It didn’t feel quite enough like Spring so a number of poets opted to go inside to hear poetry rather than walk around outside in the cold thinking about it. Dennis Sullivan welcomed us with a series of announcements & in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s birthday read #20 from A Coney Island of the Mind (“The pennycandystore beyond the El…”), then he introduced us to the work of Polish poet Cyprian Norwid (1821 – 1883). Then Edie Abrams took over the job of hosting the open mic.
Larry Rapant arrived on the stage wearing his gloves & began with philosophical introductory remarks on “Risk-taking,” then read an equally philosophical poem “Pray For Us.” I followed with a recitation of Bob Kaufman’s poem “Believe, Believe” then read my short essay in poem form on this poem, as mysterious bells chimed somewhere.
Dennis [O’]Sullivan read a meditative & tender piece thinking of those who live lives of acts of kindness, a psalm of universal love, “When I Sit with Pen in Hand.” Paul Amidon can be just as pensive, but in a more wry manner, such as in the 3 short poems he read, “End of the World,” “Weather Forecast” & “Books” (looking through a box of old ones). Bob Sharkey began with a piece that sounded like one of his on-going series of vignettes, “St. Patricks Day,” about an encounter at a Museum, then a reprise of “How He Regarded Her.”
Joe Krausman said one of his poems was a finalist for the Raynes Prize sponsored by Jewish Currents, but he didn’t know which poem it was; the theme for the contest this year was “Union” so when he sent his poem “Going to a Double Header” he changed its title to “Union;” then he also read his other entry “Teachers’ Strike,” but we don’t know which one it was. Philomena Moriarty read 3 poems written from 13 years ago up to now about her up-bringing, beginning with the horniness of “Blessed Be,” to her patron “St. Philomena” to the most recent poem about her Irish grandfather, “Openings.”
Pete Budrow, who had burst his poetic cherry here last month, was back for more with a poem titled “2 Things That I would Be Willing to Die For.” Tom Corrado’s “screen dumps” are poems that “dump the contents of his mind” at that particular point of time, i.e., free association, & he read #55, then a manipulated text/found poem based on a Times-Union article by Patrick Kurp, “Found Poem: Dan Wilcox circa 1990” (Thanks Tom!). Howard Kogan began decrying Winter with a poem about “Mount Misery,” then read a relationship poem “Moth” & the short, wry “Astronomy.” Rosalie popped up at the last minute to read a poem about an epiphany she had when out for a walk, “Connected.”
From these stellar moments Dennis introduced the featured poet, Tim Verhaegen, describing him as “a work in progress” that many of us have been witnessing for a number of years. Tim’s poems & essays are intensely personal & (wonderfully) obsessively about his family. He began with a piece that combined both aspects, “Your Mother Doesn’t Remember Raising You” (he often appears in his poems in the 2nd person). “Old People” was a tender tale of his grandmothers & her friends when he was a child. The next piece was from his college days, pondering changes in his life, “A Boy Walks the Train Tracks Far from Home.” “Letters” was about the angst of looking through a box of old letters. His next 2 pieces had us all in hysterics, the first an essay about a memoir class, then his wonderfully irreverent tour-de-force “The Fuck Family” — there was laughter & tears of laughter, poetry & humor. Then he brought it back with a kindly homage to Dennis Sullivan for his support of Tim’s work over the years. A program worth twice the admission — oh, it was a donation, so I hope everyone dug deep.
At the end Dennis Sullivan commented on the quality of the work read today both by the featured poet & in the open mic, & everyone agreed it was quite an afternoon of poetry.
Most months of the year we gather here at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY on the 4th Sunday of each month at 3PM, but in April the series will be at Smith’s Tavern on the 4th Sunday for the Annual Poet Laureate Contest.