Words and Wine at the Amsterdam Free Library

If you weren’t there, you missed quite an event at the first Words & Wine event on Friday, May 1 held at the Amsterdam Free Library, Amsterdam NY. The event was co-sponsored by the library and the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter, NY, and proceeds are to be split between the two entities.

I asked David Brooks, Director, Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, if he approached Nicole Hemsley, Director of the Amsterdam Free Library about sponsoring the event, or if she approached him. He said that the idea came together mutually at a brainstorming meeting about what they could do in partnership to support National Poetry Month.

Hemsley suggested they have a combination poetry reading-wine tasting, and Brooks said he couldn’t have one at Schoharie Crossing because of the state laws.  Hemsley said, “We are friends with Hummingbird Hills Winery, and they’ll come with their temporary liquor license and all that. And David had a couple of poetry readings in the weeks previous, so we settled on the tail end of April, first week of May for the program.”

The wine tasting was put on by Hummingbird Hills Winery of Fultonville, NY., and staffed by Sheila Wiley and Krissy Gillmore from Ric-Mar Printing, Amsterdam, NY.

The poetry portion of the night’s program featured six area poets, including Dan Weaver, columnist and owner of The Book Hound bookstore, who moderated the program as well as read the first poem, Gentlemen Prefer Ladies. Afterward, he introduced Maureen Hand, a former Amsterdam English teacher, current poet, writer and author of Lemon Meringue Pie at Midnight. She read an excerpt from a poem titled The Red Umbrella.

When I was a child
I never knew it was beer
that flavored your corny jokes
or made it such fun to run
with you in the woods
with a red umbrella
looking for snake spit
on yellow wildflowers

After her segment, Hand introduced friend and fellow writer Betty Pieper, who read a poem spoofing Dr. Oz, about the “threat” of peeing in the ocean.

When you get the notion to pee in the ocean, the chemical reactions could pollute the air. If everyone did it people could die. “Hundreds of bodies” the headlines would cry, “Beached on the Beach and No one Knows Why.” Imagine the scare – the public commotion – all because you peed in the ocean.

After a short introduction by Weaver, Kelly de la Rocha, a reporter for the Schenectady Gazette,  read several personal poetic compositions dealing with volunteering here and abroad. She began with one inspired by a cleanup in Rotterdam Junction after Hurricane Irene titled What If.

What if my words could build you walls
If they could stack neatly, one on top of each other
No holes to let the floodwaters seep back in
to muddy your dreams.

Afterward, De la Rocha introduced her Father Ron Tersigni, an English teacher and inspiration to her as he read a touching series of emails, in rhyming form, of his attempts to get his love to acquiesce and marry him. Written during an illness this past winter it is titled In Sickness and in Health.

Good morning Sue. I’ve had it, really had it up to here with being sick.
Stuck inside this gloomy dungeon with the sunlight streaming in.
As sick as I happen to be, I’d rather be outside to stretch my arms in freedom
underneath the cold blue sky.
I’m going for a walk now! Squeaky snow beneath my feet…
Wanna come along with me…
Wanna marry me?
Bye Bye

Mary Lou Coughlin read a short poem vowing to return to “Schoharie, to Sunnyside.”

When my own turn came around, I read an introspective triptych of short poems, covering themes of regret and paranoia.

Weaver, finishing the program, started out praising certain forms of haiku, reading two of his own dealing with praises to God and an exploratory statement of Calvinism and Hinduism.

For making me a mouse
and not placing me in the
reach of cats –

Calvinism turned Hindu-
ism on its head. Made God
an untouchable.

He also read pieces titled These Things Happen and She Collects Broken Things.

David Brooks and Nichole Hemsley both mentioned that they would like to put on this event yearly, and that sentiment was echoed by several library employees, including Meribeth Sizemore who said “Yeah, we’d love it!”

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.