The Calling All Poets Series at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, NY is a regular monthly poetry reading & open mic & once a year they hold a marathon reading by poets who have read in the series. This year the marathon ran from Noon to 11 PM on Saturday, August 2. I made it down there for a little over half of it, including pizza at the break.
I got there as Franklin Schneider was regaling the audience with poems that were based on funny word play & puns. Then, to my surprise, a brief open mic broke out. Shahi Shafi read a piece he was working on here about here (& came back later with more), then I read a couple poems, then Robert Milby, one of the hosts, ran through the week’s list of notable poet birthdays, followed by the other co-host, Glenn Werner who read a couple poems, one based on a photo of an ant drinking water.
Lynn Hoins read poems about writing poetry. Ken Holland’s poems were about weather — weather vanes, climate change, etc. David Messineo promoted his 20-year project of the history of America from 914 years ago, & his book Historioptican. Mona Toscano was part of a group within the Marathon & addition to reading her own poem that mixed in Romanian folksongs, introduced others from her writing group, Lou O’Neil, Christine Mannino & the philosophical Lawson Upchurch.
Marianna Boncek read a wonderful selection of poems inspired by her job teaching in the schools, touching stories of students & staff. Dave Kime stepped away from the mic, as he is wont to do, to declaim his loud, political/sociological commentary. Tony Pena’s urban punk poetry got the audience involved in his piece “Monte Hall & the Door of Death.” & finally the pizza arrived, for a short break before the Marathon lumbered on.
One of my favorite mid-Hudson writers, Guy Reed, read a cluster of pieces on Death, & it was worth the trip — as was the venerable poetic patriarch Donald Lev, with his characteristic self-referential ironic/humorous pieces, including one about reading in Albany at the Robert Burns statue in 2012. Ron Whiteurs is another poetic destination & tonight did only one extended piece, “To Inhale or Not to Inhale,” an auto-erotic memoir of sniffing gas in the Bronx, mixed in with fantasies of Mel Gibson.
All the high points seemed to be clustering at once as Wanda Shafer read next, poems of rich, magical, dense language, with intricate use of rhyme, such as “Enigma” & “The Phoenix.” Poetry publisher Steve Hirsch included a long poem “My Own Infinity” exploring the concepts of America, religion & why nothing lasts. Roberta Gould’s poems were shorter, sometimes humorous, often political. Rafael Kosek began with poems by others, then on into her own. Marina Mati began with a poem for Calling All Poets, then read a mix of political & love poems.
Shane Cashman’s poems were urban, TV-based & included a collage of comments on a YouTube video. Chris Wood was one of the few poets who recited a poem from memory, although he did read some of his poems. Greg Correll read his poems, from a tablet, about being a single Dad. Robert Phelps read from his chapbook, largely descriptive vignettes, including a piece that made rain political & the amusing “The Nuns at Pizza Hut.” Rosalinda McGovern read poems that sounded like jokes, often splattered with wise-cracks, such as her piece on the city of Newburgh.
Another brief open mic session, with Shahi Shafi returning, then the comedian/impressionist “Wild Bill,” whose “Wicked Witch of the West” I thought sounded more like Sesame Street’s Grover. Hayden Wayne’s outfit matched his hippy-cosmic-androgynous sermonizing & rhyming cosmic love clichés. Larry Sansone, who had been working the video controls, is Beacon’s current Poet Laureate; appropriately enough he read Beacon Main St. poems. Christopher Wheeling had been taking photos all night long, read short, serious, descriptive poems.
To finish up the many hours of the Marathon, our co-hosts each read. First Glenn Werner read a collaborative piece, “Malcolm X,” he had written with poet Will Nixon, & then “In the Blitz” about his mother’s experience in World War II. Robert Milby drew the Marathon to a close, first reading a poem by Irish poet Michael Longley, then a selection of his own hothouse poetry, serious, intense & filled with antique language.
It was, to my mind, a grand event, exhausting I’m sure for the hosts & staff, with a good crowd of listeners & waiting/finished poets for most of the time I was there. But the best part is that CAPS continues each first Friday of the month, 8PM, $5.00, with 2 featured poets & an open mic (2 poems), at the Howland Cultural Center, 477 Main St., Beacon, NY.