February 2, 2017

Book Launch: A Chill in the Air, poems by Howard J. Kogan

This was a one-time event created by the esteemed & venerable Dennis Sullivan as a celebration in honor of Howard Kogan’s new book of poems, A Chill in the Air (Square Circle Press). But before Howard read, Dennis said we would have an open mic run like a Quaker Meeting — no sign up sheet, just stand to read, a one poem limit.

Joe Krausman was the first to his feet, read his circus-themed poem titled “A Thrill in the Air” (dedicated to Bill Clinton). I followed with a poem whose title also played against the title of Howard’s book, mine a political metaphor “A Shill at the Fair.” Alan Casline’s poem “May 11, 1975, Old Jake” was a nod to Howard’s poems about the conversations of old guys.

Ron Pavoldi showed up to read an old poem, sticking to the theme, “Wind Chill.” Paul Amidon had a chill of a different sort in his cynical piece “Humbug & Other Holidays.” Ice & snow was a focus of Mark O’Brien’s poem “A Helderberg Journey” that also included the warmth of the neighbors.

Christine Zacher was a poet I hadn’t heard previously & she read about being on a bike path & “Speaking of Hope.” Diane Sefchik considered “Maybe We Should Be Like Dogs.” Tim Verhaegen read one of Howard’s poems, “CD Launch” & made it sound like his own. Sally Rhoades read a new poem of hope & protest “Flamingoes in Cyprus.” Dawn Mara read about a her aunt’s use of “Grandma’s Purse.” Dennis Sullivan wrote his poem “How to Kill a Poet,” written on January 26, about Nero & President Trump. Brian Dorn read from his book his poem “Changing Ways” because it had the word “chill” in it. Joan Gran brought the open mic to a close with her poem titled “January Thaw.”

Howard Kogan prefaced his reading with his recollection of his introduction to the area’s poetry scene at the 2010 Poet Laureate contest at Smitty's Tavern, at which he was a runner-up & caught our attention. He read a generous baker’s dozen of 13 poems from A Chill in the Air, starting with a pigeon poem “Twilight in November” & later read another, “Homers,” on the themes of life, death & mates. Speaking of mates, his poems “Imagination,” “My Wife 4 Months Pregnant & I Take a Walk” & “Last Act” brought in his wife as a character, while his mother figured in “My Mother’s Salami Sandwich.” “A Close Family” was an ironic take on that well-worn phrase. His poems “Matinee,” “Closing” (about a favorite gathering-place in Stephentown) & “Senior Wellness” looked at his life in upstate New York. But some of my favorite poems of Howard’s are memoirs of his childhood on Long Island & in New York City, including the tender “Mickies,” “Tanta Chava,” & the Haibun style Holocaust memory “Namesake: A Prologue and a Prayer.” 

This moving reading was followed somewhat anti-climaticly by a brief Q& A session where Howard revealed he has always been writing but for a long time not publishing. He also talked about the challenge from poet Bernadette Mayer to write a poem that didn’t make any sense that he was unable to meet. This reading was a demonstration that we don’t have to always meet challenges tossed our way — & that we are glad Howard is reading out & publishing his poems so we can take them with us.  Buy the book -- Support Your Local Poet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry I missed this reading. I have read Howard's book from cover to cover. Congratulations!
- Nancy