April 3, 2016

Poetry Reading & Open Mic, April 2

April is the busiest month breeding poetry out of the dead lands…” or something to that effect. The first reading of National Poetry Month was a trip to the Roeliff Jansen Community Library in Hillsdale, NY.  Don Levy joined me for the trip, almost an hour south of Albany.  The featured poet, & host for the open mic, was Karen Schoemer. There were 19 signed up for the open mic, & about 25 total in the audience.

Karen Schoemer read about 6 poems, ranging from one that sprang out of Bernadette Mayer’s workshop (“Rhyming Dictionary”), to the descriptive “130 Miles,” “Sycamore Bar” & “November Sun.” She included a reading of Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms,” then her own “Mushroom” which is a childhood tale about her brother & one that you will be able to read on April 22 on the Rensselaerville Library Poetry Project Blog.

I was first up for the open mic with 2 poems from the anthology 2, “Garrison Keillor” & the related “Trailer Park.” Howard Kogan read his marvelous history of immigrants in America “A Brief History of Fun.” Colin Laclair said it was his first time & read 4 poems he had written this year, serious pieces filled with gardens & vegetables. Don Levy changed the tone with a couple of new pieces about trans-gender issues, “They Said” & the Whitmanesque “I’ll Go With You.” Ted Phelps read a traditional sonnet about April quoting Chaucer, & a poem inspired by the deadly stampede in Mecca “The Wonder of Weeping.” Elizabeth Haight read an autobiographical piece that took us from her childhood, up through adult relationships.

Cecele Krause’s poem “State of Mind” sounded like descriptions of scenes along the road during a cross-country trip. Deborah Phelps said she was new to writing poetry then read 2 descriptive pieces, “Awash in Sound” & the ekphrastic “May in Yellowstone” from a poetry workshop. Jayne Benjulian has read her poetry out before, but this was her first reading in New York State, & read the rich imagistic poem “Vidalia” about the town in Georgia where the eponymous onion comes from.

Todd Johnson used his “classroom voice” to good effect to read 2 poems about relationships (& both with images of birds) “Seeking Advice” & “When It Ended.” Amy White’s poem “Archipelago” was about women’s desires, & she followed it up with a sonnet by Pablo Neruda (who was the afternoon's favorite famous poet to be read). Another famous poet was Mary Oliver & Maureen Rodgers read Oliver’s “The Journey.” Phyllis Schlesinger read a tour-de-force narrative sestina “Writer on the Porch in Spring.” Noah Reibel was impressed by how popular poetry seems to be & also read a poem by Neruda, “A Certain Weariness.” Bob Harlow read a long, meditative/narrative piece referencing the death of Frank O’Hara “Port Jefferson, Frank O’Hara & Me.”

Chris Portius read a poem addressed to another, like a letter, “13th Step.” Bob Clark got up to say that he too had planned to read Mary Oliver’s “The Journey” & was reluctant to read it again, but at the audience’s urging did, & told an interesting story of finding in a 2nd-hand bookstore a copy of a Dr. Seuss book that had been owned by Karen Schoemer. Bruce Bernstein read this year’s winning poem, “Urge” by Pinchos Kurinsky, from the Jewish Currents Dora & Alexander Raynes Poetry Competition (Howard Kogan was a finalist again this year), a poem that I had just read the day before. & it was fitting that the afternoon of poetry ended with yet another Pablo Neruda poem, “Tonight I Can Write,” read by Lita Moses.

It was quite an afternoon of people reading poetry aloud, their own, & that of more famous poets, & well worth the drive. Many more readings coming up in the following weeks, but as we like to say:

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