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

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

Thursday, September 13, 2007


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.


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

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,
Happy Birthday!

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.

Poetry Workshop: For Jack Powers

poetry workshop
for Jack Powers

at least one time more, please,
would i like to make your acquaintance,
would i like to sit at your workshop table
and learn poetry techniques from you,
like i did five years ago, one rainy weekday,
with three of your steadfast groupies. And me
a wannabe, though for a suspended second.
so quick with words and style were you,
spurring us four to creating lines and lines
and lines of poetry. And me a wannabe
trying to figure out how the three groupies
could come up with the verses they did,
i didn’t understand. i didn’t understand
until years later when i typed up this
poem in celebration of your 70th birthday how
their brilliances only reflect your spirit and
vitality and talent that only you can spread around
so gently and so easily and so intensely. an hour passed
quickly at that workshop with me stumbling to catch up with
your three young adult friends, writing lines after
lines after lines. at least more time - however
briefly – would i like to, learn from you,
take another workshop, be tuned into your poetic
world. thank you, Mr. Powers, and happy 70th.

pam rosenblatt 09.09.07

Pam Rosenblatt is a poet and an arts/reporter for The Somerville News.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Steve Gines on Jack Powers

Steve glines is the founder of The Wilderness House Literary Review and

When I used to hang out at the Grolier there was a constant coming and going of posing poets. Readings were largely for established poets and I was not established. There were no open readings and few open submission poetry journals. I complained about this state of affairs to Gordon Carnie. He gruffly told me that I should start my own publishing house (I did, it was called Brahman Publishing) and that the poets that strutted around his shop were awful. If I wanted to hear real poetry,experience real poets, I should go to Stone Soup and Jack Powers. From then on I've been a Jack Powers fan and an occasional visitor to Stone Soup. In 1998 my daughter Kitty wanted a venue to read her poetry.Remembering the gentleness and genuine welcoming atmosphere of Stone Soup it was the first venue we visited.

President of New England Poetry Club thinks back about Jack...

Diana Der-Hovanessian writes about Jack.

Diana has been the head of the New England Poetry Club for many years. Diana Der-Hovanessian’s 23rd book "The Second Question" was published this year by Sheep Meadow Press. She was Fulbright professor of American poetry twice and taught workshops on the poetry of human rights, translation, and writing at various universities. She was a visiting poet in the Mass. schools for 18 years. Her work has appeared in American Scholar, Paris Review, Poetry, Nation, etc. and has won awards such as an NEA fellowship, P.E.N./Columbia grant, the Paterson Prize, the Armand Erpf translation award. She is president of New England Poetry Club.

Join us for a celebration of Jack Powers' birthday Sept 15 5PM 30 Gordon St. Allston, Mass. Potluck dinner-- open mic-- Sidewalk Sam, Linda Larson, Marc Widershien, Bob Clawson, Dough Holder and others to read... Music from the "Blue Dust Drifters" and Jennifer Matthews.

A Letter for Diana-Der Hovanessian...

Jack and I were very young when we met. (Would you believe,
at a Harvard Extension school class given by Professor Theodore
Morrison on Creative Writing? )

He was young and handsome;I had just come home to Cambridge from New York. (My husband wanted to live in Utah, I wanted to stay in NY...we had compromised on Boston.)

I was already writing poetry and having some successes because
New England Poetry Club soon pressed me into membership and
their board. I hadn't even known it was prestigious. Jack asked
if I could help him become a member. He has stayed a member ever since.
Everyone says Jack is the most generous person in poetry. I can add, Yes, I know. He never stopped asking me to do readings for Stone Soup...even though I kept telling him,I loved writing but hated reading. He had me as the opener for Lawrence Ferlinghetti. And for Lyn Lifshin.

Each time he moved to a different venue
he insisted I had to help break it in. "Jack" I'd say," I'll come
but honestly I don't know how much good it will do."
"It will help us both, you and me,"
he insisted. He has a gift for warm friendships...and a gift for gab both serious and entertaining.

I remember the wonderful
talk he gave at the first panel discussion I organized for
the Boston Globe Book Festival. He was the expert on the vox populi
and the street poets, the small press poets, the self published poets, reminding us how Whitman started. The other people I remember
on the panel were founders of the original Poets Theater, and
Peter Davison for the literary press. It was a great panel. And Jack the most memorable.

And speaking of memory there were the Jack years at City Hall when we had poetry there. One was a great program called "First Ladies.." Jack and I invited the mayor's wife, the governor's wife, and some tv and radio women announcers to read from Anne Bradstreet, Phyllis Wheatley, Emily Dickinson . We had Frances Minturn Howard reading her grandmother's poem, The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Thank you Jack for the lovely memories, and mostly for being yourself, Jack Powers,friend, poet, powerful advocate for poetry in Boston . Diana Der-Hovanessian

Poet Lyn Lifshin on Jack Powers

I got this statement from the acclaimed small press poet Lyn Lifshin. There is a birthday party for Jack Powers Sat Sept 15 30 Gordon Street Allston 5PM Reading Potluck dinner more info:

From the time I met Jack Powers, I think in the mid seventies when he invited me to do one of several poetry readings to go along with the Boston Marathon, I never stopped being incredibly amazed at his generosity and gentleness. I had published a handful of chapbooks and books when we first met. Before that I had heard of Stone Soup and I think on my trip to Boston to Beacon Press, just as my first anthology, TANGLED VINES, was accepted, the writer I came to Boston with tried to find Jack but we couldn’t.

But from that first meeting and reading, I’ve rarely had so considerate and generous and supportive a host. He was so kind at all the readings. I know he paid me when he did not have the money and could not afford to. There was always a feeling of vibrancy and fun and excitement reading for Jack and talking with him. There was always an idealistic feeling that anything could be accomplished with poetry. I always felt he was a leader and in the little time I spent in Boston, always saw his gracious generosity and kindness with people from all backgrounds.

Not only did he pay me for reading when he couldn’t I’m sure afford to, at my last reading in Boston Jack refused to let me pay to ship my books back. I insisted and I’m sure it was not easy for him to box and mail the books I hadn’t sold but he simply would not take my check. I think I sent it and he tore it up.

Jack is unique. He has helped so many poets, been so sensitive. In a time when poetry has become so careerist, Jack’s passion, community concern and sweetness is very special. He towers over many poets, literally and metaphorically ...


Lyn Lifshin has written more than 100 books and edited 4 anthologies of women writers. Her poems have appeared in most poetry and literary magazines in the U.S.A., and her work has been included in virtually every major anthology of recent writing by women. She has given more than 700 readings across the U.S.A. and has appeared at Dartmouth and Skidmore colleges, Cornell University, the Shakespeare Library, Whitney Museum, and Huntington Library. Lyn Lifshin has also taught poetry and prose writing for many years at universities, colleges and high schools, and has been Poet in Residence at the University of Rochester, Antioch, and Colorado Mountain College. Winner of numerous awards including the Jack Kerouac Award for her book Kiss The Skin Off, Lyn is the subject of the documentary film Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass. For her absolute dedication to the small presses which first published her, and for managing to survive on her own apart from any major publishing house or academic institution, Lifshin has earned the distinction "Queen of the Small Presses." She has been praised by Robert Frost, Ken Kesey and Richard Eberhart, and Ed Sanders has seen her as "a modern Emily Dickinson."