November 8, 2014

Caffè Lena Open Mic, November 5

I hadn’t been here since the September reading, but wanted very much to hear new work from one of my favorite of the local poets, Mary Kathryn Jablonski. Carol Graser started us off with reading a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, & announced that this series is now being supported by Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, then on to the open mic.

Alan Catlin was first up with a “bus stop poem” titled “Home Schooled,” then a poem about a fight in a bar “Last Man Standing.” Tim Sneider read a poem inspired by his car’s odometer “242,242,” then a poem about his motorcycle “Winter Sleeping.” Dave Jakes came over from Great Barrington & read 2 short pieces, “The President of Spring” & “Wave Rider,” then imagined snowflakes with bar codes in “Chicago Snow.” Todd Fabozzi’s poem “The Couple” described a bitter scene in a coffee shop, while “Hey So-Called Conservative” was a preachy political rant. Rodney Parrott read a poem from a set of pieces on flying.

The first featured poet was Richard Levine, from Brooklyn. He began with a poem in many parts about a conversation in the bar, that he read for Veterans Day, “Disturbing the Peace.” Next he read the title poem from his new book The Cadence of Mercy, then a poem inspired by the writer William Least Heat Moon “Spirit,” & 3 poems inspired by growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, "These Are the Generations,” “Out of Light’s Reach,” & “Saturday Night Fights.” “Autumn Burn” was from an earlier book, while “Picket Fences” was from his 2012 book of poems A Tide of a Hundred Mountains from Bright Hills Press. He ended with a poem about Troy, NY “The Drowned River” from The Cadence of Mercy. His work was often narrative, discursive, & he had asked the audience, after reading his first poem, not to clap for each poem, as the appreciative crowd here usually does, which made for a strangely quiet reading.

Mary Kathryn Jablonski laid down no such rules & the audience showed its appreciation for each poem. Many of her poems were childhood memories from growing up on a farm — “Stone,” “World of Two” (about dressing up a pet cat), “Girls Washing Eggs,” & “Elderberries.” She also read one poem, “Mare Vaporum,” from her collection To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met (A.P.D., 2008) (full disclosure, I am the publisher of A.P.D.). Other, newer poems, were “For the Russian Space Dog,” “Mis-remembered,” “Under-Rated Bird” (on the Robin), “A Feathered Thing,” & “Train” in which a bird makes still another appearance.  Good work as ever (I did say up front I am a fan, didn't I?).

After a short break for book sales & bathroom, our host Carol Graser returned with one of her own poems on ice & snow. Anthony Bernini read a couple of nature-inspired poems “The Scent of the Earth” & “Wind Above the Tree Line.” Both of “Storm Cat”’s poems were inspired by solitude, the first, “a blues art-rock fusion” he sang & read, then the short “Circular Reasoning” on solitude v. companionship.

Ellen Finn read a Harry Potter dream poem, wondered “what does it mean?” & also had the wildest shoes of the night. Sally Rhoades’ poem “The Sky is My Witness” was about her father, while “A Silence,” which she dedicated to the poet Maurice Kenny, was about paddling a canoe. Barbara Garro read a poem titled “Lost Days” then a series of 6 Haiku, mostly containing bugs. Thérèse Broderick read about being the “Friday Babysitter” & about taking her mother to the bank, “Please Remove Hats & Dark Glasses.” Frank Robinson, Thérèse’s husband, announced he was a “Caffè Lena virgin” read the very funny “Migration” (of body parts) & the equally funny love poem “Thérèse 5.1.” Rachael, who had read here in the open mic in years past, was back with a couple of untitled notebook entries, pondering war & peace & beautiful ideas.

Joe Bruchac has been a featured poet on this stage & it was great to see him as an open mic poet; he had brought the gladiolas that sat in a jar-vase on stage, & read a poem he had just written about them, then a couple pieces up out of his Abenaki culture, a poem on fireflies, & the freshly written warning “Deer Woman’s Eyes.” Jay Rogoff was another past featured poet; he read 2 love sonnets “The Fountain” on menstruation, & “The Table” the Annunciation from the Angel’s point of view.

Carl writes funny rhyming poems & read one on a New Year’s resolution to ogle minds rather than behinds, then a somewhat related piece on Viagra “On Golden Years.” Susan Riback said she had been reading Pablo Neruda’s A Book of Questions & read to us a sample of these gnomic couplets, then her own versions, then a poem about “The Alphabet Psychic.” Jesse Muse, who the night before had been at The Low Beat in Albany, free-styled a couple of Slam pieces both relating to being at work & not titling his poems. Lynn (also from Great Barrington), the night’s final poet, hadn’t intended to read when she first got here, but was inspired by what she heard,  & read “November Bath Night” & “Communion” based on the question, “what kind of wine is she?”

There is always a great variety of poets here which makes the trip worth it, to Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs on the 1st Wednesday of each month, $5, 7:30PM.

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