September 29, 2008

Jawbone, September 26

This is a long-running series of readings run by grad students at the University at Albany (SUNY) English Department. In fact, my very first featured reading many years ago, at about 40 years old, was in this Jawbone series soon after I moved back up here from NYC. At that time the readings were held up on the University campus; in recent years it has moved downtown to various venues -- the Fuze Box, Red Square. Since last year the art hotspot on Lark St., the UAG Gallery, has been the host site, the series' best location yet. And since then Albany Poets has become a partner in organizing the readings.

Tonight's host was Mary Panza, keeping order.

Cara Benson, a recent grad of Goddard College's MFA program, is the editor of http://www.necessetics.com/sousrature.html. She read a couple of very different long pieces, but started off with a poem, "What does It Mean to Say Forever?" based on a line from Neruda. "The First Person" was just that, a long automatic writing exercise (read too fast) talking about herself, everything from peeing in the shower to Mexico, to "I order out loud in restaurants" (don't we all? pee in the shower too). Her second long piece, starting with a quote from poet Brenda Hillman, was as random as the "I" poem but harder to follow, read in various voices, & she got tangled up in the pages a couple times.


Cheryl A. Rice is the poetry diva of Kingston & a recent refugee from world of Verizon. Her work is less random, about recognizable events in her life. She read from a couple early chapbooks, Egypt (Flying Monkey Press) & A Thousand Candy Vaginas (Palaver Press). She ponders such things as what a Scotsman wears under his kilt, & the cultural collapse of Whitman's America. At a poetry reading she fantasizes "Taking Off Billy Collins' Clothes." And her poem "Common Breath" (also about a poetry reading) contained my favorite line of the night: "Kingston is my Paris." I like how she writes about the work place, including "Mr. Frarely" & the sad danish of "Remembrance;" & she is the only poet I know who has written about someone's MySpace site.

The contrasting styles of the poets made for a most pleasant evening of poetry. There are more events coming up, so for a full schedule go to www.albanypoets.com, or www.albany.edu/english/jawbone.html. & free coffee from Scratch Bakery-Cafe, 452 Madison Ave.

(photo of Cara Benson at Point 5, Albany, 10/6/07; photo of Cheryl A. Rice at Cafe Web, Albany, 2/17/00)