July 14, 2016

Arthur’s Market Open Mic, July 13

Back up to the Stockade section of Schenectady for this monthly open mic, hosted by Catherine Norr. There already was an long list of open mic readers when Don & I arrived, & we ended up on the tail-end of the list. Poet Barbara Ungar was the featured reader.

There is usually a bevy of students gathered before the open mic for a workshop & they are frequently the first to sign up. Shayla Clark was first with a list of the mundane tasks on a typical day “Not Again,” then a piece titled “Theatrical Romance.” Samuel DeSaintis read an untitled descriptive piece about a storm. Sydney Lussier began with a poem about her own insomnia, then read abut her brother caring for his daughter with CP. Kate McNairy has a new book, Light to Light, coming out in the Fall from Finishing Line Press, read a poem titled “Mother” & another, short piece about a someone dressing up a dog. C.J. read “Formally Familiar.” Richard Jerin introduced himself as being new to the area, & has been only writing poetry for about 4 years; both of his pieces, “Promises” & “Keeping My Innocence” used repetition to hang together. Victor Negren Cerettini’s poem “Anxiety” was much too abstract, particularly for this subject.

Barbara Ungar said at the start that she was not going to read from any of her books, but instead would read from recent work. She began with the poem that is the working title of her next collection, “Spiritual Housekeeping,” a humorous list poem playing on the specifics of those terms. Another list poem was “Maria Lactans,” imitating Frank O’Hara’s “Ave Maria.” Some of her inspiration comes from pondering the fate of the environment; the poem “Global Weirding” included images of lobsters freeing their fellow lobsters from traps, while “On a Scale of 1 to 10” was about being upset watching the pain of animals on the TV series Nova, & “End Notes to Coral Reefs” was a found poem using a children’s book on reefs. “How the Light Gets In” used the Japanese technique of using gold to repair cracks in pottery as a metaphor, & her tender tribute to her teacher, the poet William Matthews, “Dear Bill,” used his own words. “The Other Barbara” was a poem to herself (a workshop assignment), & she ended with a poem inspired by her son, “Things to Ask Your Mother” (‘though not the kinds of things I ever thought to ask my mother). A preview of a book to come.

After a break to buy Barbara’s books, Catherine Norr started off the 2nd half of the open mic with a piece read in her version of a New York accent “Table-top Microphone,” then a look back to cooler days “Whiling Away Snow Days.” Malcolm Willison began with what he called “an old train poem,” the richly descriptive “Envoie,” then a memoir about a hike in the woods for a deceased friend. Leslie Neustadt does not read at open mics anywhere near often enough, tonight read 2 poems from prompts, one about her mother from a workshop run by Barbara Ungar, the other from a workshop with Jil Hanifan, mixing Hebrew & English, “Trembling at the Threshold of Jerusalem.” Ginny Folger also read a poem from one of Barbara’s workshops, the elegy “To His Ashes.” Jackie Craven described the intricate assignment for a poem for an upcoming workshop with Henri Cole & her attempt to fulfill it, “Why I Throw Stones.” Her friend Susan Jewell responded to the same assignment with “Territorial Prompt.”

Alan Catlin read, for Barbara Ungar, “My Dream Date with the Brontë Sisters” from his new book from FutureCycle Press American Odyssey, then a poem written yesterday, about jury duty, “Excused.” Bunkong Tuon did not read any of his fine poems, but instead paid tribute to his friend, the poet April Selley, who died this morning, by reading April’s poem “For Once the Dwarf Gets the Girl.”

Don Levy had gone to San Francisco recently & read an almost abstract-expressionist poem “SFMOMA,” then one of his more characteristic pieces responding to comments online & on Face Book, this from someone wanting a parade for straight people, “Straight Pride Day is Everyday.” I ended up as the last reader, first with a poem about what happens to books when they age, “Decomposition,” & a short, instructional poem, “Metaphor.”

This series, which has been going on for about 2 years, has a good following & is well-attended. It happens on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 7:30PM at Arthur’s Market, 35 N. Ferry St., Schenectady, NY.

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