November 16, 2013

Harmony Cafe Open Mic, November 11

This the weekly poetry event held in Woodstock, NY at the "Wok'n'Roll" restaurant, with Michael Platsky as the MC/host. Jay Wenk, poet, World War II vet & peace activist, was asked to be the featured poet in honor of Armistice (aka Veterans') Day. Jay invited Woodstock poet, publisher & peace activist Dayl Wise & me to join him in a group feature. We are all also members of Veterans For Peace.

But first some open mic poets. Michael runs a tight ship, timing the 5-minute slots with a kitchen timer. First up was Jackie (the Bartender) with a rhymed poem on PTSD, her own & those of members of the military. Leslie Gerber read a march-of-the-dead poem "Memorial Day," "Armistice Day" for Jay Wenk, & Stephen Crane's grim poem "War is Kind." Joe Crow Ryan recited from memory all of his pieces, on sunbeams & dust, on sunsets, on colors, even a short Robert Service poem. Donald Lev always reads here just before the featured poets & tonight a series of short pieces, "Death Before Dishonor" (a kid with a tattoo), "Lonesome Jack" ("the kind of girl you would take to Blimpie's…"), then poems titled "Topology," "The Perimeter" & "Butter."

For our reading, we decided to alternate poems, first Jay, then me, then Dayl. Jay began with a reading of Wilfred Owen's "The Parable of the Old Man & the Young;" among his other pieces were memoirs of his youth, "Armistice Day," "Frenchy" (a World War I vet in Brooklyn), & "The Cost of War 101." My poems included "Peace Marchers at the Viet Nam Memorial," the humorous pieces "Patriotism" & "A Pain in the Neck," "What Really Happened" (from the chapbook Poeming the Prompt), & the hopeful "If Peace Broke Out Tomorrow." Dayl's pieces were titled "Dancing with Strangers," "War Movie," "Guided" (about the titanium in his leg), "Black & White" & "Nurture."

Dayl also handed out a small folded broadside of some of our poems, Armistice Day 2013, Wenk Wilcox Wise, Crossing the line of departure at Harmony (Post Traumatic Press). It felt good to read to a packed house of Woodstock poets.

It was a long open mic list, continuing with Teresa Costa reading poems by A.D. Winans. Richard read a variety of short quips & random thoughts not yet in a poem, then the rhymed biker ballad "Summer Bogie." Andy Clausen read an old poem from his collection 40th Century Man based on a quote from his young son "Start the Sun," then a new manifesto about changes to the world after he declares himself a god, "The Beat Generation Can't Die…" Pamela Twining read a long, wide-ranging piece of sociological poetry "Jazz Baby Blues." Victoria Sullivan asked for a series of words from the audience (like Mad Libs) then improvised a poem that got wildly political about Ronald Reagan.

Ron Whiteurs read a word-playful piece "Lorna Poema" through once, then more slowly to a recording of choral music from a boom-box.  Shiv Mirabito read his 2006 anti-war proposal "War Tax." Sally Rhoades & I had car-pooled to the reading; she read her poems in honor of her father who was a World War II vet: "Love in His Ease," "My Father's Slippers" (in the first issue of Up the River), & "What If My Father Was a Poet." Ron Rybacki is known for his quirky performance pieces, tonight reading as Dr. somebody (I missed the name) a strange tale from a small pocket notebook. Jeremy Irvik read a rhymed piece on history, war in general & World War II in particular. Lief also gave us a commentary on history, but his was a free-form ramble bordering on stand up comedy. Adam Tedesco also came down from Albany to read the hopeful (in spite of it all) "Blown" & "The Blame Game." Diane's poem was simple titled, "Lust." J.R., who had played guitar earlier for the dinner crowd read his "Fukashima Haikus." & our host, Michael Platsky, also read a Fukashima poem, "Power Shift," a surrealistic piece on greed.

It was quite a night, as it usually is in Woodstock, & I especially enjoyed reading with my buddies Jay & Dayl, poetry to end all wars. But the open mic here at the Harmony Cafe happens every Monday -- worth the trip from anywhere.

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