September 24, 2007

Colony Cafe, September 17

(This is Dayl Wise at another time at the Colony Cafe, Woodstock, NY)

[Somepeople have referred to my Blog as "reviews," but I like to call it a "commentary," more like a public journal, where I express my personal opinions about the readings/events I attend. The issue is that I am often a participant in the open mics & readings that I write about. Thus I can't (& don't) claim any "objectivity" on the subject (& I won't here now get into a discussion of this sham about "objectivity"). I've always been upfront about my involvement, my opinions, my presence at these events. As my Grandmother often said, "Opinions are like assholes: everyone has one, & they all stink, except your own."

That said, I was proud to be a participant in this reading bringing together writer-veterans who are included in
Post Traumatic Press 2007: poems by veterans. I have a great deal of affection for Dayl Wise, the editor, & his co-conspirator/copy-editor/wife Alison Koffler (both read at Poets in the Park this year), & for the other veterans/activists/writers included in the anthology. They are friends & colleagues.

I am not a literary critic, I am a literary activist (& erstwhile literary archivist).]

This weekly open mic in Woodstock, NY, tonight featuring poets from Post Traumatic Press 2007: poems by veterans, was hosted by Phillip Levine, as usual. Phillip began with a recording of the late Parker Holden performing with a band his poem "Living Under the Threat of the A-Bomb."

Stephen Dodge started off the open mic with 3 poems, then Phillip Levine with a poem referencing his custody battle. Victoria Sullivan did a Mad-Lib type thing that was an improvisation on the words supplied by the audience. Max Schwartz (photographer too) did a rambling "Viet Nam Hypocrisy."

An all-time favorite, Donald Lev, read a couple of his movie poems on the theme of "back to school" -- "Chalk" & "Switch Blade Sisters". Then, of course, one of beloved Enid Dame's poems, "Lillith's New Career."

Someone new to Woodstock this year, by her own admission, & someone I hadn't seen read before, Kate McKnighter (I didn't check Phillip's list so the spelling may not be correct), had trouble with her own words in one of her poems, & her poem about her first summer here, "This Morning" had some moments of poetry & vision in an otherwise long, meandering piece.

Alison Koffler, who has been in Woodstock for a while, honored me with her "Baghdad/Woodstock" -- thanks again, Alison. Ralph Childers read a poem by April Fitzsimmons, "The Things I Forgot," which has been published in the Veterans for Peace Newsletter (he told me later that he has written 2 versions of "Baghdad/Albany," one about Saugerties, the other about a town in Australia).

Dayl Wise, the editor of Post Traumatic Press began the feature part of the night with his poem "Walking My Dog While at War" which he dedicated to Dave Cline, the anti-war activist & former president of Veterans for Peace who had died earlier this week. Dave was mentioned throughout the night, his footprint large & deep on those of us who had met & marched with him. I remember him shouting himself hoarse calling cadence at the first big march in NYC against Oil War II in February 2003. Thanks, Dave, for leading us.

Thomas Brinson began reading a speech from the movie "Platoon," then a poem about the B1 bomber at Jones Beach, another called "Fallen Angels" and "Memorial," for Dave Cline.

Jim Murphy's poem explained that he was a "Fucking New Poet," another was about a Latino vet & one about looking in the directory of the Wall in Washington D.C.

The brevity of Richard Boes' novel The Last Dead Soldier Left Alive, which he read a few pages from, is overwhelmed by its intensity. I've been hearing excerpts for years & it is finally available from iUniverse,

World War II vet Jay Wenk read "Crossing the Rhine," his first poem. He is one of the group of activists battling the Kingston Mall over the right to do counter-recruitment leafletting outside the government recruiting station there.

Bob Lusk got us all to join in on his poem "Om," then took out his banjo to do "White Crosses," to the "ticky-tacky houses" song from the '60s, & finished with "Lot 16."

Marc Levy came over from Gloucester & began with a surrealistic prose piece displaying thousands of medals because "anyone can say they were in Viet Nam..." He then read the two poems from the collection, "He Would Tell You" with it's dark images from war, and the unsettling "An Open Dream to Residents of the United States."

Larry Winters does a lot of good work with people with PTSD & is the author of The Making and Unmaking of a Marine. He read 2 poems from the collection, "Confession" with its contradictions, and "America" ("I killed for you..."). Try for his book.

I guess I (Dan Wilcox) was the rear guard, reading last in the group, doing poems not in the book: "for Hugh Thompson, Jr." (for Dave Cline), "Patriotism," & "Baghdad/Albany."

Just before the break, Phillip Levine shared his anti-war piece "Rivers & Gardens" as a fitting end to the segment.

I hold it to be bad form for featured poets to leave after they read, as many often do particularly here in Woodstock. This night there had been about 8 open mic poets, then about 9 poets in the feature, so by the time the break came around my companion & I had to take the long ride back to Albany. So I apologize to any of the open mic poets who where left after the feature. I'll catch you again next time, someplace else.

Anyone interested in getting a copy of Post Traumatic Press 2007 may contact Dayl Wise at, or me through this Blog.