June 22, 2007

Third Thursday Poetry Night, Social Justice Center, June 21


(This is me as the host of the Third Thursday Open Mic at Changing Spaces Gallery, that's 2 venues back, but we keep on going.

The picture is by Kristen Day, I think.)



Somehow I had put out the right number of chairs (with the able assistance of Don Levy) & off we went on poetry night, with the blessing of this month's muse, Paul Laurence Dunbar -- I read his "The Haunted Oak."

Alan Catlin started us off with one from a new chapbook, about where he grew up, "Leaving East Rockaway by Water."

Shaun Baxter, without his street cheerleader, thrilled me by reading "A Bookstore in Colonie," a splendidly done pastiche of Allen Ginsberg's "A Supermarket in California." What thoughts I have of you tonight... Thank you Shaun.

Bob Sharkey read "Killing Me Softly" from his 2004 chapbook, The Yellow Fairy.

Don Levy had been watching TV (that's not anything unusual), a documentary about a "Jesus camp" & responded with "Fundamentally Wrong."

Former feature Mimi Moriarty ended this open mic segment before the feature with the age-appropriate "All These Years She Remembered," I think, if my notes are correct.

The feature Liz King was apprehensive about what she should read, since this is billed as a poetry night & she writes a lot of prose fiction. I said, we won't know where the line breaks are, you've got 15 to 20 minutes to do with what you want. What she gave us was a thrilling mix of short, observational poems -- the kind you jot in notebooks, the kind some poets read directly from notebooks -- poems to friends, lovers; about a crazy roommate, sex (where we find out some interesting personal details along the way), about her job(s) & poems written on the job. At one point she registered her own confusion about the content -- "I think this is a poem." But she even had a poem inspired by Stephen Dunn about a white horse. Also, riding the bus (one of the great sub-genres at open mics over the years) & that new genre, the MySpace poem, "It's 3:30 PM Do You Know Who Your Top Eight Is?" She said she has been writing a lot of fiction lately and ended with the Prolog of the last story she wrote, "Bully," a grim tale from the equally grim upper reaches of New York State. It was a warm night so I had left the door open & the sounds of the rest of the world out there on Central Ave. provided an often fitting obbligato to her reading.

After the break, I read a new poem, yet untitled ("The Night Sky"?), about looking with other poets for the space station to fly by last night; still in my notebook.

Matthew Klane was back with selections from "Sorrow Songs" & hyped his excellent anthology of experimental writing, Oh One Arrow (www.flimforum.com -- see my Blog for January 20, 2007) -- he even sold a copy!

A relative virgin -- in the sense that she has read at open mics at the Muddy Cup & the Lark Tavern, but not here at the Social Justice Center -- Janice McNeal sang in Swahili to relax, then read about herself as "The Ever-Evolving Flower." I hope she keeps coming back, a talented new voice.

Chris Brobham said he likes to read "The Angel of Death Unplugged" & with his deep, reverberating voice it's easy to see why -- we like listening too.

Julie Lomoe mused on the "Mystery (of course!) of the Garden" taking over eventually.

Then a couple of last-minute stragglers who had been downtown for the Alive at Five concert. Terry said she had written poetry in the past & likes to write poetry & then read us from her notebook that "Life is what you make it."

Marty Mulenex will be the host of a new poetry open mic at the Moon & River Cafe in Schenectady, starting June 26, making history as the poet with the shortest trajectory from virgin to open mic host. He read "Two Tears" which could also be Two Tiers.

Another wonderful night of poetry at the Social Justice Center -- thanks to the poets who read & the great listening audience. May the Muse be with you.