Here we are...

...a group of Baby Boomers of sundry religious,
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.

Some of Us

Some of Us
Dennis Sullivan, Beverly Osborne, Tom Corrado, Edie Abrams, Art Willis, Alan Casline (all seated); Paul Amidon, Mike Burke, Tim Verhaegen, Mark O'Brien, Barbara Vink, Philomena Moriarty

Saturday, March 28, 2009

An Analgesic Night

With the captain halfway to the tropics and the ship about to sail, one might expect the crew to hold together on precedent alone, but wait, is that a whiff of mutiny in the air? Maybe not; once under sail the night’s voyage was normal, even quieter than usual in some quarters. Once back in port, the usual tars headed out on the straight-line road to grog, and a drink to go with it. In a realm where bands of poets sail the dark hours, the shoals of boredom are especially dreaded.

Alan brought something different from many of his recent poems. “To Comprehend A Gaze Outward” turned our attention inward with a meditative musing set in the early morning hours. Comments were limited, which is often the case with a poem best savored slowly, allowed to steep like a cup of tea in the mind.

Jim Williams, a poet who strikes me as someone who belongs in our group, gave us “Love-feast,” a statement about love in the “shadow of self-interest” that ended up centering discussion on one line: “agape stuff.” That’s agape with an accent on the e, a Greek word. I’ve forgotten what it means. By his own admission it’s a line he has given much thought to already; more might be needed. It said what it wanted to say, but seemed out of sync with the poetic smoothness of the other lines. Also lurking at the edge of this is the concept of using foreign words in English poetry, an idea we’ve taken up more than once.

Reminiscent of Alan’s style in many of his poems, wherein he writes with few articles, is the beginning of Rachael Ikins’ “As Spring Approaches the First Year, The Tribe.” It then starts including more articles as it takes us along to share the comradarie of two poets. With good poetic images and a scenario local poets can picture easily, it did, as Philomena said, let us “be part of the experience of the poem.” Mimi pointed out the punctuation was inconsistent, but I’m not jumping off the punctuation cliff today. As we all know, anything goes in the punctuation of poetry (all, some, or none), but whichever choice you make, be consistent about it.

Dennis did it again, gave us a beautiful poem, thoughtful, filled with the sensitivity of a genuine poet, and polluted it near the end with one word like a cup of toxic waste in a mountain lake. Mimi voiced my sentiments, and probably those of others, when she landed with both feet on “analgesic,” a word that belongs on medicine bottles, not in poems. Change that one line and “Beware” is a winner of a poem. Still, I shouldn’t complain too much. “Analgesic” isn’t as bad as “hendecasyllabically,” a seven-syllable eyesore parked on a line of his previous poem like a toad on the dinner table. This, from the poet who won the Rip Van Winkle Poetry Competition last year. (Hendecasyllable --- a metrical line of eleven syllables)

Mark’s “Matchmaking” successfully captures the flavor of a group of local gossips gathering and spreading news and rumors. This too is a winner. His presentation and layout on the printed page is excellent. If a chapbook consisted of a single poem on a single sheet of paper, this would be it.

Anyone who has seen a few of his other poems would read “The Final Exit” and say: “This is a Mike Burke poem.” As is often the case with Mike, the ending puts the poem over the top with a wham—bang wrap-up. I loved it. As good as it is, though, Rachael had a few suggestions to make it even better. Don’t stay away so long next time, Mike.

Kathy McCabe’s “This Memory” is a touching, sympathetic tribute to a woman who suffered much in the hard school of her life. Alan made the comment that the poem gives little glimpses that make you want to know more about the woman, a comment right on the money. Mimi, who had a lot of good observations this evening, noted the last eight lines were iambic but not the rest, and suggested making the whole poem iambic. Either way, the poem works.

Dan gave us new lyrics to the religious standard “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” lyrics he has sung to a congregational audience. Parody songs are often light, humorous, or ridiculous, but this is none of those. It is a straight-out religious rewrite, skillfully done, that probably was very well received when he sang it. I wish I had been there.

Some people love squirrels and some people, particularly those who want to feed birds only, can’t stand the fat gray freeloaders. All right, so now you know where I stand, but Mimi sees it differently and says so in “On My Deck.” This poem is so effective it makes me feel sorry for the squirrel crying on her deck, but I know if I saw it wrapped around a bird feeder, munching away, my sympathy would melt. A change of person might improve the last verse, but only if the ideas and imagery it currently has are retained.

Philomena’s “Drowning,” described by Mimi as “poignant and sympathetic,” is a strong poem that will be stronger if the intent is made clearer and the speakers better identified. That the intent was not clear enough came through to me when Philomena made her own comments. Tom came to life on this poem, suggesting several of the line rearrangements he is locally famous for. I’m not a fan of repetition, but here the repetition of the lines “underneath, the silent plea, help me” adds to the poem’s power, driving home the idea that the bottom line of all that goes on in this poem is to help people. I hope we get to see this one again.

Last but never least, Tom continued in his collage-of-images style with “Ezra in Exile.” Fans of Ezra Pound’s poetry will especially like this, indeed, a lot of it will no doubt be lost on those who know little of Pound, as a knowledge of his life is necessary to fully appreciate this poem. It is another of those poems that gives you glimpses and leaves you wanting to know more.

Do YOU want to know more? Show up at the next meeting, April 9.

Post by Paul

Friday, March 13, 2009

Eating An Elephant

Tom came with a masterpiece which everyone liked. It exhibited Tom's usual cleverness and wry sense of humor throughout, but also flowed in a cohesive sequence and intensified as it moved along. Art coined an appropriate phrase about it - "diddling with your digital" which described the act of having your computer plundered for personal informaton. Very relatable.

BTW, Dr. Willis dropped the remark that he was once a paramedic at a rock festival and I look forward to quizzing him more on that topic. His poem Overlap was a quiet success, striking a chord about youngsters in Africa being kidnapped and sold for profit.

Kathy McCabe mainly needed to reformat, and the conversation focused on how she could redo the lines to strengthen the tale of twins, who chose between death and therapy.

I got a couple of suggestions for Trying to Sleep (with Satan yammering in your head). The idea had been floating around for a couple of months and I finally got it down on paper in a conversational tone which someone called "a beautiful way of sitting with your sins".

Alan wants to do a broadside of Paul's Stock Car Racer which was near perfect in Paul's inimitable style, recounting the happiness of a man flying around the race track.

Dan Lawlor is back from Florida with a rhyming poem about nameless Longings in a cemetery. Poem needed some details to make it "grounded". General impression was that it was too "otherworldly."

Mark was also a winner tonight with one Tim picked as his favorite of the evening. Art called it musical, Tom suggested a list near the end and switching two stanzas at the top, both of which were good ideas. I mentioned how much I prefered it when Mark did not write in dialect.

Tim and Linda was a great triumph according to to Art, and I wholeheartedly agreed. It was accompanied by a picture of studly Verhaegen around the time of his high school prom and the poem was a heartstopper. It led to a discussion of centering poetry on the page and why you should not do it (it makes it look Hallmarkian). And amateurish. Tim's great line - "you've come to the calm now".

Barbara's Rant of the Night was unleashed on Dennis whose truly lyric and lovely Evening Prayer with lines like "oh pearl white egg of night" was utterly discombobulated by the intrusion of hendecasyllabically. Beats me what he was thinking and he wouldn't tell us.

For a more exciting ride, we suggested that Philomena take out the qualifiers in her work about the horrors of high cholesterol - "we are all on this Titanic together".

Jim Williams made a return visit in a sunny yellow shirt with a poem about a woman in a park feeding the pigeons. It reminded me of a poem I had written years ago after seeing a woman in Central Park with pigeons perched all over her. (As Dan remarked, "there is nothing new under the sun".) There is nothing you can say or think that has not been done before. We can only strive to say it in new and better way. Jim had an unusual rhyme scheme which needed a little work.

I met Rachael Ikins who had been to a meeting that I missed. She is from Menands and rides here with Alan. She brought a prose poem which of course inspired questions about prose poetry. Group liked the wording of the poem - "He lay with his breath in his mouth wishing it hers"- lovely-but it seemed to lend itself more to a regular form.

Bringing up the end is Alan, dear Alan, who, I opine, has suddenly brought back his inner poet with an emotional offering about a tree in Crack Alley. He also chose to rib me with some Google statistics about historic, scientific and romantic poetry, but that was of no consequence compared to his personal revival.

I had a great time last night, lots of good and some outstanding poems.

Dennis is organizing a group for WordFest on April 17, with dinner prior to 7 pm reading. Contact him to sign up. I have contact info for Rachel and Jim if anyone needs it.

Remember also Sunday Four is March 22, with Mary Panza featured. Mary is a little too colorful for some, but I enjoy her. And, she is a great massage therapist! I hope I'll see you there before I leave for Florida on the 23rd. Paul is taking charge of the next meeting.

I passed out invitations to the potluck brunch on April 25. Everyone should be thinking about their artwork for the June show. Obie is taking donations for his art fund.