Harmony Cafe

Poetry Night at Harmony Cafe, June 10

This is a weekly reading & open mic, quintessentially Woodstock. I used to get to Woodstock for poetry events on a fairly regular basis, but the Albany scene has been keeping me very busy of late. So it was good to make the trip, hang out with old friends & poets, & I was most pleased to be the night’s featured poet.

This series is hosted by poet Mike Platsky, who began tonight’s open mic with some trenchant quotes by the Maurice Sendak, then a couple of tribute poems, the first, “Plain Ole Joe” for his father, & “Propper’s Yard” for the occasion of spreading the ashes of the late Woodstock poet, Dan Propper. Teresa Costa, who runs her own poetry event over in Kingston at the Bohemian Book Bin, began with “Summer Storm,” then “Threatening Poem,” “With Black Elk,” & a piece on violets, “Why Not Write.” Victoria Sullivan gave us a performance of political satire, in character as the mistress of former Vice-President Dick Cheney. Donald Lev had a variety of short poems, from a funny take on a memorial ceremony (“A Pillar of Small Press”), to Aldof Eichmann’s last glass of wine, to a dream poem, to “Barking up a Hidden Tree” (on the pirate Jean Lafitte) to a quatrain about the moon.

(photo by Dina Pearlman)

I was the featured poet, though listed in local publicity as “Dan Wilber,” a useful heteronym perhaps.  I had planned my reading, as I always do, with some possible alternative paths, based on a read of the audience, time, etc., so of course missed some poems I had wanted to read, but think I covered all the bases. I began with a selection from Poeming the Prompt (which later sold 3 books). Then, since this was Woodstock after all, had to read “The Hundred Thousand Ten Thousand Million Buddhas” (based on reading the Lotus Sutra). Next the recent poem “Counting Moons,” followed by a commentary on Suburbia, the Coyote poems, numbers 1, 2 & 4. A little relationship humor is good too, so I read “different tastes in music,” followed by a political piece, “Baseball in Palestine.” I ended with a recent revolt against censorship, “Delete this Poem.”

Right back into the open mic, with Leslie Gerber in his colorful Guatemala hat reading a string of short poems, including, among others “Ice Cream Love,” “Coincidences” which mixed together cancer, the rain forest & Beethoven, & a sub-series of epigram poems.

Pamela Twinning is a Woodstock poet I have heard only rarely, so I was glad to hear her read 4 of her poems, “Breaking Fast,” “Desire” (rangeing from “I” to the Universe & back again), a poem for the rock star Captain Beefheart “Crow Dancer” & a love poem “Dressing for Dinner.” Ron Whiteurs was up with some of his outrageous, irreverent rhymes, “No Room for God,” “Ron’s Hymnal” (based on the hymn “All Things Bright & Beautiful”), “Soccer Team” (drooling, “he’s so sexy”), & “The Gutter Song.” I’ve been reading Andy Clausen‘s latest book, Home of the Blues: More Selected Poems (Museum of American Poetics Publication, Boulder, CO) so I was pleased to see him read, a name-dropping prose piece on the last time he saw Allen Ginsberg & why the Left has failed America.

Christian read about a cross-country trip, searching, searching (“Departures”). Richard goes to lots of poetry readings on the arm of Teresa Costa but I can’t remember him reading (it does rub off, they say), as he read his own piece on cars “Auto-Eroticism” & a couple pieces by Saul Eliot. Brian Dorn travels far & wide with his rhymes & I was honored he came down to Woodstock for my reading with a couple of poems of advice, “Bear It & Grin” & “The Peace Poem.” I missed the name of the next reader, introduced as “Doctor/Author,” which may be just as well since he read a long, obvious, apocalyptic fantasy. Woodstock fixture Shiv Mirabito read from a new book Field of Love, a triplet of haikus & the last poem in the book “Finally.”

Well, like I said, this is Woodstock, a town with a grand tradition of poets who only show up for their own readings, leave early, etc., so I wasn’t disappointed tonight when the last reader, Ed Allen, arrived at the end & spent the time before he read going through his poems, not listening — as they say in France, the more things change they more they are the same (or was that Heraclitus?).

In any event I had a great time (thank you Mike Platsky) with poet friends I don’t see frequently enough, some great hugs, even dinner with a lovely, talented artist/poet/friend (you know who you are).

As for this series, it continues every Monday with a featured poet & Woodstock open mic at the Harmony Cafe at Wok & Roll in Woodstock, NY.