January 29, 2015

Sunday Four Poetry, January 25

In the midst of a busy poetry weekend. Today’s program did not include a featured poet but rather a panel discussing “Poetry as a Vision of Utopia.” More on that later, but first the (abbreviated) open mic, with the ebullient Edie Abrams as our host.

First poet signed up was Michael Rutherford, with Dennis Sullivan reading from Rutherford’s 1973 chapbook Meat is My Business the humorous phone-sex poem beginning “This is just to warn you, operator 772 …” Brian Dorn, with a nod to the day’s panel’s topic, read his poem “Writing Poetry.” Dennis Sullivan was back with his own poem, “A Bit from My Non-Comedy Comedy Act.” Jessica Rae was here for the first time with what she described as a “stream-of-consciousness” piece, “Over the Hill” worrying about how to fix the world & herself. Sharon Miller’s poem “Wood” was a sad piece contemplating a loss. Edie Abrams asserted herself in her poem “She Doesn’t Want To.” Although Mark O’Brien returned from Ireland in July he said he is “still processing Ireland,” as evidenced by his “Prayer of the Dispossessed.” Tom Corrado gave out copies of a chapbook of his 2013 poem in 10 parts Retracing Our Steps to Utopia & read part 1. Peter Boudreaux also referenced the panel's topic & read his poem “Commentary on Utopia” (& also on luminosity). Brian Kennedy, whom I haven’t seen perform in a long time, did a funny mash up of French & English.

Photo by Dennis Sullivan
The panelists, Howard Kogan, Bernadette Mayer, Karen Schoemer, & me (Dan Wilcox) set ourselves up on the stage in no particular order, which indeed became the order. Howard went first with a written presentation titled “Utopia Dystopia & Poetry” & began with quotes from, among others, Kafka & the Wizard of Oz. His commentary circled in & out of his own poem “In the Beginning,” on the nature of poetry, then on to more quotes — Barbara Kingsolver, Galway Kinnell, Neruda.

Bernadette said she didn’t want to talk about Utopia, but about income inequality (from a page of notes), although she did quote Thomas More, the author of Utopia, at one point. She pondered the necessity to pay artists, the 18th Century rent wars in upstate New York, & her support for a guaranteed national income, which I suppose is Utopia in itself.

Karen, like Howard, had a written presentation, that began with a chilling story of a suicide attempt by someone close to her, then a deep exploration of her feelings from discovering a crypt in New Hampshire to the paintings of Charles Burchfield (1893 - 1967). She ended with her poem “Everything I Have Loved Has Stopped Me from Loving It.”

I worked from notes, first questioning the wording of the topic itself, then giving my own string of quotes from famous authors, like Charles Bukowski, Jean-Paul Sartre & Walt Whitman. My contention was that Utopia was Nowhere, then on to a few poems that “exceeded” me, ending with one of my own favorites, “Therese’s Balcony.” Then a series of questions/discussion from the audience — until I had to pee.  I'm not sure anything was "settled" but I for one had a lot of fun.

Usually, Sunday Four Poetry is an open mic with a featured reader, held most 4th Sundays at 3:00PM, for a donation, at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY. Check it out.

1 comment:

Barbara Vink said...

Okay, I just read that Michael Rutherford recently died. Perhaps you should have mentioned that in your blog. LOL