August 5, 2010

Caffe Lena, August 4

My father used to say, often, "You win some, you lose some, some get rained out." That's a great description of poetry open mics. The operative word is "open:" anyone can walk off the street & say they have a "poem." This also applies to your academic/MFA poets who occasionally come down out of the tower & say they have a "poem." Ultimately "art" is what anybody wants it to be, & entertainment is anything that, well, "entertains". As my mother would say, "One man's [sic] trash is another man's treasure." Or as my First Sergeant in the Army would say, "You pay your dues & you take your chances." I guess I should know, with all the open mics I go to, let alone the Third Thursday open mic I've been running since 1997, I pay my bucks at the door & who knows what will happen.

Our host, Carol Graser, began with a poem by Joy Harjo at the Kitchen Table as the center of the Universe. Later after the break she read her own poems about a neighbor's house burning down, & her what she called "obligatory oil-spill poem" "Oil Giant Apologizes for Spill".

The featured poet was Richard Levine, who read as is the pattern here, after a few open mic poets, followed by a break, then more open mic poets. He read from the forthcoming That Country's Soul (Finishing Line Press), with poems from his earlier chapbook, A Language Full of Wars and Songs (Pollack Press, 2004) sandwiched in between. The poems from the earlier book were about his experience, and the aftermath of his experience, in Viet Nam, while the new book contained the Nature poems of a Brooklyn guy now living "upstate" in the woods. Many with literary epigraphs, some dealt with the garden, both real & biblical, such as "Believe This," while others came from walking in the woods (the linked poems "Beauty" & "Not the Thing"), or from confronting the changes in Nature over time, as in "Near Extinction," "You Don't Miss Your Water" (based on clich├ęs) & "Parting with Distance." He also included a villanelle he rarely reads that is in the voice of an owl, "Owl Creek Credo."

Scattered throughout the open mic portion of the evening were a handful of first-timers. Billy is only 7-years old & practically hidden by the music stand & mic read a piece (among others) with sound effects, "Everything I Hear in the Spring" that later inspired the featured poet to read his owl poem. Mary Robilito read a dragon/sex poem (does that count as a "Nature" poem?). Tim Snyder rides with the Patriot Guard Riders & read about the funeral of a young (aren't they all?) soldier killed in Afghanistan, another about bikers being potential crow food, & one about picking up a woman in a bar in Glens Falls. Brittany read a wish poem (which was a sub-theme of the night) & another about her Beatle-geek fiance.

The other poets included A.C. Everson, back after a year, with a poem about the beach at North Truro, "Sunrise Scene." Before he read his own poem, "I Never Heard Buddy Bolden Say…", Jason Crane paid tribute to last months's guest host, the vacationing Carolee Sherwood by reading her poem "Spill" ("obligatory oil-spill poem" -- maybe we could plug the hole in the BP well will all the poems that have been written about it?)

I included a couple August poems, one on horses & the other Tom Nattell's "Hiroshima." W.D. Clarke's tongue-in-cheek poems were about food. George Fisher lost me in his words in "Grand Central." Bob Sharkey's "War Comes Home" was about water guns, & his erasure poem ("Made Marble by Jazz") based on Michael Ondaatje's novel Coming Through Slaughter made me think of William S. Burrough's Last Words of Dutch Schultz. Richard Cowles, performing as "The Poet Who Survived 2009" started a sub-theme on wishes with his piece on being careful what you wish for. So Barbara Garro read her wish piece, "Love's Wonderings" first. A couple performers made us laugh, such as Ellen Finn's love poem & her obligatory oil spill poem (plug it with a giant tampon!), & Austin Halpern-Graser who did "stand-up" (we could tell because he wasn't sitting down.)

One of the great on-going poetry open mic series in the area, every first Wednesday at historic Caffe Lena, Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY, 7:30PM (7:00PM sign-up).


Anonymous said...

from Therese B. -- Sorry I missed Caffe Lena last Wednesday. Thanks for the report.

Just to clarify -- The first piece I read at Java's was a very poor excuse for a poem, as I admitted in a comment to one of your previous blog entries.

When it comes to poetry, I think you and I have more in common than might first appear to be the case.

The phrase "ivory tower" in one of its earliest contexts referred to the long sensuous neck of the woman who is adored by one of the speakers in the biblical Song of Songs (7:1-5). "Ivory tower" was once a loving compliment, not an insult.

Dan Wilcox said...

The same chapter/verse of the Song of Songs also describes the Beloved's nose as "the Tower of Lebanon looking toward Damascus."

Anonymous said...

From Therese B. -- I'm not sure I understand your last comment, Dan. Is your comment meant to suggest that I have my nose in the air? Or were you suggesting something else? I'd like to know what you were suggesting, if you feel like replying.

Dan Wilcox said...

Wow, you read way too much into everything. "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
Nothing I say is serious, except this, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

From Therese B. -- Thanks, Dan, for replying. I apologize for taking everything too seriously. I look forward to your open mic on Thursday.

Anonymous said...

But if everything serious is taken
will anything standing be misunder?
Tuff to get it,

Love, Bird

Dan Wilcox said...

Love Bird,
sometimes Polis is just the Greek word for City.