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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Very annoying things

keep happening to me the last few days and I am fed up with electronic/computer/email problems, so if anything goes wrong while I am blogging this, I'm quitting.

We again had a testosterone-dominated group last Thursday. The balance improved to 4/7 with the last minute arrival of Philomena and Edie. Philomena brought "Audience", addressing the question we have tossed around for discussion of who we are writing for. Edie wrote a clever "Ginsberg-like" character sketch of spinster Amalia Ottemberg.

I missed most of the critique of Ann's "Eight Varieties, One Garden" because I was out of the room, but I know it was about tomatoes and it was colorful - unlike Paul's "After Hours" which painted a great picture of a quiet bar without referencing a single color by name. It mentioned the Poet's Corner, making us all believe it was Smith's Tavern. Mark's iPad reminded us of the Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey, too.

The debate over audience was revived over "Beautiful Child", Tim's twin brother. The question was how much we poets were affected by already knowing a lot about Tim's family and if something needed to be clarified in the poem for those who didn't have the background info we did. I think Tim decided to rework it a little.

Dennis proclaimed Dan's poem excellent and another good stretch for this relatively new poet. I liked "oysters of thought", did not like "salivated". Someone suggested a tense change.

There was some debate over Alan's first line(s), a small punctuating error (the old it's/its dilemma) but he received kudos for the placement on page and a popular ending. Mark brought a Freudian poem of repression (according to Dennis), which to me was merely an nice work equating broken relationships to broken dishes.

My noms for BPOE (best poem of the evening) are Trying to Sweep Away the Fire and Ode to Darkness, Larry and Dennis respectively. Larry's worked because or in spite of the cameltoe reference which we explained to the unfamiliar. Larry: " small fire, a giggling wick on a carpet". Dennis: "Like an unloved brother, you appear and tug upon my coat to draw attention...". Dennis tells us his audience is himself. I feel pretty much the same. I had no new poem, but did a quick read of my old "The Pixie Sisters, 1957" which happened to be in my folder and is one of my favorites.

Beach Boy Burke, btw, is off pursuing his destiny in enviable climes for an unacceptable length of time. We may possibly see him in time for the Poet Laureate contest. Alan re-issued his invite for the Cookie Party on Friday night at his house. Sorry to say, it seems like many of us are going to be busy or away.

Yes, poets are meeting on December 23. Philosophers on the 16th.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Loggerhead Rises from a Swamp

Aptly titled and accompanied by an amusing picture on Mark's iPad, Alan's poem was a more "poetic" effort than the one I so harshly commented on last time. Tim remarked cutely that it lacked scientific references to the flora and fauna. Alan and Mark had trekked up Bennet's Hill in Clarksville, the inspiration for both guys' poems. Mark had written Hilltop Visionation (he made that word up, I asked), a letter to America in a great font, which we all liked. It was adorned with colorful vistas from his camera.

The photos led to a short discussion of the efficacy and purpose of photos and artwork accompanying poems, a topic which was tabled for a discussion night.

Jim tried to tangle Paul's tongue with Carmen Maccaronicum (Macaroni Song), a real twister with a hodgepodge of foreign words that Jim presented in his own inimitable style and accents which Paul had to attempt to duplicate. Jim called it an aural toast, definite open mic material.

I thought Osterman and Whiteman was an hysterical portrayal of a prestigious law firm run by a short guy with small genitalia. Few criticisms of this one.

Wildly successful is my thought on Philomena's Corduroy Pants, I think my alltime favorite of her poems. It was a commentary on sweatshops, invoking a comparison betweens worlds and cultures that was well written and intense. " be connected by the clothes on your back to that person sitting and eating rice noodles...yet to be on guilt's edge with the rightness and wrongness of world equations." Great stuff.

As I write this I'm realizing what a good night it was. Ann unveiled a heretofore hidden aspect of her life with a picture of her ex as The Wolf. When she left the cottage, she left forever, no woodsmen to rescue her. (As an aside, Ann's face looked like someone had beaten her, but she hastened to tell us it was from dental work. Don't go to her dentist.)

Beach Boy Burke took some unusual criticism last night with Lakeside Rocks at Lookout Point. Everyone was waiting for Mike's traditional surprise ending which did not occur. Paul (I think) said it was too formal for Mike's voice. We suggested rearranging the verses, taking out some unnecessary words and reworking the final six lines. Don't laugh, we did like the poem in spite of all the disagreement.

Dan did another good job with Skipping Stones. I noted that Dan seems to have made a great leap (sorry, pun) in his work recently. That means that now we can get down to the business of finetuning our critiques. One point made was that taking out the qualifiers (some, someday, always, much) would make the work stronger, e.g. "False opinions are like sins" instead of "some false opinions are much like sins". Dan assured us that he is an eager learner.

I chuckled over Paul's response to my desire to have more color in last week's Carousel Horses. Instead of inserting more actual colors, he added the word color in two places. It was funny, but it still didn't work for me. Paul made changes to the whole poem. We still wanted him to lop off the final two lines. Tim told us Paul never stops revising, which is good.

We spent a long time on Eddie's (Edie) Visit to New York, with a variety of opinions on the length (her longest ever) and the topics included. I thought it tried to cover too much and would have been stonger as three separate poems. Not everyone, including the writer, agreed. We all liked the first section best, re the bus stop encounter.

To sum up, the twelve of us were an energized group with lots of interaction and some really good critiques. Larry and I graciously :)) gave up our spots in the interest of time.

We will not meet again until after Thanksgiving, so blessings on you, raconteurs.

There follows an email I just rec'd from Dennis and his poem (which I enjoyed).

Dear Poe-ettes,

Sorry I could not make the gathering last nite but I have had a wee bit of work
done on my plumbing. Am ok.

I did have a poem to share which I send below. It is dedicated to Helen Vendler
that great spelunker of poesy caverns, holding high her torch so all can see her steps and perhaps wish, dare to tread there as well.

I was thinking what a great gift to poetry she is and thus this poem below.



(For Helen V.)

When the sounds of day
Are neatly packed away
In their proper drawers

And darkness rings
Like a visitor from outer space,
Rings the bell of consciousness,

I sit and ponder my remains
Strewn like carrion across
A solitary country road,

Which even crows deny
A place at table, remains
More alone than nothing.

But who’s to weight
The weight of life more
Than endless death?

The mind could care less,
Calculator running up the score,
But the heart, the heart cares

Runs about like a crazy neighbor
Organizing the neighborhood into
Edens of collective joy

Poor heart, the heart, driven
Like a horse without a cart
Blind at a blind man’s game.

Again, it matters not, it only
Matters how to settle in
To common consciousness

Where life and death night and day
Are so one that their twin selves
Have no past or future,

Suspending all that’s real
Into nothingness, an absence,
That gives pleasure beyond bounds.

Who has not stood at that wharf
And seen the boat of life sail off
Far into the thinness of the sea?

The sea is full of such,
Rudderless hulks without place
Or destination to go to.

Again it matters not, it only
Matters how to settle down
Into wordless silence

The place that is no place
A mind without thought or reason
A body wrinkled like a peach.

A drowsy numbness? No. Nirvana
Is no place or acheless state
Nirvana is the beginning

Before all beginnings were,
Before there was an is,
Before is-not was, before

Before before, before before
Was, when the sounds of day
Are neatly packed away

In their proper drawers
And darkness rings
Like a visitor from outer space.

Dennis Sullivan
October 29, 2010
2:11 am
The Ville

Friday, November 5, 2010

1st Night November

The question was why we share our poetry - go to open mics, support groups, etc. - and, of course, we were off and running in a multitudes of directions. Larry talked about his Walt Whitman/grandfather association and Tim had us practically on the floor with his description of hanging his friend (apropos of what I can't remember). Edie and Philomena rounded out the group and we had a good time despite the cold and rainy weather which made me want to stay home.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Comment on Comment

Just a quick comment on Dan's comment:
Paul's poem did not "fall on deaf ears". No one denied the poignancy of his thought, just that it was not as successful as it might have been. We were criticizing the mechanics of the poem and changes that we felt would make it even more effective to the reader, which, hopefully is what we try to do in all our critiques.

Friday, October 29, 2010

working backwards

I hope you all took the time to read Self Portrait IV which Dennis passed out at the end of the evening and we did not have time to read together. It is a wonderful work and worthy of conversation. Dennis graciously gave his time spot to Philomena who came late with paradoxical poem with a fascinating title (Schrodinger's cat?).

Obeeduid's visuals put a real kiss on Dad was right you had great gams about his mother and his daughter. "in the archway the a kitchen...I was never in". Good stuff.

Dennis compared my Orphan Chronicles, part 1, to a Greek chorus, a two-voice effort about, what else, the parents. Our guest Rod Cornell, who I have not yet mentioned, did a nice reading of it and I forgot to compliment him. Rod is (was?) a teacher at the high school who wants to do some writing and came at Dennis' urging.

I questioned people about any experiences with the fairly new Troy Bookmaker; contemplating self-publishing a book of my Alzheimer poems.

I am afraid I went a little off the rails over Alan's Bee Buzz Before the Winter. Sorry, Alan. The following comments are mine alone: the poem was floating along in a lovely lyrical manner - "flowers drip desire...who will drink our nectar?..." when, whammy, he dropped in a textbook excerpt on how many pesticides are found in the human body, intestinal flora, herbicides, chemicals, percentages, organisms,and more,then abruptly began to wax poetic again at the end. No, I do not consider scientific data poetic. Informative, enlightening, maybe activist, but not poetic. It gave me an abrupt, stabbing pain in my head.

Larry did not delight me either but his collection of 87 (yes, Alan counted them) one-liners did inspire quite a bit of discussion, beginning with way to pronounce the title Seraglio (meaning a harem, pretend there's no "g"). General consensus: too long, not cohesive, no taproot, possible haikus. Mark went to the bathroom and said he missed nothing.

Tim delighted all of us with Mister Figgerwigger's Sister, a poem in "constant motion" which O'B said had a rhyming Cat-in-the-Hat feel. It included a love poem to Dennis, who proclaimed it a "great step forward, a liberation poem" for Tim. I just took it for a great, amusing character sketch. The shower curtain joke is pretty funny.

This poem also led to Dennis' speculative question on whether an adjective ever takes away from the force of a noun. Good question to ponder, maybe talk about. That leads me to announce the change of 5th Night Poetry discussions to 1st Night poetry discussions, still on Thursdays, still nicely alliterative. For those interested, we meet next Thursday at 7 p.m. in the director's office to talk. Everyone is welcome, last time was fun.

Israel's musicality (how Paula Abdul of me) was evident in Coppertop (an energizing drone in the movie The Matrix )who dreams of a more utopic world as he works. With a few syllabic adjustments it would be a perfect rap.

Catherine's Wheels led to talk of similes and metaphors, with Dennis giving pertinent examples in a very effective relationship poem, tightly focused and universal.

Dan's blossoming artistry shone through in The Dead Soul, a rather dark railroad journey through dreams. "haphazard tunes on broken silk....infuse the silence of the night...dream a dream of no demand".

I am an old woman and I reached for the Websters to look up dactyl, a word that came up in our discussion of Paul's Carousel Horses. The poem received mixed reviews. Catherine pointed out that it was a little unsettling, as clowns can be, and it revived creepy, puking memories in Mark. Someone asked "what is the message?" in the poem, and I wanted some color.

The dictionary on dactyl, btw, says a prosodic foot of three syllables, one long followed by two short in quantitative meter. So, I looked up prosodic, the appropriate meaning of which seems to be the stress and intonation patterns of an utterance. Fortunately I knew what utterance is, so I went back to quantitative and got pertaining to or based on the relative duration of syllables. I am getting a little discouraged. This seems too much like work.

Dennis reiterated his invitation to a memorial poetry/food fest in honor of Arthur, to occur the day after Thanksgiving. You should all have rec'd an email. EOTNP (and s.o.s) only.

Eight of us, who seemed to be starving, went to Smit's for sustenance and were briefly joined there by Jim who had been referee-ing. Gosh, I have no clue how to spell that. And I don't intend to look it up.

Hope to see some of you next Thursday. Larry, Tim and I are definites. I am heading to Dobb's Ferry today for Hallo with some of my kids. I'm psyched.

Friday, October 15, 2010

No Difference Between Living and Dying

The last man in will be the first man up: Dan Lawlor brought The Child Inside, which he dedicated to Dennis. It proposed a thought provoking concept that at death we are greeted by the child we were born as and he presented it well. Mike B. commented that it was a beautiful idea, filled with peace.

Mike, back from his Saratoga sabbatical, brought an appropriately titled piece which put the finger on the track and it's patrons accurately. Most of us agreed that the first verse which described the physical surroundings was unneccesary (boring?) and could be incorporated into the next verses with the use of adjectives.

Philomena, back from the unknown, who snuck in even later than Dan, offered a nice small poem with a great title Only two elevators left about the enforced intimacy of elevator rides. Susan was expounding on love with wonderful imagery that was cluttered and in need of trimming. Larry suggested she try to make a story from the scattered list.

Susan was "dancing with joy" over Dark Water, brought by Michael Nardacci. Mike freelances for the Altamont Enterprise and heard about EOTNP from Jill (our poetry "groupie" from Smitty's). Mike is a spelunker who is probably full of exciting tales of caves. It was quite obvious that he was no fledgling writer from the quality of his poem, a dense and descriptive adventure that produced strong emotional reactions in many: "powerful presence, tapestry of cold, chill, black, sense of mystery" were some of the remarks. I hope he continues to join us as I'd like to hear more.

My own Waiting for the Water to Get Hot struck a chord with at least a couple of people. Tim said it was devastating. Reflective of the dark quality of my thoughts lately.

Tim Norman Verhaegen was my hero last night, appearing with a gift that took my breath away (okay, maybe I'm easily impressed). I'm not telling what it is but if you want to see it, it is sitting on the counter in my office until I can make room for it at my house. Tim Norman also brought a successful poem about art and loneliness, which put a voice to the strong internal struggle most artists and writers experiece.

Larry evoked the smells of autumn, which included some that were less than desirable (Susan objected strongly). "it's all piano out today, fingers reaching out for peak colors" - that's my kind of autumn poem. None of the schmaltzy rhyming rhapsodies which too many people churn out.

Mark was vacillating between several versions of a work in progress that shows good promise. I loved the phrase "lipless mouth" and everyone agree the final line of "endless ways of being held Prisoner" was a winner.

Mr. Amidon fielded a little critism this week over tightening up Hawk Shadow, a bird revenge poem with a kick at the end. Paul also brought an announcement of a Veterans Poetry Open Mic Night at Sage on November 10.

True to form, the Math Guy had written a sonnet, teaching (me, anyway) that sonnets consist of 10 syllables per line, what cachexive means and what a volta is (an emotional or dramatic turning). Susan remarked that it was a beautiful form for a terrible subject (Jim's cancer).

Dennis, the new Cosmic Poet, was in fine form about the relationship between biology and the psyche, called My Torah, dedicated to Edie. Dennis also offered some very helpful critiques tonight.

Tim and Larry in particular seem eager to continue the "5th Night" poetry discussions. We all had a great time at the last one and are considering the possibility of meeting more frequently. Any joiners? Any opinions?

We missed Catherine, Anne and Ally Cat, Israel and Alan and Boondocks Tom, but still had a full house.

Monday, October 4, 2010

5th Night

Ah...those of you who did not grace us with your presence missed a great deal of inspired discussion. There were eight of us, each of whom offered their response to the question "Why do you write?" Not only did we get to know each other better, but the answers led to other questions and we covered a good deal of territory. It was definitely a good session, leaving us to lament the fact that there is not another 5th Thursday for several months.

There follows some "Ramblings" from El Rapant, the titular head (did I say that?) of the philosophers, exhorting your attendance and...well, generally rambling.

Tis a shame that many of the folks on this list were not around for our grand discussion of the 30th when many of these topics were either spoken about or hinted at. Tis also to be regretted that they do not ever attend philosophy club meetings. If they are so concerned with the below issues...

I will repeat my off-the-cuff remark from last week: I am all the time amazed by the general and scientifically caused belief that, despite our obvious and pronounced differences and uniqueness or quirkiness as individuals, we are all of the same species. Whether or not our dissimilarities are at least in part caused by the emphasis on humanism and individuality in Western cultures, the rift between what we want and need for ourSELVES and what the community needs in order to survive cannot be patched up by simply ignoring or repressing one side of ourselves for the sake of the IMAGINED OTHER, i.e., the image that holds the community together. The flaws in both the individual and the community make both imperfect, make all shoes fit uncomfortably, and prick us on to ceaseless strife. Conflict resolution is a hoax, or a temporary fix to a permanent problem built right into the creature of various species mixed, also referred to imperfectly as the human being.

And conflict resolution, with a decidedly mystical tone to which all of the faithful sing the same tired old song together, is another name for religion. All it takes is one original voice, aka the gorgeous angel named Lucifer, or the poet, to return the entire congregation to its conflicted reality. Please remember that there could be no Lucifer unless we all had an emphatic luciferousness about us.

This conflicted angel would like to ask all the smoothies out there: Are any of you into numismatics per chance?

We are all going to try to stuff all this nonsense in one little room again on the first Thursday of October at VPL at 7:00 p.m. Please come and be another trapezoid in the confines.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Vive Le Professeur

September 24, 2010


I am finding it hard to describe Dennis' tribute to Art. It was eloquent, flowing, accessible, touching. I quote:
In the eyes
of a man whose soul
sits aside the Stygian shore
I see a boy skate wild
across the frozen floor of Russia...

For me it was a throat-tightening, eye-blurring experience. Thank you.

My own poem (yes, I had one) dims by comparison, although I was fairly happy with it when I wrote it. Belling The Cat was inspired by my new Hell's Kitten, Moses, but actually tried to relate the act of a small pain letting loose the floodgates to all the pain in the universe. Mixed reviews.

Tim brought us a work in progress which is off to a good start. I, too, am fascinated by cemeteries and Tim included a visual of an old one. I believe Mark suggested that the poem ended on the first page and it could, but there was good stuff on page two that deserves to live. Not, however, "widdle tikes".

We were happy (and a little surprised?) to see Israel and Catherine again. We don't always have good luck with return visits from the people we initially attract. We might need to address this problem. In any case, they still seem to like us, and although Israel had not written, Catherine brought a wonderfully fresh Sylvia Plath poem which we all liked.

Ann drifted off the beaten path with her Two People which totaled nine alliterative words, written with her calligraphy pen, prompted ideas of the words floating around the page.

Mark, who seemed determined to chop everyone's poem off at the knees tonight, had a great title - This Foul Act - for his couplets re living life in obscurity.

Acorn shrapnel was raining down on Edie who experienced a horrible summer and was now facing the hailstorm of autumn. Edie had wisely removed a sappy verse before presenting it to the group. Dan was also into the autumn cycle with a rhyming "summer's gone" poem. Appropriately he told us how he often hears music while writing poetry. Susan compared his work to a book of timeless poems she has that was published in 1913. That was a compliment.

Susan's own Words was thought provoking and led to discussion of line breaks. It was a poem that needs several readings to absorb. Alan's list poem of the contents of his college desk in 1973 was much more on the surface, and gave us some tells into his personality. General consensus was too many books listed, poem needed weeding. Paul's First Communion started off better than it ended up, with great detail about the "uncles with knives in their boots on Saturday night". There was controversy regarding the final three lines, whether to keep or ditch.

Larry delighted me, despite his clothes clashing, the sight of his hairy legs made up for his clothing delinquency. "Exploding soapy sponges". What a concept.

All 13 of us were a little rowdy and the gavel was wielded on a number of occasions. I forgot to mention that Mike Burke left me a note assuring us of his imminent return now that the track season is over. No, Mildred Kerr is not dead but I think Tom Corrado is.

And, forgive me, God, for joking - I just got a phone call that our Mr. W. is gone.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sexaholic Pajamas

O-kay, so I'm really late with this blog. I had other things to do.

Let's skip the poem recaps and hit the high spots, the highest of which was the presence of Catherine Connolly and Israel Stark, who not only came to check things out but bravely came with poems. We gave them kudos for courage and hoped not to frighten them away, as has been known to happen. I have their emails, addition to the list pending.

There were a dozen of us filling the tables; Jim Triolet bouncing up and sitting down guitarless, Tim chortling and dialing his phone over and over, Alan back at Black Mountain. While debating a title for Catherine's Waves Dan got pretty mad at me. Larry sprawled around in those ugly pj's. I was enamored with Israel's hand printing, Dennis arty scrawl and Obee's font and believe that acceptance or rejection of a poem is so related to its presentation. I always appreciate Tim including photos. And doodles. Doodles would be good.

I am barren of poems. Gushing tattoos.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DIDGERIDOO from Dennis

Dear Poe-ettes,

As probably all are aware, a few weeks ago Arthur's [Arthur Willis] TO THE TUNE OF A DIDGERIDOO AND STICKS came out under the auspices of Benevolent Bird Press, very nicely done as we might expect from what we have seen from that press already. And done with great dispatch to accommodate the reality of the hour.

Arthur [Willis] had wanted to read that poem accompanied by a didgeridoo and sticks as advertised and plans were made for him to do so but they got scotched somehow. When the Bird [Alan Casline], poet and publisher of the Benevolent Bird imprint series, saw this to be the case he went to the Willis Farm in Quaker Street, New York on Tuesday August 24 to record Arthur reading his long poem. He accompanied Arthur with his hand-held skin drum.

[Incidentally, the next day, Arthur's wife Judy, told me the reading had taken such an emotional toll that the poem went to bed to rest, toll as in healthy catharsis.]

Later in his studio Tom Corrado, using dubbing measures and the like, added the didgeridoo and mbira [an African musical instrument consisting of a hollow gourd or wooden resonator and a number of usually metal strips that vibrate when plucked] to the recorded reading.

Also a part of the performance were the sweet girglings of Gaia, a bird perched on a tree-branch at the Willis farm who seemed to be sent by the gods to add nature?s trills to the event.

Yesterday, Saturday September 4 [my mother's birthday] the Bird, Edie [Abrams], and I headed to the Willis Farm to visit Arthur and play for him the recording of his latest and most beautiful poem.

What was most stunning to see at first, was the beautiful jewel case Bird had created for the CD, linen-like cover stock measuring 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 with a slit in the top to access the CD.

The front of the case sports a most extraordinary color design of SUN, MEETING PLACE, STAR, AND TWO CONNECTED SPRINGS, water color paintings in fact, in greens and blues and yellows and reds. They look like four Buddhist prayer flags two on top of two.

A note about this: anytime you go to a music store and buy a CD in a plastic-captioned jewel case in the future, after seeing this production, you will once again see reasons why the globalizing mercantile economy is such a sham. Bird has once again produced a great work of art.

And w/r/t the CD itself, its contents, Arthur's reading is a tour de force. He sounds like a mixture of Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Snyder, and Corso reading Beat poetry from a San Francisco loft. His voice has a rasp and urgency to it that is compelling.

Anyone who is a fan of Arthur's poetry or of good poetry or even feigns such, or who perhaps regards Arthur as a mensch of grand proportions, will want to get this CD as quickly as possible. Bird plans to make 100 with 30 already done.

And Tom Corrado's musical input is no icing on an already-delicious cake but an integral part of making the performance the tour de force I mentioned. His perfectly-timed and proportioned crescendos fit in perfectly and will get you.

And while Bird's drumming, when he performed with the Metamorphosis Trio, left much to be desired, here his contribution adds considerably as well. It too fits perfectly. This piece could have been done live in the basement of a Village coffeehouse in the late 1950s it is so good.

Before went into the house to listen to the recording, Bird read two beautiful poems he had written for Arthur, poems of deep feeling, expressing deep appreciation for his grand master of a friend. Hopefully we will get to hear them again sometime.

On the way out to Quaker Street, Edie remarked that she thought the last time we visited Arthur he did not remember her name. I was not sure he remembered mine.

I brought with me his earlier book of poems POET IN A FLYING SUIT (1986)?for which incidentally I set up a reading in St. Matthew's Church, Voorheesville, at which several hundred showed up to listen, a great afternoon with Arthur reading from the pulpit which I took out of my bag to show him, asking him what these were. He gave his attention to something else.

I then said: Arthur, what is my name? Do you know who I am? It was clear he was struggling to come up with something and then slyly he added, You are the maestro. I laughed heartily and said, what a trouble-maker you are and he laughed as heartily or nearly so.

Once again, like a simple bodhisattva, he spoke in aphorisms as if quoted from some religious scripture. He talked about the importance of sharing, that that is the essence of being human and that anyone who does not take that upon him- or herself hardly qualifies for the title of ser humano.

He spoke as well of the importance of meeting human needs at all levels in society, that that is the purpose of being together, and that that is our mission in life. Later he spoke about poetry, that is how he had responded to someone earlier about poetry, with: it is very hard to write a poem.

I told him while the four of us sat there, that there are people who play baseball, who hit the ball, catch a few fly balls, and then there are baseball players. And the latter in the sports world would be mighty careful to qualify themselves among the latter. I said the same is true for poets, there are those who write poems and read them and there are poets, yet the former speak of themselves as if poets, as if . . .

Finally, weeks ago Arthur's doctor told him that tea is good for cleansing the system so, once again he said yesterday?as he had told me many times?that the tea is beating the cancer and that that is a good sign. Yet later he did allude to the fact that he is dying. I felt for the first time yesterday he had found the words to tell what was going on in his heart?a start to a finish with dignity perhaps. I keep thinking of the end of Aldous Huxley and how his wife Laura cared for him with such dignity, meeting his needs at every step of the way. [See Mrs. Huxley?s memoir, THIS TIMELESS MOMENT: A PERSONAL VIEW OF ALDOUS HUXLEY? (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1968)].

Art singled out the poetry of Tom Corrado, saying he is a real poet, and spoke of Jim Williams with such enthusiasm, how Jim has been a model for him, a mensch among menches.

Last night, laying in bed, I felt like I was dying too, a piece of me was drifting off to some place I had never known nor seen before. And it did not concern me. We will all be there and not in tune with actuarial statistics.

I will end by noting how this grand maestro of a teacher, Arthur, has had the courage to allow students to speak their hears and minds in his class, always capable of relating any curriculum-related materials to what they had to say at the moment, a quality of very rare and great teachers. His word was so respected that letters of recommendation greased the skids for many students to get into the most prestigious of colleges and universities. I saw it happen.

Several weeks ago, when the head of the Meeting House in Quaker Street asked Arthur what he would like the younger Quakers to know about being a Quaker, Arthur said, as I mentioned here before, how essential it is for a person to pay attention to the silence in her- or himself so that when a person speaks, she or he will not make an ass of her- or himself, not as in the person being concerned about being a fool, but as in not having taken the opportunity to be a contributor to the great venture we call life in community with something profound to say and be.

La Paz,


Dennis Sullivan
September 5, 2010
8:20 am
Voorheesville, New York

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stoneman Rocks

Edie started off the evening with one her best poems, about getting ready to present herself to the world in the tropical environment of her bathroom. There was some discussion about the end line "and smile" and about the trademarking of "Ecosphere", but nothing that detracted from the good poem. Dennis remarked that it was her best use of language ever.

Dennis and Tim were particularly on the money with their critiques last night, both offering valuable insights in several instances. Dennis' own poem "A Week After My Annual Eye Exam" extolled his visionary experiences and asked the question (unanswered)- is the poem a warning or a dream? Best line: I live at 26 Utopia Street... Best phrase: sorry song of night Dennis was taken aback it seemed because we pointed out two(!) typos.

Tim presented a wunnerful, wunnerful (my words) work called "Morning Mourning Meltdowns" dealing with death, obituaries, Kubler-Ross cycle, and a lot of other things. It included a marvelous quote by Tim's dad which I won't print because it had a BAD word in it.

The Stoneman rocks! That's from Obee, said because Paul's poem about chasing the sleep demons away did rock. They watched from the shore, helpless to reach me.... We applauded.

Dan caused some controversey with "A Poe-Try", a knockoff EAP poem. Dan tried to recreate the atmosphere of Poe's "The Bells" in a work that followed man's progress to the grave. Good rhymes, but maybe too much repetition? Dan, btw, is appearing in concert at Avila (Washington Ave Ext.) on September 22 at 7:30 p.m.

Socrapant did not delight me, except with his nom de plume. Larry, who always delights me, did not delight me with his "Philosophy Made Simple" - 35 "chapters" of one-liners, some inspired, some not so. Personal response only; everyone else seemed to like it.

Ann brought a rewrite of "Cardinal Flowers" (which I think is a lovely title). It was much more successful than the first version, tighter, with fewer abstract words. Some suggestions regarding changing the phrase "tied to Rome". I had to gavel when the talk sidetracked to priests and the Catholic church.

Obeedude brought a winner, which I loved, inspired by sardines. Who knew, fish in a can becoming obsolete along with much else in our world. Sad. He also used a great type face which I presumed was his handwriting and gave a short demo of his iPad for me (again). I am still pondering the purchase of a Kindle.

I will be looking up Anthony Trollope in response to a question by Tim near the end of the evening. Short post today; I am flooded with festival chores. Festival is coming up on 9/11.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

from Dennis


Tuesday August 17, 2010 6:40 am, The Ville

I see in this morning’s New York Times that Clint Eastwood has a new film “Hereafter” about to be shown at the New York Film Festival. In the film Eastwood tackles issues of death, near-death, and the so-called afterlife—a timely topic for many of us. For me in particular because I was going to recommend to you all this past week Helen Vendler’s newest book Last Looks, Last Books by Princeton University Press. I cannot recommend it strongly enough to poets interested in poetry.

The “last looks” part of the book refers to a supposed tradition of the Irish who, near death, go out amongst their favorite fields, etc. to get a last peek before they die. A kind of meet your maker. As in: this is who I was, this is who I am, this is the who who will shortly never be.

The “last books” part refers to poets who through their written work express their ideas, feelings, and general sentiments about their last looks. That is, what they say about death and how they try to make sense of their “passing” into whatever happens when we die. To say afterlife is to already have begged the question.

This grand dame of American letters at Harvard—she is as great one; Wikipedia reminds us that in 2004 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected her for the Jefferson Lecture, the highest honor for achievement in the humanities the United States government gives out—tackles the last books of Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Merrill, five of my favorites. I mean how much has been said about Plath’s handing of her humanity and what death would do to enhance it.

Vendler says that poets—who work outside religious traditions such as Christianity and others religions which have packaged ideas about death and how to handle it in life—in effect have to create their own idioms and rituals through their making of poems. And those words are not icing on a cake, but a way a person/poet can pass into an unknown that is unimaginable, (or is it?) territory, a switch in consciousness, the off-switch. I could say more, let me just say I recommend it highly.

And, by the bye, I just got a note from Amazon that her Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries which was scheduled to come out in September will be out next week. I cannot wait to see her take on Emily. I recommend this as well, one grand dame examining the work of another American great. This is fireside reading.

W/r/t the first book of hers I mentioned here on last looks, I was reminded of a piece that Peter Brown wrote in The New York Review of Books in 2008 “The Private Art of Early Christians” reviewing an exhibition at the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. It made me want to live in Fort Worth for a day to see it. The exhibit lasted from November 2007 to March 2008.

Why I bring this piece up is that Brown points to the earliest remnants of Christian art from private homes which tell stories about life and dialectically death. There was a rather “secular” [not a word I use, not one that fits into my ideology, but I use it here because of this context] view of life and death. That is, the art did not reflect the theology and selling of Jesus as personal savior, especially when you die. See the Vendler connection? Poets do not sell anything, they try to figure out human dilemmas for the community, for the great collective.

Brown says one of the most “touching” pieces in the collection—and he sold me on it— was one “of the gold glass pieces (catalog pages 192–193) [showing] a classical shepherd surrounded by his sheep. Around the edge is written, “(Be) the pride of your friends. Drink. May you live! [in Greek] May you live! [added in Latin, just to be sure!]” A collective mentality, a carpe diem. Imagine being the pride of your friends, someone people have something nice to say about—and not after you die!

That is, there was a modestly human basis to the art that grew out of experience, not a superimposed theology as we think of today. Important Catholic art historians put a religious spin on every social event they examined in art, a woman praying had to be the first nun, a woman and child eating a picnic lunch had to be Many and Jesus with the Eucharist.

When my aunt died a few weeks ago and I went to Staten Island to attend her wake and funeral, at the funeral mass the priest said that through Jesus she will live forever, that she has been resurrected, that she had not died in Jesus. I thought: what a religion, you think he might have thrown her a few more months while she was alive! That I’d sign up for for it has a very human grounding.

Brown says in the Fort Worth exhibition, “Two rooms later, in the last part of the exhibition, [as the centuries have moved on] we see the ultimate symbol of Christ’s power at its fullest development—a fragment of the Cross itself placed in a cross of gold studded with gems, given to Rome by the emperor Justin II sometime between 568 and 574 (catalog pages 283–285; see illustration on page 49 of this article). Glowing in the dark with barbaric splendor, this was still a Cross of victory. As the inscription made clear, this was the Cross on which Christ had “subdued [death] the enemy of mankind.” It was also a Cross calculated to keep human enemies (of which there were all too many by that time) away from the walls of Rome.”

Here we have the superimposition of a Christian poetry if you will on life, dictating how things go down in death and who is big enough to handle that death—there is only one. How does that help people make sense of their life and death in human terms, terms that can be understood by others.

There is more I can say about this but you can see how Brown’s piece, the exhibit actually, fits in nicely with Vendler’s analysis of the poetic works of human beings through poetry trying to figure out how to be “victorious” in death, how to subdue it, and if not that, whatever. I have written any number or poems on death and life, all my poems reflecting the theology of Dennis Sullivan, with a foundation that I always hope others will see as valuable for them, in that they can develop a theology, a poetry that reflects their experience.

And to extend the analysis, how does poetry keep the enemies of self away from self so that one can achieve some level of peace of mind. This is what poetic consciousness does for me, a state of mind that is both creative and gratitudinously peaceful. How’s that for a start on a way to beat death? Poetic consciousness leads us out on a high note. For all the Snow Man Wallace Stevens is, I do not think he is bummed out, just weighed down by reality, but a reality that when understood brings a certain joy, one that helps face death sanely.

Finally, and to go back to Vendler again, her first subject in the last look books is Stevens, in particular his “The Plain Sense of Things,” pointing to Stevens saying that in a certain situation he is having a hard time picking an adjective to describe it—see the first line second stanza—to say what he wants to say “after the leaves have fallen,” hen one realizes that one’s time has come..

Here is his poem below. It is beautiful. I throw these things out today for your poetic enjoyment. Plus anyone who would like me to send them, via e-mail, a copy of the Brown piece—I do subscribe to The New York Review of Books, in print and online, my longest continuous subscription, over 30 years—I will be happy to do so.



Wallace Stevens (1879 –1955)


After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.

The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies.

Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence

Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as necessity requires.

Friday, August 13, 2010


The meeting three weeks ago, a tumultuous blend of blather, multiple conversations, and performances, was attended by fourteen poets and combatants. Apparently quite a few people got their fill at that one, because a total of four poets, a record low as far as I can tell, showed up for tonight’s session. Maybe it was the summer doldrums, level of humidity, position of the stars, or possibly that not much writing has been done of late, but there was discussion time aplenty and we made the most of it. Still, it came as a surprise, left us wondering if there was some cosmic reason for the empty chairs, a reason that might be grasped if we tried hard enough. We didn’t come up with one. We gave up looking after a minute or two and moved on to the poems.

My offering was “Reunion,” a short poem that Dennis felt was one of my better efforts as far as rhythm is concerned. Cathy thought it had a depressing quality, since the reunion referred to is one that occurs after death. Ann liked it because it was “more obscure” than most of my stuff, and provokes thought by being so. I stumbled into the rhythm by accident, but did hope to provoke thought by the subject matter.

Dennis gave us “The Nature of Native Land.” A short period of silence followed, then he tossed out the clue that the poem was about the nature of personality. Cathy said “It’s too deep for me.” Dennis gave us some background material to the effect that each person has a native land that is their real self, from which personality develops. The poem, he explained, expresses a theory of personality. There was a brief discussion of the line “when the snow turns cold,” but nothing was resolved about how the snow is before it turns cold. I think it’s a thought-provoking line (among others). The poem was written at 1:08 a.m., when deep thoughts are bound to be out on the ether of the universe. I’ll have to try staying up later and see what happens.

Ann’s poem “Cardinal Flowers” generated much discussion, some of which might actually prove useful when considering revisions. The basic idea of commenting on these endangered flowers in conjunction with several problems facing present-day Catholic religious leaders is a creative one, but several parts of the poem would benefit from clarification. The ending lines are strong and need little change (I won’t give it away). I expect a very good poem to emerge from all this.

In the discussion of this poem, Dennis noted that Ann has a feeling for the subjects she writes about, and also worked into his commentary the following observations that I personally was unaware of: (1) A poet should never give the reader a choice, (2) The preposition is a late manifestation of the language, and (3) The pluperfect tense is valueless in poetry. Good thing I showed up for this meeting. Who knows if I’m guilty of any of these?

Cathy brought “Strange Taste,” a reflective work I felt could be made longer, although I couldn’t explain how. The feeling she wants to express is already there, but might be strengthened with more elaboration. Since I couldn’t offer any specific suggestions, however, maybe it would be better not to tinker with it. Nobody else recommended tinkering with it.

After grilling the poems, we sailed off into the wild blue of non-literary current events before gaveling out early. A bit of musing on the idea of Tom writing a few blog postings occurred, but since Tom’s current residence is half way to Idaho the chance of it happening is slim. Cathy brought the book Edie made from poems and photos of Cathy’s birthday party, a professional-looking hardcover volume only talent could produce. Top-notch job, Edie.

There are poets lurking around the area, and somebody besides tonight’s stalwart four must be doing some writing. Bring some to the next meeting. If only three show up next time, I’ll take the other two to dinner and write a piece of pure drivel about the missing poets.

-Stoneman Amidon

Friday, July 30, 2010

"Bring It On"

That's Alan's response to one of the questions we thrashed about last night at 5th Thursday. The thrashing began with the question "who validates your work?" and proceeded at a goodly pace to cover "who is your audience" and the value of feedback. Paul "Stone Man" Amidon assured us that he considers our critisms despite his deameanor. Larry contributed a surprising (to me, at least) twist with an elitist approach to support groups. Who can participate, whose opinions do you value and who deserves your respect? We talked about re-writes and the question of when it ceases to be your own poem, how hard it is to critique without intruding yourself into the work. Mark talked about not getting enough feedback, which is where Alan remarked "bring it on". Both welcome negative criticism. We refered frequently to "drivel". We talked a bit about EOTNP - yes, we used personalities for examples, so if your ears were ringing, you should have been here - its format, its longevity, its mission. It was a good night. Where were you, Verhaegen?

A.T. I have just re-read Dennis post regarding the last regular meeting and found it very thoughtful. If you haven't read it, please do.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thoughts from Dennis re: last night

Dear Poe-ettes, who were at the session last nite.

gee, i was a bit taken aback by the sorta’ chaotic tenor of the evening. perhaps others feel the same way. people were talking over each other, interrupting, etc. i could hardly keep my thoughts straight.

i certainly require greater concentration to hear what people are saying and i suppose others do as well. true?

i was appreciative of larry’s question re: my poem, what the philosophical context for it was/is. we rarely ask those kinds of questions—or perhaps we do and i miss them myself—but they require the person asked to reflect on the psychological context from which she or he is operating. everything i read, well, that kind of stuff is asked and answered all the time.

perhaps contributing to the non-sense last nite was that we did not have sheets in front of us to concentrate on, what we were listening to, what with the broken copy machine.

if i were serious about my poetry, if i might put it that way, i would want, for example, questions raised about the rhythm or tempo of my work, about the philosophical [ars poetica] constructs on which it is based, and how my choice of words is related to such constructs.

i do not find statements such i don’t like this or i do like that, without some construct to hold on to, very helpful. poetry in its own right is a lot more complex than a salad or ice cream flavor. it involves ultimately the body and soul of humankind.

there was some discussion of rules-no rules in poetry recently but one rule to be discussed might be the tempo of the verse we project/read and to what extent that rhythm is true to our soul.

but, if one has not paid much attention to that, i might imagine issues of rhythm would be regarded as non-essential. i use rhythm/tempo as just one example off the top of my head. and i am indeed quite willing to accept john cage’s definition of rhythm as anarchic.

for those with an interest in my poem last nite and wishing to see it on paper, i have attached it—farewell never farewell. it does raise a question about time once again, and the nature and quality of light that burns within each of us and the extent to which that light touches the common weal, that is, deals with constructs that are greater than the kind of picture-taking film we just purchased at the drug store—what i have recently described to someone as Facebook poetry or a poetic fetish.

as wallace stevens says ad infinitum, the imagination must be grounded in a reality in order to fly, shine, whatever the imagination does. well i throw this out because, if that grounding is weak, what can the imagination do, how much juice will it have to light up the world? thus, how do we see the imagination’s role in artistic endeavors such as in what we do, write poetry? stevens said the poet lends his or her imagination to the species.

and what is that ground, grounding, in which that imagination flourishes, or never gets off the ground as one alternative dysfunction?!?!

thus i have also attached a second poem dedicated to stéfane mallarmé, about such grounding, what he called the native land, what existed in us before the settlers of pleasantry showed up to colonize “the native” and thus mess with the experience, and consequent words, flowing from the source of us.

Mallarmé, whose work i love and have been reading over the past year, of which i have a wonderful translation if anyone is interested—the notes and commentary are outstanding. yet, if you would like a peek at who he is, i send this wikipedia URLéphane_Mallarmé

he and another symbolist, paul verlaine, are two poets worthy of a more than a peek and have many similarities that help with issues such as imagination and its role in the production of the written word through the symbolist heart.

the last poem i am sending is one i mentioned last nite, looking forward to winter. it does talk about how the disgruntled soul is sent to utopia’s room, the imagination, to find new grounding in which persistent troubles can be dissolved or at least given a context through which ease pain is eased and continuity fostered, personal continuity and that of the species—all species.

but maybe that is not the function of poetry for some; for me poetic consciousness is a palliative but more than that, maybe a touch of Keats’ Negative Capability, a being suspended in reality in which reaching for shore is seen as foolhardy. it is more that one is thankful to be in that gifted situation—cause for praise, no?

But if personality is a substance that prevails, as the poem the nature of native land says—it must otherwise we rather risk severe psychic disintegration—thus i like to stick a nail into reality, the air that is all about us and hang my plumage there.

it allows me to take a breather and fly anew. such is indeed the basis of economics, out of which our poetics emerges, thus the so many different poetic realities we hear every thursday we meet.

well, just a few notes re: poetry poets and poets to be.

La paz, amigas, amigos,


General Rowdiness

Well, last night did not turn out as I expected. I imagined us subdued and quietly contemplating the life and times of our Professor Willis, who has had some unexpectedly bad health news. Instead we welcomed some entertaining guests who mistakenly thought they were coming to an open mic. A couple of them may have enjoyed themselves enough to become permanent players.

There was a big turnout - 15 in all - and it was also the first night of trying out our revised protocol, which allows for more talking. Talking was one thing not lacking and I took very few notes. Mary and A.C. and Jennifer all participated in the disussion. Tim did a little (very good) rapping to Dan's poem. Annie (A.C.) Everson performed. Susan waxed Romantic. Jim's title had no observable connection to his poem. Ann's damp fluff provoked the only dissension of the evening. Mark policed the room for scraps of Larry's orgasmic poem so small children would not find them in the morning.

I utilized the gavel several times, attempting to keep the side conversations under control, but there was an almost constant buzz except during the actual poem recitation - which turned out to be another problem, as the library copier was out of order, so no one was able to make our usual handout copies and we did not have vital visuals of the poems.

Speaking of visuals, picture Larry with the gavel next Thursday night, as we try out the 5th Thursday Poetry Discussion option. Bring a topic you would like to talk about or a question we can all offer an opinion on (!) and we'll see how the experiment goes. Larry is moderating. 6:30 start time. So-

All told, an unusual night. Fun and noisy, but licked with sorrow for our friend.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why didn't anyone

...tell me I was wearing two pairs of glasses last week? Both red.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fomenting Revolution

It appears that my blogging time, as well as my muse, has been slain by the demands of more plebian work. I was just too busy to blog the June 24 meeting notes, so I will incorporate them here.

Midway through last night's meeting, as we were struggling with unanswered questions over a poem, I was struck with the inspiration to abandon the RULES! After taking a quick survey, the group decided to suspend the protocol under which we have labored for umpteen years and try something new; namely, restoring the ability of the writer to respond to questions during the course of the discussion. I am feeling that this change will facilitate (stimulate?) conversation and the gavel will be employed with greater frequency, but I look forward to that. There will still be NO preamble allowed and this is being done on a trial basis. If it flops, it's over.

Paul reminded me that we have a fifth Thursday in July and we had vowed to begin discussion nights on such occasions. If you have ideas for discussion questions, please email them to me. I have started a list.

Alan mentioned that he is working on an Art Willis collection and an upcoming poetry day at the arboretum. Details will follow.

Moving on to actual poems. Ally joined us ready to do battle over war. I learned that the phrase "the dogs of war", which was the title of her poem, is a quote from Shakespeare. The poem strongly echoed the sentiments of most if not all of us - as Susan pointed out, poets are against war. However, some took issue with the generalities Cathy included, suggesting that they oversimplified the situation. Cathy, btw, expressed delight with the birthday book that Edie put together for her. She will bring it for show and tell.

Speaking of show and tell, Ann brought beets. Yep, chioggia beets. Alan, whose turn it was to do the second reading, was not happy with that one. Say key on jah. We all got to sample the shredded vegetable, which looks very similiar to a bermuda onion when sliced and tastes sweet and delicious. Ann's poem received very little critique because we were all busy chewing and discussing beets.

Alan's Molly Gregory was discussed a lot - portrait of a woman who was on the faculty of Black Mountain College, an experimental school begun in the 1920's (30's) and which died a dreadful death by mismanagement and bad press. The poem is part of a collection Alan is working on to present at a seminar later in the year. We found it confusing. Remarks were made that it was choppy and disjointed. I particularly felt that Alan was "telling" us things he should be "showing".

Dan wrote Painting a Poem, a lovely concept reflecting on making the transition between words and pictures. We suggested losing some of the "big" words such as verisimilitude and obliqueness, and changing some of the questions to statements to strenghten it. Susan asked for more specifics events to show the colors portraying the emotions. Dan has made great strides in the sophistication of his work since last year.

Clever Larry struck again with an ingenious portrayal of a man becoming a woman. It totally cracked me up . "The man waxed ashamed of his (hairy) chest and went to the beach in two pieces." Dedicated to Tim who was in P-Town for vacation.

Susan wrote Love Songs which we amended to Love Song, and she incorporated several of our revision suggestions to emerge with a totally kick-a poem about a man/woman relationship while the man is in prison. Lovely and sad.

Paul surprised us with a sarcastic rather than nostalgic piece called Repent, Ye Sinners. Larry expressed confusion about the first verse - I guess he is unfamiliar with "earthly disciplines". An amusing and satisfying poem.

Villanelles. They confuse me. 5 stanzas of 3 lines, 1 stanza of 4 lines with a complicated rhyme scheme which Jim Williams mastered while in traffic on I81 between Harrisburg and Scrotum (sic), PA. i don't think I will attempt one.

Here's the ketchup blog from June. (What is the matter with me? Just musing.) Because it was a small group, we let the conversation lead us in varying directions - covered kenning (I need to look that up, refers to changing words without changing meaning), Raintree County, Wallace Stevens, Sartre, suicide notes and other strange topics, all related to poetry.

Alan's Push a Blossom into the Green Fuse, a "take off" on Dylan Thomas, began the discussion of the kenning process. Alan, btw, had a successful performance at Cafe Lena last week, with several of us in attendance, although not me. Fearing the heat in the crowded upstairs venue kept me home. Not to worry tho, as Lena has finally acquired some a/c.

Larry's Allegory was another tickle-my-fancy as he described a yellow jacket "pacing like an innocent con in his cell on death row", then transporting the poor doomed creature in a dirty yogurt container to his grave - which, in turn, led to a debate over woodchucks vs. gophers not worthy of repeating here. Somehow Alice in Wonderland also became involved. I don't remember how.

People seem to be thinking war these days. Dan wrote about The Great War in dramatic detail. A few small suggestions were made regarding the use of capitals, keeping "creeping" instead of "slithering". Dan mentioned All Quiet on the Western Front which was one of my favorite books as a teen. I intend to re-read it now.

204 Boundary Avenue was almost a recap of Paul's early years. Beautiful memories of his grandmother's house; few improvements suggested as usual.

Missing Edie and some of the guys. Don't forget to send me topics and join us for the July 29 discussion, here at 6:30 p.m. Don't tell Larry yet, but I think I will ask him to moderate the discussion. Next regular meeting July 22. I might have a poem. Something that happened on the way home last night got me thinking about it.

AT (afterthought): Paul tells me his comments are still not getting through. My computer gurus are working on it again. Keep trying.

Monday, June 21, 2010

From Dennis


Just a reminder about upcoming two gigs, one a wee bit closer than the other.

First, the Bird is featuring at Café Lena, the first Wednesday of July, the 7th to be exact.

Those of us who have decided to go to support the Bird are planning to meet at the Parting Glass in Saratoga 4:30 or so for pre-prandials, wackles (that’s drinks), and some food. The PG is located at 40-42 Lake Avenue ~ Saratoga Springs, NY, Tel: (518) 583 - 1916

The CL gig starts at 7:30 I believe and sign-up begins circa 7. I think there is a three-dollar charge to get in. There are lots of readers in the summer and it sometimes gets hot in the queue but it all works (sweats) out. Great cookies for a buck and the coffee in the heat is aok too; during the break two of us head out and around the corner for a beverage.

Everybody is invited to the warm-up gig at the Parting Glass; we went last year and some of us had fun.
Let’s see the hands!!

Secondly, even though a further away, some of us are going to the Poets Forum run by the Academy of American Poets—see—on October 30th, of this year.

It is an all-day workshop beginning at 10 am where interested attendees can see, hear, interact with 15 or so of the very best poets in these United States. If you are interested in improving your work: (1) how to start a poem; (2) last lines; (3) the self in the poem, etc. etc. etc.

We take the train down in the morning, the 6 am I think it is ,and walk down to NYU or the New School, wherever it is held. Some of the members of the Third Saturday Poesy Café are planning to go.

Others in the Café are planning to go that morning to the city and have expressed interest in the Poets House in Battery Park, the area I used to go to to work in the great Washington Market as a 14-year old kid, from midnight until 7 in the morning with my grandfather. Then back on the SI Ferry. More than true. Here is the URL for that fine place:

In the afternoon—I think I have the schedule right and sit corrected in any case—we are going to the famed White Horse Tavern, a review of which can be found at this URL in New York Nightlife and a description of which can be found in wikipedia:

We are planning to hit the Tavern circa 3 pm for the early shift. Noted writers and poets such as Dylan Thomas, Jimmy Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac inter alios.

All poets in the Thursday group are invited. We have fun, nice train ride, good conversation (mostly), some exercise from the train to the forum, exercise to the tavern, exercise IN the tavern, exercise back to the train. We have gotten the past two years the 6:30 or so train back. Maybe this year the 8 pm or so. That TBD.

Thought some folks might be interested.

La paz,


Friday, June 11, 2010

ars vocatus moriendi

Alan opened the meeting with a number poem called The Beauty Way which he had dedicated to Jim, the Math Guy. The theme was "beauty equates to math and harmony of nature" (per Larry). It began with some Navajo references to their way of life - mystic trails to another world, which Tim picked up on. Jim began to be a trifled riled over the unanswerable(?) question of which came first, math or science.

Jim then impressed us with The Suicide Note as Text: The Discourse of Last Recourse. "One does not perform a suicide, as one performs, say...a poetry reading." It was entertaining and clever and we learned one gross thing about suicide bombers which I will not repeat here. You can ask him.

Larry asked if his poem was a groaner. I didn't think so. The title Almost a Grand Union set the stage for his never-failing word play, with food and sex. Tim totally could hardly control himself and the rest of us chuckled.

Dan and Paul both brought us back to the sweeter side of life with Paul's recital of a School Concert and Dan's perfectly rhymed Christopher Robin's Prayer. Old Norman Rockwell raised his head - I've heard enough of this comparison, folks - again with regard to Paul's re-creation of a time and place. Alan deftly pointed out the emerging gang mentality, authority issues and ego submergence in Winnie the Pooh's crew. "Beware the Giants who linger here...Their waiting shadows, there and there..."

We got to vote on two versions of Mark's Seasoning poem. Picked the first person version with the second title. Another rhymer, perfect cadence and a lovely message. Larry asked what "salt of the earth" really meant and Mark looked it up on his IPad. Meaning: thoroughly good type of person.

Timmy's Questions provoked the most discussion of the evening, whether or not it successfully addressed the social conventions regarding mourning and why do people care so much what others think. It had several great verses, but to me, it missed the transition between the thoughts. Maybe too streamlined. Tim is committed to the poem and vowed to rework it.

The Purple Suit was an apt title for Ann's commentary on her relationship with her dad, which changed dramatically after her mother's death. I suggested portraying the change as happening more gradually and Ann seemed to agree. We talked at length and to no resolution about the role of the teeter totter. First, we had to describe a teeter totter for Larry.

I wrote a really stupid poem about my toe, which I am throwing away.

Alan will be performing at Cafe Lena on July 11 - sorry, July 7 at 7:30, preceded by group dinner at the Parting Glass, two great incentives for a Saratoga trip.

Afterthought - I just noticed a note I made regarding toilet seats having fewer germs than handles. You gotta watch those handles. And those automatic flushers.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Plus Eight

Ann Lapinski, our newest poet, offered up some compliments last night on how much she had already learned by being part of the group. She performed at her first open mic last weekend and, although nervous, enjoyed it (photo compliments of The Verhaegen Studio). She brought a list poem of mouthwatering items she could no longer eat because they contain gluten, which led to an enlightening explanation of celiac disease. We talked about list poems and the necessity of using unique expressions.

Dennis impressed with The Parable of the Butterfly, which everyone liked a lot. Dan mentioned its lyric quality and Paul the "hindu meditative feeling". Dennis explained the word bodhisattva and kindly provided (me) with an reference regarding Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist God of Infinite Compassion, symbolically portrayed with 1000 arms. This god is venerated as the ideal of karuna, the willingness to bear the pain of others.

Tim (of Verhaegen Studios) had us all confused with Master, which Dennis referred to as a "complex psychological drama". Larry pointed out the negative connotations to the word master, which might have contributed to the confusion. Dennis suggested that Tim might benefit by reading the work of Rumi, who wrote poems of love and surrender.

We had a few suggestions for Paul as well. Several thought that some tightening here and there might be useful. We had to explain to Larry what Moving Up Day (the title of the poem) was. There was some discussion of the Norman Rockwell aspect of it, with me disagreeing with Tim's statement that Rockwell did not realistically portray American life.

Noname cracked me up as always with "...on the bumpy road to love Still..." which began with "men are just as jerky" (fill in the blank, I guess). Paul's Rockwellian portrait of life came to a crashing halt here with the white horse dropping large loads behind him. I loved Homo Pinball.

Dan wrote about a moving experience at the Viet Nam memorial, the smooth black wall, and the very personal feelings he felt there. I suggested reworking into consistent couplets. A number of opinions were expressed about separating the crucifixtion analogy into a different poem. Dan seemed determined to stir up some controversy tonight, emphatically putting forth the theory that that are no rules in poetry.

Edie was late, but she made it with a lovely little portrayal of Lucy and Lily intercepting her muse. We discussed enjambment (another subject that Dan brought up) and the use of singular or plural verbs with collective nouns, as in trio.

My Midnight on the Porch was a last minute 20-word, six-line poem, which actually inspired a good bit of dicussion. We talked about the definition of lost children, with Dennis pointing out the multiple levels involved in the poem, which was not meant to be rational, but to recognize an immediate feeling.

We added a couple of questions to the discussion list, one (from Dan!) about the weakness of gerunds as parts of speech. Paul informed us that there are only 4 months per year with a fifth Thursday and the next one is July.


Obee is off on his Civil War journeys, Beach Boy is at the lake, Susan and Tom and Mr. Willis and Math Guy and Ally and The Bird were just plain missing. I am limping off on my sore foot for a weekend of introspection and solitude with my dog. I was up at 5 a.m. writing a poem about my toe.

Happy holiday.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Alan Casline (from guest blogger)

Monday May 24, 2010 10:57 am

Dear Poe-ettes,

Just a little note to say that Alan “the Bird” Casline will be attending a national, international I guess,
conference at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver the first week of June (4th-6th) dedicated to the work of Charles Olson.
The theme is “Charles Olson Centenary Conference.”

Bird is on a panel with John Roche, Michael Boughn, Hoa Nguyen, and Kenneth Warren (Albert Glover as guest)
called “A Curriculum of the Soul: from Buffalo Out.”

I still have big questions about the curriculum which might be answered when the Bird is back. In the meantime
anyone interested in what will be said about “The Kingfisher” there can check out this URL

By the bye, in addition to being a great poet, Olson ran for an extended period of time Black Mountain College located near Asheville, North Carolina.
Martin Duberman wrote about the experiences there in his much celebrated Black Mountain: Exploration in Community, raising the issue of whether community
arises from education or education from community.

A very interesting book. I have read it several times and bought numerous copies
for folks. For anyone interested in not-heavy-at-all summer reading, I recommend this book highly. A cultural oasis with good drinks to boot.

The reader get insights into the college and the life of many of the greats of the 20th century such as: John Cage, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Josef and Anni Albers, Paul Goodman, and Robert Rauschenberg. These were all great cultural transformers. They and the book are gems.

Good luck, Bird. Safe trip. We seek a de-briefing upon your return, good drinks to boot.

La paz,


Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Birthday Excursion to Margaritaville

It has taken me a while to get to this post. A trip to NYC intervened. I attended a tattoo convention which was held in the amazing Roseland Ballroom, which made me think of the old Palace Theatre before the rehab. The convention itself was pretty amazing. Should be fodder for some written words.

It was a full house here on the 13th. Ally Cat was here poem-less. I managed to bring one - some lengthy doggerel about Smith's Tavern which Jon McClellan had requested that I write. It rhymed. It was amusing.

Obee started off the evening with an ode to his new iPad, appropriately titled Modern Love. (It is truly a lovable instrument. ) He later offered Advice that included "a boy cannot wag his tail". Not sure I understood it all, but I loved his font.

Art read Axiom and Wisdom for Cathy Anderson's 80th, which, btw, was a big success. Cathy seemed thrilled with the party and the poems and it was fun to make her happy. Great Anderson family, great food and hospitality. Alan presented her with a chapbook of her own poems and I made a little book of poems from the rest of us. Art's addition didn't make it into the booklet, but it was a wise one, complete with cartoon.

Edie's poem worked her passion for dogs into a political statement about our lack of hospital and nursing home care. We liked the relationship with the dog better than the social commentary. The segue was not smooth enough. Tom suggested abandoning the couplets and writing only one thought per line.

Dan wrote again in his new winning style with a gorgeous description of When the Monarchs Came to Town. Again a suggestion from Tom to alter the form.

Art thought that Paul's Ice Storm was "too anthropomorphic". There was some question about the subject of poem being the ice storm or the trees. Tom said it reminded him of Birches.

We were quick to point out to Tom that he had used an unknown person's name in Eating a Footlong in the Car on the Way to Ballet. He defended himself as having introduced the character sufficiently to warrant the familiarity. Larry pointed out that there should be less telling and more sharing about a precocious kid who appeared later in the poem. All in all, it was an amusing and accessible effort (with a denim typo).

Ann sobered us all with a reflection on her grandmother's death and the sweaters she had left unknitted. Suggestion: less tell, more show. Then Susan switched us up with a more sensuous offering that included a wonderful line about the "delight of rolling down the muddy hills of you". Way to go, SJR.

Personally, I found Larry's John "Papa" Phillips very moving, although we had to recap the sad story of John Phillips for those who do not follow the Billboard charts and the gossip rags.

Mackaroniousnaronious Timmy landed a punch with The Stupid Vulture. Great subject matter, powerfully presented. Something about it made me think of Road Runner and Wiley Coyote.

I have started a list of topics for discussion, things which keep coming up without the group having time to explore in regular meetings, such as the significance of titles, definition of prose poems, and other stuff. Edie suggested we utilize the occasional 5th Thursday for a discussion night. Sounds good to me. Who is interested?

Alan is featured this weekend at Sunday Four. I'll be at a Bon Voyage party for my grandson who is leaving for Colorado so you will have to go without me.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Poet Laureate Thoughts

It was a great day - for Sunday Four, Smith's Tavern, EOTNP and the library, and the now-on-the-map Village of Voorheesville. Dennis and Edie and Mike (and Georgia and Saul and those wonderful judges) did a tremendous job on this and the day went smoothly and profitably for all of us. It truly will be another notch on the bedpost for V'ville poetry. That's not exactly how I should have phrased that, but you know what I'm trying to say. Thank you all for the votes and kudos I received. I was really happy. I am occasionally still sleeping in my wreath.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Susan was Silly

It was a mildly crazy night, with lots of good work, and good critiques. Paul (who tried to trick us by inserting his name into the #2 spot) led off with Stone Boats, a concept which needed to be explained to many of the youngsters present. Good solid historical which we wanted him to send to the (now defunct we learned) Yankee magazine.

Alan's Navajo Butterfly Song sprang from his recent expedition to New Mexico. We all liked the line with outdoor coffe, two musicians, a small black dog and a robin and a little boy in different trees. Obee gave us a soft and gentle bathing experience which Tim compared to "sharing a bath with humanity". Tim also inquired why the OWL should be required to pay rent to live in Larry's nose. Everyone agreed that the OWL should not.

Tim brought us a winner with a stunning picture of his mother, busty and bare-shouldered with black blank eyes. Art called it a brilliant photographic essay, Dennis wanted it published and Alan wanted to know if it was possible to be too personal in a poem. Never really answered that query. There followed some conversation about the projected figure of a woman, and men not knowing their wives.

It's a fairly reliable supposition that Susan was over-fatigued, as she spent half of the evening lounging on the rug and forgetting what she wanted to say. She also ATE HER PROPS, which seemed to give her enough energy to make it through a really nice Meditation on an Orange (minus, of course, the orange).

Mr. Willis dazzled me with his rehab of some 70's work that I find more accessible that his recent pieces. He captured the essence of an 8th grade boy. "I'm beautiful, beautiful me." Love that.

My own poem was a quick one on the days of my life going down like dominoes. Faster and faster. Somewhere along in here, several people broke into song. Ann, who sat beside me, offered a "fabulous" encounter with the realities of breast cancer, including mammograms. Everyone liked this, few suggestions, some questions about squeezing breasts.

Dennis also impressed with an ode to Lydia Tobler's son on his wedding, coming so soon after his mother's death. We all agreed it was a good one. Jim Williams wowwed us with a guitar/poetry presentation. He is a talented guy.

Dan Lawlor, who has been absent for awhile, returned with a whole new approach to his work which was, IMHO, a breakthrough poem about the sea. Best I've heard from him. He also passed out invites to his upcoming concert appearance at the Schenectady Library on May 16.

We talked about Michael Czarnecki's writing workshop here on May 15. Details available in the latest newsletter. I also passed around the poets' list for updating. If any of you have contact info changes, send them to me before I pass out a new list.

The Poet Laureate contest is this Sunday at Smith's Tavern. Sounds like it's going to be HUGE, folks. See you all there, providing I can decide on which poems to read.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Final Instructions

Dear Participants in the First Annual Smith’s Tavern Poet Laureate Contest,

Ya’ all set! Only four days left depending on how you count them.

Let us remind everyone that we plan to start promptly at noon on Sunday. The tavern will be open at 11:30 for everyone to get in and get settled. We mention for your edification: only soft drinks until noon for those with an interest in something hardy. Some food will be available that early as well..

At several places in the Tavern three sheets will be posted with the order of reading for the three rounds. Please look at where you are situated for each round so you are ready to follow the poet before you without delay. We will not rush in any way but plan to maintain a certain rhythm. Edie Abrams will announce each poet.

When you arrive, look for Edie and please give her four copies of each of your three poems of 25, 35, and 45 lines or fewer for the three rounds. Title does not count as a line. Edie will make ready the poems for the judges. Plus she will have name tags for every participant.

Contestants are advised that there will be NO commentary on the poems read. When you go to the “podium” to recite, simply read the title of the poem and begin reading. The podium will be a music stand at the head of the room in case you wish to use it to hold your sheet or book containing the poem you are reading. There will also be a mic which you may use if you wish. There is no requirement to do so; use or no-use will not affect your score. There will be a small table for a cup of water next to the music stand if you wish to have water while you read. And it may be hard to remember now but we ask that all applause, if you wish to applaud, be held off until the end of each round.

By the bye, there will be a short 10-minute “bathroom break” after the first round in addition to the already-announced 40-minute break after the second. We hope all contestants—when called to order by our little school bell after each round—will assemble without delay. Remember, if you miss your turn, you miss the round and will receive no score for that round. So we urge you to be prompt for each round and watch your turn within it.

After the third round is completed, official scorekeeper Georgia Gray will tally the scores. As soon as they are done (perhaps 10 minutes), the winners will be announced in the bar proper—if you are not familiar with the tavern you will quickly see where’s what—and Honorable Mention, Second Place, and Laureate presented with the cash prizes of $25, $50, and $100 respectively by tavern owners, Jon McClelland and John Mellen.. The score sheets will be made available to the contestants so everyone who wishes can see how each poem fared with each of the judges.

There will be at least one newspaper at the “award ceremony” to take photos of the Laureate with the judges and owners of the tavern.. Area television stations have been notified of the event and may appear as well. We hope the picture-taking will not cause undue uneasiness for anyone.

The name of the Laureate will be engraved on a “trophy” which will be kept in the tavern. The titular honor lasts one year. Finally, our friend Elliott Horvath has made available copies of his creative poster/placard announcing the contest for any participant who would like one.

We wish all of you the very best. Bring your best work, present it with love and care. The three of us will be available to help you in any way we can with “housekeeping” needs.

We remain respectfully,

Edie Abrams
Michael Burke
Dennis Sullivan
(Contest Hosts)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Poet Laureate

Calling all Poets,

Lotsa poets are signed up for the contest this coming Sunday at Smith’s Tavern beginning at noon. The aim is to become the Smith’s Tavern Poet Laureate. High honor, high honor.

There are three spots left if anyone changes his or her mind and wants to enter. A couple of day left.

To let all poets from the V’ville group know, audience members, spectators are welcome, of course.

There will be two rounds of reading—beginning at noon sharp—and then a 40-minute break during which there will be music, sorta bluegrass, bluesy.

Should be a good time. Maybe see you there.

Edie Abrams
Michael Burke
Dennis Sullivan

Friday, April 9, 2010

Between Larry Grapeful and BBBurke

That's where I was sitting as Edie and Ann and I tried to hold our own against the men last night. It wasn't easy. There was a lot of eyerolling and groaning as well as laughter.

Brave Ann was back with a very effective poem about chopping Horseradish with her mother. Dennis called it a nice little watercolor. We talked about the repetition of the peel, chop, buzz phrases and Alan wanted her to cut it down by half, but most thought it was tight and reflective of a good memory.

Edie demonstrated her scholarship with Jewish history. We all learned about Bontsha Shvayg whose feet left no mark upon the dust of the streets, in contrast to her protagonist who railed noisily against God and wanted to put him on trial as did Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev. We wanted a name for her character.

Tim wrote beautifully about his parents in his breakthrough style, quite a step for him. Dennis mentioned the "economy of language" being strong. I liked "she spits grapes at you, she likes them seedless". It was not clear to me how much of the poem was going on inside his father's head, but it was not a big problem.

I love it when Alan makes a foray into the world of humanity (as opposed to flora and fauna). This was a great poem, whose beginning set the scene of a poverty and drug-ridden neighborhood down the river, where everyone knows that "meet at the tree," means that you will be buying, selling, consuming drugs. Edie's observation that "just because it happened, it doesn't have to be in (the poem)" I find to be very true in all writing.

Art summed up Dennis' Premonition as a good blend of classicism and modern contemplation. We learned about Baucis and her man who folded their leafy crowns to join as oak and linden side by side. Dennis gave us the five reasons why he had written the poem, but the only one I wrote down was that it is a love poem to Georgia Grey (and that is reason enough.) Dennis took some ribbing on this one. Alan questionned whether the oak and linden shared the same ecosystem. I heard the phrase "beaver in a mudslide" and "totally incomprehensible", but I can't elaborate. The Phrygian ramifications were considerable.

I have reconsidered my harsh reaction to Mike's Yorkies whose owner committed suicide. I loved the poem until he startled us with dramatic climax and I was horrified that those poor little guys were left alone with the dead guy. There were differing opinions on who died and an indentation controversy, but no real critism of a another punchy Burke epistle.

Larry Grapeful is beginning a new career under his assumed name. Art said his poem was filled with terrific energy and Tim had questions about "puffy nipples". (I don't know if we resolved that.) Tom thought it was very clever and Dennis offered "ditto". Oh, yes, I think Larry learned the difference between complimentary and complementary. Maybe not.

I guess I got the point of Tom's Topspin when I observed that I was sidetracked by the breathlessness of the two readers. Droning must have been the object. Art called it a "humming cosmic sound" and Dennis compared it to a "jacked-up Hail Mary". Favorite line may be in here: a half-eaten ham and swiss moldering on the passenger's seat. Tom said, "Line breaks."

Art "tweaked" up a poem from the '60's called Bestiary of Self which addressed the mind, heart and soul. The first two paragraphs were dynamite with a feral boar and a mud puppy. My heart was surprising by the pond's edge, elicited some discussion. Dennis said the poem sings and Alan mentioned its interesting complexity.

Lots of talk about Play at the Plate, beginning with Edie's request for baseball information. The description of the doofy kid who can't play well hit home for some (everyone knows that poets are not athletes) and Paul made the incident totally believable. Dennis wanted immediate imagery, which meant taking out the qualifiers. He also wanted him to avoid inchoate verbs and stressed that prepositions are lawyers' b.s. Paul said, "What the (blank) are you talking about?"
The End.

Housekeeping details: the death of a popular teacher has left Mark in a quandry about his art reception on Sunday, but the plan at this moment is to go ahead with it. !:30 pm on the 11th. Mark's photos now in the hall gallery are wonderful.

Art is presenting a book talk/lecture here on Monday night at 6:30 pm. All are invited.

Michael Czarnecki is holding a writing workshop here on May 15 from noon-3 p.m.

Don't forget Sunday Four will hold the Poet Laureate competition at Smitty's on April 25.

Friday, March 26, 2010


The night began with us all anticipating a conference call on my cell from Jim in NYC which didn't work out. Jim seems anxious that he is missing poetry and sent me a sonnet which he was going to read to the group. We'll save it for next time when he will be back. We miss him.

Philomena brought a friend named Ann, who was brave enough to offer up a two-page poem about the joy of adopting her daughter in China. We were our usual brutal selves but gave her helpful suggestions for revisions. The story in the poem is good and it has some good lines, but it needs to be shortened and made punchier. We talked a couple of times tonight about the concept of "show not tell" which is a tried-and-true that always helps me.

Philomena shared Love's Compass, the poem she wrote for Sam on their 20th anniversary, a fact that did not deter us from critiquing. The poem contained the words enlightenment and Buddha, both of which we ended up removing (only sugggestions!) Edie called it "poetry by committee". The streamlined version read by Susan was appreciated by all, including the author, I think.

Susan's Matters of the Heart, here in its entirety, was one of the saddest one-liners ever: "Almost ready to give up/on love/too many/old toothbrushes/fill the/dirty cup in the bathroom." Big debate on one final line, which Susan ended up deleting.

Art called Larry's Channel 437 a compilation of Ogden Nash, George Carlin, Jules Fieffer and Lewis Carroll. Someone said "don't spend too long enjoying it or you'll miss something good". Very true. It was playful and wonderful (Philomena) and a searing political statement(me) about shredding textbooks, murdering turkeys to celebrate thankfulness, slain evergreens commemorating new malls, and more. Loved it.

We totally took apart the last stanza of Paul's Burning Leaves, wanting to omit the final line and remarking that although it contained some good stuff, with a little work it could be more compelling.

Art brought the heartbreaker of the night and did it well. It was a childhood memory of a "small and wan" playmate who died of leukemia. We talked about both the stigma of cancer back in the 40's, and the capitalization and punctuation of the poem. Art told us that the poem had been "pursuing (him) for over 60 years". He said it "sat in me like a cloud" and that he thought it came out finally due to his participation in our group.

Edie won the evening with her Edie's Mikveh. Not only did we really enjoy it, we all got an education in the Jewish ritual bath and sexual mores. Interestingly, our other Jewish female (Susan) had problems with the poem, including the title, thinking it more full of sexual innuendo than reflective of the holiness of the Jewish tradition. I pointed out that that's why it was "Edie's" special mikveh. Edie had us all smiling with her delicate references to "enhancing her life" on Shabat nights with Saul. Reminder to self: look up the difference between labile and nubile.

On May 15 poet/traveler Michael Czarnecki will present a writing workshop here at VPL. See Alan for details.
Our Professor Willis is presenting an evening discussion here on April 12 with the co-author of his new book on innovative teaching techniques. 7 p.m. Good for everyone who needs to relate to others.

Florida was fun, sea-watered my cell phone at the dolphin cove and was incommunicado for two weeks. Dennis will be back from Ireland and featuring at Sunday Four this week (3 p.m.) Hosts Edie and Mike will both be out of town, so it's a one man show.

A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling

by Mark Twain

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all. Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli. Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Other Every Other Only Real Men Need Apply Thursday Night Poetry Group

My task, that I was coerced into doing by the Sunbathing Queen, is to reiterate what happened last night – Thursday, March 11, 1970 – at the site where the new library will be in about 20 years, and down there among the poets who gather in that swamp with the wattles and the Finns to smoke Cubans and go on and on about all their latest poetic conquests.

To wit:

First up was the soggy – from his Florida getaway trip – Dan. I saw him as wearing a ten gallon hat with his britches falling off his hips, but I was already out of it when the meeting began, so don’t take anything I say too seriously, or don’t take it and sell it to someone else before I get a chance to. Dan danced the words to My Old Chair in his tenor legs. We all tried on the Old Chair and liked it for its tilt and tumble. But some of us were distracted by the twittering Thom Frogs outside the window.

Then Larry went to the bathroom!...

followed by Paul who was haunting him and everyone else with his Abandoned Crazy House. Some of us, the schizophrenics, didn’t like this or that, but overall you know it was Paul and we had a little ride ...

finding ... Alan ...

but here, we all took a 30 minute break to passionately fight for whatever side of the participle controversy we were on – it was a knock-down-drag-out brawl that ended in a tie and destroyed the ambitions of all the mosquitoes who happened to see it.

When Alan’s poem first chugged out of the barn I think we were all right there with him riding on the hay wagon but then Rebecca dropped her contact in a field and everything sort of went mystical and hazy. It was Alan in his wizard’s garb and I think (under all the non-existent sexual chemistry and tension in the room) there was a genuine harmony of opinion that the poem was neat and maybe almost all there.

Which brings me to Mark. Mark seemed to be reading from down in the swamp somewhere, but we all know what that’s like. Maybe he dialed the wrong ZIP! Larry said he was going to the bathroom. Again! Mark pulled out his poem. The ditty was called flung by daily penance: its title was italicized, underlined, and all in small letters, beyond that, sane men fear to pee, which is precisely what we love about O B!

Now we retire to a wood with the venerable Tim. His character romps through the woods seeking it. It? Yes, it! The character’s mother is there to recreate a number of imbalances and then they all have an orgy. Bravo, Tim. Daring, provocative, whacky, designed to move the center of attention to himself, etc. Tim is a risk-taker, and that is very cool, I think. (You don’t know who I am, do you? which is why I’m still able to think!)

Ah, tHom, leave it to tHom to make the trivial sublime. tHom at his chit chatterly ironic oh my god best A High of 51, but see it when it plays in your local movie theater as a pre-show short starting this May.

Me llamo Lorenzo!