March 12, 2013

Caffè Lena Open Mic, March 6

I try to get up to Saratoga Springs for as many of these Caffè Lena readings as I can, but this was a definite "must see" with Albany poet Bob Sharkey as one of the featured poets (along with Tim Sneider).

The reading began as it always does with our host Carol Graser reading a poem by someone else, tonight "Under a Certain Little Star" by Wislawa Szymborska. I followed with "Reading Kant in China" (that my daughter Madeleine Wilcox had helped with the Chinese), & this year's "Birthday Poem 2013. Carole Kenyon followed with a humorous poem, of sorts, "Habitat for Humanity," documenting the cigarette haze, sounds & beer-farts in a bar. Alan Casline read "Retreat that Distance Darkness," then "John Murray Spears" building a "God machine." Brian Dorn read "a couple of Christian poems" in rhyme, "Guilty as Sin" & "Three Days" a simple, straight-forward re-telling of the Life of Jesus, without sentiment, preaching or acrimony.

The night's first featured poet was Tim Sneider, who demonstrated the frailty of poetry by tossing away "poems" on squares of toilet paper. Those of us who have heard him here at the open mic previously are familiar with his rhymed, narrative ballads, often laced with gritty humor & biker details -- he characterizes himself as a "biker poet."  But tonight his range was broader with poems from his life, such as "Old Age" dedicated to his grandson, & a seasonal poem about dandelions, "In Like a Lion." He also read 2 longer poems filled with nostalgic, personal emotion, "Life's Country Garden" & "Changing Roads." & tonight I was able to take a little of Tim Sneider home with me in the form of his slender self-published chapbook, Road Riding: Poems & Photos by TF Sneider.

Tonight's other featured poet was the peripatetic Albany poet Bob Sharkey, who also has a recent chapbook out, Surface at Sunrise (Benevolent Bird Press, 2012). A few of his favorite characters, such as Earl & Mary Bean, popped up in his poems, in "Cycles," "Another Deposition" & "Bear." Other poems were based on dreams, notably "Curtains" & its flowing chocolate, & the Mike Tyson poem, "An American Dream." Often his poems spring from simple observations of life ("North Pearl 4PM," "The Dutch Girls") or conversations with other poets ("Bonnet Doggonet"), or simply reading the obituaries (what have been called "the Irish funnies") "Winter." Other poems he read were "The Kids on Miller Road," the haiku "Blackout," "In Bed with a couple of Eggs," & "The Tabitha Maine" (a lobster boat). It was nice to hear a spread of Bob's poems beyond the 1 or 2 he can do at open mics.

Right after the break, Carol brought up a young high school student (who had been brought here by his English teacher), Aaron Stanley, who recited from memory a rhymed poem of lost love. Then Carol Graser herself read "The Appendix" a funny narrative with the afore-named body part playing a key, if disasterous role. Rodney Parrot read an excerpt from his novel "The Wanderer" about being among the redwoods. Ann Morse described her 2 poems as both "end with someone leaving," the first a narrative of a "rainbow man," the second about a wedding gone all wrong.

Melissa Anderson recited in Slam cadences a poem about remembering a boy from long ago, "Maps." Julie Lomoe read an excerpt from her novel-in-progress about the novel's prortagonist. Barbara Garro read 2 new poems, "Emotional Weather Report," & a poem of childhood memories, "Green." The night's last poet, Dale, said she had just moved back here from years in San Francisco, & read 2 poems from her phone, "How I Write" & "How I Love," fitting introductions.

The poetry open mic at Caffé Lena takes place on the 1st Wednesday of each month, 7:30 PM, $5.00 -- bring poems to read.

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