POETRY MONTH 30/30/30 : Community, Inspiration, Tradition :: Day 8: Frank Ortega on Andrew Acciaro
It’s Easter. I don’t have any chemically-colored eggs or chocolate that I can offer you here, no old zombie stories, just unnatural spring weather on a planet that has officially had 324 consecutive months of global temperatures exceeding their long-term average for any given month. You can convert that to years, if you’re feeling brave. You can pray, if it helps. And you can read poetry.
It’s Easter, and before you go searching for new eggs or reborn gods or just plain hope, let me share this living soul, a human deity, whose intelligence and compassion fill me with that hope we are constantly seeking. His name is Andrew Acciaro, and he lives and works near me in Peekskill, next to the Hudson River. Andrew lives and breathes the poetic life, and it is impossible for me to chose even one poem of his to share, as each goes in such different directions, as if Andrew is dipping into the consciousness of all styles, past, present and future to offer vital messages of the now.
You can visit this oracle at Bruised Apple Books in Peekskill, NY, where Andrew is to be found nearly every day of the week –though I can’t call it a store. It’s an organic, living place of ideas, with membrane walls of bound paper, some of that accumulated knowledge centuries old, some of it picked up on the street today. It’s like a cross between a traditional Vermont country store and the ancient library at Alexandria. People wander in and stay talking for hours. Advice is sought and dispensed: medical, political, philosophical, personal…any -al you care to name will be brought to life as Andrew draws on his lifetime of reading and listening closely to engage strangers as if they were family relations–which Andrew fully realizes they are. All of us.
Here are a few things I recently overheard him say to others while engaged in such discussions: “Beauty can be rebellion.” “Suffering once seen cannot be unseen.”
“Poetic style? Curse in free verse.”
And in answer to a sort of rhetorical question, “Does the poet keep writing in a building when it’s burning?”
Andrew’s answer was: “Yes, fast, and then run.”
Here, two of his poems help us better contemplate Easter in all its meanings.
“Beauty is only the promise of Happiness.” (Stendhal)
At his grave
Of Jim Morrison
With all his Adonis energy
Fierce prowess of delight
And primordial blues
Nimble as a lizards’ tail
Light as a feather
In moonlit air
From an empty bottle
How he broke
And how Rimbaud
That fit so
In solemn praise of Theodore Adorno
There is only poetry
The pain…Of existence
There can be no poetry
The guilt of survival
To paste words
Upon a charred sky
To fall back on barbed wire
And a graveyard butterfly
What is, poetry
The poisoned breath
The false word
The dilettante apathy
The stench draws flies
And a professorship…Is an insult…to thought
The passageway…between dreams
Is the nightmare
There is no God
Except the one…that lives
How will, we write
Because all metaphors
ANDREW ACCIARO calls himself a Natural Poet and lifelong Autodidact
whose best credentials are held by the Muse. He manages The Bruised
Apple Book Shop in Peekskill N.Y. Andrew has hosted and attended Open
Mic scenes since their inception and has read his poetry at venues as
diverse as The Cornelia Street Café, The Hudson Valley Museum for
Contemporary Art, and other public and private spaces and galleries
including the BeanRunner Café. He toured briefly with the musical and
literary performing troupe called The Panic Buttons. Andrew was a founding
member of South Street Poets and currently of PRP (Poets Read Poetry)
and continues to participate in their numerous events. Andrew is
particularly honored that his friend Ilse Schriber-Noll, Artist and
Anti-war activist, has chosen one of his poems as inspiration for her
art. She has created an illustrated limited special edition book of
Andrew Acciaro <email@example.com>
Frank Ortega has been writing and performing all his life and still
wants to know: have you found it yet?
My response to the themes in Andrew’s work and the town of Peekskill where he lives, its long history–residents such as Frank Baum–is best summed up in this piece:
Thinking of Oz (excerpt)
And Frank ran, in his gingham dress, with his favorite dog, away from home
and all who didn’t understand him.
A storm would rip his house away, land it crashing in some alternate 9th Ward,
where everybody looks like an unwrapped lollipop. Frank would be the
first to kill,
a queen from the East. Heathen country. His parents hoped he would
finish at the
military academy in Peekskill and go west, across the Hudson River, to
pride of West Point, and wear the pretty officers’ uniforms there,
like they did in Oz.
But his parents were not in the house when he flew away with it,
killed for the first time, made new friends who helped him kill and depose
great powers, lead winged monkey insurrections, and overturn a false government.
Pretty good for a girl in gingham who didn’t want to be a soldier.
Perhaps Frank’s parents would have been proud.
(to see the entire piece, click on this link:)
[editor’s note: I hand-picked Frank to join our community and submit to the premiere print issue of Exit Strata when I heard him read at Louder Arts in late summer 2011. Boy can I choose ’em! Frank has been a tireless supporter of all things ExSt related, an eager participant in workshops and CoCo content collaborator, and just generally an all around model community member. He accompanied me recently to the staging of Hal Willner’s terrific staging of Ginsberg’s Kaddish at the Park Ave Armory recently, and is always up for making magic. We heart Frank!]
Andrew provided the photo at top left. He is grateful to the very talented photographer Howard Goodman for the use of this image More of Goodman’s work can be found at his website.