August 11, 2016

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, August 3

During the restoration of Caffè Lena on Phila St. the open mic is being held at Northshire Bookstore on Broadway, & tonight the guest host, filling in for Carol Graser, was — me! I was glad to be able to help out Carol, but doubly pleased because the featured poet was my friend from Ada, OK, the poet Ken Hada, who is also the Director of the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival at East Central University in Ada. In honor of the great Okie poets I’ve met at Scissortail I began the night by reading the poem “A Moment in Life” by the late Jim Spurr, who ran a monthly open mic on the third Thursday in Shawnee, OK (which has continued).

Local poet & artist Barbara Garro was the first on the sign-up sheet & read a poem titled “Swan Song.” Sally Rhoades has made the trip to Oklahoma a number of times, & read a couple of related poems, “Fireflies in Cicada” & one from a series written on the Sunday morning after each Scissortail Festival.

He’s back! Charlie Rossiter made his first appearance at a local open mic since moving recently from Chicago, & did one of his old favorites about reading Quincy Troupe & listening to Hayden (complete with drumming on the wooden podium), then a memoir piece “Campus Politics.” When Eric Krantz arrived to sign up he said he had “something completely different” which he did, a humorous political piece, “Di-Di-Oxin,” based on a Hanukkah song.

Ken Hada was back at the Caffè Lena (such as it was tonight) stage as tonight’s featured poet. He began with a new, philosophical piece that quotes Seneca “I Would Like to Say.” His latest book is Persimmon Sunday (Purple Flag Press, 2015). He said the poems in the book are arranged by the 4 seasons, & he read a selection filled with hawks, song birds, the night sky, fish, even rodents & cornstalks. From his 2013 collection Margaritas and Redfish (Lamar University Press) he read 3 poems, including a tale of getting to know wary men at their favorite fishing hole, “Yellow Cottonwoods.” I particularly like his early collection Spare Parts (2010, Mongrel Empire Press) from which he read the short, poignant “Security Guard” & “A Prayer for Old Men.” After reading “Words,” a poem from a new manuscript, he returned to Persimmon Sunday to end with “First Frost” & the title poem. Ken’s reading was warm, contemplative, just like the man himself.

After a short break, I returned to the open mic with a new, political piece “When Donald Trump Farts.”

One of the pleasant surprises of the night was the young poet Nicole Presti who read an intricate piece about celebrity role models who are not, about how to behave in the world, with an impressive use of rhyme for emphasis. Rodney Parrott, who is a regular at these open mics, read another piece from his chapbook Momentary Romances. R.K. Cowles brought a stack of books (notebooks?) to the podium, then did just a couple of short, quirky pieces, spending time to flip through the books looking for poems as part of his performance.

The final — & reluctant — performer made a most rare appearance in front of the mic, cajoled by his wife (Sally Rhoades) & others; Hasan Atalay read a political satire song about Hillary Clinton, “At 70,” based on Janis Ian’s hit “At 17” — the folks who rejected it for a satirical revue missed the boat on this one.

The poetry open mic normally held at the historic Caffè Lena on Phila St. on the first Wednesday of the month has been held at the Northshire Bookstore the last few months. I’m not sure when the expected return to Caffè Lena will be, but stay tuned for the location & keep the first Wednesday open on your calendar for poetry in Saratoga Springs.

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