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).

10 comments:

'timmytimtim said...

when you say "literati"? Whom are you referring to? Some people always leave after the break. I'm fascinated you made note of it on the blog this one time.

Did Daniel Nester leave after the break? Literati is a very broad term.

Diva said...

You lits know who you are... Where WERE the professors?? After the break I mean??

sharkey said...

Some individuals do often leave at the break. This was more of a herd thing, very noticeable and distracting to those who were left, several of whom independently mentioned what had happened. As a courtesy, it would be good to mention to the host why this type of leaving was necessary. Possibly there was a good reason or at least a reason. It was still realtively early. I got up to present a paper at SUNYA graduate school once and more than half the freaking class walked out as I walked to the front. I thought I perhaps was held in some sort of contempt. Turns out, this was years ago, they were all rushing home to see "Helter Skelter" on their TV's. Enjoy the moment people; don't always be rushing off to something else!

Timmytimtim said...

i wasn't sure why you mentioned Woodstock Dan or why you equated the massive early leaving to Woodstock but I was in Woodstock November 19th. Phil Levine sets it up that the features read last. Three open mic-ers from one table read, one at very long length, and then they left IMMEDIATELY.

I was the first feature, by the time of the second feature, there was just about nobody left.

I wonder if features should go first. Breaks invite a mass exodus too. OH well, it is what it is.

Dan Nester indicated in past blogs he forces his students to go to open mics, was the mass exodus his students? his colleagues? Dan Nester has also indicated he doesn't like to attend open mics if he's not featuring, not enough talent to attend etc (see 44 comment blog "what if nobody showed up"). Has his open mic message filtered down to his invited audience?

One night Pierre Joris featured at Lark Tavern and several of his students attended. They left when he was finished.

Either way, you have to be made of stone to not be disappointed or crestfallen when theres a stampede out the door before one has been heard.

I didnt' attend out of principle knowing Daniel Nester's views on open mics.

If you don't value your audience...why should an audience value you?

Anonymous said...

Maybe somebody farted.

High Class as Usual,
SB

chief_fortressmuldoon said...

Yah, I was a little offended when everyone left. I think is rude to show up, read your own stuff and leave immediately.

But the artistic community has become rather rude and arrogant over the years, thats liberalism for you. its all about them.

Anonymous said...

Everybody wants to be heard.

Nobody wants to listen.

Daniel Nester said...

TimmyTim -- Let's get a little real here. I really don't know what your deal is, but reading into the tone of writing on my past post comments doesn't seem to be one of them. When I said "force" my students, I did not mean "against their own will." My students willingly go to open readings, either as an extra credit assignment or for their own edification, or we do it as a group. I went to years and years and years of open readings in New York and Philly before that, and so yes, I am a bit worn out on going to open readings every week. But that doesn't mean my students are; in fact, many of them love it.

The original message of my post is that it seemed to me that, in order to have people come to a reading in a big group, you have to have an open reading. I was writing after only like five people showed up to a Behind the Egg reading, and I was disappointed.

Long story short: Sorry to hear you didn't come to the Caffe reading out of "principle." I'm hear to say you continue to willingly mis-read the basis your own principles, and you seem to be OK with that.

Oh, three more things. 1. Dan W comments on people leaving after breaks all the time; 2. My students came to this reading and didn't leave after the break; and 3. I didn't leave after the break.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Dan here,
he did stay and I understand why he picks and chooses which readings to go to. thats just smart. I am hoping he comes back to cafe lena next week and reads that mike love poem and i will regale the group with more of my anti-middle class pro working class snob poetry. fun times.

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