June 8, 2015

Caffè Lena Open Mic, June 3


I like to say that it’s a good thing to have more than 1 poetry reading going on at once to choose from, but tonight it was a hard choice: Carolee Bennett reading at Webster’s Bookstore & Cafe, or Caffè Lena’s reading & open mic? 5 1/2 hours to State College, PA, or 40 minutes to Saratoga Springs, NY — hmm? I punked out & drove to Saratoga Springs.  Sorry Carolee.

Our host at Caffè Lena’s, Carol Graser, started with a poem by Joshua Mehigan who had had a recent book-signing at Northshire Bookstore (which is a co-sponsors of this event), then on to the open mic.

Rodney Parrot was up first, as he often is, with a short story about watching a captivating woman. Alan Catlin read the poem “Men Without Faces” from a new book, Beautiful Mutants, then a poem based on the work of the photographer Mary Ellen Marks from her book American Odyssey (she died recently in May). W.D. Clarke read a couple of nostalgic rhymed pieces, “That Old Flag” & “The Old Church.” Todd Fabozzi began with a poem for his daughter (who asked him to write a whole book of poems about her) “Fairy Tale,” then a political piece about the ironies of social justice issues. Thomas Dimopoulos announced that he has a new book coming out soon & read a piece from it that was from notes about a concert at SPAC.


The featured poet was Jordan Smith who began with a couple poems from his 2011 book The Light in the Film, then some new ones from a variety of inspirations, “John Brown’s Dream,” “Anaphora” (referencing Walt Whitman, Rochester, NY in 1964 & the recent riots in Baltimore), & “The Moment of Contemplation” based on an episode in the Mahabharata. Jordan’s newest book Clare’s Empire is only available in a digital format, from Kobo or Amazon. It is inspired by the life & work of the the English poet John Clare (1793 - 1864) known for both his concern for the enclosure of English farmland & for his later mental illness. Jordan’s poems were written with a formal consciousness in 18 rhymed lines. The poems he read included “Early Poems” (written on scraps of paper), “At School with the Gypsies” (learning the fiddle), a couple poems cataloging period “chapbooks” & Clare’s secret, private library, & an anachronistic piece conflating Clare & the arrest of the American labor activist Big Bill Haywood in Denver in 1904. Jordan also included the poem “Fuck” explaining that “in Ireland ‘fuck’ is like a comma.” An interesting reading that is sending me back to John Clare’s poetry & to the internet for a download of his book Clare’s Empire.

After the customary break Carol was back to jump-start the open mic with one of her poems, a lovely epithalamium for her son’s wedding, “Dissolving the Distance Between You.” Brian Dorn’s first poem was about chess in the 21st Century “My Queen,” & then a poem on dreaming “Hidden in the Night.”

Jackie Craven was introduced by Carol as a future-feature (in August), & she read her poem, “790 Terahertz” (look that up in your Wikipedia) about colors & a secret sister. I never got the name of the next poet (who read, after a long personal introduction, an autobiographical poem) because Carol didn’t say his name because it was apparently illegible on the sign-up sheet, & he left soon after he read, oh well. Bob Harlow has read here before, read “Private Parties” a poem based on a line by poet Weldon Keys, then a longer piece on how he would change things if he could do it again, “Fundamental Beliefs.” James Schlett, as he has here previously, read “a handful of haiku.” I was privileged to follow him with my new poems “What Is Your Pilgrimage?” (inspired by an essay by Alifair Skebe), & “The Confusion of the Attic” (inspired by a line in a poem by Paul Pines). Peter Farrell performed from memory Robert Service’s classic poem “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.” Don Levy brought us in a different direction with poems from his childhood “Maps” & one about his first celebrity crush “Rockin’ with Robin.”

Kim Henry was the last of the open mic poets, continuing to explore her feelings & memories of her mother with an untitled piece about going through her mother’s clothes after her death, then remembering he mother’s “Green Thumb.”

The poetry open mic (not to be confused with the Caffè Lena music open mic) takes place on the 1st Wednesday of the month at 7:30PM at the historic Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, NY, with an open mic for community poets & featured poet(s), just $5.00.

1 comment:

MAPofNY said...

Just a quick note to let everyone know that Clare's Empire is available digitally from bookstores around the world: https://thehydroelectric.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/inaugural-title-by-jordan-smith/ (including independent bookstores in the US, like Northshire).