April 19, 2011

Smith's Tavern 2011 Poet Laureate Contest, April 17

A fitting end to a poetry weekend to crown a poet's head with laurel. This is the second year of this event, organized by the Sunday 4 Poetry Open Mic gang: Dennis Sullivan, Mike Burke & Edie Abrams, & with the backing of Jon McClelland & John Mellen of Smith's Tavern in Voorheesville, NY.

A well-organized event with criteria, line limits & judges (Paul Amidon, Barbara Vink - the reigning 2010 poet laureate, Tim Verhaegen, & Suzanne Fisher), the competition is limited to 20 contestants, who must provide copies of their poems to the judges, with the final scores tabulated independently by Georgia Gray. Today there were 15 actual contestants; 19 had signed up & 4 were unable to attend. The readings were in 3 rounds with the order of the poets different for each round. There was even a special placemat with a contest to identify quotes by famous poets.

I was pleased & surprised to run into a couple poets from the past who were contestants. I knew Michael Rutherford when we were students at SUNY Albany, & he actually read "For Patricia" from his chapbook Meat is my Business (The Conspiracy Press, 1973). & I shared a pizza & wings with Scott Knox whose work is in Open Mic: the Albany Anthology (Hudson Valley Writers Guild, 1994); his poems today had some interesting uses of rhyme & rhythm. I recognized a couple poems that poets had tried out yesterday at WordFest, notably Stephen Leslie's "Ornamental Cherry Tree" & his "Omega Retreat" haibun, & Therese Broderick's "Ivory" -- a good idea to do a public practice before the big event.

In fact, 7 of the poets competing today read at WordFest yesterday. One of those was Danielle Charlestin (D. Colin), with her poem "Inauguration" with love in political terms. Among other things Frank Robinson gave us the history of mankind in his poem "We." Carolee Sherwood's poems included the urban "Apiary" & others to be found on her Blog. Bob Sharkey 's poems also were nothing like he did at WordFest, comfortable I guess in the variety of his work. I had missed Howard Kogan at WordFest, but here he kept us laughing & thinking with his relaxed style.

Tom Corrado included selections from his "A History of the World in 4-Line Feeds," among other pieces. Rachael Ikins's poems were about encounters in airports & Farm stands. Susan Oringel ranged from humor to memoir to Garcia Lorca. Melinda Perrin started with a poem in dialect & ended with the tear-raising "Arlington." Marilyn Paarlberg worked on memorizing her poems, & survived a judges' mix-up of the order of her poems. & Mark O'Brien had a selection of the fine poems we've heard at the monthly gathering at the Old Songs Community Center.

So when the dust had settled, the beers quaffed, the food consumed, the poems digested & scored, the new Smith's Tavern Poet Laureate for 2011 Howard Kogan was crowned with laurel by last year's winner, Barbara Vink, & honors bestowed upon the first runner up, Marilyn Paarlberg & the honorable mention of Mark O'Brien. Long Live Pizza & the Poet Laureate!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice job on this, Dan.