June 1, 2015

Sunday Four Poetry, May 24

Mike Burke, one of the co-hosts of this event, was back from Mexico, bringing us some warm, pleasant weather for today’s open mic & featured poet, Donald Lev. Mike did the announcements then Edie Abrams took over to serve as MC for the open mic.

First up was Paul Amidon with a trio of poems, “Small Change” to an elderly aunt, “Lights in the Darkness” about fireflies, &, for Memorial Day, “Gold Star Mother.” Joe Krausman also had 3 poems, the first on public speaking “Exuberance Is Beauty,” then a piece pondering being caught between Heaven & Hell, & thinking about “Making a Living.” Bob Sharkey read a Memorial Day piece about seeing a classmate’s name on a war memorial “If You Marched in the Victory Parade You Probably Weren’t in the Battle,” then one of my favorite poems of his “The Lost Language” (about marriage). Dennis Sullivan began with a wedding poem to a student of his many years ago “Reality Comes in Packages that Sometimes Seem Far Less than Real” (or something like that), then a piece titled “A Short Prayer at Day’s End” which was neither short nor a prayer.

Joan Gran read a couple poems about having a hysterectomy, “Their First Home” & a celebration of a morphine circus “Post-surgical Dream.” Don Levy (not to be confused with today’s featured poet) made an appearance with 3 related poems, “Bruce” (i.e., Jenner), “Rockin’ with Robin” (his 1st celebrity crush), & “Boring Old Gay People.” Peter Boudreaux began with a long, meandering introduction to nowhere, & eventually read a couple poems, “Kelvin” & “Unconditional Memory.” Tom Corrado, in contrast, read a wonderfully quirky poem, with no introduction, about getting on the train to New York to see an exhibit at the Guggenheim “Train to Nowhere.” I followed with a poem for the holiday “Memorial Day (1999)” & one based on a recent literary essay by Alifair Skebe “What is Your Pilgrimage?”

Howard Kogan read a tribute to Whitman “Walt Everlasting” then the childhood memoir “My Mother’s Salami Sandwich.” Mike Burke began with a story of a cat who came back, then an old piece “The Kiss” by request, & concluded with a poem for Memorial Day about the body of a soldier being returned from Iraq. Mark O’Brien read a couple of “memorial” poems about members of his family who are gone, his brother “We Caroused” & his father “A Carrot Don’t Taste Right Without a Peck of Dirt.”

The open mic ended with 2 impromptu non-readings, as sensitive & moving as any “poem.” First, Brian Kennedy had signed up as the “Delta 3 Trio,” but stood at his place saying he changed his mind about performing but could think of no place he would rather be this afternoon than here. Then Tim Verhaegen stood & made his way to the door, said he wasn’t feeling well & had to leave, but paused to tell a short anecdote about talking with Donald Lev at a reading at the Harmony Cafe in Woodstock. A fitting introduction to the afternoon’s featured poet.

Donald Lev is the grand ole man of the mid-Hudson poetry scene, who for years published the poetry tabloid Home Planet News, first with his wife the poet Enid Dame, then, since her death, on his own. Age has slowed his pace but not his poetry. Most of his poems are short, less than a page in length, & so he can read a lot of poems, 22 at my count today. They are introspective, philosophical, filled with wry humor, commenting on his frail place in the cosmos. He is often inspired by film & television, with poems such as “The Small Television” in a bar, “To Embrace It,” “B.B.” (on watching borrowed VHS tapes of B.B. King), “Aboard the African Queen,” “I Swear I’m Innocent” (referencing Perry Mason), & “As to Reality” based on The Truman Show. His melancholy is darkly self-directed humor, as in a poem on mourning “A Page from My Diary If I Had One,” or one on paranoia “Chatter,” or “Loyalty” about a kitten named Charlie Manson, or the simple act of pissing in his yard described in the poem “Step by Step.” One of his last poems read was titled “End Rhymes,” & appropriately enough the last poem read was titled “My Final Play.” Let’s hope not, let’s hope that there are a lot more poems left in Donald Lev.

Sunday Four Poetry (i.e., the 4th Sunday of the month) has one more left before taking the Summer off, 3PM at the Old Songs Community Arts Center, Main St., Voorheesville, NY.

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Donald Lev is truly a delicate force, like steel honed to the sharpest, thinnest edge.