Bernadette Mayer

Poets of the Earth, Water, Tree and Sky, August 9

This was the 5th Annual “Poets at the Arboretum” invitational in which poets who have read here before are invited back as a cluster-fuck, I mean group feature — there were 11 of us! & a few open mic poets. It just goes to prove the old axiom of poetry readings: if you want to have big audience, have lots of featured poets, if no one else shows up at least the other poets are there. We each had 10 minutes & each of us “filled it up” in our own fashion, some seeing it as a pitcher to fill up (sometimes to overflowing), others seeing the time as a frame to stay within.

Our host, Alan Casline, was first in the alphabetical list, & presented an “interesting fact” about each reader as the night went along. His own selection of readings included short segments strung together as “Fish Tales Loon” then an old poem from 1975 & a new one inspired by Bernadette Mayer, “Why I Live in the Country.” A.C. Everson (“Breaking My Heart”) began with old poems, moved to new, moving through burning her wedding gown (“Wedded Miss”), on to a recent poem (“Sorry Walt”) about being distracted by stuff happening in the Park during the Walt Whitman birthday reading. Phillip Good actually had his 3 poems in a folder rather than folded up in his pocket as he usually does, the Altamont Fair poem “Always Under Weather,” “Old East Nassau Cemetery” & the recent “Landscape Poem.”

Bernadette Mayer also read 3 poems, beginning with the nostalgic love poem “Under the Boardwalk”then on to one on marriage & a rollicking pile-up of words & rocks.  Marion Menna‘s poems were a tightly gathered 10 minute selection of Nature poems (about ducks & flowers & nettles & starlings), about writing (“My Good Left Arm”) & memory poems, “Voyages,” “Rockaway 1948,” & the word play “Axioms for Children.” Obeeduid began with poems of memory, of his mother & other “ghosts”, then some poems from his pending (soon) book from Foot Hills Publishing, Telluric Voices, following up on the earlier version from Benevolent Bird Press.

R.A. Pavoldi made a rare appearance with poems on crickets, the Summer Solstice, & August, & ending with one “For Lorca.”

After a short break to give our butts a break, as well as to pick at some of the leftover food, Susan Riback pushed the limits with as many short poems as she could, including poems by other such as Mary Oliver. I much preferred Susan’s own work, such as her exploration of the Lewis & Clark expedition (“I Am an Unknown Territory”), the poems from her Pudding House chapbook (2000) Gratitude, & her recent poem “Drawing Hearts.”  Sharon Stenson was very brief with a fable on Freedom & the story of a shooting in the context of a rhetoric book, “The City Street.” Tim Verhaegen was grim & hilarious as usual with a personal essay on his brother’s ashes, then his 143rd poem “Her Great Big Window.” I used the date, the 68th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki Japan once again perform Tom Nattell‘s poem “Hiroshima” then a trio of my own on the theme of nukes & death & a little nuke humor with “Nukes for Piece.”

Then on to the open mic poets. Faith Green made a rare appearance with a series of short, mostly untitled, aphoristic pieces, but I was particularly taken with was perhaps a title or a first line, “Our Simulated Virtual Romance Not Expected to Last” & a short piece with yarn as the metaphor for life. Joe Krausman‘s introduction was longer than the 2 poems he read, but then, once again, was called back by host Alan Casline to read a third piece, “Facing Blank,” in rhyme. Arlene Crawford said she was a fiction writer but the piece she read, “It’s Not Funny,” was a personal essay or just a “pondering” about losing her funny bone. Actually, a nice way to end, laughing.

This series takes place at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY on the 2nd Friday of most months (or thereabouts), until November. Sponsored by Rootdrinker Institute, the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, & the Delmar Writers Group.