June 27, 2007

Reading & Open Mic at the Colony Cafe, Woodstock, NY, June 25



(this is a picture of the host Phillip Levine from February, 2004)
tonight, he read a piece to his young daughter, Piper, "Dad as Poet."

We (Alan & Val Catlin & myself) had driven down, not only because it is an interesting event -- it happens every Monday -- but also because one of the schedule featured poets, Michele Battiste, is a friend as well as being one of the finest young performing poets. But when we arrived Phillip informed us that Michele had had to cancel her performance. (Note: Pudding House Publications -- www.puddinghouse.com -- earlier this year published Michele's chapbook Raising Petra.)

But we stayed for part of the open mic & for the feature, Terence Chiesa. Like any open mic there is a tremendous variety in the performers at the Colony, with the extra shot of ego that is "Woodstock".

I've seen Deb Dougherty a few times before, at the Woodstock Poetry Society (2nd Saturdays at the Town Hall) & here at the Colony. Her quiet poems took us through impressions of the 4 Seasons, then "Too Much of a Good Thing," always a problem.

I went next with 2 poems titled "July 4th in the Year of the Terror," one by my friend Charlie Rossiter, the other my response, in the grand tradition of Christopher Marlowe, Bill Shakespeare, etc. (perhaps even better).

Alan Catlin may have more words published out there than any American poet, but they're all in dozens of small press chapbooks & hundreds of zines. The American Poetry Review is still waiting. He read a series of poems based on paintings (ekphrasis, they say) by the poet & painter, Stan Rice. The titles of the paintings are exquisite: "You're Innocent When You Dream," "Christmas in a Time of Wolves," & "Van Gogh Cup with Walking Skull." Stan Rice was the husband of Ann Rice, the vampire-novel lady.

Phillip did a piece on the assassin.

Since the death of his wife Enid Dame, Donald Lev always includes one of her poems when he reads, both as a feature & at open mics, & for that we are always grateful. Tonight he read Enid's "Lilith, I Don't Cut My Grass" from her 2002 collection Stone Shekhina (Three Mile Harbor) -- if you don't know her work, put it on your list. Donald's 2 poems were "This Odd Bird" & "A Song" that he just wrote -- check out his work too, he reads at open mics in the mid-Hudson area.

Michael Suib will be a feature at the Colony in July, read a couple of political poems, "Skid Marks" (the title hysterical, about Charlie Rangle proposing a draft & the effect of that on the underwear of certain prominent politicians with draft-age sons & daughters), & "The Cardboard Cowboy" (guess who -- have you ever seen a picture of GWB on a horse?).

Many, many years ago Dean Schambach ran an open mic at the Tinker St. Cafe in Woodstock, but he is more of an actor/performer than a poet, doing OPP (other people's poetry). Tonight it was Rudyard Kipling &, predictably, "Gunga Din," which he pronounced as "dean" -- I wouldn't know if he dropped lines or not.

I've seen Terence Chiesa perform a number of times throughout the area, his monologues in unique character voices (a working-class guy from Queens, a proper Southern gentleman writer, etc.), more theater than "poetry" (whatever that is). If he had a title for the piece he did tonight I forgot it & forgot to write it down. It started out in the voice of Cecil Milsop then moved to that of Dr. Randall Forbes, both Southern gentlemen & to my ear indistinguishable. Or did I just become numb. The piece was ornate, lush, Faulknerian -- & nearly incomprehensible, perhaps because it was at least 45 minutes long. I just got lost & had no idea where he was taking us. I met many others from the audience lost there too, trying to find their way out.

The open mic continued with Robert Milby listing recent birthdays of dead poets, then a poem by Baudelaire, before doing one of his own, in his own inimitable intense manner about a childrens' hospital in Baghdad.

Normally I don't like to leave before the open mic is done, & I've been known to suffer until way too late in the Colony, but tonight I was driving Al & Val & she had worked all day, they had been to a wake before we left, the place was hot, we were exhausted & out of patience, so left. Undoubtably missing some fine poems & for sure some tedium. But, it's every Monday, "7PM" WST (Woodstock Standard Time).