Here we are...
political and cultural orientations, who have been
meeting at the Voorheesville Public Library since 1991
to read and discuss each other's poems.
We include old fathers and young grandmothers,
artists and musicians, and run-of-the-mill eccentrics.
Writers are welcome to stop in and stay if they like us.
Monday, December 29, 2008
I want to remind you all about Steve Lewandowski being here at the lib on Sunday at 2 pm. I guess Alan will be emceeing that one.
Dan Lawlor sends goodbyes on his departure for FL.
My weekend was lovely in New York with Josh and Amy and the boys.
Monday, December 22, 2008
I remind you that our Tom is the featured reader at Sunday Four, here at the Old Songs venue in V'ville this Sunday the 28th at 3 pm. I will be there (if the creek don't rise, and so forth) and hope to see lots of you then. Nots lots of you, but many of you, although I wouldn't mind seeing more of you if the weather was warmer. I was hoping Dennis would arrange a little snow-trudging carol singing, but I haven't heard anything along those lines. Oh well, sing to yourselves.
Dan Wilcox's annual open house is on New Year's Day. You can probably check his blog for details.
A friend of Alan's named Steve Lewandowski is giving a poetry reading here at VPL on January 4 (Sunday) at 2 p.m. if you would like to put that on your calendars. Probably AC will be reminding us. Alan's January party sounds good and I hope to be there.
BTW, in case any of you are new digital camera owners, VPL is having two camera programs that might interest you - one in January on the basics of the settings, operations, et al. and a second on options for processing and saving the photos. I plan to attend them, too. More about all of these programs will be in the Jan/Feb Bookworm which comes out next week. Ya gotta sign up for these.
Well, my shopping is done, my wrapping is done, my body is bruised and sticky from a short hospital stay which turned out to be a not-heart-attack-only-a-separated-shoulder. I am asking the Great Claus to bring me a lime green dog stroller, a pedometer, a Persian kitten and a 3-disc Rod Stewart collection, and I will try not to be disappointed when none of this arrives.
This time of year leaves me melancholy, lonely, sad, repentent, weepy, nostalgic and ruminating on Life. To say nothing of grumpy because my arm hurts.
So, have a touch o' the grape for me, hope for peace and toast to poetry.
And don't forget to sing.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Contest Rules: Each poet pays a $3 entry fee (which all gets handed back to poets as prizes), and reads or speaks for two minutes. The reading periods are timed, and if the poet goes over the limit by 15 seconds the judge yells “time” and the poet must stop speaking immediately. After all the competitors read for two minutes, they all repeat the process for a three-minute period. Same rules. After the three-minute readings, there is an intermission. With eleven poets competing, a break is a good thing. Next, all the contenders go back up to the podium for the last round of four minutes. Poets are scored on the basis of presentation, content, and how close they come to the limits of two, three, and four minutes. The watch starts the minute the poet starts talking, whether making introductory remarks, reading poems, or plugging a book or upcoming event. Poets can use only their own work, making this a writing as well as performance contest.
Another rule is that anyone who wins the top prize ($200) is not eligible to ever win first, second, or third place money in this contest again. This rule probably insures that more people who don’t win will keep trying, and encourages new competitors to give it a try. Other poets can win token sums as determined by the judge and the amount of money taken in by entry fees, and this year W.R. Foltin chose to give every entrant a token prize if they were not in the top three.
Alan , having won the event last year and knowing he was ineligible for any of the top prizes, gave a less-than-inspired performance and ended up in tenth place (out of eleven contenders). We all know he can do better, much better; he proved it by winning last year. Tim Verhaegen (Tim Lake was also there) and Dennis were also entered, and read good selections from poems many of us have heard at our group’s meetings. I noticed that both Tim and Dennis had fine-tuned some of the poems I recognized, and that their presentation ability was above one or more poets who ended up higher in the final standings than they did. (Dennis placed sixth, and Tim placed eighth.)
A comment about the winners: that’s first, second, and third place. All were excellent, far above most of the people who show up at open mics around the region. Tim Lake (fourth place, couldn’t place higher by rule as a previous winner) is also a very polished poet and reader. First place went to Miriam Axel-Lute, whose level of presentation can honestly be described as professional. She probably has competed and placed highly in poetry slams, no doubt other events as well. She did all of her work from memory, and if she missed on anything it didn’t show. Everyone else in the contest read their work. Second place Michael Hare, from Saratoga, read from his book “Saratoga Lives.” A very strong reader. I’ve seen him at Café Lena. Third place Will Nixon, who hauled up from Woodstock to compete, read effectively from his own book (but I failed to get the title. A pen and a pair of dollar-store glasses are never around when I need them.) He was also a very practiced reader.
The whole thing ran from 10:00 to about 1:15, but was worth staying for because the upper end of the poetry and presentations was so good. There is no admission fee, only the $3 fee to enter. Anyone can watch it. The room at the Colonie Town Library is a fine venue for events like this.
William Robert Foltin has created a fine event. I expect to be there next year.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Just a note to remind folks of two upcoming events, the dates for which you might want to jot down in your calendar with the intent of joining in them in the ways they allow.
First of all, Benevolent Bird will be reading at the Social Justice Center in Albany on Thursday, December 18 at 7:30 I think it is. He gave out reminders to that end yesterday at the Sunday Four open mic. What dine poems all around, really.
To share in Bird?s reading, several of us are going to get together for dinner at circa 5:30 at Ichiban on Central Avenue for eats and a few laughs. Mark suggested last even another nearby place, Thai [?]? if folks want to go there and MO?B wishes to organize that, I will go anywhere. We would like a little room or outlet or inlet, however which we were able to get the last time we went for such an event, when I read or was it Barb?s gig? Perhaps this could be one of our convivial social events?we do try so hard sometimes and occasionally succeed in being so.
Then on December 28th, the Sunday after Christmas, for those who celebrate that event, there will be an even greater birth, if you will: the esteemed and venerable Tom᳠Corrado will be the featured poet at the Sunday Four Poetry Open Mic at Old Songs. For one of the founders of the Thursday group and inveterate veterans of vetting?oh sweet redundancies!!?perhaps you might consider coming out?to support Tom and to read as well. He says he has some interesting dings in mind; he gave me some ideas re: that yesterday but has sworn me to secrecy. That is at 3 pm. We have been getting a pretty good showing; I am surprises that so many people who call themselves poets do not appear to be interested in presenting their work aloud in such venues. But there was Wallace Stevens and The Belle of Amherst, was that her name?
Also in January of February I am thinking of having an event at Ga?s and my domicile, a 2nd Willis Farm Syndrome. Let folks speak up if they are interested informally. I have a small agenda, spelled a-g-e-n-d-a?sometimes I do use that word?for the event that will require some work. The idea is for us to be better poets by extending our boundaries, no? That was rhetorical.
If Barb gets this up for Thursday, I wish everyone a fruitful Thanksgiving amidst the ever-changing definitions of family this 21st century continues to wreak. DCS
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thank you all for commenting, whoever you may be. I wish that we could get that kind of response after every meeting. I will take the suggestion that I should post anon comments, as long as I approve the tenor of the remarks. In plain English, if you want to say something critical, it's okay with me as long as you put your name on it. If it is nasty and unsigned, of course, I will ditch it.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I don't have a lot of time today, so this will be short.
Kathy McCabe bravely returned and brought a poem about daughters-in-law which I particularly related to. It was "powerful", "universal", "accessible." Excellent theme and some great phrasing. The "but" is that it sounded like a poem a prose writer might write and the group suggested trimming. I hope she does that and returns with it, as it has great potential.
Dan did a terrific job on his Orpheus poem. Excellent rhyming and cadence. We all seemed to like Philomena's Inadequacies (Anxieties?) - tribulations of one person in the dark, all is failing, geraniums dying. Interesting. Stacie's poem was, well...short. Mimi made a good point about the efficacy of one word sometimes, in this case "that". In Art's poem it was "here" in the line that hung the poem together "I'm the king of this here stump!" One word makes all the difference.
Tim's California Burnings... was distinguished by its compactness, lack of usual repetition. Of course it also almost started WWIII when I opined that I did not see a logical transition (in the text) from racial to sexual discrimination and everyone went off the deep end. Talk about hot buttons. Fortunately Alan was able to interpret for me before I was crucified by the mob.
There were a couple of election related works: Edie's was a jubilant rant and Mimi's very thoughtful - how the click of the lever resounded though America, bringing tears as well as elation. Speaking of elation, this is the time to mention that one of our dear Quakers (who shall remain nameless at his request) was not only euphoric, but downright inebriated on election night. As were we all, I think, on one spirit or another.
Tom numbered his lines, which I considered an excellent trick, and Edie observed was like a Senate bill. Very handy tool for critiquing, although not much critique was forthcoming. Good poem. Tom, btw, I see that you responded to some of the suggestions about Ars Poetica. I like the revision.
I can't find Paul's poem, so I will not comment, except to say that he made sure not to sit to my right again.
I'm not forgetting Poet's #2(3)'s Sunday Morning Love Poem, of which I have no criticism. Liked every line of it - "who will walk with me when no one's left to walk" begins the last verse - "what will i sing then, soiled and breathless?" Good stuff, even the loo line. Also loved Art's remark about the monkey mind getting in the way of the heart.
Mark and I did not have poems and we winged through the other 10 of us at such a good clip we were comfortably finished by 9. I glimpsed Saul Abrams arriving at the end of the meeting, but whether all went eating and drinking I have no idea as I went home.
We will not meet again until December 11. Anyone for a turkey poem?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Academy of American Poets’
“POETS FORUM ON CONTEMPORARY POETRY”
Written in Haste to Meet an Imaginary Deadline
Every Other Thursday Night Poets
On Saturday, November 8, the esteemed and venerable Doctor Burke and I headed by train to New York for one of the grand sessions on poetry and poetics sponsored by the Academy of American Poets over the weekend. There were readings and awards and ceremonies and social gatherings.
I have been a member of this group and encourage others to become members as well. The AAP website offers great information on poets and nearly every aspect of poetry. Check it out at: http://www.poets.org/
Bird and I had planned to go but Bird found out, post his ticket-purchase, that this weekend was family day, or whatver it is called, for his son’s school in Philly, Drexel.
Qué lastima! for the Bird that he could not go—but he and Doc got to see their kid, I presume—pero qué bueno for Burkey who was delighted to accept the free-will offering of Bird, $60 worth, if I might be so crass to refer to such a measurement. Just another example of Bird’s generosity.
Overall, Burkey and I had a blast, from the wonderful train ride down, to our walk from Penn Station to NYU’s Eisner & Lubin Auditorium on Washington Square South, to the four wonderful sessions, to the great lunch at Freshco Burrito Taco [?] on Sullivan Street, in my honor. Burkey can correct me on the restaurant. He was yumming about the steak quesadilla for the entire day and me about the two wonderful soft-shell tacos I had.
After the event we headed over to the famed McSorley’s on East Seventh but since it was filled with rowdy drunkards and those about-to-be so, we left after a “pint” and headed up to my new favorite—I have been there twice—oh the lovely Irish lass who tends bar!!—Mustang Harry’s on 30th Street—not to be confused with Mustang Sally’s two blocks, or thereabouts, south.
In case you go to the city and want a nice and very long and atmospheric bar, here is its URL http://www.mustangharrys.com/— and close to Amtrak so should you get a buzz on, why the walk is a piece of cake. Of course Burkey and I had the piece of cake!!
With respect to the wonderful sessions at NYU, there were four, each lasting an hour and ten minutes, just the right amount of time. Each session began with each panelist speaking for circa five minutes about the topic at hand, then the three or four involved in the session engaged the ideas of the session’s topic in very interesting and provocatively thoughtful ways. There were questions from the audience which were collected toward the end of each session and brought up front to the moderator who read one or all and the panelists responded in ways they thought appropriate.
I thought this part of the session was sorta’ a waste in part because the wording of the questions sounded very academic and esoteric—and because one question I asked on an index card was not read aloud, alas!! I asked later if there were some kind of screening and was told no.
I asked the panelists to comment on Kenneth Koch’s statement that “the poet is the natural enemy of the state” and what the ethical implications of that were for one’s livelihood and safety. I asked it during the “Danger and Difficulty” panel. Anyway, back to the show.
The first session—10:00 to 11:10 am—was titled “Poems in Place” and concerned itself with how poems grow out of place, how they affect a sense of place, how the poet, grounded in place, cannot not escape place in her or his work.
Moderated by Tree Swensen, its panelists included: Victor Hernandez Cruz; Lyn Hejinian, and Gary Snyder (with whom I had a very mini run-in with later asking for his autograph for the Bird). Bird, I do have the autograph in my notebook; please remind me to surrender it.
Cruz who came from Morocco to New York in 1954 spoke of “city shock” when he moved from one culture to another and that he lived in many cultures simultaneously. He said, however, that he did not feel totally part of one in particular. For him, life and poetry was like a cubist painting, dealing with the fragmentation of life, his experienced life. He said that “poets have to be in the place to feel the place and to image and invent” otherwise the poetry is abstracted and not real.
[By the bye, even though I have quotation marks around what some folks said during the sessions, I took these notes sans shorthand and as quickly as possible—so let us not hold the poets to my quotes totally and not hold the messenger responsible for more than a very accurate paraphrasing—even though in some cases the quotes are dead–on.]
Lyn Hejinian said she was “interested in the radical unsettling of places.” She added that to feel in place, one must feel or be out of place. The overall place of a work of writing—its typography, its textual landscape—was to see everything as in—or “as if” in—equal focus, as in a photograph where a viewer can enter the scene at any time and place and yet all other places remain in focus. To achieve this, or experience this kind of equal world required “unadministrable terrains of the imagination,” to counteract the control of global economics that many succumb to. She was the arch-anarchist on the panel, to be oxymoronic.
Gary Snyder addressed the “practice of place” which is possible on any scale. He said, in terms of places, “I belong to the ancient world . . . I measure everything by physical experience.” Having lived in a Zen monastery for an extended period of time, in terms of place and terrain, he said he got to know the inside terrain of his body.
Speaking about kids in our U.S.-American culture being driven everywhere today, he said they are no longer given a chance to explore their landscape, leaving them devoid of the tools of self-subsistence; he quoted the great (and one of my great teachers) Ivan Illich here.
Later Snyder queried: how do we know the art of a plant, of a cedar tree, for example? He spoke about how the landscape of California allowed natives there to produce some of the best baskets ever made because of the sedge, rush, roots, stalks, and various grasses that peopled the environment of the indigenous people there.
He noted that in antiquity it was a sign of bad manners not to know the plants in one’s environment, not to know them as neighbors, to say hello to them as well as to birds and other animals about. Science, not having good etiquette or manners has not helped in a production of knowledge in this regard. I could hear Ginsberg in his voice.
The second session which ran from 11:20 to 12:30 was titled “Twisting and Turning” and included panelists, Ron Padgett, Robert Pinsky, Kay Ryan, and Susan Stewart. It was moderated by Maureen McLane.
This panel was riddled with jest and jocularity due in large part to the quips of Pinsky and Ryan. One could see that the poets were having a good time being together, bedeviled with such solitary work otherwise.
Padgett said “I like to look at the way a poem dances” —sorta’ like the way the Greek chorus dances the poem” and [at] “all the different ways a poem can shift and not shift.” He said a one-word poem cannot have any shifts or turns as opposed to longer forms that have many shifts throughout, some startling to the ear.
The poet said that there were still great sonnets being written and were written in the recent past by poets such as Edwin Denby and Ted Berrigan. For an interview with Padgett on Denby see http://jacketmagazine.com/21/denb-smith-padg.html.
I should mention that there was considerable discussion passim about the value of the sonnet, Kay Ryan saying that any form that forced the writer to submit to end-rhymes is worthless or next to it—Susan Stewart taking great exception to that. The difference between the two poets on the relative merits of the different forms of poems could have made for a magnificent session in itself.
Pinsky said that when it comes to twists and turns, poetry has second, third, and even fourth thoughts. I was not sure whether he was contradicting the dictum of Ginsberg “first thought best thought” here but he went on to say that even poems that offered no new information or words could, by their twists and turns—refrains, e. g.—produce meaningful poetry. He mentioned specifically a recent poem of Ashbery called “Infomercial 2” which was published in The Times November 4th. Those wishing to view the poem can check out http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/opinion/05ashbery.html.
Kay Ryan, our current poet laureate read several poems she thought exemplified twists and turns in spades, for example, “This is Just To Say” by WCW, especially its great juxtaposition in the last stanza.
She pointed to the poems of British poet Stevie Smith 9/20/02-3/7/71) especially her “Thoughts about the Person from Porlock” which pleaded for interruptions: /I am hungry to be interrupted / Forever and ever amen / O Person from Porlock come quickly / And bring my thoughts to an end./
She also said that the shortest twist and turn in any poem can be found in Merwin’s “Elegy” with its one line “Who would I show it to.” Some of the poets chose to address ideas about the subject while others, like Ryan, perhaps in particular, offered poems of others to illustrate the subject matter of the panel. That I found very fruitful.
Susan Stewart said that turning seems to be everywhere, that by nature we are heliotropic: we turn to the light but, when we turn to the sun, it blinds us so there are contradictions, if you will, that must be contended with. She said that the poet has to attend to her or his peripheral vision to take all in, must turn away from life in order to do art, yet the poem is an anchor that steadies the voice in the midst of twists and turns.
Session Three, moderated by James Longenbach, began after lunch and ran from 1:30-2:40 and was titled “Danger and Difficulty.” The panelists were Louise Gluck, Carl Phillips, Ellen Bryant Voight, and C. K. Williams.
First on tap, Louise Gluck [pronounced Glick it seems] queried “how are poems that are so clear so difficult to account for?” She said that the poet must believe that what she or he is doing is a miraculous evidence that makes writing a continued venture.
Carl Phillips said that “danger” might be what we learn about human nature, that the poem teaches us how to read ourselves as people. He added that the making of art gets us out of dailiness, dutifulness, and that to make good art, or perhaps art at all, one must get out of out regular coping mechanisms.
Voigt, who I did not like the looks of at first and her tone, grew on me rapidly. Indeed, she might have been my favorite of the day and I will look into her more. I wanted to hear more from her, thinking she was Gary Snyder’s equal with respect to depth of levels of consciousness.
Voigt, once a serious musician, said she stopped her music for poetry because poetry seems to have more opportunities for depth, she sorta’ said that, saying she meant no offense to musicians.
W/r/t to difficulty, she said it shows up in many ways and offered a mini typology for all present. She said difficulty might show up in a variety of ways, for example, in: (1) density [e.g. Hart Crane]; (2) reference; (3) cultural differentiation [e.g. Pope]; (4) protean form [e.g. Rilke]; (5) erasure; (6) indirection (obliquity); (7) derangement of senses [Susan Howe]; and (8) tonal complexity. I hope these types are common-sensical such that I do not have to expound on each.
C.K. Williams spoke about music and language, pointing out that music and language come from two different parts of the brain. He said Blake’s prophetic books were pure music, as is the work of Hopkins, and that there are many examples in 10th-century poetry of such pure music.
He added that in terms of free verse he worries sometimes that the information being conveyed is thought to be so compelling that the poetry loses its music, that the poetry becomes essentially “broken prose.”
He asked: what is the music and speech of the heart of our time?; how do poets hear the music of our time differently from, say, the poetry of other times?; what are the essential elements of poetic music that endure? what are the dangers of a poetry that does not take these questions into account? He said that the difficulty in writing poetry of course is that the poet has to wait for the music of the poetry to show up first, the rhythm that underlies the whole thing.
Session Four, the last of the day, was moderated by Timothy Donnelly. It was called “The Aesthetic Self or the Anxiety of I” and ran from 2:50-4:00. The panelists were: Frank Bidart, Sharon Olds, and Gerald Stern.
Bidart began by pointing out that it is a task to get beyond the “I” and to speak about things that are fundamental. He read Frank O’Hara’s wonderful “A Step Away From Them” examining the different forms that the “I” can come in, or manifest itself in. I thought he missed the point in the last sentence of this poem when O’Hara says: My heart is in my/ pocket . . ./
Here I might have called attention to the primitive practice or the practice of so-called “primitives,” people living in archaic economies, digging a hole and putting their soul in it so that it would remain safe from death and any other ailments that life brings our way.
Sharon Olds said that, poetically-speaking, metaphor was scary to her because it required such a great statement about life, which she could not make but that she could at least work on the level of similes. She noted that for years she refused to accept that she was an autobiographical poet but now has come out of that closet.
She said her problem is that she has no imagination, that she just writes things as they are, “that the “I” am writing about is some kind of fiction.” She told of how she learned from Neruda’s Odes to Common Things—citing examples such as his "Ode to My Socks" ("Oda a los calcetines")—and thus had written poems such as “Ode to My Composting Toilet,” "Ode to the Tampon," and "Ode to the Hymen," having read the final poem before the group. I liked it as poetry but am still not sure of the grounding of its person. I felt least comfortable with her all day, not a woman thing—I do not think so, because I was so taken with Voigt. Anyway, I have much to ponder in that regard.
The last person on the last session was not the least by far. Gerald Stern, who is an octogenarian and trooper par excellence, queried about the speaker in poems being an “I” or a “you” or a “one.” He offered some examples of how other words exist as substitutes for the “I” which bring a whole new and expanded dimension to poems, to the “scriptor” who is doing the work.
He read Merwin’s poem “Into The Cloud” three times, at different speeds and with different intonations showing different forms of “I” and how this “I” relates to the rest of the world. He asked several times about the veracity of the “I,” the scriptor, wondering: “how do I know what you say is true? how do we know your narration of events is true? what does the poet know?”
In sum, what a wonderful day to be among so many great and interesting poets. If there is some such event next year, and it appears that there will be, I suggest that those most interested in poetry in our Thursday group go down to the city to experience the event as Burkey and I did. Perhaps there will be four or five who would find such sessions interesting and invaluable for improving their work, perhaps getting them out of the ruts they sometimes find themselves in.
I might announce at this time that sometime in January I will have a Willis Farm Syndrome II at our house here in The Ville—that is what “we” or some of us call it now, fondly I might add. I will prepare an agenda of four items; anyone interested in coming is welcome of course—partners/spouses/significant others can come later for food and drink—but it is my hope that we will want to jack up our efforts a bit more for this one. Comprende?
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
night's blog, but my cranky dial-up doesn't want to cooperate with the
blog site comments....
so if you don't mind posting this.
I want to thank Paul for his compliments about my work. I enjoyed the
smaller group and the thoughtful responses, and was happy to be
there. BUT....when I got home, my husband was waiting for me at the
door with a telephone in his hands. He had just received a panic call
from good friends who were sitting in a restaurant in Greenville
wondering where the heck we were!! I completely forgot that we had
made dinner plans (I even confirmed them the day before via e-mail)
with good friends. They jokingly told me later that they need younger
friends who can actually remember dinner dates.....
Anyway, it might give you a chuckle to think of me sitting in the
Voorheesville Library blithely critiquing poetry, and missing a very
nice dinner date.
Friday, October 31, 2008
As for October, seven diehard poets availed themselves of it's last EOTNP meeting. With plenty of time and the collection of prime poems read, the amateur behind the gavel had an easy time of it.
Leading off was Alan, whose "Around A Public House Table" captured the warmth of friends gathered in a tavern for conversation and a raised glass. The poem deals with the gathering of friends without specific reference to a given group, but most of us associated it with our post-meeting gatherings at Smitty's anyway.
Cathy's "New Girl" effectively addressed the silent unhappiness of the schoolyard outcast, for whom friends are fewer and more valuable than for other students. Childhood is a gold mine of poetic material, but the material is wrapped in such ordinary days that it is often surprisingly hard to dig out a nugget, as Cathy has done.
My offering, "Capitalist Running Dogs," was a venture into a past more recent than I usually deal with, but who am I to question what the muses bring. The muse that brought this one started with the end of the Cold War, moved on to the recent chaos in the financial markets, then ended with a commentary on greed. I'm thinking of having hundreds of thousands of copies printed and distributed, but first I have to find out what companies manufacture toilet paper.
No question about it, Mimi's poem "Axe Murderer" was an instant hit, a gem of facetious humor about family members who could do more to make Mom happy. The fabulous ending brings to mind the endings Mike Burke is known for, and on reading the poem over, it also brongs to mind the poems of Billy Collins. When I read things like this I think of the pompous professors in English departments of universities who publish each others' inscrutable poetry in literary journals and say to myself: "Who needs you?!"
Tom gave us "Ars Poetica," a highly entertaining internal monologue that I thought turned into a highly entertaining dialog somewhere in the middle. I console myself with the fact that anything that is "an attempt to explain poetry by writing poetry" is going to lose a few of the slower types as it goes along.
At this point Barbara voiced the idea that maybe "we should not criticize each others' poetry." The thought occurred to me that if we adopted that philosophy, our poetry group would turn into a series of open mic events with the same readers and audience. The group would lose its cutting edge, the edge that provides the food for thought that poets use to improve their work. On the upside, it sounded like a facetious suggestion when she made it.
As for Barbara's untitled poem, it needs nothing more than a title if it's going any further than the framed piece of art it lives in now. I suggest "Peanut Butter," since that's what it's about. I also suggest exact copies be made of its current layout, complete with skillfully-done pictures of a Skippy jar on one side and a Smuckers jar on the other. It's art and a poem in one work; surely there are customers for that.
Tim's descriptive poem "Louise" brings many images to mind, at the same time accommodates his inclination to put in a few lines that can have more than one meaning. More clarification would help the reader in one or two places, a good thing, as the reader ends the poem wanting to know more about Louise. Everyone spotted the poem's most fascinating lines, which read, for all of you who should have been there to hear them in person: "Once a man chased her over the rainbow." Makes you want to see the whole poem, doesn't it.
The one and only November meeting is on the 13th. Opportunity knocks.
I did drag myself here and brought a "show and tell" of my peanut butter poem and picture. There were eight of us, Mimi was sniffling and we had another guest. Welcome Kathy with a K.
My vote (and everyone's, I think) goes to Tom, although Mimi ran a close second.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The other guest was Jerry Seminary, who may turn out to be a regular. He is a Viet Nam veteran who pulled off a good rhyming poem heavy with meaning. Fort Hood, Texas: why was the Army band playing a jaunty "Georgie Girl" as it sent the young recruits off to be killed? Obieduid pointed out the emptiness in the lyrics of that particular song.
The group would have consisted of ten men and me if Edie had not shown up with Life, a poem which brought out some strong differences in opinion; some of the guys considered it victorian, archaic and stilted, too flowery. Mr. Willis thought it witty, sensual and feminine.
We all agreed that Art had one especially great verse about an old woman being "knocked down among the rocks on Mount Battie by a stout eighth grade girl..."
Markle was fresh off the ship from the Old Sod and immersed in the Ulster Scots dialect, which none of us understand well. He did print on lovely sea paper and it could have been song lyrics.
Paul took a political slant with Election, consisting of "pranksters, promises... rich with tricks, treats...words on the wind". Good stuff.
Alan's Hidden Valley was an experiment in combining Native American and Asian culture with another tale of Grandfather Carp that we agree could have been tightened up.
I noted strong similarities between portions of Dennis' Morning Prayer and scriptural verses. "Thus the very sins I condemn, I bury in my self...". It was certainly not a serene poem, but one of self examination.
Mike B. observed passing a church when a funeral was being held, with his New York Times and his sausage and egg on a hardroll, everyone going on with their everyday lives.
Tom's long work reflected a lot of Provincetown and was compared to a John Updike novel. Why did I write down Mary Poppins and was Art sleeping?
Tim "Showed and Telled" with a photo of his studly body xeroxed next to his poem The Stud, which brought up questions of audience and who we are all addressing our work to. (I write for myself most of the time.) The Stud contained what might be interpreted as insider information for a gay audience.
It was a bit of a rush to get all in before 9 p.m. Whole crew went to Smit's.
Oh, I almost forgot me. I wrote about my catalpa tree and memories of my father as the first anniversary of his death approaches. It seemed to strike a chord with several people. Tom made an interesting suggestion for rearranging lines.
Sorry to have missed Larry and Tom on Sunday, but I was chaperoning the Skip Parsons concert here at the library. It was a great concert and had a big audience so I didn't get out until almost five o'clock.
Yes, we can have a Fifth Thursday meeting on Oct. 30. I booked the room for us. Happy Halloween if I don't see you. I am wearing my spider hair ornament today.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Robert and Amelia Anderson were there, an older couple that I am familiar with from the Bethlehem Art Association. They are both avid photographers. I discovered that Bob is a WWII vet who brought what he had written about his ship almost sinking in the Persian Gulf (back in 1945!). Amelia wrote about cake decorating and brought some photos of her cakes. It was good to get to know them better and get a sense of how creative they are.
Steve Stein is a 30-ish writer who has been around for several years. He and I must have the same strange sense of humor because I was practically rolling on the floor from his account of getting a tetanus shot. He is a good writer.
Tim joined us with a "Fire Island" kind of piece he had been trying out on some friends. I told him that it struck me that he used to bring prose to the poetry group and now he brings poetry to the prose group. I think we have turned him into a poet.
Murray Block and Ellen Zunon had both mailed me that wouldn't be there. No word from Fan who is a regular and also a philosopher.
Anyway, I had a good time, wishing that I had more time to write and more energy to attend the group regularly.
See you all next Thursday.
Friday, October 10, 2008
At everyone's suggestion, I will attempt to create a calendar here on the blog with poetry events you submit to me. As there are various other calendars available, I will only use listings which involve EOTNP members in some fashion.
As you all have probably heard, Obeedude arrived in Ireland (thankfully with no stroke, heart attack or other stress-induced ailment). Now for the meeting...
I'll start at the end as Dennis wow-ed us with the last poem of the evening, perhaps his most accessible to the rest of us ever. It was "A Godly Plan" with a strong flow, some unusual-for-Dennis repetition, not a single unfamiliar word. A bit of confusion over the word "liver" - as in one who lives, not the slimy organ. Most popular line: an orphaned bundle on the porch. Dennis was present in the poem as "yes, me, who walks likes Moses parting seas" - how Dennis-y.
Tom's poem prompted a spate of conversation, as his poems never do. This one seemed to strike a chord. I liked the title and am thinking of writing about it: The World According to (Your Name Here). Tom spoke of Ezra Pound as his inspiration and I am also going to look at Pound further as it sounds like he was a terrific character and I don't know a lot about him. Art, Dennis and Alan all referred to the poem as reminiscent of the beats, "beyond existential", flavored with Gregory Corso, Kerouac, etc. To me, it was merely another of Tom's mysteriously challenging events and, altho I asked, I am still not sure what made this one different.
Okay, I'd better write faster.
Mimi: North Carolina Morning, I liked the title. Great bird characterization - "blusterer" was a wonderful description, altho difficult to speak. Mimi shared the underlying meaning of the poem which wasn't, and didn't need to be, apparent. Btw, in my world bird have knees.
Letting Go from Philomena was a series of short verses all referring back to the title, not connected to each other which (duh) I didn't get until it was explained to me. Alan suggested asterisks between stanzas to make it clear. Philomena used Obie's word "cocoon", which seemed unfair seeing that he was not here to listen to it.
Opining from my own experience, Stacie was right on the money again with her library story of quibbling over new chairs, and took very little criticism. We also could find no fault with Art, altho My Sweet Crab began with a very colorful reference to castration found in Deuteronomy. Did anyone else see the PBS special on the Aztecs and the Spaniards this week?
Dennis remarked favorably on Dan's growth as a poet, whose I'm Out of Touch poem needed some tightening up, but was full of good imagery. Dennis also repeated his enthusiasm for Paul compiling a chapbook; someone suggesting the title of 25 Pictures of Days Gone By. Alan said it would appear as an autobiography of Paul as a juvenile delinquent. We talked about the efficacy of using first or third person.
Last up (actually, first up) was Alan who set up an interesting battle between the ancient carved warriors of Japan and the cheap plastic toys belonging to father and son respectively. Good mix of dialogue and narration, and a leap in form and subject for Alan. There was some debate about cutting and rearranging.
I am now going to work on our new calendar, and will also post your events on the VPL online calendar for the public.
Oh, I almost forgot - I will be guest-hosting Lifelines for Cathy on October 16 and would love to have some of you join me with a short prose piece. How about it? 6:30 p.m.
And - Larry is the featured reader at Sunday Four on the 26th. It is the same day as the VPL Fall Concert so I have to be here, but you should all go! If you prefer Dixieland Jazz, come VPL to hear Skip Parsons.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Obie must be winging his way over the ocean by now. Thank goodness. I was anticipating him having an excitment breakdown before takeoff.
See you all this Thursday. BTW, Larry Rapant and the philosophers will be meeting in another room at the same time. I would like us all to greet - perhaps some of you would be persuaded to join the other group, too. I have attended a couple of times and found that they have good discussions.
Oh, there is a new Billy Collins book out called Ballistics. I read a good review. He is one of my favorites.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Okay, there is a workshop called Writing from Art on October 4 at the Albany Institute of History and Art, which includes a reception and reading on Nov. 7. I have a couple of flyers if you are interested. I imagine you can find it on the AIHA or HVWG websites. It sounds very creative. There is also a MEMOIR PROJECT reading series and related writers' course offerings going on at The Art Center that some of you might be interested in. Details available here.
Mimi's poem was a work of art, literally; called Parallelogram, it was designed in that fashion, with one word.........."jump"ing out. Very clever. Obie drew rabbit ears on it. Obie had an excellent poem called "Three Sketches on the Amateur Lepidopterist and his Wife"; I learned what strippers are (relative to butterflys). I have assigned Obie a word: cocoon. I now own dollop, Dan owns maudlin and Alan wanted pensive. If anyone else wants to claim a word, let me know.
Alan is promoting his Wednesday evenings at the Perfect Blend in Delmar. There is one next Wednesday. The suggestion was made that his poem last night about the dying Earth was a little dense and needed some air between lines . Liked the repetition of the first three lines as the last.
Dennis took a walk through history with a popular offering about heritage, predominantly Irish (I wanted the foreign phrases taken out, as usual - why were they in Spanish?) Mimi said it was "pleasurable to hear". Paul inspired a conversation about roofing which some of us found particularly touching because of the memories it evoked.
Another installment from Stacie was wonderful, about a Pakastani gentleman who works in her library. She does wonderful character sketches and we are enjoying her series.
I enhanced my education, learning what an eidolon is - a Greek word for ghost or spectre. Dan wrote about them in a dream-like manner. We all agreed that because he was inconsistent with his use of gerunds, it would be stronger if he changed them all to present tense.
That's it for this week, folks.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Stacie's installment in her Poetry Verite series In the Library was a conversational account of a library cleaning lady and her interaction with some stereotypical librarians (and their inability to make decisions). All particularly liked the ending which wrapped up a cabbage story. You had to be there.
Everyone seemed unclear about the numerical references in Tim's Family-Tree. The same repetition in it that I called "pounding", Art considered" chanting". We talked about cutting the ending, changing the title, eliminating the whole first stanza, etc. Came to no conclusions.
Another difference of opinion arose about the typeface used in Art's poem Anima ex Officio. Obie, our sensitive artist, objected to the ornate font as distracting from the message. I loved the curly, swirly look of it and Art explained that he had purposely used it to resemble an invitation, which indeed it did. Anima is the undeveloped female quality in men, used in this case in a political statement about Sarah Palin. Great work.
Obie came with a terrific "five-o'clock poem" (as did I). Sad to say, no one but I recognized "the big "O" sing(ing) in the background". Roy Orbison, folks! Anybody ever hear of Roy Orbison, one of the top two best solo artists of the '60s? (Okay, who is the other one?) It should have been a dead giveaway when Mark repeated the phrase "it's over" several times in the poem. A classic hit, still singing it in my head today. Anyway, it was a poem of loss and regrouping, very successful.
A mood poem from Philomena opened with a dyn-o-mite verse which started out: "In the debate between the sun and the moon, the moon cheats" - we all loved it. I suggested that she try a re-write, taking out the personal perspective and the "I". Mark observed that recent work has shown Philomena's voice to develop.
Weirdly, both Moriartys had crows in their poems. Mimi quoted Philip Levine "I wouldn't put a crow in a love poem" and proceded to do just that. Art observed that it was very tight, incredibly creative, reminescent of a Matisse. I picked out the "One Good Line on which the poem hangs" (hereafter refered to as OGL as I am going to start looking for them): "Love mimics the sound of things, it flattens the palm, stings the cheek."
Dan did some very good, non-gimmicky rhyming in The Laugh-less Clown. It flowed nicely, had a few extra words here and there, but generally solid.
What Shall We Talk About, Dennis? We will talk about Dennis' questions: What are your dreams? Who taught you to dream? What stands in the way of you achieving your dreams? What do you do now? No fit? Call it something else. Poem needs more than one reading.
I am taking the"on the porch" phrase out of my five o'clock poem as you guys suggested and will continue to eat my colorful grapes in the shade of the catalpa tree. What color the grapes are, I will let you guess. Yes, I also thought it sounded like WCW's sweet plums poem. Whaddaya want - it was five o'clock.
Poem of the night for me was - ta-dah! Alan's Habitation Before Check-in Time. I like snake poems, especially talking snake poems - and both Alan and Obie did very expressive snake voices. A bonus was the inclusion of the poem with several language translations, for no particular reason except that the computer was able to do this. Nicely done and my favorite Alan poem.
Ally is down again with pnuemonia and was forced to cancel a wonderful trip. She is much cheerier about the disappointment than I would be.
Mimi's Delmar Writers' are presenting reading at the Bethlehem Library on Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. All invited. Refreshments!
Bus trip to Woodstock does not have many signups. Please do it if you are going to.
Don Levy from Albany is the next reader at Sunday Four on the 28th. I will be in Woodstock, I hope.
Friday, August 29, 2008
I am trying to drum up business for the library bus trip to Bethel Woods Arts Center, which was the site of the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and a trip down memory lane. It is on the 28th of September and costs about 40 bucks, which includes the price of the museum ticket. I would love to have some friends to travel with, as I am signed up already.
I was poem-less again, as the word processor in my brain seems to be on the fritz (is that a Marion expression, or what?) Others were full of words, however, particularly DS who came with a whole packet, and also passed out bookmark schedules of the Sunday readings. His submission Envy was written in the air between Milan and London - that's kind of like name-dropping, isn't it? It was a good poem that Alan pointed out was more universal than conversational or personal. "...old age, it kills with wrinkles, the heart an empty house". Good stuff.
I forgot who mentioned the idea -maybe Art- that if you have one good line in a poem, everything else hangs off that line. I like that. One small stroke of genius to carry the whole operation. Alan had a solid one in each part of his two-parter - "my house still only bones..." and "the black crows of ink...". We decided that the connecting thought between the two parts was personal struggle and growth.
Stacy brought an installment of her Poetry Verite Series about a new staff lounge in the basement of a library. It illustrated the failings of bureaucracies and was sharp, funny and quite wonderful, although Dennis pointed out it was very prose-y and needed a different form.
The comments on Ally's poem about wishing for an easy death reflected the restfulness of it, the seemingly easy flow of gentle words..."sapphire sky, angels dance, soar above the blue planet," etc. Also a good one.
Art was "blown away" by Philomena's offering, inspired by what she told were three conscious breaths - a meditation experience. A small discussion ensued over the spelling of wicker (as in chair) and the different kinds of meditation. I enjoyed the "RUMF" of the overhead fan. The other Moriarty was not present, btw.
On to Tim who had written something unique to the group, which Dennis said was a revival of a medieval tradition. Tim gave human actions and traits - such as Laughter, Ridicule, Honesty, Humility and Calm - their own persona and used them in a story. It was attention-getting and successful (someone mentioned brilliant). Comments were made that it could be tightened up considerably and possibly changed to the active tense.
Beyond the Males and the Pales - which turns out to be a political quip - was the title of Mark's wonderful shape poem, complete with rhymes and design. I don't know why Mark was surprised that we all loved it.
Paul, the chronicler (is that a word?) of bygone days, took us back to the day when kids actually worked to earn spending money - like way back in the '50s. The usual discussion about publishing his work followed.
Okay, Dan's poem called Perfection took some discussing, too. Alan observed that it was about the classic neverending battle between good and evil, and we all agreed on what great progress Dan has made in revising his style and trying out new approaches. This was a great example of that and worked well. Now that I've said that, I'll admit to being the one to suggest some rather drastic remodeling of the poem - removing the word perfection from everywhere it was used, and it was used a lot. I wanted to make the poem into couplets and take out whole lines. Strictly personal input from me. We also talked about the use of the word completion instead of perfection.
So - there you have it for last night. Edie fluttered in poemless in the middle of things and, altho a few went to Smit's many of us wanted to get home in time to hear Obama.
Monday, August 18, 2008
BTW, is everyone doing Tom's suggested "pigeonholing"? If so , bring results to the next meeting.
Friday, August 15, 2008
That said - there was a rather prolonged debate last night about the use of people's names in the body of poems, prompted by Alan's use of mine and Mark's in a poem about High Point Cemetery, spying out old soldiers of old wars, including picture- snapping ghosts. Best line: gravestones are portals
Edie and Tom now have a bet - five bucks - that Edie cannot find a proper name in a poem unless it carries an explanatory modifier such as friend, uncle, dog, etc. We'll see.
Everybody seemed to like Tom's Next Vacancy, although we were detecting (incorrectly) drug references throughout - I mean, really - "three nickels? Magic Eight Ball? "the lines you blew"? "who can feel the next hit"?
Paul's Sacandaga River Dam should be submitted to Adirondack Life or other publication. All his work has tenor that deserves to be incorporated into his own book.
Joyce joined us after an absence with a revised edition of the blue damsel and the dragonfly in a sexual liaison. Suggestions included changing the title to Cirque de Soleil rather than offering an explanation at the end.
Fresh from Provincetown, Tim wrote a sensitive piece about aging men which was a great "painting", as he titled it. A little confusion was mentioned because of ambiguous pronouns, but no big deal.
Mimi became "The Hulk" in a stream-of-consciouness work that she intends to be presented aloud. I was the only one who didn't like the green fingernail humor at the end, feeling that it made light of what to me was a serious and sad poem.
Dan used his word maudlin in I Am the Poet, having some good conversation with his muse with a mystical flavor. Suggested dropping or moving the last two lines. I learned a new word - "sufi". Look it up.
If poems were wishes...then in this poem, love would be found as casually as a penny on the sidewalk. Great line, everyone seemed to agree in a very nice poem from Philomena. We did want the Beatles "mystery tour" modified.
Saving the best for last: Stacie's poem the other woman absolutely grabbed me. It was perfect, not a misused or extraneous word. Bravo.
I, alas, had no poem again. I have been too busy falling off decks to write.
See you on the 28th.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
just a note for the blog in case the occasion arises and you think the event deserves blog coverage.
last week i received notice that i am now an irish citizen as of july 22; i am in the process of getting passport which takes about 4 weeks.
i am already using phrases such as a wee bit of this and a wee bit of that and a wee bit of wee wee.
Friday, July 25, 2008
BTW...The library is planning a Sunday trip on Sept. 28 to the Bethel Woods Center, aka the brand new Woodstock Museum, celebrating the festival that rocked the world, right on the site. I think it sounds like "a blast" and am signing up to go. I would like to re-live it with my kids and grandkids who of course have no idea what life was like then. It is a short drive and will cost approx $35, which includes your admission. In addition to the museum there is a concert venue with entertainment, shops and crafts and a couple of restaurants. Please join me - invite friends! You may investigate the site at www.bethelwoodscenter.com.
As you probably know, I was nowhere over the weekend, gasping for breath in my air conditioning while every one else was busy attending Alan's party or hearing Mimi in Washington Park. Sorry I missed everything. Charlie Rossiter was here visiting and Mark and Alan were hiking. I am thoroughly enjoying Markle's new blog about his Helderberg adventures with bIRD. He is doing a beautiful job, great photos, interesting text and a good old geezer (I don't mean Alan).
Our Mr. Amidon was quite wound up last night, expressing his opinions forcefully and sharpening his wit on all of us. He had a poem about the end of the Catskill Game, which I felt was all his fault. If he had started attending sooner than the last week, they probably would not have had to close.
Cathy had a throat-tightener called "Daddies Coming Home" about flag-draped boxes. Good one.
Edie's title was also a great line "I am the Center of the Ripples in the Pond". We had a small discussion about the word simpering which, according to my dictionary, means to say or smile in a silly manner.
Mr. Amidon bluntly told Mr. Lawlor that Mr. Lawlor's poem sounded like an instruction manual. The subject matter was "Knowledge and Wisdom" and I am afraid we agreed that it was more informational than poetic. Dan took it good-naturedly.
I had no poem and no idea where all the poets were. Poor Anne did not get to see us at our finest.
BTW, due to the small turnout, I determined that there would be no 5th Thursday this month.
Friday, July 11, 2008
My news is first, of course - new grandson born Wednesday to my Josh and Amy in the Bronx, 6th boy out of seven, 8 lbs and nameless.
Alan was "soliciting" for Rootdrinker memberships, bribing potential candidates with an invitation to dinner on the 19th at his house. Get the details from Alan. That is also the day that Charlie Rossiter, Mimi and Frank (her brother) will be reading in Washington Park at the Robert Burns statue, but you can squeeze it all in if you plan it right. It looks like I may be in NYC visiting the nameless baby and will miss it all.
Our own "Rabbie Berns" will be making a guest appearance at the statue this Saturday. Mark will be in persona and lurking in the bushes to recite in his incomprehensible dialect the poem he tried out on us last night. Fortunately, he brought a translation so Dan Lawlor got to do the second reading in real English. Mark does a remarkable job with this and I am not making light of it - I just wish I understood it better. I believe you can catch his performance around 7 p.m. on the 12th.
Alan made us hoot by bringing a page and a half "briefing" to go along with his very short poem about dew on the grass, which was very delicate.
Dan had something very different - incorporating a dream about lions into a musing about the end of life. We suggested that the second half of the poem was not as mysterious and full of imagery as the first, which was quite good.
I had a similar complaint about Paul's County Fair poem which ended with an obviously heartfelt stanza about a young girl and the calf judging, but lacked the same emotion in the first stanza. It needed sounds and smells.
Stacie's work began "the gray stone of my mother's disappointment is crushing me" and continued in that vein to the end. It was touching.
Philomena startled us (at least some of us) with what appeared to be a poem with racially charged overtones. She, however, was completely guileless and it had not occurred to her that it might be interpreted that way. I think we straightened that out.
Tim was reading in Kingston, Dennis out of town, Mike at the lake, etc. etc. I had no poem but I acquired a lilac bush courtesy of the Abrams, thank you very much, Edie and Saul.
By the way, the night before our next meeting (July 23), The Lustre Kings will headline our concert on the lawn. These guys are great if you like old r'n'r and boogie. I am the hostess...!
This is a five week month, so be prepared for Paul to want an extra meeting.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I do know that Dennis was this year's recipient of the Rip Van Winkle poetry prize . The ceremony, usually in April, was postponed until September because one of the organizers got run over on his bicycle (according to Dennis). Perhaps we could make a jaunt to Greenville for the readings. Dennis sent me his winning poem, which I will include here. This is a nice contest which is sponsored every March by All Arts Matter in Greenville. Mike and Ally have also won and there are cash prizes.
We had twelve at the meeting, all good poems, some outstanding. Mimi got nominated (by Tom, I think) for the Refrigerator Prize - the poem you take home and magnetize to your refrigerator; this one about a girl struggling with the frustrations of her eleven-year old life and future.
Dan has been making good progress with his evolution into a non-rhyming poet; this was his portrayal of genius. Someone said the form worked well and suggested dividing it into two sections.
Someone commented on Stacey's "great voice" in the 1st and 2nd in a series of Poems Verite, which everyone seemed to like. How could we not; it was about a library. Bo wrote about experiencing (or not) another person's grief. Edie proclaimed herself "a very bad girl" with a childhood anecdote.
Alan remarked that Ally "put the reader into the poem" which she did indeed, with a diatribe about the heat and humidity. Paul wrote an Epilogue with a knockout punch for the end line..."where a chapter of a good story ended."
Alan gave us a rewrite of the story about Li with The Iron Crutch (printed on lovely paper). He also put out a broadside by our old friend William Robert Foltin, adorned with one of Alan's own graphics.
Tim's unusually formatted work, an experiment with space on the page, inspired conversation. It was a bloody visit to the site of a motorcycle accident and was very strong, like "a kinescope of images flashed on a screen". Good one. Don't forget, Tim, you meant "mourning" not "morning."
Dennis wrote a hymn of sorts about choices, with some great repetition. I found it thought-provoking and especially liked "Pick a mind, any mind, I wore it like a woolen coat".
I was also enthused, as were we all, I think, about Tom eating "Big Macs at Mickey D's" and all the stuff he did "After", and after, and after. Well worth a re-read.
I got nostalgic chuckles with my "Ketchup, Catsup..." etc., a childhood memory of sneaking downstairs to watch Saturday TV while I was supposed to be taking a nap.
I wrote myself some notes during the meeting which include "theological whatever", "escape from desire", Darfur and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wau. I have no idea what I meant.
Here is DS's winning poem:
(For l. t. and l. m)
tonight the coldest night of winter,
i see the bearded ghost of my old teacher,
lonely old courage seer, and weep for joy.
how wonderful i think, me worthy of a visit
from the other side. did charon pole him here?
will he get back? he looks so young still.
i see some friends heading over there, ambushed
by day, without the courtesy of a fighter’s count,
black-jacked on the brain as if by a robber,
the course of nature’s clock shattered, yes, friends
passing without a strand of white, unwrinkled frame,
targeted like the wanted at the post office.
shall i repeat my ancient of days’ mantra?
all is suffering, each pain a tiny death to ease our way,
become transparent, lay down your life per diem.
small consolation i know, i’m not sailing away
safe on the shore, waving goodbye like it’s a holiday.
how do we remember anybody anyway? in details?
did they give their feet to a shoeless man?
cook spaghetti for the corps no rest in sight? sit
in jail with a stranger: what can i do for you?
memory does not carry well abstractions, more so
the wet kisses my wife threw me days ago or
the cold january wind worked up in front of the house,
friends passing by in beat-up tubs honking for peace.
the heart is a basket in which we carry all our selves
in holy images, beset with neon electric emotional sighs.
my holy guru’s come tonight with a learnèd tongue,
transmissions of compassion, sutras of long-suffering,
re-charged visions of utopia, commonweal beliefs.
i shall start a new life, you my friends will be its chairs,
you who prepare to leave us grayless. i shall be your
candle in the night, a flicker the wind will not shear.
the tribe is life, all memory resides in the tribe, the font
of commonweal, the guarantee of who remembers.
after you’re gone my heart will carry you beyond forever.
January 21, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
I am feeling vindicated for the turmoil my critical post created. Maybe I inspired you to try harder, as we had some very good poems last Thursday.
I really enjoyed Alan's Will Christman's Walk, a story poem which was a "well-wrought snapshot" of his long journey to Albany to visit his son.
Mimi was a rush with snippets of marriage conversation from Stewart's - I loved the "five peaches, each one turned sour before the year was out".
Stacey bowled me over with a reflection about her mother which reminded me of my own. It consisted of fewer than 50 words, each of them perfect.
My own poem had been written as a wrap-up for my Sunday Four Alzheimer's performance, which I didn't get to complete. It was written for two voices (Tom read the other part) about renting a locker in the bus station to store words.
Tom had a real winner with his DP poem in shades of a voice that Tom has silenced in recent years, very colorful and touching. You should all look up DP - no, it is NOT Dumb Polack.
Best title of the night went to Philomena for "the thief who could not steal the moon", which Alan claims for a Perious Frink story that he has since forwarded to us. The title made me want to write my own story. Alan was pretty talkative, making a bad joke about Paul's harness track poem, something about nags. Edie was frivilously feminine in Hot Stuff, which she printed in bold red letters.
I suggested a rather slashing revision to Joyce's "Earliest Memories", to eliminate some of the more extraneous memories and concentrate on the interacton between her and her grandmother, which was obviously (to me) the heart of the poem.
Dan brought us a long, dense poem called The Song is Me, which prompted a lot of talk which I don't have time to disect here.
The late Mr. Obeeduid brought us a little booklet, complete with a pic of Alan getting ready to jump off a cliff. It contained perhaps the best line of the night - "It was not the Earth's fault we were men."
Several of our regulars were missing. No Art, Dennis, Cathy, Tim...we may not see Mike B. until the end of summer, although he should be at Sunday Four, which is the 22nd. Mimi and her brother Frank Desiderio are reading at Poets in the Park (Washington) on July 19. The philosophy gang of thugs is meeting here with Larry on Wednesday night (the 18th) at 6:30. Everybody's welcome to try this out. We had a good time last month. Tom's paintings are hanging here in the hall gallery. Stop and see them.
I was reading Charles Simic over the weekend and found out that I like him a lot. We have some new poetry books on shelf, including his Sixty Poems.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
I think the quality of our work has been less than stellar, with last night being the zenith of wishy-washy. First, I don't know how much effort everyone is putting into their work, maybe you are putting your heart and soul into it and I just don't recognize it, but...your heart and soul is not showing up on paper. Second, there are some of you who don't seem to pay attention and profit from the group critiques. We are there for each other for a reason and if all you want to do is defend your own position, you shouldn't be wasting everybody's time.
The above is a general observation and, of course, there are exceptions to it, so if you get your feelings hurt easily, you can pretend that you are one of the exceptions.
TO THE POET: If poems don't just flow from your pen, and they rarely do, keep revising. Try to find an unusual combination of words or a coin a new expression. Think "outside the box". Take out all your adjectives and adverbs and write without any descriptors. Add them back gradually and stop before you get overloaded. There is a healthy balance between too spare and too saturated. Read your poem aloud to yourself, taking in and out the "and's and the's and then's and but's, etc." and see which ones feel right and contribute to or detract from the rhythm of the lines. Try writing a poem in the style of a poet whose work you enjoy. Imitate.
TO THE CRITIC: We seemed to be struggling to find good things to say to each other. Remember, the basic question to evaluate a poem: what is the message of this poem and is it conveying the message successfully? (Tom just pointed out that perhaps I oversimplified this. A more complete version is posted to the right.)
And, again, spelling and punctuation, unless integral to the format of the poem, can be corrected with a spellcheck if the poem is being submitted for publication, so don't bother me with it.
THE END: If you are not serious about improving your writing, get serious. We have a long-established reputation to uphold in the poetry world.
Monday, May 19, 2008
EOTNP meet this week.
This Sunday is open mic at Old Songs.
Larry is performing at Lark Tavern this Tuesday. Call him for details.
I guess this is togetherness week.
Monday, May 12, 2008
For 25 bucks the organization regularly sends a supply of broadsides to pass out, along with an operative's copy to keep. Directions on the back of each poem request the finder to go to a website and register the discovery. I think this sounds neat and if we passed the hat and joined up, we could divvy up the cards and hide them. Whaddaya think?
I can think of 100 other places to leave one.
Friday, May 9, 2008
After making some jokes about the "Moriarty sisters", and suggesting that if Stacie needed an alias, she could become one, we found out that Philomena's mom died last week and expressed condolences. Philomena brought the eulogy which she had read at the funeral and it gave a good snapshot of her mother and her "direct line to the Almighty".
Stacie's poem was outstanding and included my favorite lines of the night: "there would be no harvest so I planted peas instead". It was so good there were no suggestions for improvements.
The original Moriarty also had a winner with As She Leaves, an elegant, flowing poem filled with motherly ambivalence about her daughter.
Okay, on to Dan'L -a real incursion into the land of free verse which inspired a lot of conversation and suggestions, which means to me that it was a good effort and contained some really nice lines. "I can taste the color of (the) sky." Good one. Dennis mentioned a cd of Dan's singing, which Dennis had played for me recently, and I was blown away. What a gift Dan has. I was very impressed. The cd is available to borrow, if anyone wants it. I think Bo took it last night.
I am glad that Bo is hanging in with the new crazies. She mentioned the different face of the group since her last sojourn with us. Her poem The God Rock struck a chord about moving and kids and God watching "changeless and still, from the garden".
I missed Dennis' poem, but he contributed an interesting observation about adjectives as fascists particularly those ending with -ous, which I liked.
Ally's work about "the fingernail moon" was evocative and moody, remembering her childhood wish for falling stars. Lovely.
I missed Alan's poem discussion, but it read well, about a crooked house and visit of magic wee ones. He passed out some broadsides and an installment of Rootdrinker newsletter.
Mark wrapped this up by raising the bar for all of us with his presentation, cover art by Sarah and inside rant by obeeduid. Even the typos worked well and made no difference in the wonderfulness of it.
Mimi, btw, is appearing at the Gay and Lesbian center on Wednesday, May 14, also the night that Larry's philosophy club starts here. I will be philosophizing. It is not too late to join us. Philomena passed out flyers for the Oriel Coffeehouse reading on May 16, including herself and our Alan, among others.
Timmy showed up near the end of the meeting (poemless). I went immediately home, replete with fettucine alfredo and asparagus spears.
PS - Lily Alys will be the feature at the first Sunday Four.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
I have an appointment on Thursday and may be a little late for the meeting, but Tom the Sculptor will wield the gavel if necessary.
I have had another inquiry about the group and am expecting a new face.
Am wondering how Edie is having time to poeticize along with all the oratory that is pouring from her pen regarding the moratorium.
Larry's philosophy meeting is next Wed. May 14. If you are not on board yet, let's do it.
Dennis has asked me to be the Person on mic at Sunday Four on May 25 (I think I was choice #3 or 6 or something, but, hey, that's okay). I am considering doing something out of the ordinary, no, not playing the harmonica, well, maybe...
Does anyone understand the hostility behind dousing the tulip?
Friday, April 25, 2008
A reminder about Jazz/Poetry at the Perfect Blend this Sunday 3 - 5 p.m., open mic with some musical performances.
Okay, Ally had a winner last night with another familiar parent/child scenario - Who do you love most, Daddy or Mommy? Tom suggested cutting a couple of lines.
Tom had a laugh-out-louder (according to Mimi) called Perp Walk. Great title, but obviously dated with a reference to Robert Downey, Jr.
Mimi opened with a teaser which led you into a poem about losing someone to cancer that was powerful. Ovarian - "a wreck of a word" in that context. Good one.
Sex and death seemed to be the topics for the night, as Stacie took us to Sanibel Island for a rendezvous involving salty kisses and sweaty embraces. "I long for your endless summer". Love that.
An argument almost ensued over the blind men and the elephant story which Philomena referred to. Unresolved. Good poem about blathering on without seeing. Obviously dated with a reference to John Ashcroft, however.
Back to sex with Edie. Something kinky involving the dog, and only Vignette I, so there may be more to follow.
Philomena did an outstanding read of Tim's Carrie, a really good story poem with a wonderful line: "I found a shred of you, it came paper thin." Loved that, too.
Storyteller Amidon brought us into the 60's with a "too neat" (according to Tom) tale of cops and a drug bust, riddled with "down to earth" phrases (also know as cliches) which actually worked because of the subject matter.
Dan dealth death (ooh, great alliteration) in the frame of a blackjack game. Some good lines "coffee tasted from a spoon, ashes dealt through a sieve." No rhymes! (but a few tense problems)).
I wound up the sex issues trying to make scrambled with frozen eggs and Dennis finished off death with Reconciliation at a Graveyard. Interesting observation by the author: "monuments are a myth, we carry people."
Our old friend, Bo Geel, appeared, looking as good as she did when last sighted ten or twelve years ago - has it really been that long? She came poem-less and needed her GPS to find us, but said she'd be back.
I grabbed a burger to go at Smit's and rushed home to catch the end of Grey's Anatomy.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Also neglected to post that poets and musicians will be at the Perfect Blend this Sunday. Check with Alan for details.
Alright, Larry has picked a date for his first philosophy discussion: Wednesday, May 14 at 7 p.m. here at VPL. Anyone interested in offering their opinions on a variety of subjects should contact Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has a few people recruited.
Monday, April 14, 2008
The pot luck worked out great - some eggs, some sausage, some fruit, donuts, puff pastry, sweet rolls, kuchen, quiche, juices, desserts. (Thanks go to Darcy and the Library Friends for the fruit platter.) More instruction was necessary with the coffee machine - can't you people remember anything?
Mimi and husband Dan were the first ot arrive and about the last to leave. Dan and Beach Boy Burke set up tables and chairs and Mimi got started on the food layout. Mike also nuked sausage and the aroma was inspiring. As usual, people were dragging in and the eating started late, but the conversation was good and no one seemed to be in a hurry.
It was good to meet and chat with Carmen Hall who brought her family from Albany for her first public reading. Carmen has her own book of poetry and will be signing at Book House on May 24th. She assured me at the end of the day that she had had a great time, in spite or because of our craziness. (I don't know about her patient husband and daughters.)
Performances are what made the day remarkable for me. I considered Larry to be at the top of his game as he wow-wed me with his animated rants. I was grinning for the whole thing and thought that surely it would be the best performance of the day until...Ron wow-wed me with his trumpet riffs and casual rolling-off-his-tongue dialogue. Then, wow again, Tom was harmonica-ing like Bob Dylan and I was cursing myself that I didn't have the video camera running.
Obeedude iced the cake with his pirate poem, complete with skull and crossbones sweater knitted by Sarah, swashbuckling hat, eye patch and dead PARROT! We all sang along with his chorus to wind up the afternoon on a very high note.
Ladies, although we had some great poems, we were definitely outclassed in the presentation department this time. The room was bursting with energy.
Many, many thanks go to Dan Wilcox whose poet photos are in our display case. Dan dug out pics of some of us from the early days of V'ville poetry. They will be in the case through the end of April.
Some of you told me you didn't have a chance to look at the scrapbook and photo album I put out on the back table. They are now in my office if you still want to look.
Mimi and Cathy and Edie stayed for clean-up, and have my eternal gratitude.
Dennis announced an exciting development in Poetryville. He has initiated a monthly open mic called Sunday Four at the Old Songs location on Main Street. His co-osts will be Mike Burke and Edie Abrams. Every fourth Sunday will offer a featured poet and open mic between 3 - 5 p.m. This sounds good....
The Happy Blog Goddess
There was a dimpled love poem from Dennis that surprised us with its charming simplicity.
Mimi said that Joyce "upped the bar" with artwork that accompanied her dragonfly love.
Dan Lawlor dedicated his rose-laden ode to mother's love to his sister; good rhyming, good rhythm.
Tim's lament for a dead lover made my heart ache. An ultimate love poem with a very effective reading. He should have been on stage with a spotlight. He wants me to say he was awesome.
Philomena's They said there would be cake garnered kudos for the perfect title.
Paul's piece was a descriptive sketch of Barn Cats.
Mimi was awesome in the classic good vs evil battle over the gambling tables in Vegas.
We all agreed that a tense change and pruning some connectors would benefit Stacey's tender Journey Home.
Everyone laughed at Edie's successful language experiment aboutbeing unable to sleep. Good one. Uh-------------m.
Art needed to enlightened most of us as to the identity of Jacques Derrida (a French deconstructionist philosopher, in case you didn't know either).
Ally wrote down all of our feelings about the "dying in our sleep" prayer parents make small children say.
Controversy of the evening was over Alan's "snow stick, no stick, snow no stick, snow stick" which I STILL don't get.
Stacie remarked that Tom's AARP Guide to Mating in Captivity (another great title) portrayed "the essence of a woman's again with wonderful sweetness."
Obee practiced his performance piece on us and I had nothing except an appetite which I assuaged with a Smittyburger
Monday, April 7, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008