This is the third year of this reading series at St. Rose, run by new poppa Daniel Nester. This year the readings have been moved from St. Joseph's Hall auditorium, with the big stage & curtains, to the Library. Same number of people showed up, just looked more crowded. I mean if the same 40 people showed up at the Knickerbocker Arena -- I mean Pepsi Arena -- whoops, no, Times-Union Center -- folks would say, "there was nobody there." Like skinny girls in tight pants.
The poet tonight was David Lehman, editor of the series The Best American Poetry & the recent edition of The Oxford Book of American Poetry, as well as author of several collections of poetry, including When a Woman Loves a Man. He read a poem from that book & it sounded like one of those articles in Cosmopolitan magazine explaining why after sex guys put their jeans on & go out for a smoke, & the women want to cuddle & discuss wedding plans. He also read a couple poems from his "poem a day" project, a couple set in Albany, but filled with everyday cliches. To call the Empire State Plaza "Rockefeller's last erection" in cocktail conversation elicits knowing chuckles, in a poem it's banal. I have a personal affection for Mayakovski's "Brooklyn Bridge," & Lehman did a version based on translations he read because he felt none of them were adequate. He also did some new poems not in any of his books, including some where he writes "in the manner of..." with a couple of my own favorites, Cafavy & Neruda.
In general, his work is clever, discursive, contains complete, grammatical sentences, often lists & pronouncements, but many poems sound contrived, like exercises. Perfect for American Poetry Review.
Also something I've noticed here & at the Writers Institute readings, or wherever academics gather, students & profs don't like to clap, not like at community readings "downtown" where we clap after each poem. Sometimes, at such readings, I clap just to get others to do it & it usually throws the reader off. I think David Lehman liked the adulation of the undergraduates & would've liked the applause, so I didn't clap until the end.
Oh, & you poets who tell us not to clap until you're through, fuck you, I'll clap if I want (or not at the end).