Our wonderfully relaxed host, Carol Graser, started us off with Stephen Dobyns' "Why Fool Around," then on to the open mic, to fool around or not.
Rapper Chazee (not sure I got the spelling) started us off with "Last Hope;" good to hear some hip-hop in the mix tonight. Carol Kenyon was back, with "Amelia By the Sea" about my favorite place, Cape Ann. Alan Catlin read "Near Death in the Afternoon on Becker St.," the title poem from a new book currently in production, then a poem about "Ericka from Far Rockaway" & 9/11 & the Queens airliner crash.
David Mook's poems started with disasters on this planet, then pondered things cosmically in "The Descent of Man." George Fisher's poems were gritty working-class stories of students in the ghetto ("Portrait") & "Ribs" that described working in a meat-packing plant, with a touch of the biblical. Melinda Perrin was new here, & read peace poems about Aung San Suu Kyi ("Vigil") & closer to home about Jikonsaseh, the Seneca Mother of Nations.
Tonight's featured poet was Stuart Bartow, a regional poet that we don't see out at readings. He read a selection of poems that fit loosely with the theme of Halloween, including watching the old movie "The Ghost & Mrs. Muir" with a friend (& mis-remembering it), "Better Ghost;" "Frankenstein, Unfinished;" & remembering black & white TV movies in "Karloff's Mummy" (he also read "Nephrititi's Mummy"). "Centaurs" was about night-riding horses as a kid (& available as a broadside if you purchased his book Reasons to Hate the Sky (WordTech Editions, 2008)). Other poems referenced Borges, Graves' The White Goddess (one of my touchstones I need to get back to), & Einstein in a poem on a lawn. I'm not a big fan of cat poems, but that's because such poems are usually about the poet's pet; Bartow said he liked cats, but his "The Ninth Cat" was about feral cats & so it escaped cloying sentimentality.
Our host, Carol Graser, read a tribute, in sestina form, to the frequently-arrested peace-activist Linda LeTendre, "Change" (keep at it Linda). W.D. Clarke read a funny story in ballad form he heard from his great-uncle, "The Collector," about a panty thief. In my notes next to the entry about Marilyn McCabe's poem "Wasp Nest" I wrote "Vallejo" so she must've have referenced the work of the great Peruvian poet, César Vallejo.
Todd Fabozzi read "Black Gold" & "The Levee of Indifference" from his book Umbrageous Embers (The Troy Book Makers, 2008). Bob Sharkey read a poem in which he combined a great blue heron, lace curtains & a circus fire (hey, that's what poetry does), then "All for the Masses" that he's been reading around, al-Queda at Hoffman's Playland.
Ellen (who probably has a last name but I didn't catch it) read "The Man in the Moon" which was not a night sky poem at all. James Schlett is generally a quiet poet so he read an excerpt from a letter to a friend about the quiet within, then "Relief" on another form of quiet, read quietly, of course. In honor of our featured poet (who didn't read that many "nature" poems anyway), I read "(How I'm doing my part to) Preserve the Adirondacks" & my urban nature poem "The Lilacs." Thérèse Broderick finished the night with a poem about Austin, Texas, "City Limits" (not a bad town for poets: I was there once for 4 days & found 2 poetry open mics).
Another wonderful night of community poetry at Caffè Lena. But it seems to be phenomena of these poetry readings that when a professor-poet reads (Stuart Bartow teaches at Adirondack Community College), his/her colleagues who come to hear them read, leave after the break as if they could only tolerate the open mic poets in the beginning because they were waiting to hear their friend read. This happens all the time here & tonight was no exception. To Stuart Bartow's everlasting credit he stayed to the end even though his buddies escaped as soon as they could. But the community poets stayed, & I guess that's what matters.
Every 1st Wednesday at historic Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY -- come & read.