An erudite reading in Istanbul

I attended an erudite high-brow event at an esteemed local venue on Saturday.

Well, sort of.

My friend Duff gave a poetry reading at Molly’s Café.

Daniel (Duff) Plunkett is in my Turkish class (a cozy group of six) and my writing group (in which I’m the token non-poet). Duff has also made appearances as Santa for the children at the Robert College Christmas party and as an enthusiastic regaler at our Mehane night in November.

This man loves the sound of words, he loves the sense of words, he loves the depth of words. He can’t resist a play on words. Duff the punster. Duff the funster. Always. Even his poetry promotion poster poked fun as it pontificated… (sorry)

Even his poster is more humor than information

This poster packs more humor than information

Duff started writing poetry as a boy and was first published in a high school literary magazine. Apparently that felt pretty good, because he continued writing through his years at the University of Maine. He didn’t major in creative writing—or even English (he has some kind of an international agriculture-related job), but words continued to swirl through his mind. “I always thought poetry should be fun,” he said. “I sat through far too many boring poetry readings and I swore I’d never do that.”

Molly (on the right) scrambling to keep things goingMolly (red hair) and her assistant running  refreshments to the eager crowd.

As a crowd gathered at Molly’s little antique-furnished coffee shop, she dragged chairs out of nowhere to seat the multitudes. Well, that may be a bit hyperbolic, but there were lots of folks from many circles in Duff’s life—school (his wife teaches at Robert), friends-of-friends, writing group members, basketball buddies, and even our Turkish teacher, Özlem. We all love the Duff.

Nearaly half of the rapt admirers

Half of the enthused crowd enjoying Duff’s esoteric wanderings

Well, let me tell you, we weren’t bored. Duff’s poetry is at times gleeful, at times heady, but always interesting.

Here’s a typical example of his poetry, taken from his recent book, Right Brain, Left Brain:

Poetry or poultry

Magnifique! Ah, Magnifique! (Would that be poultry or poetry?)

Sorry—I’m an English teacher, so I have to comment. It’s clear from the range of settings in Duff’s poems that his mind works in rhymes and couplets. He dwells in a maelstrom of puns and metaphors and alliteration.Nice piece

An enthusiastic moment


He wrote a new fight song for the University of Maine, too, enlisting some of us audience members to play the parts of the Moose brigade: “It’s a moose, moose, moose on the loose, loose, loose!” Pretty fun.

The Maine Mooses

“Moose on the loose” Yup, that’s me in the back row. A Minnesota Moose.

Duff involved his audience in a number of his readings, though there were a few Deep Male Voices cast to read in Deep Godlike Tones who didn’t follow directions. Typical teachers. They read the whiney little girl lines. Duh. It just added to the fun, actually.

The flunkees who read the girl's parts rather than GOD's partThe Deep-Voice Dudes.

Another group participation itemMore focused participants

There’s a deeper, more serious side to Duff’s poetry as well. He writes social commentary, love poems, international, historical, and intercultural pieces. How could he not, when his work takes him all over the globe?

Duff as a mobster—heater in hand

Well, maybe not ALL that serious…

This piece was written during a sojourn in Chile, the home of Pablo Neruda, South America’s most famous poet (subject of the film Il Postino).Neruda

Even with a fairly serious poem, Duff can’t resist the piece de resistance—the tongue-in-cheek finish. It works.

Marita, Duff's admiring spouse

Even his wife Marita continues to find Duff hilarious—because he is.

If you’re interested in getting a copy of Duff’s book, Right Brain, Left Brain (or is it Left Brain, Right Brain?—you see, it opens from both sides, one for each side of the brain), contact his publisher, Acorn Productions, at

2 thoughts on “An erudite reading in Istanbul

  1. Do you ever listen to The Moth Podcasts?
    The premise is simple: everybody has a story to tell. Guests stand in front of a live audience without a script or notes and tell a story. (I would probably wet myself) You can listen to the stories each week or download them. I save them as a treat each week and keep the best for myself. I love them and they keep my mind churning. (Think making brain flavored ice cream)

    I have a written a blog post about podcasts and expats.. I can forward the link. Podcasts can open up a lot of fun opportunities for expats.

  2. Duff is one of my dearest friends and have known him since about 1990 … He ALWAYS makes me laugh … thank you for this fun posting …

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