April 22, 2011

Poetry Reading at Arbor Hill Branch Library, April 20

This event was an "experiment" by the Friends of the Albany Public Library, the group that sponsors, among other events, the weekly Tuesday Noon-Time Book Reviews at the Albany Public Library Main Branch. This event was held at the wonderful new Arbor Hill Branch on Henry Johnson Boulevard, in Albany, NY. Gene Damm & Wille Mae Spencer shared the hosting, with a room full of folks to listen & some to read poetry.

Gene Damm started off with 2 poems of his own, "Shoes" & "Zoo Story." As the program progressed, some poets read before & after the featured poet, Nate Leslie.
So Jacqui Williams read Nikki Giovanni's poetic essay/manifesto "The Story-Teller's Silence," then later made us laugh with a "manifesto" of her own about all the parts of a man she likes, besides the penis. Penny Meachem first brought up an unfortunate (& brave) fellow from the audience to be the focus of her poem "Love Letter to an Angry Black Man;" later she did 2 more poems, one about "a chicken wing moment" with neighbor, the other titled "Jazz Blues." Mary Walters read a recently written piece, "Forgiveness," then later a poem by Maya Angelou.

Nate Leslie has a new book of poetry out, Small Cathedrals (WordTech Communications), a book of sonnets, from which he read "Wunderkind" (about his "exceptional" nephew), "A Cappella" (to his wife) & the tender "Violets" about picking flowers for his mother. He also read the grim "Elegy for Schultz" from his 2004 collection Egress, & one of the poem/letters from the 2007 Emma Saves Her Life (both from WordTech Communications). Nate teaches in the English Department at Siena College, & while his poems are decidedly well-crafted, they are certainly not "academic" & he fit right in with the open mic poets.

After Nate's reading, Ms. Spencer brought up her pastor to "bless the event," upon which the blessings of poetry had already fallen, as far as I was concerned. Kenneth Love had been Penny Meachem's foil earlier, but did a piece of his own, "Face Reality." I followed with my imagining of an alternative existence, "Oklahoma Sunday." It was at this point that the earlier poets came up to do their second pieces.

Described by Gene Damm as an "experiment" this event, in my opinion, was a fine success & I hope the Friends of the Albany Public Library will continue with more such community poetry readings in this, & maybe other, branch libraries.

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