May 16, 2008

Caffé Lena, May 7

[Featured poet Carolyn Forché reading at the College of St. Rose in Albany, September, 2004.]

The place was packed for the featured poet, Carolyn Forche. Many of those here were her students at Skidmore College, maybe some will come back again. Our host, Carol Graser, began by reading Yassin Aref's "Jail" -- find it at

Alan Catlin took the bus, did a poem about the work of "War Reporters." Fittingly (& quite by chance) I read my poem from 2 newspaper stories, "Secrecy Guards Oldest Pine as Town Mourns School Killings Family Urges Kindness."

Another Alan, Alan Casline read his poem on fellow poet's Dennis Sullivan's poem "Family" (wish Dennis had been there to read his poem). Nora Nellis read "Home Free" about her experience with breast cancer & "This Could Have Been Any Party" after her son's funeral.

Absent for a while, Mary Kathryn Jablonski read a recent poem about a fever where her refrigerator talks to her in Spanish, & "Since Last We Were We" from her forthcoming chapbook.

Mimi Moriarty's recent work in progress was a "Litany" with humor; then George Fisher kept the god-theme going with a couple poems.

I've been an admirer of Carolyn Forché's work for years, have seen her read a number of times, even reviewed (most favorably) her anthology Against Forgetting at the Albany Public Library. This was perhaps the best reading I've heard her give. Being in the company of her students, or the great community of poets that Carol brings in to Caffè Lena, or perhaps just the end of the semester & on to new duties made her relax, not having to impress the professors, & left us breathless. "The Victor" & "The Colonel" were the old chestnuts we like to hear, followed by new poems not in a book yet, some I heard her read at the Split this Rock Poetry Festival in March (see my Blog entry below on this event). "Exile," "The Museum of Stones," (can be found in the Beloit Poetry Journal), a couple poems for poet Daniel Simco: "The Lost Suitcase" & "Litany in Krakow" (marvelous phrasing, "the no of ..., the yes of ..."), & a couple of cancer poems, "The Bridge," for a friend, & "What Comes" for herself (& us, I suppose). We're looking forward to that next book.

After the break, Carol Graser read an untitled blank verse sonnet about a car salesman -- you had to be there. Marilyn McCabe read "Within Without", then Mary Sanders Shartle a long poem on arrhythmia.

Liam didn't read his poem from a napkin as he's done before, instead a journal entry from his trip to India. Olivia had gone away to school & now is back, for a while, read a love poem & a dream poem; that's what we poets do: love & dream.

Susan Fantl Spivack is not here often (too bad); she read "My Dad's Treasures" from a series about the death of her father, & a poem about grass holding the land -- she would be a great feature here sometime. Gene Damm, who knows Carolyn from the summer programs at Skidmore run by the Writers Institute, read a poem about this father, "The Great Authority," & another about being at a Navaho reservation.

Tom Porter's poem was a love poem, the lovers as 2 rivers in Ireland. James Schlett got nostalgic in Central Park, then meditated at Potash Lake. Andy I. (I never checked the sign-up sheet so I'm not sure I got her name correct) read "Queen of Queens," & the Sylvia Plath-inspired "Epilogue," both filled with youthful enthusiasm & fantastical images.

Therese Broderick's carefully crafted villanelle told the story of being in the bank on September 11, 2001. Marty Willow, passing through again, did rhymes on "America Generica," & an "Ode to the Easily Offended."

I had a hard time understanding Effie Redman's reading of her poem, but admired her presence; see Karin M.T.'s Blog at for her comments which I won't attempt to paraphrase. Perhaps the lesson is you need to do what you feel you must do & just let the rest of the world deal with it.

Nick Muscatello brought it all home with a couple poems from memory, some early AM sex ("A Moment of Lucidity") & one about tripping in NYC (I think).

Open Mic, featured poets from everywhere, historical setting, parking, good coffee & cookies, every first Wednesday, Caffè Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 7:00 PM sign-up, 7:30 start -- cheap too.