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From our friends at Cheltenham Printing Company
Poems of the Pennypack – (Moonstone Press)
g emil reutter’s Poems of the Pennypack has just been released by Moonstone Press. The chapbook captures the respite the park provides to residents from the bustle of city life, reutter’s affinity for the park and the nature that thrives in it.
What Others Say:
Poems of the Pennypack is a forthright book, which reflects a lifetime of exploring a place and one’s self in relation to that place. The poems have a quiet clarity as the book becomes both guide and map. g emil reutter writes, “Beauty and violence of nature in plain view / in this nature sanctuary of Philadelphia / called Pennypack.” Reading the poems now in the spring of 2020 readers may find some of the solace they have been seeking and noticing again in nature. As reutter writes, “nature has reclaimed it, meadows, forest and wildlife are abundant.” There is always more to explore, but there are no pyrotechnics. The book is direct and unselfconscious and the poems keep hitting closer and closer to home. -Thomas Devaney
Now available: The Pennypack Environmental Center, 8600A Verree Road, Philadelphia, Pa. 19115.
The Wellfleet Public Library in Massachusetts will host an exhibit of Martin Desht’s, Capes and Poets ,seascapes and portraits of poets from June 16th to July 6th. On June 20th at 7 p.m. Martin will present, Voices of Conscience, Then and Now, a reading from the works of 24 poets. Capes and Poets, front (1) Capes and Poets, back
Interview by g emil reutter
MARTIN DESHT’S interest in photography began in 1985 when he signed-on as an unpaid deckhand aboard the SV Harvey Gamage, a two-masted schooner out of Southampton, Maine. In 1989, after publishing photographs of the Canadian Arctic’s Baffin Island, he started photographing post-industrial Pennsylvania, a project that would occupy him for the next twenty-six years. Faces From An American Dream® was first exhibited in 1992 and has been on tour ever since. The book Photosonata, was birthed from this project. Harvard University, Dartmouth College, New York University’s Stern School of Business, United States Department of Labor, have all exhibited his work. In 2006, Desht accepted a teaching residency at Queen’s Univeristy, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His exhibit A Certain Peace: Acceptance and Defiance in Northern Ireland concerns post-sectarian war/ post-industrial neighborhoods of Belfast. He has also taught fine-art photographic printing at Cape Cod’s Truro Center for the Arts. Desht lived in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley for many years before moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico. From 1980 to 2002, he lived on an island in a renovated summer cabin along the Delaware River, in Raubsville, Pennsylvania. Martin Desht continues to work in black-and-white film and still operates a traditional photography darkroom. Along with portraits of American poets, his social documentary work is represented in collections at Harvard University, Lafayette College, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, and in numerous private collections.
GER: As a young man working at the Electric Furnace of Bethlehem Steel reading the work of poets in between steel pours did you have any idea that love of photography and poetry would lead you away from Raubsville, Pennsylvania to documenting postindustrial Pennsylvania and into the world of poets and poetry?
MD: Well, in a very subconscious way, yes I did have an idea that I wasn’t going to spend thirty years in a mill. I was bird in a cage back then (1970s), and reading Faulkner and Blake during night-shifts was a way out of the mills and into the larger world. That I would one day photograph Phil Levine, Gerald Stern, and Jean Valentine, who were among the stars of American poetry—no, that never occurred to me. My grandparents were Czech immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island and found work in Pennsylvania’s coal country. My father was a miner and a factory worker, my stepmother a nurse, and my job as a crane electrician at the Steel was the best they ever hoped for me. To them poetry was a foreign word. Art was useless. Even college for me was as far from their minds as the moon.
GER: You began documenting the decline of Pennsylvania’s industrial economy in 1989. What led you to this project?
MD: In two words, reading and photography. First, books such as Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams and Stern’s Lucky Life; then Robert Frank and Lewis Hine who, I later learned, may have photographed my father as a nine-year-old kid working in the mines. Not sure, of course, but the dates and locations are right. Anyway, books have always taken me places and inspired me to act. I read Arctic Dreams and then took off for Baffin Island. After publishing some Arctic photographs, Lafayette College’s History Department asked me about documenting the decline of Lehigh Valley’s industrial economy. In essence, what I was documenting was the decline of the American dream for skilled and unskilled workers as America’s industrial economy was being displaced by overseas manufacturing. Obviously, as you and Diane well know since you’re both poets of conscience, this economic transition would later have enormous social and political consequences.
GER: The results of the project, Faces From An American Dream®, an exhibit that has been on tour for a few decades and continues as well as the book, Photosonata, that was birthed from the project have been widely praised. How did the exhibit and the book come about?
MD: Lafayette College exhibited some of the early photographs in January, 1992, and newspaper and magazine articles followed, as were exhibit requests from Harvard, Dartmouth, New York University, Philadelphia, Washington DC. And so it went, with eventually a book based on the work. I was lucky. But, then, I wasn’t.
If you’ll pardon a digression here, I feel a need to explain something about my view of art. First, You have to want to work—all day, all night, all ever, if that’s what it needs. It’s Want and Will. For me, art isn’t something one just learns in school. It’s a way of life. It’s how I live. It’s living on levels of consciousness—personal, social, political, and artistic, if that’s your calling. There’s no other way for me. Put simply: You can not ask someone else to do your breathing for you.
GER: In 2006 you accepted a teaching residency at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. What was your experience like in Belfast and what led to your exhibit, A Certain Peace: Acceptance and Defiance in Northern Ireland?
MD: Belfast is a very artistically alive city, considering all the bombs and blood. To academically understand Northern Ireland one should read The Irish Troubles, by J. Bower Bell. Then sit in a pub with a few artists—poets and painters, photographers and filmmakers—to grasp somewhat the human experience of living in a war zone; to understand the consequences of racism and blind religion. Blind religion here means both Protestant and Catholic, each of which chooses to remain obstinately ignorant of the surrounding bleeding world.
GER: Your poem, Because You Want To Love, is full of imagery and passion about Philadelphia. The poem covers large swaths of a city that was then in decline and love for Philadelphia explodes throughout the poem with all its grittiness and suffering. Tell us of the inspiration and the time period of the poem.
MD: I think it was spring, 1997, when Gerald Stern had scheduled a reading at Temple University and asked if I would drive down Route 611 with him from Easton. (We were neighbors then.) Once in the city, we toured his old neighborhoods—North Broad from the Oak Lane Diner to Girard Avenue, then to the Liberties, Marvin Street, Fishtown, etc. All along the way, he’d point and say This used to be a laundry. That was stinky Sammy’s, the fish man. Here was Harry’s Grill, where the drunks used to piss and puke after hours while waiting for the bus. That used to be a synagogue. God. What the fuck happened here. Schmidt’s Brewery. Breyer’s Ice Cream. Mid-Vale Steel. Now all roof-less piles of brick half-burned to the ground. Who’d believe it. How, at the snap of a few corporate fingers, you could brutalize and impoverish an entire city.
You can read the poem here: _Because You Want To Love
GER: The Wellfleet Public Library in Massachusetts will host an exhibit of yours, Capes and Poets, June 16th to July 6th. The exhibit will feature your photographs of seascapes and poets and will be the first exhibit of these portraits and seascapes. In addition you will read the works of 24 poets on June 20th at 7 p.m. in a presentation, Voices of Conscience, Then and Now. How did the project come about and how did you select the works of the poets your are going to present?
MD: When I lived east I vacationed on Cape Cod, and still do. Last October the Library asked if I’d like to show anything I haven’t yet shown—they have a large exhibit area and I have two rules about exhibiting: 1. Never refuse an opportunity to exhibit. And, 2, love your audience. How I selected what to memorize for the recitation is … Hard to say. The poem has to reach me on a deep personal level, like Sekou Sundiata’s “Harlem, A Letter Home,” because it expresses his deep love for a fallen city; Levine’s “What Work Is,” because I do know what work is. Stern’s “Lucky Life,” for its compassion; Alicia Ostriker’s “Listening to Public Radio,” because its so pertinent today. Then there’s Neruda’s “Poetry” for its dream of relativity that I think even Einstein would envy.
GER: Since your days at Bethlehem Steel you have defined yourself as an artist, a writer of poems and essays.. It is an amazing story. What does the future hold for Martin Desht?
MD: More words and more pictures. I have a digital camera for fun work. But still use film and darkroom for love. There’s a project that’s long been on my mind. I’ve written some about my orphanage years, a rough-and-tumble place that had once been a cattle breeding farm and later donated to the Roman Catholic Church. I need to put all those words and old photographs together and then publish, if not the entire thing all at once then pieces of it, here and there. The whole of it is mystery, in a way. How I got there. Why. Who. Strange, and memory getting more remote everyday. Thanks for asking.
You can visit Martin Desht here: https://martindesht.wixsite.com/martindesht
g emil reutter can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/
Review by g emil reutter
Rosalind Palermo Stevenson’s, The Absent, brings the reader on a forty nine year journey of the life of William Wright Martin. Stevenson’s research is outstanding as the book begins and ends in Philadelphia during the late 1800s with stops in the Wild West and Southwest territories of the United States. Martin and his wife Lucie are photographers, have their own studio yet live with his mother and aunt. Lucie and William are obsessed with the art. Lucie with portraits and what the images she creates reveal about people, he with structures and space.
…what silence speaks of…there is that apt gesture of silence, the hand closed in a gentle fist, the index finger raised and placed over the lips. It’s silly to stand there, the voice says, when you can lie down and rest. Yes rest. Enough time has passed—too many days. How many. Do you remember? You look worn. You look tired. It’s time. You agree that it’s time don’t you?
As a child, William Martin and his mother are taken west from Philadelphia by his father. There at a young age he is being taught to be man by his rough and tough father although the mother is always protective. His father hears danger and throws the boy into the bushes where Martin witnesses the brutal slaying of his father by a gang of men. His mother brings him home to Philadelphia and his life begins again. He matures into a man who lives two lives, one in the reality of who he is and the other dominated by hauntings of what he has seen. Sleep evades him although he and Lucie are close in their marriage there are somethings, as the author says, you don’t share. They work in a studio where Lucie spends most of her time as he walks and photographs Philadelphia. They spend the off time at their mother’s house where Aunt Lavina also lives. Spiritualism and bird watching dominate the house. Suddenly his marriage is broke asunder, he is at a loss for Lucie is gone. He is there but is not. A haunted man, Martin makes seamless transitions from his real life to his dream state while awake or asleep. Martin is a man of tragedy who listens to the voices that haunt him.
Stevenson has a unique ability to develop the supporting cast in this work. The ever present mother and aunt, The Fell family who work at the studio and the interactions the complex Martin has with others in Philadelphia. During his mourning for the broken marriage he travels to the Mid-West on a photographic journey to the place his father was murdered. Stevenson provides a wide cast of supporting characters both in his journey to the Mid-West and again when he is surveying the Southwest. Native Americans, cowboys, hunters even a hermaphrodite who Martin oddly bonds with. New hauntings come to him, yet when he is returning to Philadelphia from his first trip to the Mid-West he meets Dr. Stiles and his daughter Angeline at the depot. The three travel to Philadelphia on the train as the civil war breaks out. Fell continues to manage the studio and over time his daughter Lucie is assisting him. A courtship begins between Angeline and William and they soon marry and live with Dr. Stiles. The couple remain childless and the ever patient Angeline lives with his love of the ever present first wife, Lucie, in his mind. She accepts his long term physical absence from her during his trips and walks about the city, although they as a couple also walk and go on carriage rides. There is a closeness between the two that is as bonding as is the absence.
You look worn. You look tired. It’s time. You agree that it’s time don’t you?
Martin is a photographer of the era, always aware of the light and shadows. In The Absent, Stevenson has provided the reader with images of lights and shadows, of loss and love, of violence and peace. Of the complex nature of the mind and relationships. All of the characters come to life from the page in vivid detail in the haunted mind and life of William Wright Martin.
You can find the book here: http://rainmountainpress.com/books41.html
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter
Have a look and enjoy the Broad Street Review: http://www.broadstreetreview.com/
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g emil reutter
.Poet Frank Wilson has been reviewing books for over fifty years. He began in college, worked for a weekly paper and as an editor for a book publisher. He served as Books Editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer, publishes Books Inq., a popular blog and wrote a weekly column for When Falls the Coliseum.
Where is Frank Wilson from and how has that shaped your life?
FW: I’m Philly-born and -bred. Strictly working class. My older brother and I were raised by our mother and her mother. Both of them were factory workers. My father was a cop. I didn’t see much of him when I was growing up, but I liked him a lot and learned a lot from him.
I started life in North Philly, in a rowhouse at Sixth and Sedgley. St. Veronica’s parish. Across the street was a scrapyard, and all about were rail yards and factories. (The trains that I could see rushing by just behind the scrapyard were running on the Pennsylvania Railroad’s main line — just not the part that ran through the Main Line.) Nature in that neighborhood was what you found in vacant lots — ailanthus, blackberry brambles, and goldenrod. I still think there is a strange beauty in the glow of factories at night, and there is very nice watercolor right above where I am writing of sa factory scene at night.
When I was 8, we moved to Torresdale, in the far Northeast, which at the time was still semi-rural. Our house was at the end of a gravel road (only recently named Jackson Street), and was surrounded by woods. There was a stream in back and we had well water and a cess pool. I walked through the woods to go to grade school (St. Katherine of Siena), which was then located on the grounds of Eden Hall, an exclusive girls school (Basil Rathbone’s daughter went there), which had its own farm. Nuns from Eden Hall — the Religious of the Sacred Heart, known as the distaff Jesuits — taught at the school. My sixth-grade teacher, Mother Holmes, was a niece of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. We exchanged emails near the end of her life. She was a very important influence on me.
I grew very fond of those woods around our house — they were part of a migratory route, so all kinds of birds passed through in spring and fall — but when I was in the eighth grade the city came along and bull-dozed them into oblivion and put in sewer lines to set things up for development, which is why the Northeast I knew as a child doesn’t exist anymore
Your blog, Books, Inq.: The Epilogue, is widely read. How did the Blog come about?
FW: I started the blog at the beginning of 2005. The idea was that it would offer a behind-the-scenes look at what a newspaper book review editor does. It proved more difficult than I had anticipated — I really didn’t have the time to write thoughtful posts. It also didn’t attract many readers. So I changed course and turned it into a blog mostly linking to and commenting on articles about books and literature. I was also lucky in my partners. Vikram Johri has been posting from India since just about the beginning. For a while, the late Canadian poet Judith Fitzgerald was a partner. My other two partners now are Jesse Freedman, an Oxford grad who works for Amazon, and Julie Chovannes, an intellectual property lawyer. Now that I think about it, it’s a good thing I started it, because otherwise I don’t think I’d have made the cut.
You have been reviewing books for four decades, beginning in college, working for a press, a weekly paper and of course the Philadelphia Inquirer. Could you share what you consider the highlights of your career?
FW: One of the books I edited for Lippincott — Stanley I. Kutler’s Privilege and Creative Destruction — has become a classic in its field. I would like to say that my superb editing had something to do with that, but it was the cleanest manuscript I ever worked on.
Another book I edited, this one for Running Press, that I think is memorable was J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth by Daniel Grotta. It was an unauthorized biography. The Tolkien family had already chosen Humphey Carpenter to write the authorized version. Grotta advanced the notion that Tolkien’s imaginative world owed much to his experiences in World War I. Not everyone buys this, but I think the book makes a strong case for its plausibility.
Then there was an article I wrote in the old Drummer about singer-songer Harry Nilsson that got me a funny thank-you note from Nilsson and the chance to talk to him over the phone a couple of times.
Another review I wrote, of poet J. V. Cunningham’s Collected Poems and Collected Essays, got me a letter from Cunningham in which he told me that “it was nice to be praised for the things one would like to be praised for.” I wrote back and asked him if he would look at some of my poems, and he told me to send them along. At the time I was into writing things like villanelles and ballades. He wrote me back with some great advice. He told me that I had perfected a style. Now I just had to figure out what I wanted to do with it.
Later on, when I was reviewing for The Inquirer, I got a letter from the novelist Oliver Lange. I had reviewed his novel Pas de Deux, which is about a novelist who writes under a pseudonym and teaches at a small college in Oregon and gets sucked into an affair with a student of his who turns out to be the daughter he more or less abandoned. I raised some questions in my review about how much of the story was autobiographical. Lange wrote to say he found the closeness of my reading impressive. He in fact did use a pseudonym — his real name was John Wadleigh — and he did teach in a small college, but he had not engaged in incest. That novel, by the way, ought to be better known, as should a couple of others of his: Next of Kin, which I also reviewed — it was nominated for a Pulitzer — and Vandenburg, which Hollywood seems to have ripped off for the Patrick Swayze movie Red Dawn.
Many newspapers are dropping book reviews from their publications. The Inquirer continues to publish many reviews. What is the decision process in selecting a book for review and what is your legacy at the Inquirer?
FW: If a name writer has a new book out, it has to be reviewed. With non-fiction, you’ll want to review anything that is getting attention in the news. But the problem is space. The Inquirer probably reviews more poetry than most papers, and that is very good, because there are some pretty good poets in these parts, and a fairly lively poetry scene. I think The Inquirer would do itself and its readers a big favor by putting out an actual book section. The Inquirer’s competition on Sunday is the New York Times. Now, the Times’s book review section is a shadow of its former self (no sour grapes on my part in saying this — I wrote for the Times book review for years), but they do still have one. The Inquirer could easily and cheaply put out one that would be competitive. The Inquirer’s Sunday sales would likely go up, and I suspect the Times’s might well go down.
As for my legacy, probably a headline I wrote when I was a copy editor for a review of a book about the German philosopher Martin Heidegger: Dasein for living (which only makes sense to somebody who knows something about Heidegger). And a quip I made about Bill Clinton being a Snopes with table manners.
Your wrote a weekly column, That’s What He Said, for When Falls the Coliseum. How did this come about and are you considering bringing the column back and if not why?
FW: It came about because Scott Stein, the editor of WFTC, asked me if I wanted to write a column. I had always thought about writing some essays like the first ones Montaigne wrote — descants on favorite quotations. I stopped writing it because I ran out of quotations that had been floating around in my head and had to start looking around for quotations, which struck me as phony. Recently, though, I realized that I look around for quotations every day for the “Something to think on…” feature on the blog, so I see ideas for it every day practically. So I am planning to take it up again fairly soon.
As a poet, could you share what motivates you to write poetry and what type of poet do you consider yourself?
FW: I think I caught the poetry bug when I was very small and was reading nursery rhymes. “Hey Diddle Diddle” has been a lifelong favorite. Moving from sound and nonsense to sound and sense was easy. In the grade school I attended, poetry was taught every Friday afternoon. Sometimes you had to memorize it. That’s when I first encountered Poe’s “To Helen,” which happens to be a well-nigh perfect lyric, and “The Raven,” and Walter de la Mare’s “The Listeners.” I remember one Saturday night — I was in my early teens, I think —reading all of Poe’s poems in one sitting. The next morning, when my mother and I walked to Mass, one of them, “Romance,” kept running through my head the way a popular song might. So the connection between sound and sense was what got me started, I think.
Will we see a collection of poetry from Frank Wilson?
FW: A year or so ago, my friend Daniel Grotta, who wrote the Tolkien biography I mentioned, asked me if I would let him publish my poems. What was interesting about that was Daniel only knew my poems from having heard me read them decades earlier in my Germantown sitting room. That’s the best compliment I have ever had. Daniel and his wife, Sally, ran a publishing house out of the Poconos. Unfortunately, Daniel passed away last year, and I don’t feel I should bother Sally about it. But I am going to put together a collection of them and show it to some friends and see what they think. We’ll see what happens.
As a younger man it is said that you enjoyed to party. How did this impact your writing and do you miss that life?
FW: The partying had no effect on my writing beyond maybe sometimes giving me experiences and insights I might otherwise not have had. No one in his right mind undertakes to write while high. Some of the partying was also pretty high-toned. Among the people who came to visit my rather bohemian house in Germantown years ago were people like Roy Tobias, who was one of the original members of the American Ballet Theater, and a guy named Evans Winner, who was involved in the founding of Outward Bound, and painter Harry Bertoia. I’m an old-fashioned journalist. I like to experience things first-hand, not just hear about them. But you can keep that sort of thing up for only so long and the name of the game is not to be dead at the end. I did everything in the partying line that I could do and moved on. I do not miss it at all. I can’t remember the last party I attended. Been there, done that.
If possible, could you share your favorite top ten books?
FW: Off the top of my head, in no particular order, and without comment:
Le grand Meulnes (also known as The Wanderer), by Alain-Fournier.
Owen Glendower, by John Cowper Powys
Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse
Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
Earthly Powers, by Anthony Burgess
Possession, by A.S. Byatt
The Song of Bernadette, by Franz Werfel
The Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, by Albert Jay Nock
The Destiny of Man, by Nicolas Berdyaev
The Living God, by Romano Guardini
Where do you see the publication of books heading and in particular, poetry books, which struggle to find a place in the market?
FW: If newspapers were smart, they’d cover poetry the way they cover movies and the theater and concerts. The newspaper mantra these days is local, local, local. Well, in just about any locale you can find people interested in poetry, writing it and reading it. Poetry certainly isn’t going away anytime soon, especially given the way technology has made it possible for just about anybody to draw attention to what he writes. It is strange how the media doesn’t really seem to catch on to how things have changed, even though the media itself has been profoundly affected by the changes. But the media seems hellbent on continuing to look at things as if they still were as they used to be. There is a market for books in general and poetry in particular. Somebody is going to figure out how to exploit that market.
How would you describe Frank Wilson?
FW: God has been good to me. I ended up with the job I had dreamed of having when I was in high school. I’ve spent most of my life doing things I really liked doing. And I made a pretty good living doing it. Deeper than that, I find, now that I am an old man, that it was the early years, childhood and adolescence, that made me who I am. The years in between seem like variations on a theme I think I hit upon when I was 15. Oddly, it is the practice of poetry that has made me understand this. I studied existential phenomenology under Edward Gannon, S. J., and his counsel has guided me ever since. Along with the poetry, it has made me an engaged observer of life and the world.
To learn more about Frank Wilson these sites are recommended:
Chimeraobscura – http://chimeraobscura.com/vm/podcast-critical-mass
The Drexel Interview – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GXcOfqRnKU
Frank Wilson interviews Donald Hall- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6knD_RrfdiU
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here: About g emil reutter
Photographs courtesy of Books Inq, Chimeraobscura, The Philadelphia Inqurier , The Fox Chase Review, When Falls the Coliseum, The Drexel Interview