October 30, 2014

Sunday Four Poetry, October 26



This turned out to be quite an historical event here at the Old Songs Community Center, but you’ll have to wait for the end to know what I’m talking about (just like we did that day). Our sole host today was Dennis Sullivan.

Somehow I ended up first on the sign-up sheet & read 2 related poems, “A.J. Muste” & the ever-expanding “The Communion of Saints” in which A.J. Muste appears, & to which I have just added Ed Bloch. Alan Casline read 2 of his hexagram poems based on the I Ching, “#22 Grace” & “#52 Keeping Still.” Our host, Dennis Sullivan, talked about poet Denise Levertov & Whitman biographer Horace Traubel & read his own poem thinking about a perfect world, “In My Society.” Bob Sharkey read his cento “Velvety Heart” (revised somewhat from last we heard it), & a funny piece about his young daughter hiding & hoarding “Missing.”

Thérèse Broderick & coffee filters

Carol Jewell read a bunch of snippets from her journal, on kidney stones, a line from Emily Dickinson, an "un-love poem," on not doing housework, & carbon monoxide. Peter Boudreaux (who will be the featured poet here next month) read a new, untitled poem mulling over the past, how things could have been different. Joe Krausman also read poems on changing, “Becoming Something Else,” & another on an old couple changing over time. Thérèse Broderick read a poem, “Holiday,” about a trip to Jordan to visit her daughter who is studying over there, then a poem about the death of her cat (no comment), written on paper coffee filters & made into a little chapbook. Howard Kogan ended the open mic portion with a poem about attending a Catholic funeral, looking at it as an outsider, “Burying Paula.”


The featured poet, Elizabeth Gordon, has published a wonderful book of poems, Love Cohoes (Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2014) which I have commented on here  & read from it today, but first a selection of other poems, a new poem “Instead of Meditation Looking,” “On Not Going to Paris or Anywhere This Summer” (sitting in a diner in Waterford), & some of her performance pieces, “Fig Newton” (on writing a slam poem), the in-your-face “Are You Really Working Class?” & “Carpenter’s Helper” (which she said would be coming out soon in a recording with music). Later she also did another slam piece “White Privilege.” From Love Cohoes she read “A Heron I Know,” some lines she wrote in response to a poem about the Falls by Thomas Moore, “Practice Cohoes Lacks,” & “The Spinner’s Defense.” She ended with a performance from memory of her poem in 2 parts, “Proof,” recalling family & music. Always an entertaining performer doing good poems.

Dennis had alerted us that there would be another bit after the feature, causing brows to wrinkle; at the end he brought up Tom Corrado. I was puzzled why Tom wanted to read then, he is a quiet, unassuming guy who normally doesn’t hog the spotlight. He said he was going to read a new “Screen Dump” from his series, & a Limerick. After reading “Screen Dump #129” he went back into the audience to drag up his companion Didi Sogaro, who, thinking he was going to ask her to read, was quite reluctant, but went along. When they go back before the microphone, Tom got down on one-knee & recited the Limerick, which was a marriage proposal, complete with a diamond ring. It was a stunning performance — & Didi said “Yes.” And we all clapped.

In the long history of the poetry scene in the Capital District I have witnessed 2 other on-stage proposals. The first was when James Dutko proposed to poet Rachel Zitomer at the Third Thursday Reading at the Lark St. Bookshop in February 2006. The other was at Caffè Lena in October 2007 when poet Josh McIntyre proposed to Beatriz Loyola. Sure beats a billboard on the Northway.

This series continues (with or without marriage proposals, death-threats, etc. on the 4th Sunday of each month at 3:00PM at Old Songs Community Center, Voorheesville, NY, a donation supports the featured poet & Old Songs.

October 28, 2014

Reading & Open Mic, October 25


I was invited to be one of the featured poets at the monthly open mic at Inquiring Mind Book Store in Saugerties, NY. The series is run by Laura Lonshein Ludwig & Sean Willett. It is a loosely run, intimate event, with folks who seem to be regulars there & friends of the features.


First up was not a poet but a painter of wildlife pictures, Fred Adell, from Flushing, who passed around some of his hand-painted cards while holding up a few of his paintings.

The first featured reader was Babette Albin, a friend of Laura’s from Queens, NY. Her poems & introductions were often sprinkled with references to other poems & poets, such as a Yiddish poem, “In Sullivan County,” she read then her own translation. Another poem, “The Question of Good & Evil in the Golden Medina,” referenced a poet friend of hers & Laura’s, Robert Dunn (now gone). Other poems included “It’s True,” “The Queen of Sleep,” “Out of the Revision of My Mind,” & “Thank You Note to My Regrets.” She ended with a poem about reading her poetry in Russia, “Hold the Door Open.”

I was the 2nd featured poet & this is my set list: “A.J. Muste,” 2 poems from Poeming the Prompt, “What Really Happened” & “The Lesson,” “The Pussy Pantoum,” “Different Tastes in Music,” “Saturday Hawk,” & a poem from boundless abodes of Albany, “Planting Tulips.” I had fun.

Featured Poet Babette Albin (right) with host Laura Lonshein Ludwig
After a long, long break Laura brought us back for the open mic. Maddie Taliese read one of Laura’s poems, “Love,” then invited Laura to read it also. Mary Lee Giodano read 3 of her own poems, “Consciously,” “A Poet’s Lament,” & “The War’s Nightmare Was Mine,” then a couple of famous poems from a gilt-edged anthology. Lawson Upchurch read a series of short, philosophical musings, shyly into the mic from what looked like 3x5 cards. Mona Toscano talked about her poetry group down in Newburgh, NY, then read a Halloween poem “Father Will” about ghosts in her house, a story of a priest’s sex with a housekeeper. Gary Siegel was the last reader with a cluster of sometimes compelling, sometimes humorous poems, beginning with “Shimmer,” then a a piece about the futility of waiting in an airport, then a longer poem filled with crows on a “Brisk” morning, & a list of fanciful headlines riffing off “Pregnant Duchess Shows a Lot of Leg.”

There is a regular series of readings here at Inquiring Mind Book Store, 66 Partition St., Saugerties, NY with features & an open mic; call the bookstore for information about the next reading 845-246-5775.

October 24, 2014

Writers Institute Reading Series, October 21


It was a rare night of poets at the University at Albany with Kimiko Hahn, Edward Hirsch & Marie Howe, introduced by Writers Institute Director Donald Faulkner.

Kimiko Hahn read from her books Toxic Flora & the 2014 Brain Fever: Poems, which she described as books “triggered” by science, by reading The New York Times Science section, beginning with “The Blob” set in the 19th Century & the Daddy-Long-Legs poem “Just Walk Away Renee.” The poems she read from the new book were short, self-consciously based on prompts from her reading, or from her own experience (such as “Gag” about a conversation with her therapist), or dreams (“The Dream of a Pillow,” “The Dream of a Knife Fork & Spoon”). An interesting experiment was “Erasing Host Manipulation,” her erasure of the text of one the Science Times articles.

Edward Hirsch began with “To Poetry,” the dedication in his brand-new &, as they say, “monumental,” A Poet’s Glossary. He read a bouquet from his selected poems & some new pieces, such as the gentle humor of “Self-Portrait,” “The Partial History of My Stupidity,” & “A New Theology.” Also, “God & Me,” & “Variations on a Psalm” (#77), which seemed to set up his theology against Kimiko Hahn’s science. I noted that the audience, for all the poets, were “respectfully” silent & didn’t clap for the poems, only at the end. I wondered, like Hirsch’s last poem, if this would be “What the Last Day Will Be Like”?

Marie Howe is the current New York State Poet & has done some projects to bring “poetry” out into the larger community. She read mostly new work & most of that were poems in the voice of Mary Magdalene, dramatic monologues that reminded me of the gone Enid Dame’s Lilith poems, based on un-Canonical writings, such as the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi. The poems were anachronistic, mixing & weaving the ancient stories with modern detail, such as the intricate poem about the 7 devils from the Gospel of Luke. Of course her biggest hit of the night was her poem about Magdalene talking about all the penises she has known (as we used to say for a “3 Guys from Albany” performance, “ when in doubt pull out the dick — poem”).

The following Q&A was generally uninspired, with Edward Hirsch getting cranky about young Polish poets now writing like Frank O’Hara or John Ashbery rather than the hallowed Czeslaw Milosz.

Sorry Ed, I get it, I don't want to write like Milosz either.

For the full series (few poets), check out The Writers Institute website.

October 23, 2014

Third Thursday Poetry Night, October 16


It seems the fabled tour bus was unable to find a parking space, but a few poets arrived by city bus, by car, & by foot. & with a short sign-up poets were even allowed to read 2 poems, & a few did.

I invoked the Muse by reading a poem from his memoir, Courage, Coward, Courage!! Steps Along the Way, by activist/union organizer Ed Bloch, who left us in August; Ed had read once here in July 2010.

First up to the mic was Alan Catlin with a couple poems, or rather 1 poem in 2 parts “Twilight of the Gods” about the hell of war, then part 2 about the grim aftermath for the warriors. Jamey Stevenson had spent some time working in Scotland, read “Dundee Dismantled” then “Pulp” an angst-ridden rhyme.

BK was a new face & voice & read poems on the evening’s continuing theme of war, the first poem about being a refugee learning English “ESL Lesson,” then read a “dirty poem” about learning about sex as a youth. Sylvia Barnard had only brought one poem, just written today, about her late mother, “Learning Greek” & referencing Homer’s Odyssey. It’s getting too dark to play golf in the evening so Anthony Bernini stopped by to read a poem about love “Letters of Young Lady Bird & Lyndon” based on early letters between President Johnson & his future wife. I ended the open mic with a new poem, that I dedicated to the memory of Ed Bloch, “A.J. Muste.”

Tonight’s featured poet, Elaine Cohen, is the author of the biography, Unfinished Dream: The Musical World of Red Callender & of a poetry chapbook, Solita: A Sojourn in Mexico, which she read from. “Journeying,” the first poem in the book, is about a bus trip to Oaxaca, the trip continuing with “Land of Shining Clouds.” “La Noche De Los Rabanos” (The Night of the Radishes) continues the description & her broken heart. “Mornings” is in the grand tradition of morning songs, then “Uprising” was on the night’s theme of war, then the heat of May in “Monte Alban,” & the charming title poem “Solita” (which is read to a jazz orchestra on Alan Chan’s CD Shrimp Tale).  Then on to a manuscript “Snapshots from a Family Album,” a piece about her grandmother’s funeral “First Loss,” a biography of her mother “Snapshots of Miriam 1910 - 2005,” going through her mother’s things with her sister “Legacy,” & ending with a whirling poem from a workshop “A Stranger in the Mirror.” Elaine & I exchanged poems & letters many, many years ago & I’m pleased that we have met again & again exchange poems.

The Poetry Night at the Social Justice Center takes place on the third Thursday of each month, with a featured poet & an open mic before & after the feature — 7:00PM sign-up, 7:30PM start, $3.00 donation.

October 15, 2014

Sunday Funday Reading Series, October 12


This day turned out to be a poetry double-header for me. The open mic in Troy (reported in my Blog) ended early enough & this reading at The Low Beat started late enough for me to be at both. I even had time to socialize & hug Susan Brennan, former Albany poet now in Brooklyn. This series is run by the folks at Pine Hills Review, faculty & students at the College of St. Rose. Today’s theme was “Learn to Read,” authors reading from works that inspired them, & at times their own work as well. Poet Samson Dikeman served as Master of Ceremony (& he was too).

Lucyna Prostko was the 1st reader, with poem by Czeslaw Milosz (1911 - 2004) read in Polish, then in English translation, then her own tribute poem “After Milosz.” She also talked about the poet Denise Levertov (1923 - 1997), then read a dream poem inspired by her reading, “Two Friends with the Landscape of the Imagination.”

Jessie Serfilippi talked about being inspired by the poetry of Gretchen Primack to write animal-rights poems & read one by Primack. I’ve seen Jessie perform her work at poetry open mics in town & wished she had read one of her own poems too!

Jesse Calhoun followed with a long, dense, tedious reading from the 1850 book The Law by Frederic Bastiat, no time, apparently, for his own work.

By contrast Shira Dentz read only her own work from the recently released door of thin skins (Cavan Kerry Press), described as “A hybrid of poetry, prose, and visual elements, … a tale that unfolds in a psychotherapist’s and a state prosecutor’s office and the mind of the poet regarding it all.” She read a couple sections, “The Porch,” “Hands,” others, the text often deconstructing along the way. She said this was her first reading in Albany in a bar setting — she needs to get out more.

Susan Brennan also has a new book out, numinous (Finishing Line Press),  which I had purchased a few weeks ago & like a lot — urban &, well, numinous. She began by reading Frederico Garcia Lorca’s “Sleepless City (Brooklyn Bridge Nocturne)” then on to section 7, a long prose poem, from her poem “Night Walk.”

Daniel Summerhill is another young poet who has made appearances on the local poetry scene. He read from a notebook a high school teacher gave him to inspire him to write, then from a poem inspired by the work of Langston Hughes. He ended with a recent poem, inspired by the music of Santana, “Bennie’s Blues.”

Barbara Ungar’s inspirations were many. She began with “My First Address,” then the title poem from Charlotte Bronte, You Ruined My Life (The Word Works, 2011), as well as “Only Emily” (Charlotte’s equally talented sister), & “Midsommer.” She ended with a crowd-pleaser from her forth-coming book Immortal Medusa “Athena’s Blowjob.”

The final poet, Jackie Craven, said she is inspired by reading Charles Simic, read his “In the Library,” then her own library poem “Priority Mail.” Then broadening the theme she read a poem about learning to read as a late-bloomer, & a piece (“Auto-corrected”) using the errors of auto-correct to write a poem any Dadaist would be proud of.

This mini-series continues for a couple more Sundays at The Low Beat — check it out at The Pine Hills Review.

2nd Sunday @ 2, October 12


Fighting my way through the crowds in Troy for the Chowder Festival I made it to The Arts Center to host the Poetry + Prose open mic, my other-half host, Nancy Klepsch, partying it up at a wedding somewhere. It was a day of return of poets who have read here previously, both recent & in the past.

First up was Peggy LeGee with the accurately titled “Asperger’s Rant,” on “the blame game” & on being labeled. Faye, who had been here last month, was back with a long, tender piece to a friend, “I remember…” Mike Connor followed with a seasonal walk on Peeble’s Island “Past Peak,” then performed a slam poem by Buddy Wakefield “Pretend.” Bob Sharkey read what he described as a combination of poetry & prose, “Winter,” in which his characters Mary Bean & Earl read the obituaries, then a cento on death & colors based on lines from the 2014 Best American Poetry “The Velvety Heart.” I was next with my new poem “A.J. Muste.”


Jessica Stephansen returned to read a richly detailed descriptive piece about a trip to Mexico. Howard Kogan read a poem “for the season,” the philosophical “Canada Geese.” We were pleased to see Kate Laity back after a long absence & she read an excerpt from prose thriller, “Smallbany,” that’s included in a new anthology she has edited, Drag Noir.


William Robert Foltin made an appearance as the “265 year-old CC Rider” doing a meandering monologue in the guise of Christopher Columbus with a bad imitation of Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci. Anything can happen here in the Black Box theater.

& it does, each 2nd Sunday @ 2 — 2 poems or prose no longer than 5 minutes — Free! — at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, NY.

October 13, 2014

Poets of Earth, Water, Tree & Sky, October 10


Among the trees at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, our words like seeds. Alan Casline, celebrating a wedding anniversary with his wife Jennifer, was our host.

Joe Krausman was the first of the open mic poets, with a trio of poems on mortality, beginning with a trip to the doctor’s office “The World to Come,” then another poem on aging & then “Misfits” with the line “some day you’ll die forever.” Tim Verhaegen followed with a characteristically outrageous piece, “Timmy Trouble,” about gossiping & how he gets in trouble for it. Mike Connor read a poem on divorce by Tony Hoagland, then a piece from an early Blog years ago about this time of year, then “Inner Ink” a poem pondering the nature of tattoos. AC Everson began talking about being “over-exposed” on the pages of Metroland, then a piece about a trick-or-treat papier-maché family, then “Lisa Bitch the Reluctant Witch” & “Ode to a Smeared Spider.” John Abbuhl, the proprietor here at the Pine Hollow Arboretum, read some philosophical musing from his pocket notebook, ranging from the nature of “reality” to living forever through out work.


The night’s featured poet, Paul Doty, came here all the way from Canton, NY. Many of his poems reflected this rural environment, such as “Riding Mower,” the expansive, Kerouac-inspired “Driving in Northern NY” & the more diminutive poem about walking with his sons “Salamanders.” Other poems about his sons were “Box Kite” & “American Primitive” (together in a diner). He ended with a supermarket poem “Girls Need Pistachios” & another combining the Latin poet Horace & his father “Ars Poetica on a Barber Chair.”


After the break John Abbuhl showed us what the fruit of the Pawpaw tree looks like.

Howard Kogan read an intricate poem, “Petit Madeleine,” inspired by Proust, taking us through his new medication, memories of his mother, a Ferris wheel, death & how to spell “nauseous.” Mark W. O’Brien read about life among farmers “Good Shit When I See It,” the minuscule “Thru the Trees” & “Into a Small Dark Space” on the mystery of sardines. Alan Casline has been writing poems based on the I Ching for years, read from his forth-coming collection 64 Changes, “Duration” (on hexagram 32) & “On the Lake Following Thunder” (hexagram 17), & a poem from memory about hitchhiking in the Adirondacks. I read a recently unearthed piece written in 1997 responding to a prompt to write about the soundtrack of February 2, then my newest poem “A.J. Muste.” Bob Sharkey has been writing quirky pieces involving Mary Bean (& Earl) for some time, read about taking her to a wake, then a cento based on a 2-year project recording references & phrases about “race”, “I Don’t Know What Race Card She’s Talking About.”

The evening ended with 2 new voices trying out the open mic scene. Lauren Brown read a couple pieces in rhyme, the first written last night “Make It Real” (at a lake) then “I Am the Call.” Mickie began with “Anniversary” about a hike & remembering her father’s death, then she read a couple of what she calls her “parking lot poems,” written on the backs of grocery receipts, etc. (a quiet place to escape from her family), one a letter to her father after he died, then “Let It Go.”

The season is ending for this series, with one more meeting in November before the snow flies, sponsored by the Rootdrinker Institute.