December 7, 2007
Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 5
[Featured poet Daniel Nester looking his professorial best recently at the College of St. Rose.]
The trip up is always worth it, & tonight was no exception (except I miss the poets I flirted with a couple months ago) -- a wonderful feature & lots of good open mic poets before & after.
Our gracious, though tonight somewhat censorious (at one point she cut off "lewd comments" -- whatever they are? -- from, well, me), host, Carol Graser read a poem by John Wright (not sure I got that right, there are so many poet Wrights out there), "Bolder Valley Surprise." Later she introduced the one & only copy (so far) of a collection of poems by people who have featured at Caffe Lena. Watch for the sale of Every Drop of Water soon.
When I arrived 6 or 7 poets had already signed up, but (if you can believe this) the #1 spot was available, so I took it & read too seasonal poems, the recently-tinkered-with "My Scarf" & "Christmas Eve 1945" (scroll down & you'll find it).
Michael Hare was back with a husband & wife combination poems, the Humphries, from his collection of dramatic monologues, Saratoga Lives.
I admire Barry Finley for the effort he puts in to getting to & performing at open mics in the region. He says he hasn't written much but is working on more pieces. Tonight he read "Through a Gila Monster's Eyes" & "Is This Diversity Too Much for You ..."
James Schlett did his customary arrangement of a journal entry ("Look") & a poem ("Parting" -- socks & snowflakes & not cutsey at all) from memory. George Drew, a former feature here, said he had done another reading earlier & didn't get to read this poem from a manuscript about Maine, a narrative of abandoned ashes a la E A Robinson.
Then our featured poet, Daniel Nester, completely changed the tone (thank god). Well, no, actually, defiantely, he went back to the previously curtailed "lewd comments" of the adolescent exhibitionist variety, but with plenty of self-deprecating humor (& audience comments). We heard about him masturbating in his room, how a fellow band member was still a virgin, his wife doing yoga, his obsession with the band Queen, TV, pop culture ("The Peter Brady Cum-shot Episode"), & correcting papers for creative writing courses ("The Queries Project" -- there's something to be said for my earning a living as a bureaucrat that I hadn't realized before). It was great fun & made me feel better for being shut up.
As is customary, we took a short break after Daniel's reading & at that point the Saratoga "literati" pulled "a Woodstock" -- they left. Well, as we like to say, they missed it, the rest of the marvelous open mic. Meanwhile the poets who remained left Edwin Arlington Robinson in the dust of the 20th Century.
Carol read a meditative "At 39", then Sarah Craig (a former feature who doesn't read enough at the open mic) read 2 poems on "frustrated love", one on the Satyr statues & the interestingly titled "We're Like Potatoes." It was all made up, it's art, nothing is true.
Too bad George hadn't stuck around; I think he would've liked Yvette Brown's story of an immigrant waitress in a diner in Huntington, or even the description of forsythia along the highway in "War."
It turned out that one of the students Daniel had referred to during his reading as "a pop-culture freak" was actually in the audience, perhaps proving that attribution by being here. Katie Vermilyea read from a diminutive notebook "A Meditation on French Fries," a poem about dating a member of a Kiss tribute band, & a short, third, Carol-defying piece about her father.
Josh McIntyre's 2 poems were dark, "Bed Bugs" & an exhausted woman praying at "Sunset."
Bob Sharkey brought us back to Maine & his Mom & Dad in "Portland Headlights", then the perfume of roses in a love poem in "Perspective."
The other student from Daniel's class who showed up was Elliot Carson; he said about "Night...," "I guess it's a love poem." "The Art of Gifting," just written, sounded like a dadaist exquisite corpse.
Nancy Muldoon was back again this month & seems to like skewering the ruling class, like Eliot Spitzer, or the playground of the privileged with cigar smoke in "August in Saratoga." And quite by chance Chris Brabham followed with "A Prayer for the Middle Class." Maybe the literati had sensed what was coming & ran.
As you know, I am no fan of the idea & practice of repetitious rhyme & mechanical meter. But listening to the narratives & tributes to veterans W.D. Clarke has been reading lately at open mics, I'm beginning to reassess this retro poetic technique & think it can be effective, especially in the way this poet uses them. "The Village Armory" (in Elmira) is one of those public occasional poems where the masses expect this kind of rhetoric. And in "Normandy" the archaic form brings us back to an earlier time as the poet stands at the beach, remembering. Clarke's word choice & phrases sound, for the most part, natural, but enough self-consciously poetic to set it apart from normal speech.
Every first Monday at historic Caffé Lena, Saratoga Spring, 7:00 sign-up, 7:30 start (& she starts on time).