Jaqueline Ahl

Chronogram Open Word, October 20

This series had been on the 1st Saturday of each month, now scheduled for the 3rd Saturday, at venues at 314 Wall St., Kingston, NY, now “Outdated – an antique cafe.” Tonight’s featured poets, hosted by Phillip Levine, were Jacqueline Ahl & a last-minute fill-in, Roberta Gould.

There was also an open mic, with our host, Phillip Levine, leading it off with his poem “Election” from 2004, in which he mentions his new-born daughter. & that daughter, Piper Levine, was here tonight & read some short poems & a short story “The Wingless Dragon.”

Tim Dwyer read a cluster of outdoors poems, “Walking by the Farm Field Late Summer” thinking of his father, “Summer Late August,” & a prose poem when his father also makes an appearance, “Raking the Leaves.” Cheryl A. Rice read a tender poem about Mary Panza’s late mother, “Day of the Dead.” I followed with “Another Tuesday” (a September 11 poem), & “Different Tastes in Music” from a new series.

The first of 2 featured poets, Jacqueline Ahl, read a number of her poems from the journals & anthologies in which they appeared, beginning with “Memories” from the Voices of the Valley collection of a few years back, then on to a sensuous piece about roadkill. “Poetry is a Vampire Monster Come to Get You in Your Sleep” responded to the “poetry-is-dead” school of academics. She painted a vivid portrait in rich images of the old farmhouse in which she lives in her poem “The Laws of What Happens.” In fact one of the fine characteristics of her poetry is the rich, concrete images that she uses. The poem “Ventriloquist” pondered what divine intervention means, while the longer, darker “Union” used the voices of women across history to talk about marriage. Driving & fucking were the topics of “Diesel & Drums,” & she wondered “What business do I have writing a Johnny Cash poem?” in her final poem, “The Room with 3 Walls.” It was a nicely planned out reading filled with those rich images, humor, sex, politics & intelligence.

Roberta Gould also used humor & images from the real world in her poems, but was more haphazard, selecting her poems as she read, mostly new, recent poems. There was a grand mix of topics & styles, though humor frequently played a part in the poems & many had the sound & feel of notebook entries (as so many of my poems stem from). “Thieves,” about misplacing false teeth, was described as “an oral nightmare,” while the similar poem “Casual Life” was about retracing one’s steps to find things. There were a number of “nature poems,” albeit quirky Roberta-Gould-style, including a couple of poems about bears, a translation of a Peruvian poet about caterpillars, & “Entymology Notes” & “Bugs” (on a predation experiment). There was the vivid string of images in the poem “Reverse” & the poem “For Cassandra” with the line “the punchline is your last line…” Most of her poems are short so there were many of them.

Stay tuned as this series has switched to the 3rd Saturday.