Review: Poetry Night at Caffe Lena, 9/2/2020


Caffe Lena hosts a poetry night every first Wednesday of the month. On Wednesday September 2, 2020 poets Bernadette Mayer, Bertha Rogers and Daniel Curley shared their poetry that described their lives growing up.

Daniel Curley didn’t have a smooth sailing childhood which led him to love Greek Mythology, Latin and Classics. He’s been a professor for 20 years at Skidmore College teaching in the Classics Department. He wrote his first poetry called Conditional Future Project and is available on Amazon. His first poem recited is called Continental Breakfast. This poem was very short and talked about how he feels he is not up to his wife standards and she wonders why he feels this way. Being that this poem was very short, this is my analysis I took from it. From his poems you know he’s been to Florence and has seen the churches of Dante and Beatrice. In honor of that church he wrote a poem called Letters to Beatrice in terza rima verse form and mentioned he was actually drinking a beer with the same exact name. In honor of his childhood he wrote a poem about this girl named Yolanda called The Chronicles of Yolanda. Yolanda seemed like a faker who was obsessed with The Chronicles of Narnia. Her imagination was broad and a girl named Bridget wasn’t buying her act. Bridget may seem jealous but who knows.

Daniel Curley

In the middle of his book is a travelogue. He wrote about different places he’s traveled to in Italy with his students. One poem called The Art’s Historian’s Revenge is a true story and took place on a plane going to Rome. This poem was about him meeting a woman whose husband asked her for a divorce while on vacation. She tried to make him notice her beauty but instead she avenged him with a fiance. He has a poem written in sapphic strophes dedicated to his mentor Pierre on how he lived his life and died while doing a crossword puzzle. Dan’s poem about Howard Nemerov, a professor at the University of Washington in St. Louis, called Uncovering Howard, talked about this man who was kind of like a guardian angel for Dan in college. He would wink and smile at Dan and Dan didn’t understand why. Howard is the reason for Dan’s interest in classics and pushed him to move forward in his life with poetry. The first poem in his book is called Tangential and it describes his way of thinking unlike everyone else. This also tells us why he forms his poetry the way he does and writes the genre Classics. His daughter is a poet as well and in his poem dedicated to her called Blindsided, he talks about him not noticing a former student of his being absent and quiet because he could only focus on his daughter. The one who he only had eyes for. Daniel Curley’s poetry expresses his learning upbringing and what he was taught in school. Him being a classicist shows in his book Conditional Future Perfect, which is available on Amazon.

Poet Bertha Rogers is a co-founder of Bright Hill Press and Literary Center of the Catskills in 1992. Her poems appear in literary journals and some of her books are called Wild Again, Heart Turned Back and Sleeper You Wake. The first book she reads from is called Heart Turned Back and one of her poems “The Fourth Beast” is an epigraph from The Book of Daniel.

Bertha Rogers

Bertha lives in the Catskills and in the fall hunting is popular around that time of the year. She witnessed a son and his father hunting and the father accidentally shot his son. She wrote a poem titled Survivor and it’s told in the voice of the remaining son. Survivor describes a father who shot his son accidentally and then turns around and shoots himself purposely. The house that they lived in together remains constant because of the mother. She sets the table up for 4 and washes the father’s hunting jacket every week. The brother is left all along and everything belongs to him now. From her second book, Wild Again, she recites Hawk’s Reason that talks about the red tail hawks that are seen in the mountains of Upstate New York. Hawk’s Reason describes how a hawk survives its life out in the wild. They move around from their home looking for food and defend itself if danger comes their way. Bertha moved from New York to upstate in 1989 in the spring. Her kids and friends helped her move and they planted a lot of spruces. Her poem called Planting Wildness talks about the process of them growing and how the spruces grew 50 to 60 feet tall with bright colors and long branches. Bertha went with her husband for a drive and they saw an owl who ripped the head of a muskrat off. The owl was hit by a car. She wrote a poem about this experience called On the Road. Her last poem she recited was a Villanelle and it talks about a man whose words she hears but then slips away. To me this poem tells a story about a man she once loved but they grew apart. Her books can be found on Amazon as well.

The last poet to be showcased was Bernadette Mayer. She is an author of 27 collections. Her latest collection is called Memory which is available on Siglio Press. Her other collections are Works and Days, Eating The Colors of a Lineup of Words: The Early Books of Bernadette Mayer and The Helens of Troy. She is the recipient of the 2014 Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. To learn more about her you can visit her website at

Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette’s first poem called Current Events discusses what is going on in the world today. Cops are shooting black people for no valid reason so why can’t black people do the same in return. The coronavirus is limiting people to travel and even go somewhere local. California isn’t doing too great with all the wildfires starting and destroying everything. Bertha has a gift for writing something that is occurring in the present. She wrote a poem called To the Politician because it’s election year and her daughter emphasized that she had to read that poem. Bernadette is the type of poet who doesn’t hold back her emotions and tells it like it is. Her words aren’t censored and she tells it like it is. After every poem she laughs and I found that funny because she is very serious and means every word she says. She would just read poem after poem and very little announces the title of the poem she’s about to read. She informs her audience that prickly pear cactus candy is good so be sure to try it someday. Out of all poets she was by far my favorite because she wasn’t boring to me. I asked questions on why she write that or what a very unique title. Bernadette speaks from the heart and doesn’t hold back. She doesn’t care about hurting other  people’s feelings in her writing.

Every poet was unique and their poems depressed their true identity. Their poems represent where they came from and what interests them. Each of them shared a part of their life with the audience.

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