January 22, 2015

Nitty Gritty Slam #86, January 20


“State of the Union” speech or poetry? — uhm? It was the night of the Bad Song Lyrics Slam so it was an easy choice. First there was a brief open mic, hosted by Kevin Peterson, who read a poem by Tony Hoagland, “I Have News for You.” Josh Ryan followed with string of jokes that earned him a string of heckling.

Jen performed a slam-style piece on the theme of “this ain’t no love poem…” Steven R. read a poem in silly rhyme titled “Day 7” about being in class at the College of St. Rose. Scott also did a poem in bad rhymes, this titled “My Resume,” about being fired & over-qualified. Mari read a poem about sleep & a bird, “Do Not Disturb.” Dennin read a long poem in long-line meter & rhyme ballad form what might be called “a forgotten poem about a dead guy.”

Mary Panza, vice-president of AlbanyPoets took over to host the Slam, & Nick had to adjust the mic stand (I think she just wanted to be on stage with him). It was a varied playlist of readers & songs, including Brian Dorn (“Blinded by the Light”), Jimmy did well with “Mickey,” Ringo, Shannon, K.P. (“I Whip my Hair”) in a knit cap, Tim (“You’re So Vain”), Samson, & me (The Ramones’ “I Don’t Want to Walk Around with You”). & the judges were wide ranging with their scores as well.
Tim, Jimmy & Me

But I scored high enough (28.0) to get into the final round, with Tim (who did one of my favorite songs, Melanie’s “I Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates”), Jimmy, K.P. (“Pussy Monster”). I did a song from 1972 by Harry Nilsson “You’re Breakin’ My Heart.”

That put Tim in 3rd place & me & Jimmy battling it out in a squeaker for #1, & his “Achy Breaky Heart” was a good choice but no match for me doing “Eat the Rich.” Now this night doesn’t count towards points for the Slam team but it sure gets me some primo bragging rights. Oh yeah!

Nitty Gritty Slam takes place on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday of each month, 7:30PM at The Low Beat on Central Ave. in Albany, NY, $5 (cheaper with a student ID) -- open mic if you don't want to Slam (or even if you do).

(Photo of the winners by Mary Panza)

January 21, 2015

Poet’s Night!, January 17


There’s a new venue for poetry in town at Professor Javas Coffee Sanctuary on Wolf Road in Colonie. I missed the first couple of readings, but made it up there this night, at least for the 1st round, & the featured poet, Brian Dorn. The event was hosted (somewhat indifferently) by Zachary, apparently an employee of Professor Javas.

Brian Dorn gave his usual laid-back but thoughtful reading, mixing love poems, political & spiritual pieces, even the dreaded audience-participation poem. Among the favorites he read were “Back in the Day,” “Out of Whack, “Plain to See,” “No Comment,” & his “flag-ship” poem, as he called it, “From My Poems to Yours.” He even included a poem he hasn’t read out before, “Lessons,” on violence in the schools. He ended with a call-&-response with selected audience members for “We All.”

It was an open mic from then on, but I was unclear how many poems one could do so I just did my old piece on the QE2 readings, “Where Were the Professors?” Barbara Garro was in Brian’s entourage from the North Country (along with Brian’s wife & son), & began with a long story about a plumbing emergency which I thought was an explication of her poem “White Mare” but it wasn’t, then she went on to read 2 poems from her series of “Jesus books” “Holy Heritage” & “This Too is God.” Joe Krausman’s poem “Good News” was about public speaking, then read “Just the Monkey Shines” & a poem about a tattoo “Alice.”

Cathy Abbott shared one of her own poems from 1971, then one by Robert Frost. Scott read parts from his series of “Uncomfortable Poetry” in roughly chronological order about experiences in school in mostly silly, often wildly forced rhymes, ending with a piece in “free verse” titled “Window Shopping.” Tom followed with more rhymes & sometimes awkward meters, 2 poems one on sleep the other on love. Long-time denizen of Colonie William Robert Foltin read poems written in various Januaries throughout the years, many also in rhyme, “Reflections,” “Early Morning Memories,” “Some Lines this Winter,” & “A Little Fire.”

At this point Zach, who had been busy perusing the internet, proposed going around a 2nd time, “since we have the room until 9:00,” as he said.  But I had to leave & only caught one more poem by Brian, as the host disappeared & it wasn’t clear who was in charge anymore.

As far as I can tell this series, “Poet’s Night!” is held on the 3rd Saturday of the month, 6-9PM at Professor Javas Coffee Sanctuary, 217 Wolf Rd., Colonie. However, as of when I’m posting this, I don’t see it listed on Professor Javas’ website. It’s free.

January 19, 2015

Third Thursday Poetry Night, January 15


It was a full house tonight, but only 8 read in the open mic, most came to hear the featured performer Poetyc Visionz. But first I invoked the Muse, tonight the spirit of recently-gone Michael Rutherford, by reading one of his poems from his 1973 chapbook Meat is My Business (The Conspiracy Press, Albany, NY).

Tonight we did the open mic first & the first poet up was Richard Propp, who said he was inspired by the last reading here in December & was new at writing poetry; he read a tender memoir/love poem “Legs.” Amy McVeigh was back, read 2 poems, the recently written “Time Managed Differently” & a sad poem about North Adams “Boarded.” Jessica Rae read the tender poem “If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda, then reprised her lyrical description “Snow.” Illiptical made a rare appearance here to perform 2 pieces, a new one “U” playing on the language of math, physics & metaphysics, then a piece thinking about remembering the Holocaust, & his grandfather.

Avery read his new poem written today “& The Music Played,” began slow then speeded up & was by before we could blink. Brian Dorn’s poem “Pitfalls” was in 3 parts, 3 characters. Just slipping in the door Maria Diotte read from a free-flow journal entry written on New Year’s Day. I ended the open mic with an older poem “My Advice (to Myself).”

Our featured poet, Poetyc Visionz, has been part of the local Nitty Gritty Slam team & a champion Slam poet in his own rite. He said he started writing poetry when he was about 15 & started performing when he was 20. He began with “It’s Amazin’” celebrating the power of the Word, then continued on to lies & truth with “Hear Truth,” & to another piece pondering what is Love. “Our Nightmare My Dream” was a twisting, turning exploration of “darkness” & school & success & reality. He said the next piece was one of his own favorites, in which he finds 7s everywhere, ending with a quote from Psalm 82. Referencing Nina Simone & the riots in Ferguson he proclaimed “I Am Not Black” considering the subtle shades of skins in the politics of racism. He ended with a commentary on our “Digital Chains,” our dependence upon technology, & our value as a human. His work is rhythmic, joyful, filled with word play & positive.

Every third Thursday we gather for poetry — an open mic with a featured poet — at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave., Albany, NY, at 7:30P for a modest donation (or in immodest one if you’ve got it & want to support poetry programs & the Social Justice Center). Join us to listen or read or do both.

January 18, 2015

Live from the Living Room, January 14


A cold night in Albany with a warm welcome from our host at the Pride Center, Don Levy.

The featured poet was Tim Sneider, the “biker poet” from the North Country, who read from his book Changing Roads: Motorcycle Poetry and More (AuthorHouse, 2014), beginning with a poem written by his mother in 1946, showing his roots. “Old Age!?!” is for his grandson & “In like a Lion” about dandelion bouquets, then he brought back memories of growing up with “Life’s Country Garden.” Tim’s poems are characterized by regular meter & rhyme, often clever & funny, as in “Beer” or the tour-de-force in a style reminiscent of Robert Sevice the triple sonnet “Three Feet Right of the Line.” Other biker poems were the short prose poem “Riding Autumn,” “Q&A” (“would you ride with me…?”), & a response to a writing group exercise “I Ride.” His book is illustrated with photos from his rides & is also available as a download.

Tim had brought is own cheering section of fellow poets from up North, Barbara Garro & Brian Dorn.

Barbara Garro read from a series of books she called “the Jesus series,” first a prosy memoir of her father “Holy Heritage” then “This too is God” about confronting challenges. Brian Dorn, who reads at lots of open mics, read a love poem he said he has never read out before, “Taking it Slow,” then another love poem “Arousing Reflection.” I read a couple poems written this Autumn, “Garrison Keilor” & for my friend Sylvain “September Song.”

Our host, Don Levy, read a poem you can find on his FaceBook page, “Poem for Leila” written for a teenage trans-gender person who committed suicide, then a poem that also brings in the Grand Jury decision in the Eric Garner case, “Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Plaza.” Then we all headed back out into the cold, but basking in the warmth of poetry.

Live from the Living Room takes place each 2nd Wednesday of the month at 7:30PM at the Pride Center of the Capital Region, 332 Hudson Ave. (in the Garden Room downstairs), with a featured poet, & an open mic, for a quite modest donation.

January 14, 2015

2nd Sunday @ 2: Poetry + Prose Open Mic, January 11


The first of 2015, back with my co-host, Nancy Klepsch in the Black Box Theater, named after a famous crooked politician. Brian Dorn got us off on the right foot with 2 love poems, “Sublimely Connected” & the list poem to his Muse “Her Attributes.” Howard Kogan honored our colleague, Ron Drummond, who now lives in Ithaca, by reading Ron’s version of a translation of part of “Thunder, Perfect Mind,” one of my favorite texts in the Nag Hammadi library. Cathy Abbott read an amusing late seasonal piece about her daughter & mistletoe, then read from a flyer she found about the value of shared readings that she said reminded her of this event.

Sandra Rouse said her writings are filled with “after 9/11 emotions,” & read about traveling to see her daughter (“Crossing Providence River”) & the sad “Melody of Loss.” I followed with a poem from this Fall, touching on the past & on Halloween, “The Move.” The poet better known as Jay Renzi signed up today as Joseph D. Renzi & read a poem “Pestilence, Witchcraft & Slavery” from a new book, the final in a trilogy, about to be published, then an excerpt from a draft of an in-progress “post-apocalyptic epic.” Elizabeth Gordon also read from a draft of a poem, this about her Xmas tree, “2 Weeks after Christmas,” then read W.B. Yeats' “The Lake Isle of Innissfree.”

My co-host Nancy Klepsch read a poem about “un-coupling” (as she called it) “Non Repo Blues,” & a chant-like love poem “Shopping for a Goddess.” Adam Tedesco showed up with his young son (who said later that he was not writing poetry but likes going to readings with his Dad) read a poem about him “Nick Poops with the Door Open,” then a list poem “How to Make a Million Dollars by Always Telling the Truth.” Jamey Stevenson apologized for reading 2 break-up poems, said he had a 3rd that was more upbeat but respected the 2-poem limit; the poems he read were “Billboard in 3 Sections” & one he said was never read out before “Plan B.”

2nd Sunday @ 2 is held at just that in the Arts Center on River St. in Troy — 2 poems or no-more-than 5 minutes of prose — Free!

January 6, 2015

Poets Speak Loud!, December 29


Tonight it was just an old-school open mic, no featured poet, plenty of old regulars, with our host Mary Panza keeping order.

Sylvia Barnard was our first reader reprising her poem “Spring,” then a very new poem written this morning about a trip last Summer to the London Zoo, a meditation on aging, “Tortoise.” Pat Irish read next with his surprising “Seattle Sonnet.” I followed with 2 poems written in recent months, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” & a poem inspired by a comment by my friend Sylvain, “September Song.” Another friend, Joe Krausman, followed with the reverse turn-around “Invention is the Mother of Necessity,” then the helpful “Be Prepared” (always carry a pen, a gun, a hankie, a Bible, a suitcase …).

What a great pleasure & surprise it was to see once again Mary Ann Murray. She had been a regular in the early 1990s at the QE2 poetry open mics, had been an editor & contributor to Open Mic: The Albany Anthology (Hudson Valley Writers Guild, 1994), & as recently as August 2012 had shown up at the Third Thursday reading at the Social Justice Center.  Tonight she shared the poem “Knife Fork Spoon,” another about a scene in a bar, & a memoir of being on Alexander St. in Albany years ago “Clooney’s” — so good to see old friends once again.

Nick Bisanz is usually on the business end of a guitar, but tonight shared a couple poems from his notebook, “Pull It Up,” & one about meeting the rock bassist Mike Watt with the line “if you ain’t playin’ you’re payin’.“ Dave Kime never needs a mic & didn’t use one tonight for his political pieces, “Sound Bites” & “An Acronym for Cops…” Avery began with a poem by Jacky’s daughter Magnolia, “The Bunny” (next time I hope she reads it herself, face paint & all), then his own worded-up piece about his charge card being refused “Successfully Completing Another Adventure.” Magnolia’s Mom, aka Jacky Kirkpatrick, began with an untitled fashion statement, then a poem to her daughter, “My Cosmic Child.”

& another great pleasure & surprise of a visit of one from the past, one who had shared that apartment on Alexander St. & also appeared in Open Mic & frequently at the QE2, the Palais Royale & other poetry venues of the time, was Kevin Factor. He told a story, using his “roll-over minutes,” about bartending at Yanni’s on Lexington Ave. in Albany, about the regulars who hung out there during the day.

Kevin Peterson followed with some jottings about a woman who moved to St. Louis, then what he called “a few haikus on a neighbor.” Adam Tedesco brought the poetry & the night to a close with “Sometimes,” a “holiday poem” filled with grim images of one’s intestines, then a poem on studies (i.e., geology, geography, anthropology, etc.) “Don’t You Know God Loves You.”

It was quite a night with current poets & poets from the past, & good food & drinks, & gentle service by sweet Melissa & all the good things that come true at McGeary’s on Clinton Square in Albany, each last Monday of the month, brought to you by Albany Poets.

January 4, 2015

Sunday Four Poetry, December 28


The venerable Dennis Sullivan had to handle the MC/host duties on his own today & did a fine job. Here at this venue the featured poet reads after the open mic & the 1st open mic poet was a new voice (for me) Chris Black, who read a couple poems about hiking, from a collection of work from her writing group. Brian Dorn read a poem about looking for a 4-leaf clover “Over & Under,” & another about his muse, “Her Attributes.” Our host Dennis Sullivan read a dream poem “While I Was Musing Earlier Tonight” (a vision of his parents) & “I Watch the Weather on Television.” Joe Krausman’s first poem was the timely “New Year’s Eve,” then one about his car (& more) “Body & Fender.”

Peter Boudreaux read just one poem, the intricate “Deep Space.” Tim Verhaegen’s first poem “You Found Him” about looking for a mate was long enough for 2, then he tacked on another for a lost song “Holding Out.” I followed with 2 recent poems, the whimsical “Garrison Keilor” & the topical “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

Diane Kavanaugh-Black read a humorous Christmas memoir piece “God Rest Ye Merry Elmo Doll.” Tom Corrado had been handing out copies of his latest chapbook Screen Dump 101-150 (Orb Press) but instead of reading he played his amplified string bass, a piece titled “Train, a Tone Poem,” as indeed it was.

The newly engaged Mark O’Brien read a Christmas poem on snow & his finacée, then another seasonal piece “My Christmas Hang.” Both of Howard Kogan’s poems contained birds & stars, “Turkeys in Late Summer” & “Homers” (on pigeons). Paul Amidon read a trio of seasonal poems “The Spirit of the Season” (as a Salvation Army Santa), “December Prayer,” & “The 3 Kings” about school friends off to war.


Joan Grant made a rare appearance on the business side of the microphone with 2 darkly amusing pieces, “Smashing Sophocles” (revenging the ex-husband) & “Right Click Delete” (on the death of a co-worker). Katrinka Moore read the first (& only) villanelle of the afternoon “Between or Before” (based on a chapter from Moby Dick) then a poem ending with a line from the Tang Dynasty Chinese poet Li Po “Parting.”


Megan Gillespie’s poem “Communing with Nature” was an ironic look at a campground, then she read a poem about racing pigeons, like Howard’s poem, but hers was engendered by the image of a porcelain figure of a pigeon. Ron Pavoldi was the last of the open mic poets with an intricate piece “The Physics of Fleeing” weaving in the repeating phrase “if one is fortunate enough to …”

The featured poet, Kathleen O’Brien, read a lot of poems, but that’s because many of them were quite short (& to the point), such as her opening “Just Asking” or “A Bunch of Daffodils.” She also showed us a shape poem & in another piece confronted writing class clichés. Other poems were gently compassionate, such as “Taken for Granted” (socks for the homeless), “Psalm 1998” (a prayer of healing for her husband), & “Boogying with Sister Elizabeth Ann.” Her meditations on life were flavored with wry humor & included “The Hokey Pokey,” “Guilt,” & the marvelously titled “Museum of Mistakes.” Then there was a poem on a grandchild (“Discovery”) & a list poem “What a Stick Can Do.” She ended with another prayer-like poem “Let Morning Come.” I was glad I made it up the hill today to hear this poet’s work & hope she makes it out to more readings.

Sunday Four Poetry starts at 3PM on the 4th Sunday of the month at the Old Songs Community Center in Voorheesville, NY — your donation pays the featured poet & supports Old Songs. Then join us after the reading at Smith’s Tavern for, as Dennis is wont to say, “a pint” &/or some fine pub food.