March 11, 2007

Caffe Lena Open Mic, March 7

This open mic is held on the first Wednesday of each month, starting at 7:30, at historic Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY. The host is Carol Graser, who, if I wasn't already a host of an open mic, I would want to be.

I thought I was getting there on time, bringing Nancy for her first time there, but the reading was already in progress when we arrived, Bob Sharkey just getting to the stage to read "Sidewalks".

The feature was James Schlett. James was once described as "the last Romantic poet" (or maybe that was "romantic" with a small "r" -- whatever); he was also named Caffe Lena's poetry bouncer, but that's another story. More accurately I would call him a "sentimental" poet, with all the connotations & denotations of that word softly gathered together like feathers for a pillow. His journal entries & poems, often done from memory, or alternatively from sheets of paper folded up into 8ths & 16ths & extracted from his shirt pocket, often describe either an evening walk by a pond, or a stroll in the woods, or pining after a lost or unattainable girl, or all of that, sometimes with gentle rhymes, sometimes the images just hanging there. But he is not without biting humor, as he showed this night with a sampler of "Jersey haikus", about as much Jersey as they are haiku: quirky, absurdist & sometimes downright silly. We all love James.

The other highlight of the night was cluster of poems about nurses & the craft of nursing. It was, as in the best of our experiences, half-planned, half-spontaneous. Jackie Thorne, a nursing student, read a poem, "Healing Waters", she wrote as part of an assignment for a class. Then Pam Mitchell, who is a fellow nurse & mentor to Jackie, read "Untapped Source of Peace", not her own poem, but one by someone else. Pam hasn't been to Caffe Lena to read in over a year & would have done better with her own work rather than the abstract, trite piece she read, but she said the poem she was trying to write about an Iraq war veteran who killed herself recently was "still born" (borrowing a comment from James) & "stuck in her throat". Later in the open mic Chris Brodham read a class-oriented piece, "Will the So-Called Real Nurses Stand Up." Chris said he had planned to read another poem but was inspired by Jackie's poem to read this instead. This is an example of the dynamics and interplay between readers at open mics that makes these events an important part of "community", both the poetry kind & the larger social network. And we do need these nurses!

Another characteristic of open mics was demonstrated that night by the young poet Rachel being called reluctantly to the stage to read her untitled piece. Rachel volunteers at Caffe Lena, helps makes the cookies, etc. & is a poet too. We have seen many young people in high school start out volunteering "in the back", then find their tentative way to the stage to read a poem or journal entry, & over time work at their craft & go on to become regular readers, even features & hosts of poetry events. Keep writing, Rachel.

Other poets that night included Barbara Garro (look for poets on the porch in Saratoga in April), Jeff Jergens, Mary Kathryn Jablonkski (see her Blog at www.imwds.blog-city.com), George Bookcosta, Carol Graser (looking in a mirror neuron), Tim Verhaegen, Sue Jefts, Mimi Moriarty, Patrick, & me.

Maybe because it's the only open mic in Saratoga Springs, or maybe it's Caffe Lena's coffee, or the smell of chicken from Hattie's next door, or Carol's relaxed but sasy manner, but the open mic on the first Wednesay at Caffe Lena's is always fun, full of diverse poets & generates a lot of interplay between the poets & the audience. You need to be there.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

From Therese--Thanks for the summary/appreciation/commentary. I'm sorry I missed it. I think the date was March7th, not 6th. You should write a poem "Carol's Mirror Neuron."

Anonymous said...

from Therese--Here's a notice I just read today which might interest those nurse poets: "Next winter we plan to feature poetry from nurses. If you're a nurse, submit 3-5 poems by August 15th, 2007. And as always, please spread the word." RATTLE MAGAZINE (www.rattle.com)

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