August 2, 2010

Poets in the Park, July 24

The third in this year's series, I planned this program specifically with the National Peace Conference, being held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel this weekend, in mind. The poets were 2 generations of Army veterans, Thomas Brinson, who had served in Viet Nam, & Tamara Gabbard, who served recently in Afghanistan. Thomas has read in Albany at open mics & at the Sanctuary for Independent Media last Veterans Day with me & with Dayl Wise (in the audience tonight), & has a chapbook of poems, Love and War, out from Post Traumatic Press of Woodstock, NY. Tamara read at open mics in Albany some years ago, including at the Lark Street Bookshop, & currently was part of the crew arranging the "Heavy!" art exhibit at the former St. Joseph's Cathedral in Albany, & is organizing the group art exhibit, "Convergence," in NYC.

Thomas Brinson began by saying that poetry has been the primary way for him to survive battle & "the never-ending results of battle," & read a short speech from the movie "Platoon" by way of introduction. Written in Viet Nam in 1967-68, "Patriotic Pondering" considered what he was doing there. He read some poems from his chapbook, also from the same time: "One Precious Event" was a brief moment of tenderness in war, then "Stark Memory" & "War Is Over For Me." Two poems contrasted a portrait of a (male) soldier with his rifle ("Six O'Clock News 1968") with a sequel written 35 years later "Six O'Clock News 2" about a woman soldier cleaning her weapon. The Long autobiographical poem "War Person" written 1983 traces how he came to be, haunted by war from childhood. Then, as a peacemaker in war-torn Sri Lanka he sees that, maddeningly, war is still going on ("Entrenching Tool"). Even a victory parade for his team, the NY Giants, turns to a meditation of entertainment versus the reality of war. He continued on with "Portents" then "Pleiku Jacket" & ended in the tears of the last lines of a poem written in April, interacting with a sculpture in Woodstock, "Metal Statue Alone in the Field" (made by a Viet Nam vet who has died of the effects of poisoning from Agent Orange.

Tamara Gabbard began with a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson, "Fear & Loathing: an Abstract Interpretation" on the power of words, then read a kind of journal entry, about herself, looking for herself. Since this is the park, the outside world often intrudes, fire-engines, motorcycles. Tonight it was a Mr. Ding-a-Ling ice cream truck just as Tamara began her poem "War Child," about the children she saw in Afghanistan, & the need for peace. Other poems from her experience in Afghanistan included "Fall" (from a Blog she wrote) but no trees, & playing on the word, & description of the country and ending in mayhem, & the descriptive & philosophical "This is the War." A recent poem was on walking meditation with the great advice, "Chill while you stroll." "Playa EspaƱa" was a descriptive piece about connecting with Nature, then a love, longing poem written while mingling with her thoughts & drinking wine ("It's Late"). She came back to end with a poem about herself, about Life, "A Wrinkle in Time." A very touching & moving reading, even if it was, as she said, in no particular order.

We can never predict what will happen when we are reading in the Park, but at least the weather has been cooperating so far, & we've been ending just as "Annie Get Your Gun" starts over at the Park Playhouse & the poets prevailed.

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