March 10, 2009

Poetry Reading at Alternative Books, March 7

This reading in Kingston, NY was organized by Rebecca Schumejda. I had been scheduled to read with Rebecca in Albany's Jawbone series back in February 2008 but we were knocked out by one of the great Northeast's ice storms. Later in the year I met her at the CT Beat Poetry Festival & we've been negotiating readings ever since. So here we were on the night of Kingston's 1st Saturday art walk, 4 poets reading in a precarious labyrinth of the printed word.

Out of habit as much as anything else, I went first. Hoping to sell a few copies of my chapbook I read a section ("Terce") from Meditations of a Survivor (A.P.D., 1991), then jumped up to my January 2009 "Birthday Poem," which you can find here on my Blog. I felt I had to have a love poem so I read the all-purpose "Said Again," then back to last Fall's "Dancing on the Mandela" & blew a few bubbles, as fleeting as sand. Rather than read my "Baghdad/Albany" I asked Cheryl A. Rice to read her version, "Baghdad/Kingston" (little did I know that this sharing of poems/readers would be a sub-text for the evening, it just happened) & I ended with a poem for the season, "What Passover Has Taught Me" (also here on the Blog).

Most of what Rebecca Schumejda read was from her new book, Falling Forward (Sunnyoutside, Buffalo, 2008), except the first poem, "Shopping with Maria" for a wedding dress. From the book she read "Wedding Waltz," "Workman's Prayer" (for her father), "Four Months from Now," and the heartbreaking, "Wind Chime." She finished up with her favorite poem from Nate Graziano, "The Paper Ark" (which I remember hearing him read last June in Connecticut).

And with that she brought up Nathan Graziano. He started off with 3 pieces of flash fiction from his "Mark Stories", about a dysfunctional couple -- "Moon Walk," "My Real Hair" (from a woman's point of view, so he had his surprised wife Liz read), & "Almost Christmas." Then he read a series of poems from a new collection he is preparing. "Screwed by the Easter Bunny" was for his 3 year old son, while "Tom, Jerry & Tim" was about his kids watching cartoon re-runs, then "Reasons I Give My Wife for Not Having a Vasectomy." He ended by reading one of Rebecca's poems (in her book), "A Mother's Mantra." He has a wonderful book out from his experience teaching, also from Sunnyoutside press, Teaching Metaphors.

The last poet of the night was SUNY New Paltz professor Pauline Uchmanowicz. Her contribution to the unplanned sub-text of other's poems was the only published poem by her partner Jim, "Reproduction." Then she read a series of fairly short poems, drawing upon images & things, "Elegy for a Shirt," "Field Artillery," "Once Upon a Time," "Mechanical Drawing" (about what the boys were like in that high school class), geology in "Quantinary," "Patrons of the Weather" (or was that whether?), others, then ending with a Spring poem on empty space. A nice mix.

You can see from the photos how jammed in we were, humans a clear minority among the tons of pages for sale. The bookstore is at 35 N. Front St., Kingston, NY for all you bibliophils/maniacs.

Rebecca Schumejda will be the featured poet at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center in Albany, NY on May 21.