In the past, when the weekend of WordFest started on Friday, the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center was often proclaimed “the official un-official start of WordFest.” This year with a week of activities, this reading was folded in as an official part of the program. & I was pleased to be able to bring in young performer from South Carolina, who was coming up for WordFest, as this month’s featured poet — Christopher the Poet.
But first, after invoking the Muse, tonight a poem by Catherine Connolly, a little bit of the open mic. Alan Catlin was up first with a poem from a series with animals as metaphors “Elephants at Low Tide.” Rick Harrienger recovered enough from his first Slam appearance to show up & read the autobiographical rhyme “The American Refugee.”
Chad Lowther read here for the first time last night, but the first time tonight for Third Thursday, his poem “The Way of Venom” on peeps & tweets read in an intentional monotone. Sarah Gragosian, also new to the Third Thursday, read “The Fish beneath the Portuguese-Man-of-War” from a collection she is working on. Matthew Klane has not been here for Third Thursday in (literally) years & tonight reminded us why we like to have him here with a selection of short enigmatic parts of what he calls “entertainments.” Jan Tramontano was glad to be back among us Northern poets again & read a short selection from her new book Paternal Nocturne (Finishing Line Press, 2012).
Christopher the Poet (Christopher Fleming) just arrived this day from Columbia, South Carolina with his CDs, tee-shirts & wrist bands. He gave a spirited, at times tender, others times unsettling performance as anyone dubbed “The Poet” should. Actually “Poet” is an acronym for “Providing Opportunities for Education & to Teach,” from Team P.O.E.T. His CD is titled Lyrical Alchemist. He began with one of his “Letter to My Unborn Children” in which he alternated love & advice to a son & daughter, & later read another version when the children are a little older. “Rotten Fruits” was a poem on the disconnect between the older & the younger generation, springing from his experience teaching poetry in middle school, then the piece “Souls of Black Folks” included spirituals & jazz & pop tunes. A new piece (“fresh ink”) was about repairing himself after a breakup & how men don’t show the hurt. He ended with “Addiction” where he plays the role of a crack-head. The other night at the Slam open mic Mojavi read a poem about wanting to hear more real poems from the brothers, & these poems from Christopher the Poet were just that — poems about real issues & not just ghetto stylizing & self-promotion.
After the break & the generous contributions of the audience, I started off the 2nd half open mic with my poem dedicated to Catherine Connolly, “Tell Me Something That Matters,” advice we all need to follow. Bob Sharkey read from the long saga “Sustenance” using names of local poets for characters & places. Jay Toraty, who has just surfaced in the poetry scene this week, responded to one of Christopher’s poems with “Maturity” about the cultural gap between his more traditional parents from India & his assimilation into American culture.
Jill Crammond was a welcome sight with her poem from a prompt, “Icarus Takes Off the Wings, Puts on a Skirt.” Dain Brammage read a string of cinquains that he made into “Reading into What is Not Said.” Michael Purcell‘s poem “Prophet” was a tribute to Bob Marley. Mojavi closed out the night with “Intervention.”
Even when it is notWordFest we are at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY on the third Thursday of each month at 7:30PM, with a featured poet & an open mic for all our community poets, a $3.00 donation (more if you can/less if you can’t) keeps poetry happening.