June 20, 2010

Woodstock Poetry Society, June 12

The usual host of this monthly reading & open mic is Phillip Levine. But he asked me to be the host this day so he could attend his daughter's ballet recital. I once had those days too, with ballet recitals, performances, even a few Irish step-dancing feises thrown in, so I was glad to fill in for Phillip. There were 2 featured poets (as there characteristically are) & a cluster of open mic poets, for a wonderful afternoon in sunny Woodstock.

Trina Porte started us off with "a wood's poem", "As Big as My Hand" then took us to "The Library." Micky Shorr noted the approach of Father's Day & read "Family Bond" about her not-nice father, then, to give equal time, a poem on her mother's lies, "Change in Appearance." Apparently Angela Kozlakowska's mother was a bit nicer, based on "Hand Made," then read "On Guard."

The first featured poet, Joan I. Siegel began by evoking Lucille Clifton with Clifton's poem for the children of war, "Sorrow Song." Then Joan began with a series of her own political poems: "Unspeakable" (on the futility of trying to describe the horrors of war), "Child Bride," "Soap" (World War II), one on Sudanese boys ending up refugees in Fargo, ND, & "Searching for Bin Laden." The rest of her poems were from her 2009 collection, Hyacinth for the Soul (Deerbrook Editions). The poems included memories of the Bronx, about her sister ("Space Time Travel" & the pantoum "The Horse"), "How We Look After Each Other" & "Sleep Walker" (her father's Alzheimer). Then "On the Sudden Death of a Friend" & how the generations connect (& break) in "Daughters." The best deal of the day was buying Hyacinth for the Soul & getting a copy of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter with poems by Joan & by her husband Joel Soloche (Poetworks/Grayson Books).

Mary Makofske was the second featured poet, beginning with some older poems, included in The Disappearance of Gargoyles (Thorntree) & in the chapbook Eating Nasturtiums (Flume Press). These included "Teaching English," "Retreat" (in short, haiku-like stanzas), a poem in the persona & voice of a vampire, one on the moon as a vacation place, & one from a real vacation, "In Switzerland." She explored the aesthetics & politics of food in "Eating Nasturtiums" & "Slow Food." "A Personal History of the Early Fifties" explored the language of the time in sestina form, perfect for the twists & ironies of the politics & words; while "Emergencies Too Slow to See" explored different political issues. She ended with what she described as newer poems, "Out of Hate County," & "In an Unnamed Country." Sometimes the work of wonderful poets is hidden away in anthologies & scattered about in far-flung poetry journals. Look for her work.

After the break I tried out my new poem from the Provincetown Art Museum, "The Easel's Story" (based on an exhibit of paintings by Robert Fisher). Christina Turczyn's marvelous poem, "I Walked a Poem in Passaic" was filled with details of a stroll through the city, & equally vivid images in precise details were in "Winter Morning in Montclair" based on a painting by George Inness. The last poet was an ubiquitous area writer, this time signed up as "Hank Fellows" who did 2 pieces, one in the voice of a woman from "Visions of Mexico," a book he is working on, the other a moving rant by a guy, this one from the series "At the VA Hospital."

For me this was only the first stop on a busy afternoon of poetry. But it was a wonderful afternoon filled with good work, good performances. A quick beer in Woodstock, then on the road to New Paltz for part 2.

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