‘Last Night at the Wursthaus’ by Doug Holder

On August 29, 2017, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

My new book, Last Night at the Wursthaus (Grey Sparrow Press), will be up shortly on Amazon. The title poem is about the Wursthaus, a German eatery in Harvard Square that closed in 1996. I was a patron of the said bar, and met many interesting characters over a house dark…

Introduction by Nina R. Alonso

One of Doug Holder’s poems quotes Heraclitus, “No man steps in the same river twice,” but his writing generates double-vision, the feeling of past as present, existing in the flow of continual change.

We’re in Harvard Square’s Wursthaus (now replaced by a faceless bank) overhearing the flow of vintage chatter, then watching a man scratch losing lottery tickets one after the other, then in a too quiet Harvard library where “caged scholars/circle their wired cages like rats/gnawing on manuscripts.” In Filene’s Basement he’s shopping, as “it was a place to go when you’re happy or desperately hurt.”

He shifts to the Bronx where ancient Jewish women sit on lawn chairs and his Uncle Dave called George Gershwin ‘a good kid.’  These people and places are familiar to me and to many of us who lived in the same space and island of time, understand eyes that see through our adult guise to what we were like in junior high: “You can’t/bullshit the blonde/she knows.”

The book has integrity, cuts to heart center, but without a shred of excess. There’s no hype, no axe to grind, nothing being sold to us. We know his mother from our own, “At night/the murmur of the dead/hover around her bed.” I grew up in the neighborhood he rails against when he “screamed/my screed/against the suburbs the conspiracy of broad lawns and narrow minds.”

This world is under construction, bought and sold daily, repeatedly dug up, repaved, pieces erased, replaced and so full of invasive sales hype that we can’t even remember what was there before. We need this writer who sees and remembers to keep us centered, strengthen us, help us see what’s there, help us resist. Doug Holder’s writing has subtlety and substance, an authenticity that sustains.


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