July 13, 2012

Caffè Lena Open Mic, July 11

Usually held on the first Wednesday of the month, this event was moved to the second Wednesday due to the 4th of July/Independence Day holiday last week. Carol Graser is the host & started us off with Carl Sandburg's poem "Backyard."

Carolee Sherwood began the open mic portion with an old poem, "How the Body Decomposes" & a new poem from last week, "Independence."  Nancy Denofio was able to endure through her poems with laryngitis, a portrait of a person in "Congress Park," then a poem about fake tears at a wake, then stretched the 2-poem rule with "a 2-line poem." Carl Dana brought some levity in rhyme with "My Immortality" (for his children & grandchildren), then a poem for his grandchildren, "You Can't Say Don't or Can't to an Elephant." Joe Mangini read a memoir of his youth about the waters of Saratoga.

As has been the pattern here in the last year or so, there were 2 featured poets & first up was Capital Region regular Jill Crammond, looking stunning, from her feet in just-bought Saratoga golden slippers to the top of her head (her hair was perfect!). Her poems were a grand stroll through the land of being a single Mom exploring the world of dating & love, with nary an appearance of the ironic perfect wife persona, June Cleaver. She began with 2 poems for her son, then read the poem recently published in Fire On Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry (Two Sylvias Press) "All the Pretty Mothers." "Slipping into the Costume" was about the roles women play, while "Chinese Fortune #1" played off clichés. Some of her long titles can be short poems in themselves, sometimes too long for me to get it all, but I tried. For example there was "After the Husband & the String of Pearls the String of Dates," & on a similar theme the anaphoric, "St. Monica Defends Her Decision to Elope with an Unsuitable Boy" ("because…"). These did lead to a love poem, "Bedroom Triptych." Bringing us full circle she ended with another poem to her son, the tender, loving "What Divorce Moms Say to their Sons Who Remind Them of Their Ex-Husband." A real pleasure to behold & to hear.

On a different note, but also entertaining was the Syracuse poet Martin Willets, who began with a poem with local connections, "Maple & Cedar" on Georgia O'keefe at Lake George. Drawing on his life as a Quaker & as an American Friends Service Committee medic in Viet Nam, he dealt with different wars in his poems "Smoke Signals" (on the Trail of Tears) & "How to Find Peace" based on the painting "The Peaceable Kingdom." His poems were generally philosophical, discursive, but occasionally launched into humor as in "How to Expose a Witch" from one of his many chapbook No Special Favors (Green Fuse Poetic Arts, 2012), or outright exuberance as in "Singing in the Apron of Stars" (waking the neighbors with his singing in his yard). He ended with a native story of the sweetness of love & strawberries. He has a new book Playing the Pauses in the Absence of Stars forthcoming from Main Street Rag.

Carol Graser took us back to the open mic with her poem about that rarely used household item, "The Ironing Board." Caffè Lena's own Sarah Craig began with a poem, "Summer Afternoon," that was an unplanned response to the earlier poem by Nancy Defoio. Jessie started with reading a poem, a room in his memory, then on to a Slam-style poem from memory on a Saturday AM hangover. One of Michael Rush's poems, "Dawn's Early Light," has a chilling image of a woman with a knife standing by his bed. Tess Lecuyer celebrated gastronomic delights, first with the food poem "What Riches" then with 5 "Coffee Loving Haikus." I followed with the recent "Transits," a poem about points of view then the dream poem with the Saratoga setting, "This Dream is Not About You."

Andrew Sullivan began with a love poem, then one with "frivolous profanity" about word-processing auto-corrections (Carol confirmed that "frivolous profanity" is certainly permitted here). Jeff Barnes read about Art in the poem "Conceptions" then read "As the Oceans Rise." Sally Rhoades was heading out this weekend to the Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma read for us her poems that had been accepted for the anthology celebrating the centennial of Woody's birth, "My Mother Was a Waitress" & "Battered Hurt Little Girl." Barbara Garro was the night's last poet with a poem contemplating "What is Real" & a family memoir, "Mom Vesuvius."

Always an interesting open mic & excellent featured poets at the monthly open mic at Caffe Lena, Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, NY.

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