It was a cold & blustery night. In past years when Sanity Clause visits the Social Justice Center at the December third Thursday, there are often more men than women to sit on his lap to say how bad they have been throughout the year before receiving a gift of poetry. But ah, this year, the women braved the cold & only 1 guy signed up on the open mic list. In addition the featured poet was Philomena Moriarty. It was a good night for Sanity Clause — & for all those who showed up to listen & to read. Continuing a tradition from the last few years, the Muse I invoked was the gone poet Enid Dame (1943 – 2003) & I read her moving “Holiday Poem.”
A bonus gift for Sanity Clause was the arrival from Florida of poet & novelist Jan Tramontano, back in the area with her husband Ron for a family visit. & eager to sit on Sanity Clause’s lap she signed up 2nd (which became 1st). Since there was only of hand-full of poets on the list, each were permitted to read 2 (!) poems if they desired. Jan read a piece about her father titled “Atlantic City,” & “My Mother’s Silk Scarf” combining her mother & her mother-in-law.
Dineen Carta returned to the open mic to read from her book Loving the Ache: a Woman’s Journey an effusive, hopeful poem “Letter to the Universe,” then a sensuous poem, “The Real You.”
Our next reader, Dawn Marar, also brought her husband, Hanni, along & it was a good thing because between the 2 of them they took all the photos of the readers on the lap of Sanity Clause. She began with a poem she just happened to have with her “Bartender” a story of a violent attack at a piano in a bar, then a poem re-written after the election, about meeting & marrying her husband & the conflicts in the Middle East, “Endgame.”
That was the last of the women poets, & Alan Casline was the next open mic poet, who read just one poem, a descriptive piece about a statue at a cabin in the woods “Contemplation of a Buddha Looking Out.” I ended the open mic with 2 poems, beginning with a new poem “Lew Welch in Albany” (for Jordan Smith), then an older, more seasonal piece “Christmas Eve, 1945.” Of course I made no attempt to verify veracity of the Zen koan, “The joy of Xmas is the sitting upon one’s own lap.”
Tonight’s featured reader, Philomena Moriarty, is the author of My Moon Self: a spiritual memoir through poetry & I had been honored to have been asked by Philomena to look over an early stage of the manuscript. Her reading tonight began with some words from the Irish poet, Michael Longley, on the “uselessness” of poetry, but that it can us “tune-up,” then on to one of her own Irish poems, a childhood memoir, “Shape Shifting” & an older poem, “Deep Down,” that ponders what is real. She read a couple poems about suffering, “Corpses,” inspired by Hurricane Katrina, & “Calculations” on war & surviving. The next poems were more light, including the Buddhist inspired poems “The Thief Could Not Steal the Moon” & “Still Here” mixing in a Gospel story. On to her book & the section on feminism & the poem titled “St. Philomena.” Other poems included “Starships” & a poem inspired by a trip to Florida “Fish,” & she ended with “If Poems Were Wishes…” from her book. On this December third Thursday Philomena, in the spirit of the season, blessed us with the gift of her poetry.
We read poetry here, at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY each third Thursday of the month, starting about 7:30PM, with an open mic for community poets, & a local or regional featured poet. Your donation supports poetry events in the area & the work of the SJC.
This post originally appeared on Dan Wilcox’s blog on December 29, 2016.