November 26, 2017

Third Thursday Poetry Night, November 16

One of my axioms, perhaps the main one, for poetry readings is “If your friends & relatives don’t come to your reading, who will?” Tonight’s featured poet at the Social Justice Center, Tom Riley, did just that — filled the house with his friends & relatives, providing an audience for his reading as well as for the open mic poets. But first, to invoke the Muse, the late Derek Walcott (1930 - 2017), who had read here in Albany at the NYS Writers Institute in 1989, before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992; I read his wonderfully rich — in images & language — poem “Gauguin I” from his 1984 book Midsummer. Then on to the open mic, tonight a special treat to read 2 (!) poems.

Brian Dorn was first up reading 2 love poems “Luck” & “Clear Into Space” in his signature rhymes. Richard Jerin read 2 poems from his 1970s era book Chronicles & Ice Cream, the anti-war “Column” & one about the change of seasons & evening. Another regular poet here, Joe Krausman was next with a poem about lies & lovers’ imagining “Legitimate Theater.”

A first time visitor here, Joanne Auerbach from Chatham, read a dark piece from a conversation “Husband’s Chemo Week 14” & one based on a prompt “Write a Poem She Said About New York City” about trying to write a poem. Betty Zerbst was also once a first time reader here, but now a regular who, like Brian, also writes in rhyme, read about dancing to old records “Back in Time” then wondered “What Would I Do With Extra Money.” I finished off the open mic with a new poem “Golden Shovel for Split This Rock.”

This was Tom Riley’s first featured reading.  I asked him to be a feature here after hearing him read in the past year at Poets Speak Loud! & at Readings Against the End of the World.   He has lived on the same road for 60 years, which he mines for his poems, & so is very much a poet of place, in the grand tradition of American poets E.A. Robinson, William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson & others.  He began with “Awake Before the World,” then a poem from the forth-coming Up the River #5 “The Still.” On to a few Winter poems, “There is Always Something Coming” (about his sister as a child), next a poem based on a story his cousin told “All is Right with the World,” & an untitled piece about walking the tracks. “Out the Kitchen Window” was a poem about just that, then 3 short poems about making maple syrup, “Gathering Sap by Moonlight,” an untitled piece, then “Separate.” Another untitled piece was written & read in the rhythm of a train. He finds poems in the cemetery too, such as “Named,” then read some inscriptions from tombstones, & his own meditation on mortality as he mows the lawn & tends the graves. He ended with a poem remembering his father “My Father’s Hands…” & “Still Life,” a fitting poem about the ending of the day. Nicely done for his 1st featured reading.

Come to the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, on the third Thursday of each month at 7:30PM for a poetry open mic, & a reading by a local or regional poet, donations support poetry events in the area & the work of the SJC.

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