Maybe it’s the bookstore: the smell of shelves, of words and bindings, the delicious clutter of paintings, posters and little things. But, whatever it is, there is some mighty fine and diverse work going on at Before Your Quiet Eyes on Just Poets’ Wednesday.
Just Poets feature reader Celeste Schantz’s delicate touch “I like how you can hear the snow melt/ dripping from the crooks of oaks…” her first line in her first poem, “Winter Thaw” shows her study of poetry—internal rhyme, pacing, alliteration… But it is the “skunk” she brings into her work (later in the poem), “the hibernating skunk, who emerges… dragging her plush belly in the snow…she is only a skunk but if you listen, / you will hear the world turning in her…” this is where Schantz lasers in with that unsettled poetic, almost over-the-shoulder glance that cuts light as a razor but deep. Or from “Once We Vacationed in Palmas”, her childhood reflection on a family vacation in Puerto Rico, “In the afternoons we bought postcards. / Mother drove us past a mission named after a saint. / We toured a plantation and a liquor store.” Mix in some wit (her hockey poem) “Toronto after the Win” and close observations in, “Database on Exhumed Objects to Identify Those Who Perished” (desert remains and artifacts of Mexican children trying to cross the border); “fluted skeletons of migrant children lay stacked…” One does not come upon such combinations of words like this too often. Skilled and original, this is what makes readings worth attending.
And Open Mic was a great second act last night. Some of Rochester’s best: Kitty Jospe, David Michael Nixon, and Bart White (who read a Katherine DeCosta poem and a Michael Czarnecki poem) and new member Mary Hood reading her poem “Hela Cells”. New member Charles Banks shook the shelves with his poems, especially “Fear in The Good Stuff” a hard poem to follow. But Anita Augesen did with her poems “Warning” and “Hate.” Elisabeth Christine Woldeyohonnes read her poems “Specter “and “Last Dance.” Jennifer Maloney brought out “Stone Age” a new poem that rounds out the recent discovery in Morocco of even older fossil remains of humans. Clever and well done. She is the feature reader in August. Gretchen Schulz, Joel Lesses, Lizzie Brown and evening host David Yockel finished up the open mic.
There’s some good poetry in Rochester, and I know where.