Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Weekend of Poetry, Prose, and Memories of Saipan

I attended two poetry readings and open mics this weekend-- Patuxent Arts Bridge's event on Saturday at Arts in the Glen in Glenwood, MD, and the Town Square series in Hampden, Baltimore on Sunday.  Both were well-attended events.  Patric Pepper, Jenny Keith, and Barrett Warner were the featured readers at Patuxent Arts Bridge's reading.  Patric read a few poems from his collection Zoned Industrial, which tends to focus on the lives and work of blue collar workers, as well as a few from an as yet unpublished collection.  Jenny's poems took on a variety of subjects, but all in a strong voice, images, and wonderful choice of words.  Barrett read a new autofiction piece based out of his recent experience recovering from tuberculosis.  It was, in a word, incredible.  Okay, three words:  incredible, magnificent, enthralling. 

I read two pieces during the open mic:  Jessup and Thoughts While Sitting Along the Lower Potomac.

At Town Square on Sunday, the featured readers were Arin Greenwood and Timmy Reed.  Arin read an excerpt from her novel Save the Enemy.  Timmy read a few poems and an interesting piece about holes, written in an objective, academic style, as if prepared by an anthropologist from another world who is trying to make sense of why people dig holes.  Arin, as it turns out, spent 5 1/2 years on Saipan.  We shared a few memories of Saipan (I was there for four days in June 2007).  I bought her novel Tropical Depression which is set partly on an island modeled after Saipan. 

I read three poems during the open mic:  Four Geographers Find the Quintessential Baltimore Rowhouse, Walking Along U Street, and Potomac River:  Sunday Morning.  Arin really liked Walking Along U Street and offered to pitch it to the editors of the Huffington Post DC blog even though they don't include poetry on the blog (she's an editor for Huffington Post DC).  Alas, the editors of the blog said no. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014


There were painted screens,
two up, one down,
each  with a quiet country scene
of trees, stream, and deer,
from which to look out
onto the concrete and asphalt.
And formstone, of course
(the polyester of brick, as John Waters put it),
because even fake stone is classier
than the porous brick that sweats and weeps
behind so many Baltimore fa├žades.
A ceramic cat clung motionless
between the two upper windows,
as if uncertain to which screen to leap,
and which deer might make a better meal.
And, there was an old woman
who came out onto her proud marble steps,
imperious in her floral house dress,
and asked “Why are you taking pitchers of my house, hon?
It’s my neighbors who’ve been causing problems.”

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fun Times at the Evil Grin Poetry Series

I attended and read at the Evil Grin Poetry Series, held on the second Saturday of each month at Ahh! Coffee in Annapolis, Maryland.  This monthly gathering was organized by Maryland poets, Rocky Jones and Cliff Lynn.  Last night was my second time attending and reading.  There were no featured readers for this month's gathering, but Rocky had organized a couple of fun, experimental, ad hoc group poetry exercises.  One was a magnetic board and words which folks used to create a poem over the course of the evening, with individuals each adding a line.  The created poem was then read at the end of the evening.  For the other exercise, Rocky had brought a device that records words picked up through the microphone, plays back, picks up more, etc.  He used it, along with five other volunteers, to create a poem.  Rocky spoke the first word.  When it was played back by the recorder, the second person spoke their word, which was added to the string, and so on.  At the end of the process, you had a six word line for a poem.  The process was repeated to create a four line poem.  I acted as scribe.  Hopefully, Rocky will post the poem somewhere, along with the poem created on the magnetic board.

Because there were no featured readers, the night was entirely open mic.  There were enough us to have a nice variety of poems, but few enough of us that we could fit in two rounds of open mic.  Readers include Minnie Warburton, J.P. Cashla, Devon Taylor, Brian Smith, Rocky Jones, myself, and a couple other folks whose names I cannot remember.  I started with the two poems of mine that appear in issue #2 of the Free State Review, "I Was Priest to Your Confession" and "The Potato Eaters," and finished my first round with "In Memory of Aunt Shirley."  In round 2 of the open mic I read "Skimino," "Claudia Greets Me in the Morning," and "When I Pray, I Will Lay Down Words." 

I enjoy the opportunities to share my poems, get some feedback, and in the process get a sense of what works in a poem and what might need revising.  Given that the general rule is that you're not supposed to provide context and background for each poem and, instead, just read it, I get a good sense of when context needs to be provided within the body of the poem. For instance, in "In Memory of Aunt Shirley," after I finished reading, I wasn't sure it was clear that the photo of Aunt Shirley and Aunt Barbara Lee was taken by a street photographer.  I mention Aunt Barbara Lee's suspicion of the photographer, her guarded stance, but I'm not sure it was clear why she was guarded given that usually individuals know the person taking the photo.  I might need to revise that portion of the poem.

I really like the Annapolis poetry scene-- lots of good poets who produce an eclectic mix of work, but always entertaining.  In addition to the Evil Grin series, Rocky runs another series that meets on the fourth Friday of each month.  There is also the Spiral Staircase series, organized by Dan Kagan, which meets on the third Sunday of each month at 49 West coffeehouse.  I've been a regular at that series.  My resolution for 2013 was to get out and read publicly on a regular basis.  Dan's series helped me get into the local poetry scene and meet that goal.  And, in the process, I've met a lot of good local poets and become part of that community.