November 9, 2007

Caffe Lena, November 7

[An avuncular Tim Verhaegen earlier this year at a reading in Albany's Gay Lesbian Community Center.]

Another great night at one of the premier poetry venues in upstate New York. Our host, Carol Graser, began by reading a poem from an issue of the Berkeley Poetry Review, "Therapy," by Christy M. Fleming. Later Carol mentioned that their fund-raising campaign for the poetry program was going well, getting close to their goal. Visit the Caffe Lena website to find out how to help out (other than showing up as often as you can).

As the old blues song says, "the usual crowd was there," and Bob Sharkey began with a poem about a fire in Maine, setting a minor theme for the night, "Gooseneck Beach 1947." Alan Casline came up with the Voorheesville crowd to support Tim Verhaegen & dedicated "At the Toy Show" to Tim; also, read an Adirondack nostalgia poem, "The False Path."

I was particularly affected by Joan Gran's simply stated "A Jaded Year," about a gift received that was meant for someone else. Paul Amidon let us inside the head of an auction bidder, then "Ryan's Rooster."

Last month here I flirted with 3 lady poets, so tonight read "Poetry Prompts" that was in response to our discussion, & the oldie "Planting Tulips" because that's what the park workers were doing this morning in Washington Park when I walked through. W.D. Clarke presented 2 rhymed poems for Veterans' Day: "Myrtle the Fertile Turtle" (a WWII B-24 bomber), then his first poem, from the Viet Nam era, "Johnny O", a John Doe letter & suicide.

Richard Cowles, tonight as "The Poet Gone Wild," has gotten in trouble before for going long & being tedious. Tonight's piece, "The Baby Sitter's Lament," was also long, unrehearsed & actually contained a line that was the best commentary on his piece, "What are you doing now?"

If you have been reading this Blog anytime in the last few weeks you are well acquainted with Tim Verhaegen, tonight's featured poet. He did 2 major themes: his relationship with "Mary Jane" & family poems. Tim likes short, simple statements, the rhythm of his poems often starting with "I" or "he" or "She". The "Mary Jane" poems took us from his introduction to pot at age 10, through the "end of the honeymoon," the "divorce" with its panic attacks, to being out of the fog. Many of the family poems we have heard before, like the harrowing "Dad's Car" & "Unexpectations" but good to hear them in a group. He ended appropriately enough with "Finally." He was well supported by his Voorheesville poetry group friends.

Carol Graser did a new piece on being at a zoo with kids in Halloween costumes. Reprising the style, if not the actual poems, of his reading last month at the Social Justice Center, Dennis Sullivan did 2 poems with Tom Corrado on tuba & Alan Casline on bodhran. Then Tom Corrado was back on stage with his funny, heartfelt piece "On His Partial Deafness" -- say, what?

Mimi Moriarty returned to the fire theme, its beauty & the art of destruction, "The Way it Burns," then the Thanksgiving recipes of memory, "Circle." I hadn't seen Michael Hare before, but he has a series of poems about historical fictional characters from Saratoga that he has self-published, Saratoga Lives (see it at, & he read 2 pieces from it.

Therese Broderick tried out a couple pieces from memory, & did them well, one about Halloween & the other a found poem, "Marine Snow", -- "very slow". James Schlett (who was surprisingly restrained earlier this evening) began with a journal entry prompted by someone's remark that his poems "have no meaning." He took us back to Grafton pond & leaping fish the "Literal Distraction" from Chinese poetry.

I was swept up in the simplicity & the tenderness of Ivette Brown's images in her 2 poems about her late husband, "Early November One Morning" & "A Real Fairy Tale." Mike Ballinger's poems both used memory, one, like Proust, inspired by the smells of a farm, the other reflecting on the images of "Lascaux" in his own handprint.

Perhaps it was the 4 courses in Shakespeare, or the two on English Renaissance poetry, but my eyes, etc. tend to glaze over when I hear self-conciously poetic, stilted language, like "sylvan hills" & "memory confounds;" Gary Yaeger's work is a study in contrast in the use of rhyme with the work of some of the other poets tonight who used rhyme in their poems, but in more modern language. It's certainly not for lack of working at it.

And the final poet of the night was a new voice, Nancy Muldoon with a blast at "American Culture" & the art of collecting, whether "Pink Slips & Speeding Tickets" or drunken boyfriends, illustrating the marvel of an open mic where poetic styles span the centuries.

First Wednesdays, at historic Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs.