February 13, 2008
Woodstock Poetry Society, February 9
[Jay Wenk (right) presenting a certificate of appreciation to Bob Lusk for his work with the Kingston Mall counter-recruitment effort. All photos by Alison Koffler.]
The featured readers at this monthly open mic at the Woodstock Town Hall (hosted by Phillip Levine) on this snowy day were poets/veterans who are in Post Traumatic Press 2007: poems by veterans, edited by Dayl Wise & Alison Koffler. I am included in the anthology & am friends with the other readers, just so you know.
The day began with open mic poets, coincidentally (or not, who knows what forces are out there) in the first half all veterans, but not included in this anthology. Bob Silverberg is a World War II vet who lives on Cape Cod & was given extra time for his effort of coming this way. "Okinawa 1945" describes the bodies of a family outside the doorway of their home, "collateral damage," as the press likes to say today. "Numbers" describes the dilemma of how many flags to buy for a memorial in an ongoing war, & the impossible question, "Which War Were You In?" He ended with a message to the President, "Don't Look Don't See."
W.D. Clarke has been a regular at Caffe Lena, & made the trip down to share his experiences of visiting "Normandy," then a tribute to "The Nurses," & his visits from his buddies as "The Night-time Army."
We needed the humorous -- nay, hysterical -- break of Ron Whiteurs' "Lumber Jack Love," with sawdust in his underwear, & his vaudeville-like title card on the music stand. He also mentioned that he was veteran.
Dayl Wise started off the feature section with a poem from the anthology by Jose Vasquez, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, "Among the Machines."
Bob Lusk followed with banjo, with "White Crosses" (remember the 1960's "ticky-tacky houses song"?), then with guitar on Johnny Cash's talking blues about going to play music in Viet Nam, then ended with a song about being tired & weary working for peace -- but keeping on. Jay Wenk & Dayl called him back & presented him with a certificate from Veterans For Peace for his work with the Kingston Mall counter-recruiters.
Fred Nagel video-taped the event & read 2 of his poems from the anthology, "The Pilot's Song" & "War of the Ants."
Marc Levy, Dayl's one-time Brooklyn roommate, came over from Gloucester & read 2 graphic pieces with vivid, violent incidents in Viet Nam made all the more dramatic by his quiet, undemonstrative reading style.
Thomas Brinson was recently elected to the Veterans For Peace board; he read one piece from the book, "Valentines Day 1968" & and a new piece, "The Bone," about the B-1 bomber being the star attraction at an airshow at Jones Beach.
At some point Jim Murphy won't be able to assert "I'm an FNP (Fuckin' New Poet)" if keeps reading his fine work out. Also did "Scapular" going from altar boy to Viet Nam, then a poem responding as a REMF. Ending with a prose memoir, "Arnie's Song," a pet duck in Viet Nam.
Perennial trouble-maker Jay Wenk, another WWII vet, read a from The Nation about the suicide of a young Iraq War veteran, some pieces about poppies, a memoir of his service in Germany that he wrote last night, & his piece "Over There" from the book.
Larry Winters is the author of The Making and Un-Making of a Marine (Millrock Writers' Collective, 2007). He read poems not in the book, "The Soldier Inside Me," "Iraqi Blues," and "American" on our addictive consumerism.
My first poem I didn't have to read at all; instead, 6 members of the audience were coerced into reading "Why Are We Here?", I only had to do the intro & the last line (a collaborative poem based on interviews with vigiling peacemakers). Then I read from the book, my poem "A Pain in the Neck."
Dayl Wise concluded the feature part of the reading with his moving "Room 304" which is in the book, and "Stop Round Eyes or I Will Bite."
Phillip continued the open mic, bringing up Bruce Weber who read from "The Curious Journey of Belinda & Mark", and followed by Bruce's wife, Joanne Pagano Webe who continued the saga, reading in her finest "BBC accent."
Alison Koffler, who had been taking photos all afternoon, read her poem "Late August".
Our host Phillip Levine ended the afternoon with his marvelous short piece, "Thread."
It was quite an afternoon of poetry, memories, activism & comrade-ship. Copies of Post Traumatic Press 2007: poems by veterans are available by mail by sending a check for $15 (made out to "VFP Catskill Mountain Chapter 058") to Post Traumatic Press, Dayl Wise, Editor, 104 Orchard Lane North, Woodstock, NY 12498. Copies are available at the Borders on Wolf Rd. in Albany. I also have copies for anyone local for $12; email me to arrange it.
Woodstock Poetry Society (http://www.woodstockpoetry.com), 2nd Saturdays, 2PM, Woodstock Town Hall, features & an open mic.