Susan Riback

Caffè Lena Open Mic, April 2

The start of National Poetry Month* (& National Frog Month) & this was the first of many open mics/readings in the region, with Carol Graser as our host. But first she introduced Susan Hahn to talk about “Saratoga Reads,” the community reading program, & the next read, And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (the title an oblique reference to William Blake’s “The Nurse’s Song”).

Alan Catlin, the first of the open mic poets, kept us in town with “Listening to an All-Russian Concert at SPAC … (that took us on to thoughts about his mother), & a poem about Sandy the Bartender “The 300 Hundred Club.” I haven’t heard Margaret Bryant read in quite some time & she gave us a “more conventional face” to “Early Spring.” Tim Sneider read a couple of his mother’s poems (she would’ve been 95). Keeping on the theme of mothers, Carol Starr read “Apple Pie Memories” then a poem about differences, as a Special Ed teacher, “To Peter.” Nedra from the “Saratoga Reads” project read us a little of Hafiz to encourage our participation in all things exotic. Alan Casline read from his spontaneous pocket notebook verse the 4th & 5th choruses from “Ottawa Blues.”

The first of the night’s featured poets, Susan Riback, said she had read here 10 years ago in the early months of this series & so tonight in honor of that read a poetic retrospective of her life & poems, beginning, of course, with “My Birth” (she was born early). “Lessons from Norway” was about her youth. She recited Wendell Berry’s poem “The Peace of Wild Things” & a poem about her early days as a nurse “Will I Begin to Cry?” From her 2003 book Shaking the Sand Out: Poems of Motherhood she read “Words of My Angel Face” & “Dirty Laundry Blues.” “Wedding Anniversary” was a bitter-sweet look back. She ended with “Insomnia” & the funny “I Tried Love On.”

Catherine Norr began her set with an a cappella spiritual that she had written, then on to a selection of poems from her recent book Return to Ground. These included “My Mother’s Legs,” “Mississippi Riverside Chat,” “Color Barrier,” “La Belle France” (“a snap shot”), “Giving Thanks,” “Return to Ground,” “To Decide,” “Shoptalk,” “Seeing a Pattern,” “Within the Mandela,” & “Awaking & All That Jazz.” Two fine sets of poems from 2 fine poets.

After the break, Carol Graser returned to read her lush poem “The Porcupine.” Mark O’Brien followed with a poem about his mother’s beautiful legs, then a poem about a funeral for childhood pet parakeet.

Dale Going read a poem using the technical language of textiles about Impressionistic painting & dress at the Metropolitan Museum of Art “Complacencies of the Peignoir.” Jonathan Hefter read a long piece in rhyme written, he said, in the style of the comic essayist David Rakoff. Thomas Fisher followed with 2 poems by David Whyte, read in imitation of Whyte’s English accent. Sue from “Saratoga Reads” read a bit of Rumi before giving out a DVD. Harry Hoy said his poem “The Old In & Out” was an “out-there” work-in-progress. Ellen Finn was back with a couple of very dark poems read without introduction, the violent “In the Darkness” & “When Death is at Your Doorstep.”

Judith Prest read an old poem “Telegrams from God” & a new one “What Gets Us in The End.” Rodney Parrott began with a quote from A.R. Ammons then a tale of mine workers dancing the night away. I followed with my poem based on a quote from The Nation columnist Patricia Williams “Peacocks in the Driveway.” W.D. Clarke delivered one of his funny-grim ballads of looking for gold out West, “The Chinaman’s Feet.” Effy Redman is often difficult to understand & her poems are complex as well, but worth the effort, both on her part & ours; her poem tonight was “Miscellaneous” which were images & scenes from childhood, perhaps one of our bravest poets.

Leticia is the producer of the film “Life On the Run,” with a lengthy introduction to her poem “Shimmering in the Light.” Barbara Garro’s “Surprise Visitor” was a quirky piece about a lady with hats, then a poem considering life as a gift or as a can of worms. Therese Broderick’s poem “At the Flower Theme Park” was about her recent visit to the United Arab Emirates. Gillial Dawson ended the evening with a birthday poem.

The variety of work here is always stunning & tonight was no exception. & it happens every 1st Wednesday of the month at Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY, 7:30PM, $5.00 — cheap! — bring poems for the open mic.

* “In Albany EveryDay is Poetry Month”