August 28, 2010

Labor Poetry Reading (Oklahoma Laborfest), August 26

This was the first pitch for a full weekend of music, speakers, poetry & art for Oklahoma Laborfest, a public festival to promote Oklahoma labor history and working-class culture. 3 Guys from Albany were invited to be part of the program & we read with fine bevy of Oklahoma Poets in Coffy's Cafe in the Plaza District of Oklahoma City. The host for the reading was Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, who served as our tour-guide & host throughout our visit. Jeanetta is the 2010 winner of the Oklahoma Book Award & the Western Heritage Association Award for her poetry, & who read at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs (NY) earlier in the year.

Ron Wallace started off with poems by Howard Starks (including an interesting piece on running boards), then a bunch of his own poems, from Durant, OK ("East Side Boys") to "Queens NY
October 1967." Straight-talking poetry.

Dorothy Alexander's poems were about farming cotton & herfamily picking fruit in California during the Depression, often about her father ("Sacrament" & "Planting Time"), then to "The
Roughneck" & "Elegy for the Derrick Man" about oil workers.

J.C. Mahan read as "Johnny Catfish" poems ranging from "Old John's Song" ("...better day a'comin'..."), to a poem for working women ("Camptown Blues"), "Land Lords & Lovers," & the artist's revolt, "Art Show Review." 

Ken Hada (from Ada) began with a couple poems from his book  Spare Parts (Mongrel Empire Press, 2010), "Good Enough" & "Ramona," then a new poem, "Custodians on Break," & "Ancestors" & "My Favorite Diner" (actually, waitresses).

A pleasant surprise this night was the work of Aaron Rudolph. He started with "Love Song for a Bus
Driver." Then on "To the Poet in Line at the K-Mart with a Handful of Coupons," a poem for his father "Fixing Things," & poems on his Mexican heritage, "Richie Valens," & from his series of fictionalized poems about his family.

After a break, it was time for 3 Guys from Albany took to the "stage" for a program of some of our greatest hits & labor poems, mixing up, as we always do, who follows whom.

Terri McGrath followed with a couple poems from work as a waitress in a waffle house ("A Waffle House Tale" & "Missing Piece).

Abigail Keegan's poems varied from "Pictures of Pioneer Women," to one based on a tabloid heading, to a villanelle about her parents "Daily Love Letters," ending with one about her grandmother, "The Riveter."

Jason Poudrier served in Iraq, which forms the basis of his poems: "Desert Hostile," "From One Veteran to Another," "Where the Veterans Are," "Baghdad International" (he said it was his first military poem & has certainly not turned out to be the last), "Dear Mr. Sandman" (on flashbacks), & "Black Angus Watermelon" (like the flies on a body in Iraq) -- powerful stuff, to live, to write, to hear.

Karen Neurohr was here to re-introduce the work of Oklahoma poet Wilma McDaniels (complete with a large photo of the poet); McDaniels was also a former poet laureate of California. The poems Karen read ranged from Depression-era poems like "Color Claims" (1936) & "Picking Grapes" (1937), to thoughts on being an Okie poet, from 2001 ("Something Important Remembered Now"), & thoughts on "A Peachy Life." Wilma McDaniels is a poet worth looking up & reading.

Our able host, Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, was about to close out the night when we insisted that she too read a poem, which she did, the title poem from her collection Work is Love Made Visible (West End Press, 2009).

A great start to the festival, packing Coffy's Cafe, with speakers out on the street for the spill-over crowd & smokers.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Thanks Dan! So great to be with you and Charlie this weekend. A great memory.