August 21, 2016

Poetry at the Altamont Fair, August 18

photo provided by Mark O'Brien
This was billed as the 30th anniversary of poetry at the Altamont Fair, for some years now run by Alan Casline. It was formerly run — & perhaps founded — by the late William Robert Foltin. My earliest documentation of the event is photos from 1992 & includes not only a characteristically hirsute image of WRF, but also a photo of Charlie Rossiter reading with baby Jack in a back-pack baby carrier. No babies this year.

We were in the Carriage Museum, with its historical facades, at The (Poetry) Hotel Altamont, with Alan Casline as MC.

Mike Jurkovic made the drive up from the mid-Hudson region & read poems from his last 2 books, including the marvelously metaphysical “Half-Shitty Days.” Albany poet Alifair Skebe read poems from a forthcoming collection from FootHills Publishing, Thin Matter, full of nature & light, birds & the Hudson River. Alan introduced Bob Sharkey as “upstate New York’s most experimental poet.” Bob included his poem about reading the book Scary People to his granddaughter & the equally scary “Things” that were in the back of W.T. Grants. Mark O’Brien read some memoir poems & a chicken version of a famous Poe poem, “Edgar Allen Wyandotte.”

Anne Rokeach, although she never met WRF, connected to him through the open mic at the Colonie Town Library that he founded & that is still going on. She read a poem from one of that group’s “word” assignments, as well as a poem for her dead dog, & one for “You.” I included in my reading my “Altamont Fair Poem” that might have been written for that reading back in 1992. Diane Sefcik’s poems were on themes from native people, including a pine grove, the desert, red ochre & the tradition of the “Give-away.” Alan Casline read a brief segment from his series “The Exile Poems” about the central figure of the poem at the end of his life.

After a break for some beer & equally poetic conversation we re-convened for what Alan has dubbed “The Legends Round Robin” in which we take turns reading poems by gone poets, local & international. The poet so honored included Catherine Connolly, Art Willis, the recently gone Dan Lawlor, Jim Williams, Mabel Bennett, Tom Nattell, Will Christman, Daniel Smythe, Tomaz Salamun, Hornell Long & William Robert Foltin.

All things considered I’d rather read at the Altamont Fair than be read at the Altamont Fair.

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