June 30, 2011

Poets Speaking Out for Social Justice, June 26

I've know the folks behind the Riverwood Poetry Series since the Connecticut Poetry Festival back in 2008, then the re-named Riverwood Poetry Festival in June 2009.

I was pleased & honored to be asked back to read at this event with poets Eileen Albrizio, Jean-Yves Solinga & Elizabeth Thomas. Equally thrilling was to read at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, CT -- not just the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, you know.

After Sonya welcomed us to the Center, Julia Paul talked about the Riverwood Poetry Series, then Kathryn Kelly & Terry Klein did tag-team introductions of the poets.

I was up first, starting with "The Communion of Saints," important to name our own heroes, then a selection of political poems reaching back as far as "I Thought I Saw Elvis," up to the recent "Chatham Peace Vigil, & including poems from Poeming the Prompt & Baghdad/Albany & other Peace Poems.

Eileen Albrizio read just 2 pieces, one a poem, the other an excerpt from an unpublished novel. The poem, "Oh God, What Have We Done?" combines 2 incidents from 1998, the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming (for being gay), & the murder of James Byrd in Texas (for being black); it's in her collection Perennials: New & Selected Poems (Ye Olde Font Shoppe, 2007). The excerpt from her novel was set in the past in North Carolina & was the grim tale of the lynching of a young black boy, I guess for the crime of reading.

Jean-Yves Solinga is from the Marhreb but has been in the USA & taught in schools for years. In "The Sheets Have to Be Clean" he brought in elements from an NPR interview & Rembrandt, contrasting the daily work of women with the killing work of men. Other poems were "Haiti from Barbecue to Misery," "Litanies for the Devil" (philosophical ponderings on evil), a poem about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina "The Danzinger Bridge" (on exceptionalism), & "Africa in Harmony" on the nature of exploitation, in the images of animals.

The poetry of Elizabeth Thomas centers around her experience teaching, & many of the poems were performed from memory. She opened with her "favorite poem" "Revelation" about a student with a tee-shirt that says "I Am God." Then a piece in the language of drug addiction, "On Words & English Teachers." In "The Games We Play" a student returns to Israel to fulfill military service, with similar issues brought home in "I Ask My Grand Daughter," & in "Mother's Work" she created a celebration from piled up images of birth & violence & the work of women. Her final poem was a collaborative piece (including a line from her mother) from folks at a health care center for Seniors proclaiming what was "Beautiful."

The reading was followed by a lively & provocative question & answer session, with the audience challenging us poets to articulate in ways different from our poems the issues of writing about politics & social justice & protest. Perhaps the hardest part of our performances today.

June 28, 2011

Saint Poem, June 20

It's tough for me to get to this reading on time since I have another meeting at the same time. But tonight my earlier meeting ended early & I only missed 1 open mic poet (I can't write about what I don't hear -- actually … well, nevermind).

Joe Krausman was reading as I arrived his poem "The Game of Life," based on news stories he had read about a house infested with snakes. Robert Natello said he had nothing to read, that he had read out 15 years ago, maybe; then read a revelation of waking up alone, & naked, & a poem reflecting on his life as a poet. Our host, RM Engelhardt, said his poem "Walt Whitman is Dead" was written with the recent birthday reading of "Song of Myself" in mind & preached to Walt about the evils of our days, then a poem about a visit to the dentist, "Ghost of my Tooth" (Rob was once the host of a reading series called "Ghost of the Machine").

The night's featured poet/performer was Avery Stempel who began with a poem in a goofy pirate voice, "In Search of Plunder," about an artist seeking inspiration, then the anaphoric list, "I Found a Poem." I like the energy behind Avery's poems, but many are afflicted with abstract meditations on grand topics, like "Life Never Ceases to Amaze Me" (change is coming), or "Imminent Anticipation" which is saved by some images of leaves & rain, or "Onward Ever Onward." In his final poem, "Bottled & Labeled & Ready for Distribution," he used a series of drawings to illustrate the poem, which in itself was ironic because the poem was about a poet being filled with words, not images.

After a short break I read a couple "Postcards from New York," composed for a Chicago project instigated by my partner-in-crime, Charlie Rossiter.

Penny Meachem tried to have a musical accompaniment from her smart phone, but the images in her poem, "Jazz Blues," were good enough to carry it without the music, & her singing in her piece "Never Too Far" was just fine. Stacy Stump read from her 1992 journal ("Stacy's Journal: Don't Touch") a piece called "5 Days 2 Hours 58 Minutes" which she said is the length of her relationship with the boy in question, then read "part 2" written months later about the same boy -- ah, young love!

This is a new series hosted by RM Engelhardt, at the UAG Gallery on Lark St. in Albany, NY, on the 3rd Monday of each month (check AlbanyPoets.com for a calendar); his series at the Fuze Box on the last Friday of the month is now defunct.

June 25, 2011

Urban Guerilla Theater, June 17

This monthly series often has a theme & musical acts, but tonight our host, Mojavi, was running it "old school," basically an open mic with DJ Jams in the background as needed & in between performers. I hadn't been here in a number of months & hadn't expected to read but then I always have a poem or 2 on me somewheres so Mojavi signed me up.

First up was hooded Leslie with 2 pieces done from memory about relationships going bad & a woman getting her life back, moving on, keeping her options open. O.Z. Morris/Ozymandias did a couple of pieces in hip-hop beat, including a love rap to "Miss Medusa." Jessica Layton confronted the issues from the day's news with a piece called "Homies" & one titled "Victims." This was Ben Golden's first time up & did a piece, "Paranoia," about ATF raiding his apartment. Usually comics just wash over me, but I tend to pay more attention to sexy female comediennes, like Jay (or was it simply "J."?) McBride. Then it was my turn with poems from my chapbook Poeming the Prompt: "Looking for Cougars," "What Really Happened,"& "The Lesson."  Next up was what I would call a "cock grabbing rap" group with the refrain "you ain't fuckin' with me who you fuckin' with?" -- check it out online by Googling 16 bars.

I thought I 'd seen Clare McDonald before but it was only because she must have had the same slam poetry coach as about a dozen other aspiring competitors on the scene; her piece, a take-off from Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" was done breathlessly in classic slam style, good performance, eeh poem. Another comic, with a seemingly random array of jokes was Matt Kelly. Bless gave a preview of next month's UGT with his pussy-addict poem, followed by his fine piece about visiting his old 'hood, "…up the street from history…" Then he tag-teamed as he launched into his poem in the voice of the gun, & Darian (Poetic Visions) followed as the bullet, a powerful message.

Carlos Garcia said he used to be "a Blackberry poet," but has returned to paper, & performed 2 pieces, the first pondering where inspiration comes from, then a poem for poets who preach but don't do, unfortunately the poem a bit preachy too. Dain Brammage did a selection of his insomnia haikus, then his earliest performance piece, the misogynist wife-killer poem. Kee Jackson was new to this stage & read her poem "I Am Beautiful" for all women.

Elliptical is a regular here, & brought paper to the stage with a piece just written today, "Must Accomplish" about being jobless, then the hip-hop piece "breathe me in, I am here…" Rashad the Poet recited a poem about the chain of being, a young mother & then a still-born child. Bless jumped in again with a recited piece on child support. The last group I caught briefly on my way out was a rap duo S.P.I. (I think).

Check the schedule of events at The Linda, & look for the next UGT on the 3rd Friday of the month, a unique venue showcasing a variety of fine local performers.

June 22, 2011

Third Thursday Poetry Night, June 16

One of the joys of hosting a poetry series is scheduling featured poets whose work one has heard in open mics & featured elsewhere & seeing them shine, hearing members of the audience express their enjoyment. That's what happened this night with our featured poet Mike Burke. It's sort of the proud-Poppa feeling.

After invoking the Muse, tonight the quintessential urban poet Paul Blackburn, our first of the night's 16 open mic poets was Alan Catlin with "Work Anxiety Dream #5." Carolee Sherwood's poem, "Marriage as Possessive Pronoun" was about searching for words, with multiple pronouns in parentheses (she said) in the printed text. Alan (A.F.) Casline often writes about (& photographs) the Norman's Kill (creek) & tonight his poem was "The Norman's Mill."

Carol Jewell read the first of the evening's topical political poems ("Weiner's out…"), just written today (& it was her first time reading at this venue). Don Levy read an old favorite, "Why I Blew My Muse" (part of his gay fantasy series, or reality?). W.D. Clarke's poem "That 4-Letter Word" (in rhyme, of course) was not about profanity but, perhaps, insanity (i.e., "gold"). Mark (Obeeduid) O'Brien did a duet with his iPad with a piece called "First Oscillation."

Sometimes when I write these Blogs folks take offense at terms I am wont to use that I am either using in a purely descriptive way or even clearly as a positive term. Mike Burke (our featured poet) described how someone took offense to my describing him in a past Blog as a "blue-collar poet;" Mike correctly understood that this was a term of praise, & his reading proved my point. He began with "School Days," a battle of "minds" with his mother, while "Pissed" is about hanging out in an airport bar, becoming un-pissed, & "Room #16" about a hook-up in a motel. Then a short series of poems on death, "Dog Day Afternoon", "His Yorkies" & the chilling "Mother's Day" in the morgue, identifying her only child, a suicide. "Graduation Night" changed the tone (somewhat) with a remembrance of a "short night, so many years ago." Another death poem, "My Ex-Girl-Friends Wake," has the narrator scoping out the barmaid, while the description of clientele & the drugging of horses in "Saratoga", was "not NYRA-approved," according to Mike. "Mates" linked his mother's fall to pairs of birds. Mike acknowledged the help of fellow poet Tom Corrado in a couple of poems, including one about young recruits in the military coming home in a casket. & he ended with a poem, sort of an extended joke, from a friend who is Greyhound bus driver, "A Bus Ride," about the man who "always pulled out on time."

After the break I read my new poem, "Imagining the Mews," from a trip to an open mic in Provincetown.  Then Tom Corrado read "I'll Pencil You In," playing off that common phrase. D. Alexander Holiday read "Black Statue of Liberty" by Jessica K. Moore from the anthology, Listen Up. Therese Broderick's poem "Pinning the Dress" was about her daughter's graduation from high school. Bob Sharkey paid tribute to "Bloomsday" with a quote from James Joyce's Ulysses, then read his own piece titled "To Get his Breakfast," describing Bloom's morning. Edie Abrams' 4-part poem "Weeding" was a meditation on sperm as well.

Anthony Bernini followed with a political piece he'd read at WordFest, "In Fukushima Prefecture." Sally Rhoades read a recent meditative poem, watching the passing fields from the train. Moses Kash III slipped in at the last moment to be added to the sign-up sheet & he also read a recent piece, "The Wretched Earth," pondering 9/11, Osama bin Laden & death.

A great night of open mic poets & a fine featured poet. We do this every third Thursday at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, 7:30PM, a modest donation (or, hopefully, an immodest donation, if you can afford it), brought to you by the Poetry Motel Foundation.

June 17, 2011

Professor Java's Wide Open Mic, June 13 (not Keith's Birthday)

It seems the folkies & the poets have at least one thing in common: they both shun the #1 slot on the open mic sign-up sheet. So once again, I was the first performer up. Meanwhile, our host, Keith Spencer kept insisting that tonight was not his birthday, his birthday was tomorrow. But that didn't stop little Julia (Mary Panza's daughter) from making a miniature birthday card, signed by many of us (but "no poetry" she told us), & delivering it abruptly during the evening.

It was a mix of poets & musicians, as always at this "guitar-friendly" venue.

I started off the open mic list with poetry, "The Pussy Pantoum" then a couple of poems from my chapbook Poeming the Prompt (A.P.D. [Anticipating Pantoums Daily, etc.] 2011), "Poeming," & the wistful haiku "Love Poem." Other poets this night were Carol Jewell with a "Pantoum for Keith" wondering what to write about, then the 2 sad, short poems for her brother that she had read yesterday at the Arts Center. Brenda Rusch read 2 versions of a poem she first wrote in college, the second shorter, compact, more a poem than the original. Dain Brammage found his way back here after a year with a string of haiku, some from an insomniac series beginning "4 in the morning…" "Poetic Visions" (Darian Gooden) performed one of his signature pieces, "Upside Down Inside Out," then a love poem he had performed at WordFest, "The World's Most Wanted."

In between & around the poets there were a series of musical performers, & one "stand-up" comic, Mike Ingraham. There were performances of classics by Robert Johnson & Eric Clapton by Greg Guba, & more Eric Clapton & a Seals & Croft tune by visiting Sheri Levin. Brian Rivera got some level of audience participation with his song & Dan Sayles played instrumental bass pieces. In addition, there were groups, the duo "The Midnight Society" & the trio "The Normanskill Saxons."

But the musical highlights of the night was the father & daughters team of Dwight, Kate & Margaret. As a trio they performed a moving tribute to Viet Nam war veterans, "A Man Named Clay," the performance debut for Dwight.  Kate followed with a stunning solo piece about meeting a homeless man in Italy & singing the "Ave Maria" together, then she & sister Margaret sang Joan Baez's love song to Bob Dylan "Diamonds & Rust," reading the lyrics off their smart-phone.

Wide-open for musicians & poets, at Professor Java's on Wolf Rd. in Colonie, NY, 2nd Monday of the month, 8PM. Brought to you by AlbanyPoets.com.

June 15, 2011

Poetry + Prose, June 12

This was the last of this season's open mics here at the Arts Center in Troy, from a series that started in the Fall. We are just taking the summer off (July & August) off & will be back on September 11. Each month there has been a grand selection of writers (both prose & poetry) who seem to like the Sunday afternoon format, so you don't have to believe me (I'm one of the co-hosts along with Nancy Klepsch).  This month was no exception.

Some folks had a hard time getting here this month due to the Flag Day parade in Troy & I've heard that at least one writer had to turn around & go home because she couldn't find a way across the parade route. But Howard Kogan made it through, with a memoir about growing up in the '50s, "Black & White," then a true story of a real event at a reading in North Adams, MA, "Open Mic."

Marion Menna read from her chapbook, An Unknown Country (Finishing Line Press, 2009), 3 pieces that were family memoirs, "The Tapestry Chair," "Migration" (a prose poem without punctuation), & "Engrams." Mimi Moriarty likes to do what she calls "companion poems," today about her grandchildren, "Childrens' Chorus" & "Tap Dancing." Bob Sharkey began with a piece from his travels out West & on the Navaho Nation, "To the Monuments," then from his series of pieces set in Troy, the gruesome "The Body." David Wolcott's prose memoir was about following Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks with a chick on the railroad 40 years ago. Sally Rhoades began with a poem about her Turkish mother-in-law who has Alzheimer's, then a short mother & daughter scene from a play she wrote a number of years ago.

My co-host, Nancy Klepsch, read a moving memoir titled "Being There San Francisco 2004" about that city's experiment in gay marriage. Ron Drummond introduced what he read as "3 relatively short pieces;" the first a draft of a movie voice-over, the 2nd (or 2nd & 3rd) a dream sequence, first as the dream, then as a re-telling based on it; the final piece was from his critical writing on the works of William Shakespeare. I followed with my new poem from Cape Cod, "Imagining the Mews," then "Prophylactic" from my chapbook Poeming the Prompt. Carol Jewell read 2 poems she had just written today, both tender, emotional: "My Brother Was Brilliant," & "June 12, 2011 For my Brother Gone 3 Years Ago Today." Todd Fabozzi read 3 related pieces from his 2009 book of poems Crossroads, "Waiting," "The Mystic Road," & "Maybe."

This series has been (& will be) held at The Arts Center of the Capital Region on River St. in Troy, NY on the 2nd Sunday of each month at 2PM, free, & welcomes all writing genres.

June 11, 2011

(f)Art on Lark, June 11

Albany Poets were one of the early acts at the stage on the Washington Ave. end of Lark St. for the Art on Lark event. The weather was cool, cloudy but the rain had stopped. We did a "round robin" of alternating poets, starting with Cheryl A. Rice's recent poem "Nixon in China" (as much history as the Philip Glass opera), then I read my new poem from Cape Cod, "Imagining the Mews," while while Tess Lecuyer rounded it out with a poem about crows for the day's rain. I was having such fun up there on the stage with these 2 fine poets, but nothing like being between 2 women to make a guy feel inadequate.

So we continued on, Cheryl with "What Spring Does," I promoting my chapbook of poems, Poeming the Prompt with "What Really Happened," & Tess with a poem for Don Levy (our cheerleader) "Bob Dylan on Mars." Then Cheryl again with the Roy Rogers inspired "Trigger at Auction," I read "Blame the Prompt," & Tess with "Sonnet for Dana Ave. at Midnight."

Cheryl returned wondering "Is Nothing Sacred," then I with the prompts once again with "My Birds' Poem of Thanks," & Tess continued with another poem in a form, the ballade "Camp Little Notch Serenade." Cheryl read "Perfume," & I explained my absence at a peace demonstration in "A Pain in the Neck" (from Baghdad/Albany & other Peace Poems), then Ed Rinaldi joined us on stage. He seems to be writing longer poems these days, & some today seemed to be about gardening, this first one with the worms beneath it all.

Tess read "A Villanelle for Girard" then back to Cheryl for a September poem, "Running Short." Ed commented on his "burning" imagery in "Burning All of Them," then "Neuromancy" (but not the William Gibson novel), & I read "The Job."

Cheryl's poem about our "mid-life" issues, "Imperfections," was followed by Tess' "The Magic of the Broomstick" then Ed described a confrontation with a woman in the produce section of the supermarket in his poem about gardening "Planting Yellow Beans for Juna Luna." I looked to a future where "If Peace Broke Out Tomorrow," & Ed brought us home beneath a goddess in a poem about "managing the mechanics of what lust can be."

A varied presentation to the random audience of what is Lark St. festivals; there had had been other poets who couldn't make it like Mike Jurkovic, & Gary Murrow showed up late just as we were leaving the stage, spoiling his debut.  But it was a statement about the presence of poets & poetry in Albany.

June 10, 2011

"Not to pull the shades down on what's happening next door..."

This is from a recent Paris Review interview with Adrienne Rich, on a topic I ponder often:

What are the obligations of poetry? Have they changed in your lifetime?

I don’t know that poetry itself has any universal or unique obligations. It’s a great ongoing human activity of making, over different times, under different circumstances. For a poet, in this time we call “ours,” in this whirlpool of disinformation and manufactured distraction? Not to fake it, not to practice a false innocence, not pull the shades down on what’s happening next door or across town. Not to settle for shallow formulas or lazy nihilism or stifling self-reference.

Nothing “obliges” us to behave as honorable human beings except each others’ possible examples of honesty and generosity and courage and lucidity, suggesting a greater social compact.

(Earlier in the inteview she takes issue with the interviewer's posing the dichotomy of "political" v. "personal."  Here's the link to the full interview:)

June 7, 2011

Imagining the Mews (Commercial St., Provincetown, MA)

& as everywhere else there are more
guitar cases than briefcases though
Mr.12-String in a pink headscarf stands out.

I'm sensitive where I am, know the red-head
with bicep tattoos is not interested
that her poems about butterflies & kittens
are metaphors crushed under work boots.

Of course there are songs about love
& 2 different guys sing Judy Garland
& there are pop tunes I just don't know.

Another poet reads from a marble composition
book, all teenage angst & outrage.

I'm wondering if the cute bartender
with the pink thong & vague tattooes
flowers & vines on the inside of her breast
will ever come back to refill my beer

when the host calls my name & I don't know
what to read, realize I'm too heterosexual
for this bar, these singles, this clientele
but read my poems about cougars & pussy
anyways, & they all clap (they always do).

I buy the red-head a drink after all
& it turns out she is the bartender's girlfriend.
Nobody buys a book, but then they never do.

June 6, 2011

Caffe Lena Open Mic, June 1

Our genial host, Carol Graser, began with “Poem for Wisconsin” by Matthew Zapruder, then a bit of the open mic before the featured poet, Terry Bat-Sonja.

Carole Kenyon started us off with a rhymed ditty about a Phish concert, “Bucchus’ Last Stand.” Kate McNary’s poem “The Gambler” was about playing strip poker. Barbara Garro’s first poem was about something called “holy fire,” then she read a memoir of her father defusing land mines, “Normandy Beach, France.” Lily Loveday was back with her troupe of young dancers who choreographed & danced to the collaborative poem they wrote, “Reflections on Being a Young Woman.”

The featured poet was Terry Bat-Sonja who said she was reading poems written over the last 10 years & they are about “everything that life is about.” But first she read a poem by Edward Hirsch, “Ancient Times.” She began with poems from her days in California & her depression after her husband died, as in “Figs & Figments.” But other poems celebrated happier times, such as remembering her son’s first sounds in the poem “First Son Laundry,” or the lush language evoking Chagall’s paintings in “Peacock Spring 2007” (Terry is, afterall, a painter as well as a poet). In fact, a recent poem, “The Color of Love is Pizza” is very much a painter’s poem sex in colors. And other love poems included ones to someone she has never met, who travels all over the globe. Terry’s poems often read like letters, addressed to some un-named “you.”

After the break Carol Graser read one of her own poems, the humorous/satirical “Portrait of a Poet Unhappy with the Size of his Crowd.” Marilyn Sanberg continued the humor with the Heaven (& revenge) fantasy, “Words Not Spoken,” & continued with another death poem, a short obituary with a nod to William Shakespeare. Todd Fabozzi read 2 poems from his first book, Umbrageous Embers, the love poem “Sometimes” & “A Spirit to Suffer” about his Polish immigrant grandmother. There was some debate over how many times Stever Pilar had been here to Caffe Lena (see last month’s blog ); tonight he read about things he can’t explain, a sometimes-rhyming poem that became a love poem at the end, “Tomorrow’s Wings.” Charles Watts brought us back to humor with the “educational poem” “What Do the Old Talk About” & his version of the Tennessee Ernie Ford song “16 Tons,” here about rejected poems, “16 Lines.”

Kelly de la Rocha read a nostalgic piece about her childhood, rich images from the past. Holly Clark’s poem struggled with generalities in describing a “phoneme seeker.” My poem tonight was the militantly heterosexual (& feline cynical) “The Pussy Pantoum.” Therese Broderick gave her age away in “Approaching 52,” then read one of her new moon poems, “Moon of the Spice Root,” on handmade paper. Nancy DeNofio addressed her poltergeist mother in “Mama You Can Fly.” Judith Prest read a couple poems from a new poetry book, one poem she had never read out before, “The Harpest Survives the Tornado” (she should get to more open mics), & then the handy poetic excuses of “Why Poets are Late for Work.”

At Caffe Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, NY, on the first Wednesday of each month, 7:30PM.

June 4, 2011

Harmony Cafe at Wok 'n' Roll, May 30 (Memorial Day)

This is the first time I've been down to this weekly open mic in Woodstock, run by Michael Platsky. This night there seemed to be a huge crowd, 22 open mic poets, in addition to the 4 featured poets, reading as a group, Thomas Brinson, Jay Wenk, Dayl Wise, & me. Once again honored to be reading with my military veteran brothers. But first some open mic poets. Michael even had a small digital timer to keep the poets within the 5 minute limit.

Michael led off with a couple of pieces for the holiday, the first about the meaning of the day (not shopping), then another about seeing a tattered flag float by in a stream. Richard Traitner read his poem "Night at the Window Light at the Door" in a breathless crescendo to the word "thunder," others, including images of war in “The Face of Wisdom.” C.J. Kreager’s poems were mostly short, humorous pieces, some playing off the trope “good news/bad news.” Daphne was waif-like & her surrealist poem “The Golden Horse” revolved around the phrase “from my window.” The well-known Donald Lev started with “Notes to an Imaginary Lecture by Joseph Campbell,” then musings at his kitchen table in “Pushing the Day,” a series of humorous observations in “Short Takes,” then a poem for Memorial Day.
Thomas Brinson did the introductions for us featured readers, starting with World War II veteran Jay Wenk whose first poem considered a photo of “mankind,” then talked about the personal terrors, the smells & techniques of warfare in the poem “I’m Not Gonna Tell You.” He ended with the section about Teddy the D.P. from his memoir Study War No More: A Jewish Kid from Brooklyn Fights the Nazis. The rest of us followed with a round robin of pieces, Thomas Brinson with a piece by Mark Twain on the folly of war, then Dayl Wise with “Thanksgiving ‘69” followed by a chilling piece set in the home of terrified Vietnamese peasants, & I read “John Lees” about an Army buddy who was killed in Viet Nam.

Thomas’ next piece, “Compassion,” was a portrait of person in a recovery program wracked by “survivor guilt” for not having gone to war. Dayl read 2 of his odes to things he carried as a soldier, “Ode to Zippo” & “Ode to the P-38” (the pocket can-opener). Since this was Woodstock I figured folks would understand my poem “The Hundred Thousand Ten Thousand Million Buddhas.”For the last round Thomas read a gloriously erotic piece of urban observations, then Dayl followed with 2 poems of civilian life invaded by memories of Viet Nam, one at a wedding, the other seeing road kill, & I ended with the fantasy “If Peace Broke Out Tomorrow.”

The open mic continued with Leslie Gerber reading poems by Siegfried Sassoon & Stephen Crane, then his own poem “Memorial Day” & his words to the tune “America.”
Although the next performer was signed up as “R.W.,” I know who it really was beneath the red wig, who claimed to have just gotten out of the happy farm, & read a piece about being at an airport & relieved his “you-know-what went underground.” Hmm… Ron Whiteurs was equally outrageous, with his signature title-sign for his poem, tonight, “Charge of the Tight Bridade,” an hysterical tale of 19th century soldiers & anal sex. Martin’s “Real Life on the Tube” was a commentary of TV programming. Phyllis’ piece, “The Wedding,” was a character sketch of a loud-mouth aunt. Dean Shambach, who used to run a poetry open-mic at the Tinker St. CafĂ© many years ago, talked about poet Maxwell Bodenheim, who had once give Dean a copy of a poem, then read one of his own he described as “a bitter poem.”

Diane E. read from Dana Goia’s book, Can Poetry Matter? Then reading randomly poems, including Weldon Kees, then a piece she seemed to be making up on the spot, which she dedicated to Dean for inspiring her, “Another Loss Another Cross.” Victoria Sullivan read an anti-war poem from October 2001, “The Reckonig,” then a poem by a made-up character who was a Viet Nam war veteran. Andy Clausen read, in his distinctive, deep voice, “Soldiers of Christ,” & “More than Siesta” in praise of “the day-time fuckers.”
I mentioned at the top of the Blog that Michael Platsky was using a digital kitchen timer to keep the readers in line. I hadn’t heard it go off yet, so the folks so far had seemed to stay within the 5-minute limit. However, the timer dinged during Sue Willen’s long political rant (after she had read the dictionary definition of “democracy” & read a tribute to Iraq war veterans, “Dry Heat”), but Michael just let the poem roll on, sort of like living in a “democracy” & not taking any political action. The next reader, another Michael, read a piece that combined a robin, a conversation & a war.

The night was getting long & late & I had an hour drive before sleep, so I slipped out before the last readers took the stage, for which I apologize. But it’s the type of scene I would like to check out once in a while, timer or no timer.
Every Monday at 8PM at the Wok ‘n’ Roll as you enter Woodstock.