Paulette Swartzfager

Pine Hollow Arboretum Open Mic, May 23

’tis the season for this series at the Visitors Center, with our host Alan Casline, & featured poet Paulette Swartzfager, originally from New Orleans, now in Rochester. But first the open mic.

I had arrived after most others, but still found the #1 slot open so I was the first reader with some old “Gloucester Notes” & a recent poem playing on “you.” Mark W. O’Brien’s 1st poem was titled “Botany 101” but was on the need to keep scribbling, followed by “How Is It You are Weary Then?” & a piece on colors & death & “you.” Bob Sharkey’s descriptive piece “Boiler Room” was about an exhibit at the Northampton Museum, then he read a cento using lines from Best American Poetry “Lucky to Have Come This Far.” Phillip Good read 2 poems, “Salt is the Spice of Life” & “In May” which combined birds & baseball & Roswell, NM.

Paulette Swartzfager began with a sort of prayer, “Let Us.” She explained that most of her poems are short & sometimes use terms or images from Catholicism, but also that of the protestor & culture jamming, then on to the poem “Distance” & “At the Chopping Block Bar” about drinking with Tennessee Williams in New Orleans in the early 1970s. “Sacrifice” was an anti-war poem, followed by the performance piece “Harmony Street.” A couple of auto-biographical pieces were “I’m Off the Grid” & “Crossing the 17th St. Canal into St. Bernard” (slipping past the guards after Hurricane Katrina.  She ended with “Mississippi,” the River not the “Father of Rivers” but “she.”

After the break, Mike Connor came back with “Storm Stranger,” “Spring Canvas” (the colors return), & his response to John Donne “One Man Is an Island.” Brian Dorn had a “you” poem, “Ghost Town,” & a poem with rain, & searching, “Whatever Will Be.” Howard Kogan brought us back to our 1st grade with the 84 year-old “Dick & Jane,” then a tribute to his 28 years of heating with wood — & the snakes in the woodpile — “Love & Wood.” Our host, Alan Casline read a tornado poem “Bear Has the Power of the Whirlwind,” then “Different Signs” (a play on Frost heaves) & the love poem “One Day of Morning Rain.” Joe Krausman brought the night to a close with a trio of short poems, the meditation on being “3 score & 10” “Coming of Age,” then “4 Short Things,” & a poem for the holiday weekend “Decoration Day” about a woman in a nursing home & her memories.

This series continues once a month on Fridays at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Ave., Slingerlands, NY, for a donation — a featured poet (or 2) & an open mic for whomever shows up.

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