George Wallace

Third Thursday Poetry Night, August 16

at the Social Justice Center, with the tour bus circling the block looking for a parking space, we had enough poets to begin & few enough to read 2 poems each (if you wanted to). Our muse for the night, in honor of our featured poet, George Wallace, who works with the Walt Whitman center in Huntington, Long Island, was old Uncle Walt himself; I read his lesser-known poem, “Spontaneous Me.”

Sylvia Barnard has been reading poems from her book manuscript & tonight read “In Memoriam,” a recent poem to an old love. Bob Sharkey said he was recently reading a John Ashbery poem & mis-read a line (hmm, how does one know one has mis-read a John Ashbery line?) which led to a poem on a theme by Joe Krausman (on an older poet with a younger woman). Maria Diotte was back with 2 poems, “Branches” on words & lines & perception like a tree, & the notebook jottings of “New York City, October 25, 2008” observing the scene around her.

Wandering in as if from a scene from 20 years ago down the block at the QE2 was the lovely poet Mary Ann Murray. Both poems she read tonight dealt with tortured love: “The Connection” in “a rhyme-scheme of sonnet” & “Sugar” finds the heart “beating with a mind of its own” while trying to sleep — poems much like (& even better perhaps) her work that I admired years ago. Who says you can’t go home again? Tess Lecuyer was also around in those days of yesteryear with Mary Ann, but has stayed (mostly) in the scene here, & tonight read a “really old” poem she has “been doing stuff to,” “She Travels Down” on water & what it imagines. I read a new poem I’ve been trying out at open mics, “Vitiligo, or Michael Jackson & Me.”

George Wallace was Suffolk County’s first Poet Laureate, had read in the Poets in the Park series a few years ago & earlier in the year joined us for the Walt Whitman Birthday reading. He began with a paean to garbage men, an exuberant piling of images of these civil servants. He followed that with an equally enthusiastic poem, “Sleeping Beauty’s Revenge,” an ars poetica, he says, writing about his muse. The poem “Belt Buckles & Bibles” was written recently, mixing Kansas City & Jackson Pollock, in jazz rhythms & motion like an action painter, followed my a New York City Saturday night subway poem, in much the same key & rhythm. Another NYC poem wove together the BQE in an elegy for NY poet Jimmy Schuyler, bringing in the artists & poets of the 1950s.  The poem beginning “Little Miss Shit Storm walks into a bar…” was a brief vignette that was no joke. “Help Us Put an End to this Shit” was a reaction to the Occupy Wall Street, a political poem framed around a encounter on the streets of lower Manhattan. He ended with a “driving poem,” a mythic narrative with a redhead in a cherry-red ’57 Chrysler Imperial without brakes. It was bop prosody & a high-energy reading all the way through. At that rate George would get back to Long Island in 20 minutes.

& we will be back here at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY every third Thursday of the month at 7:30 with a featured poet & an open mic for anyone with a poem in her or his pocket; $3.00 donation supports the Poetry Motel Foundation & the Social Justice Center.