Shattered Wig #28

Shattered Wig #28
Coming In November!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reading Saturday September 18th At The Corner of Poetry and Main

I have the happy honor and privilege to be reading with professor Shelley Puhak Saturday, September 18th in Westminster. The last time I was in Westminster it was for the Shakemore Festival and that day turned out pretty good. This is one of the many poetry series that Cliff Lynn curates. He must talk in his sleep at night waving his arms like a traffic cop trying to keep them all straight.

Shelley was a frequent reader at Shattered Wig Nights all the way back in the early '90s when she was about fifteen and had to have a guardian present. She would read barefoot sitting cross-legged on the dusty floor of the 14 Karat Cabaret. She is also the person who turned crusty hardened former Navy man Cliff Lynn onto poetry. She also seems to own a dog who looks very much like my beloved dog Max.

Shelley's most recent book is Stalin in Aruba. Here is a review of it from Neon:

Review: Stalin In Aruba by Shelley Puhak

For someone for whom the word "historical" has always had connotations of "stuffy" and "boring", historical fiction has held little interest. Therefore I was expecting Shelley Puhak's recent chapbook Stalin In Aruba (published by Black Lawrence Press) to be a dull read. In actuality the collection is impressively strong, and conveys a surprising variety of depth and feeling.

Despite his titular presence, the erstwhile dictator is not the main focus of the collection. Although his presence is to be felt in several of the poems (such as "Stalin, Alone" and "The Dictator's Daughter from a Nursing Home in Wisconsin", both of which paint him in a very human light), he seems to be more of a recurring theme than a focal point around which the whole collection moves.

In fact, many other historical figures do feature prominently in Stalin In Aruba. In "My Life With Perseus" we see the Greek legend of Perseus and Medusa relocated to a modern American high school, and in "Torch" we are told of the people behind three suicides by self-immolation that occured in the 1960s.

Although to some degree fictionalised, these poems are rarely frivolous. Puhak has done her research. A glance through the notes section reveals several annotations that are almost poems in themselves. A fine example can be seen in the note that accompanies "Meeting the Secret Police Chief, 1930":

"The poet Osip Mandelstam and the future secret police chief Yezhov both vacationed at the same resort on the Black Sea in 1930. The men met and even dined together. Eight years later Mandalstam would die in a forced labour camp."

It is the authenticity of these poems that is their strength. Even those that do not deal with a certain historical figure are richly woven and dense with a feel of personal history. In fact, it is some of the more obscure pieces that showcase Puhak's best work. Take these lines from "The Alumni Magazine" for example:

"You look back and you either feel better
or you feel worse about the days
you spent silent, curled up in your chair.
You wore your uniform skirt
short, like all of the girls,
but you had a slouch, sloping
into hips, that made you look bored
and back then, that was
all there was to looking smart."

The sense of intimate personal knowledge that permeates this poem is typical of the others in the collection. For its unique texture Stalin In Aruba is a consistently engrossing read. This first collection is a confident debut by a quietly talented writer.

Stalin In Aruba is avaliable from Black Lawrence Press.

The Corner of Poetry and Main with Shelley Puhak and Rupert Wondolowski

Location birdie's cafe and coffee house
233 East Main St.
Westminster, MD


Created By Cliff Lynn


More Info with special musical guest Julia Rose!!

join R.J Ridgely and Cliff Lynn as they continue to bring the best poets that will read for nothing other than bragging rights to westminster. open reading included in the evening's events.

Rupert Wondolowski recently returned to the tiny silverish screen in Michael Kimball and Luca DePierro's film "60 Writers/60 Places". His most recent book The Origin of Paranoia as a Heated Mole Suit has... sold out two printings on Publishing Genius Press and is teetering on the brink of extinction. Rupert's work has also recently been included in CityLit's anthology City Sages: Baltimore along such memorable authors as Gerty Stein, Mugs Mencken, Edgar Alan Poe, Michael Foxtrot Kimball and Adam Robinson. Having just found out that it costs $400 to rent a damn party tent all his fears that his love and labor in the used book field has been for naught have been confirmed.

SHELLEY PUHAK lives in Baltimore and is Writer-in-Residence at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. She earned her MFA from the University of New Orleans and her MA in Literature from the University of Delaware. Her poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, New Delta Review, New South, Third Coast, and other journals. Her essays have appeared in Fourth Genre, The Baltimore Sun and Road & Travel. Shelley has experience leading workshops for writers of all ages and abilities. To set up a reading or class visit, send an email to:

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