Tuesdays at Curley's

Welcome to PoemAlley, Stamford, Connecticut's eclectic venue for poets, poetry reading and discussion! Open to anyone living in Fairfield County and the surrounding area, we meet Tuesday nights at 7:00 pm at Curley's Diner on 62 Park Place (behind Target) . Come contribute, get something to eat, or simply listen!

Sep 2, 2014

Souls Who Knew Things

Hoby Rosen in his studio at
Loft Artists Association
This evening PoemAlley will be holding a special group reading in front of Curley’s Diner to honor the memories and contributions of Herb Davison, Alex McDonald and Hoby Rosen, three cherished members who have passed away in recent years.

Fellow poets will gather to read some of their favorite pieces compiled for distribution by Veronica Jones in Columbus Park, embodying three lifetimes’ experience, moving observation and humor, to be followed by dinner inside.

Below is a tribute to Herb (killed on his way to PoemAlley five years ago), written by Curley’s co-owner, Eleni Anastos Begetis:

Herb Davison
At the end of your voyage, of your Stygian ride
Heed not the ebb tides with the death of the light-
dark rises shadows in the pond of the dead-
Of people like us, loved ones whom you left behind,
Lest you torture yourself those long days and restless nights.
But in the full moon, when the earth swims in static,
On those Tuesday nights when our club is alive,
Climb to the granite hills and look up to the sky.
In every star is the face of a poet,
In each breath of the wind is a poem.
Within our hearts there is sorrow,
Within our minds there is a word of wonder.
Even when you don't hear our electric comments to celebrate the spirits as we orbit,
The simple in life, our passion for poetry--to which you gave your life,
I know you are sure we speak of you as though you never left us,
Because your 'soul knows things,' like mine.

Hoby and Alex McDonald at Curley's
Besides their writing, the output of these men’s lives have encompassed--directly and indirectly--a remarkable range of areas, with profound impacts on family, friends, community and the region, from Hoby’s sculptural work and his co-founding of a summer camp for girls, Herb’s jewelry-making and his striking self-designed geodesic residence in Stamford, to Alex’s contribution of a state political figure via his son, Andrew J. McDonald, currently serving as Associate Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Find out more about some these sorely-missed friends here.

Curley’s Diner
62 W. Park Place
(between Target and Columbus Park)


September 2, 2014
7 pm

Jul 29, 2014

An Anthropology Of Emotion

Lebanon-born Armenian poet, editor and sculptor Lola Koundakjian guest leads tonight’s PoemAlley gathering at Curley’s, sharing selections from The Accidental Observer, Advice to a Poet (an illustrated bilingual Finalist at the 2012 Orange Book Prize, Armenia excerpted here), her 20-plus years’ organizing of events dedicated to the Dead Armenian Poets’ Society and other projects.

A participant of many domestic and international poetry festivals, Lola has appeared at events in California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, as well as Manhattan’s Cornelia Street Café and the first New York Poetry Festival held in 2011; last year she was invited to the Second Festival Internacional de Poesía, in Lima, Peru and the first Mamilla International Poetry Festival in Ramallah, West Bank and will appear at the Trois-Rivières poetry festival in Canada in October.

Lola is also a pronounced presence online and in associated media, with work appearing in alpialdelapalabra (Argentina), TheLiterary Groong (University of Southern California), Mediterranean.nu (Sweden) and UniVerse: A United Nations of Poetry (Chicago).

You can listen here to “She Sent it With Love” (part of the “Above the Bridge” series, recorded live in 2011 at Ceres Gallery in Chelsea), a musing on how the preparation of a meal can prove as faithful a conduit of emotion and experience across vast distances as a letter or Skype conversation.

Hiroshima digital storytelling,
Bowery Poetry Club (2010)
Click here to watch Lola's Three Armenian Artists, a video montage of Arshile Gorky, Marcos Grigorian and one-time Stamford resident Reuben Nakian, which lovingly interweaves their lives and careers with Lola’s memories of her own formative encounters with them as a writer and ceramic artist. Likewise with the series of well-composed video postcard-like snippets of others’ performances and her travels abroad found on her YouTube channel, Lola demonstrates a deep passion for chronicling the world and the works of the people in it for posterity.

Genocide victims, Erzurum (1895) 
Between her role in the 2010 Hiroshima digital storytelling program at the Bowery Poetry Club, pluming the legacy and meaning of the Armenian Genocide in the Armenian Reporter and such appearances as the reading of “Vida” in Armenian, recited before a Colombian audience (with Spanish captions) at the  XX Festival Internacional de Poesía in Medellín in 2010, her ouvre is a unifying testament not just to the urgency of preserving life, but the wealth of personal events and too-often unsung ennobling actions shaping it that make that preservation so dear.
XX Festival Internacional
de Poesía, Colombia (2010)

Embodying her reverence for the transmission and retention of human experience and observation with an almost anthropological zeal is StoryCorps, a traveling non-profit that offers free audio recording services of life recollections shared between family members, couples, life-long friends and spouses. Below is an animation based on two of eight siblings’ account of how their strict father’s response to learning that the oldest was gay affected their childhoods:  

Find out more about this program at their website, www.storycorps.org.

Lola’s poetry and articles have been published worldwide in The Enchanting Verses Literary Review (Allahabad, India), Pakin (Beruit), Horizon Weekly (Montreal), Poetic Justice Press, Fornix (Lima) and this year’s Poems for The Hazara: A Multilingual Poetry Anthology and Collaborative Poem by 125 Poets from 68 Countries, an anthology edited by Kamran Mir Hazar (Full Page Publishing). Winner of grants from the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and, most recently, the Naji Naaman literary prize in Lebanon, Lola has been editor of the multi-lingual Armenian Poetry Project since 2006.

Following attaining her M.A. from Columbia University, Lola presented academic papers in several Armenian Studies and Middle East Studies Association conferences, many of which have been included in conference proceedings in the United States, Europe and Armenia. 

She has resided in New York City since 1979. You can find out much more about, her work and activities at her website, www.lolakoundakjian.com and at her blog, http://lolakoundakjian.wordpress.com/.

Jul 25, 2014

Table Talk With The Other Without... And Within

What distinguishes identity from alienation in gender, age, class, ethnicity, among other relational contexts, will be explored this Sunday by David Fredette, Eva-Maria Palevich, Bob Sanders, Cora Santaguida and numerous other PoemAlley members contributing to PA’s annual summer service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Stamford (formerly the Unitarian Universalist Society).

“The Face of the Other”, organized by Dr. Frances Sink of the UUCIS, Ralph Nazareth and Rolf Maurer, deals with a theme that has become increasingly an ominous fixture of the social and political landscape since 2001, not just in terms of the labeling of individuals or groups outside our own circle of self-identification, but those whose Otherness is little more than a projection of our own insecurities, or a repressed facet of ourselves.

Though the unprecedented recent domestic enthusiasm for soccer (what the rest of the world calls football) was almost as exciting to observe as the World Cup games, themselves, the intersection of professional sports and nationalism in regard to the Other was easily caught through a casual stroll down Bedford Street during the games, where unbelievably impassioned reactions to the televised sporting events in open-air bars and restaurants ranged from screams of demanding anguish to the primal chanting of “USA! USA!”—the latter hurled with equal exceptionalist hubris just a few days later by Texans against busloads of "disease-carrying" child refugees from South and Central America.

As to the former response, most of the Western media for the last few weeks has been painting Israeli bombardment of Palestinians trapped in Gaza as acts of a struggling victim with a similar emotionalism and lack of proportionality that trumps any real opportunity for constructive engagement (as of July 20, hundreds of Gazans have been killed by the IDF using advanced weaponry largely supplied by the US, whereas only two Israelis have been killed by homemade Palestinian rockets).

Be it the fatalistic insistence that the conflict is unresolvable, the deplorable, objectifying excesses of Israelis and their supporters finding recreational routine in watching the bombardment of Gaza from a Sderot hillside, or the online posting of the cooking of “Rachel Corrie pancakes” while staying at “Heritage House”, a residence for foreign IDF recruits in occupied Jerusalem, the unlikely forced association of Nazis awaiting trial in 1945 with former resistance members and victims of the German war machine under a different roof in a Nuremberg suburb demonstrates the promise on a person-to-person basis for dialogue, if not rapprochement with, the Other. Notes Jessa Crispin in her review of Christiane Kohl’s The Witness House (Other [sic] Press, 2010)—a post-war counterpart to Weisenthal’s The Sunflower (Schoken, expanded 1998)--"... at the end of war, we still have to eat at the same table. Finding a way to do so is perhaps the key to healing.”

If fear of a repeat of past oppression underlying the origins of the Mideast conflict (and those interests exploiting it with horrifying and historically ironic results) cannot be discounted, neither can fear's role be ignored in the shaping of industrial society’s collective Other.

Peak Oil researcher and Appalachian-based North American Archdruid John Michael Greer (Not the Future We Ordered, The Long Descent) attributes the origins of racism, patriarchy, imperialism and other associated Manichean ideologies to the separation of humanity from Nature, first venerated with the supplanting of religion by rationalism during the Enlightenment. From the degrading classification of under-industrialized, native societies—such as some of the nations of the previously mentioned refugees --as “Third World”, to the peculiarly American discomfort with public breastfeeding, Otherness is imposed upon any lifeway or individual who unavoidably reminds us of our fundamental connection with the timeless processes that challenge the primacy of a mass merchandised existence whose fragility we are too scared to face.

Again, honest, unfettered talking and listening, both on an interpersonal and national scale, is the prescription of Greer, Carolyn Baker and other writers who have been concentrating on the end of industrial civilization and the technocratic psychology that keeps policymakers and the public focused, at best, on riding out transitory crises, when productive adaption to permanent change following unavoidable catastrophe is what’s needed.

In demonstrating the tragic Sisyphian results of a weak, or insincere communication, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master (Weinstein Company, 2012) works on two levels, as well. The dichotomous relationship between the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s charismatic Lancaster Dodd and Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell, an impulsive, carnal World War II veteran, mirrors the structure of post-war society where the shallowness of the nascent 1950s consumer paradise provides a public façade for the Other of a foreign policy of Cold War paranoia, coups and puppet wars, whose ultimate outcome is, to paraphrase Douglas MacArthur over the battleship PA in the opening scenes of the film when Japan surrenders, up to “God’s will” rather than any human agency.

Quell, as the personal Other unacknowledged by a younger Dodd (played by W. Earl Brown) in the scene below literally tries to shine a light on his awareness, advising Dodd “You need to shut up!” to get the attention of the loquacious charlatan, who later builds a career teaching people to shun their animal nature:

Instead, despite their later unaccountable affinity for one another, Dodd stubbornly wastes time trying to “reform” a wayward Quell. Also tapping into the then-contemporary appeal of Freudian psychology, Fred Wilcox’s lavish, if less subtle Forbidden Planet (MGM, 1956) at least has its version of a definitive egocentric, Morbius (played by Walter Pigeon), overtly denying his responsibility in a loose super-science riff on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, after accidentally manifesting his Id as an independent force through the use of brain-altering alien technology:

But the mistake for them—and us--is not only in refusing to confront the Other (be it Id, Jungian Shadow or external opponent), but in failing to muster the insight or courage to see the transformative potential in accepting it as part of ourselves.  

Talk may be cheap, but, in the end, like Crispin’s dinner table, it’s all we’ve got, whether it's within ourselves, or with one another.    

Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Stamford
20 Forest Street 
(at the corner of Bedford, across from the Avon Theatre)

July 27, 2014
10 am

203-348-0708; 203-327-6464