12/27/10

Gaults Cancelled, Open Mike Goes On

Unfortunately, the roads where the Gaults live got hit harder than Boston's. As a result, they won't be able to come tonight but wish us well. An open mike will go on tonight, as it would be wrong for anyone else to substitute amid the storm and post holiday. If you're able to make it to the open mike, we'd be glad to have you.

12/22/10

December 27th: Ed and Karen Gault Return




Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On December 27th, we wrap up 2010 with an appearance from old friends, poets and artists Edward and Karen Gault.

Edward S. Gault was born and raised in the midwest, then moved East when he was fourteen and finished up High School in Bridgewater New Jersey. He holds a B.A. in Polititical and Historical Studies in 1985, and later received an M.ed at Curry College in 2001. He has been writing and publishing Poetry in Journey (Eden Waters Press) Spare Change, and Encore. His Photography has been published online in Spoonful, and in print in BostoNow. His Photography has been in a number of Boston area Art Shows including Out of the Blue Gallery and Jamaica Plain Open Studios.

Karen Szklany Gault has been writing poetry since she attended Marist College (BA 1986). Her hometown is Hawthorne, New York, with family ties to the historic town of Sleepy Hollow. Her final year at Marist was spent studying at the University College, Galway in Ireland, with a three-week whirlwind tour of the European continent snuck in. From1986-1988 she called Orange, California home, where she took classes in both the Music and Psychology departments at Chapman University. While studying there, she spent a week of cultural exchange with Mexican Students from the Universidad de la Ciudad de Mexico, partying and speaking with them in their native tongue. In 1996 she graduated from UMass Boston with a M.Ed. in Elementary Education. She co-taught Kindergarten and taught second grade, as well as serving as an historical interpreter at the Paul Revere House (where she met her husband, Edward Gault) and The Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum. She has a passion for the sea and maritime history and looks forward to publishing poetry and prose for the entertainment of young readers. Since 2004, when she delivered her daughter Cosette, she has been inspired to write more poetry and has been reading at Stone Soup, Open Bark, and Tapestry of Voices.

12/18/10

December 20th: Stone Soup Presents a Pre-Holiday Rush Open Mike


This week, many of Stone Soup's poets and attendees will be getting ready to travel or otherwise prepare for the holidays. Therefore, we'll be preparing an extended, low maintenance open mike with no features or frills. Read holiday themed poems or whatever you like. It's one last opportunity to gather before the holiday rush takes over.

The dog is just here for show and will not be featuring.

12/12/10

January 31st: Samantha Milowsky Features


Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On January 31st, Stone Soup continues its tradition of presenting new poets with Samantha Milowsky's first full-length feature.

Samantha Milowsky is founder of the poetry writers group Amethyst and Arsenic. Her work has appeared in journals such as 2River View, White Whale Review, Sundress, Frogpond, and Spoonful. She has performed her poems at venues around Boston and San Francisco. She has featured at the Jamaica Plain First Thursday poetry series and The Boston Conservatory Garden literary club. Her work has received a Pushcart Prize nomination.
January 24th: G Emil Reutter and Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On January 24th, we welcome poets from the Fox Chase reading series, a long time friend of Stone Soup and Boston poets.



G Emil Reutter is a Philadelphia, Pa. based poet and author. He has worked in the factories, steel mills and rails of the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. His work has been widely published in the small and electronic press and eight volumes of his collections have been published. He has read his poetry at venues in New England, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Arizona and Texas. In 2007 he founded The Fox Chase Review and The Fox Chase Reading Series. His latest collection entitled Carvings was released in November by Stonegarden.net publishing.


Diane Sahms Guarnieri is a Philadelphia Poet. She is a graduate of East Stroudsburg State University and has performed post graduate work at Holy Family University. Her work has been published widely in the small and electronic press, Images of Being, her first full length collection is slated for release in October 2011. Currently the Poetry Editor of The Fox Chase Review (2009 –present), Diane served on the Editorial Board of Philadelphia Stories Magazine (2007-2009), founded The Fox Chase Reading Series “2nd Tuesdays Poetry Open Mic” (2009-present), found and lead The Center City Poets Workshop (2006-present). Diane has performed her poetry at venues in Philadelphia, Southeastern Pennsylvania and New York.


January 17th: Ryan "Rat" Travis Features


Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On January 17th, we welcome back local longtime raconteur Ryan "Rat" Travis once again.

Ryan “Rat” Travis has visited the Deep South and lived to tell about it. An accomplished poet, in over 12 years, he’s performed all over New England, as well as New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. He is best known in the open mic scene as Rat and is considered one of the most unpredictable performers out there. A member of the Barnum and Buddah Poetry Circus and a former member of the infamous “Collective”, he holds... the dubious distinction of being kicked off stage by long distance telephone while in Kentucky with the Poetry Circus.

Rat has been published in many magazines and online publications worldwide and he’s self-published 8 chapbooks over the years. His poetry encompasses many styles from children’s poetry, to sonnets and adult free verse. A self proclaimed Modern American Haiku Master, he has accomplished the daunting task of completing 1000 haiku in 100 days, which he hopes will be published within the next few years.

Ryan is also lead singer for the sludge death metal band Fog Wizard, who are working on their latest release, “Please Don’t Take Away My Lying To You From Me.” He is also a writer for audiotavern.com with his column Man, That’s Heavy. He is also a staff writer for gaspetc.com.

Rat currently resides in Salem, MA with his beautiful wife Holly and their wonderful black cat Midnight. He can often be found explaining where the restrooms are to the many guests that visit the information desk of a very famous museum on the Charles River or stalking the hallways of Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery throughout October.

You can contact the author at: poetfromhell@gmail.com
January 10: Brian S. Ellis Returns


Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On January 10th, we continue our celebration of the new with the just released second full length collection by reknowned local performance poet Brian S. Ellis.

Brian S. Ellis is a writer and performer based out of Jamaica Plain. He’s represented the Boston Poetry Slam at the National Poetry Slam and the Individual World Poetry Slam; co-founded the Whitehaus Family Record, a venue and arts collective in Jamaica Plain. He has published two full-length collections of poetry from Write Bloody Books: Uncontrolled Experiments In Freedom (2008) and Yesterday Won't Goodbye (2011). He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times.
January 3rd: Lynne Sticklor Features


Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On January 3rd, we welcome Lynne Sticklor with her first solo feature.

Lynne Sticklor has been a contributor in the local (and not so local) poetry scene since Stone Soup was at TT's, Middle East downstairs & the Zeitgeist, Out of the Blue was way down on Brookline ave and Joe Cook was thrilling upstairs at the Cantab with the electrifying third rail downstairs...

All the time spent editing, designing and creating in various places with great people, helping host Stone Soup, reading her favorite poets' pieces while encouraging other creative voices to be heard as a feature and during open mikes has been a fantastic creative journey but it's wonderfully exciting to be reading and writing her own poetry.

A book is a brewing~~~

12/9/10

December 13th: Christopher Kain Returns




Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On December 13th, we welcome back Christopher, who will read from his newest collection as we countdown to the end of 2010.

From Christopher Kain: "I first discovered reading poetry out loud as a junior at University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1992. I walked into the Haymarket Cafe in Northampton, MA & at a small gathering read some of my work. in '95 & '96, I found poetry as a life-saver as I temped for a while in Washington, DC. I read poetry with the Federal Poets, the Alexandria Live Poets Society & the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD. Poetry told me my life meant something.

"In '96, I moved to CT from there & read at open folk mics in Wethersfield & Middletown. While working for Borders, I published my first chapbook titled memory plays & organized a bi-weekly gathering of poets. in 2002, I moved to Boston (where I grew up) & started reading poetry at the Cantab. in 2008, I published another chapbook, titled homefront, that arranged poems by time of day. I'll be reading from my new work Twentieth Century Limited, which has a poem for every year of the twentieth century."

11/27/10

The Spare Change Tribute to Jack Powers

Marc Goldfinger's tribute to the late Jack Powers was printed in the Spare Change newspaper and is now available for reading here.

11/21/10

Links to Jack Powers Tributes by...

D.A. Boucher.

Tim Gager.

Erik Tate.

Yuri Hospodar.

Harris Gardner.

Doug Holder.

Gordon Marshall.

Pam Rosenblatt.

Ryan "Rat" Travis.

Dylan Ford.

Sidewalk Sam.
A Tribute to Jack


Jack Powers spent every waking moment of his existence devoted to noble intentions and noble pursuits. He lived a noble life by practicing hundreds of little acts of nobility on a daily basis. He was a humanist. He was concerned with the condition of human-kind.

I was in awe of him for his devotion to the noble idea of poetry and for his absolute belief in the noble idea of Mankind. I worked with Jack constantly over the years on poetry and other artistic projects.

Let me tell you a story … Jack was the main person I relied upon when my wife, Tina, and I undertook a vast project to ennoble a loathsome passageway from Haymarket into the North End. Remember it? It was the Freedom Trail, a pedestrian footpath that meandered under the elevated expressway and was the principle entrance into the North End from Boston, before the Rose Kennedy Greenway was built. Rusty, decayed, filthy and forlorn, it became a dungeon-like flophouse for homeless people who panhandled tourists passing through.

Jack, Tina and I decided to turn the block long space from a dungeon into a noble medieval Italian cathedral that would provide an appropriate welcome to tourists into the North End. Jack helped us clean up three dump truck loads of trash that we containerized for the City to haul away. We installed trash barrels and Jack swept the block and cleaned up the area many times a day. Nancy Jameson built seven flower boxes, which Tina and Jack painted with Tuscan motifs and planted with flowers and then maintained daily. We got a lift from Modern Continental Construction Company for the entire summer. Jack donned breathing gear every day, raised himself up to the underside of the overhead highway two stories above us and cleaned and scraped away decades of filth, rust and debris.

Hardly any metal held that highway up when Jack finished. He removed tons of rust! Once cleaned, we painted the beams and supports that held up the highway to resemble ornate marble church pillars. The entire block long underside of the highway was painted like a royal-blue cathedral ceiling - a painted "heaven." Jack placed hundreds of gold stars in it. We painted dozens of cherubs flying among gold laced clouds in the blue, star-studded sky. We read poetry daily. We had violinists perform and singers sang arias along the walkway.

Jack thrilled to the whole enterprise and devoted himself entirely to it. It consumed five years of our lives. It was a celebration of the streets! It took one of the worst examples of public spiritless-ness and turned it into an exalted expression of high art.

It was what Jack was about. He was a poet … but he was so much more.
He believed in people. He acted like a high priest of people in daily life. He believed in Boston. To him Boston was his temple. He tried to make daily life in Boston a holy experience. He was high-minded. He believed in the power of the little guy, you and me, to exalt ourselves and make of daily life a paradise.

Jack thought immense thoughts and lived an immense life and was completely undaunted by poverty and class disadvantages. He went about the City as a humble street servant, doing common day labor – like a serf, like a peasant, like a ditch digger, like a grape picker. He was proud to be identified with them. And as he grew more and more into that role, I thought more and more that he was like St Francis of Assisi and I was in awe of the hundreds of tiny corporal act of mercy that he would bestow on Boston streets daily. As he went about his appointed rounds, Jack was a holy man. He lived his last years a misunderstood saint, a downtrodden seer; sweeping our streets. His broom was like Demosthenese 's lantern – instead of looking for an honest man, Jack cleaned the pathways of Boston for us, because we were
all honest men.

He saw our beauty and our worth. He saw beauty in the mundane. He was a Johnny Appleseed of the streets. In his character as Jacques DeBris, he collected trash trophies and set them on little stages like sculptures. They were beautiful! They were wiser and kinder than anything Marcel Duchamp ever did.

Wisdom, vision, insight, hard work, deep down goodness, great humor, unending love… Jack was so beautiful.

Jack had no faults, or none worth mentioning. Certainly none to be mentioned on the glorious level on which he lived. His spirit… ah, that is his story! And we all have a story about Jack...

--Sidewalk Sam

Memories of Jack


I lived in Boston for around two years in the late seventies, sometimes in dreary rented rooms, some of the time homeless. I worked and frequently slept at the Stone Soup gallery on Cambridge Street for about the latter half of that time. I was 22, down and out, betwixt and between, and full of hope and fear. I was trying to be a serious painter and writer, eating intermittently and drinking in the experience of penurious city living along with a great deal of cheap beer. I was making what would turn out to be some of the best paintings of my spotty output, and assisting Jack Powers as best I could with the many activities that took place in or around Stone Soup.

I first encountered Stone Soup some six or seven years earlier when my friend Rob Sweet and I would take the bus from Long Island to Boston, or stop in on our way while hitchhiking to Maine, to visit our friend, artist JoEllen Trilling, who was living at the pinnacle of South Russell Street on Beacon Hill. At that time she held the day job watching over (the then fairly new) Stone Soup, the job that I would inherit much later. JoEllen would sit in the gallery and paint all day and as she recently put it, “sell the occasional Commie pamphlet”. At that time (I believe) Jack’s paying gig was staging a series of pop concerts for the city on the Commons. I remember him talking about the many famous and eccentric performers whom he had been required to host and mollycoddle, and how few traits most of them demonstrated that would recommend them as human beings; with the outstanding exception of Smokey Robinson, a warm and decent gentleman who Jack admired ever-after to the point of adoration.

My stint at Stone Soup seemed heady, charming, and sometimes alarming. Stone Soup was among many other things, a magnet for strange, demented and damaged souls who found their way to the door by some mysterious process I never was able to discern. And there seemed so much going on in those days, most of it revolving around Jack and all of it competing for his over-promised time and divided attention. In the mornings I would open the door and drag a trestle table out onto the sidewalk in front of the gallery, loaded with coverless remaindered mass-market paperback books, donated by some bookstore that hadn’t been able to move them. I was always hoping to sell a few ten cent bodice-rippers or romance novels to the nurses trudging from the “T” station at the junction of Charles and Cambridge to begin their morning shifts. around the corner at Mass General. I was paid a dollar an hour for my presence (an inflationary improvement from JoEllen’s time – she had gotten fifty cents), but usually I would have to take in the dollar if I wanted it right away, which I always desperately did; for a cup of morning coffee, a 99 cent sandwich from the Yellow Submarine shop next door, smokes, or a six-pack.

Jack seemed to have many jobs at that time, and he would be constantly in motion throughout the day, bicycling across the Longfellow Bridge and up through Cambridge to do something at the Herter Center, running off to manage the Boston Urban Gardens program – and always showing-up late for rushed meetings with poets, painters, musicians, actors, supporters, detractors, bureaucrats, press people - or to hook-up at home with his girlfriend at the time, Chrissy - before running-off again to arrive late somewhere else for something else.

One of my responsibilities was to answer the phone, which rang constantly. For one thing, to take the endless messages for Jack, but also those for the “Stone Soup Movers”, a small hippie-sort of enterprise run by a nice bearded fellow with a truck whose name escapes me now. In exchange for this answering service and the use of the gallery’s name he gave Jack some percentage of the take to be put towards the storefront rent. The mover would stop in at some point to pick up his messages, make callbacks and give estimates on the pay phone. And sometimes, if he had a piano or other particularly large and unwieldy object to carefully urge up the steep, narrow, antique staircases of Boston walk-ups, he would press me and whoever else happened to be hanging around (and needed a few quick bucks) into temporary grunt service.

Since Jack and Chrissy lived in the apartment directly above the gallery, Jack would usually pop in whenever he stopped home for something between his various jobs and errands, just to check on what was going on and who had called, glance at the mail, and often to cadge a beer (if I had a six-pack going), or, as was more often the case, to share one from his upstairs inventory if I didn’t. Jack’s life then was measured out in hours of manic motion and harried activity between quiet moments stolen to suck down a quick beer.

“Hallelujah! Thank the Lawd Almighty for beer. Amen, Brother!” he might declaim, as he pulled the tab and took a long swallow. Sometimes he would also share an insight of the moment during these brief interludes, often a barely scrutable passing notion that had occurred to him en route from the last over-stay to the next late-arrival – “Dude! Every newsstand I see has a picture of that freakin Farrah Fawcett-Majors, with that nimbus of blonde perm curls... It just came to me, man, putting “Fawcett” in the middle of her name is intentional, y’ dig? Y’know, it’s like playin a fockin subliminal seduction trip on the dude subconscious – like a ‘faucet’, y’ know? Running like a faucet!” Or, “That fockin Jimmy Carter – he’s like a bright balloon with a slow leak, y’ dig?”

Beer finished, he’d be charging off, hustling like a man with something gaining on him. Jack and I would be friends for many years before we discovered that we shared more than an affinity for the flavor of beer. Both of us had been lifelong sufferers of chronic anxiety attacks – in my case somewhat milder, apparently, though mixed with bouts of depression. In Jack’s it was just unmitigated balls-to-the-wall panic, not the mild discomfort of social anxiety – but a crippling unrelenting horror that would follow him through all the days of his life like a hated shadow, making him fear for his own survival and question his fitness to live. But he had discovered at some point early on (as had I) that this cursed demon could be briefly nursed back to fitful sleep with a can of beer every so often.



Like JoEllen those many years before, I would sit there at the big desk all day, working on my paintings and waiting to see who or what might come through the front door. Sometimes my friend Rob Martin (Beauguerre to his family and friends) would stop in as he walked home to his Newbury Street digs from his long day at the piano tuning and repair school in the North End, to save himself the train fare. He had had thrust upon him during this time the care and maintenance of the battered Stone Soup upright piano, and often he would check its vital signs while shooting the breeze with me and fending-off the annoying lunatics and buttinskis in attendance. Beauguerre had spent an unsought tour of duty fighting strangers in Viet Nam ten years prior, and still carried the spiritual scarring of the jungle war within him. He was older than I, and far more serious and edgy and easily provoked in those days; far more likely to take offense at the ridiculous and confrontational hi-jinks of some of the Stone Soup denizens, while I was generally more easy going, or at least indifferent.

Jack and Beauguerre became good friends but always at a slight remove. With his knowledge and experience of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Beauguerre concluded that the dark furies assailing Jack were a distinct form of PTSD. Jack feared for Beau, sensed a dangerous storm roiling within him, and encouraged him to hold his internal war horrors up to the light by writing his way through them, and reading his poems aloud on Monday nights, setting him on a useful path towards greater catharsis.

Poet Paul McGee had held my post before me, and for a while we split the days, but he became weary of being tied down and eventually flaked-off entirely, though he would often stop by to talk and drink a beer. I still have a portrait I painted of him in those days, titled “Angel-Headed Hipster”. At poetry readings and while carousing the streets he and I would often end up in fist-fights for no good reason that I can recall. Paul was a more genuine street-person than I would ever be, and though smaller in stature probably could have kicked my ass with ease had he felt any real need or desire to.

A frequent visitor to Stone Soup then was “Bob The Bagman”, an itinerant street preacher and a fixture of Beacon Hill . Jack had a special empathy for Bob, and permitted him to flop in the building’s basement when his paranoia was in overdrive or the weather was too cold for sleeping in doorways or garbage alleys. Bob would come in during the day to criticize my painting and work on updating the loopy headlines displayed on his oft-repaired shopping bag. He would borrow from the sheets of oaktag and the magic markers Jack had gotten me to make signs and posters announcing various upcoming Stone Soup events and opportunities. Sometimes he would also make off with them, and other small items, but Jack never hassled him for doing so. While Bob re-taped his bag and drank sweet wine from the bottle he generally carried, he would explain to me the fine points of his doctrine, that “Cooking Food Was The Downfall Of Civilization” and “Inter-racial Marriage Causes Loss Of Sex Drive”.

Another common visitor was the squirrelly and impoverished Beat poet John Wieners, a gentle, timid soul and a veritable hermit at the time, who eschewed most human contact but would shuffle down the hill from his apartment on Joy Street to bum cigarette money from Jack. “I need some Ciggies, Jack”, or just “Ciggies, Jack?”, he would sheepishly warble. Jack had instructed me that if there was any money in the cash box when he came a-looking (there sometimes was a pittance), I should let him have what he needed. When Wieners got used to me, he began to hang around a bit, talking little in his hesitant, quavering voice, but apparently enjoying a few moments of unthreatening and undemanding society. I was unaware at the time of Wieners’ place of importance in the Beat pantheon, and just accepted him as another one the fallen angels in Jack’s protectorate.

When Jack’s troubles began I often considered his patience and unbounded solicitude to these two broken characters, and so many others, and wondered if they triggered a premonition of the trials he would later face.


Jack had initiated and was overseeing for the city a summer program that year (Poetry-Mobile? –something like that.) which consisted of sending a vanload of promising young poets into poor communities to read aloud and teach the rudiments of writing poems to urban kids. He also lent the gallery one night a week to a tortured self-help group called the “Mental Patients Liberation Front”, a rag-tag group of ex-mental hospital internees, trying to make a go of things in the real world without benefit of doctors or drugs. I would wait to let them in, and if I was in the middle of something, sometimes sit through part of their meetings. I can say with certainty that nobody but Jack would have extended them that courtesy nor trusted them with the gallery and to lock up after themselves.

Jack hosted jazz bands and one act plays (I particularly recall a spell-binding presentation of a Pirandello piece, starring Billy Barnum as “The Man With A Flower In His Mouth”) and even a few fine performances by an itinerant, seat-of-the-pants opera company. Then there was the raucous Monday night open-reading, which I usually attended, though I never participated beyond listening and making pertinent and impertinent wise-cracks, and fighting with McGee.

The Monday night readings were always interesting and sometimes a lot of fun. There was a fair amount of drinking, lots of zany behavior of the sort that years later would be termed “performance-art”. Jack was sort of the laissez-faire emcee/referee, and usually read a few of his own shorter pieces, spoken quietly in his impassioned and throaty baritone. There would be a mix of regulars and wide-eyed newcomers, weird “artistic” cliques, and poets representing every recognized and a few out-of-this-world genres of written word. Bill Kemmet was usually there, who I thought of then as the adult of the group. He had a regular day job and a family, I believe, and going to Stone Soup to read his poems was apparently his weekly pressure-valve night-out. I thought him a serious and accomplished poet, more conservative in appearance and behavior than many of the other less composed folks, but friendly and generous. After the reading, a few stalwarts would usually repair across Cambridge Street to the Harvard Gardens bar for a few nightcaps. This was apparently an important part of Bill’s night-out, and, since some of us rarely had any money in our pockets, Bill would sometimes insist in fellowship that we come along, and he would pick up the tab. Jack would always want to come, too, and would sometimes sneak across with us unless he was already in trouble with Chrissy for the usual scheduling infractions and terminal tardiness.

Another Stone Soup poet and friend of Jack’s was Robbie XII, a kind and civilized gentleman poet who lived up on Beacon Hill . He would sometimes host a spaghetti dinner at his apartment for a handful of friends in need or want of a good meal, before the reading, and sated with one of the many dishes he had learned to prepare during his travels in Italy, “Pasta with Fungi and Legumi”, or “Pasta Carbonara”, and red jug wine, we would all walk down the hill together to the reading.

A regular at the readings in those days was the arrogant and haughty Rando, who made little secret of his contempt for most everyone present, especially Jack. He was as tall as Jack, with pale white skin and long hair apparently dyed bright orange. He wore blue eye-shadow and other light make-up, and dressed in denim and leather, and jack-boots, (as did other members of his coterie). I had heard he was a professional baby-sitter, a fact which confounded me. He seemed to want to be considered Jack’s nemesis, and at the readings, rather than share his own writing, he would presume to annoyingly read from works by his favorite poets (notably Kenward Elmslie, “A girl machine – woo-woo...”) by way of instructing and enlightening (what he considered to be) the cretins around him.


There was a popular British TV show airing on PBS around that time called “Upstairs, Downstairs”, that focused on the vastly differing experiences of the British nobility (Upstairs) and their servants (Downstairs). Rando’s circle of black-leather dress-up boys, offended that only some of the participants at the Stone Soup readings (those who Jack liked and trusted) were ever invited upstairs to socialize in Jack and Chrissy’s apartment, took it upon themselves to use this presumed favoritism to drive a wedge between the attendees at the open reading, demanding a general boycott, characterizing it “Upstairs, Downstairs, at Stone Soup”. But nobody besides them liked them much, or gave a crap about this artificial schism, so it eventually fizzled and was forgotten.

One thing I tried to do at Stone Soup, and which I knew Jack appreciated and approved, was to straighten it up, and reduce somewhat the burden of clutter, dust and dirt. A friend of Jack’s from up the hill, a writer named Pat Harrison used to stop in occasionally to chat, alone or with her friend, the poet Anna Warrock, who had published her work in Stone Soup chapbooks. Finding that a broom made little headway, other than to cloud the gallery with a dense haze of disturbed dust, I borrowed a trusty old gray cylinder and snake-type vacuum cleaner from Pat, and vacuumed an unbelievable amount of vintage ground-in filth from the layers of well-worn Oriental carpets on the floors.

I asked Jack if I could gradually paint the dingy ceiling and walls to help pass the time, but Jack decided that, although I had the requisite experience and willingness to do it alone, the painting would better be done as a group effort, reflective of the supposed collective nature of the operation. A general call was put out for painting-party volunteers. Jack scratched-up the money for paint and brushes, and got some ladders together. Four or five of us showed up – me, Beauguerre, Paul McGee and I forget who else – maybe Jack’s cousin, Jim(?). It was truly a case of too many cooks, and particularly too many drinking cooks, a bit like a Three Stooges routine writ large. There was not much professionalism on display that night. Jack’s painting technique was more energetic than sublime. Paul had arrived well into his cups, and in short order fell off a ladder, taking a gallon of white paint with him which oozed across the newly burnished surface of the carpets. Jack contained himself, but a mournful overcast of infinite disappointment with mankind and profound disgust with subversive fate darkened his countenance.

Sometimes the Boogie-Woogie pianist Preacher Jack Lincoln Coughlin would stop by, and occasionally Jack would sponsor concerts for him, but a few times a group of us would ride the Blue Line out to Revere Beach to watch him perform in Eddie Ford’s “Shipwreck Inn”. The Preacher loved Jack Powers, and would perform Hank Williams tunes in his honor. As he played the waitresses would keep him supplied with bottles of Budweiser to replace his vital fluids; bottles which when drained, he would line up on the lid of the upright piano, as he sweated copiously and became more and more possessed by the spirit, and highly agitated as the evening wore on - launching into rapid-fire improvised sermons filled with hellfire and damnation, playing a running bass pattern with his left hand while performing (I believe they are called) arpeggios with his right, and he would bear witness to the angelic and saintly nature of Jack Powers”, gesture to the heavens and declare, “Lord, I’m reaching for you with my right hand, but I’m doing the devil’s work with my left!” At which point he might suddenly thrust up the piano lid for emphasis, and scatter the collected beer bottles in a tremendous glassy crash.

A dear friend of Jack’s who would stop by when he was in the city was artist and children’s book author David McPhail. If memory serves, David had as little knack for holding on to money as Jack did. One day he showed up and made a series of phone calls to a publisher demanding a hefty advance, and asking that it be messengered over to Stone Soup before the banks closed. The messenger eventually arrived, David went off to cash the check, and when he returned he immediately began distributing the money, by buying works off the walls (more, I suspect, out of generosity to the artists and to subsidize the gallery than anything else) including a pen and ink drawing I had done for the cover of a never-to-be-published Stone Soup collection of Paul McGee’s poems (Paul refused to do anything to move it forward. Paul would also be scheduled by Jack to give featured readings, and when the night arrived and an audience assembled, he would refuse to participate beyond repeatedly snarling, “Fuck Poetry!”).

I was truly enamored of the Stone Soup ideal, and was influenced by Jack’s singular concepts and his quixotic charitable impulses. At times when Stone Soup was briefly flush, every dunning piece of junk mail that arrived which included a self-addressed stamped reply envelope – from legitimate charitable fundraisers, to political party pan-handler’s, to various crackpot concern’s – each and every one of them got their envelope returned with a single buck in it. I questioned Jack about the wisdom and meaningfulness of this gesture, sending out these rather random and arbitrary drops in so many contradictory buckets. His explanation ran along a scribbly line somewhere between “Cast thy bread upon the waters” and Mao’s “Let one hundred flowers bloom”. I didn’t really get it, but thought it an amusing practice anyway.

Like with everything else he was doing, Jack was usually trying to recruit help with his monthly Senior Citizen’s dinner, which was held at one of the local churches on Beacon Hill . He would persuade local performers into doing a free show for the old folks and street people in attendance, but he usually did all or most of the shopping and cooking himself. He would carry on this tradition for decades despite growing resistance and disinterest later on from the changed church hierarchy. Jack and his dedication would outlive many of his contacts and confederates, those people who knew and respected his history and legacy, those who appreciated his long service to his down-on-their-luck fellow humans.

Many people got briefly caught up in Jack’s endeavors in the short time I was around. Two of them were my friends Antonia Bellanca and Sandy McArdle, who assisted with the arrangements for and publicizing of many events. In time, though, like most people assisting Jack, they burnt out, or became frustrated with Jack’s one-man-band style and his ever-on-the-run, short-shrift lick-and-a-promise participation in planning meetings. Ownership of Jack’s time and attention was always in dispute, and nobody who ever got some ever felt they’d got enough.

The metaphor of the Stone Soup story - that the stranger’s supposed magic stone in a kettle of boiling water would make a fine soup for all, but a soup that would be improved as each of the participants was induced to contribute an ingredient themselves - was initially extremely attractive and satisfying to me, though less so as my year passed and I became more jaded. Many people did put regularly put things into Jack’s pot, but as time went by I concluded that many more only reached into the pot when they wanted to take something out.

After I left Stone Soup and Boston, Jack and I stayed in touch over the years and decades, mostly by telephone, but occasionally in person - when he occasionally made a pilgrimage to New York I would go into the city and we would lift a few to Dylan Thomas at the White Horse Tavern; or the few times I passed through his radically changing Boston – once to attend a fundraiser in his honor at a church on Newbury Street.

My time in Boston , while an important and illuminating phase of my life, proved to me that I had neither the stamina nor the mettle to be a city person. Jack was not only a city person, but specifically, and tragically, I think, a Boston man - even long after the Boston he’d loved had become distorted beyond recognition and appropriated by moneyed interests. As the economic demands upon him grew, and his connections declined by attrition, and as Boston underwent a massive gentrification – “Economic cleansing”, as Jack called it – it became ever harder for him to earn the kind of meaningful money his life and new family required. The stress of making a living and living a life in hard times and with his options and opportunities blinking-out like guttering candles seemed to ever more deplete, though not defeat him.

When I was in Boston and even before I began working at Stone Soup, Jack had put my paintings on the walls. He would always remain generous with his praise and encouragement about both my paintings and writings, and while I was at Stone Soup I basked in this recognition and support. It would be the only true approbation my art would ever enjoy. Even as the other revolving and temporary shows came and went – by some dynamite artists, including one featuring the huge swirling Armegeddonistic cityscapes of Magnus Johnston (which would leap to my mind many years later as I watched on television as the twin towers fell), and the eclectic and copious output of the peculiar local genius Robert Bliss, as well as many others whose names I’ve forgotten – for all that time I always had a wall to myself. Three weeks after I had first put two paintings up at Stone Soup, somebody stole one of them, a small self-portrait in oil. Jack thought this event was worthy of celebration, clearly demonstrating that I had already attracted at least one devoted fan, albeit not a patron. We drank a beer in recognition of this back-handed compliment.

One of the last days I spent a day with Jack was in the late nineties, after his fortunes had already begun to plummet. He asked me to meet him at the bus station in Manhattan , to go along with him to visit the terminally ill Allen Ginsberg (who I’d met once or twice before with Jack). Though by then Jack had scarcely a pot left to piss in himself, he had made this difficult pilgrimage – five hours in on a Greyhound bus – he couldn’t afford to ride Amtrak - on behalf of John Wieners. Ginsberg had some sort of fund set up, to help out poets and writers on the skids, I believe, and Jack had been invited, or summoned, to come to Ginsberg’s loft in person to make the case for Wieners. Jack told me that John was at last coming out of his cocoon, had begun to do some readings and with just a little short-term support could perhaps once more become a viable poet, and person. With Ginsberg at the end stage of cancer, and lingering at death’s door, it was truly a last-ditch effort.

It was great walking through NYC with Jack, me (as ever) trying to keep up with his rapid, long-legged stride. We jumped a bus heading downtown, walked through the East Village streets, and finally got to Ginsberg’s home. Only to find that Allen had been taken to the hospital, and his assistant didn’t know when or if he might return. Jack had precious little time to waste, as he had to get back on the bus to be back in Boston that evening for his children, so after all he sadly made his pitch to Ginsberg’s patronizing and indifferent assistant. As far as I could tell the man was not terribly sympathetic to Jack and seemed bored and preoccupied during the presentation. When we left Jack was disappointed and crest-fallen. He had hoped to say a proper goodbye to Ginsberg, whom he’d known for twenty five or thirty years. He had hoped to secure a definite answer about financial aid for Wiener’s comeback. He had traveled all morning to extend two small kindnesses on behalf of two old friends, two men he respected and whose friendship had meant a great deal to him. We nipped into a tavern for a hasty parting beer, and split up near Penn Station.

Shortly after that day I was hit by a car, and was left disabled. My getting around would be severely constrained for a long time, and I never saw Jack again, though we continued to talk on the phone intermittently until he lost his capacity for speech. As Jack tried to stop drinking beer to ease the pressure being placed on him to do so, and gave himself over to the medical profession, hoping to find pharmaceutical relief from the pitched anxiety, his voice lost its deep timbre and took on ever more of the desperate pleading quality I remembered in Wieners’ voice those decades before. It became harder to have a meaningful conversation with Jack, impossible to make any personal connection through his consuming nervousness, and eventually harder to even conjure the old Jack in my mind as we spoke. I could feel his spirit waning and his personality receding further into the abyss with each call.

A mutual friend visited Boston a few years back, and called afterward to report having witnessed a wraith scrabbling hurriedly down Mass Avenue, like a grizzled gray ghost of Jack Powers, bent over, huddled and withdrawn – his eyes locked on the pavement, a wretched caricature of what had been a singular and outgoing man.

I wished then that I was in a position to free Jack from his economic free-fall and buy him all the beer he needed to shun further interference from the medical profession, and of well-meaning temperance twits. But I wasn’t there so I can’t know what was really going on. Maybe the beer alone stopped doing the trick for Jack, stopped working its passing magic: or maybe the constant stress added on top of outrunning the demons that pursued him for so long undermined his confidence, made his physical and mental prowess disintegrate. All I can say for sure is that Jack Powers was a highly functional, elaborately useful and charming human being when he was self-medicating with Tuborg Gold and Carling’s Black Label and Pabst Blue Ribbon. And I thought frequent beer breaks were little enough to ask in return for the mighty good he did with his life, for his many generous acts and altruistic gestures, for his encouragement and promotion of so many other artists, and for his own neglected body of work. I wished then there was some young Jack to look out for old Jack. But Jacks like Jack are rarer than unicorns; beings that exist only in myth and hard to come by in this crass age.

The saying goes, “It takes one to know one”, and having known many, I think I can say that Jack Powers was one of the loneliest people I’ve ever known, and loved. He was also one of the best, and most courageous. Jack was lonely in an unearthly private way that no amount of company can ever fully remedy, but which shared celebration and exchanged kindness and good fellowship can temporarily alleviate. And maybe get one safely to the next absolving can of beer.


--Dylan Ford

11/18/10

December 6th: David R. Surette Returns


Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On December 6th, we welcome the return of David R. Surette, who will be reading from his latest book.

David R. Surette’s new book of poetry is The Immaculate Conception Mothers‘ Club. He is the author of two other collections: Young Gentlemen’s School and Easy to Keep, Hard to Keep In. His poems have been published in literary journals such as Peregrine, Off the Coast, and Salamander and appear in the anthologies French Connections: A Gathering of Franco-American Poets and Cadence of Hooves: A Celebration of Horses. He has been a co-host of Poetribe, a contributing editor at Salamander, an instructor at the Cape Cod Writers’ Conference, and a contributor at the Bread Loaf Writing Conference. He has featured at poetry venues across New England such as the Boston Poetry Slam, Tapestry of Voices, Stone Soup, and The Poetry Hoot.
November 29: Rusty Barnes Features



Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On November 29th, poet, fiction writer and editor Rusty Barnes has his first Stone Soup feature.

Rusty Barnes grew up in rural northern Appalachia. He received his B.A. from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania and his M.F.A. from Emerson College. His fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in over a hundred fifty journals and anthologies. After editing fiction for the Beacon Street Review (now Redivider) and Zoetrope All-Story Extra, he co-founded Night Train, a literary journal which has been featured in the Boston Globe, The New York Times, and on National Public Radio. Sunnyoutside Press published a collection of his flash fiction,Breaking it Down, in November 2007. MiPOesias published his poetry chapbook Redneck Poems in October 2010. In early 2011, Sunnyoutside will publish his collection of traditional fiction, Mostly Redneck.

11/15/10

11/7/10

November 22nd: Patrick Shaughnessy Returns



Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On November 22nd, we welcome back Patrick Shaughnessy, who will be releasing a new anticipated chapbook collection of "nerd poems."

The first time Patrick S. was asked to submit a biography for a Stone Soup feature, he sat down with the intention of doing so, got distracted, and composed a rhyming sestina about Michael Dorn from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" which went on to win the Nerd Slam at the 2010 National Poetry Slam. This fact is not everything you may ever need to know about him, but it is representative.

Patrick S. was born and raised in Lowell, currently lives in Somerville, and will be debuting a chapbook entitled "The Biggest Nerd at the Poetry Slam". His previous features include Stone Soup, GotPoetry! Live, and Cantab Lounge.

10/21/10

Service for Jack Powers

The service for Jack Powers will take place this Sunday morning, from 10 till noon, at the International Community Church, located in Allston at Cambridge and Gordon Street (30 Gordon Street is the mailing address). Those taking public transportation should take the B Green Line. For more details, click the link below.


http://icc-boston.com/Directions.html

10/20/10

October 25th: Jack Powers Remembered



Stone Soup Poetry meets from 8-10 p.m. every Monday at the Out of The Blue Art Gallery at 106 Prospect Street with an open mike sign-up at 7:30 p.m. On October 25th ,Following the weekend services for jack at the Community Church in Allston on Sunday the 24th (10-noon), join Stone Soup as it holds what will likely be the longest open mike in its history as people gather from all over Boston and beyond to read and speak in praise of Jack Powers, the founder of Stone Soup who passed away on October 14th. The list of attendess includes so far:

Bill Barnum
Ed and Karen Gault
Steve Glines
Marc D. Goldfinger
Carolyn Gregory
Doug Holder
Coleen Houlihan
Walter Howard
Lee Litif
Gordon Marshall
Ryk McIntyre
Gloria Mindock
Felipe Victor Martinez
Ryk McIntyre
Margaret Nairn
Joanna Nealon
Chad Parenteau
Bill Perrault
Deborah Priestly
Erin Reardon
Chris Robbins
Dianne Robitaille
Lynne Sticklor
Ryan "Rat" Travis
James Van Looy
Carol Weston

And others to be announced. Contact us and let us know that you will be there.

10/19/10

Saint Jack

Jack Powers saved my life.
When I met Jack, I was homeless
about two weeks before, I ran into an old friend of mine
who told me he had just seen a poetry show by a mutual friend of ours, Lee Litif.
He said Lee’s show was wild and Lee was doing somersaults during his reading.
My friend told me that they have these readings every week at TT the Bears.
and I thought no more about it till I moved into a shelter in Central Square.
The following week I asked if I could go to this reading since the shelter had a curfew.
I was granted permission as long as I didn’t drink while there.

Stone Soup Poetry was an incredible experience.
When my spot on the sign-up sheet came up, I read a piece I wrote many years ago.
I got a favorable response from the crowd and I was hooked.
The next day a flood of poetry came from me and I filled notebooks with it.
I was a poet.

Each week I would read at Stone Soup and each week I would write better pieces
Jack gave me my first professional feature
which most of the crowd walked out and some even told me I sucked.
Jack encouraged me to continue.

It was at Stone Soup that I met up with D.A. Boucher
and eventually became a member of The Collective.
It was with The Collective that I would gain a new name, Rat.

Jack called me “The Rat man”
and the way he said it, you could tell he just loved to hear me read.
This man, liked my work.
Jack who had poets like Ginsburg, Corso, Ferlinghetti, and Weiners as friends,
liked my work and encouraged me to continue.

With The Collective we added theatrics to our work
we often would be the opening act for Lee Litif
even going so far as to duct taping Lee to a cardboard cross, essentially crucifying him
and flogging him with a rubber chicken the day after Easter.
Jack took it all in stride, all this from a tortured catholic.

Many members of The Collective experimented with different forms of poetry
like haiku, A-Z poems, and the exquisite corpse.
It was after one of our performances that Jack gave me my true purpose in poetry

We performed a piece we called the haiku hippy road trip
which consisted of Alan Wilbar, D.A., and myself
sitting on stage pretending to ride in a car
we had these 3x5 cards we passed to each other that had haiku written on them
each haiku line had to have the word “man” in it
and at least one line had to have the word “fuck” in it.
We did our bit and left the stage to raucous laughter
and when Jack took the stage the first thing he said was;
“You said fuck so much, it didn’t become the word anymore”
and that’s when it hit me,
that’s when I became a word warrior.
My niche in poetry would be to take words and to try to make them something else.
I was transformed.

Through the years I toured with The Collective
and even did a split tour with Jack Power’s Word Warriors as a member
of the Barnum and Buddah Circus
and over the years a lot has happened.
Just to name a few:
I’ve had cops in riot gear show up just after I finished reading,
was asked to “go outside” by 5 guys wearing Black Panther symbols after a reading
(total misunderstanding), nearly set AS220 on fire during a reading (not my fault at all),
and was kicked off stage by long distance telephone in Kentucky
all with the power of words.

Without Jack Powers I wouldn’t know where I’d be right now.
He opened his reading to anyone and let people express themselves in so many ways.
Jack was a champion for the word and he has kept his open mic alive for over 30 years.
Stone Soup has always been exactly like its name,
a place where new readers and veterans can go to share their work.
More than any other form of expression, poetry is the most personal
and in the open mic, you lay yourself bare before your peers
for often your audience is just that, other poets.
I’ve never found a more accepting reading than Stone Soup
and that is due greatly to Jack in the values that he tried to instill in its alumni.
Luckily for the future of poetry we have someone willing to continue Jack’s legacy
but for those of us who knew Jack, who experienced Jack,
know that there’s a place in Heaven for someone who dedicated his life
to the language and beauty of poetry.
And if I may end this tribute in any way,
it would be the phrase Jack used to close each evening at Stone Soup;
“If the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise, we’ll see you by and by.”
God bless you Jack Powers.

--Ryan “Rat” Travis

Doug Holder on Jack Powers

Click here for his latest tribute.

10/18/10

Reminder

Gordon Marshall presents the 2nd annual Jack Powers Stone Soup Savor Poetry Prize.
Always There

Easy goes it each time you wrote, read a poem. Easy goes it each time you gestured with your gentle eyes, smiled, shook a friend’s hand, gave a hug, nodded approval of an aspiring poet’s spoken words. You were always there: caring, thoughtful, kind. A gentleman. A friend. A poet. We love you, Jack. You’re so missed already.

--Pam Rosenblatt
Now

Jack Powers had a vision and he realized it. He passed on a civic spirit. Jack gave us all a greater reality, bringing the poetry out of the person, and the person out of the poetry. He also gave us the sense that we contain multitudes. Our voices are reservoirs of power and opinion, and nothing political is off limits to us. In his final years he could not talk. But he could write. As we finalized the details of the Savor Poetry prize, his last words to me were, “Now the revolution.”

--Gordon Marshall

10/17/10

Thank You, Jack

Jack Powers inspired me to create the Ibbetson Street Press. He was a popular poet in the best sense of the word, and was not afraid to lift a finger to the mandarins of the poetry world..."

--Doug Holder

So Passes a Giant

Jack leaves a great literary legacy. He was a living legend and now he joins those who made their mark over generations. He was a literary great in his own right and supported many in the early stages of their literary careers. If it weren't for Jack, many of us wouldn't be where we are today in the poetry world. He leaves a hole that will be hard to fill. He did not seek greatness but it found him!!!! He was a one-of- a -kind spirit! He will be missed!!

--Harris Gardner

10/16/10

Jack Powers, Stone Soup, and Me





The ferry chugged across Sydney Harbour; I looked at the Opera House like I do every day. This time all I saw was the big glassy sheen of the John Hancock Tower in Copley Square; all I heard was a million conversations with someone a million years ago; welling up behind it were the sights and sounds of Green Street Grill, TT the Bears, a small dark cramped cluttered paradisaical apartment on Joy Street, on Beacon Hill, in Boston Massachusetts. A few hours before, I'd learned that Jack Powers, maybe the most selfless promoter of poetry ever, my mentor, biggest advocate and encourager, my friend – a friend with whom I hadn't spoken since 1999 – had died. And eleven years' worth of unsent letters, unmade phone calls I'd spent almost weekly imagining and composing to him explaining and begging his forgiveness, trying to get back in touch, would never get sent.

Why'd I drop away? Short answer: cowardice, avoidance. Long(er) answer: our last go-round in Boston, neither of us were in good places at the time. I'd just returned from San Francisco, still shattered by losing my partner Todd to AIDS four years previously, and a wreck from the resultant self-destructive bender I'd spiralled into the last year or so in SF, abetted by a few chemically-equipped characters in the implosion as only self-indulgent denizens of that town can abet. I was emotional shrapnel, crawling back Boston-ward to the one place I felt safe, the one place where I thought I could pull myself together and maybe write and create again. Unfortunately Jack too was having a rough time. So as we conspired to kick-start Stone Soup back to its best, I felt more like a potentially bad influence as he also strove to get his life together. And, cravenly, a few sights of him in near-meltdown, being particularly verbally cruel to some people near and dear to him, had me with my ever-constant fear of confrontation stymied. Unable to tell him how badly I felt, unable to stick around and try to help him pull out of his shadows, I just vanished. A wimpy, cowardly end to a friendship I should have … well, shoulda, coulda, woulda. It's probably self-deception just to make myself feel slightly better, but I
swear on the bus ferry-ward, as I kept trying to avoid a crying jag, as I thought how I wished I would have had the balls to get in touch and apologise, I heard Jack's voice in my head saying in that sad calm tone he could get, “well, y'know, we all do what we do. Just woulda been nice to have had those years we didn't get, y'know?” Of course, I also heard, as I vacillated back and forth as to whether I should get off the bus, transfer to another, and go across the ANZAC Bridge, or on a sad day like this stay calm, go slow, take a ferry ride and clear my head a bit, his voice take on that bemused frustrated tint I heard so often and sigh “geez, will ya just take the ferry? Gyawwd, poets.” So, there might be argument for some actual contact from beyond. And maybe somewhere Jack was absolving me. But still, I can't ever forgive myself for the shitty way I disappeared from his life after all he'd done for me.

I first met Jack in 1984 (mayyybe 85?). I'd moved to Boston the year before, not yet Yuri, just a bucolic escapee baby Riq the poet who spelled his name funny and met friend-of-friends (who'd become a friend in his own right by then) Ryk McIntyre. Once we got over meeting another same-first-named poet who spelled his name funny (“you
bastard! Oh … all right”), we got along swell, and he showed me the ropes of Boston's (non-university-centered) poetry scene. He dragged me all the way from my South End (in the last days before the South End became totally gentrified) apartment to Cambridge, down some side street off the rather dicey Central Square, and into a restaurant/pub called Green Street Grill (or Charlie's Tap, as the bar area was called … both were used). Up a step or two past the bar, in a separate room, a varied crowd sat waiting for the show to begin. It was Stone Soup Poetry, open mike plus two featured readers. I forget if I read that first night, but I forever recall the emcee/organizer standing bushy-haired, bearded, bardic and encouraging anyone to sign up: “It's Stone Soup – inclusive, not exclusive” - little knowing it was a phrase I was to hear a lot over the next 5-6 years.

Slowly over the weeks I started to participate as well as listen, becoming a regular attendee, eventually leading to Jack offering a Ryk/Riq dual feature which we of course (as only 20something cocksures convinced we were on the verge of conquering the entire world could do) turned into a music/poetry review as “The Anti-Matter Boys”. One wonderful side-effect of not

Self-absorbed as I was, I remember very little of that first wave of Stone Soup in my life. I knew Jack as the organizer, but wasn't close to him. Then, in early 1987, between a huge case of writer's block and involvement singing with a real live rock and roll band, I drifted out of Stone Soup's orbit for a year or so. When you're in your early 20s, a year feels like it encompasses a decade – so, a decade (year) later, in mid-1988, with the band boredly splitting up, and a job in the Boston Public Library fueling a steady diet of whatever I was looking to read that was encouraging me to think in poemy terms again, I started creeping back to Green Street and Charlie's Tap, and its every-Monday-night Stone Soup. Heck, my brain was even starting to tickle with bits of new poems – if I could work them up to the more ambitious standards I was setting for myself, maybe I'd risk reading them. After a whole year, I was a little unsure – and, in that year, it seemed the calibre of poets swarming to Stone Soup had made a quantum leap too. The change in the energy from 1986 to that point in 1988 was noticeable to me. Faces in the crowd, names (as I slowly learned them) would excite me as I anticipated hearing what they'd read that night. As much as all the poets' bios and writings through history I was absorbing in my library job, these new faces in a Cambridge side street restaurant too were challenging me to step up a notch. And I could see it in Jack Powers' face, too – an enjoyment, a confidence, a pride in what poetry Boston could create. He was happily conducting this interesting scene, letting each instrument in its anarchic symphony shine.

So if this memoir of Jack segues into a memoir of Stone Soup in its greatest moments, that's a tribute to Jack. He was the conductor of song. Of electricity. Of all that energy. So, to merge the two is the best of tributes, no? And as a self-absorbed egotistical little poet, if the lens comes through my eyes, well, it is my fault, and more tribute to Jack that he smiled and let it slide.

My decades-(and chemicals)-shattered memory fogs; what I recall is, slowly sharing the first efforts of my new stuff early on, and a wonderful taxi cab driver (and not by-the-way really great poet) Joe Gleason, who read there often and entranced me, walking up to me and saying something to the extent of “hey, good poetry; I can really hear the Frank O'Hara influence in a good way”. To which I of course nodded (“O'Hara, yes yes yes” … then scurried to the shelves of my workplace next day to discover the works of Frank O'Hara and immediately shove him into my pantheon). But more than my desperate poetic dodge was the (beer-inspired) moment that I looked at him and said: “you know, I feel sort of bad reading here. I'd read here a lot about a year ago and acted like a total schmuck. I feel like I ought to apologize to a lot of people.” To which Joe smirked (he always smirked a lot) and said something benedictive like “hey, it's a poetry series, probably the least of sins committed here.” Still – I felt like I wanted to make up for my post-adolescent egomania of a year (decade!) before. While I hadn't had much interaction with Jack aside from asking for open-mike slots or the golden feature spots (!!), for once my fear and awkward social skills abandoned me. I approached Jack as he huddled with a clump of artistes in some odd artistic dealing, a byzantine juggling of egos and neuroses no doubt, waited my turn and said, “hey, Jack, sorry for being a creep,” (stealing a favourite term of abuse/affection from Jack himself) “ … look, you need help with anything here? I'd love to help out if I could.”

To the first bit of my tepid rant, he looked bewildered. To the second, his eyes lit up, and a blur of words came out. “Heythanksy'knowalwaysneedhelp,heymaybemonitorthesignupsheetnextweek” etc etc. Though the mighty mighty Julie Stone – one of the great saints of Stone Soup and Jack's life – had always been by Jack's side helping with filming, running things, spiritual support, there was always more to be done. Slowly, week by week, I found myself coasting into a supporting role – keeping an eye on the sign-up sheet, or watching the time (poets being both mad egotists and completely right-brain, few understood the concept of “please keep your open-mike spot to three-to-five minutes”).

And what poets there were! Usually, an open mike section at a poetry reading is a cause for alarm, terror, and flight to the farthest end of the bar. But for a brief shining moment, it seemed the factionalism that usually splinters poetry asunder melted away, and from 1988 through about 1990, poetry of all schools, all types, all levels of quality and style were bouncing off the walls and into poets' ears. Suddenly, somehow, every Monday night I found myself looking forward to a large portion of what I'd probably hear.

Sure, there were plenty of moments for have-I-shocked-you/look-I've-read-Bukowski adolescence, bad forced-rhyme political clich├ęs, and “this next poem is called 'Clouds and Flowers'”, and such. But pound for pound, those 2 or 3 years would match any tightly pre-organised reading series I've ever seen in action. And it all boiled down to Jack's “inclusive, not exclusive” credo. Even personalities with whom he had long-standing mutual dislikes were guaranteed a spot, even a feature, if they asked. The arrogant, the experienced, the longtime friends had to wait their turn as the novice, the timid, and the fragmented-beaten-up-by-life stood on absolute equal footing.

And his faith in poetry itself paid off so well. So many people (speaking especially of myself) started off more miss than hit, or frightened and inaudible, or plain really, really bad, and with Jack nodding and thanking them after with utter sincerity went on to experiment and learn and grow as he made room for so many styles and influences. The number of poets I managed to sit with between sections of the evening, me furiously scribbling down books and writers to rush out and discover the next day, was a priceless benefit to me – as was Jack inviting me into his home, as a rotating circle of friends and poets began gathering at his Joy Street apartment after work every Monday to eat (usually his trademark tuna/pasta/tomato sauce feed-the-masses specialty), drink (poets!), and rush off in a caravan to Charlie's Tap.

Those few years with Jack and Stone Soup were, and will always be, the most wonderful stretch of creativity I ever experienced, socially and personally. At a distance now of twenty years, and with the pummelling I've given my short-term memory capacity over the intervening years, it's all a wild swirl, diverging episodic threads and fantastic little episodes all jumbled up. Where to start – what to write – no faith in its chronology; so much happened so quickly. History! Gossip! Poetic superstars! The forgotten and unsung!

Having spent his youth among the best of the Beat generation and caught the ear and friendship of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack with his indefatigable service to the poetic cause was well-known as the go-to person in Boston. Ginsberg swoops into town? The phone would ring and it was Jack organising housing, reading space, support (it was through Jack that I met Ginsberg in 1986, who liked the poems I slipped him enough to get me in print for the first time – I suspect my really cute date was the main entry point of conversation, as he also spent the evening asking repeatedly “well, take me home and fuck me!” … we didn't, but Ginsy's own devotion to poetry allowed him to overlook this and judge my work on its own). And Ginsberg would send others Jack's way too.

Dmitri Prigov, then head of the Moscow Poetry Society, arrived that way. Jack put him up, organised some readings, and even got him to Charlie's Tap. By this time I'd met my partner Todd Hawley, who had been a Russian Studies major and was thus indispensable for Jack, as Prigov's English wasn't very good. He had a son about my age, and bonded with me in a homesick sort of way as Todd translated us into a joking duel of impersonating what each other's language sounded like to the other who couldn't understand a word, as Jack laughed harder than I'd ever seen him laugh before (me to Prigov: “doshhhhhbrrrrrooovdo gikkabukka harkhhhhhhhbrooosha!” Prigov – pinching his nose to sound more nasal – to me: “Thhhhhhehhhhh thhhehhh thhhuhh theeehh!”).

Jack, in his role as Poet Protector of the Boston Realm, had also taken it upon himself to look after one very special charge. A few doors up Joy Street lived John Weiners, chemical-and-shock-treatment-shattered recluse remnant of the Beat generation, in a small apartment from which he almost never ventured. Jack would keep an eye on him, run errands for him, check in if no one had heard from him for a while. He told of several precarious climbs up the outside of the building after Weiners wouldn't answer his phone for days, wedging open a window and climbing in only to find John sitting there, turning to calmly say “oh, Jack … hi, how are you?”.

On a non-Monday, less-crowded evening, Jack might try to lure Weiners out into the world, or at least down Joy Street for dinner. My experience of this usually consisted of watching Jack dial the phone, wait and wait and sigh and wait, then suddenly speak swiftly into the receiver “John! Hey, Jack here. Was wondering if you wanted to swing by for JohnJohndon'thangupwaitaminnitJo …. aw, jeez.” This would repeat several times before Jack would sigh, “well, I tried.” Occasionally Weiners would shuffle down and upstairs to Jack's place, where he'd sit in the corner chair at the kitchen table, jabbering in a whisper, or saying nothing, eyes down or staring into the distance. Once I ran into Weiners at the Boston Library, where he'd spend his days looking for all the world like another sad homeless guy unless you knew he was one of the greatest poets of the mid/late 20th century, and I quietly re-introduced myself to him.

“Oh … yes, we met at Jack's, didn't we?” he said almost happily. “How is Jack?”

When I told Jack this, he was almost in tears. “John remembered you! And having dinner with us! This is great! He's starting to snap out of it!”

And indeed, over the years, Jack slowly encouraged John Weiners to come out more and more, and even organized several rare readings for him. Again, the at-all-cost devotion of Jack Powers to poets and not just poetry was limitless (and why wasn't I there for Jack at all cost? I ask myself accusingly. No excuse).

As Boston poetry came alive again in Jack's kitchen, a vague set of semi-regulars started to take shape at the pre-reading dinners. We started giving each other poetry challenges – basically just a topic or title – to bring a poem to the dinner table the next week. My favorite moment was when Joanna Nealon, at her turn to choose, said something that I missed and misheard.

“Joanna!” I gasped. “Did you just say 'Egyptian foreplay'? What a great title!”

She howled with laughter. “I did actually conquering the entire world is, the video of this event, which does exist somewhere, is not now an embarrassing internet viral video phenomenon. It's a testament to Jack's forbearance that he endured us (or perhaps had become so immune to poets-who-act-like-they're-rockstars that we were just par for the course).
not say 'Egyptian foreplay', but I like that better. Yes! We all have to write a poem about Egyptian foreplay!”

And we did.

With a regular(-ish) cast of characters helping out now, Jack was able to start thinking about re-vitalising Stone Soup's other endeavours again. With his energies going to the readings, to other poets, and the social causes he unrepentantly supported and worked hard for (especially issues of the homeless around Boston), other old projects had fallen by the wayside. The kickstart to this was Todd, who as a college entrepreneurial prodigy (he'd started his own institution at this point, the International Space University, which now sits on its own campus in Strasbourg, France) was more than encouraging as Jack spoke about finishing the non-profit incorporation process for Stone Soup to become the Stone Soup Arts Trust. This was right up Todd's alley, and gave sage advice to Cyndi Mitchell who – as one of the more real-world competents among us – organised and nursed the paperwork through the system. Soup kitchens, expanded readings, even dreams of re-opening Jack's old bookstore loomed in Jack's plans. But the first step was a more basic dream that had gotten put aside when Jack was running the whole show alone.

“Let's start the press back up,” he said. “Too much good stuff is happening right now. Gotta get the word out.”

So, in 1989,
Stone Soup Quarterly vol.1, no.1 came out in print. A year later, we decided to start up individual poets' chapbooks/small press books. We all naturally wanted Jack to have the honours of being the first, especially as he'd spent years “just not getting around” to sending City Lights Press a manuscript of poems as Ferlinghetti had been requesting/cajoling/demanding for at least a decade. As always, Jack would have none of that and wanted to give others the spotlight. The first volume of the Stone Soup Poets' Series, he told the editorial board one meeting amid red wine, beer, and his tuna pasta, ought to be … and he pointed to me. And so the only time my name appeared on a flat little spine (well, back when I was Riq Hospodar and not Yuri Hospodar, not that the latter has appeared on any spines) is all thanks to Jack Powers. I think it took three more individual volumes before we managed to bully him into being the publishee, and his Light From Stone saw the light of day.

And amid all this, the every-Monday readings went on. The aside-from-aforementioned tip of the iceberg to some of the wonderfulness going on near-weekly (and a tip of the hat to the many friends & poets I might not mention as I'm writing fast and shell-shocked), many of whom coasted into Jack's kitchen and lingered for longer or shorter durations: Deb Oestreicher; Ellen Stone (whose poetry made me absolutely swoon) (who unfortunately shared an exact name with a better-known fellow New England poet and so was cause/victim of occasional reading confusion); Brother Blue and his moving, mad improvisations; Billy Barnum; Charlie Shively; Raphael DeGruttola and his haiku-ing friends (sorry for the sarcastic haiku snarks, Raphael – I was young and stupid); the New Hampshire triumverate of Peter Kidd (with his short poems like ancient Chinese aphorisms), Bill Kemmett, and W.E. (Wally) Butts (who I now hear is the Poet Laureate of New Hampshire – go Wally!) (the trio of them were wonderful, if with a tendency to be a tripartite Statler & Waldorf and sit as far from the stage as possible, chuckling at the more clownish or just plain bad poets); Glenn Stout and Sean Heaney, two compatriots from the Boston Public Library who I hadn't known were poets til they showed up at Stone Soup, and bonded better with; others others others whose names I may come back and fill in if I don't get wound up in the rest of all this.

A few of the many odd and (mostly) treasured moments:

The ethereal, majestic-voiced Carol Weston doing a feature slot, then opening up a box and telling us that day was also the birthday of a poet she'd studied under in England “and I want us all to have a piece of cake in honour of … oh … ohhh … oh oh oh dear, I'd forgotten it was an ice cream cake, it's all melted! I'm so sorry, everyone , I ...I ...” … and everyone loved Carol and to console her went to the bar & gathered spoons and we all had goopy spoonfuls of melted ice cream cake with her by the stage.

Jack somehow getting Kerouac's first wife (I believe) to come speak, perhaps hawking a recently-published memoir, and the pleading “look, I know, but just this once don't cause a scene” look he cast me as she said from stage “ask me! Ask me anything … I knew them all …. Allen Ginsberg before all that 'gay' shit ...”, those being the peak days of ACT UP, Queer Nation, and my fire-breathing little queer radical self.

A little coterie of wanna-be two-fisted hard guy poets (i.e. kids who were in their first year at college away from home and had had their first beer) who once said loudly at the table next to me how much better Bukowski was than “any of the crap going on here”, leading me to call Bukowski a cartoon version of the far-better Henry Miller. Later as I went to the bar they were there and began muttering darkly about how they were going to kick my ass and a few choice homophobic slurs. The big, burly, working class old-school Boston bartender they'd been trying to chum up to glowered at them and told them to get out, making sure that before they left they heard him telling me “not to worry about those stupid assholes.”

A reading we did in Provincetown, hearing Norman Mailer was in the audience, and the glee in Jack's face as he thought he'd get to read a fantastic poem Jack had written after the Jack Henry Abbott fiasco, lambasting the ever-macho Mailer. Alas, Mailer had shuffled out just before the reading was to start (also thwarting my plan to say “Mr Mailer, I loved your big book, From Here to Eternity”).

By this point (well, whatever point we're at in my decidedly twisting narrative) I had moved in with Todd, just around the corner from Charlie's Tap – although Stone Soup had relocated to TT the Bears, a music club a bit farther down the street (but still very convenient for me walking home). Charlie's Tap wanted the room for its restaurant seven nights a week, and we had to migrate. Still, TT's felt like a step up – more room, and unlike most reading series, Stone Soup had swelled to capacity crowds of over 100 regularly at this time. Jack was leading Stone Soup into barnstorming swoops all over New England and points south, tapes of the Monday evenings were on local cable, the press was going well. Things were looking great. But …

All great waves break ashore eventually. For me at least, my participation was dented by Todd's testing positive for HIV, and his health deteriorating. A visit to his mother in rural California had him wanting to move, to be closer to his family. For me it was obvious: to try to save Todd, I'd have to abandon Stone Soup and Boston (granted, central California is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, so the trade-off wasn't a complete disaster).

And for Jack and Stone Soup, trouble arrived in the form of slam poetry. When its proponents landed in Boston, Jack gave them a spot at the end of the Monday series, even if he was bewildered – his “inclusive, not exclusive” and social activism couldn't quite understand. “what, they … compete? People get knocked out? Poetry isn't a competition! It's communion.” But slam was fast, furious, popular, and if you shouted loudly enough, acted well, or crept around the room and hid under tables whilst you recited, you didn't have to worry so much about poetic skills. It was a hit.

As the Stone Soup team began fragmenting, Jack's personal life demanded more time and caused more stress too. Trying to spend as much time as he could with his two sons, atop arts and activism, was straining him. He never talked too much about his private life, and I was never one to try to get someone to talk if they seemed reticent. There was a lot going on behind the scenes that I could guess at, or got hints of, but I never sat down with Jack and asked questions, asked what I could do if anything. And now events in my own life were spiralling me far away.

My last two weeks in Boston/Cambridge we offered our empty apartment to Stone Soup for its Monday readings. Trouble was brewing with TT's, Jack desperately didn't want to miss a Monday night (Stone Soup had run somewhere every week, come hell or high water, for years and years). The last week, I was huddle in the still-bedded bedroom with food poisoning as the reading went on in the large, packed-full living room.

The next week, I was in Paso Robles, CA, far from Jack and Stone Soup, turning into a country boy. I remember Jack calling to check in one morning, asking – as any East Coaster would with tinges of envy when calling California in late Boston winter – how the weather was. As he asked, I was watching the morning mist do its sudden rise and disappearance over the hills behind our house. As I waxed lyrical, Jack said in his familiar mock-gritting-of-teeth, “aw, jeez; never ask a poet how the goddamned weather is!” In those days of no email, and with my hatred of the telephone, that was pretty much the last time I heard his voice until two years later.

At that point (1993), Todd's health was seriously declining, and with the nearest hospital a 40-minute drive down twisting hilly roads, we sold up and moved into San Francisco, the legendary Castro 'hood, with his doctor right around the corner. By blind luck, the week we moved in, Jack was visiting SF with Julie Stone and staying with Lawrence Ferlinghetti. “No dodges this time, Jack,” Ferlinghetti had told him. “This time, you're doing a reading at City Lights. An hour and a half, all yours.”

Ferlinghetti almost got his wish. True to form, Jack wouldn't do the whole show himself, and sliced off slots of time and told Neeli Cherkovski and myself (and enough others that we couldn't back out and force Jack to take the honours himself) that we were reading too. Jack was beaming, he and Julie were glowing and happy. Todd and I drove them up a mountain to take in the view, then down to Fisherman's Wharf for dinner. It was the last time Jack and Todd saw each other; two years later and intermittent contact between, I was calling Jack to tell him Todd had died (“be strong, brother,” Jack said, unconsciously echoing Todd's own deathbed exhortation to me to “be tough”).

Once more in San Francisco I saw Jack and Julie. I'd been to Prague and back, in a thwarted attempt to start life over after losing Todd and the interim rebranded myself Yuri (Todd had been born while Yuri Gagarin was orbiting the world, so in tribute I'd changed it for him in the last months of his life). Jack, alas, seemed to have been to Hell and back. All I could get was that he'd been hospitalised against his will for a short time, and was directing a lot of his rage and frustration at Julie. Ferlinghetti looked worried much as Jack had looked worried for John Weiners, and I felt helpless.

Shortly after, I started my own bad stretch, encountering two pretty messes who'd come to SF from New York with a medicine cabinet full of pills and powders and plenty of acquaintances who'd provide more. I was feeling trapped, alone, couldn't write, and was reeling. By 1999 I decided to return to Boston where (as the much-mentioned Weiners explained his own choice to settle there after much nomadry) it was a good place to be quiet and get work done. And I wanted desperately to pick up where I left off with Jack Powers and help him with Stone Soup.

Which brings us back to the second paragraph – why I buzzed back in to Jack's life and buzzed back out so suddenly. At that point, I just didn't have the strength to give Jack the help he needed, and like a craven little coward I vanished to lick my own wounds, but never reached back out once I could finally stand without wobbling again (which took til about 2002 or so, anyway). Then in 2003 I found myself finally having another burst of good writing, but financially crumbling and falling further and rent-controlessly further out of Boston down the Red Line into deepest Dorchester, wallowing in the always-unpleasant bitter Bostonian winters and suddenly deciding ping-ponglike to flee back to San Francisco, after a brief trip to make my peace with the place had deceptively nice weather and lured me back. And I never once tried to contact Jack. As time went on, my avoidance became shame at that avoidance, and every year my embarrassment increased. So of course I just buried it all down in my gut and moved along, rather than reach out to someone whose friendship had done so much for me.

So maybe it's for my sins that I'm now winterless forever here in Australia, with a wonderful second partner (the native-born reason I've wound up here) but no Muse – I think I left her bewildered in a back street in Boston muttering “you're back! Here's some po- hey, wait, where'd you go? Dammit, I'm tired of trying to follow you around! I'll just sit here ...” Or perhaps she has withheld her touch for the way I abandoned my poetic mentor and friend, and cast me adrift in a city that, for all its surrounding natural beauty, is the singlemost poetry-unimbued place I've ever lived (with the exception of my town of birth).

Last night, after starting this, and realising finally I hadn't eaten and really should, while making my own dinner, I put on Mahler's 9th symphony (Jack was always a Mahler man) and had to pause - what loomed in front of me was one of my favourite, most treasured memories of Jack Powers the poet, the educator, the art evangelist.

On those Monday evenings, when we'd gather at Joy Street and he'd tower over his small white stove, stirring the vat of boiling pasta and bubbling sauce, he'd always have the radio on low, a tiny transistor thingy, its antenna poking into the window on whose sill it sat, aimed out over the houses and buildings of Beacon Hill. This night was early on in the glory days – I forget who else was around the table that evening; just a few and not the later larger pack. It must have been autumn or winter – it was already dark outside. As we chatted, Jack paused to rush into the front room and emerge with handfuls of old Stone Soup chapbooks to emphasise a point or relate some hidden history of poetic Boston. He stopped, dropped the books on the table, and reached to the radio.

“Have you ever heard this?” he gently turned up the volume. From the tinny speakers a majestic orchestra soared. “It's Mahler's 9th.”

I confessed I knew next to nothing of classical music, being a 20something rock and roll snot.

“Well, listen to this ...” and he slowly, lovingly pointed out bits and pieces, what parts to listen to, what Mahler was doing here or there. I don't know how far we were into the symphony, but for a long, long work, it and time passed instantaneously. The light was low and the dark brr of Boston halted at the steamed-up window, blocked by the stove's gurgling warmth. I remember the lamp's glow behind Jack, the lamplight a halo illuminating his big fuzzy head as, eyes closed, he nodded, hands moving slowly, unpretentiously, like he was caressing the music.

“He's coming to terms with his mortality, here.” The music hushed to a slow, high, quiet drone, strings lingering, lingering. “Death is here, for us all eventually, he's realising there's no use to fight it, no need. And it's all right.” Jack's gentle voice, strings seeping from drone to serenity and acceptance. “He's done what he can do, and it's time to go.” I swear the stove even stopped bubbling to listen. “And he lets go.” The strings sigh a last long breathe and fade gently away. No one in the kitchen says a word, the radio is silent, Jack nods his head slowly, eyes still closed. For a few moments, the whole world is in that silence, all eternity in that kitchen.

All I can hope is, in Jack's last moments, that the serenity he brought to his kitchen that night long ago returned to him; he knew he'd done all he could do, death closed gently and peacefully upon him, and whatever there is of a calm eternity opened and welcomed him in.


Vale, Jack Powers.
Thank you,
I'm sorry,
peace.

--Yuri Hospodar