February 24, 2017

Third Thursday Poetry Night, February 16

Back to the third Thursday at the Social Justice Center for the open mic & our featured poet, Daniella Toosie-Watson, & a cluster of Daniels. In honor of lots of things, I selected for our Muse tonight the gone poet June Jordan (1936 - 2002) & read her poem “To My Sister, Ethel Ennis, who Sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Second Inauguration of Richard Milhous Nixon, January 20, 1973,” after all, it was our first third Thursday after the events of January 20 & 21 of this year.

Alan Catlin dedicated his poem to poet Michele Battiste (a former-feature here), about her parents market in Schenectady, “666.”

Brett Axel returned, talked about a planned anthology America Under Trump, but read an hysterically funny poem from a poet he heard at an open mic on his book-tour on the road “How Poetry is Done” by mentioning “blood” & “bone,” & other suggestions. Joe Krausman lost the poem he was going to read, but did a poem from memory instead. Next month’s featured poet, Dawn Marar, gave us a sample of her work, “Survivors” about the work of Joseph Beuys (& sexual assault). W.D. Clarke read his rhyming bit of humorous socio-anthropology “The All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.” Ainsley’s poem “Weed Does Not Agree with Me & Neither Does Our Political Climate” was about getting high on Election Day & waking up not knowing if it was real.

Tonight’s featured poet was Daniella Toosie-Watson, & she said her reading is designed to show a “broader spectrum” of her work than she usually does in readings, inspired by other poets who put their vulnerability on the page. As a result, her poems were introduced by personal background & history, filling in the spaces between the lines, writing her personal “I”. But the first poem was a familiar piece, “Linguistics of Broken English,” about school, growing up in a new, alien culture, a compilation of hers & other's experiences. An incident on the bus prompted “Lessons in Isolation” that is a tender story about her Iranian mother teaching her (& her brother) to belly-dance. Her poem “Ode to My Grandmother’s Backyard, or Odes Are Never Not Spawned from Elegy,” is a lushly detailed memoir of her grandmother & her dad, an attempt at being more wistful. She said that her more recent work has been dealing with trauma, & her next poem “Jesu Frito”, built on her mis-hearing her mother’s expression, but was about the aftermath of sexual assault. The poem titled “Pediophobia” (a fear of dolls) mixes in the death of her father, visions of him in a dream, & of her lover. Next she read from her phone, a poem she said she doesn’t like to read, about suicide & sexual assault by her ex-, “If I Were to Commit Suicide It Could Not be in My Grandmother’s Apartment.” She ended with hope, about the grace of God in her life, a poem she has read many times before, “Love Found Me.” Then a rare touch, a selfie of all of us.  A brave & exhilarating reading.

After the break, I returned to the inauguration theme with sections from my new poem “Inauguration Raga” published as a chapbook by A.P.D. (a presidential disaster), starting with the beginning of the poem, a recollection of the inauguration of Richard Nixon, as in June Jordan’s poem. D(anielle). Colin, host of the every-Monday “Poetic Vibe” in Troy, also had an inauguration poem but one filled with crows, “On the Pulse of Ancestors,” a play on Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Morning” that she read at Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Brian Dorn commented on the proliferation of Daniels here tonight then read a “kind of a” love poem, “Arousing Reflection.” Anthony Bernini’s dream-like poem was about “Meteorological Spring.”

A new voice & face here was Mariah Barber who read from her cellphone a humorous vignette about her Dad, a people-watcher, now able to follow his passions, a metaphor for her life & her poetry. Our last poet was Liv (Olivia McKee) who moved the music stand out of the way for “the monagomy poem,” beginning with singing, about finding love & the "heteronormative paradigm" Slam style.

Each third Thursday of the month we meet for a featured poet & an open mic at 7:30PM at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY — bring a poem for the open mic & a donation to support the featured poet, the SJC & other poetry events in this city of poems.

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