July 29, 2011

Poets in the Park, July 23

The third in this year's series, with 2 out-of-town poets, Alan Berecka from Corpus Christi, Texas & Rebecca Schumejda from Kingston (NY, that is).

I'd met Alan Berecka at this year's Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada, Oklahoma, but the connections to this area & this reading series are both personal & poetic/arcane. He grew up outside of Utica, for the personal, & his book Remembering the Body was published by Mongrel Empire Press out of Norman, Oklahoma by Jeanetta Mish, who once lived in this area, read her poetry here, & whose son Michael was born here. Alan started with a few poems from his earlier book, The Comic Flaw (NeoNuma Arts, 2010), beginning with some on the theme of the current heat wave, & his (over-read, so he said) "Pope poems" about being a student in Italy in the late 1970s in Italy, & touching/funny poems about his family, his father flipping the bird. Then on to work from Remembering the Body, narrative, meditative poems to his son, friends, his father ("What's Left"), a wise-ass (& sexy) response to Roethke, & particular favorites of mine "A Father's Confession" & "The Visit" (bringing the statue of Mary home). His poems tell good stories of family, religion & what really matters.

Rebecca Schumejda is a great friend of the Albany poetry scene, having been a featured reader here in many venues, including the Third Thursday Poetry Night, & has brought Albany poets down to the Half Moon Bookstore reading series she runs. She began with "Wedding Waltz" from Falling Forward (sunnyoutside press, 2008), then onto a selection of her gardening poems, some from The Map of Our Garden (verve bath press, 2009), other new ones on the gardening theme she is working on, such as the tender poem about her father & his ashes, "A Row for Sinners." The last issue of Chiron Review (really the last, since the venerable poetry rag has folded) included her poem "Plumbing" (interrupted here by the fire engines passing by). She described the new poems she read from a book she is working on as "depressing," but I found them, such as "The Deflowering Myth," like her earlier poems, to be tender, perhaps wistful, explorations of sex, family & relationships, sometimes sad, but certainly thoughtful.

It was a steamy night, but under the trees of Washington Park & the setting sun, it was quite a pleasant evening of the cool breeze of poetry & friendship. The series is co-sponsored by the Poetry Motel Foundation & the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.

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