Thursday, December 1, 2016

CAPS Reading on Dec. 2 with Guy Reed

**Where Am I?**

Greetings! Since June, I have had every intention of updating the blog, keeping readers up to date on the latest goings-on in the Hudson Valley poetry scene. I clearly have not.

Although the focus of my writing energies has been on my memoir-in-progress, as you poets know, poetry always happens. I've written about a dozen this year, but have no conscious recollection of how they got here. The 'when' I can tell by the dates scribbled at the end of each.

I tried to put together yet another version of a chapbook containing poems drawn from childhood, this time combined with the few horse poems that I feel are strong enough to see the light of day. As of today, I've missed two deadlines I set for myself, but I would rather miss a hundred deadlines than send out a manuscript that I didn't feel was the best I could do, with both the material and the order of poems, too, never my strong suit. It remains towards the top of the pile of projects in progress at my left on my very crowded desk.

I enthusiastically started a collection of poems inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies of 1919, and the performers therein. I've so far completed a dozen poems on that theme. How to proceed has been puzzling me for months. I sometimes lean towards a more avant garde approach, inspired by the intriguing work of my friends Anne Gorrick and Adam Tedesco. Lately though, I believe I may swing back again to a style I am more familiar with. The existing poems are narrative in nature, and I think something too different from that style would never hang together as one work. And so, this project too languishes in the pile.

I've all but abandoned my Valley of the Dolls poems. I spent much time tinkering, folding, shuffling, but have never been satisfied with the results. At some point I believe I will start again, from scratch, but for now, the yellowed paperback that inspire them and the aborted efforts themselves sink lower in the pile.

Perhaps the memoir is ruining me for all other projects. I am a hundred pages into a comprehensive rough draft, combing all previous efforts and fresh writing from my summer workshop with Marge Piercy and Ira Wood. I am treading time now, scanning my old diaries in order to construct a timeline to continue writing from Ultimately, I hope to have a final manuscript of writing to set aside for a month or two, then rewrite with some sort of grace and art, after the heat of getting the facts down (as I recall them now, and interpreted them in diaries then) has subsided.

Rereading the diaries, I am so glad I wrote down what I did, despite the large gaps of time missing at key points. In building who I am now, I have forgotten a lot of who I was then. Not an entirely despicable character, but younger, dumber, more naive than of course any of us admit to being in our twenties. There is an art to memoir, I suppose, of picking and choosing which threads of your life will best keep to the story you wish to tell. I am sorting now. Some who figured large then may be missing from the final draft. It will be for the sake of storytelling only, not to devalue contributions then.

There is the emotional draining of reliving all this. It was a difficult time. It was adulthood by fire for me, and I wouldn't be here if I wasn't there. My Beloved would be somewhere else, maybe happier, maybe dead, but here is where we are. I hope the story will be finished, and of interest to some. It is the only time in my life I wish to sort out on paper.

I don't know anyone who won't be thrilled to see 2016 done with. Too many losses, too much uncertainty. Where will we be as a country a year from now? Where will the arts be? Art survives when hope fails. Artists speak when others are without words. I will continue to speak. I hope some of you continue to listen, and that some of you are moved to action, or at least anger, by my words. It's my thing. It's my art. I do what I can.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

**RANDOM WRITING Rides Again!**

The next RANDOM WRITING poetry workshop series will be at:

The ARTBAR, 674 Broadway, Kingston, NY

4 Sessions: 

Sept. 14, Oct. 12, Nov. 9, Dec. 14; $75

RANDOM WRITING Poetry Workshops combine Inspiration, Word Play, Text Maneuvers & Peer Feedback to make poems sharper, brighter and BETTER!

-INSPIRATION: provocative prompts, 'hot-button' topics drawn from personal experience & unexpected sources-- right under our noses! 

-WORD PLAY: dictionary games, classical & modern forms, aural/oral gymnastics! 

-TEXT MANEUVERS: altering the physical material a poem is written on, & being open to what future work might be suggested by resulting accidents!

-PEER FEEDBACK: refines work in a sensitive, honest group, gives poets perspective on work impossible to obtain working alone. 

Other RANDOM WRITING topics include:

-Open Mics & Other Literary Events!

To Register: Call (845) 339-8686, or Email

Friday, March 11, 2016

**Poem: "Facebook Wants" **

Facebook Wants
Facebook wants to know what I’m up to.
Facebook wants my Social Security number for verification.
Facebook wants to know the color of my eyes.
Facebook wants to know how many fingers he’s holding up.
Facebook wants me to read the chart on the wall behind him.
Facebook wants to be the change I wish for.
Facebook wants my number and maybe we can get coffee sometime.
Facebook wants to know what I’m wearing.
Facebook wants all good Americans to come to the aid of their country.
Facebook wants tan shoes with pink shoelaces.
Facebook wants peace in our time.
Facebook wants to know the name of my tailor.
Facebook wants me to raise my arms and cough.
Facebook wants me to reconsider.
Facebook wants to get a kitten.
Facebook wants a god of his very own.
Facebook wants a night out on the town.
Facebook wants you kids to just get along.
Facebook wants pizza, Sicilian with anchovies and black olives.
Facebook wants the Beatles to get back together.
Facebook wants me to know he’s doing fine, fine, kicking around the old
          homestead, straightening up, and was wondering
what am I doing?
CAR  3/10/16

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


    In the past, I have attempted collaborations with some musician friends of mine. Rather than working together, I offered them a handful of poems, and they either ran or didn't with an idea inspired by my words. Generally the results were far removed in mood and style from my original notions, although it's always been fascinating to see someone else's take and elaboration on your creation.

    Although I have prided myself on having excellent pitch ever since my elementary school music teacher, Mrs. Deutsch, told me I had it, I have never had the urge to create my own music. When I write, I hear the rhythms of the language, the flow of the words, and nothing more. I admire songwriters who can write both words and music, but they are definitely doing something different. Kissing cousins, but not identical twins.

    I still recall a one-time attendee of the Hudson Valley Folk Guild Kingston Coffeehouse who, while nervously introducing himself, remarked that he used to be a poet but that now he was a songwriter. The implication was clearly that his art was more complete now that it contained both words and music. Oddly, I don't recall his performance.

    My friend Guy and I are in the early stages of putting together a chapbook of poems by both of us. I consider this a collaboration of sorts, although the work we use will not be new. I have suggested a conversational format, with us sitting down and tossing poems back and forth until they fall into some organically logical order. It will be an experiment.

    It will also be an extension of the conversation Guy and I have had about poetry and life for the last fifteen. We've been to countless Dodge Festivals (RIP), and even more open mics and literary events throughout the Hudson Valley. We have never tried to compose a poem together, and I can't think of a truly meaningful way for me to do that with him, or with anyone. My poems are personal and rise from my memories, reactions and experiences. To mingle those images with someone else's doesn't seem to me at the moment as a way to producing substantive work.

    That being said, I do know of some amazing work that Will Nixon is doing with other poets. He's been writing collaborative poems in what I understand to be a back-and-forth process, something like an 'exquisite corpse'. They are rich, vivid and highly entertaining, but pretty far removed from my own poetic practices. In recent years, I have made an effort towards experimentation, but this has progressed more slowly than I might like.

    And in the meantime, the poems keep on coming in the old way, one line sticking in my head, urging me to get it down, following the stream of words and images trickling out of my untethered brain, until I reach the conclusion that my subconscious was aiming for all along. It's not pretty, but it generally works for me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

**Video: Albany Wordfest '12**

(courtesy of Albany Poets:

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Lyrics Versus Poetry-- The Debate Continues

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now
-from “Lazarus,” David Bowie

     With the recent passing of the kaleidoscopic David Bowie, the notion of lyrics as poetry crossed my mind. Cryptic images in Blackstar, Bowie’s last album, have suddenly become blatantly prophetic as details of his illness emerge. Among his many talents, Bowie had a powerful command of words, and this will contribute to his body of work outlasting his physical body for many years.

     But I don’t believe that lyrics can always stand on their own as good poetry. They are conceived of as half of an expression, with music being the other half. I know that when I write a poem, I don’t hear the possibility of music, only the rhythm of the words. The unconscious goal of my poems is to imitate the rhythm and breath of human speech. Bearing that in mind guides me in line breaks, word order and stream of thought and image. The songwriter must hear differently, hears the words as riding on a tune, a flexing helix of languages. Much as I admire that art, it is not mine.

     At a folk music coffeehouse in Kingston years ago, a guitar player introduced himself onstage by explaining that he used to be a poet, but that now he was a songwriter! The implication that songwriting is a natural progression, and perhaps even the art of maturity still amuses me. In my mind, they are two separate endeavors, and both can be practiced well into one’s so-called Golden Years.

     I have from time to time attempted a sort of collaboration with some of my musician friends. Basically it involved my offering a selection of poems to the musician, and he or she playing with the words to convert them to lyrics, then fitting a tune to them. It wasn’t truly songwriting as much as providing a source for inspiration. The results have usually strayed quite far from my original poem, but I am always flattered when someone expresses an interest in working together.

     One of the things I enjoy about writing poetry is the solitary effort involved. David Bowie wrote songs and sang them for millions of people around the world during his all-too-brief life. Poets rarely enjoy such exposure, especially in modern times. But I’m OK with that.