Bernadette Mayer

Sunday Four Poetry, June 24

This was the last in this marvelous series until September, & it got off to a bang with Bernadette Mayer, the featured poet, reading her poems “Helens of Troy”. They will be published as a “pamphlet” by New Directions in January. What Bernadette did was to interview & photograph women named Helen who live or had lived in Troy, NY. As would be expected, many were from a working class background, but her survey included some more well-off Helens, from business familys (Helen Nelligan, of the bakery) to an astronomer from Australia who taught at RPI. The poems themselves take many forms such as a series of repeated words, narratives, a list poem, a cut-up, even a villanelle, often images & stories repeated from one Helen to another. Later, after the open mic there was a lively question & answer session, much of the discussion on the role of the “local” poet as a participant & commentator in & on the community at large.

The open mic today was limited to 1 poem & the first up poet was Bob Sharkey with an old poem recalling the early years of marriage, “Cohoes.” Edie Abrams‘ poem “The Snow Man” ends with a line lifted from Dennis Sullivan. Mike Burke read his eulogy to his father “He Never Said No,” written a number of years ago soon after his death. Dennis Sullivan served as the open mic host & read a poem he had just finished this morning about the late Catherine Connolly. Philomena Moriarty said that while in college she had used the name Helen, read a poem about her husband & his cas-iron skillet, “I Only Know Exceptional People.” Tom Corrado‘s poem “In the Hall (House) of Mirrors (Glass)” was a meditation in a sketch class.

Also touching on the visual arts, Sharon Stenson‘s poem was about “The Deserted Artist Colony, Malden, NY.” I read (again) “The Transit of Venus.” Obeeduid, like Dennis, read a poem he wrote this morning, a conversation between himself & his libido. Alan Catlin read a piece from his collection-in-progress (“My Dream Date with Sylvia Plath”) which uses images & titles from the work of Carson McCullers. Mimi Moriarty‘s poem, “To Fly a Kite,” was about being with her grandkids at a lake. Jan Tramontano read the chilling poem about a suicide bomber, “At the Marketplace” with its ironic “Postcript.” Howard Kogan‘s “Ars Poetica” proposed that the poet make the life he/she wants to live in their poems (don’t we?).

Philip Good ended the open mic with a poem titled “The Longest Day of the Year,” then another summer piece with barefoot beauties, humidity & humanity.

You’ll have to wait until September for the start up of this series again, but it will continue on the 4th Sunday of each month at 3PM at the Old Songs Community Center, Main St., Voorheesville, NY.

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