July 10, 2015

IWW Fundraiser Reading, July 6

This was a fundraiser to support the local IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) Chapter’s support of the upcoming Joe Hill Road Show, coming to the 8th Step at Proctor’s on July 30. The featured reader tonight was Martin Manley with an informal open mic/round-robin, hosted by Greg Giorgio. It was held at Arthur’s Market in the Stockade Section of Schenectady, a relaxed cafe setting with a performance area, books & magazines scattered about, & a selection of tea, coffee, soft drinks & a modest selection of food, including sandwiches, salads & paninis.

Greg started with a short spiel on Joe Hill (1879 - 1915), labor organizer, song-writer, then introduced me to read a couple poems. I started with a poem by another labor poet, Vincent Ferrini, reading from Before Gloucester, edited by Ammiel Alcalay & Kate Tarlow Morgan (Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, 2013) which printed poems from some of Ferrini’s early books. I read “What the Books Left Out” from the 1944 Blood of the Tenements, then one of my poems, written for the Occupy movement, “One Day Longer.”

Greg then brought up local activist Martin Manley, who read from his book Flint Knives: Selected Poems1973 - 2014 (The Troy Book Makers, 2014). The book contains over 90, mostly short, poems selected from Martin’s oeuvre of almost 700 poems. They are arranged chronologically in the book & he began with the first poem from 1973 “Struggle,” then read about 10 poems or so, including the title poem “Flint Knives” (& perhaps the longest in the book), taking us up to 2014. His themes are typically political, but not exclusively, reading poems about love or observing nesting birds. Following that, during a brief Q&A, he talked broadly on Irish politics & the early history of wars in Afghanistan.

Peace activist Mabel Leon was asked by Greg to come up next, & Mabel read 2 poems from a collection by her sister-in-law Barbara Leon, including the marvelous “Praise Poem for Congolese Women.” Greg read a poem by local poet Michael Purcell, whom he had met recently in a bar in Albany, “I Won’t Work Anywhere…”, then brought out his own fat journal bulging with paper ephemera to read a poem for Big Bill Haywood in rhyming ballad form, like the poems of Robert W. Service. I came back with my own “praise poem” “The Communion of Saints.”

Greg Giorgio & his notebook
Martin was asked back to read some more, read from 1978, other poems, including the 1981 “Greetings from the Death Squad.”

Mabel read Barbara Leon’s “Vision Off Point Lobos.” Then Bertha Krieger & a friend sang a verse of the famous “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night.” Martin read from another section of the book, including the poem “Los Gringos.” HIs poems are often aphoristic, notebook jottings, but many run to a page or two — a provocative collection of a life’s work.

Greg ended the night readings his favorite poem by Martin, the 2013 brief poem that begins “A thousand years ago…” It was a fitting way to end a pleasant evening of poetry & politics among comrades.

Arthur’s Market is also the setting for a monthly poetry night with a featured reader & an open mic held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month.

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