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, 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.