The monthly open mic at the NightSky Cafe on Union St. in Schenectady, with our host Shaun Baxter. I note that Shaun seems to have responded to fact that he is not the shortest open mic host by producing the smallest open mic flyer, just over 3x4 inches. He started us off with Raymond Carver's "Where Water Comes Together with Other Water", then challenged us to parody William Carlos Williams' "This is just to say...", you know, the plums-in-the-fridg poem.
But I (Dan Wilcox) had no time to respond so only read what I had planned: Tom Nattell's Columbus Fantasy #32 (in the Tom manner with whistle & foot stomp) & last year's Halloween assignment, "Zombie Gourd."
John Paul, with a literal feather in his (baseball) cap, did a poem in memory of his grandmother, "Memories," then "Just for Today" (like a self-help list in the newspaper) (or, were these by his grandmother?).
Alan Catlin passed on to us advice from his past life as a bartender, "Beware the Solitary Drinker," & a poem never read before based on a reading by Richard Russo. Alan responded to Shaun's assignment with a combination WCW, EA Poe & Gertrude Stein ("...the plums, the plums...").
Marty read to us half of a Halloween poem, "Going into the Booby-Trapped Make-Up House from Hell" (we'll probably hear the other half at the 2nd Tuesday open mic at Moon & River Cafe, on N. Ferry St., also Schenectady).
The night's feature was Tim Verhaegen who gave a nicely constructed reading of new, old & re-worked poems on themes of growing up gay, & the dynamics of dys- or barely-functional families in mid-20th Century America, like "Dad's Car" (stopping at the bar) & "Third Grader's Rhyme." Even a straight guy like me can feel the pain of being bullied (I was too), or the ache of (gay) love in Tim's Brokeback Mtn. poem, "Hold me." Tim's re-worked "War" was more focused, concise -- better? "each has his tastes" as e.e. cummings said. And he ended with a poem I don't think I had heard, "Finally," time passing for a gay man (or any person), "beauty" to "ugly" & enjoying being alone. Art shows us what is human, beyond skin color, gender, sexual orientation, language, cultural background, education, class, medical diagnosis ... (you add to the list) -- we're all more alike than we are different. Thanks, Tim.
I'd heard Michael C. Rush read earlier this month at Caffe Lena (q.v.). He said to check out his website, webnesia.com -- I did, Huh? Anyways, his poems tonight, he said, were "not typical": "On the Occasion of Your 30th Birthday" (seems that she left him for a rich man), & the saga continued with "On the Occasion of Your 40th Birthday" (even thought she was really gone).
Matt Galleta is much closer to the experience than I am & so could write "Participation Is 20% of Your Grade." He stepped up to the WCW plate & hit a double.
W.B. Clarke had also been at Caffe Lena & writes in the narrative rhymes of Robert Service. He read two poems about experiences in Viet Nam, "Dust Off Crews" & "To the Shit-Burners" (which even the younger audience liked).
Schenectadian Jason Dalaba read a "hippy Fall poem" written 10 years ago, "Persephone", also read "Push" from his chapbook Yesterday's Machine, & did the WCW thing with cigarettes!
Tom has shown up before a couple times, does hip-hop rhymes in baseball cap & hoody, his piece tonight on technology setting us up was unfortunately said too fast, the rhymes taking off on their own.
Albany Poet's living Spoonerism, Dain Brammage did his WCW parody as scared of ghosts (Boo!), then did a few others -- "When Hippies Divorce" is one of those poems that may be good or bad, but the title is great.
Long-absent J.J. Johnson (too blond to be the great bop trombonist) read from his book, Seeds and Weeds.
Hip-hop/slam artists like to give themselves a stage name & one never knows (do one?) if it's ironic or poorly chosen; thus it was with Apathy. But both of his pieces suffered from being driven by the rhyme to the point of being unconstructed, like the worst of Bob Dylan, although the rhymes of "Trapped in the Lion's Den" were not the standard rap-issue which made it his own. Unfortunately, his second poem "Fuck" was based on still another false etymology of the great Anglo-Saxon verb as an acronym -- when will they ever learn to check their sources.
Chris Brabham's dark images were a journey through grief & depression, & we are there with him, even if we can only listen.
A.J. Gundy ("Mr. Cool") must be last, doesn't want his picture taken, & walks around the room instead of using the mic, I mean his stuff is so powerful, who needs electricity. He likes aphorisms & seedy, misogynist characters, & snaps his fingers at the end of each poem (otherwise we wouldn't know it's over, would we?). One of his poems was "U" in Morse Code: ". . - " (or, as we used to say in radio school, "Dit Dit DAH").
Always the 3rd Wednesday, sometimes the day before the third Thursday, sometimes the week after -- go figure.