August 23, 2019

The Past in Poetry, August 12

My last Blog was about a poetry event in an unusual venue (the Albany Pump Station) with not your usual collaborators (scientists), this event, literally next door at The Olde English Pub, was a collaboration with Historic Cherry Hill. We were gathered in the Pub’s shady garden under the shadow of the 787 off ramp to Clinton Ave.

Our co-host was the Cherry Hill Executive Director Deborah Emmons-Andarawis, who noted that the Pub was the 2nd oldest standing house in Albany. She introduced the readers of historic selections, the first being Tony Pallone, who read poems by Rensselaer Van Rensselaer (1802 - 1850), including a love poem, one in Spanish, & “An Emblem” about a river in Columbia.

Co-host Mary Panza introduced the contemporary poets, starting with Bob Sharkey, who read a family “scolding” titled “The Clum’s Corner Manifesto.” Nancy Klepsch read a handful of poems, including the sad “Home from the War” & one invoking the spirit of Herman Melville “Call Me Ishmael.”

Deborah talked about one of the descendants of the Van Rensselaer family, Catherine Putnam Rankin (1857 - 1948) then Suzanna Bornn read one of Catherine’s poems, written when she was 26, “At an Auction."

Mary introduced Thom Francis who read poems about his family, “I Want to Go Home,” then a memoir of an early apartment they lived in. His poem “Family Tree” said it was not a tree, but a pile of sticks & lawn-clippings, & he ended with a poem about his grandfather in a nursing home “Easter Visit.” I was next & my 2 poems of the past were “Therese’s Balcony” mixing an imagined past & a fantasy, then one about the early days of the Albany poetry scene “Where Were the Professors.”

Deborah talked about the popularity of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Old Clock on the Stair” read by Janet Kimlicko. Some folks believe that Cherry Hill is haunted, Deborah explained, which led to another Longfellow poem read by Janet, with the line, “All houses where men love, lived and died are haunted…”

Mary was back to read a poem about growing up in South Troy at 13 years old, contrasted with the very different life her daughter has now, at 13.

& then this wonderful reading that included writers of the historic past of Albany, & writers of the present Albany reading poems about the past, was now in the Past itself.

Be sure to check out the exhibits & programs at Historic Cherry Hill in Albany — five generations, one household, 1787 - 1963. & for all your current poetry needs go to

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