheffield Mass, where his love for writing was initiated. When Thomas is not writing he plays his original music that he has written for voice and guitar, surfs, and flies single engine airplanes.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Low Pouring Stars George J. Farrah

The Low Pouring Stars 
Farrah, Geroge J.

  Review byAlice Weiss

In Geroge J. Farrah’s Low Pouring Stars, the speaker is searching for an autobiography. This is the title of the last poem in the book, but it is also the underlying theme. What is fascinating about the poet’s process of search is that the speaker couples, not only surprising images or similes, but predicates, as for example in “Daybreak,”

grows heavy
& light

as beauty
distance to survive

The book proceeds by undermining proposition with image, abstract with uncoupled concrete, thus in “Ash,” where the conceit of the poem leans on the drift of ash in the air to portray attachment, a lovely contradiction, the speaker begins,
Born to the baths
we need of course. . .
. . .I am omnipresent. . .
withholding humiliation
from community ears . . .

a smooth girl consumed with guilt
the behemoth of sand
the sweet corner of her lip
the volumes of night written again and again
in her

It should be obvious from the quoted sections that however philosophical the poet’s aim, he counters the heaviness of it by writing in forms that emphasizing space and stops. Lists of things in and out of sentences move across the page in a kind of lace. In a “Disregard for your False Anatomy” (certainly the best title in the book) “Crayons of eternity’s misses” the speaker identifies as his favorites and that coupling culminates in “tins of handwriting/ that accumulate daily/ rare clothing.” Or in “Eyelatch,” his “artificial right eye/ where the debris of infinity/ has lodged/. . .

we will not crumble
(forever) in the corner

without a room
a body . . .
in all
of your seasons
at once

we take in
so much of the world

through our hands

Another, longer poem, “Out of the Window,” seems like an elegy for the loss of self, “a palm of a voice sweats/’this is where I saw the day/ defeat our voices crying.’ In “The Edge of a Reservoir,” a woman speaks to him
I am a fire pet
she said. . .
. . .
a relentlessness like
the leaves
the grass is
the whole world. . .
. . .
I think maybe

you’re a contribution
of pouring stars
down my shirt

he says

but the year wanders, they wander.

The airiness, indeed the quality of being philosophical in the phrase, “but the year wanders”
even of cliché, is stabilized and an reinvigorated by the next and final, “they wander,” ambiguously pointing to years, and also to the couple, under the stars pouring down his shirt
like a spilled cup of coffee. I love the exactness of that image and the seductiveness of the
address to his ‘fire pet.’ And the way the poet seems to be able to couple delight and mourning.
The book is aptly titled The Low Pouring Stars for the flow of images, form and their play with statement and abstraction, distances and stops.

14th annual Boston National Poetry Month Festival : April 11th from 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

The book table at the 2013 Festival

Well for the 14th year I have been on the board for Tapestry of Voices, ( An organization founded by Harris Gardner (Far Right) ), that every year brings to you the much lauded Boston National Poetry Festival to the greater metro area. Somerville poets are well represented including: Yours Truly, Lloyd Schwartz, Bert Stern, Kirk Etherton, Lucy Holstedt,  State Representative Denise Provost, Harris Gardner, and Gloria Mindock. Below is a peek into what the Festival offers...

The Boston National Poetry Month Festival
Boston Public Library, Copley Square

and Old South Church (Thursday)
April 10-13, 2014. FREE ADMISSION.
~ more than 75 established & emerging poets~

      Now in its 14th year, this annual festival begins at 7:30 Thursday night (April 10) with a new feature:

an evening of poetry set to music and dance across the street from the Library, at Old South Church. 

Events at the Library start on Friday at 11am, when 15 Keynote poets will read in the Salon. All are widely

published and highly acclaimed. (One example: David Ferry won the 2012 National Book Award in

Poetry, and the 2011 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.) The Festival continues on Saturday and Sunday, with 

readings by local established and emerging poets in Rabb Hall, plus open mics. and a writing workshop.


    Thursday, April 10, Old South Church (645 Boylston St.) 7:30 pm FREE

    16 perfomances of poetry set to music and dance (Guild Room, 4th floor. accessible)


    Friday, April 11, Commonwealth Avenue Salon Room at the BPL, 11:00 – 4:00pm FREE

    11:00-12:00   Lloyd Schwartz, Miriam Levine, Tino Villanueva

    12:00-1:00     Dan Tobin, Christine Casson, Jim Schley
      1:00-2:00     David Ferry, George Kalogeris, Martha Collins
      2:00-3:00     Diana DerHovanessian, X.J. Kennedy, Alfred Nicol
      3:00-4:00     Kathleen Spivack, Richard Hoffman, Fred Marchant


​    Saturday, April 12, Rabb Lecture Hall at the BPL, 10:00 am – 4:40 pm FREE  

    40 poets read for 10-minutes each. The day begins with five Boston-area high school students. Other

    poets include Regie O. Gibson, C.D. Collins, Charles Coe and State  Rep. Denise Provost. 


   Sunday, April 13, Rabb Lecture Hall at the BPL, 1:10 – 4:40 pm FREE 

   21 poets read for 10-minutes each. They include Ifeanyi Menkiti, Lainie Senechel, Doug Holder,

   Lo Galluccio,  and January O'Neil. (concurrent with open mic. and workshop)


   OPEN MIC. Sat & Sun 1:30 - 3:00 (Room 5-6). FREE WORKSHOP with Tom Daley Sun 3:15 - 4:30


Festival co-sponsored by Tapestry of Voices & Kaji Aso Studio, in partnership with the Boston Public Library.      

FOR INFORMATION: Tapestry of Voices: 617-306-9484. Library: 617-536-5400.