Judith Prest

Caffè Lena Open Mic, December 7

After a miserable drive up on the Northway (heavy rain & traffic), at least there was a nice dinner with “the ladies” at Ravenous, then on to the open mic, for a respectable crowd in spite of the weather. Our host, Carol Graser, set the tone by reading Joy Harjo’s poem, “Anniversary.”

The first open mic poet was Gigi Devons with 2 poems in rhyme & 4-beat lines, “Fields of Flame” & the second sounding like she’s read a lot of Poe. Carole Kenyon brought the rhyming into the 21st Century with a hip-hop tale, “Lounge Lizard Smack Down.” Kate McNairy began with a poem about a suicide, “This World Was Not Enough,” then “a hot one,” as she described it, “Wet Bodies.” Josh McIntyre‘s first poem was a short piece, “When Even a Song Won’t Inspire,” then he read “Gleanings” in which he considered the patterns of life.

This was a night of (poetry) virgins, as you will soon see, & the night’s first was Laura Grillo, whose poems in rhyme were both about surviving, “Run” (on surviving by being yourself), & “Someday That Man Will Lose” (on not being beaten down). W.D. Clarke‘s studied rhymes are in the ballad forms of Robert Service & Rudyard Kipling & tonight’s poem was a true family tale of where a woman’s ashes were buried, “The Old Bean Pot.” Andrew Riddles was the night’s 2nd virgin, with another tale in rhyme about an airplane crash & a man losing his teeth, “Overbite (or “Thit?)” [say it out-loud].

There were 2 featured poets tonight, the 1st being Judith Prest who read mostly from her new collection of poems, Late Day Light (Spirit Wind Books, Duanesburg, NY). Her poems are characteristically accessible, direct statements, often about herself, such as “Summer 1966, Vietnam Conflict Escalates,” or “Questions.” There were frequent dramatic monologues as in “Immigration Clinic…” or “Cinderella Rants to Her Granddaughters,” even some in the voice of animals, “Skunk,” & “Crow.” She looked back to all the girls & women in her family who came before in “You Are Here.” She ended with a small group of new poems, “November Garden,” “Wardrobe Alchemy” (for her mother), & from a poetry therapy workshop, “Naming the Scar.”

Jan Tramontano read some of her poems from the forthcoming Paternal Nocturne (Finishing Line Press), a series based on her grand-father’s letters home to his family when he was working in upstate New York in the early part of the 20th century. Some are in the grandfather’s voice (“Travails”) or based on notes he made on reading Spinoza. Others are in her voice, as in “A Child’s Memory,” or her letter to him, “Letter 2011.” Finishing Line Press likes to get a bunch of pre-orders before issuing their books, so if you want to order a copy got to the website. She capped her reading off with a short segment from her recently self-published novel Standing on the Corner of Lost and Found.

After the break Carol Graser read her poem “The Calculator” in which the calculator becomes a poet after booze is spilled on it — pretty funny. 

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