August 20, 2007

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 16

The Social Justice Center is looking better, with lights in the window & banners, & the poets keep showing up, even new ones. My muses were (in tribute to our featured poet's translations from Greek) Solon of Athens & Praxilla of Sicyon.

The feature this night was William Seaton, the coordinator & host of the "Poetry on the Loose" series down in Middletown, NY. He put together a varied program of prose & poetry fitting nicely into his time-frame. He began, because he was at the Social Justice Center, with a couple of short memoir vignettes from his youth in Chicago in the politically turbulent 1960s, one on visiting the IWW headquarters in Chicago, the other about a civil rights demonstration in Cicero, Illinois. Although he has been a union representative & has taught in prisons, he said he doesn't usually write "political" poetry. However, his first poem, beginning "Is this the way Empire smells?" pondered the beginnings of the day with Greek tragedy & ended with his feet in the/as the mud, smelt like a political poem, in the sense that the personal is the political. His other poems continued in a similar style, with personal observations & musings, bumping kids blocks up against grazing deer (as in his last poem). And he likes epigraphs. There were odes: to a carrot, to old boots, to pin ball machines; a series of poems about being on the beach; and the surrealist list of "I'm Looking..." Good poems, presented well.

As usual, the open mic surrounded the feature & the poets & their poems weaved & wound around each other. Alan Catlin's "Some Are Almost Crazy" was about a "post-modern dancer," & he was followed by the dancer, Sally Rhoades reading "The Pool." Next month's featured poet, Miriam Herrera pondered our repeated mistakes in "Ditto," & Don Levy talked about finding excuses for not dieting in each season. Mimi Moriarty was the proud Mama with her just published War Psalm from Finishing Line Press (finishinglinepress.com), read "This Isn't A Cowboy Movie." It's a very attractive 30-page chapbook, saddle-stapled with thin green ribbon tied through the center. The font is crisp & the poems simply & attractively laid out on cream/off-white stock. It's good to have such fine poems so well presented.

After the break, Josh McIntyre did 2(!) (gasp!) poems, but he had a coupon issued by Shaun Baxter at the AlbanyWordFest that permitted him to read a second poem. I just hope that nobody is counterfeiting coupons out there.

Gene Damm rattled us with a short poem with disturbing imagery, but then Julie Lomoe gave us tender memories of the NYC jazz scene of her youth, "Searching for Birdland," read for the memory of Max Roach. "Remember" is what Ramon encouraged us to do, remember a simpler time, such as when "crack" was something in the sidewalk (I had met Ramon at one of the Poets in the Park & it was his first time here). John Raymond's disturbing imagery of drunken surgeons was in the context of a breakup, sort of like a song by Nilsson or the Stones ("Dear Doctor").

Another new poet, Amanda Haney, introduced herself in her poem about the changes in her life with her move here from Seattle. Janice McNeal was new when she read in June so it was nice to see her return, & again she sang first to calm herself & as an intro to her poem, "Friend." We've missed this kind of performance since "Soul Kitchen" closed. And a late entry closed the night, Joe Krausman, & a poem walked by..., "Things Passing," from memory.

Every third Thursday, 7:30PM, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany.