September 13, 2008

Yo-yo-ing on the Northway, September 11

Actually quite a wonderful night, up & down the Northway between Albany & Saratoga Springs, like Benny Profane on the Times Square Shuttle (cf. V by Thomas Pynchon). I went up to see/hear Jay Rogoff read at the Skidmore College Surrey Williamson Inn to a packed audience of Skiddies & Saratoga poets & faculty & staff.

Back in July I attended a reading in the Writers Institute Summer Program with poet James Logenbach & his wife Joanna Scott. I never wrote about that reading but if I had I would have commented on Bob Boyer's introductions of the writers to the effect that I am content to be an unknown, street poet because I would never want to become famous enough to read at a program at Skidmore & have Boyers introduce me -- I'd rather die in obscurity (& certainly will). His carefully crafted comments show a familiarity with the writer's books, at least his/her most recent (or most notorious) work, but are often long, both in time & on self-conciously clever praise. I'm waiting for the day for the guest poet to say, "Thanks Bob for making my ass all wet & cushy, now, in the time left, I have this one poem to read."

Jay Rogoff, who teaches at Skidmore, read mostly from his new book of poems, The Long Fault (Louisiana State University Press). At the beginning he commented that "a poet has to have some responsibility for the world at large." His poem are carefully, artfully crafted, sometimes in forms (rhyme, half-rhyme, counted syllables, even in Alcaeics -- sending me back to my Greek texts), sometimes in more open forms. Poems not from the book included a new sequence he is working on, "Enamel Eyes," about French ballet in 1870 (he is the dance critic for the Saratogian during the summer season at SPAC), & a series of short poems growing out of poems to his wife. I was amused by "Jane Austen Inventor of Baseball," & touched by his elegy to A.R. Ammons, "A Break Down," "Memorial Chapel" & "Poets Park Mexico DF."

Afterwards, at the reception I ran into a tender poet I'd heard read at Caffè Lena, Yvette Brown, then said good bye to my friend, & headed down the long, dark highway, under a dappled moon, to Justin's on Lark St., back in Albany. Of course I found a parking spot right in front (this ain't New York you know) & caught 2½ sets by the singer/poet/chef/artist Nicole Peyrafitte & bassist Mike Bisio. I found a seat with Krausman & reveled in French torch songs, classics such as "Autumn Leaves" (lyrics by Jacques Prévert), Edith Piaf ("La vie en rose," "Non, je ne regrette rien"), poems by Arab poets, Nicole herself, & Pierre Joris. Check out her website www.nicolepeyrafitte.com.

Mike Bisio is the acrobatic white son of Mingus, as much fun to watch as to listen to -- I tried to imagine the calligraphy the end of his bow would make if dipped in ink, the pizzicato punctuation of his fingertips -- he can make that big thing weep & sing. His CD Sideways (with Bob Gluck on piano & Dean Sharp, drums) is from www.fmr-records.com.

& then Nicole ended her performance with "Just a Boy" & the line that tied up the night for me: "the greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love & to be loved in return."

That same dappled moon followed me home.