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!

May 17, 2015

Richard J. Newman: "The People We Need Always To Come Back To" When The Bullet Lies Deep

A fellow professor of English at Nassau Community College where PA facilitator Ralph Nazareth teaches, Richard Jeffrey Newman, poet/translator, will share his writing and thoughts on feminist meaning and progressive masculinity, childhood sexual and global violence and, ultimately, the greater reward found in pursuit of right questions over pat answers when he visits Curley's this Tuesday.

Richard’s books include The Silence of Men (Cavankerry, 2006), his first collection of poetry, admired online by a three-time reader and fellow English teacher for its readiness to let memory and the past function not just as some determinist trap of “obsession or grudge to be chipped away, but (as) a source of richer voice…. actively riding and owning the waves of circumstance”. Below in a 2012 interview with readings, Richard elaborates on this and related liberating perceptions and how poetry proved an effective channel for their expression:

Moved by strife in the world and motivated by the impact of feminism on his own life, Richard bypasses predictable male metaphors of intimacy to recast sex as a reflective, inclusive dialogue that promises an amplified sense of humanity (see at the end of this entry the hauntingly choreographed “Running Up That Hill” performed by UK rocker Kate Bush, covering similar relational territory).

Considering how Iran’s historic role as a major cultural seedbed is all but forgotten against the peril of East/West tensions, a greater consciousness of the species-wide import of this theme is especially vital today. As such, Richard means his translation of a portion of the Islamic Republic’s national epic in The Teller of Tales: Stories from Ferdowsi's Shahameh (Junction Press, 2011) to demonstrate the relevance of Persian poetry to our lives in such chaotic times.

Kazim Ali lauds Richard’s lyric yet accessible accomplishment of  bringing to life a classic tale of politics, devotion and peace-making filled with “corrupt kings, rebel princes, dragon-sorcerers, and resourceful cooks (travelling) through (a) poetic history of an ancient and storied civilization.”

Words for What Those Men Have Done, his second volume-in-progress, is being penned through a grant awarded by the Queens Council on the Arts. Richard also curates the First Tuesdays neighborhood reading series at Terraza Cafe in Jackson Heights, NY, serves on the Board of Directors of Queens-based Newtown Literary Alliance (publisher of the Newtown Literary Journal) and has participated earlier this month in ManQuestion.org’s 2015 New Masculinities Festival in Manhattan (check out The Good Men Project for a comparable forum on issues of masculinity in society, male identity and its formation). Richard’s website is www.richardjnewman.com

May 4, 2015

Grace Under (The Sanction) Of Pressure: An Evening With Rowyda Amin

Stamford resident Rowyda Amin will share selections tomorrow evening from her latest chapbook, Desert Sunflowers (Flipped Eye Press, 2014), praised by Lauri Ramey as “a study of migration and a negotiation between place… notions of identity and self (and) so much more.” Previous appearances have included many events in the UK, including the Ledbury Poetry Festival, the Brighton Festival and the Royal Festival Hall.

Born in Newfoundland of Saudi Arabian and Irish parents, Rowyda has lived in Riyadh and London before moving to Connecticut. She won first prize in the 2012 Venture Award for poetry chapbooks from Flipped Eye. 

Her work and reviews have run in Magma, Modern Poetry in Translation, Wasafiri (for which she was awarded their New Writing Prize in 2009) and other print and online magazines; anthology appearances include Ten (Bloodaxe Books 2010), Bird Book: Towns, Parks, Gardens and Woodland, (a 2011 Sidekick Books collection of poetry and illustration celebrating British birds), Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam (Cinnamon Press, 2012) and Coin Opera (Sidekick, 2009) and Exposure (Cinnamon Press, 2010).

Rowyda's deft and versatile approach is typified by elements of quiet surprise and magic realism mixed with moments of emotional complexity to illuminate matters of isolation and belonging, as reflected in this intimate example from Coin Opera:

Café Danube
He stayed behind the fridge until he was sure
there was no one left, then stepped through
the litter of glass and abandoned suppers
to the podium with the Yamaha synth.
He righted the stool and played, as he did
most evenings, the themes from Love Story,
Casablanca and Titanic. Rain squalled
through the empty door frames. A dog
entered, shook itself, licked the cream
from a fallen éclair and urinated on the leg
of a waiter, which was sticking out
from behind the bar. The pianist broke
for a whiskey then switched to show tunes.
Water pooled into the centre of the room.
He heard claps, far off but getting louder.

“The Dwarf” performed by the late Geoffrey Lewis and the storytelling group Celestial Navigations strikes a consonant note with Rowyda’s themes that are of special relevance in today’s highly-globalized society, where the received authority of a few to define matters of social acceptance and human grace is too often automatically reinforced by everyone else:

Find out more about Rowyda at www.rowyda.com.

Apr 21, 2015

Belonging To The Song: Andrew Calhoun Returns To PoemAlley With More Words, Music & Perspectives

Folk singer and poet Andrew Calhoun returns tonight after two years to regale PoemAlley and Curley’s with readings and live music from 2011’s Grapevine, a solo-performed tribute to formative influences like Martin Carthy on his life and music, featuring, respectively, restored and historically updated performances of “Oh, Susanna” and “Patrick Henry” and 2013’s Living Room (with vocal contributions by his daughter Casey). Here’s a duet performance from 2013 of Andrew’s original composition “Peach Song” below:

 Both of these titles, along with the Scottish ballad collection Telfer’s Cows (2004), Tiger Tattoo (2003) and 1993’s Hope, among many others, are available through Andrew’s artists’ cooperative Waterbug Records. Check out his own and the music of other bardic artists at the 23-year-old label here.

Broadly praised over the years by critics from the Chicago Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch to Performing Songwriter for his keen use of imagery and the sensitivity of his challenging, perspective-jumping performances, Andrew’s writing also embodies these attributes, collected in titles like 1989’s Twenty-Four Poems. Suffused with careful comparisons, the piece below delights in love’s paradoxical wont to leave us each unmoored in time while also honoring the personal history of the beloved, expressed in acts both gentle and dramatic:

When We Make Love
© Andrew Calhoun

It is the sweetness of raspberries growing
Full in the sunshine
Near a salt tossing ocean
Easing up and down between continents,
Pregnant with mystery

When we make love
Sunken treasure rises to the surface
Breaking free, rocking endlessly,
Blissfully disappearing,
Giving itself away

When we make love
It's the hush in the theatre
Before the curtain
The promise made and kept in the same moment
A poem composed in a dream
Remembered in a dream

When we make love
We belong to the song
Where I kiss your resistance
Through halls of childhood
Through walls of adolescence
Through trials of womanhood
And at last you know

With our bodies exploding in gentleness
With great winds whistling the treetops,
Quick as a tomahawk,
You and I
In past, present and future

You know
It is you that I love
When we make love

The influence of Woody Allen and Groucho Marx comes through The Trilogy Trilogy (2012), Andrew’s first book of humor, containing numerous vignettes with intriguing and easily-relatable titles like “Because I’m Neurotic” and “Sweating the Big Stuff”.