Back to Caffè Lena for the first time in 2016, & the place was a-buzz with questions about the recently-reported up-coming remodeling of the historic folk music center. We will have to wait & see. In the meantime our host, Carol Graser, started off the night with a poem by the new US Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, then on to the open mic.

Brian Dorn read his funny & self-deprecating “23 Reasons Why This Poem Doesn’t Rhyme.”Eric Krantz was new to me, & he began with a poem titled “Red Wing Blackbirds,” then a funny, rhyming poem to a fiancee, “Why Not Take All of Me.”

Carol Shupp Star was a volunteer here tonight & signed up to read a Winter poem, “Moon Silouettes” then “Life, the Boy Becomes a Man” (about an infatuation over time). Joe Bruchac read a couple of poems from his books, one titled “Seasons End” about looking to the generations in the future & then the descriptive “When Sky Clears;” when he finished he passed one of the books to Barbara Garro in the audience for a birthday present. Charles Straney read 2 thoughtful pieces, the first titled “What Defeats a Man,” & “Skunks.”

The first of the night’s featured poets was Stephen Lewandowski, who began appropriately enough with “My Name” from Under Foot (Mayapple Press, 2014), then to “Who Am I?” about researching his father’s family. A couple poems were set in the outdoors, one about an old hunter lost in the woods, another about geese, & “Night & Day” was dedicated to the Wisconsin poet Antler. “Hidden” was another poem from Under Foot, & he ended with 2 poems from a new book, Last Settler in the Finger Lakes, one on the science of the study of lakes, & the last, “Embodied,” on the erotic. A nice sampling of work.

Alan Casline of the Rootdrinker Institute, Benevolent Bird Press & the poetry series at the Pine Hollow Arboretum was the other featured poet. He read mostly from his 2015 book from FootHills Publishing, 64 Changes. But he started with a poem on the many poetry open mics he has attended, “The Unlikely Train Wreck.”  64 Changes is based on the I Ching & Alan favors the Richard Wilhelm/Cary F. Baynes edition so sometimes during his reading he used the titles from his own book & sometimes from Wilhelm, leaving this recorder flumoxed. After a brief intro about the I Ching he explained that he had cast hexagrams this morning for himself, for the Casline family, for Caffè Lena, for Stephen Lewandowski & for the USA & read the poems from his book for the corresponding hexagrams, or the one resulting from the changing lines (#57, “The Gentle (The Penetrating Wind)” came up a few times). Then he ended with a new poem “Flower of Day.”

After a break, our host Carol Graser returned to the open mic with her poem “House” who is a woman apparently. Wyler Graham got away with 3 poems because his first one was only a 2-liner, then a funny, sometimes rhyming piece “10-Year College Reunion,” then another rhyming piece from his college days “Up in Arms.” Mark W. O’Brien read one of his poems from the 2013 Rootdrinker Poetry Anthology Prometheus Chair, then a poem from his tablet I think was titled “Phrases from Aware.” In honor of Alan’s 64 Changes I read an old, but refurbished poem “Hexagram 13.” Rodney Parrott read a couple of pieces on love, the first more like an essay with images of horses, candles, tongues, another on going, but wanting to stay forever.
Jodi Davis brought her father here tonight so read a poem about learning to ride a bike without training wheels, then from memory “Anticipation of Killing a Fly” written in high school. Lee Gooden read “Prefaces,” social/political commentary inspired by the writings of Hannah Arendt & a conversation heard in a McDonalds. It was Barbara Garro’s 83rd birthday (I may be wrong about that) & had received a number of best wishes throughout the night, read a poem based on a painting “The Heart of Darkness” then a preachy piece titled “Open Space.” Angela was a virgin reader & read a rhyming piece on Jesus & faith “Life’s Memory & Love.” Sally Rhoades shared my table, was the last reader, read about wanting to be outdoors & on the water “This One Night I Awaken,” then a morning poem “Sitting with Joy Harjo” (her book of memoir, not the poet herself).

The poetry open mic at the historic Caffè Lena continues each month on the 1st Wednesday of the month, 7:30PM, with an open mic & featured poets, all for $5.00 — cheap coffee & cookies too!

This post originally appeared on Dan Wilcox’s blog on February 8, 2016.