Mark O'Brien

Caffè Lena Open Mic, August 1

Saratoga Springs in August means mortal combat over parking spaces, crowded bars. But I was able to negotiate both to get myself & my guest Ken Hada to the reading on time, after a convivial time at the Parting Glass with the other featured poet, Mark Obeeduid O’Brien & others of his loyal supporters.

Carol Graser, our host, began with a poem by Galway Kinnell, who had been in the area recently, then on to the open mic. Jessie, a young slam poet, had been here before, tonight did a slam rant philosophical love poem. I was second with 2 old “seasonal” poems, “Altamont Fair Poem” (read for Alan Casline who has taken over the duties as organizer of the poetry event at the Altamont Fair), & a poem for Saratoga in August, “…And the Mary Lou Whitney You Rode In On.” Mike Burke followed with the descriptive piece, “Saratoga, The Track.” Kate McNairy‘s short Nature poems were about stars (“Kneeling”) & in the woods (“Forgotten”). Mimi Moriarty had 2 poems about childhood, “My Best Decade” (her first) & the later “Peter Pan & the Theory of Flight.”

Obeedúid~ (aka Mark O’Brien) had a book on the verge from FootHills Publishing when Michael Czarnecki’s house & office were destroyed by fire. Benevolent Bird Press of Delmar under the aegis of Alan Casline stepped up to produce a special Caffe Lena Edition of Telluric Voices, complete with a pasted-in broadside & DVD with a couple poems from the book (& others). His work is characteristically “Nature” poems & he began with a cluster of poems with images of mountains, crows, mist, rain & a walk among the rocks. He moved on to read 9 poems from Telluric Voices in which the text “strives to follow ‘The Path of the Hero’s Journey’ over the course of the seasons.” That’s not always obvious, but the Table of Contents gives each poem a “Timeframe.” (One comment on the printed text, no, 2 comments: the Table of Contents doesn’t indicate the page numbers, making it basically useless, & (2) the font is just a point too-small.) Many of the titles are in the Mahican language (with English equivalents) & there are some useful notes referencing native concepts & language.

Ken Hada teaches at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, is the Director of the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival at ECU. His poems, like those of Obeedúid~, are grounded in Nature (with the capital N), such as “Thunder in the Morning,” “Storm on a Mountain Ridge,” & a poem to all the Trolls, “Yellow Cottonwoods.” He also read from his collection Spare Parts (Mongrel Empire Press, 2010), including 2 poems that had been read by Garrison Keillor on NPR’s The Writers Almanac, “Old Men,” & Mormon Missionaries Pay Me a Visit.” Another favorite (not read on the radio) he included was “Streaking at Bible Camp.” He concluded with a poem from his newest work, The River White: A Confluence of Brush & Quill (Mongrel Empire Press, 2011) a collaboration with his brother Duane Hada whose watercolors are an integral part of this journal of a trip down the Ozark’s White River in words & images.

We took a short break, then Carol Graser was back with the hysterical poem of “The Haiku” as a character. Joe Krausman has the theatrical ability to present a poem in the voice of the wife of a gambler’s wife, then another in the voice of a bull. Susan Riback read a meditation on “Living Alone,” then another on noticing “Lovers at the Next Table.” Rodney Parrot was a new voice here but said he had a bunch of poetry chapbooks out & read from The Pleasure of Moving Through 3 Dimensions. Frequent reader here Carole Kenyon read a long, funny piece, “Libertarian’s Lament.” I hadn’t seen W.D. Clarke in a while & his ballad “The Lieutenant’s Confession” (about a massacre in Saipan) reminded me why I missed his work.

New voice Melissa Anderson, a young poet heading off to college, blew me away with “The Princess Poem” with a good-humored, looking-to-the-future leaving-the-nest poem, powerful words well performed. Katie Leach followed with “Take 2,” another leaving/revolt poem — go for it! Alan Casline has been researching the database of the Altamont Enterprise & contrasted old items with his own made-up items about the current poetry scene, followed by a poem for Michael Czarnecki, “Does a Disaster Have a Side?” Another young poet, Nick, began with a piece on the relics of himself, “An Offering,” then a Nature/Zen poem from his reading of the works of Shinkichi Takahashi. Bob Sharkey‘s “After Poem” was a ramble through the latest massacre, the Poets in the Park (& the after party) & on to the nature of relationships. Sally Rhoades began with “New Poems” about the recent local reading by Galway Kinnell, then about her trip to read at the Woody Guthrie Festival “48 Hours in Oklahoma.” Barbara Garro brought it all home with the prosey “Biofiliia” & “Brooding & Melancholy.”

Ah, Caffé Lena, with featured poets & great regional open mic poets every 1st Wednesday, 7:30PM, Phila St. in Saratoga Springs — no horses allowed.