January 4, 2008

Caffé Lena, January 2

Onward. & a good way to start the New Year was with our host, Carol Graser's reading of Ellen Bass' poem "Pray for Peace."

The Saratoga Poetry Zone (at the Library) has had a good run of about 10 years under various leaders/coordinators. Mary Sanders Shartle is the latest & the last, as she announced that it will be no more -- no money to pay the features & no money for the director (you can't pass the hat at the Library), then she read a poem, "Blue Mountain Lake Overlook," in the voice of a character in a book she is working on -- only the first of the night's recurring north country theme.

Michael Hare gave us 2 more poems from his Saratoga Lives -- at this rate I won't have to buy the book, just keep showing up here. John Krause has been spending way too much time at Saratoga Springs City Council meetings & gave us what he has "Seen & Heard" in the form of a pastiche of Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas." And speaking of a visit, Dan Stalter was on a school break & did a slam performance of "Give Up."

Now when most poets start by saying their poems are "very short" I cringe, thinking, "As compared to what?" & when Richard Cowles said it, I cringed twice, but he was right, "One Step Away" & "Bush" (the "flip-side" of the nursery rhyme "Jack") were so short we almost missed them.

Naton Leslie has a new book out, Emmas Saves Her Life (Word Tech Communications, 2007) & is out & about promoting it, but as tonight's featured poet gave us a retrospective of sorts with a poem or two from his earlier books. He started with "Straight-Backed Chairs" & "I Saw the Light" from perhaps my favorite of his books, Moving to Find Work. Then the first of the night's ghazals, "Porcupine Ghazal." In introducing the poems from Salvaged Maxims (with its striking cover by local poet/artist Mary Kathryn Jablonski), Nate talked about the "triggers" for the poems, in this case maxims from English Common Law; he mentioned triggers a number of times. Triggers I guess is what happens when you get a prompt. The audience liked his short prose piece, "Bigger than Life," about movies & cowboys. He read a couple of sonnets from the jewel-like chapbook, The Last Best Motif, from Bertha Roger's Bright Hill Press, then a series of Emma poems from the new book, "Emma Waits Out a Spring Snow," "From Emma's Scrapbook," & "Emma Aims High."

After the break, Carol read "Ghazal for Time" (from her book, The Wild Twist of Their Stems). Her ghazal ends each couplet with the same word ("water"), but modern ghazal's are often just a series of long-lined unrhymed couplets doing variations on a theme, nothing like their original Persian forms. Fun to write.

Former feature Tim Verhaegen read about family in "Florence" & about being a youth at the ocean on Long Island longing for elation, "Madrugada." W.D. Clarke has channeled Robert Service with a modern gold-rush poem, "Bill Johnson's Tale."

Every open mic needs a virgin & Amanda Myer was tonight's, with her "first poem," a tender description of her grandmother & her apartment in Vienna. Then Christy Skevington (who didn't say it was her first time, but I don't recall seeing her before) read a poem about (prison) escape, "The Only Evidence of a Final Farewell."

Jeff Jurgens was back after many months with a memoir of childhood, "Powder-Puff Annie." Nancy Muldoon's first poem, "Window of Opportunity" almost slammed on our writing fingers before we knew it. Her longer "Bed and Breakfast for Dummies" was another of her screeds on American culture.

Sometimes poets call their poems "untitled," & habitually Josh McIntyre repeats his titles before he reads the poem (something my old ears appreciate) so tonight when he read an untitled poem, he repeated "untitled" (was he looking at me?). He also repeated the title of his second piece, "Recovery." I didn't repeat the title of my revised/corrected "My Last Bardo" but in my long introduction may have said the title twice anyways.

The night's final poet, Steven Tyson wasn't there when Carol limited us to 2 poems (the usual rule) so he managed to slip in a third, but they were good to hear, "Just Say No," "Suddenly" (is now) & a memoir of school, "Growing Up."

Earlier, Carol mentioned that they have had a successful fund-raiser for the poetry series, & that tonight's reading had been sponsored by the Delmar Poetry Group. If you forgot to send money there might be some information on www.caffelena.org, or just show up every first Wednesday at historic Caffè Lena, Saratoga Springs, 7:00 sign-up, 7:30 start (& she starts on time).