Interviewer vs. Interviewer

Interviewer vs. Interviewer
( Click on picture to view) Elizabeth Lund--Host of Poetic Lines interviews Host of Poet to Poet-- Doug Holder

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nov 4, 2008 Lawrence Kessenich : Former Houghton Mifflin Editor and Poet

My guest Nov 4, 2008 at 5PM is Lawrence Kessenich:

"I was born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1950 -- the year it was chosen "The All-American City" by Life Magazine -- and lived in a small town for a few years, but was in Milwaukee by seven years old, so I consider it my home town. Undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, took six years to get through, from 1968-1974 -- quite an era to be in college! Meandered through my twenties, and finally went to grad school in creative writing (poetry) at UMass Amherst in 1977, at 27, where I lived half-a-block from Emily Dickinson's house and encountered poets James Tate, Donald Junkins, and Joe Langland (who tried to seduce me on the banks of Quabbin Reservoir, after we drank retsina, which he hid in a tree hollow, read poetry, and went for an illegal swim in the reservoir). When I didn't get a teaching assistantship for my second semester, I had to drop out of UMass, and I applied for the Radcliffe Publishing Course, was admitted, and attended in the summer of 1978.

My first publishing job was as editorial assistant to Robie Macauley, a well-known name in the literary world, at Houghton Mifflin (pronounced ho'-tun mif'-lin, by the way -- many people don't know how to pronounce it correctly). HM's trade division was still in a brownstone on Park Street, at the time, with a manual elevator. Robie, my boss, had been a rising star writer in the 50s, went the Iowa Writers Workshop, where he dated Flannery O'Connor, and went on to edit The Kenyon Review and become the first serious fiction editor of Playboy (good stories about his time there, by the way). He came to HM as a senior editor. I had to teach myself to type faster as his assistant, because I had to type all his letters, from which I learned a lot about how to speak to writers about their work. I also shared an office with another editorial assistant right next to the office of the editor-in-chief, Austin Olney, and was in a position to see things such as John Kenneth Galbraith -- an !
enormously tall man -- duck his way under our doorways to visit Austin.

Within a year of arriving at HM, I realized that I was going to have to show that I could acquire books in order to have any chance of being promoted, so I started pursuing authors. My first two successes were W. P. Kinsella's "Shoeless Joe" (probably my best publishing story) and Rick Boyer's "Billingsgate Shoal," a mystery (which won the Edgar for Best Mystery Novel of the Year.) Both books were accepted at one editorial meeting -- which I could not attend, as an editorial assistant -- and "Shoeless Joe" won the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship, so those two books made people aware of me within HM, and I was soon promoted to assistant editor, and I could start traveling to NYC to visit agents. I was ultimately promoted to editor by Nan Talese, well-known literary editor and wife of Gay Talese. I had lunch at her home in NYC a couple times, and met Gay and saw his study, with its endless rows of filing cabinets containing research documents for his many non-fiction books.!

Over my 9.5 years at HM, I acquired another HM Literary Fellowship-winning novel, "Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street" by David Payne as well as other fiction and nonfiction books. I worked with Diane Middlebrook and Diana Hume George, the editors of "Selected Poems of Anne Sexton" and, for a few years of the nine she worked on it, with Diane on "Anne Sexton: A Biography" (there was a very controversial aspect of that book, which occurred during my watch, so you should ask me about that). I met Jimmy Carter, whose biography Nan Talese edited (one day she called me into the conference room as I passed by to show me several Carter family photo albums that Jimmy had lent her to find photos for the book). Our "slush pile" (unsolicited mss. reader), Dell Hammond, passed on Terry McMillan's first novel, "Mama," to me, and I ended up being her first editor. (There are some very good stories about her, so be sure to ask about that experience.) "Shoeless Joe" was sold to the movies!
and became the basis for "Field of Dreams." On the eve of my departure from HM, my wife and I were invited to Fenway Park to be extras in the movie, and I was very warmly received by the director and actors, who knew the whole story of my work with Kinsella. The director placed us so that we appeared onscreen, in the background, during in the movie.

I left HM because I was frustrated with the limitations of book acquisition -- how much time had to be spent "selling" books one wanted to acquire to fellow editors and sales, sub rights and publicity departments -- and I was also too much on the writers' side to be a very good contract negotiator. I left HM in June, 1988 -- the very month of the "Shoeless Joe" filming at Fenway Park.

Since then, I have made my living, first, as a technical editor, then as a technical writer, and, finally, as a marketing writer for various marketing agencies and marketing departments of companies. During that time, I have written children's books and novels for adults (had agents for some of these, but none sold), short stories, poetry, and, most recently short plays -- I just submitted two ten-minute plays for the Boston Theatre Marathon. (I have a number of stories about those years.) I've achieved the most success with my poetry, so far, having published in half-a-dozen magazines and had the one chapbook published (another is under consideration, and I've submitted a full-length ms. to a number of contests)."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oct 28 Gary Metras: Founder of Adastra Press

Gary Metras is the author of the poetry books: The Night Watches, Destiny’s Calendar, and Until There Is Nothing Left (Ridgeway Press, 2003), along with eleven chapbooks, most recently, Greatest Hits 1980-2006 (Pudding House, 2007). His poems, essays and reviews have appeared in such journals as The American Voice, Another Chicago Magazine, The Bellingham Review, The Boston Review of Books, California Quarterly, Connecticut Poetry Review, English Journal, New England Watershed, North Dakota Quarterly, Poetry, Poetry East, Sanctuary, Wild Earth, Yankee, and Tears in the Fence (UK), along with the recent anthologies Birth, Living Frost (Iowa 2002, 2005), and Proposing on Brooklyn Bridge (Grayson, 2003).

Metras is a past recipient of the Massachusetts Fellowship in Poetry. Virginia Quarterly Review wrote of his long poem, Seagull Beach, “The book’s feel, heft, and contents are an evocative experience.” About his chapbook on teaching, Today’s Lesson, NEA Today [journal of the National Education Association] had written, “Who would have guessed that an ordinary school day can inspire extraordinary lyrical moments?....In [the title poem] “Today’s Lesson,” the simple question, ‘Can a good man do evil?’ leads readers into the magic connection between students and teacher and between Metras and his reader.” And the critic-poet, Robert Peters, in reviewing Destiny’s Calendar, said, “Metras writes moving meditations on our lives, and on his own. His language is direct and unpretentious. His music has a full and faultless sound....In almost every poem there is a surprising passage of insight....Metras is an authentic, unpretentious moving voice. These are poems to read aloud, linger over, and share with friends.” And Small Press Review said of Until There Is Nothing Left: “Metras is writing a mytho-poetry here of stones and bridges, water and our bodies, the outer and inner places, the landscapes of mind and heart....Again and again, the poet goes through the threshold of the daily into the aware life that lies somewhere beyond words yet is rendered in the poem.”

Gary Metras is the editor, publisher, and printer of Adastra Press, which specializes in hand crafted chapbooks of poetry. Adastra publishes 2-5 titles a year and has released 77 titles from 47 poets around the country. In reviewing several Adastra titles last year, the American Book Review said, “As long as fine literary presses continue to handcraft handsome books like these from Adastra, serious readers of the twenty-first century can rest assured, the book is alive and well.” And Contemporary Poetry Review, the online journal, has chosen Adastra as Publisher of the Year 2006 (July 2007). He has read his poems at bars, book stores, colleges and universities, including Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Sarah Lawrence College, University of Detroit, and Kent State University. A native of Chicopee, Massachusetts, he has worked as a store clerk, tobacco picker, short order cook, hod carrier, air traffic controller (U. S. Air Force 1966-1970), book store manager, and high school English teacher. He holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Goddard College. When not busy writing, printing, or fly fishing (he is on the board of directors of the Pioneer Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited), Metras teaches writing at Springfield College and lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Oct 14, 2008 John Amen founder of "Pedestal Magazine"

Oct 14 5PM

John Amen is the author of two collections of poetry: Christening the Dancer (Uccelli Press 2003) and More of Me Disappears (Cross-Cultural Communications 2005), and has released two folk/folk rock CDs, All I’ll Never Need and Ridiculous Empire (Cool Midget 2004, 2008). His poetry has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including, most recently, Rattle, The New York Quarterly, The International Poetry Review, Gargoyle, and Blood to Remember. He is also an artist, working primarily with acrylics on canvas. Amen travels widely giving readings, doing musical performances, and conducting workshops. He founded and continues to edit the award-winning literary bimonthly, The Pedestal Magazine (

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Oct 7, 2008 C.D. Collins

With ever-shifting personae, CD Collins’ narratives and pyrotechnic poetics transport the listener from the hills of Kentucky, along the boulevard Champs-Elysees and to the urban landscape she now calls home.

Collins has performed in various Boston area venues including The Charles Playhouse, The Landsdowne Playhouse, and Club Passim, as well as appearing in poetry venues and academic settings along the East Coast, South and Midwest.

Ms. Collins' short fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including StoryQuarterly, The Pennsylvania Review, Imagine, The South Dakota Review, Salamander and Phoebe. When accompanied by her band, Ms. Collins presents a captivating blend of Chamber Rock with Spoken Word that one reviewer described as “pure magic.”

Pincurl’s cassette Slow Burn was released in October 1997, followed by a compact disc, Kentucky Stories, released in March 1999 and funded by a grant from the St. Botolph Club Foundation. This disc won Best Spoken Word CD at the Boston Poetry Awards 2000.

Collins received two grants from the Somerville Arts Council — one in music, one in literature — and Cambridge Poetry Awards for Best Erotic Poem, Best Love Poem and Best Narrative Poem. The latter poem, “Promised Candy,” is included on her latest compact disc, Subtracting Down, a compilation of Post-Modern Mountain Storytelling & Song recorded with her band, Rockabetty. Also included on the CD is the track “Blood Orange,” which has been featured on the National Public Radio show “Here and Now.”

Five of CD’s poems — “The Fox, 1968,” “Promised Candy,” “Subtracting down,” “Self-Portrait with Severed Head,” and “Demimonde”—are included in the anthology The Boston Poet: Volume 1, Issue 1: Virgin Voyage.

Ms. Collins is an active member of The Writers’ Room of Boston.

She may be contacted at (617) 666-2778 or