July 8, 2016

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, July 6

The historic Caffè Lena building on Phila St. is undergoing renovations this Summer so the reading & open mic series has moved to Northshire Bookstore on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. I got there a little late, missed the first reader or so, & didn’t get to sign up. But there were lots of folks filling the 2nd floor children’s book section & reading space, many of whom I’d not seen over on Phila St. As always, Carol Graser was our host as usual.

I arrived as Suzanne Rancourt was introduced & she read the richly descriptive memoir “Pastries on Lark St.” & a poem titled “When She Sings Birds Fly.” Dawn Marar made a rare appearance at an open mic with 2 poems about dancers, one about childhood dance lessons. Philomena Moriarty read 2 piece not in her recent book, one a memoir of a family house in Kerry “On Being Irish,” & “Starships” (on great minds).

The first of the night’s 2 featured poets was Marilyn McCabe, who has a new collection of poetry, Glass Factory from The Word Works press. She read mostly short poems on the human condition & about connecting with others, with titles like “Thoughts on System Theory,” “Self-Sight,” & poems on loss & love. She also read from a series based on the site-specific and land art sculptor Andy Goldsworthy (“Goldsworthy Variations”), a poem, “Mercy: Bird in Hand”, based on art based on her poems, others on mortality, on recovery from loss, & ended with “Eden, An Alternate Version.” It was a thoughtfully arranged, well-planned reading.

Cheryl Clarke also has a new book out from The Work Works, By My Precise Haircut. She began with “Reprise (for Allen Ginsberg)” a meditation on sex & America that just sort of faded out.  The poem “Body Double” was an AIDS project poem, while “Capitol Car Chase” was about the unfortunate U-turn Miriam Carey took at the White House in 2013 that got her killed. She also read from a series of poems based on slave narratives, then a poem for a jazz singer “19 Lines for Easter,” then returned to sex, & writing, with her last poem. When she began to read I thought she looked familiar so when I spoke to her after the open mic I asked if she had read at Split This Rock. She said she was there, ran a panel discussion on the poet/activist Pat Parker that I had attended.

Wanda Birch said this was her first open mic, & read from a series of poems based on letters written during the Civil War. Tim Snider, who usually reads rhyming pieces, read a prose piece on hate, titled “And More.”

I hadn’t seen Nancy Denofio read in many, many months but tonight she was back with a prosaic political conversation. Bob Sharkey began with his touching piece about reading to his granddaughter “Scarrey People,” then a poem on innocence “I, Dash Man.” Carol Graser read “Book Donation” about her work at East Line Books. My co-host at the Arts Center, Nancy Klepsch, also made a rare appearance reading a poem on gratitude then her funny, tough poem “The Invisible Lesbian.” Rodney Parrott is a regular, read a long narrative poem about a trip to the laundromat, rewarded with a woman’s panties.

W.D. Clarke stayed on theme with “The Collector” a piece in rhyme about the theft of woman’s “bloomers.” Jeanine Lafferty read 2 poems about working on a CSA farm. Another regular, Barbara Garro, read a poem about one of her paintings, then a piece titled “Memento Mori” (which reminded me of Patti Smith’s line, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”). Jan Tramontano made a surprise appearance in the Northeast & got away with reading 3 poems, all about waiting for her new grandson — such a proud grandma!

The Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic continues for the Summer, at least, at Northshire Bookstore, 424 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY still on the 1st Wednesday of the month — note the earlier start time: 6:30PM signup, 7:00PM start, no cover while at the bookstore, but donations for the cafe gratefully accepted.

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