John Abbuhl

Poetry Reading at Pine Hollow Arboretum, July 13

This series of relaxed readings in Slingerlands as been gradually attracting more attention in a rare Friday slot for poetry. Our host, Alan Casline, the director of Rootdrinker Institute (which along with the Delmar Writers Group is a co-sponsor) & with funding from the Hudson Valley Writers Guild began with the open mic, assigning each reader a vital element needed for plant life, for whatever reason, not that we had to link our poems to his designations.

First up, Marion Menna (“nitrogen-fixing bacteria”) flipping through her poems until she finds the invocation of food & bliss in “The Happiness of Fishes,” a poem about about a beached whale & the family memoir focused around “The Tapestry Chair.” Faith Green (“sun”) read a series of relationship poems, including a haiku. I (“dirt”) read “Not the Walrus & the Carpenter” & the salacious “Hemingway” (I guess there was dirt of different kinds in each of those poems). Howard Kogan (“farmer” — he said his wife was the farmer) read poems about conversations with old guys in his town.  Sharon Stenson was designated as “wind as a pollinator;” she read what sounded like 2 dream poems, “Whatchamacallit” & “Kiss” which also referenced The Kiss of the Spider-Woman.

Bob Sharkey (“compost”) began with one of his tales of Earl & Buster, this involving a dog & trapping squirrels, followed by a “twisted memoir” of a childhood trip in a car with his family. In what could only be an exercise of the droit de seigneur, Alan Casline designated himself “cosmic energy” before reading his poems, the first, “Broken Cliff,” a tale of hiking & climbing, then a couple pieces from his poetic exploration of the I Ching Copper Coins.

Following a brief break we were treated to what I think was the most unique performance of the night by young poet Ari Miller, who also helped to bring the median age of the audience & poets down to a less than geriatric level. His poem was titled “Mind Fog” & was about insanity, the nature of reality & contemplation of death; he read it fast, with obvious influence from rap (without it being a rap piece), & read it clear & well.  Good work.

The featured poet was John Abbuhl, planter & keeper & host of the Pine Hollow Arboretum. He read poems he had written between last Fall & mid-June, stating that he sees poetry as a way to express philosophy. Indeed they were. Nearly all of the poems were one-word titles, with other titles no longer than 3 words. There were 3 poems titled “Awakening,” others titled “Art,” “Knowing,” “Creativity,” pondering the big abstract topics like Time & the nature of Change. Strangely, for someone so surrounded by & involved with trees there were few images of trees themselves, & the natural world showed up not as images but as Nature. As he said, a philosophical discussion.

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m going to an open mic, I pick out ahead of time the poem or 2 or 3 I’d like to try out on the audience, of course always subject to the whim of the event. It was disconcerting to watch some of the poets tonight flipping through their packet of poems wondering should I read this, or that. I would guess it’s due to lack of experience at open mics, which with the plethora of readings in this area just means they are not getting out to hear what other poets are doing.

The Poetry Reading at the Pine Hollow Arboretum takes place on the 2nd Friday of the month at the afore-mentioned Arboretum in Slingerlands, NY, 6:30PM. A donation helps pay the featured poet, & there is usually an open mic as well.