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, June 24, 2011

I have had continual problems with logging in and editing this blog for several weeks. I think the problem has finally been resolved thanks to computer guru Judie.

Last night it was just me 'n' the guys. Mr. Williams and the Shadow-Poet were on time (noteworthy). Alan was quite poetic and kicked off quite a discussion of what wives and husbands talk about. The family silver? If you are a gay guy, Tim insists you talk silver.

Tim came with a bully/strawberry milkshake story which we gave him some critique about. Very little, tho, as it was already good. Dan "held wide the door" to new experiences with a patriotic sounding verse.

Paul was caught in the garden of good and evil and Larry had already made his leap. Mike took a little more controversy than usual describing a rainy bike ride for missing children. Mike was great, btw, at his Social Justice feature and dinner at El Loco. Turns out not to be my fav restaurant, but nobody complained. Good poems.

Poemless, me.

Only news is Sunday Four this week with Dale Hobson.

Friday, June 10, 2011

riding unharmed, and untouched, toward death (Carver)

Tim entertained us all again with The Champions. Hilarious and very Tim. Tom suggested axing (at least part of) the last paragraph as too philosophical. We seemed to be philosophical quite often last night, perhaps LRapant is influencing us all (the philosophy emails have been flying fast and furious).

Edie inspired quite a discussion with Poor Yorick, a tongue-twister whose title seemed misleading. Paul recollected one of the moments in his life that haunted him in One Ghost and Edie told a holocaust story it reminded her of.

I amused myself drawing hats on Catherine's hat and hatless poem which had a great bald thought. Obee took us down the rabbit hole with a clever mind poem written in mirror form. Tim found it romantic.

Edie nominated Alan's line for best line of the evening: "way above, way way above". Alan was spontaneous. Larry was extremely effective with a story poem about a teen/teacher affair. The Shadow Poet emerged in In Search of the Magical Other, a lecture-like reflection on loss and love by Jim.

Tom is back, prompting me to search out more Raymond Carver, thank you.

Philomena and I were poemless. Plans talked about for dinner next Thursday prior to the Beach Boy's appearance at the Social Justice Center.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Late Again

I had more problems with the blog last week and took a while to resolve them with the help of the VPL computer guru Judie. Now I have half forgotten the last meeting and don't much feel like writing about it, so I will be very brief. We started out small but ended up with ten people as others straggled in. Dan was the very latest and we were unable to squeeze his poem in because we had been indulging in extra conversation. That, btw, is okay with me. Our conversations are invigorating and on topic (poetry) even if we wander away from the poem on the table.

I will mention that Tim brought a (very) short prose piece which he had asked me about ahead of time. I have no problem with short prose; in fact, it was standard procedure when the group began a million years ago that writers could bring anything they had written, subject only to length limits. Larry's work tonight also bordered on prose, although we all seemed to dislike it, making LR happy.

I feel that I should mention Mark's garage door photos, which I personally loved, along with the poem. Very creative example of Mark's abundant talents.

If there was anything else, I've forgotten.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

They said there would be cake

I think that is why my soul said yes
to this life
that and banana cream pie

but the heaven realm
couldn’t capture
the promise of flesh

and some times
I am up to my neck
in this muddy life

having insisted on the outdoor barbeque
despite predictions
of pouring rain

desire and misery
is a finely mixed
-Philomena Moriarty

Perhaps this is the best poem Philomena ever wrote.
Perhaps it is my favorite.

Perhaps I should follow my own principle of never reworking.
I tried to fix last week’s poem. Now I hate it.
Perhaps I am just feeling hateful today.

Jim skittled in late wearing a very attractive red ref shirt, poem in hand. Another exploration – a pantoum, a poetic form which first appeared in 15th century Malayan literature in which lines b and d become lines a and c in subsequent verses. Jim’s consisted of very clever rhymes.

Jim slipped me a copy of another poem I had requested: Tercet Eight: Shadow-Poet
Arriving like the waterless flood/having fewer neurons than he’d like/shadow-poet knows the secret of the universe. The rude one is only one of many/ who populate my ego, my subconscious/a rowdy group of feisty complexes who try to run my life. My dogged efforts to tame this lot/are endless, ongoing…

Like this, too.

Ally the birthday cat was present with a well-titled work called Old Haunts. We had a few suggestions for ways for her to clarify the action in it, particularly identification of the people mentioned. It was a little confusing as written.

Alan seemed determined to cram every fact he could into his biographical poem about Albert Andriessen Bratt, the sawyer from Norway who arrived in Fort Orange in 1637. Bratt was an interesting character, but I think we all agreed that there were too many dates included. Alan’s best line (again which I loved and want for my own): “glitches and gremlins did the guy in” That’s how I want to go.

Larry wrote a long conversation with Tanya the Check-out Girl. Not a lot of commenting (that’s okay).
I am finding Larry’s artwork wonderful, creative and weird. (He doesn’t mind if I say that). Don’t miss seeing it for a reflection on Larry. It will be up through the end of May.

Burke was back for his first meeting since November. His bi-annual poem was about a poor dead guy named Dave, or rather, Dave’s funeral. We didn’t like the line about the shaky old preacher and made a couple of other suggestions.

Paul‘s retired musical instruments brought about a discussion of melancholia vs. nostalgia vs. plain old sad. Poem was “pretty complete” except for title. Perhaps “Notes on Notes”?

Dan’s poem was very aptly titled A Tyrant’s Regrets and went on in that vein. Dan empathized thoroughly with the tyrant and Cathy wittily commented that what he described could be attributed to mothers as well.

Sorry this took so long to blog. The blog was inaccessible last week and then I got busy.

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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tinian, Afghanistan, and Poets on the Run

Let’s face it; some nights just don’t have it. The discussion is insipid, laced with uninspired observations, statements of the obvious, boring conversations filled with irrelevancies. This wasn’t one of those nights. Opinions and observations rolled around the table like loose cannons on deck, and the nimble of foot and word had no time or inclination to yawn.
Dennis got things off to a fast and interesting start with “A Visit From the Dead,” a two and a half page piece that held everyone’s attention and sparked a good deal of discussion. Tim and Philomena both felt the poem should be read more slowly than it was to give the reader time to assimilate what it has to say. While Philomena said she sees Dennis’ poems as mystical, Tim said they seem more religious (in a general way) than mystical, and felt this poem “has tiredness and contentment in it.” My own feeling was that it is a musing on life, and projects a feeling of acceptance. Larry started chasing down a tangent about the nature of the mind vs. the nature of the soul, and a few others helped out. Larry’s statement that “Dennis has a style that grates against my inner joints” didn’t reflect my opinion, as nobody’s style has yet had any effect on my inner or outer joints. Dennis told us he felt his parents had entered the room when he wrote the poem, which would have inspired something in my mind if it happened to me. I can’t really say, though, as my parents have never showed up at any hour, but then again I’ve never been up at 3:27 AM to write anything.
Dan gave us “The Butterfly Lovers,” a work that prompted Tim to say it struck him as the type of poem that would be written by somebody who has lived a long time. I took that to mean someone who has gained much wisdom by living a long time, as opposed to some old goat who has lapsed into senility but refuses to quit writing. The poem is a brief summary of a 17th Chinese legend. Knowledge of the legend would help the reader fully understand the poem, and when Dan related the legend we found out that “The Butterfly Lovers” is a good summary of the legend, but by adding a few more lines he can make it an even better summary. Only the word “chums” didn’t quite fit.
I presented “Hospital Waiting Room” and got several good suggestions for improving it, but once again came away with the feeling that when my poem hits the table people start trying to pick off all the individual words they can, like snipers firing from a tree line. This tendency may have something to do with Tim’s statement that “Paul applies prose rules to poetry,” which is true in more instances with my writing than with the writing of most other poets around here. I’m also a big fan of punctuation, which a good number of poets avoid, even run from. However, I left convinced that a couple of words need picking off in this poem.
Jim’s “Tercet Eight: Shadow-Poet” was well received, and prompted Tim to remark: “I love this. A very human poem.” Which it is. I see this as a poem of self-analysis. Edie pointed out it that has similarities to Dennis’ poem. The “rude one” mentioned in the second verse needs more than a reference, though, and whoever he is we need to hear something defining about him, as it is certain he is not the shadow-poet. Not withstanding that the rowdy group of complexes have the math guy’s number, I personally am confident that the math guy will rout this group of ne’er-do-wells in the end.
Larry brought “Ontology,” a poem one-fourth the size of what he brought the last time. When I opined that it seemed too short to be one of Larry’s poems, the author let slip that it is part of “a much, much longer poem.” Short though it was, it still backed up Larry’s admission that “Minutiae is one of my favorite things.” (Shouldn’t that be ARE SOME of my favorite things?) Anyway, as Philomena said: “This is a fun poem.” The dark knight calculator mentioned in the second verse was the subject of some discussion involving Batman, the dark part of our own natures, and a few other things that sailed right past me. Larry surprised me when he declared ”The dark knight is making too much of a controversy, so I’m taking it out.” I’d leave it in, myself. Dennis thought the poem was “Blakean.” Look it up. I’m not opening that keg of worms.
Philomena’s “Schenpa” was based too much on Buddhism for me to understand it, and a knowledge of Buddhism is probably essential for anyone reading this piece. A sizeable footnote to shed some light on the meaning of the word “schenpa” led me to conclude this is a personal poem not meant to communicate with a large audience.
Ann presented “The Thank You Notes,” a poem about her father receiving thank-you notes from her eighth grade class for his military service during World War II that really appealed to me. It will be even better when the use of tenses is ironed out, and some confusion about exactly who is talking to whom and what is going on at the end is cleared up. Relating some additional information in the poem should do the job. This poem really had an effect on Tim, who effortlessly jumped from Tinian in World War II to Afghanistan today. By the time he finished alternately attacking the poem then praising it, I didn’t know if he was speaking from the strength of his convictions or just trying to keep the dust stirred up. This has the potential to be one of Ann’s best, in my opinion. I hope it turns out that way.
Tim’s “Washington Park 2 AM” used the dialogue of one person to paint an effective and dramatic picture of an encounter that resulted in two gay men being chased by a pack of other men intent on doing them no good. This is another of Tim’s poems that will be a hit at open mics, as it is a performance piece for sure. There is no ambiguity in this work, and few comments were made about either the form or wording. I consider it one of Tim’s best. Dennis noted, “You have the same rhythms as Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg.”
Last up was Edie, who offered “Gifts From My Father.” By beginning with a reference to the inheritance of unruly hair from her father, she glides into a musing on some of her father’s traits and their influence on her. Verse one and three handle this very nicely, but verse two seems to have no apparent connection to the other two. Maybe it does, but I don’t see it, and no one offered any explanation that helped me see the connection. Verse one and three stand as a poem by themselves, though. I’d like to see verse two elaborate on either her father’s characteristics or her relationship with her father instead of doing whatever it did.
ONE OTHER THING: The Second Annual Smith’s Tavern Poet Laureate Contest is coming up on April 17, and there are still places open on the competitor list. Sign up soon if you’re interested, as the sign up period will end soon no matter how many slots remain unfilled.
Write-up by Paul

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hiroshima, a unit of measure

Philomena knocked us out with the impact of her title (above). Edie suggested that line was a poem in itself and so strong that it overwhelmed the rest of the poem.

Edie's poem was a very sensual offering loaded with assonance and alliteration. "I spoon with you and down your spine my finger slithers..." Minor controversy arose of the use of the word fluffy which, to me and Philomena at least, stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Mark impressed with "Grateful for the small acts of morning", a slow and gentle read which interestingly was interpreted by the rest of us in quite differing ways. Mine was way off base (but amusing), perhaps inspired by Edie's sex poem.

Alan was artistic - "everyday you bring out your brush and swirl the surface about" -and spare with his words - "no message message I get the message" and thought -provoking - "is there a judge in the front of this prison?" Good one.

The artistic streak carried through Tim's descriptive rather than narrative endeavor. I must admit to finding it intriguing, but hard to sort out (one woman or two? downtrodden and walking the beach or drinking on the porch?) It also included a missing lake discovered and a posing herring which turned out to be a heron. It did read like a canvas, but I remain confused. Who shoots herring anyway - or herons?

Fortunately we rely on Paul for a dependably relate-able poem and he came through again. Who hasn't flattened a penny on a railroad track? Well, maybe not Edie. The rest of us all related and I vow to do it again this summer if summer ever comes.

Welcome back, Lawlor - Dan returned from his "weathered wanderings" with a musical poem about leaving memories, loaded (by his own admittance) with cliches. Mark performed an excellent third read of the rhythmical though not rhyming Yeats-referenced work.

Okay - Larry: A long dense poem on my neo-empty period which I had the privilege to read. It was fun, a bit of a tongue twister in spots. Some lines less effective than others, could be cut for the sake of lightening it, but the poem was well-received the way it was. I love: "I nibble the piece of cake on all sides trying to keep its shape as it shrinks"

Dan W. brought to my attention the fact that I frequently mention those who are missing from meetings, as well as attendees. I guess this is fostered by my now-thwarted maternal instincts. If some of the chicks are not around, I need to know where they are. In that vein I will report that Ally Cat Anderson is in Texas, Beach Boy Burke back in Florida, Tom C. in the wilderness of Huntersland, Jim Williams and Ann Lapinski, whereabouts unknown, and Dennis sent his excuses. That reminds me that I will be absent for the next meeting on the 24th as I am planning to be sunbathing on Bradenton Beach. Someone else (and all are fighting for this opportunity) will be in charge.

Remember to sign up on March 21 for the Poet Laureate contest (Tim and Paul and I are all judges). Alan's field trip is this weekend. Call him for details. BTW, if anyone cares, we are discontinuing discussion night for lack of participation. Larry and I will be planning more exclusive trysts.

The evening included an enthusiastic exchange of info on Spanish Bar Cake between Mark and me. Anyone else remember Spanish Bar Cake?