March 26, 2011

St. Rose Grad Students' Reading, March 25

This was the 2nd annual student-run reading series being held at the UAG Gallery on Lark St. This was the "poetry night" re-scheduled from earlier in the year due to Winter's wrath, with another short-fiction reading scheduled. This was also the first reading of the Carolee Sherwood Poetry Weekend -- she is reading on Sunday, March 27 at the Sunday Four Poetry series. It wasn't supposed to be this way, but, again, it was Winter picking on Carolee, as it has all season, by having to re-schedule to this same weekend as her other reading.  The series is coordinated by & hosted by Jennifer Austin.

Each poet did about 10 to 15 minutes of reading, with a great variety of voices & styles. First up was Carolee Sherwood with a good selection of new poems & some favs she has read before, with her themes of relationships, Winter & pop culture. She began with "Every Evening After a Whole Lot of Same," then read what she called her first work poem, " At Starbucks Waiting for Spring." Then on to more "weather poems," "The Way to the Storm (after W.S. Merwin)" & a poem to Summer, "Dissolution." In "Dear Reader" she referenced a common Billy Collins technique of addressing the reader. The next 2 poems both contained dead deer in one form or another, "Scenes from an X-File On a Wife Who Didn't Really Die" & "Madness." "Dwindling," which I think was set in Oregon, also contained images from TV & pop culture. She ended with more love & weather, this time a tornado, in "Surrender Dorothy."

The centerpiece of William Rodden's reading was a long "love-poem about America," political, humorous, expansive in the style of Whitman & Ginsberg, "America Needs Knitters" (& this day is the 100th year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in NYC) which also elicited rare applause for an individual poem (I've noticed that people at academic-sponsored readings don't usually applaud poems). He also read a 2-part poem "Tristan & Isolde," and a love poem "Dervish" & ended with another short poem.

Two redheads in one night is almost more than I can stand. Mary Catherine Owen began with a funny, "sappy" love poem, "Sestina for an Unrequited Love." Many of her other poems were quite short, "Five Lines on Impatience," "Samantha," "After Nap Time," & the acerbic "To the Girls in My Hall." She created a poem, "Dear Lady," out of letter from Marlon Brando to a stewardess. "Elegy for Chris & Maddie" grew out of her experience working with young children, & the amusing poem "Premise" was linked together with the recurring "if… then…" She ended as she began with a formal poem, this a "Senryu," a series of linked sarcastic, humous haiku, "Senryu on Why I Suck."

The final reader was not a grad student but their professor, Barbara Ungar, reading from her new book of poems Charlotte Brontë, You Ruined My Life (The Word Works, 2011). She began with the moving poem [that's a pun] "Unpacking," then onto the book's title poem that is addressed to the reader. "Rosemary's Divorce" was based on one of my favorite movies, Rosemary's Baby, & on a similar theme, "Why Don't They Just Drop Dead" was to her ex-husbands. "Against Disneyland" was about her idea of Hell as a kid, while "Rescue" also dealt with a different Hell. Also from her youth was a description of her "Moccasins." "Recipe For a Long Happy Marriage" was just that, complete with cooking terms. She returned to the Brontë family with "Only Emily," then ended with the self-affirming poem in praise of herself "Torch Song."

Though not well-publicized, this reading was very well attended, not just by St. Rose students & faculty but by many community poets as well, with extra chairs needed for late arrivals. The UAG Gallery has become more than just a place to hang paintings, with regular sessions of experimental music & the occasional poetry reading as well. Check it out on Lark St. in Albany, NY.

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