March 9, 2009

Caffè Lena, March 4

With our host Carol Graser starting us off with with a poem, "Of Gravity & Will," by Jennifer Sweeney (how many poems do you know about gravity?).

Now I had arrived sometime between 7:15 & 7:30 with about 6 or 8 people already signed up, but #1 was blank, so there I was, so I began with a poem for St. Paddy's day from my chapbook Ireland (out of print) "Brigit" (or is that "Brigid"?). Rachel (who may have been new here) read 2 poems for friends. Tim Verhaegen read his "East Hampton" memories poem, then his retitled rant on politics, race & gender, now called "Alone."

Sue Jefts usually does poems on being out in the woods, instead started off with a nifty piece on Kerouac & Zen from the New York Public Library, "The Eager Breath," followed by a more characteristic walk along the Hudson River. Ryan Crotty recited a ballad from W.S. Gilbert (on cannibalism) & W.D. Clarke followed with a ballad of his own, a World War II tale of "The Canadians & the Australians." George Fisher read 2 poems written while on the train to NYC along the Hudson River (again).

Tonight's featured poet was Nancy White, from Adirondack Community College. She began with 2 sap (not sappy) poems, one a tribute to Spring, the other, "Sugar," memories of boiling sap. She has written a series of poem of "farm voices," appropriating stories she has heard, & from these she read "Hers" (a grandmother's tales), & "Yes No." The voices of women & girls & the stories they tell were the basis of many of her poems, including the "Dolls" (which she said she is still working on but couldn't resist reading), starting with a voodoo doll & molestation & ending with a gentler image of a baby doll in a child's arms. She described a project of "divorce poems" with another poet like a couple of witches cackling over spells. She ended with a motherhood poem, "Coracle" & then "Woven & Sewn."

Continuing on with the open mic, there were a number of 1st-time Caffe Lena readers, including Carol Kenyon, with a tribute to Yaddo, & "Cheap Speak." There were a lot of people on the sign-up sheet & Carol asked folks to read a couple short poems, or one long one, defined as about 2 pages. This is a good, tried-&-true way to keep the night rolling & insure an audience for those at the bottom of the list. Nancy Denofio began with a pleasant poem about a white butterfly & dancing with a daisy ("You Asked Me to Dance"), but then went on to read a longer, more wordy piece & lost me. (Advice to new readers: read the shorter poem last, or, better yet, just read your best one.)


Another new reader to Lena's, Brigid Schmidt, did just that: read one good poem, "The Secret of Blue, for Sarah," about & to her daughter, in the Adirondacks together.

"The Man So Complex You Would Think Him a Poet" (otherwise known as Richard Cowles) did a couple of short pieces, the last on tree-hugging out of fear of heights. Rachel Manelly's poems were both notebook musing on writing & being a poet, & she gets the prize for the best earrings of the night.

The youngest poets of the night were 2 brothers, the first, Hopper, read funny, creepy poems about the figure of Death & about a Fat Man. His younger brother, Zephyr (must be hippy parents), was even funnier & creepier & got the prize for the most-recently-written poem, "A Wise Man Once Said," written "10 minutes ago." They make a great tag-team.

Dan Stalter read (yes, read, he usually does his from memory) "No We Can't," his imagined John McCain concession speech. Josh McIntyre did just one short poem (it's always best leaving the audience wanting more) on the deconstruction of Nothing, "Post-Modern Post-Mortem." Glenn Witecki did a poem & a half: a just-started, untitled rhyme, & another rhyme from memory about turning 50. James Schlett's short, gentle poems get right to the point, "Clean Slate" (walking through Albany's Washington Park), & "Stay" on the changes in his life in mid-Winter, including a new job.

Still another first-timer tonight, Sean Matthews, even wearing "the obligatory black turtle-neck" (as did at least one other poet tonight), read 2 poems from his experiences living in the harsh weather of Montana. Barbara Garro succumbed to alliteration with "Melancholy Meanderings" & "Rogues on Roads." Corlis Carol was back from Maine & broke Carol's rule with a long, long "Dance with the Muse," then a 20th anniversary love poem.

Martin Willow passes through on business sometimes, said he has a new book out, Secrets of Chatauqua, available from Amazon, but he read 2 poems about Lake Chautauqua (from a new collection), "Ice Monsters," & one about a warmer day on the boat, as it was supposed to be. I realize that the poet known as Mona Lisa was last, waiting all night to read, but a 5-page long poem, & then begging for a second alleged "short" poem (that seemed about a page in length) was just too much & she lost not only me but probably everyone else who was left in the house -- mercy, mercy, please!.

But the night was still another great example of how fine this open mic is, drawing not only local & regional poets but folks passing through. Every 1st Wednesday, Caffè Lena (& finally the accents -- "è" -- are all going the same way on the flyers) on Phila St., Saratoga Springs.

And check out the monster Poetry Festival coming up all day on Holy Saturday, April 11.