This was the 3rd program of the 8th season of this series, & now on Zoom, which made it possible for me to attend, as well as the other 2 featured poets, Lee Gould & Andy Eaton, as well as their family & fans from across the country, up to about 30 folks here. The host is Susan Chute, who read a poem to get us started, by Philip Metras about re-visioning words.
Susan’s intros are elaborate, full of the deep research she had done on each of us, appropriating text from the poets to introduce them — I’d only sent here a brief, standard bio yet she quoted from poems I had not sent her, made me wonder who she was talking about.
Lee Gould was the first featured poet, & she indeed has a venerable CV as editor of Embajadoras Press & its multi-lingual journal La Presa which boasts “Poetry, fiction, memoir, essay, and works that creatively blur those lines from all three North American Countries.” Her reading began with a cluster of “old” poems, then moved on to newer work, about herself, her memories as a child, about her experiences in the riches of her later life. Her poem titled “Game Changer,” was about her first (!) broken ankle was mix of English & Spanish, a mini-lesson on the Spanish terms for sprains, for breaks. She also waxed philosophical in a poem about an orange tree, “The Mountain,” & turned a poem, “The Magician’s Wife,” about a woman with cancer into a circus act of cutting a woman in half. I realized later that I had seen Lee Gould read previously, apparently at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock in 2006, & perhaps elsewhere.
The first open mic poet of the night was Ken Shute, the cousin of our host, who read on sleep with images from dreams. Then back to the next featured poet.
Andy Eaton, similarly to Lee Gould, is a trans-national but he is also trans-continental, dividing his time between Northern Ireland & Charlottesville, Virginia, where he works as a schoolteacher. He described his reading tonight as “yesterday, today & tomorrow.” He started with poems about his grandfather with memories of pencil’s with his grandfather’s name on them, & of his grandfather’s experiences in World War II, including time in a POW camp. A poem titled “Gods” considered what is real for him having grown up in an evangelical world, while the more entertaining “Paddywacker,” slang for a night-stick, examined other slang/metaphoric words for what it could also mean. His style was often quietly pensive, as in the poem “January,” about being with his cousin & finding sand sharks.
Continuing the open mic, Ken Holland read a piece titled “Flight” about hearing semis as if they were migratory animals, thinking of migrants who are often transported across the border in such trucks.
Susan Chute read a poem in a Japanese form that Kimiko Hahn frequently writes in (zuihitsu?), Susan’s poem titled “Getting Ready” in multiple parts, piling up images, interweaving thoughts of death with memories.
I was the final featured poet & I had prepared a list of poems on a variety of themes, beginning with “One Poem” which I chose for this reading’s open mic, then a couple of shorter piece to make space for a couple of longer pieces, “Spathe is the Plathe,” & “The Pussy Pantoum.” I tried to read “When Donald Trump Farts” but had to stop because my internet signal was breaking up the reading (was that the work of the NSA? Donald Trump's new security team?). I ended with shorter poems again, “Easter Sunday 2020” & “Writing Crows.” I think I chased some folks away.
There were 2 more open mic poets to get to. Manuela Thiess read an untitled piece about words she was thinking about while getting dressed.
John Forbis told us he was a monk, prays 4 times a day, & the text in the Office is often from the Psalms, his poem, “In Wisdom You Have Made them All,” ended with the last lines from Psalm 104.
This series, endorsed by the Wallkill Valley Writers & the SUNY-New Paltz Department of English, formerly met at The Jewish Congregation of New Paltz Community Center, & is now on Zoom. You can find more information about it & a link to attend at https://www.facebook.com/NPNextYearsWords/