September 28, 2016

100 Thousand Poets for Change, September 24

Faculty & Area Poets

Once again SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury, NY hosted a reading by community poets & a featured reading by equally community poet Joseph Bruchac. Kathleen McCoy served as our coordinator & host. This is an inter-national event initiated by West Coast poet Michael Rothenberg, intended to engage poets in the larger world of social justice issues promoting peace & sustainability. A number of us had read here last year, & this was the 4th year that Kathleen had organized the event.

I was first on the list & read yet again “When Donald Trump Farts.” Carol Graser was less confrontational with a tender tribute to her recently deceased mother. Tina Garvin Curtis read 3 short poems, “Apotheosis of a Carthusian Monk,” “Grasshopper” (to her son?), & “Bush Meat 2016.”

Pat Leonard introduced herself by saying she was born in 1924, grew up in a small town in California where, at that time, everyone rode horses, read a memoir of that time “The Land of My Childhood.” Lee Gooden had read last year, began with “an angry young man poem” a political piece, then a more gentle piece for his daughter’s 12th birthday “Mooing at Ducks.” Neal Herr was another returning performer, with his guitar, to perform a song based on, he said, a true story in which “life is a zig-zag.”

Stu Bartow read from one of his books, & even brought a show-&-tell-prop, for the poem “Whelks” which he likened to the code-breaking “enigma machines.” Lucyna Prostko read “For All My Saints,” a rich imagistic poem inspired by the Sigismund Bell in the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków in her native Poland. Steven Johnson seemed to be a last minute add, had left his poems at home, but read a wonderful little piece “Time of Your Life.” Paul Pines had also arrived late, began with “Andrew Wyeth Enters Heaven 2” from his book Message from the Memoirist (Dos Madres Press, 2015), then he did something he said he hadn’t done before, read from his iphone a recent poem about aging & walking his dog, “Twice Around the Block.”

Kathleen McCoy, who has organized this & past 110 Thousand Poets events, read from her recent book Green and Burning (Glas Agus a Dhó) (WordTech Editions, 2016) “Otzi” about the ancient mummy discovered in 1991 in the Italian Alps, a questioning, descriptive poem.

Joseph Bruchac Reading

Joe Bruchac is well-know in the area as a poet, activist for the environment & native peoples, & a prolific author. In addition, his readings are a model for young performers about connecting to an audience, with warmth, & information & feeling; one can learn a lot about native history, culture & language from a Bruchac reading. He began with a melody from his cedar flute, then read poems from recent anthologies that had included his poems, offering (i.e., tossing) the books to members of the audience.

One of the fascinating, for me if not for the rest of the audience, was Joe’s use of the Abenaki language. He read Spring-time poem, “Let’s Go,” first in Abenaki then in English from a bi-lingual book he did with his son Jesse Bruchac, Nisnol Siboal/Two Rivers. Joe also read a Abenaki story of 7 wise men from one of the many children’s books he has done. However, he said that when he writes for children he is also writing for adults, for everyone.

Joe’ newest book of poems is Four Directions from Mongrel Empire Press in Norman, OK & he read 4 poems from that. Then on to some new, unpublished poems, “Black Hills,” “Wind Thanks,” “Old Caller” (at a square dance), “Carolina Walking Bird,” & a compelling eco-poem with audience participation (“water is life”) about the pipeline opposition in Standing Rock. Then he returned to the new book for 2 more, “Deer Pond” & “South Branch.”

He left some time for questions, even a request for another poem, from the audience, then ended as he began with the rich, resonant tones of the cedar flute.

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