Actually on the third Sunday this month (otherwise it would have been on Christmas Day), with its usual gathering of fine regional poets & a featured poet (Cheryl A. Rice), & a special surprise for me.  Co-hosts were Edie Abrams & Dennis Sullivan.

Philomena Moriarty with a bouquet of recently written poems, starting with memories of a feral childhood, then what it’s like at a “Women’s Retreat,” & ending with imagining the possibilities on “Starships.” I followed with the recent “What the Deer Sees” & the recently published (in Home Planet News #65) “My Last Bardo.”

At that point Dennis Sullivan (our avuncular host) paused the open mic to present me with the (first) Arthur Dare Willis Award, named in honor of the venerable Voorheesville teacher, poet, “Old Testament prophet, a healer, a visionary…” As the proclamation states, “Through this award we wish to call to mind periodically poets, publishers, and presenters of poetry who have inspired us and continue to inspire us through their contributions to the art of poetry and those who practice this art in earnest… we present this award to … Dan Wilcox. We are tempted to say Albany’s Dan Wilcox but we won’t because he is everybody’s Dan Wilcox.” Needless to say I was quite honored to receive this award & humbled by the praise & kind words from folks I admire as poets & cherish as friends. Thanks! The award itself is an engraved glass disk reminiscent of a halo — hmm?

Appropriately enough, Joe Krausman follwed this with his poem about smart people doing dumb things, then the holiday “Season’s Greetings.” Dennis Sullivan dedicated his poem on words & death & Eros, “All’s Well that Never Was” to me, then read “Remembering Mother in Barcelona” & “One Cell Cowboy Joe,” both from his new collection, In the Fields of Kingdom Come (Pajarito Cantando Press, 2011). Obeeduid, recovering from recent surgery, found a copy of the 1996 publication Many Waters, containing his poem “Unconcerned Oddly” & read it for us, followed by a tender poem about his ex, “Limbs that We Left in the House of Circe,” & a recent poem “The Hole in the Stone Wall Across the Road.” Howard Kogan read one of my favorite poems from his book, Indian Summer (Square Circle Press, 2011), “Uncle Jess,” then a poet’s poem, “Imagination.”

Two of Don Levy‘s poems were about the history of poets & poetry in Albany, “One Night Stand in Plattsburgh” & “Local Poet on Tape”, & in between the recent “The Insomniac Muse.” Tom Corrado‘s poem “Liner Notes: Expected Gain” can be found on his Blog & he followed it with the occasional piece in humorous rhyme written for a friend’s 60th birthday “I Continue to Get Older” (which I must admit beats the alternative). “Bird” (Alan Casline) began with a prayer then on to the long poem in 2 voices (with Howard Kogan as House), “House I Have to Talk to You, Bernadette Mayer Has Given Me the Assignment,” followed by the very short “Impressions of People I Have Never Met.”

Michael McCabe shows up at lots of poetry readings but this is (perhaps) the first time I’ve heard him read, an untitled piece written 9 years ago, on believing in the unseen & living in the here & now. Paula was also new to reading & read a series of haiku about her mother dying — healing & grieving.

Stephen Leslie was the day’s 2nd awardee, a medal presented by Howard Kogan, for earning 2nd place in the International Haiku contest, & reads the award-winning haiku & its extended haibun, “The Tire Swing” — congrats Stephen! Ed Rinaldi read a poem of love & passion based on looking at a painting by Salvator Dali.

I’ve been a fan of Cheryl A. Rice & her poetry since first hearing her read back at the QE2 in Albany in the 1990s, & have continued to follow her work through ephemeral chapbooks & at readings throughout the Hudson Valley. She debuted a new chapbook, Coast to Coast (Flying Monkey Press, 2011)  reading the title poem. Another title poem from a forth-coming collection was the whimsical/nostalgic “My Minnesota Boyhood.” I think part of the appeal of Cheryl’s poetry is that even the poems without a strong narrative line have a clear beginning, middle & end that often sounds like a narrative, such as “Lake of Dreams” (musing about waterbeds, to her partner Michael), “Ashtray,” or “Gold Horse Charm.” “Earthquake” & (one of my persona favorites) “Taking Off Billy Collins’ Clothes” have the more narrative element, but “Poets Nigh Out,” combining now & then in a bar, has that feel too. She ended with a brief Xmas poem, “Blessed.” I like having her chapbooks around so I can revisit these non-story stories without having to go out in the cold.

This series continues on (most) 4th Sunday’s at 3PM in the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY — bring poems & be prepared for fine featured poets (& wonderful open mic poets as well).