October 8, 2018

Caffè Lena Poetry Open Mic, October 3

I had missed the last few months here, so I was glad to be back with the Saratoga open mic crowd, & even some other Albany poets who made the trip. Our constant host Carol Graser began with a poem by the sadly recently gone poet Donald Lev “How It Feels to Be Mortal” — we miss you already, Donald.

Rodney Parrott read a long, lecturing piece with the prop of a double-chewed log, from an apparent series “Universal Laws of the Universe.” Doug Holiday, signed up as G. Douglas Davis IV, recommended books on Donald Trump, also the eco-justice anthology Ghost Fishing, & read from an anthology of poems by native American authors Songs From this Earth on Turtle’s Back; then his own poem “Why We Should Not Re-cycle” the bad-taste characters & TV shows of the past (or present). Glenn Whitecki read in rhyme a piece about a masted sailing ship, then a take on Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Nicola Allain read about being on the island of Cyprus, feeling the connection with her native Tahiti (but seemed insensitive to the political issues of the divided island).

Elena Reynolds read here for the 1st time & her poem was a dialogue (not as grim as the title) “Explaining Suicidal Ideation to my Teenager.” Joe Bruchac read 2 poems, “In the Night” partially in a Native language, & “Proof of Life.”

Lance Henson, tonight’s featured reader, had lived & worked in this area in the early 1990s, & did some readings for the Hudson Valley Writers Guild & at the QE2 in Albany. He began with sage — but not burnt here — for the missing indigenous women — & recited a dedication in, I think, Chippewa, “for the Peyote-ists around the USA.” He read mostly short poems, many untitled, from his world travels, from Zurich, from Jordan, Italy, Syria. He read a poem to his mother who was “a prisoner of war” in a a Catholic school who when she ran away was returned to the school with a ball & chain on her ankle. Another poem was about violence in Mexico in 1968. “Song of a Female Wolf in Captivity” told of a vision he had in Italy, & he ended with “To a Child Killed in Bethlehem by Israeli Soldiers.” He was one of those readers who asked us not to applaud his poems, & when he ended I applauded, thinking he meant only between the poems, but then that’s how I honor a poet’s work in my culture — no disrespect intended.

There were still a lot of poets signed-up so after a break the open mic continued. Leslie Sittner began with an exercise in alliteration titled “At Issue,” then read 3 pairs of 6-word stories, cleverly concise.

David Graham (along with Carol Graser & myself) had been among the dozen readers at the 100K Poets for Change performance at SUNY Adirondack last Saturday & read his poem “100K Pebbles” that had been included in the text. Dan Vollweiler read a humorous rhyme “The Poetry Bug.” Amanda Blodget was the second poetry virgin of the night & read “Why Do I Write?” & a companion piece “In My Cocoon” about becoming a butterfly. Suzanne Rancourt, who has been making the rounds of readings lately read from her series “Song of the Hummingbird,” the poems titled “Shiver” & “Clear Skin.”

Brian Krauth’s poem “Poetic Sketches Cloud Lines” was a series of natural images stained by abstractions; he also read “Who in this Room?” Judith Prest read from her forth-coming chapbook from Finishing Line Press After the #MeToo poem “To Be A Woman” then from Elemental Connections the seasonal “Tree.” Jeff Stubits has been reading out a lot lately & tonight did a poem about finding umbrella parts in the rain “Mending Love,” then a piece on being distracted while meditating, in his throw-back style of reading like Ken Nordine from the classic Word Jazz LP way back in the 1950s. My poem was the tribute to the gone poets Harry Staley & Paul Pines “Reading Dead Poets Listening to Live Jazz.”

Caroline Bardwell is one of the newer poets on the scene that I always enjoy hearing & tonight she read a poem based on a story from her brother “At Dusk Wolves,” then “Cascades” a philosophical piece built on images of water. Nancy White read “a villanelle” that was a poem on mortality but not a villanelle titled “Villanelle."  Sally Rhoades read a piece for the anniversary of the shooting in Las Vegas last year “Innocence Lost,” then a poem from her time in Ada, OK “At the Chickasaw Cultural Center.” Our host, Carol Graser, to bring the night to a close, read her poem that was incorporated into the group poem last Saturday at SUNY Adirondack “Now Is the Time.”

Unfortunately, as seems to happen here frequently enough, the featured poet & his entourage left after the break & didn’t stay to hear the poets in the 2nd half share their poems. I had spoken to Lance briefly before the reading, then intended to read my poem to him about seeing one of his poems in a NYC subway ad “I Meet An Old Friend On the Subway” — he didn't stay, why bother?  I read something else.  All of the poets in the open mic had heard the feature (& the others who left with him) read in the first half of the night, but those who read in the second half went unheard by those who came to just read to themselves -- their loss.

Well, no matter whether the puffed up featured poets hear the open mic poets, or not, the open mic poets will be back to read their poems to whomever is left in the audience, the 1st Wednesday of the month at Caffè Lena on Phila St. in Saratoga Springs, 7:30PM.

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