May 29, 2013

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, May 24

This is a sorta regular series in the non-snow months of the year at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, that brings in a featured poet & an open mic for the community poets. This night there was a full list of open mic poets as well as a number of just-listening audience members, with Alan Casline, the host, polling each reader for their astrological sign.

Given the title of this reading series I ransacked my list of poems looking for some "nature poems" & began with "How I'm Doing My Part to Preserve the Adirondacks" an urban older piece, then the much more recent, rural "Leprechaun's Cottage." It's funny how some people don't know their astrological sign, say "I'm on the cusp," but in fact your are either one or the other (we're talking Sun signs here, al la daily newspaper horoscopes), so Edie Abrams said she is either a Sagittarius or a Capricorn. She read 3 poems playing to one degree or another on her Jewish heritage, the tender "I Remember" about lighting the yahrzeit candles, then "My Night With Leonard Cohen," & another memory poem, "Day of Rest."

Bernadette Mayer, a Taurus, read a poem she said was so short she had to give it a long title. Obeeduid, a Pisces, read a trio of "big idea" poems, beginning with one about Jim Williams, "As a State of Being," then the hopeful "To What Warmth," & "The Power of Maintaining Life" pondering school shootings. Michael Conner, Sagittarius, read some nature poems, "Auto Moment" (about rain), the rhyming "Almost Spring," & "Post Peak" (Autumn). Phil Good read 2 short seasonal poems, "Above Average Temperature," & another on the confusion of the names of flowers.

The featured poet was Stephen Ellis who read long, philosophical pieces pondering the Big Questions in singularly un-poetic terms, often in what he aptly termed "second-rate abstractions." Obviously he was an Aquarius. The poems were titled "Poise," "Rebel Forces," "I Didn't Know," "Bunny Lake is Missing" (on movie themes, of course), & "God is My Girl Friend" (thinking about existence while in a tent), a notably undramatic reading.

Gene Damm, a Leo, read a couple poems from his travels in China, "Congee" (the pale, rice porridge), & "The Gingko Girl." Brian Dorn, another Sagittarius, read 3 rhyming poems, "Playing for Keeps," "Plain to See" (on subtle beauty), & the environmental "Another Step Forward." Joe Krausman, another Leo, read a poem about Mary Baker Eddy, & taking a shit, & a poem based on a New York Times obituary about a woman funeral director. Our host, Alan Casline, is a Taurus, read "Good-Bye Shadow Poet" (for Jim Williams), then "My Navajo Butterfly Song," & a short poem with the long title "Born Along by the Propitiousness of the Times."

The first Scorpio of the night, Alifair Skebe, made a rare open mic appearance & read a poem to her daughter, "The Writer, After Richard Wilbur's 'The Writer'" then another poem for her daughter, "A Life for a Life," & the simply stated "Spring." The only Virgo of the night A.C. Everson began with a poem on being wrong, "Probable Wonder," then 2 related poems written 10 years apart, on clouds & dragons in the sky, "Surprise Scene" & "Waking."

(left to right) C. Roohan, R. Mendoza
Robin Mendoza, another Scorpio, had popped up earlier in the month at Caffè Lena, began pulling poems from different pockets, first the descriptive "5 Girls," then from another pocket the strange, dream-like "Egg," & a poem about spending all night traveling around New York City, "Christ in the Wilderness." Then he joined his friend, the last reader, Conrad Roohan (a Pisces) in a dual voice reading in a stylized manner of what could've been a song lyric, or a parody of one, I wasn't sure.

This series continues roughly monthly on Fridays into November, at 6:30PM at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY, sponsored by Rootdrinker Institute, the Delmar Writers Group, & the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.

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