October 16, 2007
A Visit from Charlie Rossiter, October 7
[Charlie's photo of Dan Wilcox and some of the poets (Evelyn & the 2 Danae) at Joe Weil's.]
Charlie had a reading at Foothills Publishing in Kanona, NY to promote his new book & fanangled a reading in Binghamton (actually, Vestal -- didn't see any virgins) to pad out his trip from Chicago. I drove down with a promise of a good time & a soft place to sleep inside out of the elements. The reading was put together by Joe Weil, a poetry instructor at SUNY Binghamton & was held at Joe's place a few miles down the road from the university, on the banks of the river.
Charlie read in the backyard as the sun set, starting off with a few poems not in the book -- a letter addressed "Dear Aspiring Writer" (from the Fuck Around Writing Program), "Drinking While Driving" (memories of his Dad as he drives around with Jack, his son), & one about doing poetry in East Side High School in Paterson where William Carlos Williams & Allen Ginsberg had both been students. Then from The Night We Danced with the Raelettes, another attractively produced chapbook from FootHills Publishing. I've performed with Charlie throughout the country with the 3 Guys from Albany & have heard him perform a number of these poems, often in earlier, different versions in his solo spot in the program. The book contains the long subtitle, "Occurrences in and around College Park Maryland in the 1960s for the most part to the best of my recollection," which is an accurate description of the book, & the most honest description of memory poems I've heard (one only has to read Time Regained, the last volume of Proust's monumental A la recherche du temps perdu to know how universal is that phrase, "...to the best of my recollection."). For the record, tonight he read "Defiantly Undeclared," "The Summer I Brought in the Yeast" (working for Budweiser), "When Someone Asks Me Who Was First" (ahh, the First...), "The Night the Rubber Broke," "Ah, Nan..." (his grandma), and the title poem, "The Night we Danced with the Raelettes." In between, Joe would comment from the back row, sitting among the handful of his students that came to hang out with the poets, then begin a tangential ramble that Charlie would have to interrupt with another poem. But the light held out for Charlie.
Later, after the sun went down, we had had more chips & kielbasa & other snacks, beer, finished the bourbon, some folks had gone on a beer run, & we had started a small campfire, then a round the fire open mic, at first doing poems from memory until someone got a flashlight. Also by then our friend Tom Nicotera had arrived from Connecticut, bearing some beers, some whiskey & some spiced rum (that crossed my eyes). Since it was too dark to take notes at the time, my notes from the night were reconstructed the next day, & are presented in no particular order. Some of the poems are from a collection, The Arc of a Cry put out by Joe & students; that helped with the names of some of the poets & their titles.
Joe Weil, a cue-ball of an Irishman, did "All the Fucked Up Things I Did Just to Stay Alive" & later sang some Irish songs accompanied by Tom on the Bodhran -- but all the songs sounded like "She Moved Through the Fair." Joe joked about the "Danae", 2 of the students named Dana. Dana Haitkin did "Gettysburg" & "This" while Dana Jaye Cadman did "For a Secret". After some students came back from a beer run with fried chicken Jennifer Diskin read "Exultation Over Fried Chicken." I don't remember Tom Nicotera's poems, but he has many fine poems that he often accompanies himself on the Bodhran. Another poet was Evelyn, who I had a long, poetic talk with, but don't remember the title of her poems, at least one of which was a tough-tender love poem, the best kind. Somewhere along the line I did a couple of political poems, an underdeveloped theme that night. I'm sure I've left some out, but without lights I didn't/couldn't take notes. Believe me, it was a good poetry night.
When the fire died we all went home.