April 8, 2010

Albany Poets Invade Kingston, April 3

Rebecca Schumejda invited a bunch of poets from Albany to read in series she runs at the Half Moon Books on North Front St. in Kingston (NY). There was a good audience scattered among the stacks; someone estimated the crowd to be 93, but I'm not good at numbers.

But I do know that I went first with a combination of Buddhist poems from my new chapbook, boundless abodes of Albany (Benevolent Bird Press), & some political pieces, starting with "Good Friday Meditation" then later the old rant, "Richard Nixon Must Die." The Buddhist selections included "The Hundred Thousand Ten Thousand Million Buddhas" (based on The Lotus Sutra), "On Reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead" & a scattering of Buddhist haikus; also included the recent "Split this Rock Dream Poem."

I've been listening to Mary Panza for years & the audience always laughs, sometimes because it's funny, sometime because she makes the audience is nervous. She brought it all on tonight, from Wim Wender's film "Wings of Desire," to attacks on chain email, or waiting for the poem to come, & her experience as a bartender ("The Assumption"), or to the well-earned attack on Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, for Julia. In fact the experience of having, then raising, her daughter played a large role in tonight's playlist with "The tattooed crowd at Daycare" (the title says it all), or how to get on "In a Post-Partum World," & bonding with her daughter ("6 Weeks Unpaid" watching TV), ending with "Roofing & the Art of the Kiss."

Thom Francis on word & Keith Spencer on various guitars are "Murrow." Thom attempted to read the Cliff Notes of the Iliad & the Odessey until the audience protested. They did a set filled with their well-known "hits" (just like the Rolling Stones), starting with "Angel." Thom likes to combine disparate elements in his poems, like the drinks on a bar & the loves in one's life, or a "Shower" & a confessional, or "A New Day" & a blank page. He pointed out, gratuitously I think, that they had never done "A New Day" before their traditional closing "truckin' poem," so you heard it first there (& here).

I was very pleased to be in such good company, not only of the other poets whom I had performed with, but also of the fine poets & poet-listeners in the audience. This is a relaxed setting, conducive to listening to the words in the air bouncing off the words printed on pages surrounding us. It's worth a stop there even when there isn't a reading to pick up that novel, or book of poems or art book you've always wanted, but didn't want to buy full priced, brand new. Even dusty words don't loose their shine.

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