Caffè Lena Open Mic, November 2

A house packed with many loyal fans of the featured poet, Carolee Sherwood, & loyal fans of the Caffe Lena open mic, under the stern direction of our host Carol Graser (well, not that stern, really).

I began the open mic with an old piece “Park Closes at Dusk” & the new, political “One Day Longer.” Gordon Haymon began with 2 contrasting pieces, “Pseudo-Biography” & “Autobiography,” then a memoir of his grandmother teaching him to knit. Barbara Garro admitted to a “villanelle binge” & read 2, “Staggering Information” & “This & That.” This was Kevin Peterson‘s first time here & he recited (slam-style) “Sunday, Funday,” a hangover tale set in a diner with last night’s date. Kate McNairey read 2 short poems, “Love All Swept Up,” & “Cameleon.”

Tess Lecuyer hadn’t been here in a long time, graced us with a poet’s recipe, “The Minnestrone Blessing,” & a ballade about singing in the woods, “Camp Little Notch Serenade”. Alan Catlin said it was still close enough to Halloween to read “The Aliens” (double-parked outside the bar) & “Sex with Aliens” (a tale of co-eds “dressed” for Halloween).

Carolee Sherwood, tonight’s featured poet, read a nice mix of mostly newer pieces written this year with a few older poems too. She began with a poem built on the images from the Wizard of Oz, “Surrender, Dorothy,” then “Fly” (another movie reference). “Don’t Try This At Home…” combined writing a poem & relationships, & she saw herself as Wonder Woman in “The Comic Book Version.” A small cluster of poems circled around themes of moving, packing, unpacking, “Triage,” “On Turning 39,” & “Genesis.” Some very recent poems were “How the Body Decomposes (a love poem),” an uncharacteristicaly untitled poem (about things unsaid in farewell), & the very recent “What’s Right in Front of Me.” She ended with a series of older poems, “Boudoir,” “Dwindling” (images of leaving Portland, OR), a poem based on one by W.S. Merwin, “The Way to the Store,” & the elegy “Ode to Tess’ Lark Tavern,” a poem of loss, tonight dedicated to poet Mary Panza. Another nicely put-together reading by a relaxed & confident poet who has been honing her skills at many poetry venues in the region. Many of these poems, which are worth reading again, can be found on her Blog.

Carol Graser brought us back after the break with her poem for her father-in-law titled with a Yiddish phrase meaning “Cats in your head.” Austen Halpern-Graser stood up to do comedy, but I liked his first joke best (about reading on the toilet). Will Kerber did an angry piece (about his sister?) “The Electra Complex” whose strangeness was matched by his sweater. Judith Prest (who will be among the features here in December 2011) read about a leaf falling (“Time Management”), then the equally timely “November Belongs to the Crows.” The North Country poet Charles Watts began with the tiny “A Depressing Little Love Poem,” then harkened back to both Alan Catlin & me with a poem about the Occupy movement, “Alien Nation.”  Josh McIntyre read 2 short poems, “Precipitant” (another with a reference to protestors), & “Convalescence” trying to write, a pen, a fire.

Tim Snyder described himself as a “biker poet” & his 2 recited poems, one on Halloweens passed, the other “Down at Sally’s East” sounded a lot like what is called “Cowboy poetry.” Why is that? Terry Bat-Sonja read “Bio” & an old favorite of hers, “Slightly Odd Spring Love Poem to Gaia.” Andrew Sullivan began with the dream poem titled “Unnamed,” then a love poem he described as from the secret back pages of a notebook. Nancy Denofio did one long piece addressed to a poltergeist. Meredith Short read the poem “Minneapolis” from an old notebook, then a poem about the associations with “Exit 18.” Sally Rhoades read about an encounter in New York City’s Union Square “The Homeless Woman,” then a poem she dedicated to poet/scholar Donald Byrd, “Individual Action,” a response from reading Walt Whitman.

A group of the “Voorheesville” poets came up together & signed up together too.  Father Dennis Sullivan wrote about following footsteps in the snow in a dream until they disappear in “This Apparition.”  Tom Corrado drew on his years as a State Work for the images in “Pencil Pusher.” Mark Obeeduid O’Brien read 2 untitled poems about the sky. Mike Burke began with “Sunday Morning Visit” for a friend who died, then the portrait, “Reflections in a Bar-room Mirror.” Alan Casline read a long fragment from a long poem, taking off (in a boat) from Ezra Pound’s Canto I.

Ellen Finn was back after being away for a while with a chilling poem about a drowning she witnessed this summer, “After a Sneeze a Heart Stops.” Jeff Barnes ended the night with a couple very intense poems, the very short “Fade to Grey,” & a lyric to a love gone.

Poets from far & near gathered this night at Caffe Lena, as they do every 1st Wednesday of the month, at the historic Phila St. location in Saratoga Springs, NY. Worth the trip.