July 11, 2007

Caffe Lena, July 4

The fireworks were not outside in the rain in Saratoga Springs on July 4th, & inside historic Caffe Lena the words were sparkling, brilliant (some times), loud (some times), but not really explosive ('though there were plosives uttered), or incendiary. It was a wise move by the host, Carol Graser, to hold the event inspite of the holiday because 13 poets read at the open mic, there were many others in the audience, & the feature, Thom Francis gave a typically inspiring reading.

It was a thrill for me to read both versions of "July 4th in the Year of the Terror," one by Charlie Rossiter & the other my response, both dating from 2002, actually on the 4th of July, since I've read them a few times at recent open mics. I'll retire them until next year, promise.

I think Shaun Baxter was responding to some flip remark that was made a while back at another open mic about dog poems, or animal poems, & read 2 on that theme, "Tiny Dogs" (in a bar, remembering a bar), & "My Cat Will Be Dead Soon." Shaun's a real animal lover.

Jeff Jurgens did a cut-up poem from his LA days, "Dear Me D. Ah," if I got it right. When he got up to read he adjusted the mic, moved it, then proceeded not to use it, itself a bit of performance poetry.

She said she had read at Valentines a while back & sure enough there was Lisa Manzi's photo from August 2005 in my collection. Tonight she read "White Flag," from a Jasper Johns painting & a new poem without a title, I think was about a relationship, failed relationship, you know, what everybody writes about. But I hope it's not another 2 years before we get to hear her again.

The featured poet was Thom Francis, el Presidente of Albany Poets (www.albanypoets.com), who said the 4th of July was like his Christmas. I guess they are both birthdays, though baby Jesus is much older. The last time I heard him as a feature was at the Lark Tavern, the special edition of the Experimental Cabaret on April 21, as part of WordFest. Tonight, there were no visuals projected behind him, nor wailing guitars, just Thom's words "to confront the big, bad-ass world out there". Appropriately, he did a number of poems with the word "America" in them, including "American Dream," and "Homeland" which has been recorded on what Thom described as "an anti-Bush CD." He included the poignant "Radio Man" & the neon crucifix of "Finding God," both can be found in the first issue of the new regional version of Chronogram, which I think I discussed in an earlier Blog. Others about a school shooting, his father, "The Widower's Take", "Doctrine," "Translucent Me." Thom doesn't give a lot of readings & shows up at more open mics than he reads at, but when he does, you should be there -- good, entertaining poems that have something important to say. Take that, bad-ass world, you lost.

Carol Graser had performed at the recent, expensive Saratoga Arts Festival & as often happens in that town (& elsewhere, to give elsewhere it's due) Poetry was the ugly step-sister, in another poet's phrase; her poem "Arts Festival" described reading in a poorly amplified hall while a noisy band played upstairs. Those "artistes" planning such events haven't got a clue. She also read a villanelle that used to be called "Red;" what the title is now, I don't know.

The-poet-who-seems-to-be-having-so-much-fun-on-stage-that-you-think-he's-reciting-Cab-Calloway is really Richard Cowles. He did an effective piece, "An Old Scratched-Up Poem" like playing a beat up LP (for those of us old enough to remember such things), doubly effective with his stammer.

Eric Hauenstein was back with an "anti-patriotic" "America" &, written today, "Independence Day".

Don Levy did his recent work "Fundamentally Wrong" & "Try Not To Be So Morbidly Obese" -- Don can make anything funny, and sexy.

Mike Ballinger was just back from Italy & read us the sights, sounds & smells of the city of Florence, &, of course, a poem for a lady, "She Hums" -- hmm.

Carol had said 2 poems, Barbara Garro did 3, depending on how you count a haiku (& the other 2 were relatively short), "Memories of Love" & "Lost in Love" -- like stuck in a groove (the LP image again).

Tom Nattell's former house is on the market & Mary Panza read "Ring Around the Yogi" about showing the house to her young daughter. Oh yeah, here's where the "ugly sister" term came from: "Pretty Flowers for the Ugly Sister" -- more on this in a future Blog.

A.C. Everson wrote a short poem just sitting here tonight dreaming of economic equality.

Marty Mulenex was "Hanging Out with a Friend" & wrote about it, & saw a water pump across the Hudson River & wondered "Is That a Fisherman?"

The youngest was last, Sue's granddaughter, Nina Cerniglia described the orange glow of "The Color of the Halloween Night."

Always the 1st Wednesday at Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY, 7:30PM.