April 29, 2014

5th Annual Smith’s Tavern Poet Laureate Contest, April 27

I arrived late & missed the first round, but since this is not an elimination contest, I got to hear the poets I missed again, & again. This contest requires poets to read in 3 rounds, with different maximum line lengths for the poems in each round. The (unenviable) judges were Susan Oringel (head judge), Ron Pavoldi, Terry Rooney, & Scorekeeper Georgia Gray. The host & MC was the very-much-in-charge Edie Abrams, who between poets challenged us with poetry trivia questions while the judges pondered their scores.

The poets read in a different order in each round, but I’ll combine my summary for each poet. Mark O’Brien’s poems were about a schoolmate who died “Kenny” & a poem on family “Looking at the Table to Keep the Memory of it Living.” Robert Harlow was the last year’s Poet Laureate (I had missed this event last year) read 2 very similar poems about love & dancing, “Tango Lessons” & “Instruction Manual.” Karen Schoemer performed her poems from memory, but kept the texts at hand, about cars & the City “Studio City” & “Hotel Mirror.” Tom Corrado did numbers 54 & 10 from his chapbook Screen Dumps.

Larry Rapant likes to gross us out & did with a poem about shitting “Anal Clucking” & the outrageous list of qualities for his tombstone (which will have to be as big as a billboard) “Confessional Poem.” Tim Verhaegen was more reflective with “Across the Graveyard” & the imagistic auto-biographical “Longing for a Man.” Paul Amidon’s poems were wry meditations on memory, “A Minute of Time” (about the memories that flood our minds before sleep) & “Uncle Frank’s Funeral.” Peter Boudreaux addressed the ubiquitous you, then considered the “2 Things I’d be Willing to Die For.”

Joe Krausman read a poem on synchronicity (one of his favorite topics) “Thanksgiving” & one of my personal favorites “Houdini on the Death of His Mother.” Victoria Sullivan made the trip up the River to read a poem about an absent lover “A Coming” & a powerful anti-war poem “The Reckoning October 2001.” I had met the wonderful young poet Anna Kreienberg in Benadette Mayer’s poetry workshop, & enjoyed hearing her today read the exuberant “Dear You” & the creative take on the story of John the Baptist “Oscar Wilde Wild Western Salome.” A new voice/face Jonathan Bright read a story of making abstract art from a piece of wood “Undeclared Until” & the tender story of his daughter’s surgery “Anesthetizing Belief.”

John Mellen, Robert Harlow, Paul Amidon & Karen Schoemer
It was a wonderful diverse reading of engaging, creative poems & when Wendy asked me “who do you think will win” I had to respond that I had no clue. I had my favorites but everyone was worthy of the laurel crown. So when the crown was placed it was on the pate of Robert Harlow, —  a poet who was mostly a stranger, in spite of being last year’s winner, to the rest of us. 2nd place went to Paul Amidon, 3rd place to Karen Schoemer, with a 4th place honorable mention (but no money) to Tom Corrado.

Thanks to the Sunday Four Poetry crew, Dennis Sullivan, Edie Abrams & the wandering Mike Burke for putting on a fine afternoon of poetry, & thanks to John Mellen & the crew at Smith’s Tavern for being such fine hosts & for the great, efficient service & good food.

See my Flickr! site for more photos.  

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