March 31, 2015

An Evening of Poetry and Prose, March 26

The Hudson River Coffee House, 227 Quail St., Albany, NY has a regular open mic on Thursday evenings, but I’ve never been to it; it is mostly musicians, with poets occasionally showing up. Many years ago here in Albany before there were so many poetry open mics there were many open mics for musicians (there still are) where they tolerated poets (barely). 2 poems is not nearly the mic time as 2 songs, particularly when you factor in the time it takes to tune a guitar (badly). So we poets began having our own open mics, & we have flourished.

Tonight’s reading was held prior to the start of the (music) open mic & was organized by writer Harvey Havel to promote his new novel, The Orphan of Mecca (America Star Books, 2014). He invited his friend & Orange County/mid-Hudson poetry impresario Robert Milby to host it for him. The flyer had advertised 5 readers, 2 of whom didn’t make it, but were substituted by 3 other mid-Hudson poets — nothing like excess.

 Harvey Havel started the evening by reading the first chapter of The Orphan of Mecca, which tells the tale of a young girl in Pakistan, which, as the summary states, develops into “a stormy & passionate romance” during the troubled time of the birth of the nation of Bangladesh. It is the first volume of a projected trilogy.

He was followed by the first of the “fill-ins,” Brett Peterson who read from his laptop what he described as selections from a chapbook of poetry, mostly short, depressive poems with titles such as “Dreamer in a Fog of Knowing,” “Wasted,” “Failure,” “Darling Death,” “Autumn Echoes in my Mouth,” “Relapse.” One descriptive piece, “A Room in February” was filled with images of flu symptoms & shit, overall sounding like an undergraduate Baudelaire.

Marina Mati, another fill-in, has read a lot as a feature & in the open mics in the mid-Hudson valley, but this was her first time reading in Albany. She started with an interesting piece, “Dark Message,” that was cento built from lines from César Vallejo’s Trilce. “Mustard Seed 2” was a compelling, pensive, descriptive poem set in a restaurant in New York City, “Body Puzzle” was her reaction to the movie Her, “After Blake” was a morning poem, as was an untitled piece also set in a NYC restaurant like “Mustard Seed 2.” Among others, she had a couple of poems about painters & paintings, “Franz Kline: Painting #2” & “To Jackson Pollock.” Her ending poem was about Dick Cheney’s smile/smirk, “Blot.”

Brian Dorn’s reading was marred by loud talking at the other end of the cafe as folks with guitars impatiently gathered. Brian reads at many open mics in the Capital Region & beyond, but it always good to hear him. Tonight his reading was like a collection of poems I had heard before, like familiar friends. He included the love poem “Chemical Smile,” then “Sublimely Connected,” & a poem on religion & violence “Stop & Think.” To show his dark side he read “Dark in Me.” “Another Step Forward” was an environmental piece. He ended with a poem on thoughts before falling asleep that he has not read out before, “Hidden at Night.” In between poems he announced the individual events during Albany WordFest, April 12 to 18, paying to tribute to the poetry scene he is so involved in.

Haigen Smith, the 3rd fill-in, is a mid-Hudson poet I have not seen in a couple years. He included poems on shopping, such as one equating food with sex, & “When They Depose You.” “Seeing Clearly” was from a series of “construction poems,” this on laying black floor tiles. “The State of the Union” was a powerful rant on war & politics using the rhythm & rhymes of hip-hop, & “Conundrum” was another political piece on drug money financing terrorists. We need to see more of Haigen Smith reading his poetry.

The time was closing in on the 2-hour mark when Harvey Havel introduced Robert Milby as the final reader. I have seen Robert at many readings in the past, but a young poet in the audience, who had never seen Robert before tonight, later remarked to me that he thought it strange for a host at a reading to have himself introduced as one of the readers. Robert's poems tend to be long, ponderous pieces with a heavy bend towards narrative, using quaint, archaic language, as in “Omen on a January Morning” (has any poet used “garret” since 1910?), or “Slamming Doors Around Mozart,” or the self-serving “Baudelaire’s Beneficiary.” Meanwhile the guitar players were getting louder & Robert was getting more bombastic, ending with a couple of celebrity poems, “For Robin Williams” & “66 Days, for Bobby Sands.”

After 2 hours of this I had no patience left for the folkies/singer-songwriters, or whatever they are today, tuned or out-of-tune, so I left. But apparently there is an regular open mic, even if you don’t have a guitar, here at The Hudson River Coffee House; give them a call at 518-449-2174 for details.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dan Wilcox you are a riot!!!!

- Tim Verhaegen