May 11, 2016

Gloucester Writers Center Reading, May 4

What could be more natural than to read from my chapbook of poems, Gloucester Notes (FootHills Publishing, 2015), at the Gloucester Writers Center, along with fellow Albany poet Alan Casline, another student of the work of Charles Olson?  I was pleased to see so many of my friends from Cape Ann & beyond gathered in the poet Vincent Ferrini’s former home, backed by his library. Amanda Cook told us about the ongoing programs at the Center, then introduced Henry Ferrini who introduced me by reading my poem “Marsden Hartley’s Eyes,” based on Helen Stein’s painting (also mentioned by Olson in The Maximus Poems (Letter 7, Max. I, 30).

Photo by Jean Dugan
I began with a poem to introduce my Gloucester friends to the Albany poetry scene with “Where Were the Professors?” (I pointed out that Albany & Gloucester are at almost the exact same Latitude, Albany at 42.6525 N, Gloucester at 42.6158 N.) Then, since it was the anniversary of the murders at Kent State in 1970, I read my poem for the student victims “44,000.” On to the Gloucester poems with a piece I wrote, “Angels,” based on Jane Robbins’ drawing in Vincent Ferrini’s book of poems Deluxe Daring (Bliss Publications, 1994), then a old poem referencing Olson’s mornings with a dictionary, “Alba.” I turned to Gloucester Notes varying my set list because I had planned to read “Marsden Hartley’s Eyes” so read instead “The Hopper Painting” (which Peter Anastas had recently published on the Blog Enduring Gloucester — has he had “Marsden Hartley’s Eyes” earlier). I ended, appropriately enough, with poems on ending, the recent “Decomposition” about the smell of old books & a poem from my chapbook Poeming the Prompt “At the End.”

Alan Casline had published what I consider my “greatest hits” Boundless Abodes of Albany (Benevolent Bird Press, 2010); he is the founder/director of the Rootdrinker Institute & coordinates the reading series “Poets of the Earth, Water, Tree & Sky” at the Pine Hollow Arboretum in Slingerlands, NY. He began with a poem from his book 64 Changes (FootHills Publishing, 2015), based on the I Ching, a hexagram he cast today for himself, #27 “Spirit to Serve Alone Helps the World.” What he read tonight was all connected in some way to the work of Charles Olson, or Gloucester, including a poem “Sea Raven” dedicated to Linda Parker (1945 - 2000), who lived briefly with Olson at the end of his life, & a poem she had written “Where Does the Crane Step, for Alan & Me.” Alan included readings from Olson’s Maximus Poems, including the re-telling of Alqonguin myths, which let to Alan reading some of his own retelling of myths & stories. There was even an amusing piece imaging Charles Olson doing email. He ended, as he had started, with the hexagrams he cast this morning, these for the Gloucester Writers Center, #62 ("Preponderance of the Small") & #15 (“Modest Journey Through”) with its reference to the ocean & to Gaia.

The Gloucester Writers Center has a schedule of ongoing events which you can find at its website — check it out.

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