September 4, 2016

Harmony Café, August 29

Another every-Monday-night event that I’ve read at few times & try to get to when a favorite poet reads there. Tonight it was Paul Pines, reading with Frank Murphy. The host is poet Mike Platsky. With an already huge open mic list, I decided to sit this one out, to just listen & take pictures.

Our host Platsky opened the poetic door with his poem “Paradox,” followed by Lenny Brown riffing on the bathroom graffiti “to do is to be…” etc. & on the hippy icon Wavy Gravy. Bill S. was equally nostalgic with “Singles Bar 1975.” Victoria Sullivan’s first poem was the provocatively titled “The Stuffed Monkey,” followed by a an imagined Hemingway piece. Pater Donald Lev read a cluster of his short, pithy jottings, “Family is Everything,” “Botulism,” “What it Is,” & “Bowery” dedicated to tonight’s featured readers Paul & Frank.

Speaking of which, Frank Murphy was the first feature up. He read a sample of poems from his book A Great Disorder: New & Selected Poems (And Then Press, 2015), including “To a Friend,” “Kneeling in a Fox Hole,” “My Head,” & “Saying Proper Prayers.” His work is grounded in New York City, with references to both Manhattan & the Bronx. Other poems included the playful children’s poem “Lisa & the Flying Pizza” complete with a monkey, & a memoir of earlier days “Uptown Fights 1969.” He is a poet I hadn’t heard before & had to buy his book to bring “him” home with me.

Paul Pines was the main reason I made the trip to Woodstock this night. He read from his books, first from Message from the Memoirist (Dos Madres, 2015), “Baseball,” the tender “The Death of Eddie Jefferson,” “Field Theory According to Mel Blanc,” & the multi-part “Andrew Wyeth Enters Heaven.” From Divine Madness (Marsh Hawk Press, 2012) he read the historic portrait of one of my heroes “Citizen Tom Paine,” then finished with 4 poems from the marvelous collection of poems his daughter inspired, Charlotte Songs (Marsh Hawk Press, 2015). Definitely worth the trip.

The rest of the open mic was the usual Woodstock mixed-bag, from the pretentious to the silly to the painfully long. Ron Rybecki as "Pierre" read, or pretended to read, from a notebook. He was followed by Teresa Costa with “a moldy oldy,” then someone new to me, Davina with a memoir of Brooklyn & the Bronx. Ron Witeurs was characteristically outrageous with a piece that asked “Will you let me hold your penis while you piss?” Pamela Twinning began with “White Privelege” then on to another rambling epic.

Leslie Gerber read about a visit to Machu Picchu, then a dead dog poem & a poem that invoked Donald Lev. Sparrow played his flute first, then read about what he’s not eating while “Fasting” & basically did his usual thing of telling stoner jokes. Andy Clausen had us paying attention again with “Testicles” but lost me with a long, long piece on the devil. David Compton did 3 poems he’s written in Sparrow’s workshop.

Philip Gurrieri was dressed in what looked like the wardrobe of the late William Robert Foltin & was his usual serious self with poems about his childhood. Mike Platsky capped it off like he had opened it with a poem, this in honor of the featured poets, “Deny Everything.”

You don’t have to wait long for this one to come around again, Harmony Cafe Open Mic is every Monday, at 8PM at the Wok & Roll in Woodstock — featured poets & an open mic — drugs not provided, but might be needed.

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