February 7, 2009

Caffè Lena Open Mic, February 4

The featured poet was scheduled to be Ed Tick but he was ill, or indisposed, or should I do the obvious rhyme? Our host (confessing to be slightly frazzled herself tonight), Carol Graser, began with a poem by Elizabeth Alexander, "Ars Poetica, Rally 2002."

Larry Hovish was one of the editor's of Albany's Salvage Magazine back a few years ago, now returned with a couple of poems on a recent love disaster, "Hiding" & "Witches" (of course!). Corliss gave us her annual drive-through with a long piece on her Christmas tree & the President's inauguration.

The big surprise/thrill of the night was The Young Performers Dance Company, under the guidance of Lily Loveday, who read 3 poems by students from an English as a Second Language class. The performing group included 2 young men with cellos, & a series of dancers, both solo & in duet, accompanying the poems. It was a short, stunning performance; each part -- spoken word, movement, & music -- combined to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Did I mention that these were all high school students? I'm including a couple of photos here, but you just had to be there.

The night's virgin was Lisa Morahan who read 2 short poems, "First It Came" & "Not a Joke" in a very self-confident, relaxed manner. This was most certainly not Marilyn McCabe's first time; her "Perseveration" was as fun & refreshing as the ice cream in the poem, that was also a meditation on god.

So tonight's replacement feature was W.D. Clarke, who used the fortuitous opportunity to promote his new book, Soldier Ballads and Other Tales (infinitypublishing.com). Clarke has read at most of the open mics in the area (including at Poets in the Park last July) & I have heard most (if not all) of the poems in his book. He gave a characteristically understated, pleasant, good-humored reading of his rhymed narratives. Many of his poems come from his own experience in the Army in Viet Nam & from the stories of other soldiers that he helps to archive at the New York State Military History Museum in Saratoga Springs. Others are based on his travels out west or reading the history of the west (as in "Their Last Stand"). His style is reminiscent of that of Robert Service or Rudyard Kipling (see "The Private & the Major"). An enjoyable reading whose time went by quickly -- the book is worth it too.

Alan Casline shared one from the spurious mountain character, "Perious Frink Smells the Scent of a Bee Keeper," as well as a tribute poem, "Frozen Waterfall." George Fisher read "The War Years," & a poem written in Washington Park in Albany, ever a source of inspiration. Therese Broderick's Valentine poem was about dusting off a copy of Rodin's "The Kiss."

Mimi Moriarty read a poem "My Sister's Heart" which tells you, sort of, what it was about, & a new one about her father, "Track Photo." W.D. Clarke's wife, Linda, graciously took my picture while I read 2 "Birthday Poems", one written last month, the other written in June, 1974.

James Schlett's poems were grounded, as they often are, in a place -- "Amber Light" in North Jersey & "Winter Romance" in Wilton (with the smell of perfume in the forest). Bob Sharkey also had a Winter poem, "Yes," that included birds & Saul Williams, then a prose poem "Because." A rare sight, Jodi Frank was as bubbly & light as I remember; she read 2 pieces based on things she had seen in Newsweek magazine, "Medic in Combat" & "Collective Light" -- she needs to be back here more often.

Always the 1st Wednesday of the month at historic Caffé Lena in Saratoga Springs. Also, look for the Caffè Lena Poetry Festival April 11, all day -- details soon at www.caffelena.org