December 5, 2018

St. Rocco’s Reading Series, December 1

On a late Saturday afternoon I went to the Hudson River Coffee House in Albany for a reading by 3 women poets. After a late start Doug Rothschild did a lengthy, & somewhat repetitive run through of the upcoming readings in this series (more on this later), then on to the poets, Kenning JP Garcia doing the intros, such as they were.

First up was Marina Blitshteyn who read from a new book just out Two Hunters, beginning with a poem titled “Welfare Princess,” then one based on a song from the ‘90s “White Town - Your Women.” The poem titled “Little Soldiers” introduced her grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, who figures in most of the rest of the poems she read, her family from Moldova, which the poet left in 1991, & referenced in "Love in Moldova” in which she incorporates words in Russian. There were a couple of poems of sociological commentary from an immigrant's perspective all titled “The Americans,” some poems about her mother (“Pride,” “Toys,” “My Little Mother”), & she ended with a poem whose title summed up her reading “The Immigrant Experience.” During the reading I was certain I had seen Marina read previously some where, & later talking to her realized it had been in Brooklyn in February 2017 at the BOOG City 10.5 Festival.

Hawa Allan read from a triptych of projects, the first being found poems from an old sociological text, appropriating selected phrases, terms, even apparently complete sentences; even the titles of individual pieces seemed drawn from the text, “Believe in the Part One’s Playing,” “Idealization,” “Maintenance as Expressive Control,” etc. The second section were political poems: “A Single Step” about Haitians who migrated from Brazil to Mexico, “Gentrification,” & “Grenfell” about the June 2017 fire in the Grenfell Tower in London. The third section were, as she said, “love poems I guess you can call them” with titles that included, among others, “To All the Men that Wouldn’t Love Me,” “Not Cold Hearted,” & “Well Woman.”

The final reader, Dylan Krieger, from New Orleans, is on the final leg of a reading tour. She read a variety of work from her books, including the recently published The Mother War (the poem “The Night Miami Vice Taught Me What Rape Means”), from a series of poems on chronic pain (“Bedside Mechanic” & “ What Doesn’t Kill You Will Eventually”), a true story about being home schooled by a follower of David Koresh (“Fall Down Faithful”), as well as a poem about the Apocalypse. Being from Louisiana, there was a cockroach poem, another addressed to Louisiana in the style of Allen Ginsberg’s “America,” a breakup poem, others, & she ended with a new piece about where she is at now that was more fractured & random than the other poems she read.

This series, like the Sage’s The Rev, often brings in poets from outside this area to introduce their work to the local scene. Interestingly enough, during Doug Rothschild's opening peroration, he mentioned that he was also interested in featuring local poets in this series, & has put that information out to the community. But, he said, he often hears from local poets whom he doesn’t know, meaning, he said, that they have not been to the readings. I think he meant to his readings. I attend between 8 & 10 or so reading each month in the region (you can verify this by checking my Blog), but I rarely — dare I say “never”? — see Doug at any of them. I can only conclude that the only readings he goes to are the ones he is involved in organizing — which means, of course, that he doesn’t know who any of the other poets are in this community since he doesn’t get out of his comfort zone. It’s a dilemma.

Saint Rocco was born about 1340 in France; he is venerated as the protector against the plague & other contagious diseases; other sources say he is the patron saint of bachelors & of (in the 20th century) laundromats. Be that as it may, you can find notices about this series at their Facebook page.

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