October 22, 2018

No Borders, No Walls: Exploring Truth, Beauty and the Creative Self, October 17

This is was actually a noon-time reading by poet Frank X. Gaspar but because it was at Hudson Valley Community College, an academic institution, they had to give it a fancy title rather than “poetry reading” — as some poet once said, “a rose by any name…” I had read a few poems by Frank Gaspar over the years in various print & online poetry venues & this reading was a good chance to hear a bigger chunk & to buy an autographed copy of one of his books.

Bonnie Cook of HVCC introduced Frank to an audience of mostly students, but a fair number of older folks (like me, & younger), both faculty & literary & poetic community folks (like me). The poet began by singing the praises of his black pocket notebook, & read “Black Notebook #1, Gideon Bible, Los Angeles,” & “Black Notebook, Day Six, Canadian Rockies” both from his collection Late Rapturous (Autumn House Press, 2012); other poems from the same book that he read were “Sometimes God Saves a Fire” & the book’s title poem, that mixes memories, descriptions of Los Angeles & New York City & the paintings of deKooning. He also read the night-time/whisky musing “One Thousand Blossoms” & even a poem about a cat.

His poems are discursive, meditative, written in full, sometimes complex, grammatical sentences so that they sound like poetic essays filled with vivid images of the world around him. In the book, some of the poems are set like fully-justified prose, others with the lines so long they could be prose that is not right-justified, begging the question of genre, poetry or prose? My vote is “poetry.”

He ended with a long “spoken piece,” as he described it, set during the Viet Nam war, titled “Microphone.” Ironically, during the first part of his reading there had been some annoying feedback from his mic so he was moved to another at a podium just before reading this. The piece took the form of a long letter from a Portuguese kid from Provincetown, Cape Cod now living in New York City, to his girlfriend, written on a typewriter with a period key, leading to Kerouacian stream-of-consciousness mixing memories of his time with the girlfriend, longing & scenes of music in the Village — an energetic way to end a good reading.

The following Q&A began with probing questions by students, & other questions from the broader audience. As is often said, Frank said he has been influenced by everyone he has ever read, but did single out Emily Dickinson, Hart Crane, Walt Whitman & Edna St. Vincent Millay; he said he writes at night (as evidenced by some of the poems he had read), & to a question about “creativity” & the rest of the world, said he tries to “live in creativity,” which is another world.

Hudson Valley Community College does have a regular program of lectures, performances & art exhibits that are open to the public, visit their website for more information.

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