October 17, 2015

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, October 7

I haven’t made it to this open mic in some months, but was glad to be here tonight for 2 wonderful featured readers, Susan Fantl Spivack & James Schlett, &, of course, for the poets who show up to read in the open mic. Our host, Carol Graser, who had been one of the readers at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event at the end of September began with a poem by Joy Harjo, “Once the World was Perfect,” from Harjo's new book Conflict Resolutions for Holy Beings.

A perennial figure here, Rodney Parrott, read from his series of seriously playful poems on flying. Jesse Mews performed with stylized Slam gestures an intense piece about the weirdness of his college days.

While Mary Beth Kikel was telling us her personal history in Lake Placid & Saratoga she set up her tambourine on a stool draped with a colorful shawl, then performed 2 rhyming pieces, “The Cottage in the Wood” (filled with fairies) &, for Halloween, “Witch Trouble.” M.C. Rush said his poem, “Bone Song,” in spite of its title, was not a Halloween piece, then read a long chant-like anaphoric poem “As I Do Stand.”

Susan Fantl Spivack is a poet (& peace activist) whose work I’ve enjoyed for years & I was pleased to hear her read again. She began with a selection from her 2013 Bright Hill Press chapbook, In the Garden, beginning with the title poem, then a poem inspired by Rumi “What We Wake Knowing,” a couple of dead animal poems, “First Spring Work” (a doe) & “Skunk,” then “Proper Greetings,” “What They Carry” (a deer eating flowers), & “At the Garden Center.” Then on to other poems, the descriptive “Cindy’s Diner” & “Giving Blood.” Her final group of poems were “Psalm Like a Salt Grain,” “Humming the Names of the Tortured” (fasting to close the prison in Guantanamo), “Prayer to the Mother of All Beings” (about the murders in South Carolina), & the last poem “Make It Visible” — good advice for us all from an activist poet.

James Schlett has been a busy man since the publication earlier this year of his historical study A Not Too Greatly Changed Eden: The Story of the Philosophers’ Camp in the Adirondacks (Cornell University Press). He as been doing readings & book-signings throughout the region & the book has sold very well, as it should. Tonight he read from the ending of the book, then other sections, describing the camp & the funny tale of Ralph Waldo Emerson buying a gun. I’d first met James when he was a younger poet making his way on the open mic scene. He ended his presentation with a series of Haiku, on the Autumn woods, on driving, on seeing shooting stars, on reading to his daughter, showing he is a master of both long work & the very short.

After a break, Carol Graser returned us to the open mic, reading what she described as “a cute Halloween poem,” a descriptive piece about children in costumes. A group of poets had driven over from Utica for the open mic, the first was Rosie, who said this was her first time ever reading at an open mic, first a poem about traveling from Los Angeles to Las Vegas “Desert Light” & another titled “Death Took Too Many,” a very good début. Another Utica poet Garret Ingraham read a poem by Utica poet Roger Smith, then his own piece of social commentary, “The Inevitable Progress of Commerce.” Mike Cecconi had come over from Utica to read at Don Levy’s open mic at the Pride Center in Albany back in April; he is essentially a one-trick pony bellowing his poems like his ironically titled piece “This Is My Inside Voice,” & a stand-up routine turned into a “poem,” “Lemons.”

Still another Utica poet, Erica, read a dreamy, introspective piece about being alone at a waterfall, trying to just relax, enjoy the scene. Jonah Moburn began with a piece about a friend, then an angst poem “Body Without Organs.” Wyler Graham’s poems were written in short line rhymes, the first a funny piece about a baby “There’s No Sleep For the Wicked,” the second an anti-war statement on gender rules “Life of Reduction.” Tim Sneider is a regular here, he read a poem by his mother, then a Halloween poem about raiding the kids’ bag of trick or treat candy. Barbara Garro made an attempt at humor in the piece titled “The Unwanted Request,” then another piece “A Poem’s Plea.” The night’s last reader was Taylor with 2 unique poems, “My Pumpkin Mumpkin” & a biographical poem addressed to the year she was born “1995.”

This open mic for poetry held at the historic Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, starts about 7:30PM on the 1st Wednesday of the month, is sponsored by Northshire Bookstore & hosted by Carol Graser — always worth the trip.

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