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Two Poets, Reading Together -- This Time At Amagansett Library

Originally Posted: August 27, 2009

Colin M. Graham

Simon Perchik and Edward Butscher as they spoke before the reading began. Photos by Colin M. Graham

Amagansett - On Tuesday, Aug. 25 two poets, who have been reading together annually for the past 27 years, continued their annual tradition, this year at the Amagansett Library. Simon Perchik and Edward Butscher gave readings from their various collections of poetry, of which both had strikingly different styles.

Perchik in the middle of one of his poems. Despite being the second most widely published poet in America, he is by his own description "the most widely published unknown poet in the country."

Beginning the readings was Perchik, a former WWII Bomber pilot and Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney. Currently known as the second most widely published poet in the country, Perchik took his introduction with a grain of salt. "I'm the most widely published unknown poet in the country," he joked, before launching into his first poem from his collection "Rafts."

"A little collection of mine came out and its title was 'rafts' and I always thought that was a good metaphor for poetry," Perchik said. "A poem is really a raft, a means of survival for the writer and if he does it right, it's a raft for the reader because that's the duty of poets, to console."

Although the event was formerly held at Canio's Bookstore in Sag Harbor, by coming back to the Amagansett Library the reading has come full circle in a way. The previous director, Carleton Kelsey held a book party when Perchik's first collection came out. "It has a warm spot in my heart, this library," said Perchik, before launching into a series of untitled poems from "Rafts."

Coming to the end of his reading, Perchik introduced his last two poems and announced a special guest reader: his grandson Vaughn. "I will end with two poems, one to my granddaughter and then I'm going to ask my grandson Vaughn, who feels I don't read well enough and he's going to read the best poem I've ever written, of course it's the one I've just finished," he smiled.

Next, the organizer of the event Paula Trachtman introduced Edward Butscher, former school teacher, poet and her husband. "What can I say about Ed. He's my husband," she laughed.

Vaughn Bergen, one of Perchik's grandchildren who read one of his grandfather's poems that day, along with the two poets in a brief repose between accolades from the crowd at the end of the reading.

Butscher, who is known for being the first biographer of Sylvia Plath and Conrad Aiken began by reading poems from his various books in chronological order. "I'm going to start with a poem from my first book," he said. "Unlike Sy, I always have titles because I feel titles are part of the poem and so from a poet's point of view it gives you another line to work in," he explained. "Of course none of my titles have only one meaning, so that I begin with that kind of double leveling that to me is the essence of poetry."

After the first poem, which was a decidedly dark, yet poignant, a departure from the poetry of Perchik, he quipped, "Sy and I are the antidote to August and sunshine," evoking laughter from the crowd.

"From that successful book," he said with a touch of self depreciating humor, "we go to 'Eros Descending' which is relatively new, I'm working on another one now that will be published by Amagansett Press. I happen to know the publisher," he smiled, nodding to his wife Paula, who happens to be the publisher.

"Eros Descending, of course the title itself is kind of sad and the first second, called Omega because it goes backwards begins with an epigraph by Herman Melville that says that 'secret grief is the cannibal of the heart' and the very first poem, which kind of casts a light across the whole collection is called 'Intimations of Mortality.'"

Butscher introducing one of his works to a packed crowed at the Amagansett Library last Tuesday.

Next he read from a collection called "Child in the House" and a poem entitled "Summer's Middle Age."

He then read a poem from the same collection called "Nemesis." "It has to do with the old idea of nemesis as being the lion lurking behind the sun, because the nemesis we know is that haunting of that other self - the evil self," he explained.

Despite his poetry having significant macabre overtones in his richly constructed metaphors, Butscher approached them in his introductions with a lightness that kept the crowd entertained, as was the case in his story behind his final poem, entitled "Sirens."

"This goes back to the early days of my teaching career, when I had the wonderful assignment of proctoring a reading exam for the freshman class, which of course, was a nice two hours of wasted time," he chuckled. "I was absorbed in the fact that I had a wonderful new watch that created this neon light. This kept me amused through part of those two hours but it did end up in this poem, because as I said every title has two meanings at least."

In all the crowd, which was made up of long time friends, family and fellow poets and artists couldn't say enough to the two poets when they had finished, as a steady line formed leading up to the front of the room so everyone could express their satisfaction.

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