Diary of a poetry circle

The Amsterdam Free Library brought together a collection of poets to perform in a Poetry Circle last Saturday, April 5th, 2014. The poets all read from their collections in the General Media room. The event was moderated by Dan Weaver, who also read. A fun time was had by all.

That is the dry recitation of events as dictated by the newspaper norms. The following is the real story, written by myself, Jay Towne, participant of the inaugural Poetry Circle.

It’s not like I hadn’t been through this before, through many events just like this, but there I was, approaching the library with a tense, fearful attitude and butterflies, butterflies. The weather was dank and dim and cold as I approached. I walked in early, chatted with the staff as they found their way in, and eventually found my own way and choose the seat closest to the lectern.

I greeted Maureen Hand, retired high school English teacher and local, published poet Kelly de la Rocha, reporter for the Daily Gazette. I asked Kelly about what topics she was going to read, and she said “growing things.” I asked was it green things or people, and she said “both.” Maureen asked me my opinion of her new poem about her granddaughter, which I said was wonderful.

Dan Weaver, moderator for the program, said hello and we examined the karaoke microphone provided to see if it would fit into the production before determining that the participants were loud enough.

Mary Insogna was scheduled to read, but had to cancel unexpectedly. John Salerno, a school bus driver with Brown Transportation, took her place, reading seventh.

When all the participants had arrived we sat down for the program, with Kelly de la Rocha reading first. She did indeed read about growing things: first about her garden, then two poems; one each about her son and daughter.

Then it was my turn. After an introduction by Dan, I half stepped to the podium, then started, being careful to note my Parkinson’s-like ailment causing hands to shake uncontrollably, and the fact that being nervous didn’t help. I read from my second book of poetry, A Blind Reason, and some newer stuff.

Maureen Hand was up next, and she read from her new book, Lemon Meringue Pie at Midnight and her new poem about her granddaughter.  She also showed a framed picture taken by that same granddaughter. Maureen quoted W.H. Auden in saying “Poetry is like any other story, but with the boring parts taken out.”

Todd Fabozzi then took the stage, a former resident of Amsterdam. He is an urbanist, social ecologist, writer, teacher and drummer. He started off with two pieces from a yet to be published book, recited from memory, and read from two of his previously published books, Crossroads and Umbrageous Embers. He read a poem titled There’s a Wall from his book Crossroads.

there’s a wall
in the middle of my downtown
and I want to
knock it down

there’s a wall
in the middle of my downtown
and someone, once
thought it was a good idea
to put it there

Judith Prest, a poet, creativity coach, teacher, photographer and mixed media artist, read next, reading from her book Late Day Light, a selection titled Telegrams From God.

Poems are like telegrams from God.
Sneaking like lightning down though clouds,
bubbling up from the depths
flashes of light,
bursts of steam and spark from the core
from higher places,
rearranging molecular structure
revealing the genetic code of the soul

Dan Weaver’s role as moderator also allowed for him to read his poems as well, and this he did, starting off with Contributor’s Bio in Search of a Poem.

Daniel T. Weaver did not earn an MFA in Creative Writing,
has not written any books,
has not led any workshops,
has not been published in Poetry, Suwanee, the North American Review
or elsewhere,
does not read the New Yorker
and reaches for his revolver
every time he reads the words
palpable, glissando and au courant.

John Salerno took the podium next and after apologizing for having only one of the three poems he planned to have, gave a spirited reading of a poem he titled I’m a Poem Waiting to be Written.

Laura Harrison’s reading capped off the day’s performances. Reading from her phone, she gave the audience selections from her archives about her son and her relationships, including an inspired poem titled Finally Seen.

Old lady moon won’t you lend me your ear,
I’m dying, I’m dying my old love’s disappeared
And I’ll tell you the truth that I carry no fear,
I’m floating I’m floating, become atmosphere.

As I talked with Judith Prest and John Salerno afterward, I finally appreciated the event as I could relax. I met a few first class poets, and even if that were the only thing I took away, it would have been worthwhile.

I asked Dorothy Domkowski, an audience member, what she thought of the event. She said, “it’s another way to get people to appreciate the fact that the library is not just a repository of books, but it’s active in programming, highlighting the cultural things that are happening in Amsterdam.”

I asked Library Director Nicole Hemsley about the role of the library and the Poetry Circle.

“I just think it’s great for people to come together. There aren’t that many places where people can get together and share their art, and I’d like to start becoming one of those places.”

After the event, Hemsley said that she would like to see a repeat of the program, perhaps in August.

I think I’ll pass the baton on this next one, and wish the next crop of poets “Godspeed.”

All poetry excerpts contained here are copyrighted by the original authors and used by permission.

Background photo for graphic by Mateusz Stachowski 

Jay Towne

Jay Towne is a resident of Amsterdam, has published six books and is the writer and director of a radio drama, Any Good Thing, that currently airs on WOPG.