August 4, 2010

Poets in the Park, July 31

As it used to say in the Uncle Wiggly story books, "If the Mr. Ding-a-ling ice cream truck doesn't stop at the poetry reading & drown out the words of the poet with a tinkling version of "Fur Elise" I will bring you the story of the last Poets in the Park." Actually, reality was much stranger, as it often is, as you will see in a moment. Tonight the series came to a close with Susan Deer Cloud & Guy Reed, with good weather, a lovely audience, & my parking spot saved for me.

Susan Deer Cloud started with the poem "Marlon Brando Dies at 80" for his work supporting native people & his general contrariness towards the Hollywood power structure. But right in the middle of the poem, a woman wandered up to the Burns statue, parked her grocery cart, gave Susan a hug & a kiss, then wandered off again. At which point 2 Albany police officers who seemed to have been watching her from their cars, came up to the woman & quietly placed her in custody in handcuffs, put her in one car, her grocery cart in the other, & off they went. Susan continued on, & the incident was a prescient link to her next poem, "Car Stealer" the title poem of her book (FootHills Publishing) about a rebel boy in her youth. This she followed with an effusive dream poem about Bethel & the Woodstock Festival. Her poem "Sugar Daddy" is included in the first volume of I Was Indian: an Anthology of Native Literature that she edited for FootHills Publishing. A long, pensive love poem "Waking To Rain I Think of You" took us into her waking bedroom, then she ended with what she called her happy poem, her Chinese poem, "Happy Man," read barefoot & encouraged us to be barefoot too, as many of us did.

Guy Reed began by taking off his shoes too for his first time reading in Albany, first time outside, & a poem just written today, "July 31", pondering the death of Michael Allen White, a15 year old son of a co-worker, killed in an accident. Then a short poem by Jack Gilbert on grief. "Born Late" was about words, worn out with Time, needing new letters, new words. There were love poems ("The Body Falling in Love"), some so short they flit by like bluebirds ("My Beth"), & poems on the birth of his daughters ("Baby Rose" & "Sadie of the Lilacs"), or "How to Paint Like a Five-Year-Old," a political/terrorist dream poem, "4th of July," which became a meditation on his belief in whatever god/the spirit is, a list/rant of causes, slogans ("Two for One"), & discovering melancholia in the 3rd grade ("October Grey"). He ended with "Still Life with Acorn," a poem about poems & being overtaken by real life.

So that was it as the sunlight faded to dark for Poets in the Park for 2010, a great gathering of poets & poet-listeners at the Robert Burns statue in Albany's Washington Park. Thank you Hudson Valley Writers Guild for co-sponsoring with a grant that enabled us to bring in some poets from beyond the region, thank you people of Albany for being there as part of Whitman's "great audience." And as they say in the Uncle Wiggly books, "If global warming doesn't melt the ice-caps & floods Washington Park so that the Robert Burns statue becomes a home for carp & eel, we will back next year with more Poets in the Park."

May the Muse be with you.

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