March 10, 2015

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, March 4

The sun was on the other side of the Earth when I was last here — it’s been a rough Winter. Still Winter, and in spite of the traffic on the Northway I was able to get here tonight, for the open mic & the featured poet, Marilyn McCabe.

Our host, Carol Graser, started us off with a poem by Claudia Rankine from her book Citizen: an American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014), then on to the open mic. Walt started us off with “Dominance & Submission” a rant in short line rhymes, then “Mr. Frank” in the same form but more humorous, about paying his town taxes in change. Rodney Parrott read 2 pieces from the "Looking" section of his forthcoming chapbook Looking & Flying, “Things You See With Your Eyes When You Are Looking” & “Please Relax.” Jesse Mews performed a piece in a faux black hip-hop accent about running out of anger, & dirt.

I was surprised & pleased when I arrived to see James Schlett, who had been a regular in area open mics a few years back, then disappeared; tonight he re-surfaced to read several haiku (James told me that he has written a book of non-fiction, A Not Too Greatly Changed Eden: The Story of the Philosophers’ Camp in the Adirondacks, to be published by Cornell University Press soon).  Tom said he was here for the first time & read a rhymed ballad in the style of Robert Service “A Card Game with the Devil.”

Then on to our featured poet, Marilyn McCabe, whom I was pleased to have featured at the Social Justice Center in 2012. She has 2 books out, Rugged Means of Grace (Finishing Line Press, 2011) & Perpetual Motion (The Word Works, 2012). Tonight she read new work, beginning with the image of a skull of a bird in the ground “Incarnate,” then on to “The Dark is Shifting Imperceptibly,” & “Home Away” to her 90+ year old mother. “Blizzard” was for the Season & “Remember Me” was for the German choreographer & modern dance performer Pina Bausch.  The title of the poem “I Awake the Night with Dread” says it all. Then some poems set firmly in place, “Stone Church Road” with images of Nature & Time & a deer set in Middle Grove, “Hadley” about a spot on a trail that is her spot, & the more abstract, philosophical “On Hearing the Call to Prayer over the Marcellus Shale on Easter Morning.” The poem “Bell” was ironically about silence, “At Dusk” described a swallow, & she ended with a quiet poem about sitting on a café’s veranda “New Years Menu.”

After a break, Carol read one of her own poems, this about her chickens & a stalking fox “Alarm at Dawn.” Marcella read a narrative piece (she described is as “a sestina meets a prose poem”) “What We Learn to Make” about a pre-teen girl on a family trip to Florida. Jodi Johnson said it was her first time (!), her poem “A Ponderence” was a conversation with a kite, & more. Carl Shipstar read a Winter poem “Moon Silhouette.” Brian Dorn read his Winter revision of his poem “Whatever Will Be.” Stuart Bartow, who has featured here in the past, read 2 new poems, “Marooned” which was perhaps a combination of childhood memory & imagination, then a piece constructed from an entry in the Audubon bird book “Caroline, A Wren.” I followed with my 2 most recent poems “McDonald’s With Love” & “Birthday Poem 2015.”

I don’t often enough see Charles Straney reading his poems, tonight he read the descriptive “Winter Woods” then his “Poetics” in which writing is patience. Speaking of patience, W.D. Clarke had been waiting to be the last poet to read, another of his ballad style poems, this about being the keeper of “The Family Tree.”

This monthly open mic (1st Wednesday of the month, 7:30PM, $5.00) is your best shot if you are a poet in Saratoga county, also featuring fine local & regional writers — Caffè Lena, Phila St., Saratoga Spring.

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