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Al Felix: Poet

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Al Felix: Poet

Al Felix is a former English teacher at Orchard Park High School and now resident poet at Caffé Aroma on Elmwood Avenue. His wife, Jackie Felix, passed away in 2009 and was a prominent artist in a Buffalo and the subject of a recent retrospective an exhibit at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. In the winter, Al is the MC for Aroma’s open mic poetry, but on a fine summer day, you might find him chatting with someone on Bidwell Parkway or scrawling poems on his yellow legal pad.

Felix: Mary, who works behind the counter [at Aroma], wants me to read one of my love poems at her wedding. I already read love poems for my daughters and their weddings, so maybe I can make some money off of this.

So does being a full-time poet pay the bills?

Felix: I was an English teacher at Orchard Park High School for 23 years and retired at 62. They haven’t discovered how good I am at poetry.

Did you and your wife used to go to Aroma together?

Felix: Yes, they knew her here. We used to go to the movies and come here afterwards. We were both movie buffs. Sometimes we would discuss the movie and it was like we saw two different films. Since she died, I have no one to sit across at a fancy restaurant, so I come here to Aroma. You can talk to someone about subjects as wide ranging at Chinese poetry or the Hittites. At 85, if you have no curiosity about the world, you might as well be dead.

What’s your favorite film?

Felix: What day is it and what season? It isn’t a one-film kind of thing. I don’t even know how to answer this; it’s like when people ask what my favorite book is. I taught how to look at movies at school and I needed to go to the board to get that class okayed. I find it really exciting, looking at movies as an art form. Writing poetry excites me, seeing your words fall on the page to the tune you’re setting, or sometimes they set their own tune.

What’s the worst/best thing about poetry nowadays?

Felix: The one thing that bothers me about what’s going on is that it’s become so abstract and cerebral, there’s no heart there. Sometimes I tell, the young people especially, “You can’t use profanity over and over again, because people are used to it. It has lost any impact it has at all.”

What’s good about it, I’m exposed to new and different things, I can hold my own with the students from UB. We have a community here that’s quite wonderful. I told one of the girls who works here, “If you take the age of these three poets who came here and add 10 years, it’s my age.”

What are your best poems?

Felix: My love poems. I write about love and loss. I’m not writing the same thing I wrote when I was 20 and everything wasn’t fair in the world.

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