Wednesday, May 9, 2018

National Poetry Month, Personally

NPM 2018 was a busy time. My Beloved keeps joking that, thirty seconds after I said I wouldn’t do any readings in 2018, I accepted my first reading gig, and April had some additional fine examples of my hypocrisy in it.

I was one of about 30 poets whose submitted work had been framed and put on display for the month in the Starr Library in Rhinebeck. On the 7th, about half of us read our poems to an enthusiastic crowd that I guessed to be around 75, a veritable stadium-full of listeners. I got handshakes and hugs for my poem about ‘pulling up your god panties,’ and for a moment beforehand I’d been afraid I was a bit out of my usual element. Many of the other poets were more conventional, rhyming and reminiscing. The warm response to my work was a great relief.

On the 10th, Teresa Costa’s W.O.M.P.s (Word Of Mouth Poetry) reading featured two of my favorite people and poets, Rebecca Schumejda and Thom Francis. I don’t hear them often enough, and it was a treat to not only get full features from each of them, but a little from one of the other 'Three Guys...', Dan Wilcox. A great evening of words and friends.

Speaking of Albany, on the 21st, I went up to the Emerald City to participate in the annual Albany Wordfest marathon, now going by the reclaimed name, “Readings Against The End Of The World.” Before there was Wordfest, there was Tom Nattell. One of the original “Three Guys From Albany,” Tom passed away in January 2005, leaving a legacy of activism and art. “Readings Against The End Of The World,” contained elements of both. I read at 11:00 a.m., to a sparse but lively crowd. Hosted for the entire twenty-four hours by Mary Panza, I recall the times I hung out all night with the crew, snoozing on the floors of the gallery on Lark Street until the 6:00 a.m. readers arrived. I am not that hardy these days.

Joanne Pagano Weber invited me to read on the 22nd as part of the second half of an afternoon of performance at the Greenkill Gallery in Kingston. The first half was an original play by Joanne, “Emerging Man,” including Michael McCabe in a featured role, a triumphant return to the stage after many moons away. Sadly, ninety percent of the audience decided to leave at intermission, leaving Allison Koffler-Wise and I a rather intimate group to read to. It was not a surprise. Audiences often use such breaks to make their escape from the imagined horrors of a poetry reading. However, the escapees did include the play’s director and the artist whose work on the walls of the gallery inspired the play. Duly noted. Thanks to Joanne for all support and praise for me and Michael.

Finally, on the 29th, Guy Reed and I headed to Arkville for the Writers in the Mountains “Writers Unbound” Fifth Annual Literary Festival, held at the cozy Union Grove Distillery. There is an active group of longtime writers here, inspired by maple syrup and wood as much as the everyday drama of our lives, and I enjoy their devotion to the written word. I picked up a copy of Laurie Boris’s latest novel, The Call, a baseball tale, and so far, it’s a great, easy read with heart. I look forward to attending more events with this group.

Non-Poetry events in April included Rhinebeck High School’s ambitious production of Mary Poppins, featuring Jonah Carleton, the son of my old friend Ron, in the lead role of Bert, blues phenom Quinn Sullivan at Bearsville, and my Beloved’s many stagehand gigs at Marist College. We also had a chance to see Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine, an independent film about a theater group, joined by an American gospel choir, traveling and performing in both Israel and Palestine. All in all, an auspicious start to the warmer months, and not very cruel at all!!

 (Photo by Don Levy)

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