We had good luck with weather this year, all 3 events were held as planned, although we did have the Social Justice Center as a rain site, which we didn’t have the pleasure of last year when, of course, we were rained out for one of the two events.
I had invited this year’s 3 winners of the Tom Nattell Peace Poetry Prize to read but none showed up, as has happened in past years as well. For the record, the Albany High Student poets were Aliyah Rivera, Jena Maria Rubi, and Josephine Pobee-Mensah, & I read a poem from each so that they had a presence here.
Naomi Bindman was the other reader, who indeed was there. I’ve become a fan of Naomi’s work over a number of years at both in-person open mics at such venues as the Arts Center of the Capital Region & Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, as well at various Zoom open mics. This night she read a grand variety from her work, of memory, death, nature, relationships, grief & finding her way “back to life” (as she put it) by performing her daughter’s music at Caffè Lena.
Katrinka Moore read first, she has a new book out, Diminuendo (Pelekinesis, 2022), that she wants folks to know about, & from which she read a substantial selection. She also had a handout containing a couple poems & some quotes in praise, the poems the 1st (“Upon Waking”) & the last (“Meantime”) from the book, both about uncertainty.
She previewed her reading as being “about seeking quietness, responding to the discord & discontent,” with much of that quietness found in theoretical physics, quoting the scientist Carlo Rovelli in a couple poems (“Adagio” & “Upon Waking”), stars, planets (“Tale”, “Late”), & the comet NEOWISE (“Sojourner”). But also in the songs of birds (“Song,” “Why is there so much beauty?”, Diminuendo”), & trees (“Late”). But let’s not forget the witches & wise woman (“Wayward” & “Sensei”). It was a quiet, meditative reading. Her printed texts look like scores with the silences as caesuras & spaces in the midst of the lines to guide her reading, & suggest how we might read her poems.
I take pride in finding interesting combination of poet for the annual Poets in the Park series that Tom Nattell gifted to me to continue after his death, such the time I scheduled 2 women poets who were both living on Willett St. at the time, Sylvia Barnard & Carolee Bennett, & the combination of mid-Hudson poet Donald Lev with Albany poet Don Levy. This night it was my first father-daughter team, Lance LeGrys & Alex LeGrys. Both have read in the open mic at the Third Thursday Poetry Night here in Albany, as well as at the Caffè Lena poetry open mic in Saratoga Springs. Whom should I feature here in the Park? Why not both?
Her reading was all her own, mostly portraits, mostly of women, nearly all drinkers, lots of smoking, grim tales strung together. Her titles were like labels, “The Isolationist,” “The Ethnographer,” “The Hippocampus,” “Co-existence.” Then she brought us to “Plastic Flamingos on a Smoke Break,” “Strumming Through Suburbia” (i.e., Clifton Park), “Mountain of Masks” (not a pandemic poem but about the clash of classes in Dover, VT), & an imagined visit to a dive bar in the Adirondacks “Fake Cowboys” — poetic mini sociological essays as if she were the ethnographer.
Both poets a fitting finale to this year’s Poets in the Park — thank you to all the community folks who showed up to sit, applaud, & even throw a few bucks in Tom Nattell’s neon hat. See you next July.