September 25, 2016

Third Thursday Poetry Night, September 15

The calendar can be an odd duck, but not so strange once you have observed it’s peculiarities over time — this week the 2nd Wednesday of the month (yesterday) was followed by the third Thursday (today) & that meant the monthly open mic at the Social Justice Center in Albany. But first, I invoked the Muse, another gone poet, one I only recently found out had gone back in December, Wendy Battin (1953 - 2015), & read her poem about what I call “Oil War 1” the 3-part “Mondrian’s Forest” published in Sam Hamill’s anthology Poets Against the War.

First up on the open mic sign-up sheet was Richard Jerin, “happy to be here” he said, reading from his notebook a piece titled “01” a remembrance of 9/11. As it happened, Richard, & the next 3 readers had read last night at the open mic at Arthur’s Market in Schenectady. Alan Catlin, many years a bartender, read “Friday Happy Hour at the College Bar” about the first Gulf War on TV. J.J. Johnson also read a political piece, this from recent news, the rhyming “Deaf, Dumb & Deplorable.” Don Levy was the last of the readers from Arthur’s Market last night with a heavily researched bit of Gay History “The Origins of Brunch.”

Another series of similarities this night was 3 of us folks with some variation of the name “Daniel.” The first of that unique group was Daniella Toosie-Watson who recited her moving childhood memoir “Linguistics of Broken English.”

Our featured poet was Daniel Summerhill, just back from a poetry tour of the U.K. Tonight he read from both his books & started with “Ode to 1920” from Brown Boys on Stoops (2 Pens & Lint, 2015), then “Meditations on a Bookshelf” (written during a class) from Crafted (Genesis Press, 2016), & a poem to his young daughter “13 Letters to Genesis.” “Woodstock” is a poem about what it means to be an artist, then on to the challenging “Ode to Elijiah” done from memory, & ended with “’93 Camaro” about being homeless with his mother. But this was not enough, as the audience, cheered on by Amani, called him back for a rare Third Thursday encore.  He read “Life-Support” about being an artist, a sweet dividend. Daniel Summerhill is one of those rare poets who not only performs his poems well, but also writes real poems worthy of reading. But I was sad to hear he was leaving tomorrow morning for the West Coast, glad he had blessed this City with his words while he was here.

After the break I started off the 2nd half of the open mic with a poem from this Summer “Finding Pokémon.” Then I was followed by the return of Jan Farrell who read “Nightlights” (about stars) to “help everyone sleep well.”

Alan Casline read what he called "an experimental piece" titled “Slow Ground Blues.” Sylvia Barnard, who got here too late to sign up 1st, rose to talk about a visit to her old home town in Western Massachusetts where she found an old map from 1885, then read the poem about the map mixed in with her childhood memories. Bob Sharkey read a poem titled “Attica,” from 16 or 17 years ago, remembering that murderous event from 45 years ago this month. Brian Dorn was back reading a favorite, in rhyme of course, “In God We Trust.” Former-feature here Amani O+ rounded out the night with a brief piece about her ongoing, unrequited crushes on poets.

So join us at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Avenue, Albany, NY each third Thursday of any month at 7:30 for a featured poet & an open mic for the rest of us, your modest or immodestly generous, donation supports poetry events & the work of the SJC. Bring a poem, too.

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