Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace in the former Republican enclave of the Town of Bethlehem is one of the most active & best organized of the local peace groups. They host films, discussions, a weekly peace vigil at the 4 Corners in Delmar & lots of other events. So when they (in the person of the irrepressible Trudy Quaif) asked me to organize a poetry event for them of course I said, "of course". My friend & comrade in arms Dayl Wise published Post Traumatic Press 2007: poems by veterans last year & included me among the other fine poets. So that was the germ, the starter, of this reading. But Dayl, ever on patrol for more poet-veterans, reached out & invited poets not in the current collection into the platoon-reading.
We started (& ended) with community open mic poets. The new voice Tony Avacato started, appropriately, with "Give Me the Gun." Mimi Moriarty read "Movie Version" from her book, War Psalm.
Dayl began the main event with "Tack" Trostle's "10th Anniversary - The Wall". Thomas Brinson read "Just After a Monsoon Shower" (his son), "The Bone" (an obscene celebration of war machinery), & "Parade".
W.D. Clarke is not in this anthology but is a familiar figure in the local open mic scene. He takes the broad, historical approach to the issue of war, from "Urchins" to the "Shit-burners" & his own "Night-time Army" from the Viet Nam war, to the World War II "The Boys from Troy," & even back to Civil War "Gettysburg."
Jim Murphy shared the stage by reading Gerald McCarthy's "The Hooded Legion" (from Shoetown) & a Viet Namese poem, "Where the River Flowed", in addition to his own "Black Granite Panel 53W, Row 13."
Vince Traenor is also not (yet) in the anthology but gave moving readings of his 1995 "Monsoon Memories" & the 1970 "Welcome Home." World War II vet Jay Wenk read us the just-written memoir "The Jew" and "A Different Sort of War Horror Story."
I read a combination of old & new, the old rant "Richard Nixon Must Die" (& folks fantasied an updated version about the current president) & the new "Combat Boots." Our editor Dayl Wise read the "Cross of St. Andrew" & the new "Ode to the P38" & the moving "Stop Round-Eye or I Bite."
Two open mic performers brought us on home. Local peace activist Michael Rice read from Mumia Abdul Jamal, then Laura Baboulis sang Otis Redding's "A Change is going to Come," a great way to end this night.
Join the Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace every Monday (until the war ends) at the 4 Corners in Delmar from 5PM to 6PM.