April 12, 2010

Caffe Lena Open Mic, April 7

Another full night on the Caffè Lena stage in Saratoga Springs -- not that all the poets were up there at once, but it was a steady stream of good community poetry, & a featured poet all the way from Oklahoma. Our host Carol Graser began with a poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca, on "beauty" of the small things.

Todd Fabozzi was first up with "The Other America" then a lighter poem about the paper-towel dispenser in the bathroom. Carol Kenyon (in the photograph at right) said she had "2 shorties," one (sung) on paintings of the Solstice, the other "straight-up poetry" reflections. Gordon Hayman's poem was "Laugh" with a last line from Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion, then "Balls of String," a boyhood memory in rhyme.

Sue Jefts, resplendent in a long, pale scarf, started with Wendell Berry's "How to Be a Poet," then to her own newer poem "Goat Dreams," with wine. Alan Casline has just returned from New Mexico read "Dry Country" (which, as I was writing this a few days later, received  on a slow postcard from New Mexico) & "My Navajo Butterfly Song" both from his little pocket notebook. Barbara Garro responded to a movie about Edith Piaf, then read a memoir about "Bicycles." Nancy Denofio's "The Center of Being" was about what the space between life & death, then a poem about waiting in the car outside K-Mart at "The Cemetary Parking Lot."

Some months back I connected again with Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, tonight's featured poet & even found pictures I had meant to give her years ago of a reading she did in Albany in 1994. So it was with a rich sense of meeting an old friend that I sat at her table & heard her read her poetry among her other old friends, & new ones too. Her book of poems & family photographs, Work is Love Made Visible, is out recently from West End Press (Albuquerque, NM) & that's what she read from tonight. Poems of her great-great grandmother writing poetry, her son ("For Michael"), the 2 sides of an obituary "for my brother," gentle & harsh portraits of her Oklahoma ("suite: home Oklahoma" & "ashes & dust"), & the literary Okies, "Rosasharn Reports from California in the 21st Century." I've heard the term "regional poetry" used dismissively by poets & critics with over-reaching ambitions, but hearing this (regional) poetry tonight confirms for me why it is the poetry that readers find the most "universal." Find more information at her website.

Carol Graser continued the open mic with a new, untitled poem that sounded like a miniature novel. Effie Redman's poem "40 Lashes" was based on a newspaper article & cries out to "Free her!" Austin Halperin-Graser, the resident stand-up comedian, tried out some new material. W.D. Clarke put on an English accent (sort of) for "The Parson's Tea" that drew laughs from the audience, then "He" about a soldier's last bullet. Jan Legacy performed a poem, "Small Blond Girl" inspired by photos of her mother. Melissa Anderson was new to the poetry open mic, read "The Sky & I" & the graphic, detailed "Dodgeball."

Another young poet, Amy Leach, read Andrea Gibson's "Sidewalk Chalk" (& read it well, too). Steve Pillar was up next with a "poem about the troubles of today…" "Great Bird of Beauty". Josh McIntyre is "One of our much-appreciated regulars," as Carol said, &, as usual, had 2 short poems, "Home" & "Fasting" on a beautiful day, like today. I read next, just one poem, appropriate for this night, "I Meet An Old Friend on the Subway."
 Ellen Finn has read here before & showed up the other night at Valentines in Albany just to listen, tonight read 2 poems about the effect strangers can have: "3 Days Shy of 5 Years Later" a moving poem of high school suicide, then "Mr. Benchman" about a character in her town buying her cigarettes.

Bob Sharkey read a poem based on titles of poems from last month here, "Mr. & Mrs. Fed-Ex Expecting Spring Plucking a Goose in the Cellar." Therese Broderick was nervous about sending her daughter to "Nicaragua," the title of her prose poem, then read a poem ("Courante") about her neighborhood, using terms from classical music. Lorraine Grund was back after an absence, inspired to writer more about what her life is like, "This Life." Mark Munzer's brand of poetry is "more cowboy," he said, recited rhymes about the rain coming, then, sitting, about going for a ride, passing a tractor driven by a young girl.

This wonderful open mic is at historic Caffé Lena in Saratoga Springs, each 1st Wednesday, 7:30PM -- great community writers & a visiting featured poet.

No comments: