In the midst of the weekend of parades, Mall sales, & backyard cookouts poets showed up to read their work & listen to others & then … but I’ll leave that for the end. So Mike Burke served as MC then Edie Abrams took over introducing the poets for the open mic before the featured poet, Thom Francis.
First up was “Bird” (Alan Casline) with a poem for James Williams with a string of epigraphs, it seemed, “The Beauty Way,” then “Push a Blossom into the Green Fuse” from a workshop on Dylan Thomas (of course). Obeeduid (Mark O’Brien) has a book coming out soon from FootHills Publishing & read a series of poems from it, some with titles in the language of the Mahican people, some dream like & interior. Joe Krausman read 3 poems related to music, but all really about who/what we are & the choices we make.
The titles of Larry Rapant‘s poems (e.g., “It’s Official Now,” “Memorial Day Poem,” etc.) give no clue to his obsessive ponderings of his penis, violence & other self-indulgence outrageousness. Bob Sharkey reminded us it was Rachel Carson’s birthday & read “Overhead Cables Humming” with references to her work & vision, then “Life Size” with references to veterans & Richard Avedon’s photos. Howard Kogan “Betrothed” was about his love affair with Spring, & “Meditation” was about his “monkey mind” at a workshop with poet Patricia Smith. I read an old poem for Memorial Day, “Peace Marchers at the Viet Nam Memorial” then the more recent “Washington Park Flowers” which had been published recently as a Letter to the Editor in the Albany Times-Union.
Jim Williams read a series of poems that ran from classical references (“Achilles Revenges a Friend”), to being a curmudgeon at a poetry workshop (sounds familiar), to the masterful poem that that began “Poetry Won’t Make you Happy…” that morphed from a list of family comments into a imagined conversation with Carl Jung. Mike Burke didn’t bring any of his own poems, read instead one of British poet Ted Hughes.
That was a bit of an incongrueous introduction to the afternoon’s featured poet, el presidente of AlbanyPoets, Thom Francis. I have been following Thom’s trajectory since he first read at Cafe Web in the late 1990s & I have been more & more impressed by his poetry as his career advances. He began with a familiar, older piece, “She’s an Angel…”then on to a new piece, “Easter Visit,” that was a portrait of a patient with memory loss. He said he was reading new work, retiring the old hits. But “Gone” is a good older piece, & I’ve heard the moving, ironic “Hero” before, citing his mother (in the audience) as one of his heros. A definitely new piece was his “love poem” to his insulin pump, “Machine.” Another exercise in irony is the sad poem “Shower”, while “Write Right” (did I get it right?) is a commentary on the writer’s task. The last 2 poems also dealt with writers in different ways, “Paper Messiah” as a portrait of a poet wannabe, & “A New Day,” the lead in to his well-known “Trucker” poem, about facing the empty page, the writer’s daily task. A most impressive, well constructed reading, getting kudos from not a few other poets in the audience.
“…and then?” we went to Smitty’s Tavern for libations, & pizza & burgers, etc., & more conversation about poetry & poets, & the state of the World.
One more in this season’s series in June, but look for it to start up again in September, 4th Sunday at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY.