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 29, 2011

There is so much piano in my stomach

I gotta say that there were no "beyond good" poems in attendance tonight. There were eight of us here and everyone seemed to bring more of a work in progress than a finished piece.

Dan did bring a finished piece which kicked off quite a discussion of where do old poems go? Do they end up in the "dead leaf basket"? Do they lurk in chapbooks to be discovered in 22nd century France? Does anyone care about them besides the author? Dan effectively accomplished his stated purpose of hitting a responsive chord in the reader. BTW, Alan liked the concept of addressing the readers within the verse which I do not like but didn't get a chance say so because everyone was talking so much.

Someone opined that Alan's Poetry Contest - Smitty's Tavern was mis-titled because the poem did not actually mention anything about the contest, but was written in the tavern parking lot. Philomena (I think) mentioned that Alan likes "nesting" his poems one within the other which leads to our frequent comment that he is really combining two separate poems into one. I had no idea who Ken Warren and Jack Clarke are until Obie explained it. I thought they were mathemeticians. Wrong.

Obie decided not to read his poetry at all, but contributed a photo synopsis of a hiking adventure with Casline and Corrado.

Larry produced my best line of the evening - see title of blog - in a long poem tha began delightfully with: this poem is about me, it will be boring at times. I would like to write a poem that begins that way.

My poem was inspired by a novel and then a non-fiction book I read about a reform school for boys in Marianna, Florida. It was a house of horrors for those committed there from 1900 through the 2000's. There was some controversy over my line about "too sassy for our own britches", which is an accurate Southernism I remember from my Tennessee roots. It is a poem I may re-work a little.

(Some of) my ignorance was revealed in Paul's poem Pinewood Derby, which I thought meant soapbox derby. Wrong again. Whoever heard of boys racing 5-oz. wooden cars that they had made on their kitchen tables? Not me. The poem was a commentary on competitive fathers who can't let go.

Jim wandered in late in his referee's uniform, with a beautiful bald head and a buzzing cellphone. His poem was a psalm to nematodes and other garden dwellers.

Following Philomena's instructions I will not blog about her poem.

Edie was in the building but never made it into the meeting so I'm not counting her.

Alan was promoting the Delmar Writers Showcase at Pine Hollow on April 29 (today).

If you get a chance, be SURE to stop in and view Larry the Artist Rapant's exhibit which will be hanging in the VPL gallery for the month of May. I am looking forward to something strange and engaging.

PS - Vainly I am posting a new picture of me which, while it does not totally eliminate my double chin, disguises it somewhat.

A Little from Langston Hughes

Daybreak in Alabama

When I get to be a composer
I'm gonna write me some music about
Daybreak in Alabama
And I'm gonna put the purtiest songs in it
Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist
And falling out of heaven like soft dew.
I'm gonna put some tall tall trees in it
And the scent of pine needles
And the smell of red clay after rain
And long red necks
And poppy colored faces
And big brown arms
And the field daisy eyes
Of black and white black white black people
And I'm gonna put white hands
And black hands and brown and yellow hands
And red clay earth hands in it
Touching everybody with kind fingers
And touching each other natural as dew
In that dawn of music when I
Get to be a composer
And write about daybreak
In Alabama.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 14 (late)

Two newcomers entered the lair last week. Laurie from Guilderland brought no poem but was a good contributor to the discussions. Stephen from Schoharie confessed that he was a psychologist, which was also good because we probably all need one: hope he comes back. Stephen reappeared at the contest on Sunday with what appears to be his specialty - a Japanese Haibun (a paragraph of prose ending with a haiku)- about a red-tailed hawk.

I will be brief as I am already way late in bloging this meeting, but I don't want to skip it because we had some beyond good poems. Judge Amidon brought a bit of a tearjerker (for me at least) about missing Thanksgiving dinner with the old folks. Obeeduid's was dedicated to Tom Corrado who was not here to listen. I have posted his accompanying, exquisite photo to the right.

Dan Lawlor (who surprised me by saying he joined the group 7 seven years ago) told a story of the nightingale called Lotus Dreams. Alan was good with a philosophical number called Turn Turn Turn Again, which I wanted to make into two poems, or at least two parts.

Cathy Anderson had a real winner recounting the empty chairs in her life. Very effective. Ann followed her food motif with a nostalgic effort about making babka. Note: she did not bring any. Tim, who has been very excited about his writing workshop with Marion Roach Smith, brought a "prome" rewrite about his brother who wouldn't die. Larry's love songs in a dentist office had some powerful lines (I loved "realizing you're hearing canaries because you're sitting on one".)

It seems like I have forgotten someone, but...?
Me last. Larry remarked on the "vivid details" in my recitation of a Florida night interrupted by an old man on a bicycle.

"Nature is always clothed with the color of the spirit" - Emerson

Contest Recap from Judge Amidon


The Second Annual is now in the record books, and the books will show that Howard Kogan is the Tavern’s Poet Laureate for 2011, with Marilyn Paarlberg second and Mark “Obeeduid” O’Brien third. Therese Broderick placed fourth and Tom Corrado fifth. No one ran away with the scoring. As with last year, competitors in the top half of the scoring were within a few points of the poet just above them and the one just below them. This comes as no surprise, as everyone who signed up to participate belonged in the contest. No also-ran type poets entered the fray. Another thing that was obvious was the reading talent displayed at the microphone. Every reader did a good job, and most did an excellent job. It was a pleasure to attend this contest and listen.

Now that two of these “Annuals” have been held, a few observations can be made. One is that the format and operation of this event is good, and any tinkering with the rules and procedures should be minimal. This is a well-thought-out contest. Second is that it’s about the right size, both in the length of time it takes and the number of contestants allowed. Third is that it attracts the type of poets the sponsors and hosts want to attract. It is not a contest for flash-in-the-pan poets, or for showboaters whose chief interest is to draw attention to themselves through crude work and onstage antics. Fourth is an observation everyone made last year: Smith’s Tavern is a great place to hold a poetry contest. Why go dry and hungry for poetry when you can drink and eat at the same high level the poems are? It’s a no-brainer.

When a contest flows smooth as glass from beginning to end it’s because the organizers anticipated problems and solved them, then did a good job directing the actual competition. Judges had all the time they needed, and there was no dead time between poets thanks to a steady stream of poetic quotations to guess at from Edie at the microphone. The Second Annual was as good as the first. It has put Smith’s Tavern on the map for poets beyond Voorheesville and Delmar, and has cemented its reputation as the place to meet for local poets.

A Japanese saying is: “If a thing happens twice, it will happen again.” It comes to mind because I hope it comes true at Smith’s Tavern, next April.