Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Boston Globe: Jack Powers founder of Stone Soup Poets-- Obit.

The Boston Globe: Jack Powers founder of Stone Soup Poets-- Obit.
(Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/File 1987)

Jack Powers, 73; helped poets bring verses to life


Jack Powers, who grew up in and near projects in Roxbury, founded Stone Soup nearly 40 years ago.

By Bryan Marquard
Globe Staff / October 16, 2010

Poems were more than just words on a page for Jack Powers, who believed that verse needed to be freed from the confines of musty books and the stuffy halls of academia.
Mr. Powers, who died Thursday in the North End, founded Stone Soup nearly 40 years ago. Young and old, beginners and accomplished writers, the ever-changing collection of Stone Soup poets met every Monday night to recite in a series of venues before an attentive audience that was not above voicing its opinion. The readings gained a national profile as he persuaded poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, and Robert Bly to participate.

The performances, Mr. Powers insisted, were part of the poetry.

“You translate yourself when you speak a poem,’’ Mr. Powers told the Globe in 1992

“I think the most important thing for a writer to recognize is that this on the page is one thing. The delivery of the same is a translation. There are a lot of nuances, and lots of times I’ll change words. I’ve never read a poem the same way twice.’’

An activist who gave away everything from the coats he wore to uncounted hours helping the poor, he was a poet and publisher, a teacher and organizer, a man whose great height still seemed too small to contain his frenetic energy.

A series of strokes over the past several years slowed Mr. Powers, then silenced his voice and constrained his mind. He had lived in the North End for many years and was 73 when he died in the North End Rehabilitation and Nursing Center of complications of dementia.

“Boston is full of elite universities and institutions, often very exclusive, where if you don’t have an academic pedigree you’re out of the scene,’’ said Doug Holder, a poet and teacher who at one point worked with Mr. Powers on the Stone Soup readings and founded Ibbetson Street Press. “What Jack did was bring poetry to the people. He published books and had a venue where all kinds of people came through. He opened it up in Boston, which was old and stodgy until Jack brought a populist flavor, a new flowering of poetry.’’

Years before poetry slams made open mike nights fashionable, Mr. Powers insisted that poetry should be an event, something to add to each week’s calendar.

“He really did devote his life to keeping poetry as part of the public discourse, and he did it with great verve and enthusiasm,’’ said poet Gail Mazur of Cambridge. “He wanted to gather everyone into the performance of poetry. In that way, he was a little ahead of his time.’’

The oldest of six children, Mr. Powers grew up in and around housing projects in Roxbury and graduated from Cathedral High School in the South End. A semester studying chemical engineering at Northeastern University was enough to show him his path lay elsewhere.

He traveled to California, spent time in San Francisco, and returned to New England to write about sports for a New Hampshire newspaper. Then he came home to Boston, where he worked in a bookstore and launched a life of social activism.

At various points during the late 1960s and ’70s, Mr. Powers founded a free school on Beacon Hill and started free suppers for the elderly in the same neighborhood. He helped launch free concerts on Boston Common and taught remedial reading at the Columbia Point housing project, where he also organized a food co-op.

“I’m very solid on volunteerism,’’ he told the Globe in 1987, “because the extraordinary weight of problems that visits the modern industrial society can’t be met with dollars alone.’’

Eric H. Sorgman of Randolph, a nephew who acted as guardian for Mr. Powers, said his uncle was known among his relatives for, among other things, donating his coats or gloves to those who were cold or in need.

“He was a philanthropist in the truest sense,’’ Sorgman said. “He didn’t have anything, really, but what he did have, he gave away, and he didn’t want praise or recognition. He felt good about helping other people.’’

Chief among those he helped were other poets. Some wandered into Stone Soup readings at places such as TT the Bear’s and Out of the Blue gallery, its previous and current homes in Cambridge. Others he found at home.

“He taught me about life and how to treat people,’’ said his son Andreas of Boston. “He inspired me to create and was a big influence on my writing. I would always run my writing by him, and he would write things for me. We would write back and forth.’’

Sarah Jensen, a Boston poet who began reading at Stone Soup nearly 20 years ago, said Mr. Powers made the gatherings “a welcoming place.’’

“No matter what level of poetry you were writing at, it was a comfortable place where you could have your moment on stage and be just as welcome as anyone else,’’ she said. “And he would tell stories about meeting and being friends with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg. It was a passing down of his experience to the newer poets, a passing down of history.’’

In addition to his son Andreas and nephew Eric, Mr. Powers leaves his wife, Tamara Oraschewsky of Boston; another son, John Kolya of Boston; two sisters, Cecelia Sorgman and Maureen Daniels, both of Quincy; and two brothers, Colin of Carver and Michael of Florida.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 24 in the International Community Church in Allston.

On Monday, Stone Soup will award its second annual poetry prize, named for Mr. Powers. A week later, on Oct. 25 at 8 p.m., the regular Monday gathering at Out of the Blue will be a memorial reading honoring Mr. Powers, who estimated that he stood up thousands of times to introduce poets. The beauty, he said, emerged from the unpredictable mix.

“Our readings are open,’’ he told the Globe in 1993. “A nightingale may come in and sing the most beautiful song, or a bat could fly in and scare everyone. You take some chances, but our audience is ready to listen.’’

Bryan Marquard can be reached at bmarquard@globe.com.


***********************************************************************************


Comments...



Oh, what a loss...a very great loss. I met Jack in the mid-90s. I don't know where he'd heard of me, but he called me to invite me to read for him at the Cantab, I believe it was called, in Central Square. He introduced me, and gave me about 20 minutes. Weeks later, he saw me on the street, recognized me, and said he wanted me to read for him once more. Alas, we never got in touch with each other again, and that I much regret. To me he seemed an unassuming guy who got things done---he promoted poetry in the area. He left a positive impression on me, certainly, for he was always willing to give established poets, fledgling poets, would-be poets, and diverse and variegated wordslingers and wordsmiths an opportunity to read from their work at his venue. He shall be missed.

Tino Villanueva




So passes a literary giant!! Jack Powers was one -of-a-kind spirit; a force of nature
to whom many of us owe our beginnings in the poetry world. Many of us would not be where we are today if it weren't for Jack's encouragement. In his own way, he achieved greatness but never actively sought it; yet recognition found him. It is amazing how much he accomplished living on a shoestring and a prayer. He was not perfect, but, according to some stories, many saints lacked perfection in their lives. In his way, Jack was the patron of the small press and numerous poets, not of the Academy. He was, despite himself, larger than life. Now he is legend as he joins those who made their literary mark over the generations. As a poet, he was spiritual , yet earthy; erudite , yet simple; profound, yet plain-spoken. He was also prolific in his out put. He had his issues; so do most of us. What artist doesn't have issues?
Jack has left us; however, I suspect he will continue with us in spirit. G-d rest him; G-d Bless!
Warmly,
Harris Gardner



.....I recall Jack back in the '70's or was it the '80's when he would swing by the Annual Greek Festival sponsored by the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Park Drive in the Fenway with his young son perched on his shoulders.....you cld never mistake Jack with that unruly shock of black hair.....I also remember him from the time that the Stone Soup Gallery was in full swing just around the corner from MGH on Cambridge Street altho regretfully, I never attended any sessions....& I further remember him telling me about the free suppers that he organized at the Old West Church on Cambridge Street for the poor & his constant attempts to scrounge food around town for them.....& about him telling me about trying to get a job with the City to work on their Annual Arts Festival or Arts in the Park (or something like that).....I believe he did work for the City on some artistic endeavors, back then.

........I wonder how many young & not so young poets, poor & not so poor, were inspired, encouraged & supported by him over the years........I wld not be surprised if they number well into the hundreds & more... ....he was an icon in certain literary circles in Boston.....he will NEVER be replaced, he was unique among men, in so many ways.....

.......helen cox, 11 Park Drive, Fenway section of Boston.........


There was no sexism, no racism, no ageism at Stone Soup- and no favoritism. I remember when Chronicle visited T.T.'s, giving Jack some long-overdue and too-rare major media publicity. Who did he send up to read as scheduled? The most outrageous and least prime-time friendly poet of all, Lee Litif. Lee was scheduled to be #2, and Jack was not to take the scheduled spot away from anyone. Fair and balanced? That was Jack Powers. That's why he was the first to let the Slam in to his venue before deciding that competition was not right for Stone Soup. Jack was the patriot of all poets.

--- Susie Davidson
Posted by Doug at 3:45 AM
Labels: 73; helped poets bring verses to life, Jack Powers
2 comments:

Bridget Murphy said...

He forever gave of himself to his fellow man and woman. Jack's spirit of encouraging others was a revival experience in of itself. I consider myself fortunate for having been "reverenced" by thee. Thank you 'Jackie' for your PEACE & LOVE...you shall be missed dear ~ Bridget
8:39 PM
Joseph Baltar said...

I saw the best minds of my generation starving with madness and Jack was not one of them, well maybe just a dight.I met Jack in 1971 when he was running the Beacon Hill Free School. He allowed me to teach a course on Massachusetts Prisons and create a Film Festival Series on theHuman Potential Movement.Anecdotal #2 I was at his apartment on Joy street one day waxing about my love for Rilke. As I was about to leave he grabbed a xeroxed photo a friend had sent him showing her visiting Rilke's grave and gave me the special gift he had received from her.
Jack Powers was a poster child on how to love unconditionally .
I will leave you with the Ram Dass quote that"you are only as high as the people you hang out with".

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pictures From Jack Powers 70th Birthday by Steve Glines






Top Photo: Jack Power's son.

2nd from Top: Jack Powers and Margaret Nairn

3rd from Top: ( Right to Left) Doug Holder, Arthur Polonsky, and Sidewalk Sam

4th from Top: ( Right to Left) Rose Gardina, Kip Tiernan, Deb Priestly and Doug Holder

http://mail.is-cs.com/JACK/

The Pavement Picasso Celebrates the Peoples’ Poet: Jack Powers: Interview with Sidewalk Sam



(Sidewalk Sam accepts an award)






The Pavement Picasso Celebrates the Peoples’ Poet: Jack Powers: Interview with


Sidewalk Sam




By Doug Holder



Sidewalk Sam is a Boston-based street artist, who often uses sidewalks of the Hub as a canvas for his work. Sam believes bringing art to the people through his sidewalk paintings, outreach, and through his organization “Art Street.” So it seemed natural for Sam to be organizing a 70th birthday party for Boston’s poet of the people and founder of the venerable “Stone Soup Poets.” Stone Soup, since it was founded by Jack Powers on the foot of Beacon Hill in Boston in 1971 has been a venue for readings, and publishing. Powers and his band of brothers have published poetry books by folks like the San-Francisco poet and “City Lights” bookstore owner, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and other known and unknown poets over the years. A slew of poets like Lyn Lifshin, Frannie Lindsay, Gregory Corso have read and passed through these poetic portals. And many more have got their first reading experience at this supportive venue. Currently “Stone Soup” is housed at the ‘Out of the Blue Gallery” 106 Prospect St. Cambridge, Mass., and meets at 8PM. I spoke with Sam on my “Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.”



Doug Holder: I am told John Kerry discovered while you were painting on the street in Boston, and helped you get funding for your organization “Art Street.”



Sidewalk Sam: He said: “I want to connect you with a community group you could associate with.” He helped with “Art Street” which is an association of artists, poets, actors, musicians, who go out to the streets of Boston to celebrate humankind.



DH: You are organizing a birthday party for Jack Powers’ the founder of Stone Soup Poets. How his mission does compare to yours?



SS: I am a voice crying in the desert, making straight to the way of the Lord. And in a way that “Lord” is Jack Powers. Let me explain to you the vital role he plays in the 21st century. Society—modern life has been corrupted by commercialism and abstract giant powers working their will on we the little people. A gentle, giant began to fight out against this some forty or fifty years ago. A man named Jack Powers who was born into the projects of Boston and had every disadvantage given to him, but yet he emerged as a holy man. A visionary, a poet, someone who sees the beauty in daily life. And he brought his poetry out so that he could celebrate all of us. He has been doing this celebration of “you and me’ in his poetry for fifty years, without once thinking of personal gain, without making it an advantage for him, without caring about his own future. He wanted to bring beauty into the world and notice and mark the goodness in people. He has done this more completely than anyone I know in modern day life. He has it done it more than priests and nuns, philosophers, more than politicians. He brings a kind of “love” to “You and Me” and into all the things he does. It is almost a religious experience. What I hope to do is pause on his 70th birthday and have all of us appreciate people like this. Jack has turned every little gesture of everyday life into a prayer.



DH: How did you first meet Jack?



SS: I was doing drawings of old master paintings on the sidewalk: Rembrandts, DiVinci and so forth. Jack was reading poets like Ferlinghetti—poets of the Beat Generation. We were both celebrating little acts of consciousness in daily life, and we drawn instantly to each other. This was some fifty years ago when we were both in our late teens. We did not know how to be “great”’ or “imposing” or make it into the cultural scene. We thought that by being good and doing decent things was the way to go.



DH: You were the son of a Harvard professor. Jack was a son of the projects. Interesting chemistry for a friendship, no?



SS: But we noticed a similarity. Both of us were castoffs, but both of us were believers. I think of the early mystics, knowing their mission, and when they were in touch with a good human being.



DH: Can you talk about some of the projects you two have been involved with over the years?



SS: Oh, we had lovely projects. There was a derelict entrance way in the North End that passed under the elevated expressway, only a few short years ago. The Freedom Trail passed under the expressway. It seemed to lose itself in the ghoulish land of the underpass. The underpinnings of the expressway were dark and gooey, dripping and rusted. It was a scab on the city. I didn’t understand why such a place could exist in the entrance to the North End, one of the glorious parts of Boston. This was in the 80’s. We painted the underside of the overpass in bright blue. We painted gold stars on the ceiling and had cherubs flying on the walls. We painted pillars as if they were important cathedral pillars. We painted the sidewalk—we put in flower boxes, we put paintings on the wall, we had poetry and music on the street. The underpass was turned into a delightful place and people in the North End loved it!



DH: Jack moved from Beacon Hill to the North End, right?



SS: Jack lived on Beacon Hill at a time when it was known as: “Beatnik Hill.” He was gorgeous person in that area and era. He was a handsome and noble leader. Every inch a poet.



DH: Jack was known as a political and poetry activist. He established a food bank at Columbia Point, had poetry on the Boston Commons, started the Beacon Hill Free School, protested the Vietnam War, etc... But he is also a fine poet in his own right.



SS: I think he is a very good poet. His poetry has a strong sense of spirituality. He makes words special. He has the gift of having a large dramatic vision. But he has the ability to bring it down to the everyday. As an artist using the name: “Jacques Debris,” a genius name, he has used all kinds of left over things on the street and turns them into art. He found a piece of white stone and put it on a pouch on a plaque. This is in my opinion is one of the most beautiful, insightful pieces of art in the city of Boston. Jack has expanded his art into the field of social responsibility.



DH: You talk about rampant commercialism in art today. Do you think artist are more careerist as opposed to the 60’s?



SS: People have always looked out for themselves as best they could. I think each “age” of people has people looking out for themselves. But what is unique about Jack is that he is almost a saint, in the way he doesn’t look out for himself. He is a holy fool. He is willing to preach to the birds and bees because there is glory in it. He has respect for humans on the tiniest level.



DH: I was surprised with all that Jack did over the years he never had a teaching position in a university, etc… Do you think the “academy” didn’t know how to take him?



SS: This is the case. Because he wasn’t self-promoting, he runs the risk of passing away unknown. I think that would be enormous mistake.



For more info about Jack Powers go to http://jackpowerspoet.blogspot.com

Thursday, September 13, 2007

POET BEATRIZ ALBA DEL RIO ON JACK POWERS



Beatriz at top in hat...

Jack was an important inspiring force in my poetry life with his encouragement and his always generous sharing of his muse. We used to talk on the phone, at least, twice a day sharing poems. I always found his words both enchanting and challenging.


In turn, I assisted him in some personal matters so as to make his path smoother. My mission was for Jack to be in perfect health in order to offer everyone his strongest lyric spirit. I am a lawyer and a mediator and that has been my world for over 30 years of practice helping others to create better lives. An on occasion even the great poet needs someone to help him deal with the mundane. And that’s what I did.


This was 7 years ago, in 2000. Until I met Jack my poem writing was my secret, a lifelong secret. But one night that year a poet-friend and I ventured into a poetry reading in this darkish basement of the Middle East Restaurant in Central Square and I met Jack, a tall, handsome, gentle man: the force behind this place called Stone Soup Poets.


It was a crisp cold evening and my friend put my name in that strange unknown thing called an open mike list and I read one poem. People clapped quite a lot, Jack came to the stage, graciously congratulated me and encouraged me to read a 2nd poem which I did in English and Spanish.....and that was the beginning of both my friendship with Jack and becoming a regular at Stone Soup.


Soon thereafter I sent for the first time my poems to a contest and to my amazement I won the First Prize of the International Octavio Paz Poetry Contest. Jack then invited me to be the feature poet several times.


Jack introduced me to the poetry world by telling me stories about poetry and poets he knew, by reading to me his old and new work and that of others he admired, always encouraging me with my efforts. Then, I sent some of my poetry to the International Pablo Neruda Poetry Contest and I won the 3rd Prize.



9/12/07


BEATRIZ ALBA DEL RIO is a bilingual poet and lawyer. She has lived in Cambridge since 1982, city she adores. She was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Beatriz won the 1st Prize of the 2002 Octavio Paz International poetry Contest (Poem: “Ser” = “To be”), the 3rd Prize of the 2003 Pablo Neruda International poetry Contest ( Poem “Tristesa de Abril”= “April blues”) and the 2004 Cambridge Poetry award with the poem MASKS OVER MASKS in the category “female erotic poem” and her poem “Black Crows” was nominated in the category “female love poem.” Beatriz just won the 2007 3rd Prize of the Der-Hovanessian Translation Prize for New England Poetry Club with her translated poem “Shapes of Grief” = “Formas de la Pena” by Mario Benedetti.


Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies and literary magazines. Beatriz is a member of the New England Poetry Club. Beatriz poetry teacher guru is Ottone Riccio.


As a lawyer, Beatriz represents abused and neglected children and parents, mediates conflicts between families and others, and does some international and copyright work. Beatriz’ languages: Spanish, English, French. She understands portuguese and italian. Beatriz’ mission as a lawyer is to help people to create better lives. Her poetry speaks of longings, of clash of cultures. Some of her poems are songs to the spirit and to the oneness of us all. She translates poems especially from Spanish, her native language.


If you would like to contact Beatriz you can write to her to P.O. Box 382344, Cambridge, MA 02238-2344 or you can email to her to badelrio@comcast.net

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

le imitation of a poem for Jack Powers

le imitation of a poem
for Jack Powers

Inspiration on the back, side,
inside flap of an old utility bill
three poems to be read once
then placed in a filing system
only a fireman could love:

“Old man, gimpy leg
rises for Madonna with child
noisy, smelly, subway car
modern manger, god bless, godbless”

“Screams to the Almighty
beseeching victory over that man
murder, mayhem, to the infidel
blasphemous, a pox upon your house
… all your houses ….
And we wonder why God is silent?”

“The Bus
Fellow travelers
much in common
strike a conversation
until our destination
alone again, fearful”

-- Steve Glines

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

stone soup 7.23.07 by Irene Koronas




stone soup 7.23.07


he never noticed
he never said
your poetry
even body motions
perform what is expected

always noticed
always longed
for his pat back
even a glance
always too short

he gazed over head
sure my poems did not
exceed a three minute limit

fifteen years since
his body still straight
i’m still short

his intention
never wavers

the pat on my back
not really a pat
his hands in praise, bend
a most delicate embrace

jack powers never noticed me
and when he does

* Irene Koronas is the poetry editor of the Wilderness House Literary Review, the author of several poetry chaps, and a full lenght collection of poetry. She is also an accomplished artist working in Cambridge, Mass. Koronas is the "scribe" for the "Bagel Bards" a group of poets and writers that meet in Somerville, Mass.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Poet Linda Lerner on Jack Powers


It was the mid 80’s; I only had a few publications and even fewer readings to my credit when I went to First Night hosted by Jack Powers. Leo Connellan, my unofficial mentor, introduced me
to Jack before then with stories of when they slept under bridges in San Francisco, living a kind of road-life as struggling poets; I was really curious about this man who already loomed up as a legend for me.


Jack didn’t disappoint. On the contrary, from the beginning I was awed by how compassionate and open he was to each person who got up on the stage, exerting control by his non judgmental presence. And presence is what Jack has in abundance. The one criteria he transmitted as being important in a poem is honesty.


I didn’t read that night--even in the open. Maybe I was more than a little awed by it all and just being a participant was exciting enough. Eventually, with Leo Connellan’s recommendation, Andrew Gettler and I went on to feature at TT the Bear (where Stone Soup readings were held in the early 90’s.) Jack offered us hs apartment on Joy Street to stay (where he lived at the time) and, to give us some privacy, spent the night at his girlfriend’s place. That was the kind of thing Jack would do over and over for people.


Going to Boston to read at Stone Soup became an annual ritual for us during the next few years. I can’t begin to enumerate how many readings I’ve given since, how many hosts--some quite good--I’ve met, different places I’ve read in, since those magical times. And none quite compare. None have quite that magic. It wasn’t the place, but Jack, who transformed another weekly poetry event to the level of something more. Of Poetry. Jack is the real thing. I feel very fortunate for starting out there. Something I will always treasure.


Thank you Jack,
and
Happy Birthday!


Linda Lerner

WHO IS LINDA LERNER?



Photo Credit: Andrew Gettler



Ten collections of Ms. Lerner's work have been published: the most recent Because You Can’t I will (Pudding House, 2005) and The Bowery and Other Poems (March Street Press, 2004) which was selected as Small Press Reviews’ Pick of the Month.

Her essay on the present state of American poetry, "Poems From The Crypt Don't Speak to Living People" appears in the Summer 2005 issue of New York Quarterly.

In 1995, Linda Lerner and her life partner, Andrew Gettler founded "POETS on the line", the first poetry anthology available on the Internet. For the Vietnam Veterans issue, Nos. 6/7 (1997-98), "POETS on the line" received a Puffin Foundations Grant and a Ludwig Vogelstein Grant. The online journal ceased publication with its Millennium, Nos. 9/10 (1999-2000), but its back issues will be be kept permanently up in online archive.

Ms. Lerner's poems have recently appeared in The New York Quarterly, Louisiana Review, Paterson Literary Review, Onthebus, Home Planet News, South Boston Literary Review (“Bullies” won its Spring 2002 poetry prize), Ragged Lion Anthology and Big Hammer.

She has read widely across the United states including The Knitting Factory, Bowery Poetry Club, The Cornelia Street Cafe and The Back Fence in New York City; the Cherry Valley Arts Festival (1998) in Cherry Valley, NY; Stone Soup Poets in Boston,Mass.; Arkore's Welcomed Words Spoken Word Series in Hoboken, NJ and The Barron Arts Center, also in New Jersey. On the West Coast, Ms. Lerner has read at Beyond Baroque in Los Angeles, CA.

Bookmark this page and check back often for updates such as new chapbook availability date and upcoming readings.