May 29, 2017

Harmony Cafe Reading & Open Mic, May 23


This long-running, weekly series, run by Mike Platsky, at the Wok’n’Roll Restaurant in Woodstock used to be held on Mondays, now held on Tuesdays. Mike always books an interesting mix of featured poets (I’ve been a featured poet in the past) & tonight’s featured poet, Barry Wallenstein is someone I remember seeing read, with a bass player, at a series in Westchester County back in the early 1980s. Of course, there were lots of poet-friends to chat with & hear read in the open mic.

Mike Platsky started us off with a tongue-in-cheek piece titled “I Just Wrote This On A Napkin At The Bar” & dedicated it to Leslie Gerber who took great delight in it. Alison Koffler read a piece about woman in a store in the Bronx “Diamonds,” then a poem about imaginary frieds “Kendra Brings Her Griffin to School.” I read sections from Inauguration Raga (& actually made a sale on that basis), then the newest addition to “What Makes America Great” #20.

Jay Wenk read a piece pondering writing & other writers “I Am Connected,” then a descriptive poem about a picnic in a cemetary “Decoration Day.” Donald Lev has a special, reserved space (as well he should) on the sign-up list as a sort of warm-up act for the featured poet. Tonight he read a varied bouquet of mostly short very old poems & some newer pieces, such as “An Unusually Long Wait,” “The Challenge” (about being alone), “Performance” (written 25 years ago), “Glory,” “Music & Poetry” (Orpheus walks into a music store), & the 2-liner “Jazz Lyric.”

The feature was poet Barry Wallenstein performing with Luigi Archetti (guitars) & Mario Marchisella (percussion) as Drastic Dislocations. I had seen Barry Wallenstein perform in November 1985 at the riverrun bookstore in Hastings-on-the-Hudson where he read poetry with the jazz bassist Fred Hopkins (whom I had seen even earlier in my East Village days at the Tin Palace). Their pieces were rehearsed performances, not just the poet reading while the musicians improvised behind him. They began with “The Bullit Councils the Head,” a piece from their CD. Then a piece titled “Love Point Blank” & “Swamp Girl” where Marchisella plays an old manual typewriter wired to sound, then “The Imp Speaks” & “The Man Upstairs” with Archetti on slide guitar & Marchisella on what is called on the CD a “Stylophone.” For “The Legend of the Wild West,” a sex & death story inspired by Belle Starr, the poem was accompanied by cowboy-styled drums & guitar riffs; interestingly enough Wallenstein had performed this same piece years ago when I saw him in Westchester. A couple more pieces, then he ended with what seemed to be a favorite, a piece for his father “What Was, Was” (also on their CD).

After a break, Roberta Gould continued the open mic with 2 new poems, a description of a man delivering bread on a bicycle “I Was There” & a love poem on the absurdity of greed. Dayl Wise began with a poem by Viet Nam veteran Jan Barry “Earth to Earth” from a book-in-progress with fellow veteran Walt Nygard, then one of Dayl’s own poems, like being in Fastasia. Pamela Twining read 2 memoir pieces, the first about choking on a candy as a kid, the second (is there a connection here?) about sex in a car while driving West. Appropriately, Andy Clausen followed with a poem by A.D. Winans in funny rhymes about what he’s gonna do, then his own in the same vein “Poetry Smoetry,” the long poem his forte. After Ron Whiteurs bailed & didn’t read, Gary Siegel began with a rhapsodic “And the Night Comes” & then an ode to the singer Suzanna Abdulla.

Duff Allen is known for his long introductions & for reading long excerpts from novels-in-progress — once, some years ago when Cheryl Rice was the guest host at the Monday night Colony Cafe open mic, Duff came on stage & began a long, long intro to his latest chapter when suddenly an air-horn sounded: Cheryl had timed him when he stared speaking & he had timed out his 4 minutes without even finishing his introduction; Cheryl received a resounding applause & the undying respect of us in the audience as Duff stormed off the stage; let’s just say we could’ve used Cheryl, her timer & air-horn tonight.

Harmony Cafe open mic is at Woodstock's Wok'n'Roll Restaurant on Mill Hill Rd., 8:00PM on Tuesdays -- a featured poet & an open mic, leave a donation.

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cemile duraz said...
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