January 14, 2008

Woodstock Poetry Society, January 12

Perhaps it was the sunny weather, more like early Spring than January, or the fact that I hadn't been there in a while, or just that the open mic poets came from far & wide, or simply the 2 marvelous featured poets that made this such a wonderful day. Of course, the host Phillip Levine added to the spirit in his relaxed, smiley way.

I went first for the open mic & read, again, "My Last Bardo" (different audience). Dayl Wise's poem for his Dad, based on a found photo, seemed to end abruptly.

Donald Lev brought along copies of the new issue (#59) of Home Planet News. He read one of his "movie" poems, this one on "Atonement;" a short piece on a poem that should have been written, & "God is a Red Peanut." And, of course, one by his (& our) beloved Enid Dame, "Jonah's Sister."

Both featured poets did their job & brought lots of friends & relatives. Joe Bellaserro came to support Alison Koffler & read 2 of his own poems: "The Name" (a mother running all the names of the children together as one), & "Sunami" on aging & "the wave of annihilation."

Bruce Weber handed out copies of the broadside, Stained Sheets & read his poem that is in the new Home Planet News, "The Poet of Divas and Canaries and Renaissances (for Joseph Cornell)." You really need to experience Ron Whiteurs, with his diction & his cardboard titles, like in old vaudeville shows. His 3 related poems today told the story of Water Rat & "the really bad doings of Starfish Sam" (not really like a scene of Wind in the Willows, Ron).

A wonderful, captivating new voice was Theresa Morris with "Tracks" set in New York City (sounded like Soho), and a just-written piece pondering the dilemmas of being on jury duty -- where is she from?

The first of the 2 featured poets, Georganna Millman, has just completed a poetry collection that is seeking a publisher, "Formulari," about her years working in her husband's pharmacy in rural Hudson Valley New York & began with 3 poems from that -- "Happy Drawer" (the safe where the narcotics were kept, with clever plays & twists on the drugs' brand names), "Apothocary," & "Painting Swastikas." She read a couple poems for her sons, then a series of horse poems, some mixing Catskill history into the story. Also a sonnet for her husband, "Lines Written After 29 Years of Marriage," & she ended with her "Ars Poetica" that describes how a poem comes to a poet, as a wolf, it turns out. A wonderfully planned reading with just enough introduction so you knew where you were when the poem began. With any luck we won't have to wait too long for her book. Look for her at other readings this coming year.

And forming one of those accidental seques that are so magical, Alison Koffler, the second featured poet, began with her mythic/apocalyptic "Coyote is Coming." If you were at Poets in the Park this past summer you would have heard her read it there too. Then a couple of poems based on her experience teaching & administering a writing program in the New York City Schools. She lives in the Bronx & read a group of poems that were memories & musings on the Bronx, leaving one apartment (& boyfriend) for another, "Heartland Formation," the Grand Concourse, the D train. A recent poem, "Heart," mixed her memories of youth with a current medical exam, & then a poem about "poetic angst," "Short Scene with Dog & Fish" (with Molly on the beach). She ended with an untitled poem, returning to Coney Island, dedicated to her husband, Dayl.

Both featured poets had a simple, straight-forward style of reading their poems, but the vivid, descriptive images & accessible language made the work captivating & real. No performance posturing needed.

Then on with the remaining poets in the open mic. Barbara Ungar read a poem from her just-published collection, The Origin of the Milky Way (Gival Press, 2007), "Izaak Laughing" to her son who was right there with her, impatient to get back to playing with his toys.

Sylvia Gorelick read her "Autobiography," written yesterday, & based on Ferlinghetti's "Autobiography" from Coney Island of the Mind. Like the man once said, if you're going to write an autobiography, do it while you're young, it won't take as long.

Then her Daddy, a barefoot Sparrow, read "A Call," about his running (he was just standing there) for President, then his proposal to have Clown Clinics in districts spread throughout the country, enough to make him laugh. Vote Sparrow for President!

Every 2nd Saturday, 2PM, Woodstock Town Hall.