July 19, 2016

Poets in the Park, July 16

The second in the 2016 Poets in the Park featured Mary Eliza Crane & Victorio Reyes. There was a wonderfully attentive, diverse audience of over 25 listeners. This series has been going on since, depending how you configure the beginning, 1988 or 1990; it was the dream-child of Albany poet & activist Tom Nattell & continued by me since 2005 after Tom’s passing.

Mary Eliza Crane is a poet from the Pacific Northwest, but was originally from the Northeast, had worked as a young nurse at Albany Medical Center. In past years she has read at Caffè Lena & at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center. She began amusingly enough with a poem with a refrain “She doesn’t like poetry.” In fact a number of her poems referenced reading poetry or poetry books, including a couple pieces on a workshop she attended (& dedicated to "anyone who has spent too long in poetry workshops") “The Red Wheel Barrow” & “Outlaw Poet.” Nature also figures large in her work, both in descriptive pieces with big-horn sheep, & Grosbeaks, & in eco-poems with a political edge, such as “Calamity” which imagines the first person walking on land, & a love poem “Wetland.” She also read a poem on the occupation of Palestine, & one with the evocative title “Dawn at the Bay of Pigs.” & I really liked her last poem “Ring of Fire” about the volcanic rim of the Pacific (where she lives) that went from the macro (geology) to the micro (herself & her life). I was glad she came back to this coast to read her poems in the Park.

Victorio Reyes is well-known locally in the poetry & activist community, & was the former director of the Social Justice Center. He had read in Poets in the Park back in 2006. He began with a tribute to poetry elders & ‘70s R&B “Telegraphing.” His piece “Rant” includes the disclaimer “this is not a poem.” Most of his poems, with their overt political content, were rants, in the best, most descriptive use of the term, but there was a tender poem to his own Puerto Rican heritage & a poem based on Justin Torres’ novel We the Animals. Others were dedicated to the victims, Rachel Corey (“Caterpillar”), Oscar Grant (“Insufficient”), Sandra Bland (“A Note Passed to Sandra”), Trayvon Martin (“30 Miles North”), and Michael Brown & Ferguson, MO (“Poems Can’t Revise”). Then he ended with a poem that was not part of the “literary tradition” “Rant, Part 2.” If you don’t see Victorio in a poetry venue, you might find him teaching at UAlbany or Siena College, or speaking out a rally against racism & for social justice.

Poets in the Park will continue with one more event this year, on July 30, See you at the Robert Burns statue, 7:00PM.

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