December 8, 2011

Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 7

After a miserable drive up on the Northway (heavy rain & traffic), at least there was a nice dinner with "the ladies" at Ravenous, then on to the open mic, for a respectable crowd in spite of the weather. Our host, Carol Graser, set the tone by reading Joy Harjo's poem, "Anniversary."

The first open mic poet was Gigi Devons with 2 poems in rhyme & 4-beat lines, "Fields of Flame" & the second sounding like she's read a lot of Poe. Carole Kenyon brought the rhyming into the 21st Century with a hip-hop tale, "Lounge Lizard Smack Down." Kate McNairy began with a poem about a suicide, "This World Was Not Enough," then "a hot one," as she described it, "Wet Bodies." Josh McIntyre's first poem was a short piece, "When Even a Song Won't Inspire," then he read "Gleanings" in which he considered the patterns of life.

This was a night of (poetry) virgins, as you will soon see, & the night's first was Laura Grillo, whose poems in rhyme were both about surviving, "Run" (on surviving by being yourself), & "Someday That Man Will Lose" (on not being beaten down). W.D. Clarke's studied rhymes are in the ballad forms of Robert Service & Rudyard Kipling & tonight's poem was a true family tale of where a woman's ashes were buried, "The Old Bean Pot." Andrew Riddles was the night's 2nd virgin, with another tale in rhyme about an airplane crash & a man losing his teeth, "Overbite (or "Thit?)" [say it out-loud].

There were 2 featured poets tonight, the 1st being Judith Prest who read mostly from her new collection of poems, Late Day Light (Spirit Wind Books, Duanesburg, NY). Her poems are characteristically accessible, direct statements, often about herself, such as "Summer 1966, Vietnam Conflict Escalates," or "Questions." There were frequent dramatic monologues as in "Immigration Clinic…" or "Cinderella Rants to Her Granddaughters," even some in the voice of animals, "Skunk," & "Crow." She looked back to all the girls & women in her family who came before in "You Are Here." She ended with a small group of new poems, "November Garden," "Wardrobe Alchemy" (for her mother), & from a poetry therapy workshop, "Naming the Scar."

Jan Tramontano read some of her poems from the forthcoming Paternal Nocturne (Finishing Line Press), a series based on her grand-father's letters home to his family when he was working in upstate New York in the early part of the 20th century. Some are in the grandfather's voice ("Travails") or based on notes he made on reading Spinoza. Others are in her voice, as in "A Child's Memory," or her letter to him, "Letter 2011." Finishing Line Press likes to get a bunch of pre-orders before issuing their books, so if you want to order a copy got to the website. She capped her reading off with a short segment from her recently self-published novel Standing on the Corner of Lost and Found.

After the break Carol Graser read her poem "The Calculator" in which the calculator becomes a poet after booze is spilled on it -- pretty funny. Cecele Krause read from her Finishing Line Press book Tuscaloosa Bypass, "To a Would Be Writer of Short Stories," & a poem about the Klan, "Melissa & Jimmy."

Reichi, another virgin poet, explained that he didn't like being called "Ritchie": too "itchy;" he had 2 poems in short line meters & rhyme, one for his granddaughter, "Ella Blakely," & written after reading a biography of Joan Baez. Bob Preuss' poem "While in Peru" was written here in Caffe Lena while listening to all the poets that came before him. Andrew Sullivan's untitled piece started out on the premise that Paul Simon would be dead someday & spun out from there, including comparing the Holy Ghost to Zeppo Marx. I followed with 2 uncharacteristic suburban animal poems, inspired by the work of my poetry peeps, "Coyote III" & "What the Deer Sees."

Jodi Frank was back after a too-long absence with a 20-year old poem, "Love's Criterion," then the in-many-ways tender "Death After Editing a Business Report." Kathe Kokolias read an essay, ahem, I mean a "prose poem," the hilarious "In Praise of My Bum" from her collection of essays, Spandex & Black Boots (The Troy Book Makers, 2009). I think this was Terry Royne's first time at Caffe Lena; she began with an introspective pantoum, "Deep Inside," then to a poem about her daughter & granddaughter working in the garden, "Fertility."

The night's final virgin, Amanda Fleming, had arrived with friends who read & had no intention to read, then wrote a poem while sitting here (2nd poet tonight to do this, to see above), descriptive & imagistic. Barbara Garro had 2 December poems, both prosaic narratives, "Reunion" & "Blind Date." Ellen Finn finished off the night with 2 angry poems, one about the failure of her pens, paper & computer to make a poem, "A Writer's Nightmare," then "Bad" in which she excoriated her Karma, perhaps an appropriate way to end.

More wonderful variety -- new voices/faces, regulars, & the occasional drop-in. The number of rhymers tonight, particularly among some of the younger poets, made evident the perhaps unfortunate influence of the kind of poetry taught in schools, song-like rhymes & short 4-beat lines, stuck in the 19th Century or the early 20th century (in the homey style of Edgar A. Guest, for example), that gets reinforced by rhyming children's books & greeting card verse. Many young poets begin this way, but today's young poets need to raid the Library for the 20th century poets (or Whitman) who got us out of that rut for examples of modern idioms & then find their own, authentic voice in the 21st century.

Every 1st Wednesday at Caffé Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, NY, $3.00, at 7:30PM.

No comments: