October 9, 2009

Java Poets Reading, October 4

This was a reading by the "Java Poets Collective" for their anthology, Java Wednesdays (The Troy Book Makers) at Professor Java's Coffee Sanctuary on Wolf Rd. in Colonie. These 11 poets have been meeting monthly since they were in a poetry workshop with Cara Benson, sponsored by the NYS Writers Institute. They packed the back room at the coffee house, proving the old adage that "if your friends & relatives don't come to your readings, who will?"

Actually, if you went to the reading, there was little reason to buy the book, since the poets essentially read the poems they published in the book. There was no MC or host (Jan Tramontano did a general introduction) as each poet introduced the one following them. Many audience members in the hot & crowded back room used their copies of the anthology as a scorecard to keep track of not only who was coming up, but what the were reading.

I go to a lot of poetry readings & only 2 of the poets here today show up at local literary events with any kind of frequency (Jan Tramontano & Cara Benson). The topics of the poems were similarly limited, with lots of Nature poems, memories of childhood, church, & animal poems. The reading itself was over-loaded with animal poems, many not in the book, but read particularly at the end when patience & tolerance was ebbing. Perhaps it was a function of the age of the workshopers (most in the 50+ range) that there were few love poems & no sex poems; there was nary an urban poem & scant that played with language. Likewise, humor was a rare element. It was a very "safe" reading.  Groups like this tend to be insular, feeding upon themselves so that many of the poems tend to sound alike, the way people say owners tend to look like their dogs (or is that the other way around?).

These folks are to be commended for their persistence, but they need to branch out, read other poets (besides Mary Oliver, Ed Hirsch, Billy Collins, et al.), go to poetry readings, or even get real bold & attend one of the many poetry open mics in the region, i.e., get off the farm & come downtown. Workshops can be helpful to poets for a while, but, as John Steinbeck once said, "Beware of advice -- even this."
[There is a full gallery of photos from the reading at my Flickr! site.]

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