Caffè Lena, September 3

I haven’t been able to make it up here to historic Caffè Lena in Saratoga Springs for a couple months but tonight the stars (not the horses) were aligned (unfortunately my favorite restaurants were closed for a post-racing break). The featured poets, Mike Jurkovic & Paul Pines were worth the trip.

But first a bit of the open mic, with our host Carol Graser beginning by reading a poem by one of our great gone poets Gwendolyn Brooks.

A.C. Everson brought chocolate kisses for her & Carol’s birthdays, then read a funny monologue as a hearing-impaired telephone operator. Alan Catlin started with a poem that is a favorite of equinophile Lyn Lifshin, “Dreaming of Horses” then read “Why I Don’t Write Like James Franco.” B.K. Tuon read a memoir piece, “Lessons,” about teaching his cousins to fight. Jonathan Hefter read a couple poems about “elders,” both written as gifts, “A Man Sitting” & “With Age.” Tim Snider likes to rhyme, read “Old School: Bandana” & “Limerick for a Clown” written for Robin Williams.

Mike Jurkovic is out & about promoting his new chapbook from Post Traumatic Press (Woodstock) Eve’s Venom, but started with other poems, jumping quickly from one untitled piece to another, before getting into the poems from Eve’s Venom. His poems are short, none more than a page, often 1st-person narratives, with a surrealistic twist, such an an encounter with “The Girl and her Parachute” or the hyper-real traffic incident described in “Plum Colored V-Neck” or the “Bio-Hazard” of being on Amtrak. He also included some other poems not in the book like a poem on Blaise Pascal “Writers Almanac” & the equally writerly collaborative piece written with Marina Mati in an emergency room “Poem with Marina.” So glad that Mike made it this far north to bring his poems to Lena’s.

Paul Pines on the other hand is a North Country homey, now. He read exclusively from his compelling new book Fishing on the Pole Star (Dos Madres Press, 2014) that he described as “a narrative distillation of years of fishing…” taking us on a tour beginning with breakfast & the ethics of fishing in “A Family at Sea.” From there to “Columbus Point Meditation,” “Walking the Beach with Captain Brad,” “Conception Island,” & one of my favorites, “Live Bait Buddha.” “Deep Drop Fishing” brought the poet back to other fishing sites in his past. “The Lure Bordello” has a Jungian theme in addition to it’s joking punch-line, & the poet as psychotherapist is apparent in “The Fisherman as Psychotherapist’ & “Old Man Pan” (another Jungian archetype). He ended back at the ethics of fishing with the stunning poem “Marlin Strike.” Perhaps it is his background in jazz, but whatever it is Paul always gives “good reading,” to paraphrase Paul Krassner.

After a book-buying break, Carol brought us back to the open mic with her own poem, the prayer-like “Ascend into Blue.” Joe Hesch read what described as “an old man poem” about kids drumming “What Goes Around,” then a meditation on mattresses “Curbside Memoir.” Jackie Craven read a couple poems written in a poetry class, both tasty, “Obloquy to an Olive” & “To My Tongue.” Ellen Finn’s intense poem “Dear Brooke” was written as a dream letter. Carl offered a splash of rhyme & humor with “Biloxi Singles Call” & “Advice & a Whistle to a Lady Going to Egypt.” Catherine Norr began with the descriptive poem “Magic Bubbles” then to a memoir of thunderstorms in New Orleans “Laurel Street.” Therese Broderick also read a poem about a childhood memory “Early Driving Lesson.” I read an older poem “Rain” that references Pindar & Black Elk, then a jazz sound-poem “Saturday Hawk.” Cheryl A. Rice said she is almost finished exploring the idea of 9/11, read a recent poem on that theme “Blue.”

I haven’t seen Thomas Dimopoulos read in some time, a former regular at the QE2 open mic in Albany years ago, tonight he read a piece pondering the shadows of memory about an old man waiting for the dinner bell. The poet who signed up as “Storm Cat” began with a poem about hawks “Totem Song” then a love poem of sorts “Witch Goddess.” Barbara Garro read a prosy piece about having a “massive migraine” & losing her jacket while on a bus tour of the “Dingle Peninsula,” then the brief, breezy “Dying.”

Once again a evening of varied & engaging poetry at Caffè Lena, Phila St., in Saratoga Springs, NY — 1st Wednesday of the month, 7:30 PM, $5.00 — featured poets & an open mic.

This post originally appeared on Dan Wilcox’s blog on September 7, 2014.