May 29, 2010

Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center, May 20

Another wonderful evening of poetry at the SJC (of course I would say that, I'm the host), with 14 poets in the open mic, including some new to this series, some strangers in the audience, Colie Collen the fabulous featured poet. While we were waiting to begin someone from the street staggered in to recite a poem, a very short love poem he did twice, as if it were a haiku (sometimes they just want to use the bathroom).

My Muse for the night was the poet & biographer of H.D., Barbara Guest, a couple of her poems to inspire us. When we started reading only about half of the eventual open mic poets were there so I rewarded those present by letting them read 2 poems, while the late sign-ups were limited to the usual 1 poem rule.

Once again Alan Catlin was #1 on the list & began with a "true" story from his bartender days, "A Moveable Honeymoon Suite," then from a series of poems using animals as metaphors in surreal places, "White Whales in Fields of Wildflowers." Bob Sharkey's poems tonight were the first two in a long series of prose poems, "The Body" a mystery story, continued in "The Tokens."

Jason Crane read a poem about fixing up his truck, "Red Truck Elegy" then a poem for the jazz piano man Hank Jones, "91." Tedi Toca was back again, 2nd month in a row, with an old heavy-metal & lost love inspired poem, "Smudged." This was Anna Eyre's first time reading at the Third Thursday, with a chant piling up images & celebrating "Me" (I mean, her).

Colie Collen is the coordinator of the Yes, a Reading series, often held right here at the SJC, & an editor at Fence magazine. She began with an "erasure" of a sermon titled "Ships & Havens" by the American author & clergyman, Henry van Dyke, turning van Dyke's text into something other than it was when published in 1897; still, the sense of mortality runs through this re-cycled text as, I'm guessing, was a theme of the original text. Her other work, having some of the same fractured rhythm & syntax of the erasure/cut-up, was saved from just textual games by their everyday images of "thing-ness" as in "Not Night As in Fully" (in a cabin) or the poem following it (containing the image of "a blister inside a blister"). The poems "I Couldn't Explain & Can't & Yet" & "August" were shaped in alternating long & short centered lines in which the alternating shorter lines made a poem of its own. An untitled poem combined a school setting & Bloggers, & she ended with a meditation on touching, "A Gorilla Suit Extends Its Hand," generated by a Flannery O'Connor story (& which reminded me of the movie Morgan -- Netflix it).

After the break we returned to the open mic & I read a new poem from a notebook entry from last year, "Berkeley Morning." Then another SJC virgin, Raurri Jennings, who was encouraged to attend by the featured poet, did "a live cut-up" of 2 letter/poems he has been writing lately, then read the sources, which kind of took the thrill away. W.D. Clarke read "The Outsider" (from his book Soldier Ballads & Other Tales), & a Canadian story his Dad used to tell, "The Pumpkin Pie."

Ellen Finn (an "Albany virgin") is a regular at Caffe Lena, & read "To my Parents this Poem is my Therapy" (as so many are). Moses Kash III's poem read one of his latest poems, "America 2" about the country's racism & decline & it's false dreams of celebrity.
Anthony Bernini's poem was titled "Held in Place" & seemed to combine the wind, a hawk & a "2-ton pickup."

Traffic-girl Carolee Sherwood read "Placing My Head in the Mouth of a Lion" which she said, to taunt me, was a cat poem, but I beg to differ. D. Alexander Holiday plugged his new book, a memoir, In the Care of Strangers: The Autobiography of a Foster Child; the poem he read was "I LIke to Think of Harriet Taubman" by Susan Griffin. The night's last poet, Jill Wickham, read a poem based on a wordle, "Behind the Scene at Dick & Jane's" another of her commentaries on suburban life.

Every third Thursday, the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., 7:30PM (sign-up at 7:00PM), $3.00 donation, featured poet & open mic.

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