October 6, 2015

Reading at Hudson River Coffee House, September 24

This event was organized by novelist Harvey Havel at the Hudson River Coffee House on Quail St. in Albany, NY. The evening was hosted, for the most part, by the whirling dervish of the mid-Hudson Valley poetry scene, Robert Milby. A similar event was held back in March & 3 of tonight’s readers (Havel, Milby & Dorn) read then too.

Harvey Havel was the first up reading a chapter from his latest novel The Thruway Killers (America Star Books, 2015). This chapter, set in Connecticut, dealt with the planning & botched killing of the main character’s father, a sort of pawn-shop version of the Oedipus story. Harvey has published 8 novels, as well as a memoir about his mother, a collection of stories & one of essays. You’ve got to buy at least one — they’re available on Kindle & on Amazon.com.

John Douglas is a poet from the mid-Hudson region, the only one of tonight’s readers who didn’t read at the March event, & an apparent last-minute substitute for the advertised Christopher Wheeling. His poems ranged from those about writing poetry (“Mongrel Language”), to his son’s cancer (“His Biopsy”), to a house fire, to shoveling snow, to a couple pieces about West Point where he works, to more cancer, violence & death (“His Wife”), to a piece about the 1977 plane crash that killed 3 members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He tended to simply drone on, his poems generally narrative in simple, prosaic language — good thing we were in a coffee house.

Brian Dorn (left) & Don Levy

Brian Dorn is one of those poets who supports other poets by showing up at open mics all over the region, & has been a featured reader at most of them. Of late he has been promoting (which in the poetry world means “trying to sell”) his book From My Poems to Yours (The Live Versions) (Shires Press, 2015). He read a healthy selection, including “Hidden in Night,” “Pitfalls,” “I Need a Sign,” the seasonal “Changing Ways,” “Her Attributes,” “In God We Trust,” “Writing Poetry” (it ain’t easy), the political “Standard of Living,” &, the highlight of the night, “Poetry is Sexy” with Don Levy standing in (!) for Brian’s wife as the echo in the poem — pretty sexy.

Since the final reader had been the night’s host, Harvey Havel did the introduction of Robert Milby, who began by reading poems by Eavan Boland & the recently gone C.K. Williams. He included poems from his chapbooks Crow Weather (Fierce Grace Press, 2009), Ophelia’s Offspring (FootHills Publishing, 2007), & Dickens’ Pet Raven (Fierce Grace Press, 2014). His work tends to the Gothic, as in “Autumn Nymphs,” filled with references to the dead, (“Commons”), & ghosts as in “The Harris Estate,” & to 19th literature (Poe again, & Dickens). His reading stood in stark contrast to that of John Douglas, with Milby reading in his usual overly dramatic, "poetic" style, his poems filled with colorful, albeit archaic, language, opposite ends of the poetic spectrum.

As in March, this reading was followed by an “open mic,” but it was clearly a music open mic with the early arrivals pointedly indifferent to poetry. So I went home.  Besides, after 2 hours even I am tired of poetry & went home to a baseball game.

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