Word Thursdays, September 22

This is a series, now in its 19th year, at the Bright Hill Center, tucked in the little town of Treadwell, NY, about an hours & half from Albany. I’ve been featured there, once in the early days in Bertha & Ernie’s farmhouse with the 3 Guys from Albany, then last year on my own. I just don’t get there enough. This time I was compelled because Albany poet Carolee Sherwood was the feature & in return for navigation over 2 mountains she drove. What a deal.

The open mic was an eclectic gathering of local writers, prose & poetry, often indistinguishable, but all equally engaging. Susan King started off with a continuation of a story she apparently read last month about her experience in a Red Cross shelter during the recent flooding from tropical storm Irene. My reading was more mundane, 3 poems from Poeming the Prompt.

Evelyn Duncan, who I’ve seen most times here, did a couple of poems that demonstrated how well humor can be done in poetry without being ridiculous, with “Mildred Moore’s Funeral” & the self-deprecating “Treatise on Nature” (e.g., “when you’ve seen 1 tree you’ve seen them all” — a girl after my own heart). Dorothy Bloom said she doesn’t write poetry anymore, just her Blog & gave us a taste with a story about something that happened yesterday, “Fender Bender” that has the best use of the expletive “Fuck!” I’ve ever heard; then an untitled short essay about critters eating the flowers in her garden.

Judith Kerman read “Sub Rule”, an ingenious abcderaian acrostic, then about the plight of a slug in “Global Positioning,” & 2 pieces that were sung, “Star-nosed Mole” & another about a mermaid & deep-sea diver. Graham Duncan is always at Bright Hills Center, it seems, & read the tale of “The Old Soldier Keeps on Darning,” then a poem about a plane crash, “The Local News,” ended with a poem about how to get thru life, “a recovery piece” he said, “No Charge for This.” Jim Williams read a memoir of the trolleys he saw as a boy, as vivid now to us in his telling as to him then in real life.

Our host, Bertha Rogers read a poem about being up in the early AM with the dog “Long Before Dawn,” then the descriptive “Hawk,” it’s dive for death & food.

Carolee Sherwood had a good 25 minutes or so to spread out & explore her themes (or “obsessions” as she called them) of relationships, weather & dead deer (or is that a “dead dear”?). Her first poem, “Apiary” opened up the relationship theme, carried along by others such “Flying Over Snowy Mountains in the Morning Sun” & the moving-out poem “Triage.” But then the ostensible weather poems such as “The Kind of Clever Day We Are Up Against,” or “At Starbucks Waiting for Spring” seemed to ponder the nature of relationships too, & even the take on a W.S. Merwin poem, “The Way to the Store” & “Dear Reader” on Billy Collins method were really about relationships. “Scenes from the X-File on a Wife Who Didn’t Really Die” & “Madness” brought in the dead deer, but then come to think of, weren’t they all “relationship” poems?

Christopher Bursk began (“Why I don’t Give Poetry Readings”) & ended (“Ashes, Ashes We All Fall Down” & “Letter to a Great Grand Son”) with poems not in his chapbook, but he bulk of his reading was from The Infatuations and Infidelities of Pronouns (Bright Hill Press, 2011). Based on Shakespeare’s sonnets, these are also sonnets, of a sort, obsessing on pronouns & on memories of teen-age sex. The poems are bawdy, funny, but mostly embarrassingly touching (pun intended). Adults get the humor, but it’s also the kind of book an young teenager would drool over & then hide under the mattress, & one his father should find to become nostalgic for those awkward days. As much about relationships, of you & I, as those poems of Ms. Sherwood.

Every time I come to this reading I wonder why I don’t come here more often, & so should you. Check out the Bright Hill Center websitefor information.