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

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.