May 6, 2010

Smith's Tavern Poet Laureate Contest, April 25

Those of you who know my cranky self know what I think of "poet laureates" & how we would be better off with global warming, nuclear war, or even the Rapture than with a Poet Laureate of (almost) anything. But I must humbly admit that a Poet Laureate of a (working class) bar with a designated "Poet's Corner" seems about the right kind of domain for such a dubious distinction fraught with contention & envy.
Smith's Tavern on Maple Ave. in Voorheesville, NY is where poets gather each month after the "Sunday Four Poetry" readings. The bar owners appreciate the poets so much that they have given us a designated "Poet's Corner" & hosted today's contest. A great business decision -- the back room was packed for over 4 hours, poets & poet's others drinking & eating all afternoon. The rules, which seem to have been issued by the Commissariat of Poesy (& were too complicated for me), were that to compete one had to sign up on March 31 & there was a 25 poet limit; each poet read in all 3 rounds, with poems of under 25, 35, 45 lines respectively (so they say) & the poets had to submit copies of their poems in advance to the judges. The actual number of poets who competed was 20 since there were a couple no-shows & apparently even some who didn't "qualify" for one reason or another.
The judges were Art Willis, Marilyn Paarlberg, Tom Corrado & Darcy Meacham Morrison, with Georgia Gray serving as scorekeeper. The hosts were Dennis Sullivan, Mike Burke & Edie Abrams (who introduced each poet). The poets read in different order in each round, selected in some random algorithmic throw of the dice in a battered hat scheme, & they were not allowed to do introductions.

The end result was that the readings progressed quickly, with a short break between the first 2 rounds & a 40-minute break before the final round. There were rhymes, Nature/Spring poems, humor, sex, love/not love, vegetable humor, politics, & mercifully few dog poems. There were familiar poets, some rarely seen, & new faces I would love to see more of at any of the local open mics.

The competing poets were Jill Wickham, Rachel Ikins, Philomena Moriarty, Tim Verhaegan, Mark O'Brien, Tim Lake, Barbara Vink, Alan Casline, Mimi Moriarty, Melinda Mackesey, Cathy Anderson, Joanne Lounsbury, Jim Williams, Carol Graser, Jason Crane, Larry Rapant, Howard Kogan, Carolee Sherwood, Michelle Przbylek, & Bob Sharkey.

It was only after the scoring was over that it occurred to me that it would be fun to have a pool of the audience on the winning poet (& a way to pay for lunch) -- it was the kind of thing where it was anyone's bet. But the winner, the Smith Tavern's Poet Laureate, was someone who could have secured that title without going through the bureaucratic rigamorole of the reading (but then we wouldn't have had so much fun). 
Barb Vink has been the Mother of the poetry scene in Voorheesville as long as I can remember, establishing the Everyother-Thursday-NIght Poets at the Voorheesville Public Library, coordinating & running other events there over the years, featuring at all the important venues in the area & more recently Blog-mistress. If anyone had asked me (but then, who did?) who should be the Poet Laureate of Smith's Tavern (hell, of Voorheesville), I would have cast an early vote for Barb Vink.

The second place was no surprise either: Carolee Sherwood has been overwhelming us locals with her poems at open mics as well as blasting cyberspace through Facebook & her website. Howard Kogan from Stephentown, NY was the third place winner; he confessed to this being his first time heading west into poetry country when I spoke to him during one of the breaks, one of a number of new voices that showed up to compete.

Congrats to Barb, Carollee & Howard -- & thanks to all the poets who competed for making
it so much fun on a Sunday afternoon -- as my First Sergeant once said, it was better than church.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This event was so well organized and run, not to mention its being such a success, that it would be mind-boggling if it was the one and only such contest at Smithy's Tavern. I'm already looking forward to next year. You're surely right about the business it brought the Tavern; the collection of chow-hounds that filled the back room were packing in the eats and guzzling the brew right from the beginning. I'm surprised nobody out in Voorheesville did a write-up of this. It was great. (Mimi Moriarty and Larry Rapant tied for fourth place.)
Paul A.