This long on-going series managed to continue during the pandemic with just featured readers, & is now back to its past format of a featured reader & an open mic, with the featured reader being live-streamed. The host who holds this event together is poet Carol Graser. She began the night by reading Ilya Kaminsky’s oft-posted poem “We Lived Happily During the War” from his 2019 book from Graywolf Press, Deaf Republic.
Tonight’s feature poet was Lance Le Grys, who recently made the trip from Vermont to the Albany Social Justice Center to read in the open mic, & was in the open mic here at Caffè Lena back in January. He read mostly from his book Views from an Outbuilding (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2019). It is a series of loosely connected poems, short meditations about the outer (& inner) landscape of his writing-shed in the woods. As such it is hard to tell at a reading where one poem ends & another begins — & perhaps they don’t. He also read a poem about the squirrels in a park in Warsaw, Poland, & a tongue is cheek piece, “Living Among Cannibals.” He concluded with a song he wrote in college “The Lemon Fair” which can be found on Bandcamp.
Then on to the open mic with Rachel Baum the first poet up, a “new” poet who has become a regular here, she read a poem inspired by the image of a car seat left at the Ukraine border “What We Do With Our Days,” & the sad portrait of a young boy “Clean Laundry.” Before she read she gave a shout out to her Librarian friends, which became a minor theme of the night as other readers referenced Librarians in their remarks. She was followed by Aiden Teevan (?), who announced it was his first time here, which became yet another theme; he read a poem inspired by Anglo-Saxon poetry & monsters & which he said was written in class “Winter Breath.” This was perhaps the 1st time in 2 years that I saw Kate McNairy here, who read from her book My Wolf (Finishing Line Press, 2021) “Pink Flamingos” & “The Pageant” about a dog all dressed up.
Marcella Hammer began with a poem inspired by kids talking “Can We Go?” then one from a poetry workshop she runs, “You Have No Business Being Here” on the invasion of Ukraine. Alyvia read a poem, like a letter addressed to a “you,” titled “Doors,” then one about feeling like she is not enough then proving everyone wrong. Debbie Colera (?) was also here for the 1st time & I think was one of Rachel’s Librarian friends, read about grief & missing her parents. I read my poem titled “Kerouac” for the 100th anniversary of his birth this month, then one about the music repair shop downstairs on Phila St., “Cole’s Woodwind & Brass Repair Shop.” Lucyna Prostko has been a featured poet here, at the Third Thursday Poetry Night in Albany, & elsewhere; here, in the open mic, tonight she read about memories of those who endured World War II, a grandmother she never met, & the infant children who died, with the recurring word “maybe …”
Victoria Twomey was here for the 1st time (having moved here recently from Northport, NY where Jack Kerouac lived briefly), read a descriptive piece full of wonder “White Dress on a Clothesline,” then a poem about the death of her father “Candy Hearts.” Becca Haberman was also here for the 1st time, she read poems about a love that she said may not be healthy. Carol Graser read a moving poem I’ve heard her read previously, one she wrote for her son’s wedding “Dissolving the Distance Between You.” Michael Carroll read a couple poems from his recently published book of poems Storms of Summer and Other Poems, one about a muse or lover “Earworm,” the other titled “The Animals are Behaving Badly” about squirrels; you can find his book on Amazon.com.
read his poems of angst from small sheets of paper, one about dating a writer “One Long Struggle in the Dark,” the other about love/sex in an art gallery “The Mask is Torn Away.” Kersten (?) read a piece that was tour of her mind with a title from a character in the cartoon Sponge Bob Square Pants “The Itterations of my Mind are an Enigma.”
Crystal Horn’s 1st poem was titled with a line that got repeated throughout the poem, “Words to Keep the Meek as Such,” while her 2nd poem, “Fuck You Fortune,” stood in opposition to a sentiment in a prediction on her computer. Melissa Anderson said she was last here when she was 15, which couldn’t have been that long ago, read “A Heart is the Size of a Small Fat Bird,” then a poem titled “March 2020” which looked ahead to a better future. Rodney Parrott read a funny, philosophical pondering of his avatar, also named “Rodney,” titled “Metaverse.” He is habitually the last poet to read, but Ishan Summer slipped in behind him with a poem about people watching in the laundry room, then one about seeing his own breath & that of others, “Cold Mornings Re: COVID.
This event takes place each month on the 1st Wednesday with a featured poet who goes on at 7:00 PM (& is live-streamed on the Caffè Lena website), followed by an open mic, which as you can see from this night’s program is wonderfully varied. Get there (it’s at 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, NY) about 6:30, climb the long stairs or take the elevator, $5.00. Bring a couple poems to read.
[I apologize to those mentioned in this Blog whose name is not accurately reported. It is difficult sometimes to get a person’s name correct when it is announced from the stage. At the end of the event I try to take a picture of the open mic list in order to see how the poet signed up, what is the spelling of their name. However, this night when I asked Carol if I could see the list she said the list was “up front;” when I asked the man at the counter up front to see the list he said “Carol has it.” If I did not include your name accurately you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org & I will correct it.]