Friday, August 12, 2016

The Sunday Poet: Dennis Daly

Dennis Daly

Dennis Daly lives in Salem, Massachusetts. Daly graduated from Boston College and has an MA in English Literature from Northeastern University. He published two earlier books of poetry: Custom House (Ibbetson Street Press) and Night Walking with Nathaniel (Dos Madres).  His translation of Sophocles’ Ajax (Wilderness House Press) was recently performed in Saratoga Springs, New York under the sponsorship of the classics and drama departments of Skidmore College. Among other jobs Daly has worked as a dockworker, Union Leader of a 9000 member industrial local, newspaper columnist, city department head, and community corrections director. His new book of poetry, Sentinel, was just released by Red Dashboard Publishing. Visit his blog at


Nosing around one of the helix
Bands, searching for enhanced wonderment
On the cavern walls. The gloomy Styx
Flows foully by in chalky current.

Other keen images disturb there
Among the genes of our brother apes.
Paraded inside, an incised mare
Of consciousness and pigmented shapes,

Roughly etched art. Withdrawing sunward
From the bleakness of interior,
Charon’s feverish blue eyes bestirred,
He oars us across the dread water.

Back in the etherized, upper land
We recognize the dead among us,
Traverse the known shortcuts, the quicksand
Of feral dreams, of life’s fullness.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The New issue of The Somerville Times is out!

Check out Doug Holder's Off the Shelf Column for the arts in Somerville and beyond...

Poet Richard Cambridge: Former 60s Radical talks about the Poets' Theater in Somerville, the Black Panthers, Hitchhiking, 1970, and more...

Poet Richard Cambridge Outside the Bars at the Bloc 11 Cafe in Somerville

Interview with Richard Cambridge: A poet, writer,and memoirist, who brought the famed Poets Theater from Cambridge, Mass to Somerville's Arts Armory

By Doug Holder

I first met poet Richard Cambridge when we worked on the poetry anthology “City of Poets: 18 Boston Voices,” in 2000. About a decade ago I interviewed him on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer,” when he still had the “Poets' Theater” at the famed Club Passim in Harvard Square. In 2010 he moved the theater to the Somerville Arts Armory, and hasn't looked back. He continues to run this series of poets, musicians, artists, who strut their stuff on the stage. I recently caught up with Cambridge at the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square, Somerville.

Doug Holder: You moved from Club Passim to the Arts Armory in Somerville. How is the Armory?

Richard Cambridge:  It is great. the Sater brothers who own the Middle East Restaurant in Cambridge bought the armory and restored it. It is a stunning space. They virtually turned it over to the community. They are incredibly generous. It is like a big, artists' club house. They have a winter farmers' market, classes, studio space, performances—you name it.

Doug Holder: The Club Passim has such a history with folks like Dylan and Baez playing there in the infancy of their careers. Why did you leave a place with such a cache?

Richard Cambridge: We had to. After the crash in 2008—a lot of Club Passim donors just dried up. The Club was struggling. They needed to make more money. So they asked me to take my show elsewhere. I left in Sept. 2010 and by Oct. 2010 I was back in business at the Armory. I believe we had poet, saxophonist and Hanging Loose Press editor Dick Lourie as one of our first guests.

Doug Holder: You have had a number great acts at the Poets' Theatre in Somerville.

Richard Cambridge" Yes -- recently we had Lo Galluccio and the Black Swans. Galluccio performs brilliantly in some many genres--poetry, memoir writing, singing, fiction, etc.. She also was on stage with the Poet Laureate of Somerville--  Nicole Terez Dutton as well as poet Teisha Twomey. The talented singer/songwriter/photographer/poet Jennifer Matthews will be performing with guests soon as well...We are always looking for talent. We just don't someone to go up there and read poetry and nothing else.

Doug Holder: There has always been a political sensibility to your poetry. Can you talk about this?

Richard Cambridge: I dropped out of Northeastern University in 1970 during the student strikes. I helped the Black Panthers open up a Peoples' Revolutionary Constitutional Convention. By-the-way-- this is the 50th anniversary of the Panther's founding. There will be a anniversary in party in Oakland.  I will be there. Anyway, I toured around a lot of different colleges with my wife who was a philosophy professor at North Eastern. I met Tupak Shakur's mother who was one of my mentors. So I have been steeped in revolutionary politics early on.

Doug Holder: You wrote a memoir about your hitchhiking experiences titled " Ride." Can you give us an anecdote from the book?

Richard Cambridge. I had a feature in Asheville,North Carolina, and my car broke down—this was in the mid 90s. I started to hitchhike and hardly got any rides. I kept a diary-and recorded each ride—I even recorded how many cigarettes I smoked each day. All these memories triggered the book.

I sort of got brutalized by a state trooper who picked me up. He wanted to know if I was carrying any dope. I wasn't. Then he forced me in his car and took me on this crazy joyride. He must have been going over 120 miles per hour—I was scared as hell. Then he dropped me off at an exit and told me that he didn't want to catch me doing this again. It took me another 20 rides to get to my destination.

Doug Holder: You got your MFA at at the Stone Coast Low Residency program in Maine. I understand you worked with the accomplished writer and memoirist Richard Hoffman--whom I had the pleasure to interview as well.

Richard Cambridge: Richard was one of my mentor there. We became really close friends. He transitioned me from a poet who has written a novel--to a novelist. We would meet once a week for dinner--and then he would go  over 25 pages of my manuscript. Then we would discussion--I would do drafts, etc.. Writer Michael Kimball also helped me a lot. This was one of the best experiences of my life. I never had to work so hard--so long. The teachers were like us--no stratification present. Richard and I were both born in 1949, and experienced a lot of the same things. He wrote a wonderful memoir  "Half the House." His latest memoir is "Love and Fury."

Doug Holder: You were involved in the Slam Poetry Movement jump-started by Patricia Smith and Michael Brown. Are you still involved with Slam at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, Mass.?

Richard Cambridge: I don't go there as frequently as I used to. But when I did I took to the energy it had. It showed me how to project myself theatrically. Smith, Brown, Ryk McIntyre, and others really helped me out. Right now I am writing more fiction.

Doug Holder: What are you working on now?

Richard: I am working on a book titled “1970.” It is not unlike Philip Roth's, “ Plot Against America,” that took place in the 40's. In 1970 I was right out of college. I think so many things that happened in 1970 could have gone in the other direction... and we could  be hopefully living in a  better world.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Becoming the Sound of Bees By Marc Vincenz

Becoming the Sound of Bees

By Marc Vincenz

Ampersand Books

ISBN: 978-0-9861370-0-6

91 Pages


Review by Dennis Daly


Over and beyond the pages of his new collection, Becoming the Sound of the Bees, Marc Vincenz’s poems swarm, transcending set structures and standard dimensions. Some pieces align to the right margin. Others crawl down the width of the book, accommodating elongated lines or spacing anomalies. Never placid, these verses seem to vibrate out filtered memories and existential queries from a multilayered cosmic buzz. The vertiginous reader would be well advised to focus on a nearby item of solidity (try a bookcase) as a necessary counterbalance to this noise that in harmony becomes silence, a sacred silence.


Stiff, salt-encrusted nautical images limn and define Marc Vincenz’s opening poem entitled Transmigration. The poet describes the movement toward rebirth and hope as a gravitation force conveying feelings and language and flaws. The poet details the anticipated moment of genesis,


… scars trace icons

of a recurring past, crystal heaped


in ions as fleas creep into our rags

and rats’ eyes quiver like insect eggs.


Voices are rigging and sails

that creak and snap, and through


knots and cracks above, the light,

finding little access, ceaselessly bemoans.


And when we emerge, some of us less

than half the men we once knew,


in one blinding flash, as dog greets master,

that curious light comes running.


Playing God or poet usually ends poorly. Vincenz in his poem Crank-Handled describes the unsightly process of creation in mechanized terms. Even those temperaments well suited to the process mostly fail. Abandoning the fabricated mess often is the best option. The poet cites the Neolithic Cucuteni culture, who developed a model of constant destruction and reformation in their densely urban, but ultimately nomadic, way of life. Vincenz brings his piece to a Frankenstein-like crescendo in a neat under-the-hood description of reverse engineering,


   Wrench-spinning, you insist nonetheless.

& not until you strip everything down to cogs, spokes,

sprockets & springs, exposing that frail skeleton,

a crude beast of brass. Miffed, stooped, stumped

over yourself, you discover your own speechlessness.


And then—course, I’ll give you full credit—you 

cough it up:  Nothing ever came from hydrocarbons.

What is it actually good for, if anything? & as you rid

your fingers of grease and muck, oily-gluey gunk,

it sputters & rumbles, moans & coughs &

for a tremulous moment it’s almost coming alive.


Out of the empyrean noise the poet in his piece, Yet Another Reincarnation, channels his muse/medium into being, bringing a certain omniscience to bear upon the temporal world. Time compresses radically and everyday subsistence takes a back seat to oracular rantings and ravings. Imaginings generate little miracles and demand complex preparations for the next iterations of new life. Vincenz opens the poem with business acumen,


I pay my soothsayer in hard-boiled eggs, chicken wings,

gristly claws, livers or gizzards—she believes in the due process

of tempests, visions of omniscient butterflies. An old woman

scrubbing floors portends violent crime or racketeering;

finch in hand, fraud or incest; beetle on the mantelpiece,

ill health. She snatches invisible lassos from the air, spins dizzy

larks above my head, everywhere she sees living dead,

centuries of men on the low road to the country fair, millennia

of citizens ensnared in menial tasks, plowing, sewing, reaping,

daydreaming; mostly she knows where lightning will hit,

who will combust …


I exist therefore I am, said Jean Paul Sartre famously. In his poem Weightlessness Vincenz picks up this thought and runs with it. Man acts in the midst of weather. Outside forces affect man’s acts, sometimes re-enforcing them, other times deterring them. Yet man must still make decisions, act on them, and be held responsible. In existential thought the problem of Cartesian duality does not exist. Vincenz seems to agree with this take.  Being is not just the starting point, it is the point. Even storm-tossed families afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and with daughters run amok are governed by these demonstrable but effervescent strictures. The poet puts it this way,


It is only in our decisions

that we are important.

It’s not always about the matriarch, you’d said,


more often it’s about the habitable zone and what you make of it,

how primitive life forms

react to sunlight,


how dinosaurs eventually rise

from single cells,

how creatures like us


learn to take

wind, water, fire, and earth

shake and stir, and recreate life in test tubes.


Desires drive Vincenz’s protagonist, Ivan, onward. His protagonist’s muse or dead wife seems just out a reach. Her siren song transfigures man into boy again, bestows the youthfulness of wonder. She understands the sacred universal drone—the eternal beehive. Wasps and wild dogs momentarily interrupt their quest, but only momentarily. Other natural organisms wave them on. The poet mines his memory for queries and clues,


… the thrushling flutters on, dangles, bounces, wavering on twigs,

it’s then suddenly I realize, as we emerge from the undergrowth


sweating and dripping, scratched through our faces that Ivan, no

Buddhist, believes her to be the reincarnated spirit of his wife.


He asked me once: Did you eat your way into this life, like me?

Did you devour your share of the proceeds of your well intentions?


Or, did you live for something more like love or affections?

Those were the days he still made sense, now mostly little


matters, not the grass, nor the sky, there is no stirring

or yearning, & yet, with nothing left there was still more,


like the thrush, like the sunlight on ice, like the industry of bees.


A cache of caught sunlight in the realm of Being and Nothingness can make all the difference. Vincenz’s richly illuminated visions and commanding oracular verses in this momentous collection do just that.