February 21, 2009

Third Thursday Poetry Night, February 19

Tonight's muse was the great Beat poet of San Francisco, Bob Kaufman, & we had a full house at the Social Justice Center.

As I was setting, up a group of young women came to the Center from Equinox up Central Ave., wanting to see what was happening. So when we started I introduced their counselor (they had an 8:00 curfew & had to leave right away), Amanda, who introduced the young poet, Sanaya; she performed from memory a hi-hop style poem of love lost, "Mystery." Like watching your child's first steps, it is always great to hear a poet at the beginning of her career -- & I hope to hear her again.

Another first timer tonight, Lauren, read her take on "Beauty & the Beast" (2 rhymers in a row). Tim Verhaegen read a rant on the politics of race & gender "Come Out with Your Hands on Your Head You're Surrounded." Josh McIntyre's pun "Plane Thoughts" pondered air travel. Traveling up from the Catskills, Georganna Millman brought the printer's proof of her new book (with a blurb from Jay Rogoff, our featured poet) but read something new, "Dogtown, Saving the Micael Vick Dogs" about loving her dogs as a form of prayer.

Jan Tramontano read a poem she had skipped last week when she featured at the GLCC, based on 3 photos by Jim Flosdorf, "Inspired by Relections" (perhaps, she said, an outline for a bad movie). Bob Sharkey read a poem on the election of Barack Obama, which he (& many others of us) thought he would never see, "That One."

Our featured poet, Jay Rogoff, does a good job of varying the poems in his readings, but the ones repeated are always happy choices. Tonight he read mostly from The Long Fault(Louisiana State University Press, 2008) beginning with the first poem, "Cain's Gift" & ended with the last poem "Poet's Park, Mexico DF," which I think is always a perfect ending to his readings. In between he read "Sublimated" on the second shuttle disaster, "Book Burning," the popular, funny "The Guy Who Passed Me Doing 90 MPH & Playing the Trumpet," "Flemish Adorations" (he commented that "everyone in Belgium looks like they came out of a 15th century painting"), the innovative high/low culture of "Jane Austen, Inventor of Baseball," "Absorption" on Mark Rothko's canvasses, & one of my favorites "Memorial Chapel." In between he read short recent poems on social justice with his wife playing a role in each: "Alchemy," the theological "The Good Death" with his wife's comments on art, & "At the War Museum" in London. I saw a number of nodding heads, smiling faces, the softly uttered "yes" at the end of poems so I know I wasn't the only one here tonight who enjoyed his pleasant, intelligent reading.

After the break I read my "white man's appreciation" poem "Africa" on the drifting continents. Then Gene Damm did a piece based on the Bible story "Susanna." Joe Krasuman just retitled his comedic brain-surgery poem "Silver Haddock," thus a poem in "regress" being re-written here tonight. Sylvia Barnard's poem "Beyond Babylon" was based on an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, & not so academic I thought.

In spite of (or because of) the voluminous publications of Alan Catlin he also has a history of winning contests with publications that then fold. He read a Bob Dylan referenced "When He Calls You Now" from the now-defunct Suffering Bastards. Don Levy returned to the theme of the new president, with "The Inauguration Poem I Never Got to Read." Kristen Day defined what is meant by "State Worker-ish."

Alan Casline, publisher of Benevolent Bird Press ("I made this book"), read a meditation on energy & entropy with lists of everyday things, "My Soul & I." Moses Kash III's poem written last week was based on the hymn "When Jesus Walks." The final poet for the night, R.M. Engelhardt, described his new book Versus as an "experimental book of poetry," thus no title-page, etc. & read "something entirely different" from it: "More Than."

We're here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, every third Thursday, with an open mic (one poem!) & a featured poet -- no one gets turned away if they don't have the $3 donation.